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Kerry Sanderson is an exotic dancer, former military brat, and aspiring fashion designer, but believes he’s much more than any of those labels imply. As his relationship with transgender boyfriend Jamie falls apart, it’s Kerry’s gender identity and sexual preferences that become the real issue between them. Left questioning whether he’s been living under everyone else’s terms, and none of his own, Kerry sets out to discover who he really is. Desperate to escape his dangerous neighborhood and redefine his life, Kerry vows to start making some changes. One of the first is accepting what seems to be an innocent offer from allegedly straight security guard, Ewyn Garrity, after a long shift dancing at gay club Blaze. Safety isn’t the only thing Ewyn tempts Kerry with as sparks fly and lines are crossed. The more acceptance Kerry finds in Ewyn, the more he’s tempted to let go of the fear and self-doubt that had been hampering his ability to be himself. But the more honest Kerry is, slowly accepting the feminine aspects of his identity and becoming vulnerable, the more deadly threats he faces when blind intolerance threatens before he’s barely bloomed.



Becoming Kerry

Lynn Kelling


ForbiddenFiction
www.forbiddenfiction.com

an imprint of

Fantastic Fiction Publishing
www.fantasticfictionpub.com

Copyright 2017 Lynn Kelling
Smashwords Edition



BECOMING KERRY

A ForbiddenFiction book

Fantastic Fiction Publishing Hayward, California

© Lynn Kelling, 2017

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission from the publisher, except as allowed by fair use. For more information, contact publisher@forbiddenfiction.com.

CREDITS
Editor: Lon Sarver and Rylan Hunter
Cover Design: Siolnatine
Cover photo: Adapted from photos © Visivasnc & © MinervaStudio at Dreamstime.com
Production Editor: Kaye O'Malley
Proofreading: Emma Williams

SKU: LK1-1.000267-01 SW
ISBN: 978-1-62234-331-7

Published in the United States of America


DISCLAIMER

This book is a work of fiction which contains explicit erotic content; it is intended for mature readers. Do not read this if it’s not legal for you.


All the characters, locations and events herein are fictional. While elements of existing locations or historical characters or events may be used fictitiously, any resemblance to actual people, places or events is coincidental.


This book depicts one perspective on the diverse and complex matter of human gender identity. Real people are necessarily more complicated than fictional characters; this depiction is not intended to be exhaustive or typical. The author makes no attempt to describe every possible combination of sex, gender, and orientation. Many, many variations on gender, orientation, and identity exist in the world than can be included in any single work of fiction.


This story depicts fictional BDSM; it is not intended to be used as an instruction manual. It contains descriptions of erotic acts that may be immoral, illegal, or unsafe. The characters are not models for the Safe, Sane and Consensual forms embraced by most current practitioners of BDSM. The author takes license with the use of BDSM for dramatic effect. Do not take the events in this story as proof of the plausibility or safety of any particular practice.


Such content should not be read as a depiction of the desires, opinions, or fetishes of the author or the staff of ForbiddenFiction.com.


Dedication

For those who live outside of boxes,

May you find your truth and own it, gloriously.

Contents

Disclaimer

1. In the Spotlight

2. First Impressions

3. Private Show

4. Nowhere to Hide

5. Awakening

6. Laid Bare

7. Loss’ Lesson

8. Defensive Maneuvers

9. Questionable Choices

10. Taken In

11. Helpless

12. Stories of Scars

13. Warped Mirrors

14. Exposed

15. Undone

16. Caught

17. Picking up the Pieces

18. Outside In

19. Reinforcements

20. Seen

21. Devotion

22. Color

23. Letting Go

24. Out

25. Found

26. Embracing Truth

27. Heart-to-Heart

28. The Call

29. Shoe Stores and War Zones

30. Testing Grounds

31. Seeking Bravery

32. Empowered

About the Author

About the Publisher

Chapter 1: In the Spotlight


“So, you’ve been working exclusively at Savage Men for the past year? No private parties?”


“No,” Kerry Sanderson replied, trying to be as professional as possible. “I had a few bad experiences with the private party aspect. I prefer the safety and security of a club, especially one that enforces policies on touching and nudity.”


The ‘bad experiences’ involved clients who expected to get more for their money than just a dance and a tease. Boundaries and rules had always helped Kerry feel more comfortable in a job that constantly put him in vulnerable positions.


The guy across the desk, a glamorous, locally famous aging queen named Cory Lesh, gave Kerry the once-over. Kerry had come to the interview wearing a kilt, with a tight black t-shirt, his combat boots and plenty of eyeliner. The look seemed a little goth on him because of his pale skin and naturally inky black hair, but the eye makeup helped highlight his violet eyes. Some subtle contouring set off his bone structure. He hadn’t been sure whether the outfit was a costume or not, but he liked it.


Cory owned Blaze, the most popular gay nightclub in the entire surrounding area. For weeks, Kerry had obsessed over the looming interview-slash-audition. The initial idea had been to keep the gig at Savage Men until he had a better one lined up, but like many things following the break-up with his ex, Jamie, the job simply hadn’t fit anymore. At Savage, the problems for Kerry were many: the atmosphere, the management, the endless crowds of women expecting only the most macho of men to take the stage, flex, and dry-hump them into a fleeting state of delirious, orgasmic bliss. For a while, it had been great, the perfect way to rebel against his conservative, military-brat upbringing. Now, he knew he’d outgrown it in ways he still couldn’t quite put a finger on, but felt way down to his core. Being able to live with himself wound up being more important than financial security.


“And obviously you know we’re a gay club?” Cory chuckled, scratching at a spot on his sleeve with a fingernail painted a glossy, cherry red.


“Yeah. Not a problem,” Kerry said. He’d expected the question. After spending the entirety of his life doing everything in his power to project a hyper-masculine, heterosexual appearance, Kerry had become an expert at it. So much so that even wearing a kilt and makeup did nothing to convince Cory that Kerry hadn’t made an embarrassing mistake by applying for their opening for a new exotic dancer.


“Have you ever danced for men before?”


“No,” Kerry replied honestly, “but I don’t see how that matters. It’s not like I have a problem with guys looking at me. From what I’ve seen, they can be a lot better-behaved than the women I’ve dealt with at Savage.”


“Mm,” was the noncommittal response. “Did you bring your music and a costume?”


“Yeah. Should I go get changed?” Kerry asked.


“Show us what you’ve got, Tommy Gunn.”


Kerry grabbed his duffel bag and headed for the backstage area. It only took him a minute to strip down and suit up in the tear-away clothes he’d hand-sewn and tailored himself. The clothes helped him transition immediately into his stage persona. Leaving Kerry behind, he became Tommy instead.


He let the staff member waiting by the side of the stage know he was ready. A moment later, his music track started to play. The drums and bass line were heavy and thumping.


Chin up, posture straight, mirrored aviator sunglasses on, he strode onto the stage, then directly to the end of the runway. He did a sharp, proper salute, standing at attention. After an about face, he glanced back over his shoulder and began to slowly swivel his hips, gyrating to the beat. It was a slow melt from the sharp military position to the smooth, liquid flow of the dance.


He tossed his hat first, then began to work the buttons of his dress shirt. The uniform was similar to the dress blues which had always hung in the closets of his home, since his stepfather and two of his brothers were Marines, though it was not an exact replica. Kerry wore a long-sleeved choker-collar midnight blue blouse decorated with an assortment of completely fake medals and ribbons, a white cover(hat), blue trousers, and high gloss black shoes. He’d left his replica Mameluke sword behind this time, but sometimes he used it in his routine.


Kerry’s body wasn’t bulky, but he was cut, and his body was waxed perfectly smooth, everywhere. His skin wasn’t tan, but the creaminess of it had never worked against him. He’d always been told there was something sensual about his features, his lips formed in a natural pout, his eyes brilliant and expressive, hinting at innocence and a bad boy streak at the same time. Kerry was a walking contradiction, playing both sides at the same time. His strong jaw gave him a distinctly masculine appearance women had always appreciated.


The shirt off, his chest bare, he inched the pants down, opening them just enough to show a hint of his shimmery gold shorts. Rolling his abs, using the pole, thrusting in smooth full movements against it, he swooped around, shook his ass, then ripped off the tear-away pants.


Working the whole stage, he touched himself, caressing from his chest, down his stomach to his package, using his pout to lure in the spectators — all three of them.


Kerry teased the back of the shorts down to show his bare ass. He got low, rolling his hips to the beat, then came up smoothly, curving his back, sticking out his ass, and ripped off the shorts. It left him only in a barely-there gold thong. Holding the pole with both hands, he shimmied, shaking his bare cheeks as the music’s pace quickened, building to a crescendo.


Turning to face his audience, he gave a wide, brilliant smile, as if he was having the time of his life. Bouncing, pumping his arm, thrusting hard, Kerry crouched lower as he got back into the dance, using his hips and everything he had to sell himself.


When the music faded out, he stuck around instead of heading offstage, like he usually would.


The trio in the mostly barren room were clapping.


“Tommy,” Cory told him. “Congratulations, you’re hired. You start tonight.”




Kerry lived in a shitty neighborhood. He knew it. There was always trash on the streets, blowing around as litter or stuffed in overflowing trash bags that never left the curb for long. The humid weather and unending sunshine scorched all of the asphalt and concrete. The buildings crowded together, close to the road, as if cowering in fear of the danger Kerry sensed nearby whenever he was going to and from his car. People were so desperate to get by or get high, muggings and robberies were commonplace. The windows that weren’t boarded up had weather-beaten bars on them. Next to the old converted home he lived in — a Queen Anne style, poorly aging beast with sun-bleached, chipped salmon and white paint, and an interior which had been carved up into tiny apartments — there were plenty of abandoned structures. They’d been left to fall apart, decorated with obnoxious slashes of colorful, sometimes offensive, graffiti.


Kerry’s building had a wide front porch ringed with groupings of columns and centrally-located steps which always seemed to be occupied with a random assortment of people, and not necessarily tenants. Some were waiting for the public bus that stopped right out front. Others were friends of people who lived there or nearby, just looking for a place to get lost in shadows and wait for opportunity to strike.


As uncomfortable as the lingerers made him, those abandoned places all around them bothered him most. Anyone could be in there, squatting, pushed hard into a hopeless sort of desperation that made them capable of anything. If they got hungry enough for food or their next fix, who knew what they might do to get it?


Sometimes he saw people peeking out at him from behind grungy curtains, or through gaps in shabby blinds or the boards covering shattered glass. He didn’t make eye contact. He kept his head down and his body tensed, ready for anything.


It was because of his neighborhood that he sometimes wore things he wouldn’t otherwise. He dressed as someone he wasn’t, for safety. If his oppressive, fear-clouded childhood had taught him anything, it was that intimidation and presenting an unruffled appearance went a long way.


Kerry was thankful he’d changed clothes after his audition at Blaze, dressed now in old jeans and a beat-up, patched-up leather jacket, when he was stopped on his way up the sidewalk that sunny Thursday afternoon. He generally didn’t like the constricting feel of pants, but at least they had pockets, and discomfort was a small price to pay for drawing unwanted attention, especially from people like the one standing right in his path.


“You owe me, Sanderson,” was the clipped, angry demand. The shrill voice belonged to his landlord, a woman named Dorothy Hammerstein. She was somewhere around sixty years old, with gunmetal gray and black hair pulled back in a bun and a permanent frown on her face, turning down her mouth almost comically. To Kerry, she’d always just been The Hammer. He wasn’t sure who pissed in The Hammer’s coffee each morning, but it was the only explanation that made sense for the furious, puckered expression she always wore. Maybe her good-for-nothing son, Victor, did it. He didn’t live in the building, but he always seemed to be there. He liked to treat the tenants as if he was the one they should be thanking for having a roof over their heads. He’d hang around, demanding rent payments, then “accidentally” forget to pass the money along to his mother.


In fact, a few yards away, leaning against a post on the porch, Victor watched the exchange on the sidewalk with a dark, malicious sort of expression, his gaze locked onto Kerry. Not wanting a longer conversation, or any more attention from The Hammer or her son, Kerry answered, “It’ll be in an envelope under your door tomorrow, just like every other month, Ms. Hammerstein. I haven’t been late on rent day once.”


She leaned in closer, squinting. Her nose wrinkled in disgust. “What is that on your face? Are you wearing makeup?”


“It’s dirt. Excuse me.” He skirted around her, shifting the strap of his duffel bag higher on his shoulder. She kept trying to get a closer look, so he turned his face until he was clear, adding, “Have a good one.”


“If you’re late, we’re going to have a problem!” The Hammer yelled at Kerry’s back. “That girlfriend of yours is gone now. Probably left your ass for a real man.” She laughed at her own joke. “You don’t make rent, you’re out! You hear me?”


“Loud and clear, thanks!”


There were so many arguments he could have or should have had. So many ways he should have stood up for himself or Jamie, who hadn’t been his girlfriend at all but was still a friend deserving of respect. Sometimes when a sour woman like The Hammer insulted you, it was a safer bet to ignore it than risk eviction.


He didn’t blame her for the bad mood; it wasn’t like she could lift the building and move it someplace nicer. She was stuck there, just as much as the rest of them, if not more so. He had a feeling Ms. Hammerstein realized there would be no one looking to buy the building from her, even for the privilege of knocking it down. She tried to call the cops on the trespassers and loiterers, but it didn’t do any good. The bus drew pedestrians and the cops had bigger problems to solve.


There were many aspects of Kerry’s life that had become empty spaces filled with nothing but false hopes. He should have had a lover, a supportive family, and more confidence in himself. Lacking those, Kerry had no wish to move, even if it meant dealing with a grumpy landlady. The consistency of where he slept each night was one of the only things getting him through.


Kerry had dreams of someday moving somewhere less dangerous, but he and Jamie had lived there together for two years without much trouble. It was close to work, and it had too many good memories. Jamie had only been gone for a few months; the ongoing process of making peace with the breakup and learning to live on his own for the first time, ever, meant he wasn’t ready to go anywhere else yet.


He climbed the rickety outdoor stairs that were located around the side of the building, zigzagging upward and leading up to the door to his attic apartment. There were things he needed to do, preparations to make. Getting hired at Blaze had been a huge accomplishment — the first of many, he hoped with likely foolish optimism.




Ewyn Garrity always felt conspicuous at the big, wild parties thrown by his old, trusted friend, Trevor. His complete inability to relax or drop his guard, as well as the rumors constantly circulating about his lengthening string of failed relationships left him standing in corners alone, unable to blend in or let loose. Curious glances in his direction from small groups of whispering onlookers reinforced his certainty that his dirty laundry was still being aired. Everyone knew everything about him, which was fine. It just made getting by in light of it all more challenging.


For all of his love for law, order, rules and safety, Ewyn wasn’t a particularly private person, even about his sex life. Still, he found it was better to be careful. His exes were still around, as were their mutual friends and all of the gossip stirred following a few tense, dramatic separations. They all blamed Ewyn for things going south, and maybe they were right. For a while there, immense personal tragedy had made him morose and needy. He realized he’d held on too tightly to people who only wanted him to let go. But the world had the tendency to shrink down at inconvenient moments. It had the possibility of making things really awkward, especially since lately it wasn’t the women catching Ewyn’s eye.


Trevor was into BDSM, and he helped run things for the local community. Ewyn asked Trevor to let him know whenever there were men-only events. Those appealed to Ewyn because there was no chance of running into his exes, or their gossip-happy girlfriends. But navigating around his reputation for being hopelessly uptight wasn’t the only thing on his mind.


The party was at Trevor’s home, confined mostly to a large open-concept living space. The lighting was dim, giving the space a cozier atmosphere as people hooked up. Doms found willing, eager subs. Ewyn, along with a few others, hung back, preferring to watch the show rather than join in.


Leaning back against a wall, Ewyn was quickly enraptured with a cute, nervous-looking sub who was shackled to a spanking bench. Behind the sub, a well-endowed Dom was getting ready to fuck him, slicking lube onto his rigid cock. When the Dom fed the sub’s hole two thick fingers, the sub cried out, his voice quivering as much as his body. As the Dom replaced the pair of fingers with the head of his dick, pressing it gently through the sub’s rim, Ewyn throbbed with arousal. Palming his erection, he let out a low moan of approval as the sub’s ass gradually swallowed the full length of the large cock.


It had been several years since Ewyn had been with another man. When he had fooled around with guys, it had never gone as far as sex. That was something he now regretted, but it wasn’t possible to go back in time and make different choices. He’d thought wanting to get touchy-feely with other men had been a phase he could purge from his system so he could settle down in a real relationship with a woman who’d give him kids and a traditional marriage.


Laughing a little at the memory, and how stupid he’d been, Ewyn couldn’t tear his gaze away from the male sub. The slick length of the Dom’s cock pumped in and out of the sub’s slim, tight body, his ass tipped up for better access. When the Dom pulled completely out before finishing, the sub glanced back over his shoulder, begging, “Please, more, sir?” in a lust-roughened, youthful voice. He looked like he was in his early twenties, whereas the Dom was pushing forty.


Ewyn gave his rigid cock a squeeze through his pants as he watched the Dom thrust, hard, back into the sub’s flushed, wet, tight hole.


There were subs nearby trying to catch Ewyn’s attention. His size and build always attracted attention at the parties, but he was there to watch, not play. What he needed wasn’t more fucking around with strangers, or letting more friends of friends date him only because they thought they could be the one to finally break him of his habits. They thought it would be so easy to finally get past his walls, to get him to relax and stop taking things so seriously. They expected he was only so uptight because of the quirks of his exes, and not because of his own shortcomings. There was no understanding that he’d become the man he was for valid reasons, and couldn’t change his personality on a whim. It would take a special person to appreciate him as-is as he kept taking steps to break his habits on his own. A partner only to fuck around with was just not going to cut it. He wanted something completely different — to build a long-term relationship in ways he’d never dreamed possible when he was a younger, more naïve man.


An attractive, dark-haired sub came closer and seemed about to get on his knees at Ewyn’s feet.


“Sorry, not interested,” Ewyn told him, and kept his attention fixed firmly on the one thing he wanted most of all. It wasn’t play he was after, or another girlfriend, and it was time to do something about it.


Chapter 2: First Impressions


On his first night dancing at a gay club, Kerry’s nervous unease was tempered by the reality of his empty bank account. Luckily, there were so many men packed into Blaze on the dance floor, at the bar, near the stage and backstage as well, there was plenty to keep his mind off his troubles.


Mostly, the hours passed in a blur. The chorus of voices around him overlapped, working to drown each other out. They were lower in pitch, but similar to those he’d always heard at Savage Men. Kerry made sure he didn’t really focus on anyone in the audience, even when he was acting like he was. Everyone who knew him outside of work found it impossible to believe he was a dancer, since he was the shyest, most private person most of them had ever met. The nerves would get the best of him if he didn’t rely on a few cherished coping mechanisms. He went into his head and happily became the character Tommy instead of himself.


They had him on the main stage, but the setup at Blaze was different than at Savage. He didn’t have to do a show, since it wasn’t a strip club, per se. He was eye candy, on a platform way up above the crowd, standing under red lights which hid flaws and sculpted the body in flattering ways. They sent him out in only a thong and silver boots with a stacked heel. That was the outfit he stayed in for the whole night, showing off his goods. He had similar makeup to the other dancers — wide, glittery silver-winged eyeliner painted around his eyes and huge false eyelashes that were also silver, with silvery lip gloss too. Body glitter was dusted over him from head to toe, and he knew it was going to be a bitch to get off later. He thought the makeup looked great, even if the eyelashes did weigh down his eyelids, so it helped boost his confidence in sorely needed ways.


No one got out of control. There weren’t any fights. It turned out to be much more fun than he’d expected. It seemed possible he was really starting to figure out a better path for himself.


He hoped so, at least.


When the night ran into the morning, and his shift was ending, Kerry headed backstage. He was sweaty, sore, and out of energy. Dancing for hours-on-end, in heels, was a lot more draining than doing a few shows a night, plus lap-dances in the crowd.


Security guards were stationed at the doorway to the backstage area. Kerry hadn’t met them yet, so they were a mostly faceless type of reassuring presence. The guy on the left caught Kerry’s eye almost right away as he got a closer look. A startling but distinct physical attraction sent a low tickle down to caress Kerry’s balls, tripping him up right away. The guy was big, built, and badass. He looked to be a few years older than Kerry, with thick, black plugs in both earlobes and a thin silver nose ring. He had short, sandy colored hair, a short beard, intelligent dark brown eyes and a ruggedly handsome face. Basically, he was hot as hell.


Though watching gay sex online got him off during uncomfortable dry spells, like the one he was currently experiencing, Kerry wasn’t used to being attracted to guys he encountered face-to-face. Most didn’t do anything for him, and as far as it went with the ones who did turn him on, it was an instinct he’d conditioned himself to bury. So, as soon as he became aware of his attraction to the guard, Kerry felt hugely embarrassed, and instantly tried to push the feelings down.


In fact, Kerry was so distracted by trying not to react, he forgot to watch his feet in the ridiculous platform boots and tripped over some discarded, wadded up, sweaty clothes.


The hot guard caught Kerry by the arm.


“Careful. You okay?”


“Yeah. Thanks,” Kerry answered, feeling his blush spreading and overly aware of the guard’s gaze focused right on his near-naked body. There was nowhere to hide and everything was on display. “Been a long night. Not used to these shoes.”


The guard’s gaze slipped momentarily lower, to places Kerry knew he should be used to people looking, especially after hours of it. Standing so close to someone who was looking down there — maybe measuring the size of his bulge — made Kerry feel profoundly self-conscious, like he was under the spotlight again. Not to perform or please the crowd, only to allow some up-close-and-personal, perverse scrutiny. It embarrassed him and caused him to doubt all of the choices leading him to wear only a thong in public. “You new here? I don’t recognize you.”


Kerry tried to straighten up and reclaim his arm, but he wobbled again, so the guard held on a little longer. Very much aware of how little of his body was currently not on display, Kerry had no way to disguise any physical reactions that might be provoked. When he continued to find the guard to be unspeakably sexy, Kerry tripped over his words like he’d tripped over the shirt on the floor.


“I-I, uh, yeah. First night. First gay club too, so, uh….”


Cool and calm, the guard smirked, just a little. He didn’t look like he smiled easily or often, but preferred to smolder instead, which was honestly just fine with Kerry.


“I’m Ewyn,” the guard said. He let go of Kerry’s arm and extended a hand to shake with him.


As they shook hands, Kerry tried to decide whether he should say he was Tommy or Kerry. At Savage, he’d always used the stage name, no matter what. His legal name was only connected to him through paperwork locked up in the owner’s office. Honesty had become his main, driving goal, though, and the worrisome ways he was attracted to Ewyn tempted Kerry to make a different choice, for once.


As soon as Ewyn had Kerry’s hand, easily enfolding it with a firm, impressive grip, Kerry felt Ewyn guide him to the side of the walkway with his other hand bracing Kerry’s bare side. The skin-on-skin contact gave Kerry another jolt and he flinched a little at first.


Letting himself be moved, Kerry saw a few other dancers impatiently slip past them, looking more than ready to get changed and get out of there.


“Oh. Thanks. Nice to meet you, Ewyn. Up there I’m Tommy, but I’m really Kerry.”


The guard was watching him intensely, with more than just passing interest. It was making Kerry profoundly self-conscious. What was going on there, anyway? He was clearly measuring Kerry up, but for what?


“Kerry. Welcome,” Ewyn said. “You seem a little overwhelmed. It does get a little chaotic in here, doesn’t it? If you’d like some company for the walk out to your car, I’d be happy to make sure you get there safely.”


“Sure,” Kerry nodded, smiling awkwardly, biting at his bottom lip. It was strange how the longer he stood there, faced with the impressively confident guard, Kerry felt an odd sense of balance. “That’s nice of you to offer. Just give me a minute to get dressed.”


Ewyn’s gaze slipped downward again, tellingly, over everything Kerry’s thong wasn’t hiding. A light shiver made Kerry’s skin pebble and his nipples stiffen.


“Absolutely. I’ll be here.”




“Hey,” Kerry asked the dancer getting dressed beside him. “You’ve been here a little while, right?”


“Sure,” the guy shrugged. Kerry had caught the dancer chatting with a lot of the staff during the night, his comfort level there apparent. At first, he’d caught Kerry’s eye because some of his features reminded him of Jamie, like the shape of his eyes and his height, but the tone of his skin was a deep mahogany, richer that Jamie’s. He also had a shaved head and some tattoos, setting him apart even more. “I guess so. A few months.”


“You know the guard out there? Ewyn? What’s his deal?”


“Oh, him? Good at his job. Pretty reliable. Keeps to himself. I think I heard he used to work for some corporation, doing private security until his brother got beat up at a club. Not this one. That club was a few miles away. It shut down pretty quick. Ewyn started working here to do the good guy thing, protect other kids.”


“Oh. Cool,” Kerry said, a little surprised. Maybe Ewyn had just been doing the same with Kerry — trying to be friendly to someone looking a little rattled. He paused to think it over, then finished pulling his kilt around his waist so he could pin it. “But does he ever, like, flirt with anyone, or…”


The dancer laughed. “Dude’s totally straight, man. If you’ve got a crush, you best give it up now.”


Confused, since he’d gotten definite signals, Kerry asked, “Seriously?”


“Seriously. Used to see his last girlfriend around here, before or after his shift. Fine piece of ass, too.”


“Oh. Okay. Thanks.” He extended a hand. “I’m Tommy, by the way.”


“Jaz,” the dancer smiled, shaking with him.


Like so many other things in Kerry’s life, it should have been a relief to hear that Ewyn was straight and hadn’t been coming onto him. Instead, it only left him feeling strangely disappointed and bewildered. Clearly, Ewyn hadn’t been looking him up and down out of interest, but maybe just amazement about Kerry’s outfit, seen up close. Were his instincts really that off? If so, what did that say about him?


He told himself he was better off without worrying about the guard’s attention. What Kerry needed was more stability, not a wild card guaranteed to cause chaos and distraction.


The thoughts weren’t as comforting as he would have liked.


Feeling discouraged and down, Kerry finished dressing and packed up his gear. Tiredness sank into his bones, making him weary and foggy-headed.


Ewyn was waiting out by the exit when Kerry got there. Dancers streamed out, and club patrons lingered, reluctant to end the night just yet.


“Hey,” Kerry said in greeting after catching Ewyn’s eye. “I think I’ll take you up on that offer so I don’t get mugged on the way down the block, if that’s okay with you. I’m parked over there.” Kerry pointed at his beat-up old sedan, barely a speck in the distance.


“No problem,” Ewyn said. He looked around as if to ensure the coast was clear. His hand touched Kerry’s back again, as it had before. Leaving it there, Ewyn ushered him along.


“You have a thing for watching out for the new guys, or what?” Kerry asked as they walked. The kilt swung with each step, the cool night air blowing up his legs. He’d brought it to wear home, thinking it was dark enough out to be safe and the most comfortable choice given how sweaty and tired he knew he’d be after his shift. If there was any time he was less likely to get hassled for what he was wearing, it was in the middle of the night.


“Not really,” Ewyn replied. They moved in and out of the amber pools of light cast by the street lamps. “You just looked a little like you were in over your head back there.”


“Ouch. That bad, huh?” Kerry winced.


Ewyn held Kerry back, bracing his chest this time as a car sped past, going at least twenty miles per hour over the speed limit. Once the road was clear, Ewyn’s hand returned to Kerry’s back and they crossed.


“It’s not bad,” Ewyn explained. “But when you work somewhere like this, and you’ve got that look about you, it can be dangerous.”


“Dangerous how?”


They reached Kerry’s car. He turned to face Ewyn, who stepped only slightly into his personal space, but maybe just to stay out of the way of speeding traffic. He gazed down at Kerry curiously, with an unreadable expression.


“Vulnerable people tend to attract predators,” Ewyn explained quietly. “I’ve had… friends… get hurt that way. I don’t intend for it to happen again, especially on my watch.” It sounded sincere, and like there were painful memories behind the sentiment. Kerry wondered if he was talking about what had happened to his brother, and if he was trying to protect Kerry in a similar way. It would make sense, especially if Kerry was younger, just like Ewyn’s brother had been. He could see how, if he looked distracted, someone might try to get one over on him. Living in the roughest part of town for years had taught him as much, if not how to constantly stay on edge like he needed to.


“I can handle myself,” he assured Ewyn. “Even if it doesn’t look that way. This isn’t my first time dancing, just my first time dancing here.


A few more cars sped past, and Ewyn shifted even closer to Kerry. It might have been to avoid getting hit. Or not. The coziness of their positions was making Kerry’s blush rise again, especially since he was feeling guilty about his attraction to someone who obviously didn’t feel the same way.


He became distracted by the ways he was physically drawn to someone so different than any other person he’d ever been with, in any sense. Ewyn was bigger than him, more masculine than him. With his scruff and his piercings, not to mention the handsome face beneath all of that, he was making butterflies flutter in Kerry’s stomach. Being attracted to a guy like Ewyn was a reminder of how fucked-up Kerry’s instincts were. All his life, those who loved him most had steered him deliberately away from where he felt inclined to go, whether it was his behavior, the way he dressed, or who he liked. Private desire and learned self-doubt clashed inside him. He began to sink back down into the depths of despondency.


While lost in his head, Kerry didn’t have the chance to realize how close Ewyn actually was.


Ewyn’s hand came to rest on Kerry’s hip. The touch was a jolt, causing his breath to catch and tensing his body. As another car zoomed by Ewyn’s back, he leaned down a little more. Instinctively, Kerry bent his head slightly to the side and down, hiding his embarrassed expression, feeling Ewyn’s warm breath on his neck. There was no instinct telling him to throw off Ewyn’s touch. Much to the contrary, Kerry’s heart pounded as he froze in place.


He didn’t understand. That touch by his hip was a spark of danger, the source of all his problems. But he liked the dangerous thrill he got from feeling it.


Kerry was breathing harder, frowning slightly. He knew he should ask Ewyn to go, so why wasn’t he?


“If you can handle yourself so well, why’d you ask me to walk you back here?”


“Because I’m stupid,” Kerry murmured. That seemed to be the reason for everything, actually.


Shocking the hell out of Kerry, Ewyn took hold of him by the jaw, tilting his chin up.


Eyes widening, breath coming even quicker, Kerry knew he was way out of his element and unsure of anything. But Ewyn didn’t look like he wanted to hurt Kerry. He actually looked concerned.


“You okay?” Ewyn asked.


“It’s been a rough couple of years. Sorry. That’s not your problem. I guess I’m kind of overwhelmed right now, which probably does make me a target, so thanks for looking out for me. People would be a lot more intimidated by you than me.”


“You want me to go?”


“Not really.”


As soon as he glanced at Ewyn’s lips, wondering what it would be like to kiss them, Ewyn moved, like that was the signal he’d been waiting for.


It was the most gradual, slowly advancing kiss Kerry had ever experienced. Ewyn leaned down little by little, giving Kerry every chance to pull away or say no. But Kerry didn’t do either of those things. In fact, he leaned in. When their lips did touch, the kiss was soft and light, just a brush of lips against lips. Kerry felt himself start to get hard, right away. A tingling sensation raced out through his body as the distinct ache in his balls only grew.


Gasping soundlessly against Ewyn’s mouth, Kerry frowned. He paused to breathe, but didn’t pull back. So Ewyn kissed him harder, more firmly. His tongue licked lightly at Kerry’s mouth, and Kerry felt the jolt of it shoot right down the center of his body to help stir his cock. Pushing into the kiss, Kerry only wanted more, and he knew it showed.


Ewyn’s fingertips were pressed lightly against the side of Kerry’s neck, beneath his jaw. It took him a few moments to realize Ewyn was feeling his pulse, which was racing. Gently, Ewyn said, “Easy… If I’m scaring you, I’ll stop.”


Kerry didn’t want to stop. He grabbed hold of Ewyn’s shirt.


Wanting to hide from the recklessness of what he was doing, what he was feeling, Kerry turned his face more toward Ewyn as he tried to calm down. He couldn’t, though. Not with the warmth on his lips from their kissing. He’d kissed Ewyn. It had actually happened.


The fingertips pressed harder at his pulse, measuring it, measuring him. His heart pounded away. He had so many questions.


Do I apologize?


Do I run?


What am I doing?


Ewyn’s thumb stroked Kerry’s lower lip. Closing his eyes, Kerry felt the rise and fall of his chest, the press of those fingers, the heat of Ewyn’s larger, broader body shielding him from the night, trapping him against the car.


“Easy,” Ewyn hushed, his lips hovering by Kerry’s, not quite touching. That slight space drove Kerry mad, so he chased forward, kissing Ewyn back.


Ewyn broke the kiss first, looking down in a measuring way at Kerry, touching his lower lip again. Kerry’s grip on Ewyn’s shirt tightened. Slowly, maintaining eye contact, Ewyn came in again, giving Kerry even more time to anticipate it this time. He felt the tip of Ewyn’s tongue trace the curve of his lower lip. Kerry moaned.


Ewyn’s hand followed the curve of Kerry’s waist to his lower back, then to his ass. He pulled Kerry’s hips flush against his own. Ewyn was as hard as Kerry. He realized it at the same moment as Ewyn slipped his tongue into Kerry’s mouth, feeding it to him with a hungry growl.


Pulling hard on Ewyn’s shirt with one hand, bracing the other against Ewyn’s broad chest, Kerry could only open up to the deep, searching kiss. Head spinning, he let Ewyn tongue him for a while. When he did pull back, he bit gently at Kerry’s lower lip. His hand palmed the curve of the underside of Kerry’s ass.


For a moment, they paused. Ewyn’s eyes closed and a small frown creased his brow, like he was making decisions, choosing what would happen next. Head spinning, body tingling, Kerry could only hold on and ride it out.


“All I want to do right now is slip my hand up this kilt, but I’m not going to. I’m gonna step back, okay?”


Kerry breathed out a sigh filled with relief, regret and anxiousness as Ewyn did as promised, giving Kerry some space.


“I’m sorry,” Kerry said. There were still people everywhere. He couldn’t help wonder who could see them, or what they thought.


“Why?”


“I’m… really confused. I don’t do stuff like this.”


“Stuff like what?” Ewyn still seemed concerned more than anything, as if he knew how much Kerry was prone to fucking things up and was trying to swoop in to save him by bringing a secret wet dream to life. Ewyn was a stranger. He had no reason to care, even if he did have something awful happen to his brother.


“Kissing guys,” he said sheepishly with a brief upward glance. Self-consciously, he tugged at the kilt, wishing he was wearing something else and afraid his erection was noticeable.


“Really?” Ewyn grinned wickedly, breathing out a faint laugh. “Can I be honest with you, Kerry?”


“Sure. Please.”


There was no one else close by. People were clearing out of the club even faster now. The night wrapped around them, its darkness cool and concealing them from everything Kerry didn’t want to face.


Ewyn took one step forward. One of his hands clasped the side of Kerry’s neck again, the thumb caressing the underside of his chin. It felt nice. Soothing. Steadying. The other reached down low, the back of his knuckles stroking down, deliberately, over the tip of Kerry’s hard-on through the wool of the kilt.


“Fuck.” Kerry bit hard at his lip, bowing his head when Ewyn only continued, tracing the head of Kerry’s dick, blocking them from sight with his body. The longer it went on, the more Kerry wanted, and the more he didn’t understand why.


“I like that you don’t usually kiss guys. I know the feeling. You want me to back off?”


“No,” Kerry answered quietly.


“Hmm?”


“No,” he repeated, a little louder.


“Why not?”


Turning toward Ewyn’s neck, Kerry tried to swallow a hard moan. The rub of those fingers just felt so dirty, so forbidden, and so good…


“You getting off on it?” Ewyn asked.


Kerry nodded, not trusting his voice. He let his forehead rest against Ewyn’s neck. Ewyn’s fingers clasped Kerry’s cockhead through the kilt, squeezing slightly.


“What were you…” Kerry released a soft moan, the sound breaking. “What were you going to say?”


“Maybe you’ll think this is a line. It’s not. I don’t screw around with guys either. Not since I was a kid. But there’s something about you that’s fuckin’ irresistible. Never seen someone with eyes that color before. I saw you dance tonight. You stood out. Stood out to me, at least. I was glad I had a chance to introduce myself. The ways you move?” The fingers followed his shaft, stroking down it, then back up. He was achingly stiff. “How hard your dick is right now?” He leaned in so close, his lips brushed against Kerry’s ear. “Let me make sure you get home okay.”


There was nothing Kerry wanted more than to get the damned kilt off and enjoy more of those lazy, exploratory touches until he really did get off on it.


“I shouldn’t. I don’t even know who you are,” Kerry said, trying to fight for sense.


Strangely, Ewyn seemed pleased with the rejection. He held Kerry’s gaze, radiating gratitude Kerry didn’t understand.


“Okay. I’ll let the offer stand. If you’re dancing again tomorrow, I’ll be here. I’m happy to make sure you get home safe. I’ll let it be your call.” Amazingly, Ewyn stepped back. “Have a good night, Kerry. Get some rest.”


Ewyn turned and walked toward a Harley nearby. When he got to it, he gave Kerry a faint grin from over a shoulder as he reached for his helmet.


“You’re really going?” Kerry asked. The quiet of the night was the only reason Ewyn heard him.


“I really am. Take care, all right? Be safe.”


Kerry unlocked his car. Ewyn drove off on his bike.


“Holy shit. Holy shit,” Kerry breathed, gripping the door of his car and trying to calm down.


Chapter 3: Private Show


The next night, Kerry asked more of the dancers about Ewyn. All of them swore he was straight, that he was a reliable guy and good at his job.


Ewyn was there, but on the door instead of in the club, so Kerry didn’t see him until it was time to go.


It wasn’t really the rough nature of the neighborhood that made Kerry want to ask Ewyn to follow him home, just to make sure he got there okay. Kerry was pretty used to living where he did, and accepted the risks. But there was just something about Ewyn that was as right as it was wrong. Needing to figure it out, Kerry decided to let Ewyn walk him to his car again. He didn’t make a move, but he did keep his eyes out for all of the shadows stretching around them. It reminded Kerry a little about the good parts of his childhood, and how the military element lent a sense of safety Kerry had come to miss once it was gone. Maybe Ewyn had served, and that’s where those instincts came from.


After Kerry had gotten in behind the wheel of his car, he’d asked Ewyn to follow him to his place, if he didn’t mind.


A few minutes later, they were there.


The sight of Ewyn, big as life and twice as hot, walking up to Kerry’s car in his side view mirror, was kind of amazing.


Rolling down the window, Kerry said, “I really appreciate you doing this.”


“No problem,” Ewyn replied. “Happy to help.”


“I’m dancing again tomorrow, if you’re around.”


“Yeah. I’ll be there.” Ewyn smiled, then glanced warily around Kerry’s street. There was a clatter in the alleyway nearby. The shadows seemed to crowd in closer. It was the middle of the night, but there were two people on the porch of Kerry’s building, sitting there in the pitch dark. The glow from a dim lamp lit inside one of the first floor apartments suggested the outlines of the figures waiting there. He couldn’t make out who they were, if they were tenants or not, but it looked like one of them might have been Victor. “It okay with you if I stick around until I see you’re safe inside your place?”


“Of course. Thanks.” Kerry gathered his keys, his bag, and got out. The night was warm, the air barely moving. Ewyn held the door, then shut it for him. He kept walking to avoid any public displays of affection, not knowing who might be watching. With a wave, he said, “See you tomorrow.”


Ewyn kept scanning the street as Kerry climbed the stairs, then unlocked his door. Kerry gave another wave as Ewyn climbed on his bike and drove away.




The next couple of nights were more of the same. Kerry got lost in dancing, letting go of his worries and cares for a few precious hours. He kept glancing Ewyn’s way, seeing him by the front entrance now and then. Ewyn didn’t often look directly at Kerry while he was dancing. But, when he did, Kerry felt like he danced even better than usual and had a better time doing it.


Each night, Ewyn offered to walk him out at the end of their shifts. Anticipation for those moments energized Kerry. At the end of the week, he realized he wasn’t nearly as tired as he’d been before, so he said to Ewyn, “If you’re not doing anything, I wouldn’t mind company after you follow me home.”


Everything Ewyn seemed to be had held true. And, most importantly, Ewyn hadn’t made a move once. He was waiting on Kerry’s lead.


“Are you sure?”


Kerry was wearing a different kilt — black instead of evergreen. Ewyn hadn’t given any sign that he was put off by them, so it helped Kerry feel more comfortable wearing them around him. Around his parents, Kerry always had to wear the uniform of khakis and polo shirts. With Jamie, Kerry had been pressured in a different way to become the man’s man Jamie craved. The whole time, what Kerry personally wanted never seemed to matter. Now, his tentative first steps towards honest self-expression were being witnessed by a man Kerry wanted to impress. It was both a thrill and a terror. He felt the night breeze creeping up his legs, cooling him off. He sensed that Ewyn wanted to touch, but was holding back. Kerry, on the other hand, wasn’t sure he had the balls to make the first move. The most he could do was step closer to Ewyn, savoring his body heat and running his thumb down the teeth of the zipper on Ewyn’s leather jacket.


“Yeah. I am. Nervous, but sure.”


When Kerry stayed close, Ewyn took the hint and clasped Kerry’s hip. “Okay then. No pressure, okay? If you change your mind…”


“I won’t,” Kerry told him, glancing up with a dark sort of hunger. It was the same desire to act out, to do something he knew he shouldn’t, that had gotten him in trouble time and time again. Still, he couldn’t resist. The temptation Ewyn posed was too great.


It was obscenely late when they reached the apartment, closer to dawn than sunset, so Kerry didn’t worry too much about his pain in the ass landlady catching him bringing a guy home. After all of The Hammer’s closed-minded, bigoted comments over the past two years, he guessed he’d be out on the street if she ever caught him with what she called, ‘a real guy.’ Her opinion of Jamie was something they had chosen not to debate, for the sake of having a roof over their heads.


Drained but shaky with apprehension, Kerry led Ewyn upstairs and to his door, fumbling for his key. He’d thought he’d glimpsed Victor on the porch, but it might have just been paranoia making him see things that weren’t there. All around was quiet and still. While he unlocked the door, Kerry felt Ewyn gently lift the back of the kilt. He wasn’t wearing underwear, since he’d figured he was headed right for a shower anyway.


Cool air brushed his bare ass as it was exposed and Ewyn took a look.


Kerry’s cock twitched. He hadn’t realized how hot it would be to have a guy like Ewyn make overt sexual advances towards him. It felt extremely taboo, in all the right ways. Everything about letting Ewyn touch or look at him was a symbolic ‘fuck you’ to everyone who’d been making Kerry question himself.


Out of his element, heart pounding, thoughts in a whirl, Kerry just went along with it. He didn’t push the kilt back down, but just finished unlocking the door, then swung it open.


From directly behind Kerry, Ewyn said, “Even better without the thong, gotta admit. The glitter’s a nice touch, too.”


Fighting a powerful blush, Kerry stepped into the apartment and flipped the light switch.


“Come in.”


The living space in his studio apartment was located at the top of the apartment building’s corner turret. The high ceiling reached up into the turret’s point, while narrow windows ringed the circular space. The pleasant, almost storybook charm was what had initially driven Kerry to rent the place.


Right away, despite everything and how disjointed his thoughts were, he glanced at the candle on the windowsill. The deeply ingrained obligation was a pull in the core of his body, reminding him of old, familiar responsibilities. Kerry had been breaking so many of his old rules, doing even something small to honor his commitments helped set him at ease.


He shut and locked the door behind them, throwing the bolt, just in case. His guilt was running away with itself.


“Just gimme one second,” Kerry said, going for the lighter. He’d set out a fresh candle that morning, painstakingly carving an elaborate script J into the white wax, finding comfort in the ritual. The shavings still lay scattered on the sill. After setting the wick alight, seeing the flame start to dance, Kerry was able to breathe easier.


The light, the hope — it made sense.


“Mood lighting?” Ewyn asked.


“Not so much. It’s just something I have to do. Long story.” He changed topics quickly. “Look, I really don’t do this. I’m coming off a complicated breakup and I’ve been trying to find myself, I guess. I’m not a one-night stand kind of person, and I’ve never done more than fool around a little with a guy. I mean, I’ve wanted to do more, but…”


Ewyn was watching Kerry patiently, and glancing around the small studio to get his bearings.


“Go on,” he encouraged. “Sounds like you need to get this off your chest. I’ve got time. And, for the record, no one said anything about a one-night stand. I don’t do those either.”


That stopped Kerry short.


“Oh. Okay. Um.” He ran his hands through his hair, then set his bag down by the wall. It was a lot lighter now that he didn’t need to cart multiple costumes back and forth from work. Blaze provided matching outfits for all its dancers. Feeling frantic and dead-tired at the same time, Kerry tried to remember his manners. “Can I get you something to drink? Or — ”


“Just talk to me, Kerry. What’s got you so wound up?” Ewyn was standing in the center of the small apartment, just waiting. Everything about his posture and expression was patient and steady. He seemed to be listening intently and entirely present in the moment. It was a nice counterpoint to Kerry’s internal uproar.


“Well, full disclosure,” he began, squeezing his eyes shut briefly, then just stared at the floor. He hated having to explain things. Words came hard when he had to talk about his life. “I’m twenty years old. My birthday was just a couple of months ago. My ex — we started dating almost two years ago, before he transitioned. He’s transgender. Pre-operative, doing hormone therapy now, and had a few surgeries, though not the big one. Sexual reassignment. I don’t actually know if he’s going to do that one, but it’s not my business anymore, so… Yeah. He can pass, even though a lot of people, like my bitchy landlady, still say he’s a chick. And I feel really fucking bad about having this, like, fantasy of being with a guy who has all of his equipment, but Jamie’s the one who dumped me for not being enough of a man, so I’m working to get over it. Unlike me, he’s only into guys. Like, guy guys. He wanted someone alpha and hyper-masculine, and figured since I was a military brat, I’d be perfect. Once he found out otherwise, we cared about each other too much to walk away. Before Jamie and I dated, I thought I was straight. Or straight but confused. I thought guys were hot, but being gay was just not an option in my family. Dating Jamie during his whole transitioning process only made me more confused. But I’m on my own now, for once, and I’m doing my best to listen to myself, and make choices for myself instead of other people. Which is why I’m here with you, I guess. Sorry. I don’t know if any of that made sense.” Kerry blew out a breath and let his head fall back on his shoulders. The words had, surprisingly, come easier than expected.


“Better?” Ewyn asked with only a hint of a grin.


“Yeah, actually. And you’re not running out the door, so, good sign, I guess.”


Ewyn stepped closer. With one bent finger, he tilted Kerry’s chin up again. Looking down at him, Ewyn scrutinized Kerry’s expression.


“I’m not running.”


Chapter 4: Nowhere to Hide


“You’re sweet as hell, you know. It’s a big turn on. I’d like to tell you a little more about me, too, if that’s okay.”


Kerry protested, “I think I should shower first, or — ”


“No need. But, will you sit with me? Relax a little. I can tell how tired you are.”


“Okay.”


“You want me to keep hands off, or can I touch?”


Kerry breathed out a laugh, blushing again. “You can touch,” he said softly.


Ewyn brushed Kerry’s thigh, his hand skimming up, under the kilt, all the way to his hip. He palmed Kerry’s right butt cheek and pulled him forward, walking them both a couple of steps toward the couch. Ewyn seemed to consider, then sat down directly across from the tall, narrow mirror propped on the opposite wall. He pulled Kerry down with him, so that he was straddling Ewyn’s thighs, facing him and sitting on his lap.


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