His Brother’s Keeper
by Ali Katz
Publisher: Loose Id
Cover Art: Justin James
What happens to romance when the honeymoon is over? Eventually, real life will interrupt: jobs, finances, sickness, disaster, kids, the age old question of who’s turn it is to do the dishes tonight. Few couples lead lives so charmed they never have to deal with these things. The raging heat of passion is reduced to a simmer when family takes over.
His Brother’s Keeper, affectionately referred to by my friends and crit partners as HBK, is one family’s story.
Sal and Jess are from different worlds. Sal knows how to love. He’s watched his parents practice for-better-or-worse his whole life. Jess, who’s homelife revolved around taking care of his little brother, is still learning.
But, when disaster strikes, it’s Jess in the driver’s seat with Sal riding shotgun. Romance, however, is forced into the back seat for a while and love becomes the fuel that keeps them going..
More than a romance, HBK is a love story. I hope it touches you in some way.
After six months, Jess and Sal are still living the honeymoon – sex in the hall, sex on the stairs, sex on the kitchen floor. Life couldn’t be more perfect.
Enter Jess’s little brother, Teddy.
A kid is the last thing the lovers need, especially a sullen, troubled teen, with far too much baggage, but Teddy needs them, and when life throws a curve, real men swing.
A kid in the house, however, means getting together is no longer just a matter of wrestling to see who’s going to top, or stashing little bottles of lube in convenient places. It takes innovation – they haven’t tried the laundry room in the garage — and discretion — hard to be discreet if your lover crows when he comes. Watching Teddy bloom makes the daily challenges worthwhile. They manage.
Their little family is just beginning to take on a healthy new shape when Teddy is viciously attacked and Sal comes under suspicion.
Now, where and when take second place to if and but. The ultimate test begins as they fight to hold fast to love and family while merciless forces work to rip them apart.
Sal recognized the neighborhood the minute they turned onto Western. The Blacklite, a sleazy gay bar his college roommate had frequented, was just up the block. Not a bad place for a pick-up if you liked your men in drag, and probably a reasonable place to look for the boy, considering the half dozen youths loitering under the harsh glow of the halogen lamp at the corner.
“Oh my God,” Jess whispered. “That’s him.” He’d been silent so long Sal startled at the sound of his voice.
“Are you sure?” He leaned forward in the backseat of the rented limo to study the kids. They stood in groups of two and three, except one. His gaze fell on the loner balancing on the curb, watching the car approach, and wearing the face Jess must have worn ten years ago. “Okay, Jess, slow down and circle the block.”
The car crept past the boy. He looked up with a smile. His gaze aimed for the passenger’s eyes through the blackened glass and followed as the car eased around the corner. Two fingers raised in a provocative come-hither before he disappeared from Sal’s sight.
“He looks so young,” Jess whispered.
“That’s what he’s selling, babe.” Sal would have preferred a way to soften the blow for his lover, but if they were going to do this, Jess needed the reality check. One look at that carefully constructed innocence told Sal Jess’s baby brother knew exactly what the customer wanted.
He settled into the seat and checked his setup while they came back around. “Ready, love. Pull over.”
The youth eyed the limo as they drew up next to him. Sal glanced toward Jess in the driver’s seat wearing a chauffeur’s cap and holding the wheel with a white-knuckled grip. “You need to hide your face.”
Jess cast a nervous smile over his shoulder. “Thanks for doing this.”
“Only for you.” Flat-out truth, and even for Jess he’d never have agreed if not for the fear in those baby blues from the moment he’d learned his brother disappeared. What they planned could easily go very wrong for Sal, but he trusted Jess understood that and wouldn’t have asked if he saw another way.
“Be careful. He runs like the wind.” Jess faced forward and eased back against the seat. Pulling the brim of his cap down to hide his face, he turned to watch traffic approach in the side mirror.
Sal pressed the button at his elbow, and his window lowered with a mechanical wheeze.
Still wearing a sultry smile, the boy cocked his head, squinting to see into the dark limo. Sal waved him over. He sashayed up to the window and leaned in.
“Lookin’ for someone, daddy?” he asked in a breathy alto that would make any man’s — gay or straight — hair stand on end.
“Pretty sure I found him,” Sal said, keeping his face in shadow. The boy placed his forearms on the door and rested his chin on them to display a smooth, unblemished face dominated by huge, kohl-lined sapphire eyes. My God, the kid has the face of an angel.
“Are you Vice?”
He’s been doing this awhile. Sal made a mental note to check arrest records.
“No.” He added a crooked grin to give his denial some weight. He wasn’t the world’s best liar. Technically, he wasn’t lying. “Whatcha got for me, sweetheart?”
The boy wiggled his rump and gave him a lazy once-over. “Anything you want — as long as rubber’s involved.” His smile broadened. “Five hundred bucks and I’m yours all night.”
The laugh that burst from Sal’s throat wasn’t even feigned. The little darling definitely had a pair. The going rate was thirty to suck and fifty to fuck — twice that for a boy and no more than three times that for a pretty boy. Sal ran his finger along the smooth chin and watched those long, dark lashes flutter over flawless cheeks. The silvery light exposed something he’d missed earlier — a barely there swash of blush across his left cheekbone camouflaged the faded remnant of a bruise.
How two people from the same background could make such different choices was beyond him. Jess was smart, ambitious, driven to succeed. His brother, apparently, had a death wish. What drove a kid like this to place himself in harm’s way? Not drugs — he was too clear-eyed and fresh faced. Jess hadn’t said, and Sal hadn’t asked.
He forced a smile. “What’s your name, sugar?”
“Teddy.” Teddy, not Ted. Still, close enough to his real name to make tracking him down that much easier. But if the kid didn’t have a pimp teaching him the rules, who, besides the tricks, was watching his ass?
Sal hesitated and hoped Teddy thought he was considering the offer. Nothing they’d done so far could come back to bite him. If he slid over in his seat and invited Teddy into the car, he was 99 percent certain the kid would take the bait. Was the tiny chance they’d lose him worth the risk? The temptation to glance at his lover sitting in the front seat, counting on him, was hard to resist.
No, Jess was right. If Teddy saw his brother and took off, they’d never find him again.
Sweat trickling from his armpits, Sal eased lower in the seat and presented his crotch. “Well, Teddy, sweet as you are, five hundred bucks is a bundle to part with. Do you think you can make me want to?”
Teddy snickered. He slid his hand to Sal’s chest and wormed it into his shirt until a finger brushed the ring piercing his nipple.
“Sweet.” He played with the ring a second, then gave a tug, hard enough to pull a grunt from Sal’s throat. “I love surprises.” He freed his hand and walked it teasingly down Sal’s torso. “Do you have one to match down here?”
Oh God! Panic shot through Sal. He fought the urge to cringe and caught Teddy’s arm in a viselike grip before the boy’s hand closed around his cock beneath the linen slacks.
Teddy glanced up, his smile suddenly uncertain. “You’re going to make me work for it, aren’t you?”
Sal used the moment to snap the handcuff on his wrist.
Teddy tried to jerk away, but the cuffs, attached to the frame under the seat, stopped him six inches from Sal’s crotch. His eyes widened. Terror replaced his earlier innocence. “What the fuck?”
Before the kid could gather the breath to shout, Sal grabbed him by the seat of his well-worn jeans and pulled him kicking and swinging through the window and into the car.
His Brother’s Keeper is available from Loose Id