Cultivating Love – by Addison Albright
To be published in ebook format on June 24, 2017 at JMS Books, LLC.
To be published in print format on June 30, 2017 at JMS Books, LLC.
The 1st Edition was published on June 9, 2009 at Loose ID
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Heat Rating: 3 flames – Moderate – While physical details are described, they are not graphically depicted.
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When life throws Ed and Joe a curve ball, can they handle the heat, or will everything they’ve worked for fall apart?
A man of few words, Joe is a hard-working farmhand who likes his simple, uncomplicated life. Ed is satisfied with his existence as an auto mechanic, but thrilled when an unexpected development in his life allows him to help Joe realize a dream.
It forces them, however, to reevaluate the casual, undefined nature of their relationship. They’re too macho to speak of love, and neither would acknowledge he doesn’t really mind when it’s his turn to bottom. When life throws them a curve ball, and the rules of their game get old, Ed tries to take every aspect of their relationship up a notch. Can Joe adapt to the open sentimentality Ed’s injecting into their relationship, let alone the new spice in their bedroom activities?
This is a previously published story that has been rewritten, expanded, and re-edited.
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Note: The posted excerpt hasn’t been edited yet.
Chapter 3: Separation
“Ed?” Joe’s voice wasn’t much more than a whisper, close to his ear.
Ed groaned and rubbed his eyes. “What?”
“Hey, I’m leaving. Sorry, I didn’t want to go without saying good-bye.”
Ed’s eyes flashed open. “Shit.” He sat up. “What time is it?”
“Uh, three o’clock. Sorry, I want to get there pretty early. Got a lot to do.”
Ed threw his legs over the side of the bed and stood. No wonder it was so pitch dark. “Okay.” He shook his head, trying to clear the sleepy cobwebs. He couldn’t think of the right words he knew he wanted to say. Damn, it would be days before he’d see Joe again. Shit, maybe a week. Or more.
He wavered, and Joe’s hands landed on his shoulders. When he stared silently into Joe’s eyes, those hands moved up to cup his face. Their kiss was tender and full of longing. Not wanting to let him go, Ed put his arms around Joe’s waist. The kiss broke way too soon. “Don’t go,” Ed whispered before his sluggish brain could catch up with his mouth, then winced when he realized he’d said it aloud.
Joe didn’t laugh, though, or even grin. Instead, his thumb brushed back and forth along Ed’s jaw before giving him another a soft kiss. “I have to. Follow soon.”
“Promise?” Joe’s voice was husky.
Ed nodded. With his heart heavy, he knew he’d choke on any words he tried to speak.
Joe pulled back, and Ed walked with him to the door. “Call me.”
Joe peered into his eyes before giving him one last quick kiss. “Every day.”
Ed worked up a little smile. Joe winked and turned to walk out to Ed’s little Escort. That was classic Joe—practical and hardworking, with barely a hint of sentiment. And Ed missed him already. In less than a minute, Joe was out of sight. Ed slowly shut the door and leaned his forehead against the smooth wood. He felt empty. Cold and empty. He coughed to clear the thickness that had developed in his throat as Joe had driven away. He shuddered, fighting a tear that threatened to break free.
To hell with it. There were no witnesses, so he gave in and let go. Wet trails streamed down his face. How or when had it come to this? He bit his lip, salty with tears, and snuffled. What were they getting themselves into? This was way past the level where either of them could just walk away at the drop of a hat if they had a big argument. But that was good, wasn’t it? Joe had agreed they were partners and had been over-the-moon happy looking over the farm. If nothing else, he had Joe hooked with the farm.
His head ached, and he didn’t want to think about it anymore. He scrubbed his face with the palm of his hands and padded back to his lonely bed.
* * * *
All was quiet and peaceful on the farm when Joe pulled to a stop behind the house. He wanted to think about anything but Ed and the look on Ed’s face when he’d left home. He dropped his back and stared blankly at a fly walking across the headliner. He shooed it away and rubbed his forearm across his eyes. Worse yet, he didn’t want to confront his own feelings as he’d pulled out of the driveway and fully grasped the knowledge that it would be days before he’d see Ed again.
He missed Ed acutely. Hell, he’d rather bottom for Ed every day for a week than live apart for a week. Joe smiled reflexively. That was a thought he’d take to the grave with him. That and the fact he’d actually had to fight back tears as each minute had taken him farther away from Ed.
He tossed his bags in the house, grabbed a sandwich and some Gatorade, and headed to the barn. He needed to take care of the horses and let them out to exercise in the pen.
The dogs greeted him as he approached. Squatting down, he scratched behind their ears. “What are your names, huh?” He flipped through the tags hanging from their collars. “Oscar and Harvey, eh? Good to meet you, boys” He put out some food and fresh water for them before turning to the horses. He let them loose in the pen, filled their water trough, and gave them their morning ration of hay and oats. In the machine shed, he hooked the swather up behind the large tractor and headed out to the alfalfa field.
* * * *
Ed taped the box shut, rocked back on his heels, and looked at the stack with satisfaction. The cell phone in his pocket vibrated moments before it started to ring. He reached for it quickly and smiled when he saw it was Joe. The activity of the day had helped his mood tremendously. He still missed Joe, but damn, it was embarrassing to think about how he’d cried that morning after Joe left. He chalked it up to three-a.m. exhaustion and thanked goodness Joe hadn’t forgotten anything and returned unexpectedly to bust him sniveling like a baby.
“Hey yourself.” Joe sounded cheerful.
Ed laughed. “Everything’s moving along great here. Any issues in Mayfield?” He glanced at his watch. Six o’clock already.
“No issues. I pretty much got what I wanted done today. Got about half the hay cut.”
“Oh, yeah? Great. Will you be ready for me the day after tomorrow?”
“Are you kidding? That’s great! That’ll be a good day for you to arrive. I’ll finish the hay cutting tomorrow, and today’s cutting will need to dry another day so I’ll have time to get the house ready for you that morning.”
Joe didn’t say anything for a moment. Ed looked at the phone to make sure they hadn’t been disconnected. It appeared to be in order. The sound of what might have been a faint sniff filtered through, followed by a throat clearing. “I miss you.”
Ed dropped into a chair with a smile. He’d been biting back the words himself and was surprised to hear Joe actually say them. “I miss you too,” he murmured. “Staying busy helps.”
Joe snorted. “Yeah, no problem with that here.”
Ed laughed. “I know. I’ll be there to help soon.”
“I know. I’m looking forward to, ah, training you.” There was laughter in Joe’s voice. Silence followed, Joe coughed before continuing. “Well, I’ll call you again tomorrow night.”
“Okay.” He didn’t want to say good-bye and hang up, but there was no good reason to drag out the call. It helped, knowing Joe was reluctant to end the call too. “Goodnight.”
Ed waited for Joe to disconnect first, but it didn’t happen. He picked at a loose thread hanging off his T-shirt as his brows knit together. They were standing there holding the line like a couple of fools, listening to each other breathe. Ed gave a nervous little laugh. “So when did we turn into a couple of sap-asses?”
Joe laughed, too. “I’ve been trying to figure that out. I need someone to smack me upside the head and tell me to just get over it.”
“I can take care of the smack upside your head for you, but somehow, I’m not sure I want you to get over it. I kinda like knowing that side of you exists, even if it is buried most of the time.”
“Yeah, well don’t pass that intel around, okay? I wouldn’t want to have to hurt you.”
Ed smiled. That sounded more like Joe. “Ditto.”
“By the way, it’s my turn again when you get here.”
Ed barked a short laugh. “By that time I’ll almost be willing to paint a target on my ass for you.”
“Don’t hold your breath.”
Joe chuckled. “Goodnight, Ed. Thanks for the image.”
“Goodnight Joe. I aim to please.” This time, he disconnected the call quickly.
He shook his head. What was with him? His strong need for Joe was absurd. It wasn’t as if they’d never gone a few days without sex. He snorted and put it down to a combination of not seeing each other at all for days and the emotional turmoil of having his entire life turned upside down.
© 2017 Addison Albright