The young man had a hollow look in his eyes, he was sitting on the bed almost motionless and looking somewhere past him. Ricky sighed as he took off his belt, twisted it between his arms, and watched the youth feeling disappointed at how passive he seemed. He saw no fear, no expectation, no emotional reaction whatsoever.
“Lay on your stomach,” Ricky commanded coldly, and the young man obeyed without saying a word, not once had he even looked at his face. These street whores bored him, too numb to react to anything anymore, consumed by their drug-filled world. Ricky needed more, he missed the challenge, the excitement, the intoxicating sense of power, when the other was completely at his mercy and fearful of him.
He struck his belt on the buttocks of the blond-haired youth who was shaking from the blow, let out a small pathetic moan but nothing else, and that wasn’t enough. Ricky struck, again and again, recalling better times. Michael had been the perfect victim and at the same time perhaps his biggest mistake. He had been greedy, and now after Michael’s escape, he had had to keep a low profile, secure his back, and therefore… he had to be content with these pathetic homeless whores that had no one to miss them.
Ricky knew he had become too arrogant about Michael, about himself, not to get caught. It would have been smart to leave Michael in Mexico at first, it would have been safer, he could have visited his friend to see the boy regularly. But those conditions would have changed Michael faster, he would have become as depressed and unwilling as this homeless young man who had wandered the streets for too long. By taking Michael to New York, a seemingly normal life, he had been allowed to indulge in the sense of power for longer, keeping a faint spark of hope awake in his victim, a spark that was supposed to be just an illusion. However, he had underestimated the boy’s character.
Michael hadn’t returned home; it had been easy to check. But every day the boy was missing from him was a risk. If Michael was alive, he could go to the authorities. The cruel truth for him was that there was no way he could deny that Michael wouldn’t have lived with him should they start investigating. Not even his contacts could endlessly protect him without risking their secrets.
The thought made him angry, and he hit the young man on the bed harder, so that his skin broke from his back and began to bleed, causing him to whimper in pain and Ricky was finally satisfied with the reaction.
Someone had helped the boys. His mother had called, asking why someone claimed she had a grandson she hadn’t heard of a boy who lived with Ricky.
Sure, Ricky had considered that such a day might come, and it would have meant that he should have immediately transported Michael back to Mexico and destroyed the evidence, giving the boy up permanently. He explained that once in his youth he had loved a Mexican woman and nearly twenty years later the same woman had contacted him and claimed that Michael was his own. After an initial shock and listening to her credible story, he had taken Michael to live with him as his nephew, wanting to get to know him better. But later both were revealed to be scammers and after they were exposed, they had fled. Ricky had taken on the role of an exploited man, insisting that he no longer wanted to talk about this humiliation, did not want the police to investigate; what had happened had to be completely forgotten.
But the case couldn’t be completely just swept under the rug, his mother took a new kind of interest in his life, why hadn’t Ricky found a wife by his side?
His father was already dead, and his mother, who was already eighty-four years old, worried about his future, the possibility of having a partner, and heirs. Ricky had been allowed to work in peace for years, but suddenly his mother and older siblings wanted to interfere in his life. He was approaching the age of forty-four which, for a man, was still a perfect age to have children. His father had been forty-eight when he was born. But Ricky was not interested in producing heirs, let alone supporting a wife. The situation was highly vexing, as after Michael’s escape, he had been compelled to build a better backstage and that meant he would have to have a credible female friend who would still give him a certain amount of freedom and peace to nourish his sadistic and perverted desires.
Finding a woman was not a problem. New York was full of singles whose biological clock ticked menacingly and they would have fought with their claws and teeth for an economically successful man who, on top of all that, was certainly pleasing to the eye. Suddenly he had found himself in a situation where his acquaintances, those who only knew the public side of him, arranged blind dates with the women they thought were agreeable to him. And Ricky hadn’t seen any choice but to play along and pretend to be serious in his quest of finding a wife. Maybe it wouldn’t be the end of the world? He had thought. He only had to find a woman who would not interfere too much in his private hobbies and travels, a woman who would not ask too much. It had worked for some of his acquaintances.
Finding the right woman proved easy. Kirstin Hayes was forty years old, widowed a few years earlier, and had two children left from this marriage. A sixteen-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl. Her late husband had been twenty-five years older and wealthy, the woman was accustomed to a luxurious lifestyle, but was currently having to go through inheritance battles with the man’s adult children. The funds had been partially frozen, and Ricky came at the right time to help Kirstin in the lawsuit.
The situation was easy for him. The children hadn’t been close to their father, who had been a helpless workaholic. So, they had little objections to their mother’s new relationship, especially when it meant the possibility to maintain the standard of living to which they were accustomed and the house in which they had grown up.
Kirstin was easily charmed with expensive gifts and weekend trips and the woman wasn’t sexually active, far from it. Kirstin seemed to consider sex more of a duty and seemed pleased that Ricky wasn’t putting much pressure on the bedroom. However, for the sake of appearance and in order not to raise doubts, Ricky took occasional initiatives to have sex. It was a boring and usually quick transaction, in the bedroom, in the dark. Him just using her body to reach an orgasm and she, lying there waiting for it to be over.
Even at that moment, Kirstin imagined that he was on a business trip. The woman was completely clueless about what kind of monster she was married to.
When Ricky was done, he left the trembling, blood-stained young man on the bed and stepped out of the room.
”How did you like him?” His friend asked.
“He filled his purpose, I suppose,” Ricky shrugged indifferently. ”The level of your whores is starting to get worse.”
“No can do, perfection is difficult to find.” The other man said and opened the door to check on the boy. “Ricky!” He hissed. “That will cost you more! What will I tell the others? Look at the state you left him in!”
“No can do,” Ricky grinned, repeating his friend’s words. ”Here, I won’t pay you more, get something better next time.” He handed the money rudely to the other man who looked at him disapprovingly but dared little to protest.
That evening, Ricky traveled to Hampton to a summer villa he rented from an acquaintance, where Kirstin had already arrived with her children. They had invited friends to barbecue, the warm air outside attracted the youngsters to the pool, and Ricky’s gaze occasionally wandered to the little-dressed youngsters. Kirstin’s son Jeffrey wasn’t much to look at; still too childish in both face and body and although Ricky liked the youngsters, he didn’t want them to look like children, but boyish on the edge of adulthood or little beyond. Instead, Kirstin’s nephew, Jared, who had been their guest all week, was a whole different story. The boy would soon turn seventeen, he was handsome and athletic, dark-haired, just the kind that caught Ricky’s attention and raised that dangerous desire.
Ricky felt his interest grow, wondering what he would do to the boy if given the chance and how he could arrange that opportunity. These thoughts were dangerous, ones that had made him take a risk with Michael, and the truth was that he could no longer afford a similar or even close to that risk. Still, he didn’t get those thoughts silenced. His perverted mind was already trying to offer different options for getting what he wanted without getting caught, but he had to be patient and plan; without a plan, it was not worth attempting something so risky. If the boy disappeared, the police would want to interrogate anyone close to him and that would mean him as well. Even the slightest negligence could cost him.
So far, he had to be content to watch, to fantasize. The young people at the pool reminded him of his youth. Jared reminded just enough of Evan; handsome, popular, polite… Perhaps he was always looking for traits in Evan. Michael had been the most perfect comparison thus far, Jared just a faint copy and yet close enough. Close enough to arouse that fatal obsession with Ricky, which would grow with each passing day that the boy would stay with them, Ricky knew he would have a difficult time resisting the temptation.
Later in the evening, after the guests left, he lured Kirstin into the bedroom and as they had sex, Ricky fantasized in his mind about the things he wanted to do to Kirstin’s nephew. The woman under him was just an instrument for his orgasm and when he reached his climax Kirstin felt mostly relieved to get to sleep, a light kiss on the cheek, the woman turned to her side and bid him goodnight.
Ricky smiled to himself, got out of bed, for him it was too early to sleep, and his thoughts were still restless despite the orgasm. He quickly took a shower, changed his morning coat, and walked downstairs to pour himself a glass of whiskey.
Ricky looked out into the darkened night, thinking of Jared, from where his thoughts slowly traveled to Michael. He would have to try harder to find his fugitive, finding Michael could ease the need he had for Kirstin’s nephew, a need that attracted too much risk. If he could find Michael, he might be able to relax on some level and move on. And how delicious would it be to find Michael? Ricky brought the glass to his lips; the thought warmed his skin, and he felt his heart rate rise. How big a shock it would be for Michael to see him? They would both know at first glance how it would have to end. Maybe before that, however, he would have time to indulge in the situation, a few days at least, maybe more, it would depend on the situation. He had to find Michael or accept his own lower hand in the matter and that was not an option.
** ^^ ** ^^ ** ^^ ** ^^ **
Michael was heartily moved by Sam making him breakfast in bed on his birthday morning. He was especially taken from the small cupcake in which Sam had put a candle. Breakfast alone would have been enough for Michael to remember his birthday, and he hadn’t even expected that much.
“I’ll pick you up from work tonight,” Sam said as they prepared to leave. ”What time did you get home?” He asked even though he knew the course of the day perfectly, he just wanted to further make sure that Michael would have no idea of the surprise arranged for him.
“At seven, according to my shift, but I may have to work overtime. There’s a private event in the restaurant tonight and there is a lot to be done before that.”
“I see,” Sam tried to swallow a grin that was already tugging at the corners of his lips. ”Well, as long as they don’t keep you on your birthday for too long.” He said and Michael looked at him with a smile.
”A day like any other, I haven’t advertised it.” He said and Sam nodded, looking at his partner, who smiled a little longingly in his thoughts. ”What are you thinking?” Sam asked.
“My past, Grandma and home,” Michael said, taking his coat from the hanger. ”Are you ready to leave?” He asked then, smiling softly. Sam nodded and took off his coat before they left. He hoped Michael would soon be encouraged to contact his parents and believed he was already getting close to that decision.
Lunchtime at work was quite busy, until the afternoon the flow of customers calmed down to some extent and Olivia asked Michael to go to the wholesale with her. Everything was part of the plan; Michael had to be taken out from the restaurant so that the others were able to arrange the place ready for his surprise party.
Sam and Kitty arrived at four pm, Kitty wanted to take charge of the decoration, Santo had prepared food that Michael had enjoyed as a child, which Sam hoped would influence Michael’s decision to contact his parents positively. The cake was also made to match the description of the cake Michael had told Sam about, most memorable from his childhood: a cake resembling the ocean and it had a pirate ship sailing on it. Michael had turned six and the cake had been the most awesome ever!
Since Santo was no pastry chef, Sam had ordered the cake from one of the most skilled cake bakers in Paris, who had also made a pirate Michael and Sam on the deck of the ship, taking a small risk, Sam had also asked him to make Michael’s parents. Then Kitty had wondered with a hurt tone why she didn’t get a sugary character out of herself and so, in the end, the whole thing had gotten slightly out of hands and there was now a character of each of the guests as well.
The cake was more gorgeous than he had dared to imagine, the Ship was made to head towards an island where the characters resembling Michael’s parents were waiting and waving. Sam hoped Michael wouldn’t get angry or hurt by the idea but would rather get one more push for the idea of contacting them.
”I didn’t congratulate you yet, didn’t you have your birthday today?” Olivia asked after they parked in front of the wholesaler. He smiled a little, Michael seemed indifferent about his birthday and Olivia wondered how he would react to the surprise party.
”Yeah, turned twenty-two.” Michael smiled and got out of the car with Olivia.
“So young still,” Olivia sighed wistfully, already experiencing a mild crisis after turning thirty. Michael looked at the woman, smiling in that endearing way of his.
”You’re not that old either,” he said.
”Thank you… It doesn’t always feel like that though. At your age, I thought that when you turn thirty it’s just downhill from there.”
”Well, that would be pretty sad.” Michael grinned. ”That’s where life can only begin… The folly of youth behind it and maybe finally knowing where you’re heading.” He shrugged. ”At least I’m waiting for that stage, it would be great to be thirty.” There was a time when he had a strong suspicion that he wouldn’t get there and even turning twenty-five would be an achievement. He still didn’t fully dare to trust the future, not while Ricky existed.
Olivia laughed. ”Well, I’m sure I’ll remind you of that in eight years.” She grinned. ”Did Sam remember you in any way?”
”He served me breakfast in bed.” Michael smiled captivatingly. ”And I got a cupcake with a candle… Sam is a poor cook, but he can make breakfast.” He added, laughing softly. ”He’s going to pick me up from work and then I guess we’ll go somewhere to eat.”
”Sam’s a good guy.” Olivia smiled. “And so handsome…” She sighed… “You’re disgustingly perfect both.” She joked and got a shy smile from his younger colleague.
”Sam is wonderful,” Michael admitted. ”More than I could ever hope for.”
Later, they returned to the restaurant through the back door. Santo huddled in the kitchen with his assistant chef as Olivia and Michael unloaded the goods from the car. Santo glanced at Olivia and nodded that everything was ready in the front of the house. “Well, Michael, let’s go back to work then? Let Cerise take her break.”
“Of course,” Michael smiled and did a quick check of his appearance, that his clothes were neat enough before heading for the door with Olivia in tow.
”Surprise, happy birthday!” People cheered as soon as Michael stepped into the room. Michael gasped in surprise and brought his hand to his mouth. Sam smiled at him, walked over to him to hug him, and kissed his cheek, the others congratulating him. Michael was completely speechless for a moment, looking with disbelief at his co-workers in the room, Kitty, Eric, and Paul, the decorations, the candles, and the serving. Celeste brought him and Sam a glass of champagne and Santo and Bernard also stepped out of the kitchen.
”You had no clue?” Santo grinned.
”Not at all,” Michael admitted. “Thank you, I don’t know what to say…” He continued in a moved tone.
”Well, open your gifts first!” Kitty said impatiently.
Michael first opened a gift from his co-workers that included a chef’s outfit. He looked in disbelief at Muriel, Santo, and others who smiled broadly. ”For your studies to start properly, our new assistant chef must have the right outfit,” Santo said.
And Michael was feeling overwhelmed for a moment, tears that were rising in his eyes, tears of overflowing happiness. It felt crazy and unreal after all the evil he had seen and experienced. He hugged Santo and Muriel first before going through his other co-workers. “I’m almost speechless,” he muttered. “You are all awesome and I am lucky to have found such good friends to work with. Thank you!” He spoke.
”Then my gift,” Sam said offering the gift to him. Michael opened the package; a complete set of chef’s knives and he knew they weren’t cheap. ”Every chef also needs proper tools to work with.” Sam smiled.
“Thank you… These are great…” Michael kissed Sam and blushed a little as the others in the room cheered approvingly.
Kitty had purchased a gift along with Paul and Eric. A gift card for a kitchenware store and Julia Child’s recipe books that had been Paul’s idea. ”Sam’s kitchen is sure to have flaws in the eyes of a future chef, so you can get the accessories you think you need.” Kitty grinned. ”I hope you’re not disappointed with the mere cooking utensils?” She added with concern, to which Michael laughed softly.
“No, these gifts are the best! Becoming a chef one day is something I’ve been dreaming of ever since I was a child. Thank you all again, I don’t think I can ever thank you enough!”
”Your smile is enough.” His friends assured.
”Well, let’s get seated so we can eat!” Muriel instructed. For start, there was a variety of tapas, prepared according to a recipe of his grandmother, the main course was veal served with wine sauce, and steamed vegetables. The dessert was Spanish toast, also the kind of dessert his grandmother had often made. Michael guessed that Sam had given the tips to Santo.
Later in the evening, the cake was brought out. Michael had never seen anything as skillful, almost too beautiful to eat, he initially thought and as he got closer, he noticed the characters made of marzipan. He couldn’t find the words, a wave of movement swept through him once more. “Imagine that the island is England, towards which we’re heading…” Sam whispered in his ear. ”I’ll take you home again, I know you’re ready for it soon.” Sam continued and Michael turned to hug him but couldn’t answer right away.
”Well, cut the cake!” Kitty giggled.
“Where do I dare to cut? It’s too beautiful!” Michael laughed.
“Let’s start from this edge though,” Sam suggested. ”The figures can be saved.” He grinned.
It was already late when they got home. After the door closed, Michael pulled Sam into a passionate kiss. ”Thank you, you made my birthday perfect,” Michael whispered.
”Then I’m glad I succeeded.” Sam smiled, brushing Michael’s hair back lovingly as the younger man started undressing his coat while grinning suggestively, a new kiss. Sam’s coat dropped to the floor and Michael’s soon followed. Michael grabbed Sam’s hand and led him to the bedroom.
Sam’s touch was always tender, and Michael allowed himself to be swiped in with the pleasure that Sam’s naked boy against his own produced. The rest of the world was forgotten, and it was just the two of them. Sam opened a whole new side of sex to him, something Michael had feared never to experience after Ricky. It was almost as if he had been given a new chance from a clean slate. These moments with Sam, the past did not whisper disgusting things at his consciousness, he was able to let it go, even if just for that small measure of time.
As they lay down in each other’s embrace afterward, Sam caressed his face with light kisses, his hand in his hair stroking softly through them, and Michael felt safe. ”Do you think I could contact them?” Michael whispered cautiously, looking at the soft streetlight reflecting between the gap of the curtains.
”Of course,” Sam answered and smiled. ”I think it would be the best solution.”
“I don’t even know what to say…” Michael thought excitedly. ”It’s been so long, what could I say?”
“Well… you could just start by saying; Hi, this is Michael. I would have contacted you earlier if I could have.” Sam suggested. ”The words will come to you.”
”They’ll be shocked,” Michael said.
“Sure,” Sam admitted. ”But in the end, that shock would be happy – They don’t know what happened to you, it will weigh on them every day.”
“What if they don’t believe it’s me? If they’re mad at me?”
“Calm down,” Sam kissed his cheek. “They’re not mad at you. At first, they may doubt it’s you, but when they see you… Trust me, it would be the best gift anyone can give them.”
Michael thought about it quietly, he felt a pinch in his stomach, a mixture of longing and excitement, images and hopes of what it would be like to return home, mixed with fear of disappointment and rejection. The imagination felt safer, his heart would only break further if his parents didn’t want to see him. “I’ll think about it…” Michael finally whispered, and Sam smiled. He already knew the next steps to take Michael forward; he would introduce Michael to his own family. His mother had already asked several times when she would meet this miraculous young man who had managed to capture his heart.
His parents had traveled to their villa in Nice to spend their summer holidays, Sam could take Michael there if he was not yet fully prepared to return to England. He was going to talk to him about this the very next day, one surprise at a time; Sam had decided.