Nell’s Place



Valentine’s Day

                     By SolCorazon



©SolCorazon2004 All rights reserved.




Nell’s Place is a hole in the wall a couple of blocks away from my apartment. The way Nell likes to explain it, her place is for burnt out drunks like her. It’s dark inside. Not a scary kind of dark. A warm, mellow, welcoming dark. It reminds me of a saloon. The kind you see on old black and white western movies.


When you walk in the door, the first thing you notice is the huge, old fashioned, wooden bar located against the center of the back wall, facing the entrance. The shelves next to the cash register are lined with empty bottles of all kinds of alcohol. All of the walls are paneled with real wood that Nell keeps scrupulously polished.


She has several small, wooden table and chair sets scattered throughout the room and a couple of card tables with chess sets and decks of cards on them. A worn, comfortable sofa that she gave new life to by covering it with a multicolored fleece throw takes up most of a side wall. There’s also a pool table in the corner and a wall of shelves behind it that’s full of all kinds of books.


The second thing you notice is all of the good smells. Nell’s Place doesn’t serve alcohol. She serves at least a hundred different varieties of coffees and teas. She doesn’t let anybody smoke inside but she has a patio out back where smokers can go if they want. All day long, she serves homemade muffins, freshly baked chocolate chip and sugar cookies, and sweet biscuits with real butter.


She plays jazz, blues and honky tonk. Old time jazz, not the easy listening variety. It’s kind of eerie because when you walk into Nell’s Place you feel like you’ve been there before even when it’s your first time ever.


Then there’s Nell. Nell has platinum blonde hair, serious, kind, milk chocolate eyes, a face that’s been LIVED in and skin so black it has an iridescent blue undertone. And she’s tall, at least six feet. She reminds me of my mom sometimes. My mom is tall too, but she looks like a model, sophisticated and pretty. Nell is a handsome woman, built almost like a man, thick and muscular. Her personality fills a room. She’s one of those people you are immediately aware of and attracted to. Something about her makes you want to get to know her better.


I think it’s because she truly likes people and is really interested in what they have to say. She is loud and boisterous at times. God, when she laughs you want to laugh along with her and hold your hands over your ears at the same time.


Less than five minutes after I had come in and sat down, still shivering, Nell put my usual, a cup of black tea with lots of cream and sugar and a sprinkling of cinnamon in it, down in front of me. She hovered over me for a couple of seconds, long enough to let me know she was concerned, short enough that I knew that she sensed that I just didn’t feel like being bothered.


She walked down to the other end of the bar, leaned forward, rested her elbows on the bar in front of her, and started joking with the two old guys, Burt and Gary, who seemed to have taken up permanent residence there. When I heard her laugh, I smiled to myself against my will. Smiling was the last thing I felt like doing right now.


How do arguments start? I’m sitting here trying to figure out how the worst argument of my life got started and I can’t even remember what the hell happened. The very worst thing is that I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m what happened to that argument. I started it and I ended it.


“Stop haunting me now…” Billie Holiday’s dark and melancholy voice rang out, fitting perfectly with my mood.


Nell paused in front of me. “Where’s that smile?” she asked.


She called me ‘Smiley.’ Said I brightened her day. I didn’t believe her, but I thought it was nice that she’d say that to me. Oh man. Nell handed me a Kleenex.


“Wanna talk about it?” she asked warmly.


I shook my head. She walked away but I could feel her worried eyes on me. I’d been coming in here since I first started law school. When I got tired of studying at home, I’d come here with my books and spread them out on one of the tables next to the bar. Nell would always come over and talk with me for a few minutes.


Somehow, she’d gotten the story of my life out of me. How I was an only child and how my parents expected me to be lawyers like them. My grandfather on my father’s side had gone to college and had entered one of the few professions open to black men at that time, other than the ministry: teaching.


There was a landmark court case several years after he started teaching that allowed blacks to attend law school at the only law school in the state at that time. Every single man who had graduated with Granddad and entered the teaching profession went back to school and got their law degrees. My Granddad started his own law firm.


He was retired now and my father and mother had taken it over. I was expected to join them at some point. When I was younger, they moved us out of the neighborhood my father had grown up in when it started deteriorating around them but they kept their offices close to the ‘hood because they felt they had to give something back to the community.


Most of their practice was pro bono or pro bono by default. If someone didn’t pay, my parents didn’t believe in chasing after them. They just figured the person couldn’t afford to pay. So, while I didn’t grow up poor, my parents definitely weren’t rolling in it like some of their friends were. They were happy though.


My parents were in their mid forties when I was born. They were both neat, quiet people and settled in their ways. My arrival didn’t change anything. I was born neat and quiet. And settled in my ways too, I guess. My life was boring. Generic really. At least it was until I met Dominic Valentine.


I jumped when I felt a hard thump across my back.


“How ya doin’?”


I turned around. Burt and Gary were looking at me.


“Good, good.” I replied. I could tell they didn’t believe me, but they continued on saying hello’s and goodbyes on their way out the door. They were regulars at Nell’s. I tried to figure them out but wasn’t quite sure what their deal was. Couldn’t tell if they were boyfriends or just close friends. I’m nosy sometimes. Comes from having no life I guess.


They were always real nice to me. Always stopped to speak to me and were encouraging when I was in law school. When I graduated, they gave me a gift certificate to a local bookstore.


I continued to watch them as they stopped by the pool table and harassed Lonnie, the resident pool shark, for a few minutes. Lonnie was in his early twenties, a couple of years younger than me. He was one of the best-looking guys I’ve ever seen. Nell had tried to hook the two of us up a couple of times but I was always way into my books and Lonnie, well, Lonnie was just into Lonnie.


Nell’s a romantic and she’s always trying to set people up. I don’t think Lonnie was looking for one guy really. He was getting too much play standing around the pool table looking cute. He didn’t even have to work for it.


I always wished to be like that. A cool guy. An exciting guy. I don’t think I’m nerdy, but I do wear glasses for reading. And I’m not that tall. I’m short like my father. My mother says I’m too skinny. Everybody says I have a nice smile and Nell is always teasing me about my ‘cute puppy dog eyes.’


Anyway, I’m just me. Quiet, studious, Corey Washington. Except for today. Today, I’d yelled. If I remember correctly, I even slammed a door. I cringed as I recalled the stunned look on Dominic’s face. It was a classic, ‘what the fuck?’ kind of look.


I crumpled the Kleenex in my hand, on the verge of tears but fighting them back. So stupid to cry over Dominic Valentine. I know he’s not crying over me.


Straight out the gate, right out of law school, I went to work at Schelle and Barber, one of the largest law firms in Baltimore. I’d been working for them part-time for forever. Rodney Schelle was my godfather. Hey, it ain’t what you know it’s who you know. I didn’t make that up, but it’s true. Everybody knows that.


But knowing Uncle Rodney just got my foot in the door. It didn’t mean that I didn’t have to prove myself over and over and over again. And then some more. C’mon. Young, black and male??? No, I don’t have a “black attitude” as I’ve heard it called. I’m just keeping it real.


I called him Mr. Schelle in the office and we kept our family relationship quiet. It worked. I loved working there. My parents encouraged me to work for Uncle Rodney because they felt I could get more experience at a larger law firm.


I’d been working for the past eight months on a class action lawsuit. There had been a higher than normal rate of cancer and virulent infections in a segment of the inner city. One of the parents of the sick children had come to the law firm asking for help. He pulled out a map and showed how an unusually high amount of trash and industrial waste dumps were located in the areas where the sick kids lived.


Uncle Rodney said he couldn’t afford to be like my parents but he did make an effort to take on several pro bono cases a year. Actually, I sort of had the feeling that my parents might have sent the guy to Uncle Rodney. They’re sneaky like that. Uncle Rodney’s firm had a lot of political pull in the state of Maryland.


Domenic Valentine was the attorney assigned to this one and I was selected as his assistant. I really didn’t know much about Domenic when I started working with him. The secretaries all liked him and spent a lot of time speculating about his private life. As one of the youngest and newest lawyers at the firm, I was mostly invisible and invariably I overheard a lot of office gossip.


Domenic was always friendly and gregarious whenever I observed him. For all that, no one seems to know very much about him, other than HE WAS GAY. He had a good reputation around the firm and was recognized for winning difficult cases.


He was confident without being arrogant. Whenever he went to court, he was well known for saying; it wasn’t going to be a problem for him because every day in court was ‘Valentine’s Day.’ No matter how many times they heard it, everybody, including me, seemed to find it amusing. I think it’s the way he says it.


The first time he came to my attention was at a meeting of all the honchos at the firm. I was there because I had been doing research on a case for one of the partners and I had been called in to answer questions about several points of the case. Domenic had arrived late. When he walked into the room, all eyes were directed to him, even though he had entered quietly. I was distracted by his entrance and once I laid eyes on him, I couldn’t stop sneaking looks at him.


He’s a big man, 6’4 or 5, with a creamy olive complexion, deep set, penetrating, dark, almost black eyes, full pink lips, a classic, long Roman nose and thick, straight, jet black hair with glimmering silver strands mixed in. His broad shoulders and thickly muscled body were evident even in his tailored suit.


He looked the part of the successful, well-educated professional in an almost stereotypical way. But there was a roughness about him that I found overwhelmingly attractive; a tough veneer that revealed his south Baltimore background. He was wearing a small rainbow flag on the lapel of his jacket. And he had rainbow cufflinks.


Despite his open, friendly manner, he was very difficult to get to know. Over the eight months that we worked together on the case, I grew to know him fairly well. Maybe I should say I got to know his moods; I could tell when he was getting impatient, he’d run a hand through his hair and take a deep breath. I could tell when he was in a really, really good mood, his wide smile would glow, he’d be all but dancing with good vibes and he’d have that cocky, ‘it’s Valentines Day’ expression on his face.


I could tell when he was pissed off, he became glacial; he never raised his voice, just was so cold it was frightening. When I saw it, I always reminded myself to never do anything to put myself on the receiving end of THAT.  After almost a year, he was just starting to really open up around me. I could tell he felt more comfortable around me because he was starting to joke around with me and because I now knew that he was the oldest child of five kids and the only boy.


The only person I had seen him joke around with like that was his secretary, Delia. She was an older woman and their relationship appeared to be closer than boss and employee. She was also the only other person who seemed to know anything about him personally; I overheard her asking after Domenic’s mom and sisters all by name. Doesn’t sound like much, but considering that Domenic had worked for the firm for over ten years, it was pretty unusual that no one knew him very well.


I watched him a lot. He was agreeable and friendly with people without getting really personal. He never touched anyone. Those casual pats that guys give each other, those little shakes where you grab somebody by the arm and shake them if they say something you think is funny or a little stupid. None of those guy things. He was also extra special careful not to do anything anyone could construe as “gay”.


I know all about that. Being extra careful so no one could say that I messed something up because I was black. Working twice sometimes three times as hard as everybody else so no one could say I was hired because I was black. Making extra careful to speak proper English so no one would mistake my use of slang for ignorance. And on and on.


Lots of comparisons are made between the civil rights and gay rights movement and the stuff blacks have to put up with and the stuff gay and lesbians have to deal with. Lots of disagreement on both sides on who has it the toughest. I think that’s stupid. I hate to play the ‘my misery is worse than yours’ game.


I admired Domenic tremendously though. He didn’t have to let it be known that he was gay. He could’ve left that alone. It must have been hard for a big bad Italian guy from Baltimore city to come out. He carried it like a soldier though. He had a thick gold chain with a pink diamond triangle pendant that he wore that must have cost thousands of dollars. He wore it with his usual classic chill style.


Anyway, the case was mostly my baby and Domenic was sort of directing my efforts. He had a unique way of asking a question or pointing out a crucial fact of the case that kept me on point and headed in the right direction without making it seem like he was “the boss” and without making it seem like he thought I didn’t know what I was doing. This case was going to take a lot of time and effort and Uncle Rodney said that they could not afford to put more staff on it at the moment. Last month, Domenic had come into the office on a Friday evening and did a double take when he saw me still there, poring over medical records.


“Jeezus, what are you still doing here?”


I just looked at him. All of the papers in front of me sort of answered the question for me, I thought. And after all, he was still here too. They talk about the hours doctors put in. Lawyers put in those kinds of crazy hours too.


“Don’t you have a life?” he asked. “You’re too young to be sitting in here. It’s Friday night.”


I took my glasses off and rubbed a tired hand across my face. “You’re too young to be here on a Friday night too,” I responded. “You’re not that much older than me.”


He had walked behind me without my noticing and I jumped when he touched my shoulders. “You’re tight as a board,” he said.


“Take your jacket off.” Ignoring my muttered protests, when I didn’t move fast enough for him, he started taking it off for me then began to briskly rub my shoulders.


When he touched me, something deep inside of me gave a sigh of relief. I can’t really explain it. It felt like everything in me had been waiting for Domenic Valentine to touch me. And maybe because we had been working so closely together, the fact that he was touching me didn’t feel strange to me. The weight of his hands felt familiar to me, like I’d felt them on me before.


The next thing I knew, Domenic was gently shaking me awake. I don’t wake up easily and I don’t wake up happily. I started pushing his hand away and grumbling under my breath. When he continued shaking me, ignoring my efforts to get him to leave me alone, I finally squinched my eyes open.


He was watching me with an amused half smile on his face. “You awake, Corey?”


“Yeah,” I mumbled, shaking my head groggily.


“That’s the first time I’ve put someone to sleep so deeply with a massage. I must be getting good.” He held his arms out in front of him, flexed his hands and grinned at me. “You okay to drive yourself home?”


“Yeah,” I said.


His grin had settled back into that half smile that made my stomach quiver a little.


“C’mon, I’ll walk you to your car,” he said.


I protested, feeling embarrassed and a little shy. The thing that struck me the most was that I don’t think he’d ever called me by my first name before. Come to think of it, I’m not sure what he called me. Hearing him say my name was a little strange.


It wasn’t until I arrived home and got into bed that I was startled awake by recalling what had happened between Dominic and me. In a lot of ways, I’d been living and breathing Dominic. He was the person I saw first thing in the morning and last thing at night. He made a point of eating lunch with me just about every day so we could discuss progress on the case.


This was my first case and it was pretty heavy duty. Eight months sounds like a long time to work on a case, I know. But we were building a case out of nothing. There was an innumerable amount of medical records to go through. I had to track down people who had possibly been affected by the toxic waste and then make a connection between the toxic waste and their medical condition.


I also had to track down a lot of medical people. Finding them was hell. Health care professionals tend to move around a lot. Once I found them, many of them were reluctant to talk to me because of patient confidentiality. A lot of them were skeptical. Thought we were just out for the money.


So this case felt like it was inching along, bit by bit. Sometimes I got a little discouraged and sometimes I would go off on tangents. Dominic was really good about picking up my spirits and helping me to refocus. And he did it all with such a light hand, most of the time I wasn’t even aware of how he’d finessed me until way after the fact.


But tonight was the first time he’d ever touched me. He’d never so much as given me a pat on the back. Tonight was the first time he’d ever acted like he maybe even liked me a little. I could still remember how his hands felt on me, strong, powerful and comforting.


After that night, maybe it was just my imagination, but I felt like we were becoming closer. Friends, maybe. He started talking a little bit about his family at our daily lunches. He had grown up in an Italian neighborhood. His father had been a policeman and his mother was a teacher. His father had died of a heart attack when Domenic was around ten years old.


He had wanted to drop out of school as soon as he was old enough to get a work permit but his mother wouldn’t let him. She insisted he stay in school. She worked two jobs to make ends meet and they lived off of the proceeds of the death benefits from a small insurance policy Domenic’s father had taken out. It hadn’t been easy but they all had survived. Domenic was very proud of his family.


Domenic was a good listener too. He snuck my story out of me, just like Nell had. I found myself telling him more about me than I’d ever told anyone. Not that there’s much to tell. But now he knows I’m a real dreamer.


Later, I was embarrassed that I told him how proud I was of my parents and the work they do and how I planned on continuing what they had started, once I had enough experience. I’ve heard all of the lawyer jokes, heard about all of the surveys where lawyers are the lowest of the low in the eyes of the public. But to me, the law is a serious thing, a beautiful thing.


I want to take the law and use it as a weapon. I want to fight for all of those who can’t fight for themselves. I don’t care who they are or what color their skin. It scares me that even now so many of us in this country are on the outside looking in and not just people of color. So, yeah, I’m a dreamer and I cry every time I hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice trembling with passion, “I have a dream…”


I have a vague memory of sharing those thoughts with him. I was drunk. It was a heady feeling having this intriguing, exciting man listening to me so intently. Not laughing at me for being so idealistic. Not telling me how unrealistic I was being. How justice wasn’t really blind; that was just a myth.


All things I had heard before when I dared to tell someone what I really thought. How I really felt. After a while, I had kept my views to myself. Now, for the first time in a long time, someone was listening like what I was saying was really important. He didn’t even shut me up. He just waited ‘til I gradually wound down.


The next day, when I woke up, I had that ‘morning after’ feeling. I had gotten drunk for real once when I was in college. The following morning, I had vague memories of the previous evening and a queasy, embarrassing, what the HELL did I DO last night feeling. I promised myself that I would never do THAT again. Well, this felt way too similar.


I felt so exposed. I made another promise never to do THAT again. I had monopolized the conversation and made a fool of myself. I don’t know why I had thought someone like Domenic would even care about what my opinion was on ANYTHING.


So after that, I tried to keep my mouth shut about what I thought about anything. But Domenic was able to draw me out anyway, in spite of my promise to myself. Even though I couldn’t understand why, he actually seemed interested in what I had to say.


I’d always been shy. So shy that when I was younger, I’d get points taken off for not speaking up in class. Now that I’m older, I at least can handle myself when it is something work related, but on a personal level, no way, no way. But it was hard to be shy and quiet around Domenic. He charmed me out of my bashfulness. He was irresistible.


I never thought I had a romantic or imaginative bone in my body but I’d find myself dreaming about Domenic, at first when I was sleeping and then sometimes it carried over into waking moments. I’d see his hands, large with long, thick fingers. The hardworking hands of a laborer.


I’d remember how those hands had felt, pressing deeply into my skin. Then I’d wonder what it would be like to have those hands caressing me, softly, gently. I’d look at his lips, pink and full, sweetly curved and yet so masculine and I’d wonder how much of my soul I’d have to sell just for one taste. I was going a little crazy. I’d never fantasized about another guy before.


I’d just log on the internet and look at a blur of anonymous faces fucking, rimming, sucking, all those gorgeous, hot bodies doing whatever and I’d get off. Now instead of watching the screen as I came, I’d close my eyes and behind my eyelids would be Domenic, kissing me, me on my knees in front of him sucking him, him behind me fucking me. As much as I tried to erase the pictures and replace them with someone else, anyone else, I couldn’t.


I even had a wet dream. It was so unbelievably real. So good. I felt him; I felt his weight on top of me. Really felt him, solid and heavy in my arms. I was awakened by the sound of my voice, begging him not to go as he slowly disappeared into grey mist. My heart was aching when I awakened.  


About two weeks after Domenic had put me to sleep with the massage; I was in the office working late again. I jumped up suddenly from where I was slumped over my never ending pile of medical records. Domenic was there, watching me. He had that amused half smile on his face and he was looking at me so tenderly that my heart collapsed in my chest.


“Jeezus,” he said. “What do I have to do? Take you home myself to make sure you get enough rest?”


I blushed. “No, that won’t be necessary,” I said.


“No massage for you tonight,” he said teasingly. “As hard as it was for me to wake you up last time, you’d be out for the count tonight.”


He looked at me quizzically and said, “Tell me you’re not coming in here on weekends too.”


He waited for me to answer. I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure what I should say. I was coming in on weekends. It was the only way this case was going to go to trial before the next century started. I just kept looking at him. My brain was frozen.


“Look youngun,’ he said patiently. “This job can’t be your life. If you don’t learn anything from me other than that, it’ll be worth it. That’s how my dad died. He hadn’t even turned forty. That’s the one thing my mom has drilled into my head, ‘don’t let your job kill you.’


“C’mon,” he said. “You’re coming with me.”


Once he said that, I entered the twilight zone. Only I didn’t know it yet. He took me to his mother’s house. It was around nine on a Friday night. His mother was cooking in the kitchen when I arrived and all of Domenic’s four sisters were there.


You’d have thought Jesus the Christ had walked through the door when Domenic arrived. And I was lucky enough to be A Friend of Jesus because they fussed over me as much as they had Domenic. “Who’s this? He’s so cute. Where’d you get him from?” A chorus of voices coming from a crowd of long haired, dark eyed women who looked just like Domenic, but prettier.


A cool, quiet voice cut through the chatter. “Down girls, down, let the poor guys breathe.”


This woman, tall and voluptuous like her daughters, with a subdued, intense beauty, walked over to me and hugged me. “Welcome, dear one,” she said.  She looked me straight in my eyes and it was like I was being examined under a microscope. Then she smiled and I breathed again.


She and Domenic exchanged a glance I couldn’t interpret and they all dragged me into the kitchen. I had never eaten so much food in my life. I couldn’t say no. Even though some of the things I had never heard of before in my life and I am not a very adventurous eater. Even though I was stuffed to the brim. She was so sweet and making such a fuss over me that I couldn’t say no.


His sisters showed me Domenic’s old room. It was full of trophies and ribbons. There was picture of him with his mom in his arms holding a football. They were surrounded by a bunch of guys. One of them was holding a trophy that rested on top of Domenic’s head. Domenic had a triumphant, ‘today is Valentine’s Day’ look on his face. His face was rounder and his hair longer, but he still looked the same. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised to see that he had been a jock. I think that if I had been alone in that room that I might’ve swiped that picture.


It was time to go before I knew it. It felt like we had just arrived. In a blurred, bewildering rush we left. I was hugged and kissed by all of them and somehow, Adriana, the sister closest in age to me, and I had exchanged phone numbers. Lunch on Wednesday she informed me. Dinner on Friday, Mama said. I felt like I had made a family of best friends, Mama, Maria, Adriana, Francesca and Elena. Still felt like I had visited the twilight zone though and apparently Domenic felt the same way too. He wiped his brow and heaved a sigh of relief.


“Survived another visit to Mama’s,” he said. He looked at me. “Sorry Corey, I should give you hazard pay for that one.”


He may have been joking but he must’ve figured out by my silence and the expression on my face that I didn’t find what he said funny.


“Whoa,” he said. “Another one bites the dust. Another victim to Mama’s homemade pasta.” He gave me a sidelong glance. “Corey, man, ease up. I’m just teasing. I love Mama. Seriously. I know what I have,” he said. “Remember, I lost my dad. I tease Mama and the girls all of the time.”


I turned around and smiled at him. “Okay. I don’t have any brothers and sisters,” I said. I’ve always wanted ten of each.” His eyes widened when I said that. “My mom couldn’t have any kids after they had me,” I said. “I’ve always felt bad about that.”


“I’m sorry to hear that, Corey,” he said.


“It’s okay, I’m not traumatized by it or anything and Mom and Dad seem to be satisfied with just me so I guess they’ve dealt with it too. It was fun seeing a family like yours. Thanks for taking me home with you,” I added. “Even though when Mama first looked at me I felt like I was undergoing inspection.”


There was a brief silence and if it had been anyone else, even in the darkness, I would have sworn that he was blushing.


“Well,” he said. “I had to get you out of that office. You were starting to grow roots there.”


We both started laughing and spent the ride back to the office to pick up my car talking about the upcoming Super Bowl game.  





After that, it was impossible for me to be shy around Domenic. It was also becoming harder to separate my fantasy Domenic from the real one. One time when we were eating lunch at a neighborhood soul food spot, I was licking my fingers and the real Domenic gave me a look I had always imagined on fantasy Domenic’s face as I was looking up at him sucking his cock.


The barbecue sauce on the chicken wings was so good that I couldn’t do the polite thing and wipe it off with my napkin. I was licking it off and yeah, I admit it, moaning just a little bit. Barbecue chicken wings are my weakness.


I caught myself and snuck a glance at Domenic to see if he had been paying attention to me making a pig out of myself. He had this look, I can’t even explain it. His eyes were narrowed and focused totally on me.


He licked his lips and I choked. Literally. I couldn’t breath. It was like my throat had closed up. He jumped up and helped me drink a couple of sips of water while gently massaging my back. The moment, such as it was, was over. I knew it was just my imagination but that look fueled my fantasies for days afterwards.


Domenic and I started hanging out together. Eventually, I ended up going out to lunch with all of his sisters but I remained closest with Adriana. She was so outgoing and bubbly, a perfect foil to my quiet nature. She never minded talking about her beloved older brother and I never minded listening.


When I was with Adriana, I never felt that pressure I’d felt with other girls I had been friends with. The feeling like I should be making a move to take the relationship beyond friendship. A feeling that had made me miserable and uneasy until I realized that I may as well accept that it was never going to happen like that. I was still kicking that idea around in my head when Domenic and I began growing closer.


It’s one thing to read a story or look at a picture and get off and quite another to have the person I was beginning to want with everything in me tantalizingly just out of reach. No matter how often I told myself that I was crazy, there was this little hopeful voice inside me that told me that Domenic wanted me too. After all, I was the only one at the firm that I knew of other than Delia that even knew that Domenic had a family. I was the only one who had met all of them. Even Delia had only met Domenic’s mom.


And I knew it wasn’t wishful thinking or naiveté that Domenic was always touching me. I know what they say about Italians. He does talk with his hands. I’d noticed that he’s a very tactile person. But he wasn’t touchy feely with other people the way he was with me. He was always patting me or briskly massaging my shoulders. I’m inexperienced, not stupid. Plus, there was always this suppressed tension between us, no matter what we were doing. I could feel it thick as molasses between us.


I just didn’t know what to do about it. Because I wanted him so badly that I thought it was ruining my judgment. I HAD A BEST FRIEND. Never in my life had I had a guy friend to do stuff with.


I’d always had girl friends. Though with them there was always the unsaid fact that I was gay like an insurmountable barrier between us. It was one of those things, if I had said something the expectation that things could go further wouldn’t have been there. But it was something that I hadn’t been comfortable with or even completely understood at the time. And now, there was Domenic.


Domenic, so…beautiful. His intelligence, his drive, his intensity just blows me away. Watching him in court is just amazing. He’s an artist in the courtroom.


I’m making it sound like Domenic is all gravy. Not true. Domenic ALWAYS thinks he’s right. He doesn’t care if you don’t agree with him. But if you don’t, you better be prepared to argue the point. And to argue that point into the ground. You better have evidence to support your point of view or he is gonna chew you up, spit you out and walk away smiling. He doesn’t get mad. He LIKES to argue.


I love Domenic. I love Domenic. I am in love with Domenic. In my imaginings of what it must be like to be in love. I thought that if I were ever lucky enough to experience it, that it would come with bells and whistles. I had no idea that love could stalk you, creep up on you, take you over and hold you prisoner before you even realize it’s there.


I never thought I’d even find someone to love or anyone to love me. It was something that seemed so far out of my reach that, truthfully, I rarely even thought of it. Now, I’d find myself in this crazy state of euphoria because I was with Domenic all of the time. I saw him every day. We ate lunch together at least three to four times a week. We spent a lot of time hanging out on weekends too.


And there was that thing hanging in the air between us. This sense of anticipation. The way he touched me all of the time. Then I’d remind myself, he’s Italian. His sister Adriana apologized to me all of the time when we were together, she’d grab me, squeeze me, poke me, ‘touching, it’s an Italian thing’, she always said.


I wanted him to touch me. I lived for Domenic Valentine’s touches. His hands on my body like he owned me.


Then, today, I took it too far.  When he had come over to pick me up to play ball in a pickup game that runs all day and late into the night in his neighborhood, he had hugged me affectionately after he had entered my apartment. When he pulled back, I didn’t let go.


I couldn’t. God, I don’t know what came over me. Truth be told, I’ve been gradually becoming used to the real world fact that I am gay. I am gay. And I love a man. Sounds crazy, I know. How could I live in this skin and not really get such a fundamental thing about myself?


I guess it was the frustration factor too. Over the past several months, it was like Domenic was teasing me. He was acting like we were best friends. He was acting like a mentor, always commenting on how he was old enough to be my father, and calling me, ‘youngun,’ until I finally put a stop to it by telling him he was old enough to be an older brother but not my father. On top of all of that, he was always touching me like he couldn’t keep his hands off of me. It was confusing me and God knows, I was confused enough for ten people.


He usually gave me one of those half hugs; he’d just throw his arm across my shoulders and give me a quick squeeze. Today, for whatever reason, he had stood in the entrance of my apartment and gathered me into his arms. He held me gently but had his arms wrapped completely around me. I stood there for a couple of seconds, frozen and unsure.


Then I laid my head on his chest. We stood there for about a minute and he was swaying a little, like he was rocking me almost. My senses exploded. When I’m around Domenic, sometimes it’s like I’m walking on eggshells; I always monitor what I say, what I do, for fear of revealing how I really feel. I have to put my feelings on mute almost. Put a shield up.


All of that just disappeared as I relaxed in his arms. I became hyperaware; all of my senses focused on experiencing Domenic’s embrace. I could feel the worn, cotton softness of his sweatshirt beneath my cheek, the firm, muscled cushion of his chest, the strength of his arms around me, his thighs, thick and inflexible against my own. I could smell his deodorant, the fresh, clean scent of Domenic, recently showered. I could hear the faint, raspy sound of his breathing. Behind my eyelids, I could see what we must look like his tall, muscular form towering over my much smaller body, the contrasting tones of his golden olive skin against the mahogany hues of my own. Two men wrapped up in each other.


Slowly, I raised my arms and placed them around his neck, keeping my face buried in his chest, not daring to look at him. Finally, too much time had passed for either one of us to try to pretend that this wasn’t happening. He pulled back slightly. I could feel him willing me to look at him.


When I looked into his eyes that barrier that usually exists between one person and another disappeared. His eyes for that instant were so unguarded and so open that I saw what lay beneath his confident swagger.


Then I saw his face change. That bland, affable mask he used to face the world appeared.  After all this time, all of the moments of friendship between us, I couldn’t believe he was gonna try to finesse his way through this.


I grabbed the back of his head, stood up on tiptoes so I could reach his mouth and pulled his face down to mine. He resisted for a half a second but I wasn’t going to let go. Those full lips were just as soft as they looked. I brushed my lips back and forth against his, hoping that he would take over because I wasn’t really sure of what I was doing. Gradually, his frozen body thawed and he began to respond.


My knees buckled and I clutched his shoulders so that I could remain standing after Domenic gently pushed his tongue into my mouth. I groaned. Oh God. He wrapped his tongue around mine and played with it lightly, then pulled back. My eyes were still closed and I was still holding onto him to keep my balance. I tried to pull him towards me again but he wouldn’t budge.


“We can’t, Corey,” he said hoarsely.


I opened my eyes. “Why not?” I asked, hating that begging, whining tone in my voice but totally unable to hide what I was feeling.


“Because…” Domenic started.


“Oh fuck, let me do this for you” I interrupted him.


Domenic was stunned. I never cursed.


“We work together, you’re old enough to be my father, or so you say, my uncle is a friend of yours, should I continue?” I snarled.


“Isn’t that enough?” he asked, quietly, reasonably.


“You want me,” I said and rubbed myself against his hard cock.




“Tell me the real reason, Domenic. Or maybe you don’t want me. Maybe you’re like this with anybody. This is just a game for you isn’t it? Another, ‘Valentine’s Day,’ thing right? You’ve been playing me and I’ve been too stupid to see it. Touching me all the time. Acting like you’re my friend. Acting like you give a shit about me.”


I was unstoppable by this time. Every moment of injustice in my life when I had been too shy or too malleable to speak up for myself, conspired against me. Any bit of rage, every humiliation I’d hung on to unknowingly, coalesced into this nasty miasma of emotion that I poured all over Domenic. I don’t even remember the rest of what I’d said.


I stormed past Domenic, slammed the door and walked out. I’d left my keys behind and my coat too. It was bitterly cold but I didn’t even notice at first. For the first couple of blocks, my self righteous fury kept me warm.


I could only sustain it for so long. I kept seeing Domenic’s stunned face and hearing my enraged voice and the words I could remember saying playing over and over. I had never lost my temper before in my life. I had never acted like that before in my life. Why couldn’t I have just left it alone? Why couldn’t I have just hugged Domenic back and just kept quiet?


Why’d I have to take it a step further? I should’ve talked to him. Told him how I felt. Maybe he knew already. Yeah. He probably knew. Well, it really didn’t even matter, because whatever he didn’t know before, he knew now.


I was freezing and just beginning to become aware of how cold I was when I realized I was standing outside of Nell’s Place. I tried to settle my stomach and jumping nerves. When I couldn’t I just walked in and tried to keep my head low.


It was so stupid. To have argued with Domenic. It wasn’t even an argument. It was me acting like a jerk. If only…if only I could take back the past hour or so.


I took my glasses off and pinched my nose, willing myself not to cry. My heart hurt so bad. Other than my parents, I’ve never cared really deeply for someone before. Ever since I was a little kid, my dream was to be a lawyer and help people and be like my parents. I was just beginning to see how small my world has been ‘til now.


Domenic has to be hating me, thinking I’m a real sick puppy or maybe he just said the hell with it and left.  


Nell paused in front of me. “Smiley.”


I looked up.


“Would that gentleman be looking for you?”


I looked at her stupidly.


“Turn around, baby,” she said.


I turned and there he was, walking towards me, carrying my coat. He looked more serious than I’d ever seen his usually smiling or laughing face.


He stopped in front of me and said, “I’d like to talk to you, Corey.”


I nodded my head and gestured to a table in the corner.


“Do you want anything? Coffee? Tea?” I asked him.


“I’ll take a cup of coffee. Black,” he replied quietly.


Nell nodded her head, indicating she’d heard.


Nerves were settling in and I was shaking a little as I joined him at the table.


“I didn’t mean to lead you on, tease you or any of the things you thought I was doing, Corey,” Domenic said, as usual getting straight to the point.


I hung my head a little, feeling ashamed of the things I’d said and for being so out of control before I’d left the apartment.


“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was way out of line. You never led me on or gave me any reason to believe we’ve been anything but good friends. I know that all those things I said were wishful thinking on my part.”


Domenic grabbed my hand and shook his head. “No, man. You were right. It wasn’t your imagination. I was touching you all of the time…”


I interrupted him. “I know, I know, Adriana always says that it’s an Italian thing.”


Domenic smiled ruefully. “Maybe so, maybe for Adriana. But you were right. I was touching you all of the time. Because I wanted to. Because I couldn’t keep my hands off of you. Any excuse to touch you worked for me.”


I stared at him. That was the last thing in the world I’d expected him to say. My stomach quivered. I swallowed. I kept staring at him dumbly, not sure of what I should say.


Domenic continued, “I AM old enough to be your father, you know…”


I protested, “If you were ten years old when you…”


“That’s what people would say…”


“YOU care what people say?” I asked incredulously.


“I’m your boss, practically, and my boss is your father’s best friend…”


“Leave Uncle Rodney out of this,” I snapped. “He would NOT involve himself in my personal life.”


“Rodney knows you’re gay?


I didn’t say anything.


“Does Rodney know you’re gay? Do your parents? Do your friends?”


I stared of into space while Domenic waited patiently for me to answer.


“Look Domenic,” I said, speaking slowly, thinking as I was speaking. “I’m just realizing I’m gay,” I said. “I mean…I think I’ve always known, but it’s only for the past several months that I’ve come to realize it in a conscious way.” I fumbled for words, trying to give him an answer that made sense.


“I know it shouldn’t be this hard.”


“Fighting it?” Domenic said, looking at me intently. I could tell he was trying to understand how I was feeling.


“NO.” I said emphatically. “Fighting it would be like trying to erase the color of my skin. Or changing the color of my eyes. No.” I said again. “It’s just that…I guess that I’m really accepting that it’s real. Since I met you…” Oh man.  My face heated.


He continued looking at me, dark brown eyes intent and serious. “Since you met me…” he said in an encouraging voice.


I didn’t pick up where I left off. I couldn’t continue.


“Corey. Please talk to me. Don’t stop now.”


“I’ve never wanted anyone who was real.” I said in a low voice. “It’s always been something I didn’t have to pay much attention to. I’ve gone online, into chat rooms talking to guys. I’ve worn my keyboard out sometimes in a variety of ways, if you know what I mean.” I snuck a look at him beneath my eyelashes. He wasn’t laughing at me.

I continued.


“What I mean is, Domenic, that I’ve never wanted any man the way I want you.” Whoa. That wasn’t easy. But I wanted him to know.


I looked down. My hand was hurting. I realized that Domenic had never let it go and now he was squeezing it so hard, he was crushing my fingers. I wiggled them gingerly.


“Shit,” he said, loosening his grip but not releasing my hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”


I met his eyes and smiled a little. “It’s okay.” I said. “They’re okay.”


Nell dropped off coffee for Domenic and a refill of tea for me. We barely noticed.


“So far, you’re the only one who knows about me. At least, I think you’re the only one. My parents don’t really get into my personal life.”


“You don’t know how lucky you are,” Domenic said. “Can you imagine trying to keep anything secret in my house, with my family?”


In spite of still feeling a little shaky and emotionally unraveled, I had to laugh at that. “Um, no, I can’t. Were your mom and the girls upset?”


“I think Mom, was a little bothered by missing out on grandchildren from me. Just a little though.” He stayed quiet for a moment. “Maybe things would’ve been different if my dad had been living, I don’t know. We were all too busy trying to survive for it to be a big deal. With four girls in the house, there was always a crisis. My being gay was pretty minor in comparison to that.”


He gave a deep sigh and looked at me. “Okay youngun, I mean Corey,” he corrected himself before I could protest. “What’s it gonna be?”


I looked at him, stunned. Me? He was asking me what’s it gonna be? I tried to still my racing thoughts. This was it wasn’t it? This is what I had been daydreaming about over the past several months. This was the moment I had never thought would exist in real time.


He had done it again. That barrier, that wall was gone. I looked into his eyes, saw into his secret heart and I saw that inside, he was just like me. Lonely. Scared. I saw something else. He was willing to be persuaded. Willing to take the risk. For me. I’m not gonna screw this up.


“I want to be with you, Domenic.” I swallowed. “Look, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, okay? I’ve never had a relationship before. I’ve never even had a dog, for God’s sake. We can take it fast, slow, however you want it. If you want me to act like I don’t know you at work, or whatever, I’ll do it. If you want me to stand on my desk and announce it to the world, I’ll do that too. Starting here, right now,” I said.


Domenic looked at me as though I had just grown three heads. My hands were shaking as I lifted my mug and took a sip of tea, waiting anxiously for him to respond to what I had just said.


“You have the sweetest eyes,” he said quietly.


I could feel the slow blooming of blood on my cheeks as my face started to burn.


“Corey,” Domenic said with a grin, “I have never seen anybody blush as much as you do. Bet you’re glad for that extra pigment you got aren’t you?”


Now I could feel the burn from head to toe.


“Maybe no one else notices,” he said. “But I do. I notice everything about you.”


He grabbed my hand again. “And I want to be with you too. Let’s go.”


Nell waved him away when he walked up to the bar to pay.




After that, not much changed between us. We still worked together as usual. Still hung out together. Domenic said that we should take things slow. He said even though we’d known each other in the work setting that was different, that we had to start all over again.


We’d let his family figure things out for themselves, although his mother already knew. She’d known the moment he brought me home to them, she said. My parents had met Domenic on various occasions when attending business functions and social parties held by Uncle Rodney’s firm, so he wasn’t a complete stranger to them. Characteristically, all they wanted was for me to be happy. If I was happy they’d be happy too.


As my father said, if I brought home a purple alien from Mars, it would be all good, as long as I was happy. Although, he added with his quiet smile, they were perfectly happy with my selection of Domenic instead. Domenic had roared. I was glad he appreciated Dad’s sense of humor, which was a little weird sometimes as far as I was concerned.


Domenic and I spent hours kissing. Unfortunately, over the past couple of weeks, no matter how much I begged him, we had gone no further than that. He told me to be patient. Said he’d had enough relationships that started out with a good fuck and ended with him and the other guy barely able to tolerate each other. I didn’t make it easy for him.


I was suffering and I wanted him to suffer too. I’d sit in his lap and whisper in his ear. Tell him how I was gonna lick him all over from head to toe while rubbing my ass across his hard cock. Tell him how tight I must be since I’d never had anything in my ass except for my own fingers.


I’d turn him in a groaning, moaning pile of hard, aching flesh and still he wouldn’t give in. No matter what I’d do. At least he’d let me unbutton his shirt and rub my face across his chest. I’d bury my face in his silky black chest hair and just about die from feeling him and smelling him. He wouldn’t let me go near his nipples though, so I knew they must be super sensitive.


One time, he’d been kissing me and he’d lifted my shirt and started stroking my back. He’d started rubbing the skin right above the crack of my ass. I never knew how sensitive I was there. No one had ever touched me there but Domenic.


He was tracing little circles there. It gave me chills. And the way he kissed me. Domenic kissed me like there was nothing more important in the world than his lips on mine. He’d slowly devour my lips, kissing, sucking and biting on them, until I was panting and crazy with wanting him.


This time, the touch of his hands delicately caressing the top of my ass combined with his soft lips on mine, took me over the edge he’d kept me hovering on for weeks. I tore my mouth from his, my head fell back and I came. I’d grabbed my cock instinctively when I first felt it coming, trying to stop it. But I couldn’t. I came harder than I’d ever cum in my life, shaking and trembling in Domenic’s arms.


When I stopped, he was holding me close and shaking too. “Oh baby, oh baby,” he was murmuring. “God, I want you so bad.”


“Domenic, please,” I begged. “I can’t take it anymore.”


“Shhhh…soon, baby. Soon.”


He pulled me closer and held me until I fell asleep. After that, he’d call things to a halt before they got to that point again. Sometimes I hated his enormous self-restraint. But, I felt reassured by it too. He wanted us to build something that would last and I did too.




February 14th was right around the corner and I was wondering how we were going to celebrate. I wanted to do something special. Maybe go on a dinner cruise at the harbor. I wanted to be somewhere we could feel comfortable being together. I didn’t want to hide how I felt for him.


I wasn’t sure what I was going to get him and as the day grew closer, I was becoming anxious. He told me he would take care of everything. So I stopped worrying about what we were going to do but I was still worried about what to get him. Then his sister Adriana gave me an idea.


When the day came, I woke up feeling like something special was going to happen. I was nervous and excited because I’d never had any reason to see Valentine’s Day as anything special before, and now I had Domenic.


When I got to work, there was a red rose on my desk. I inhaled its fresh scent and smiled. An hour later when I paid for my usual cup of tea at the café downstairs, the cashier handed me a red rose and said with a smile, “This is for you, from someone who loves you very much.” I blushed and thanked her.


When I arrived back at my desk, there was a small bouquet of forget me nots waiting there. There was a note with it, ‘My place, tonight at seven, D.’  My heart started pounding in my chest.


An hour later, Janet, a clerical person Uncle Rodney had assigned to help Domenic and me, walked into my office with an envious look on her face.


“You have a delivery Corey,” she said.


The guy walked in with a huge bouquet of beautiful blue and purple flowers. Primrose, the delivery guy explained as he showed me the card that explained the meaning of the flowers. Primrose: I cannot be without you.


“No tip required,” he said with a cute little grin.


“I’m impressed,” Jeanette said, eyeing me curiously.


I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, me too.


An hour later, the same guy returned with a handful of balloons, a red stuffed teddy bear as big as me and an armful of flowers.


“Ambrosia,” he announced, reading from a card, obviously enjoying himself, “your love is returned, freesia: trust, violets: faithfulness and virtue, pink carnation: always on my mind, and…more primrose,” he added with a dramatic flourish: “I cannot be without you.”


He waved me away once again, no tip required.


I looked around my office with disbelief. If somebody had told me this story, I wouldn’t have believed it without seeing it for myself. Jeanette came into the office and looked around, “I’m even more impressed”, she said, eyes wide.


Me too, I thought to myself again.


When I got back from lunch, my entire office was full of primrose, which I recognized by now. The same guy was standing there patiently waiting for me, with more heart balloons and a heart shaped jar full of chocolate kisses. My entire office had a new, perfumey, tropical, sweet smell. There was a new flower mixed in, I looked at the guy questioningly.


“Um, that one, you’ll find out about later this evening,” he said with a mysterious smile.


I didn’t try tipping him this time. He nodded his head at me. By now, I felt like we were old friends. I started to ask him if he was coming back but decided I didn’t want to know. I was enjoying the surprises but I didn’t think my tiny office would hold anything else.


Jeanette joined me in my office and looked around. “Mmmm, you must’ve been a very good boy this year”, she teased.


I made some sort of noncommittal sound and buried my head in the files I was trying to review. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to work and trying to keep my mind off of Domenic, where he was and what he was doing. I hadn’t seen him at work at all today.


By the end of the day, I was a mess. Domenic had apparently taken the day off. When I rang his doorbell, I noticed that my hand was trembling. I was nervous, excited and full of apprehension.


He gave me a slow smile and grabbed my hand, pulling me into his house. As soon as Domenic’s hand closed around mine, my nervousness disappeared. Domenic was here and everything was okay. When I walked inside, I was surprised to see that Domenic’s usually Spartan home was full of flowers and fragrant with that unique perfumey scent that had permeated my office earlier.


He had set his table and there was a single candle in the center. The smell of homemade tomato sauce and fresh pasta overlay the scent of the flowers. At first, I thought that I smelled one of my favorite meals that his mother usually prepared for me. Sometimes she would send stuff over to Domenic’s for me. But then Domenic led me to the kitchen and I saw that he was cooking.


His mother always told me what a good cook he was and how he’d always have dinner ready for her when she came home from work but he had never cooked for me before.


“Keep me company while I finish up in here,” he said. I watched him cook in a dreamy silence, admiring his skill in the kitchen and the way he moved. Every now and then he’d look at me and give me one his slow smiles and then return his concentration to preparing the meal.


He looked at me and said, “That should keep for a bit. It’ll take about another thirty minutes or so and then it’ll be ready. I wanted it to be fresh and hot when you got here.”


He walked over to me and kissed me softly on the lips. “Did you get the flowers?”


“Yeah,” I said shyly. I started blushing and looked at the floor. I was nervous again.


“Did you like them?”


“Yeah,” I said. “Thank you.”


There were so many things I wanted to say. I had thought of the prettiest speech all day long at work. More pretty things on the way home. And I could not spit any of them out right now. They were right on the tip of my tongue.


Domenic, I love you so much. Domenic, I’ve never had anyone do anything like this for me before. Domenic, make love to me. Domenic, I’ve never felt this way before.


It all sounded so melodramatic. And I was scared. What if I was reading into this? What if this was something he did for all of his lovers? I’d been afraid to ask him about his past.


He put a finger beneath my chin and lifted my head so that he could look into my eyes. He peered into them intently. He could read me as well as I could him and he knew that I was a little nervous. His eyes held a reassurance that steadied me.


“I’ve never celebrated Valentine’s Day before,” I said quietly.


Domenic said, “Used to be that every good day, every winning game day or every winning court day was Valentine’s Day for me.”


I laughed a little.


“But now,” he continued. “Every day is Valentine’s Day, because I’ve got you.”


Before I could respond to what he had said, he took my hand and led me to the living room, where he had a fire burning. He lay down on the couch and pulled me onto him so that my back was nestled into him and my front was facing the fire.


This was what I never imagined I would have. The sound of my lover breathing quietly behind me. The sharp crackling sound of burning wood. The fragrant smell of flowers in the room mixed with the pungent odor of the burning wood. The feeling of security of being enfolded in Domenic’s strong arms. No harm would ever come to me here.


He kissed the back of my neck softly. “How was your day?’


“It was good,” I said breathlessly. The moist imprint of his lips sent waves of heat running through me and for a moment I couldn’t think.


“Did you like the flowers?” he asked quietly.


“Yeah, I did,” I responded.




We lay there in silence and I was almost lulled to sleep by the rise and fall of Domenic’s chest behind me and the comfort I felt wrapped in his arms. Except every now and then, he’d press a sweet, warm kiss on the back of my neck. The first time he did it, I felt a flash of heat so fierce that I broke out in a sweat.


I grit my teeth and wondered why out of all the guys in the world, I end up with the one guy who wants to take things slow. The second kiss, eons later, after I had settled back down, gave me chills.


By the third kiss, I was talking to myself. Telling myself to chill. Because Domenic wanted to fucking wait. The fourth kiss had me biting my lip to keep from moaning and  anxiously awaiting the next one.


He moved to the side of my neck for the fifth kiss and I couldn’t stop the moan that I had been holding back for so long. I quickly turned so that I was facing him. I reached up and pulled his face down to mine, “Nicky, please, kiss me.”


I noticed a fleeting glance of surprise and then a smile as he heard me call him by the name his mother and sisters used for him. And then he kissed me. He kissed me like he had been dying for it. Like he was really sweatin me. Like my mouth was some kind of delicacy he had been craving.


Oh yeah. Oh man, if he wanted me to beg I swear to God I would. I rubbed against him. His cock was so thick and so hard that there was a huge ridge in the front of his pants. I lifted my leg and threw it across his hips.


“Nicky, Nicky, please, please, please,” I begged. I was shaking now. It had been so long. I wanted him so bad. I hated his fucking self control.


“Shhhh…Shhhh…,” He hugged me and stroked my back. “I gotta go check the food.”


I looked at him incredulously. How could he even think about food right now??? How could he even think, dammit.


He looked down at me with those deep brown eyes and said, “Corey. Let me do this. Let me do this right, okay?”


I nodded, willing to agree with whatever he said, whatever he wanted. He pulled me up and led me into the dining room. I sat down where he directed me. He waited on me, served me dinner, and I know I ate. I know the food was probably delicious but it may as well have been mud. Because once he touched me, all I could think about was Domenic making love to me.


All day long, even absent, he had been with me. Each time I received a new delivery of flowers and gifts, I could see Domenic, with that amused half smile on his face, chuckling to himself and visualizing my reaction.


All day long vignettes of moments that we’d spent together over the past year or so crept into my head. The working meetings. His patience with my inexperience as an attorney. Meeting his family. Becoming friends. Aching to be his lover.


By the end of the day, I was going crazy from wanting to be with him, the need to see him, touch him. I wanted to tell him how special he’d made this day for me. Like no other. Then when I saw him, I couldn’t find the words.


He wouldn’t let me help clean up after we finished eating. “Let me do this right, ok?” he said. “You can keep me company, but only if you just watch,” he said with a smile.


He didn’t have to tell me to watch; I couldn’t take my eyes off of him if I wanted to. Domenic was hairy all over and the contrast of the jet black hair with the deep olive of his skin was mouth watering. His body hair was silky all over. Feather soft and shiny.


As he moved around, my eyes followed the sleek lines of his body, the bulges of his muscles contracting and relaxing as he completed various tasks. I devoured him with my eyes, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes.


I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach, it was like an ache. My balls hurt; they were tender and swollen. My cock was dripping steadily. I don’t think it had gone down from the time I had arrived and he hugged me.


Domenic was hard too. He had on a pair of sweat shorts and a t-shirt. From time to time I’d see him reach down to adjust himself and that made me even harder. I couldn’t stop looking at him. I didn’t want to.


Finally, he was finished. He walked over to me and placed his hand on my shoulder. I gasped and my head fell back. It was just his hand on my shoulder, through my shirt but God, it felt like he had reached down and squeezed my dick. A huge wave of heat and pleasure washed over me. I opened my eyes slowly to find Domenic staring down at me.


His entire body was rigid and his jaw was clenched. For the first time, I could see how tightly he was maintaining his self control.


“Corey, I…let me…”


I moved into him and he groaned. He lowered his face to mine and brushed his lips gently across my face and neck before planting a soft, moist whisper of a  kiss upon my waiting mouth. I clutched his shoulders tightly, trying to pull him even closer. He pressed baby soft kisses against my lips for endless moments before prying them open tenderly. He pushed his tongue against mine and I wrapped my tongue around his hungrily.


Somehow, we ended back in the living room. He laid me down on the carpeted floor and I watched impatiently as he removed his t-shirt and shorts. I lay there, paralyzed with desire and dry mouthed. He undressed me without saying anything. His eyes were intent and questioning at times. Every now and then he would give me this look, ‘Are you sure about this?’


He had been so patient with me in so many ways. I wanted to say to him… ‘You’re the reason this has taken so long, not me’, but I knew that wasn’t true. I may have been physically ready for this a long time ago, but I was just barely starting to realize that my heart and soul had been lagging behind.


Because this was different. This wasn’t like that day I had cum all over myself in his arms. That day, I was crazy about Domenic, true. He was my first crush. Period. I had wanted him so much. But nothing like I wanted him now. Because now, I knew the real Domenic. Not the guy I thought he was.


“Hey,” he whispered.


I looked up at him. I was aching for him. Everything that I am was liquid and hot and melting with wanting him.


“You with me?”


I nodded my head, momentarily unable to speak. I licked my lips and swallowed dryly. “Yeah,” I said hoarsely.


He ran a gentle hand across my body and I shivered. His eyes narrowed.


“I want to make love to you.”


His deep brown, penetrating eyes cut into me.  


“I want to show you how much you mean to me.”


He looked down at me, frowning a little bit now. “And I’m scared I might hurt you.”


His words released me from my paralysis. I rose to my knees in front of him and raised my hands to both sides of his face.


“I want to be with you. I’ve wanted this for so long. And I trust you,” I murmured.


I reached down and clasped his cock. It was hard, velvety soft and fiery hot. I examined it with my eyes and hands. I’d never touched another guy’s cock before. I was curious and unbearably aroused.


I bent over and slipped the head into my mouth and attempted to suck his length down my throat. His cock had a distinct curve and I tried to adjust my mouth and throat to it. It jerked once and then Domenic was pulling roughly away.


“Fuck! Fuck!” His chest rose and fell rapidly as he tried to catch his breath. I looked at him questioningly. Did I do something wrong?


Domenic grabbed me and pressed against me. “Damn Corey, where’d you learn to do that? Slow down baby. I almost came.”


He smiled at me. “It’s been awhile. That felt so fucking good.”


I blushed and he laughed a little. “It’s okay, baby. I liked it. I loved it.”


I looked him up and down again. I wanted to touch him, taste him. I wanted to explore his body. I wanted to please him.


He pushed me back down onto the carpet. This time, we were both naked. After that first touch, skin to skin, my thought processes seemed to just shut down. Time ceased to exist sequentially and there was nothing in the world except Domenic making love to me. It was kind of hazy. Flashes of image and sensation.


Domenic’s mouth on mine; sweet, heated, languorous kisses from his full, curved lips. The warmth and weight of his heavy body against mine. His caresses against my heated skin, gentle and tender as though I were something fragile.


His tongue against my flesh wet, hot, seeking. His mouth and tongue against my opening, igniting me, preparing me for entry.


And then the long slow delicious glide of his cock into my body. The fullness, the tingling the burning. In and out, that pleasurable burn. The short, jerky thrusts.


Domenic pushing into me, then backing up ‘til just the tip of his cock rested against me, feeling his fluid dripping against my buttocks as he gasped against my mouth, “It feels so good…I don’t want to cum yet.”


And then that burning again. That hurting, aching, full feeling. The pressure intermixed with increasing pleasure and the sparks of electricity spreading outwards when he rubbed against that place, right there, right there. Oh God. He would find it every time.


Just when I’d think he was gonna miss it. Just when I ‘d raise my hips, silently begging him to do it, hit it, fuck me, don’t stop, he would…sink deep inside me, rub against it, over and over and over and then pull back and out again.


I was groaning and mumbling incoherent words of entreaty by this point. All I knew is that it felt so good that I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t bear for him to continue and I couldn’t bear for him to stop.


He’d get right to the bottom of me and pause, groaning with pleasure as he immersed himself inside. I was shaking with the intensity of it, unable to contain it. It felt so…piercingly sweet, so excruciatingly pleasurable.


I was clawing at his back. I couldn’t help myself; I couldn’t stop. Then when he’d pull back out, I’d try to prevent him from withdrawing, try to capture his hips between my thighs, try to raise my hips and tighten so he couldn’t escape the clasp of my humid, tight opening.


But he was stronger than me. Sometimes when he’d pull back he’d whisper, “Shhhh, Shhhh, I want this to be good for you. I don’t want to cum too soon.” He’d rest his cock against the outside of my ass. Rubbing it against the cheeks until I was writhing and finally begging him for it.


I was crazed. I was loud. I was practically howling for it. “Please, Nicky, just fuck me, just do it. Don’t stop.”


I needed him to keep going. I needed to feel him cum inside of me. I needed him to stop teasing me with these stop and go thrusts that made me so hungry for more.


The last time he pushed into me, I gripped his buttocks and held him inside. I lifted my hips and ground myself against him, tightening my muscles, gripping him as tightly as I could. Then I opened my legs as wide as they would go, so he sank deeper into me, as deep as I could get him.


He groaned like he was dying. I felt his cock jerking and throbbing violently for a couple of seconds. Domenic held his breath and stopped moving. After a couple of seconds, he exhaled roughly, planted his hands on the floor on both sides of my head and rocked gently against me.


We were both slick with sweat and panting with exertion. He reached down and grasped my cock with a moist hand. My back arched and my eyes rolled into the back of my head. Oh god.


“Not yet,” I groaned. “That’s gonna make me cum.”


“I know,” he purred against my ear. “I want you to cum. I want you to cum with my dick inside of you. I want to make you mine. Totally. Completely.”


Everything else fell away.  


“Look at me,” I demanded. I was almost crying.


He pushed up a little bit and looked down at me.


“You don’t know yet? That I’m already yours?” I was panting, gasping for air. Floating on a surfeit of physical sensation and the knowledge that this man, my man, loved me and wanted me.


“I love you, Nicky,” I said softly.


He collapsed onto me, as if every bone in his body had just turned into water. He shuddered against me. I could tell he was barely hanging onto that legendary control of his.


“Now fuck me, Nicky. I belong to you. Every part of me. Yours.  Please, give yourself to me. Pleasepleaseplease…”


Oh man. I knew he would never deliberately hurt me. But his body is one powerful machine. For a minute, I thought he might break me.


His hand on my dick was gentle but his thrusts were hard, rapid and deep. He was shifting me with each thrust and I could feel the scrape of the carpet against my back.

He quickly realized what he was doing and wrapped his hands beneath my shoulders to prevent me from moving.


The force and power of his thrusts felt a hundred times more intense. I stopped being afraid and rode the wave with him. Rocking with him, meeting his thrusts because nothing in my life had ever felt like this before. So good. So true. So real.


I started to cum mere seconds before he did. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and a rash of goose bumps rose across the entire surface of my skin. It started at the bottom of me. That sweet, aching burning intensified until I was inundated with continuous pulses of pleasure, radiating outward from that sweet spot Domenic kept rubbing against. Then it was centered on my dick, jumping and spurting in Domenic’s hand.


After that, it was just everywhere. Everything. The awareness of Domenic’s slick sweaty skin sliding against me. The dense weight of his body on top of me. The tickling scratch of his silken, damp body hair grazing against my own smooth skin.


His breath, his smell. His being. Domenic here with me. Loving me. Incredible. Unbelievable. Undeserved. No scratch that. Stop that. Crazy way to look at the miracle of love. Just accept it. Soak it in. Oh yeah.


Domenic shuddering against me. Out of control. Trusting me enough to let go and be vulnerable with me. Rubbing his face tenderly across mine. Whispering ‘I love you’ over and over. Holding me like I’m a prized treasure. Finally coming to rest against me. Nuzzling into me and settling there with a sigh of comfort and release.


I awakened slowly and easily for once. Domenic was leaning over me, lightly caressing my face. “You’re adorable, you know,” he said quietly.


“I’m glad you think so,” I replied.


“You don’t believe me, huh?”


I remained silent.


“Well,” he said, and then paused. He cleared his throat, nervously I kinda thought. But I had never seen Domenic nervous. “Um…”


I looked at him, curiosity aroused. He reached behind him and handed me a bouquet of the white, sweet smelling flowers that were scattered all over his house. The ones the delivery guy had told me I’d find the meaning of later.


“I’m sorry for waking you up,” Domenic said. “But Valentine’s Day is almost over. And I want to get this right.”


He grabbed my hands so that I was sitting up facing him. “Corey, I’d give anything to have taken you to San Francisco this weekend. But if I did we’d have a bunch of women who’d be really pissed off at us.”


I looked at him, a little bewildered. Not quite sure what he was getting at.


“Baby,” he said, “I know you’re wrapped up in the case, but you do know that in San Francisco there’s a bunch of gay and lesbian folks getting married, right?”


I nodded my head, still not quite sure what this had to do with us.


Domenic gave me one of those amused half smiles. Then he said it again. “Corey, you are so adorable. And since you’re not getting me, I’ll spit it out. I want to spend the rest of my life showing you how adorable I think you are.”


I was still looking at him. Starting to get it, but still half asleep and still floating from Domenic making love to me for the first time. I really wasn’t all there.


“Corey, these flowers, they’re called stephanotis, they mean happiness in marriage.” Domenic looked at me without speaking for a minute. “I want what my mother and father would have had, if my dad hadn’t died. They didn’t believe in quitting or running away when things get tough. Or when you get bored or pissed off at the other person. I want a marriage.  A real marriage. The kind where, ‘til death do us part means something.”


He’s not…


“Corey,” Domenic said with patient exasperation, if there is such a thing, “will you marry me?”


My mouth opened and closed. Marry? Me? Domenic and me? My skin ran hot and cold. I broke out in a sweat. And I think I stopped breathing for a couple of minutes. Maybe I even fainted. Domenic shook me a little.


I started breathing again. He seemed to think that was a little funny because he had that half smile on his face, the one that I’m coming to understand now, the one that means, ‘Corey, you’re so adorable.’ Wow.


“Yes, Nicky,” I said shakily. “I’ll marry you.” I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face in his chest.


“Thank God,” he said. “For a minute there I thought I was speaking Italian and not English and maybe you didn’t understand me. Then when you stopped breathing I was thinking I might have to do some CPR or call 911.”


He laughed when I punched him lightly in the stomach. He turned to the side, still embracing me and grabbed a small box from off the table. He pulled out a ring and placed it on my left ring finger. It was a thick gold band, inlaid with a copper symbol that looked like a horizontal figure eight.


“That’s the symbol for infinity,” Domenic said quietly. “I have one too.” He held out his hand.


I looked at the ring on his finger and then into his beautiful, deep brown eyes.  I would never have his gift for self-expression or the ease with which he was able to clearly state his feelings. I would always have to mull over and digest things before speaking. One thing I could say.


“I love you, Domenic. And I always will. I have a present for you too.”


I took him by the hand and led him upstairs to the top floor of his house. He had a small attic room that he never used and I had put his gift there, keeping my fingers crossed that he wouldn’t go in there and spoil the surprise.


I made him close his eyes before we entered the room. “Adriana told me that once your dad died, you became the man of the family. She told me that you used to be a little goofy, playing tricks on them all the time and that all that stopped once your dad died. Your mom said that you and your dad used to…” I took my hands from his face. “…study the stars together. So I thought maybe you and I could…”


Domenic looked at the telescope I set up and then at me. He put his arms around me and hugged me until I had no more air in my lungs.


When he let me go, I said, “Because you’re a dreamer just like me, Nicky. And I heard what you said, Nicky. Even though I didn’t say anything then, I just couldn’t think of the right words and I want you to know that every day is Valentine’s Day for me too. Because you’re in my life.”


Domenic picked me up and swung me around. He’s always lifting me like I’m a featherweight. And he treats me like I’m the most valued of treasures. Six months later, thanks to the frantic efforts of my mother and his, Domenic and I were married. According to them, we were lucky they didn’t make us wait a year. As it was, we had to listen to them grumble and complain to each other about how much better things could have been if we had only given them more time.


So, that’s my Valentine’s Day story. How an ordinary guy like me was lucky enough to  find love. Or how love found me. Because that’s what really happened. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone, especially everyone brave enough and lucky enough to marry in San Francisco for Valentine’s Day weekend, 2004. Maybe the world is changing.