Carter woke on Sunday morning in Opie and Tash’s house, not knowing where he was for a split second. There were no noises inside or outside the house which wasn’t something Carter was accustomed to and definitely something to which he’d have to adjust. It occurred to him his brother and sister-in-law were likely at church, so he hopped up, only to feel the pain in his body from the assault the previous day. A hot shower would go a long way to alleviate the aches… especially the one between his legs.
He went into the bathroom next to the spare bedroom and turned on the shower before he drained his bladder and looked at himself in the mirror. He looked pretty surly. A shave was definitely in order, but the cut on his throat probably shouldn’t get too wet, he decided.
After brushing his teeth and washing his face, Carter hopped into the shower. He was happy to see some fancy shampoo and body wash on the shelf, quickly opening the shampoo and closing his eyes to take a big sniff. The shit he’d used in prison and then the cheap shit he’d been able to afford from the dollar store after he was released to the halfway house didn’t smell anything like the products in his shower.
He closed his eyes and washed his hair, his mind drifting to Mack and his soft lips. “Carter, baby, I want to suck your cock,” Mack whispered to him as he took Carter’s erection into his slick hand.
“I want that too, Mack, but I want to kiss you first,” he whispered into Mack’s ear as the two of them stood together under the spray of the shower, tongues twirling in time with each other while hands stroked cocks and fingers pushed inside each other’s tight rings of muscle. It was perfect, and in no time, Carter shot all over Mack’s hand. A soft kiss was left on his lips.
Carter opened his eyes to see spunk on the shower wall and feel his eyes immediately sting from the shampoo he’d forgotten to rinse before he took himself in hand. “Shame those kisses weren’t real,” he told himself as he cleaned his hand and moved under the spray to rinse the shampoo.
Quickly washing again, Carter hopped out of the shower, feeling much better than the previous night. He was grateful the four beers hadn’t left him with a hangover because he was finally moving to his own place—well, except for his new roommate, the priest. He hoped the guy wasn’t super sensitive about cursing because Carter had a dirty mouth when he wasn’t paying attention. He didn’t want an issue with an ultra-conservative priest tutting at him for swearing.
He dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and repacked his things into his box. He picked up his old shower shoes he’d had in prison and examined them. He really wanted to get rid of anything that reminded him of his time inside, so he told himself again he needed to look for a paying job. He’d have to talk to Opie about any leads he might be able to offer.
As the banker in town, Carter was sure his brother had a good idea of where he might be able to score a job. Carter wasn’t particularly picky about what he had to do as long as he got paid to do it.
He slipped on the cheap shoes and went downstairs to see it was a beautiful day. He found his jeans and boxers from the night before had been washed and dried, waiting for him on the kitchen counter. “Thank you, Tash,” he said out loud as he grabbed two apples and headed outside and around the pool to the back gate which led to the garage apartment.
Carter climbed the stairs and turned the knob on the apartment door, feeling it give way easily. He’d have to remind Father McCord not to leave the door unlocked because there were criminals everywhere, not just in prison.
He opened the door to see the place was neat and clean, which was a relief. He went to the bedroom where the door was open to see a full-size bed with a set of sheets on the end of it, along with a blanket draped over a chair in the corner. He remembered some of the furniture had been Opie’s in college, and he laughed. No doubt Tash had finally talked him out of keeping it in their basement family room.
Carter made his bed and quickly put away his things in the dresser drawers. He took his toiletries, including the upscale shampoo, conditioner, and body wash Tasha had been kind enough to supply, and placed them on the shelf in the shower next to another set of toiletries. He took down one of the bottles and smelled it, enjoying the scent very much. He might have to switch if he ever got to a store and had some money.
There was a green toothbrush in the old-fashioned, ceramic holder affixed to the wall over the sink. He remembered Tasha and Opie had renovated the big house before they moved in, but they hadn’t done anything to the garage apartment. It had been the previous owner’s mother-in-law’s place, and it was still quite tidy, even if it was a little dated.
The accommodations were still, however, much better than the institutional chic he was used to at Farmington, and it was exponentially more suitable than halfway-house, half-assed decor from where he’d just been released. Yes, the pink and gray tile in the bathroom would do just fine.
Carter looked at the little clock over the kitchen soffit and saw it was only nine-fifteen in the morning, so he decided to get out the push mower and do a little touch-up in Opie and Tasha’s yard while everyone was gone. He knew they were having the Davis’ family over for a cookout later that afternoon and he wanted everything to look nice. The roses in the back by the fence could use some pruning, and while he was at it, he would cut a bouquet for the patio table where they would likely eat dinner that evening.
He slipped on the old tennis shoes he kept in the garage for cutting the grass and grabbed the gas can, pushing the mower out onto the driveway. There were just a few places in need of being groomed because the large trees shaded a lot of the backyard. It was mainly around the pool fence where the trimming needed to be done and the side yard where Tasha had a few tomato and pepper plants in a raised garden bed which could use a touch-up.
Carter was wearing the headphones and safety glasses Tasha insisted upon, and he was humming a song to himself as he moved around the yard. He loved the smell of fresh-cut grass, and he believed it would only add to the ambiance of the late afternoon gathering.
After he was finished with the yard, he grabbed the hose to water the gardens for Tash before he went to the shed on the pool deck and pulled out some torches and the oil that went inside them to ward off mosquitoes. He knew they’d need them eventually, and he knew Tash loved having them lit because she’d sent him pictures of a few parties they’d had and how much she enjoyed decorating the pool deck. He could almost picture the scene back then, and he was going to make it a reality now.
Carter looked around the deck area to see the pool needed to be skimmed, so he busied himself with cleaning out the bugs and grass clippings, and then he swept the pool deck. The pavers they’d had installed during the renovation were terrific. It had been finished just before Paul had been born in April of the year they’d moved into the house.
Opie had even brought the plans with him a few times when he’d visited Carter to ask about landscaping ideas. As Carter looked around the area, he could see Opie had taken every thought he’d offered to heart.
Carter heard a car in the driveway, so he walked over to the side yard to see a small Chevy SUV pull up to the garage and pull inside. He guessed it was the priest, and as he looked down, he saw his sweaty legs were covered in grass clippings and mulch from his sweeping, so he stripped off his shirt and held the hose over his head to rid himself of the sweat, dirt, and some unexpected nerves.
Meeting a newcomer had Carter’s nerves acting up, but once he was cooled off, he felt a little better. He decided to sit in the sun for a bit to allow the warmth to dry him and to give the priest time to change or whatever it was a man like him did on Sundays after Mass. He was going to wait a bit before he went to the apartment to meet his new roommate.
That was when Carter wondered what Mack did on Sundays. Carter had decided the man must work as a bartender or maybe a waiter at one of the resorts nearer the lake, based on his dark wardrobe. He wondered if the man remembered his dry cleaning would be back at the laundromat on Tuesday.
Carter had only logged the order as “Mack,” not giving a phone number or other contact information because he thought he’d still be working there. He considered calling Eunice, the woman who worked the day shift, to ask her to get the guy’s number when he came to pick up his jackets, but at the end of the day, Carter didn’t have the car or cash to go chasing after a man he’d barely met.
Something hit Carter’s chest with a thud and when he opened his eyes, Opie was standing next to him in a pair of shorts with a smile. He’d tossed sunscreen onto Carter’s chest and walked over to hand him a pair of sunglasses. “We stopped at the store on the way home. Tash bought you some other stuff. You should use sunscreen, little brother. You don’t want to get a burn when you have the rest of the summer to be outside. Thanks for cleaning up around here, man, but you’re not the pool boy,” Opie teased, making Carter laugh.
“How much might that job pay?” Carter teased.
Tasha came outside with a bag for him and smiled. “For you or Father Hottie?” Opie popped her on the rear while he kissed her temple, bringing a smile to Carter’s face.
He rifled through the bag and found a few pair of shorts, swim trunks, and some flip flops, for which he was quite grateful. “Thanks, Tash. You’re going to spoil me,” he told his brother and sister-in-law as he stood to hug both of them. He heard banging on the back, sliding-glass door and walked around the corner to see Paul looking none too happy.
“Can the little guy come out? I’ll change him,” Carter offered.
“He fell asleep in the car, and I just put him on the couch. His trunks are upstairs in his room. You sure? I can do it,” Opie offered.
“Naw, let me. We need to get to know each other a little better. We’ll be back,” Carter told his brother as he went inside and put his bag on the floor before he picked up his little nephew who smiled.
“You want to come outside with me?” he asked. The boy nodded. “Let’s get you changed. How was Mass?” he asked.
“Hot,” Paul told him as he moved his hand through his damp hair. Carter chuckled and took him upstairs. After Carter had Paul changed into swim trunks and a muscle shirt, they went back downstairs.
A deep voice resonated from outside the sliding door, so Carter smiled at Paul. “I bet that’s Grandpa Jay.”
Carter opened the door and carried the boy out, pushing his sunglasses down from the top of his head so he wasn’t squinting at Tash’s father. He put Paul on the ground and turned to close the sliding door when a familiar laugh rang in his ears. He’d heard it for the first time on Friday night.
Carter turned around to see a sight that nearly had him on his ass. Mack, the attractive brunette with all of the dark clothes, was bent down and speaking quietly with Paul when they bumped fists before Mack looked up to see Carter. He was sure the two of them wore identical expressions of shock on their faces.
Mack’s eyes seemed to roam Carter’s face as he took off his sunglasses, finally settling on the newly exposed black eye before seeing the busted lip, and finally, the cut on Carter’s neck. “God, Carter Lee, what happened?” Mack walked closer and started to reach for Carter when he stopped and dropped his hand.
“Do you two know each other?” Opie asked as Carter stared at the good-looking man in front of him, seeing a look of astonishment.
“We met at the laundromat on Friday night. The place was pretty empty, so we got to talking. We talked about the Cardinals chances this year,” Carter offered because he could see Mack was too stunned to speak.
“You told me your name was Carter Lee. I thought it was a first and last name. Opie told me you were Rigger. I had no idea, or I’d have…” Mack started.
Carter saw Opie staring between them, but Tash was the smart one. “Opie come help me put away groceries. Grab Paul and let’s get him some lunch. You guys want anything?” she asked as she stared at Carter and then Mack. They both shook their heads they weren’t hungry. It was no wonder.
Once they were alone on the patio, neither moved closer. “I came to the laundromat last night. Where were you and what happened to your face?” Mack asked.
Carter looked around and decided they needed to have more privacy for the conversation. “Let’s go to the apartment. We’ll come back, but I think we both have some shit to say,” he suggested. Mack nodded and took off across the pool deck and out the gate.
Carter went into the family room and grabbed the bag. “We’ll be back. What does he know about me?” he asked his brother who immediately looked sheepish.
“Did you know he’s a priest?” Opie asked.
“No, he neglected to mention it, just like I didn’t tell him I’m an ex-con, but I’ll guess you already told him about that, didn’t you?” Carter was trying to hold his anger because it wasn’t Opie’s fault that things had taken a nosedive. Carter had fallen for a priest when he didn’t even believe in God? That was a lesson in irony, but even worse, it seemed as if the priest might have fallen for him as well.
Carter was sitting at the small table situated to the side of the galley kitchen. There was a breakfast bar that faced into the living room area, but there weren’t any stools, so Carter was sitting at the table with his head in his hands while Mack, or rather, Father Seamus McCord, paced the length of the room.
“Didn’t Opie tell you I worked at the laundromat when he gave you the directions?” Carter asked, not looking up. They were trying to piece together how such a colossal fuck-up had occurred.
“No. Opie just told me how to get there and that his brother, Rigger, worked there but he didn’t know the schedule. Last night I asked about a pizza restaurant, and he told me about the place two blocks from the laundromat. I stopped to order the pizza, and while it was being made, I went to the laundromat. I must have banged on the door for a good ten minutes before I gave up. I’d have called you, but I didn’t have your number,” Mack complained.
Carter looked up and held his hands in the air. “You’re a fucking priest, Mack. You’re not supposed to have my number. You’re not supposed to be kissing guys and dancing to country songs in a laundromat,” Carter chastised, seeing the beautiful dark-haired man flinch.
Mack dropped down to sit on the floor, elbows on knees and head in hands. “I know, and I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to… hell, I don’t know what I was trying to do. There are so many things I should do, like get the hell out of here, but I can’t. I’m assigned to Sacred Heart here in town. We’re supposed to work together at the church. It’s your community service project, right?”
“Yeah,” Carter answered, letting out a huff of breath.
Mack was an incredible man, and their first meeting had been explosive, but they were adults. Mack was a priest, and Carter was an ex-con. They had no business together whatsoever, and they both knew it.
“Look, this doesn’t have to be unmanageable. You’re a priest, and you had a moment of weakness. You can pray it away or something, and I’ll never tell anyone as long as I draw a breath. It’s not like I’m someone who loves a challenge like trying to seduce a priest or some shit like that, so it’s fine. We can handle this, Father,” he responded.
“I wish you’d call me…” Mack began.
“No! I have to remind myself my roommate is a priest. I’ve been incarcerated for four-and-a-half years and haven’t had sex, but I can control myself as long as I remember you’re a priest. We can make this situation work, I’m sure. Neither of us has a choice but to be here. I’m going to go talk to Opie and Tash before their imaginations get away from them. Come down when you’re ready,” he told Mack as he got up from the table and went to the bathroom.
After a quick splash of water on his face, he went back downstairs to diffuse his sister-in-law before she got too far out in left field. The smile on her face needed to go away before someone saw it and thought something was going on between Carter and Father McCord.
Carter didn’t want Tasha bringing down a religious man with rumors about Mack having a relationship with a jailbird. Carter was already behind the eight ball in life. Leading a priest into temptation wasn’t a badge he wanted to earn.
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