Set-up: Ike is staying at Perry’s house and has found two part time jobs in the little town of Riata. He cooks at a diner and does janitorial work at the jail and county building. He also tries to fix meals for Perry when he can. Perry has stopped by the house to tell Ike he is working a split shift. (Getting a little heat going here 😉 )
When the lean man wheeled around at the sound of his footsteps, Perry read a tension in Ike’s face along with a relief when he saw it was Perry.
“I thought you were on duty this evening?”
“I am. Just stopped by to tell you not to wait up. I may be late. I’m going to try to track down a new dealer in the area. Have you heard of a guy they’re calling El Feo?”
Ike seemed to go pale under his swarthy skin. “Not until an hour or so ago.” He told Perry about the disturbing encounter. “They—er—you aren’t thinking it’s me, are you?”
Moving away from the stove, he stepped closer until he was almost in Perry’s space. That was so uncharacteristic Perry recognized at once how troubled the other man was.
“Nobody thinks I’m dealing, do they? Oh, God, I hope not.”
Reaching out, Perry put his hands on the other man’s shoulders. “Lord, no, Ike. I sure don’t, and I don’t think anyone else does. You may have been in prison, but that doesn’t make you a hood, a thug. Much less a drug dealer.
“Yeah, there’s a low level cartel jefe based in this area, answering to a higher one in Las Cruces. Everyone knows that, or almost everyone. And he has minor honchos, at least one or two in every little village. They’ll let the freelancers alone for a while, but if they start getting too big, they’re erased. Four or five small-time hoods have vanished, a couple of the bodies found later. No way to solve the cases, really. They go cold. We haven’t got the manpower to work on them very long. And to be honest, everyone is almost relieved when one pusher is out of the picture.”
Ike nodded, just a single sharp jerk. “Still, folks know what I am, and they’re suspicious. I can sense it. And this stuff about some dude called El Feo…he worries me.”
Perry found himself gazing intently into Ike’s dark eyes, absorbing the worry and other nameless emotions churning inside him. Then, before he quite realized what he was going to do, much less why, he hauled Ike closer. He suddenly found his mouth grinding against Ike’s, tasting the spices the other man had used in the dish he was cooking, a hint of coffee and the mint gum he often chewed.
For a few seconds, Ike kissed back. Then he went tense in Perry’s hold and jerked free with a desperate twist. He took two fast stumbling paces backward, breathing hard.
Perry almost staggered, shock roaring through him. “Oh, man, I didn’t mean, didn’t expect—oh fuck, I’m sorry. Why in hell did I do that?”
Ike’s mouth opened and shut a time or two, no words emerging. Finally, he croaked what sounded like, “It’s okay. I mean I—Well, just forget it. It’s all right.”
“Anyway,” Perry said, turning to head back out, “I’m on duty for two more hours and will prob’ly be late. I’ll see you tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have something on this Feo guy by then. I know you’re no drug pusher.”
Ike didn’t say anything at all. He turned back to the stove and didn’t glance around once.
With his back to Ike as he reached for the door, Perry felt a compulsion to explain. “Yeah, I’m gay. I guess I never said, did I? Still, I won’t do anything like that again unless I know you expect it and want it.”
In Perry’s one fast look before the door shut between them, he got a good view of Ike’s reverse half. Shit, he didn’t think Ike had gained much weight but he had a damn fine ass. Now that he wore jeans that fit, the back view was fine.
When Perry got back into the idling SUV, he realized his hands were shaking. At first, he wasn’t sure he could control the vehicle. His heart pounded until it felt like it might burst right through his ribs. What in the devil was he thinking of, grabbing Ike like that and kissing him?