The walk into the grocery store was sticky and uncomfortable. The wet spot on my jeans was hidden by my shirt, but I still felt several pairs of eyes on me as I hurried to the bathroom. I cleaned up as best as I could with water and paper towels, wincing slightly at the rough texture on my sensitive dick, but it was better than nothing.
After my impromptu bath, I found the pet food aisle and grabbed a few cans of cat food and a pre-filled litter tray. Then I went to the pharmacy and grabbed condoms and lube. The cashier eyed me skeptically, but smiled and rang up my order. As I paid her, she winked and I blushed.
Max was waiting at the curb when I exited the store. I saw him holding Lucifer, rubbing his nose against the kitten’s small cheek. Max was so freaking cute I had to smile.
We drove back to his house, after texting my parents that I was crashing with Max. Though the trip was only twenty minutes from the store, it seemed like an eternity. I held Max’s hand in the car and he bit his lip. Damn I loved it when he did that.
When we got to his house, no lights were on. Max leaned over to kiss my lips gently. “Looks like we have the place to ourselves.”
I grabbed the kitten’s box and his accessories and carried them in. Immediately, Gio began whining. He must have smelled Lucifer as soon as we walked into the house.
Max rolled his eyes and said, “Hang on. Let me introduce Lucifer to him.”
“What? He’ll eat him as a snack!” I cried.
Max snorted. “Gio will probably be petrified of him. Just watch.”
He scooped up the kitten and went over to the half-door of Gio’s room. The huge beast jumped up and hooked his front paws over the door and stared at the new-comer. Lucifer tipped his head sideways. Deciding he was in no danger, he jumped off Max’s hand, and sat down on Gio’s snout.
Max was amazed. “That’s just plain weird.”
Lucifer leapt down and began exploring the space. I shrugged, opened the litter box and placed it inside Gio’s room. Max emptied a can of the cat food into a shallow dish, and Lucifer ate ravenously while Gio sat back, licking his lips jealously.
“All right Gio,” Max said. He leaned over to put food in Gio’s dish. The sight of him bent over, ass in the air, made me even harder than I already was.
“Oh, Jesus,” I whispered.
Unable to control my urge anymore, I walked up behind Max and pressed my hips against his backside. He was at the perfect height to thrust into, if we hadn’t both been fully clothed. As it was, my pants rubbed against my dick and made me moan.
Max pushed back into me and chuckled. “This is definitely hot, but not with Gio and Lucifer staring us.”
I stumbled back and my face flamed. “Oh God. I’m sorry. I’m just—shit. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Max took me by the hand and led me upstairs. He lay down, fully clothed, and pulled my body onto his own. I propped my head up on my fist and leaned down to kiss him. A needy, little whimper escaped him and I grinned. “You taste good.”
“And you feel good,” Max replied. His hand snaked between us and ghosted over the bulge in my pants.
“Fuck,” I groaned. If I didn’t stop him, I was going to come right then. I grabbed him by the wrist and said, “Wait. Please.”
“I’m sorry,” Max said. “If you’re uncomfortable—”
His nervous frown was adorable. I stopped his worrying by kissing him hard. My tongue forced its way into my mouth and I took my time exploring. I could tell he was holding back, keeping his hands off me, so I took his hand and carefully put it on my lower back. I figured it would be a little less sensitive there.
And it was, until he shoved his hand down the back of my pants. He sucked on my tongue as though he was sucking my cock. I couldn’t keep my orgasm from slamming into me like a freight train. I pulled back from Max and gritted my teeth.
“Oh shit!” I shook against him as hot come once again soaked my boxers. When the last spasm worked through my body, I looked at Max in terror, then turned over onto my other side. I was completely humiliated to have come in my pants twice.
I felt Max’s hand rub my shoulder. “Trace, it’s okay.”
“I feel like such an idiot.”
He dragged his tongue up the back of my neck and whispered in my ear. “You are so fucking hot when you come.”
Unbelievably, my cock twitched, trying desperately to resurrect itself. The cooling jizz in my underwear felt slimy and comfortable, though, so I pushed Max back gently and stood. “Is there a bathroom? I’m sort of…”
Max smiled. “Of course. It’s right through that door. There’re towels and cloths in the closet if you want to shower.”
“Yeah, thanks.” I shut the door quietly, then collapsed against the sink, barely able to stand. What the fuck was wrong with me? Was it the newness of it all? Was it just because if was Max? Whatever the case, I felt sticky, so I started the shower and stepped in. I closed my eyes and stood under the spray, sighing, and then washed quickly. After turning the water off, I stepped onto the bath mat and froze. A message was written in the steam on the mirror.
Don’t sweat it. Let him take care of you. Give him purpose. –Philip
“What the…fig?” I looked to the ceiling and whispered. “Really? Now you chose to remind me of your presence?”
“Trace?” Max called. “You okay?”
Great. He’d heard me talking to myself. I wiped off the message with my towel, then dried off quickly. I wasn’t sure what to wear. My boxers were DOA and I’d never gone commando. Then it occurred to me that the night wasn’t over. More time to play. Let Max take care of me. I wrapped the towel around my waist, picked up my clothes, and opened the door.
Max’s jaw dropped. His gaze slowly traveled down to feet and back up to my face. I smirked. “Is there any way to wash these?”
He stared a moment longer before seeming to come out of his trance. “What? Oh, yeah. Lemme just…” He stood quickly, tripping over the blanket. I reached out to steady him and kissed him chastely.
With a bright smile, he took my clothes to the laundry room. I heard the machine whir to life, and I quivered with anticipation. What would happen next? Would we have full-out, ball-slapping sex our first night together? Probably not. I really wanted to, but I knew it wasn’t time yet. We weren’t ready.
He returned and sat down on the bed. I put one leg up, bracing my foot on the bed. The towel gaped open, and my reawakening dick peeked through.
“Oh God,” Max stammered. “Trace, you are…damn, you’re gorgeous. He nervously put his hand on my thigh and slid it down toward my groin. I shut my eyes and leaned against the headboard, waiting for him to touch me, but he didn’t.
I opened one eye and asked, “Are you okay?”
His eyes were still riveted to my cock. “Trace, are you a virgin?”
Max nodded. “I’ve done it a couple times. I just didn’t want you to freak out. If you want to ease into it, just think about fucking a girl and—”
I pushed him back on the bed and laid on him. “I don’t want a girl, Max. I want you. I want to know what it feels like to be inside you. I guess I tried pretty hard not to be gay. Didn’t work though. Thinking back, I was using those girls. Hope they aren’t, like scarred by it.”
“Can I ask who your first was?” Max asked, biting his lip.
I blew my bangs out of my eyes and looked at the ceiling. “Let’s see, the first was Kaylee Kendall.”
“How old were you?”
Embarrassment colored my cheeks. “Fourteen.”
“You had sex when you were fourteen?”
“Yup. It was horrible though. Kaylee chewed gum the entire time, because she said kissing boys was gross. Then she got it caught in my hair and had to cut it out.”
Max snorted, valiantly trying not to laugh. I continued, “I had to go home with a bald patch on my head and tried to tell mom that Danny Stone had done it, but a condom fell out of my pocket. Mom saw it and she hit the roof! She was so mad that I’d had sex so young that she grounded me and promised to send me to the monks if I had sex again before I was sixteen. Jesus, that was horrifying. My dad tried to calm her down by pointing out that I had used protection, but she was still pissed for a long time.”
“Damn,” Max laughed. “When Mom found out I’d had sex, she threw me a party. Talk about embarrassing! Even my grandparents were there, all congratulating me on having lost my virginity. There was a big sign that said, ‘You’re a man.’ Honest to God, she is such a hippy it’s frightening.”
“Holy shit, that’s funny. You had a cherry-poppin’ party.” I busted up, and Max playfully slapped my chest.
“Max?” a voice called from downstairs.
“Shit!” Max said, climbing off the bed. He tripped on my foot and fell on the floor.
The voice called again from the stairs, getting closer and closer to Max’s bedroom door. “Max? Are you home, sweetie?”
The door began to open just as Max reached it. “Mom!” he said irritably. “Can you knock first?”
She peeked her head inside and her surprised gaze fell on me sitting on the bed, pulling the blankets up over my nearly naked body. Then she gasped and pulled the door shut. From the hall we heard, “I’m so…um…I’m so sorry guys. I didn’t know anyone was here with…oh, Lord, I’m an idiot.”
Max leaned against the door and rolled his eyes. He looked at me with an apologetic smile and said, “Don’t go anywhere.” He stepped into the hallway to speak to his mom. I heard snatches of the conversation. “Mom, we weren’t…”
“Is that the boy you were talking about?”
I lay back on the bed and put my arms behind my head. Hearing that he’d been talking about me made me smile. I was making a difference for him. But…wait. What if all that had happened tonight was the catalyst to change the course of Max’s life?
At any moment, Philip could show up and say, “Job well done, Trace. Max is happy now. Time to finish dying.”
What would I do when my time was up? It wasn’t fair. In the process of helping Max, I felt myself falling for him. How could I let him go just as we were beginning? Tears formed in my eyes, and I looked at the ceiling.
“Why?” I choked angrily. “If you adore me so much, why make me feel such pain? Some merciful God you are.”
A sharp crack of thunder boomed outside, and a bolt of lightning split the sky. It was terrifying. I’d definitely got God’s attention. The storm raged furiously and I hid my face under a pillow. But suddenly, the air went still. I opened my eyes and looked around in wonder.
A warm breeze blew the sweet smell of lilac across the meadow in front of me. A shallow brook to my right reflected the summer sun, and I looked up into a perfectly blue sky. Birds singing, crickets chirping, and the light sound of trickling over rocks bombarded my senses, and I instantly remembered where I was.
I spun around and staggered back. An old two-story farmhouse sat between two ancient maple trees. On the wrap around porch, seated on the weathered swing, was my grandmother. She had passed away when I was fourteen, and I’d missed her terribly.
Grammie’s house was always my favorite place to visit when I was a kid. My cousins and I would all come for a week, like it was summer camp. We spent our days playing baseball and exploring the woods. At night, we stayed up late, talking around the big fire pit, while our parents played cribbage inside. It was magical, like heaven.
Was this my heaven? Had I finished my mission by saving Max?
“Yes and no.”
“Whoa!” I yelped in surprise, as Philip appeared by my side.
He put a hand on my shoulder. “Easy there, big guy.”
I was calmed by his touch. “Hey, Philip. What’s going on? Is this heaven?”
He smiled. “It’s part of your heaven, yes.”
“God gives each of his children their own…version of heaven. Our happiest memories, deepest loves, they’re all wrapped up into a dream world.”
“A dream world where you never wake up. That’s so incredibly cool. “I laughed, but Philip’s expression sobered me. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m here to take you to Him.”
I swallowed hard. “Him, him?” When Philip nodded, I groaned. Panic pushed painfully against my chest. “Oh, man, I made him really mad, didn’t I? What’s he gonna do? Is he gonna send me down…there?”
The angel flinched at my words. “No, Trace. He’s merely concerned. You forget—God forgives sins. He also doesn’t mind if you question him. It’s okay to want to know what’s going on. He won’t always tell you, but he doesn’t mind you asking what his plans are.”
I let out a breath. “Oh thank you, God. Uh…literally.”
“You crack me up, Trace. Come on.” Philip waved his hand and we were instantly in the biggest cathedral I’d ever seen. I’d toured many palace in Europe, and I’d never seen anything like this. Towering walls of sight limestone were punctuated with incredibly delicate stained glass. Slender columns supported a Gothic, vaulted ceiling, which was painting with scenes of cherubs dancing among the clouds.
“Beautiful,” I whispered.
“It is lovely, isn’t?”
The deep voice was so powerful I could feel it in my bones. Philip and I continued down the nave of the cathedral until we were standing in front of an elaborate, golden throne. The man seated there was massive, at least seven feet tall, with flowing, gray hair and white robes. He was exactly what I thought God would look like.
He smiled. “I don’t always look like this. For now, I’m appearing to you as you imagine I’d be.”
I nodded, but said, “What, wait?”
He put up a hand. “I’ll explain all that in due time. Right now, I wish to talk to you.”
“Why does this sound bad?” I asked nervously.
God smiled. “This isn’t bad, Trace. I simply need you to understand something.”
“What is—Whoa.” We were suddenly seated on my grandmother’s front porch swing. A gentle breeze blew through my hair and gave me the chills. God put an arm around my shoulder and sighed. “Even if I sent you back, fully alive, to be with Max, I couldn’t guarantee he would love you the way you love him.”
“What do you mean, fully alive?”
“I mean you could go back to your life from the age of eighteen and live it all over again.”
“Yes!” I said eagerly.
“Wait, Trace. If that were to happen, you would lose all knowledge that you’ve gained throughout your life. You’d have to go to college all over again, you’d have to work for everything that you had before you died.”
I grimaced. I hadn’t thought of all the consequences. “So, you couldn’t even guarantee that I’d get into that really competitive internship during my senior year of college?”
He shook his head, and I gulped. “So my awesome, super high-paying job I got right out of grad school?”
God shrugged. “You may still get it.”
“What about my dad? Did I save his life?” He didn’t answer right away, so I begged, “Please! Tell me I saved him. If I go back, can I have more time with him?”
“It isn’t clear yet.”
“What kind of answer is that?” I hollered, jumping up off the bench. “You’re God! Can’t you just blink and make it happen?”
He raised his eyebrow. “First off, I am not a magician. Second, I can’t force your father to keep the appointment with his doctor. However, if he does go, I have a feeling he’ll live a long, healthy life.”
Another thing worried me. “W-what about me? Will I die in that crash when I’m forty-six?”
I stared at him hopefully, but the sad look he gave me told me everything. “I will, won’t I? So if Max and I have a relationship and if we got married or whatever, he’d lose me when we’re only forty-six.”
There was a long pause before he spoke. “The accident that claimed your life affected not only you, but the young man whose vehicle hit your motorcycle. I cannot allow your decisions now to alter his path. After the accident, that man began to go to church, and finally accepted Christ.”
Anger spiked through me. “What? I have to die to get him to believe? That’s not fair! I should be able to be with Max. He’s good. He’s not some irresponsible kid you—”
“Want to save?” He sat forward and continued, “I want to save all of my children, Trace. Every. Last. One. Unfortunately, there are those who will not see the light.”
That reminded me of the carnifex I’d met in the alley, and who’d given me Lucifer. “Can I ask you something?” When he nodded, I cleared my throat. “It’s about…Pentus. Why did you cast him down?”
He stared into the distance. “That is between Pentus and myself.”
“And Philip,” I mumbled. “Would you ever take Pentus back?”
“That is not done.”
“Why? What if he begged you?”
“He did,” he answered with a weary sigh. “But his sins against me were great, indeed. It would take a miracle to undo Pentus’ wrongs.”
“Isn’t your son good at those?” I asked with a wry smile. “By the way, where is he?”
“Jesus keeps busy protecting the weak, ill, and all those unable to care for themselves. I don’t forsake those who cannot comprehend the meaning of believing in me.”
“So…like babies and crazy people?”
“So the whole Catholic thing about babies going to limbo if they’re not baptized?”
It was his turn to laugh. “Absolute nonsense. Where some people get their ideas is beyond even me. But, I think it’s time you were returning to Max.”
“What? No! I’m still so confused. If I return now, when will you take me away again?”
“You need time to think, Trace. Look into your heart and make a decision. Remember, I cannot guarantee your path if you chose to return to earth as a mortal. Seek Michael and Philip for guidance.”
“But I can’t decide. It’s too hard.” I fell to my knees and wept.
“Trace?” Max’s voice barely registered, so he shook me gently. “Trace? What’s wrong, man?”
“Nothing.” I sat up quickly and scrubbed at my eyes.
“But your eyes…are you crying?”
I had to think fast. “No,” I said with a laugh. “I just bit my cheek. A little freaked out of what your mother was going to do. I’m sorry if you got in trouble.”
He seemed to buy the lie. “Nah. She was embarrassed to have barged in. I’m a big boy and she knows I’m gay. She just didn’t know that I had a friend over. We probably should cool it, though, since they’re…listening.”
A deep red blush crept up his neck and I felt something catch fire deep inside me. I needed to be closer to him. The hair on the back of his neck looked soft and my fingers itched to touch it. I reached out slowly and rubbed my hand against the short, dark strands.
My fire was quickly doused when Max’s mom called up to us. “Why is there a kitten sitting on Gio’s head?”