Here is the next excerpt! This one is from Chapter 8 and shows the bond that is building for Ben and JC. It also shows more of the downward spiral that Ben is journeying into.
“So gorgeous, where are you taking me?” JC asked, walking up behind Ben to wrap his arms around his waist.
Ben shivered and sighed. “Nowhere if you keep breathing on my neck. We’ll embarrass ourselves in front of the horses.”
With a laugh, JC let him go and leaned against a closed stall. “So, is it a surprise? Do I get any hints?”
Ben looked at him and smiled. “It’s a surprise, kind of. It’s my place, where I go to think.”
JC frowned. “You’ve never said you had a ‘place’. Wow, I thought I knew everything about you.”
“You’re not mad, are you?” Ben asked curiously. JC seemed so serious all of a sudden. He hadn’t kept it a secret on purpose.
“No, of course not. I’m just surprised that’s all.”
“Nobody knows…except Abby. It’s her spot too. We had a fight one day and I took off for my spot and Abby followed. I was so upset I didn’t even hear her coming after me.”
“I feel honored then that you are showing me now. How far out is it?”
“It’s by the lake house. It’s not too far considering how big the ranch is. Shall we go? We need to get back before dinner.”
The boys mounted their horses and took off at a trot, slowing down only after they’d put the main building behind them.
“Have you made any decisions about tonight?" JC asked as they neared the halfway mark to the old Lake House.
Ben slowed so his horse was even with JC’s. “I think we’ll just see what happens. I’m sure if it’s time for something to happen between us it will. But if not, no biggie.”
“Sounds good to me. Have…have you talked to Abby about it?”
“No,” Ben said, pulling his collar up higher around his neck. It was getting cold. “Would it bother you if I did?”
“Nah,” he said, adjusting his collar and his hat. “As long as you don’t gossip about how good or bad I am or how big or small I am. I know how close you guys are.”
“What if I told her that even at fifteen, you were hung like a horse and rocked my world?”
JC snickered. “You’re very funny, Mr. Harper. I somehow doubt she would believe you so maybe you should stick to the truth.”
“Oh, but the look on her face would be classic,” Ben laughed as he pulled Polo to stop. “We’ll need to go on foot from here. It’s not far.”
There was no talk as they made their way through the woods near the lake cabin. To their left was solid pines and to their right, the trees were thinner and the lake was partially visible. When they reached an incline, Ben motioned for JC to follow then headed up, aware of the foot steps behind him.
“So, Benjamin Harper has anyone told you that you have a mighty fine ass?”
Ben snorted a laugh and kept on moving with his boyfriend’s laughter trailing behind. He paused when he reached the top of the hill and waited for JC. “Hold my hand as we go into the clearing.” They both stepped up and through the trees. An outdoor table and chairs sat before them. “Now look to your right.”
JC turned slowly in the direction Ben advised and his breath caught. The lake lay sprawled out before them with no barriers of trees or buildings, just shining water and the opposite shore covered in pine trees capped with snow. “Now I understand why you like it up here. This place is amazing.”
“I know,” Ben murmured. “In the summer I bring a book or my sketchpad up here, and somehow find the strength to deal with whatever problem I’m having. And in the winter, I bundle up and come up here to experience the extra quiet of the snow covered earth. And if I’m sad, I cry and let the tears freeze on my cheek. It reminds me that I’m alive.”
JC stood silent for a moment trying to absorb everything his boyfriend said. And then it clicked. “Wait, you…you don’t feel alive sometimes?”
“No, I don’t. I feel…I don’t know, emotionless I guess. Without purpose. I have never been able to see a future for myself. Oh, I can list what I want to happen in the future but I can’t see it or grasp it.”
“You never told anybody,” JC realized suddenly. “Why?”
“Well that’s easy,” Ben said, sitting down at the outdoor table and inviting JC to sit next to him. "I never knew how to voice it until I talked with a psychiatrist last month.”
“I wish I could have helped. Hell, we were best friends , shouldn’t I have noticed? I’m sorry, Ben.”
“Stop right there, James. It isn’t something that you could have seen or even guessed at. I couldn’t even do that. It’s hidden. Don’t ever be sorry about that. There was nothing you could do.”
JC sat silent, looking out at the lake. The wind was picking up and the water rippled with the breeze. “Why do you like me, Ben? Why do you love me?”
“That’s really easy,” he replied. “You make me laugh, you warm my heart and you feed my soul by giving me so many good things in life.”
“And do you know why I love you?”
“No,” Ben whispered. The anticipation was thick. Why would anyone in their right mind love Benjamin Harper?
“Because without you in my heart, I lose my humor. I become unkind and cannot warm a heart, and all of the good stuff with which I feed your soul turns sour. Without you I’m incomplete. Without you, the good in me dies.”
Ben had his head turned away from JC as he listened. The tears in his eyes made him feel weak. “I love you, JC.”
“Ben, look at me.”
After only a moment’s hesitation, he turned to look at his boyfriend. He saw only acceptance and love in his eyes. There was no judgment as he’d feared.
“I love you too, Ben. I even love that I think your corny has worn off on me.”
“Yeah, you were being kind of corny but I loved every word you said.”