Chapter Eleven

Brock was deep in the woods, checking out his snares. Hearing the stealthy footsteps behind him, he pretended not to notice. He turned a sharp bend in the path he had beaten down earlier, hid behind a tree and waited. Moments later, he jumped out and caught his would-be tracker unaware.

“Why have you been following me?” he demanded as he shook the object of his feigned anger.

Showing not an ounce of remorse, Hendrik flirtatiously answered, “because I like the sight of you in these buckskins, but I believe I’ll like what’s under them even better.” Sexual relief and a little human contact were all he wanted; it was too soon after losing Eric to contemplate anything else.

Brock put his four-inch height advantage to good use and glared down at the slightly shorter man. “And just what makes you think I’d respond to such a bold move on your part?”

“Look, man, I don’t know about you, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been with someone, if you know what I mean. I even came prepared,” Hendrik announced, digging into his pocket and pulling out a small jar.

“True, but why me?”

Hendrik looked a little stymied by the question as he had been expecting either a flat-out ‘No’ or a resounding ‘Yes’.

“I’m not exactly sure why I’m attracted to you, but it seems I am; sexually that is. I wouldn’t ask just anyone; in fact, I’ve never had to ask before.” Not getting a response, Hendrik turned on his heel to retrace his steps and muttered, “forget it! It was a stupid idea and I’m sorry for insulting you with my unwanted advances.”

“I never said I was insulted!” Brock was not yet ready to admit his attraction to the younger man. He never made decisions without weighing all ascertainable facts and besides, he had his eye on someone else. However, suspecting the blond man of not being completely truthful about his reason for approaching him and seeing an unspoken need in the appealing green eyes, he reached out and put his hand on the younger man’s arm.

What took place next may have lacked romance, tenderness and emotion, but it was more than adequately compensated with hot, fast, satisfying sex. With a primal grunt, Brock swung Hendrik around, bared him and bent him over. Then he unceremoniously rode Hendrik until the needs of both men were met, after which they adjusted their clothing and amicably parted company. 

Brock stood still as Hendrik slowly disappeared from sight. “You can come out now,” he suggested in a quiet voice. “Or you can wait for me to drag you out!”

“How did you know I was here?”

“I heard the puppy yelp.”

Raythe glanced down at the little dog in his arms. It was true; he had squeezed the tiny animal a bit too tightly when the action taking place before his eyes had drawn a response from him. “How could you when you were busying fucking him senseless?”

There was not the slightest trace of embarrassment in Brock as he regarded Raythe steadily. “I’m a mountain man, boy. Believe me, when I am in my element I am always aware of my surroundings!” Brock succinctly informed the one who had been spying on him.

Raythe was unable to maintain eye contact with the big man. He dropped his head and nuzzled into the soft bundle of fur he was holding.

Brock’s voice softened. “You really are very good to that small creature and as I have already said, I’ve noticed the care you’ve been giving him.” Brock watched the boy peek out through the long-black hair that had fallen over his face and shuffle from one foot to another as if unused to receiving praise.

Once again, he sensed a need in the young man and a growing need inside himself to answer it. ‘Someone should be taking care of him too. I think it has been a very long time since anyone has, and he deserves to be cherished as much as the next person. I’d definitely appreciate being given the opportunity to do just that.’

Seeing dark brown eyes fill up, Brock opened up his heart. How he wished he could take the lonely, mistrusting lad into his arms, but instinctively knew Raythe wasn’t ready for such a move. ‘If it’s meant to be, then it will happen in its own good time,” the big man thought.

Back at camp, Samuel helped Nathan put several pieces of wood together. They began tying the slabs to form a flat surface, then nailed four legs to the rough corners. It certainly wasn’t the steadiest of tables, but it would have to do for now. Minimally, Nathan had a place to store his scissors, needles and thread, and he could at least cut patterns and cloth on it.

Wes had found himself actually working, much to his chagrin. The rough wood had splinters and hurt his hands but on the bright side, Nathan had a ready humour which kept him in stitches and Samuel smiling. He realised at the end of the afternoon that he had rather enjoyed working with both of them. He wasn’t above batting his eyes at both men though and while Samuel chose to ignore his teasing, Nathan’s eyes gleamed with amusement.  The tailor allowed the young man to employ his flirtatious antics, secretly enjoying the mischievous playfulness.

Samuel eventually excused himself when he saw a figure walking towards the kitchen area. Nathan waved him away, suddenly glad to have the captivating young imp to himself for a while. He slyly opened one of his trunks and Wes began to excitedly examine the items inside.

Samuel could hear Nathan’s amiable responses and the smile was apparent in the older man’s voice as he described what the material would be suitable for.

By the time Samuel rejoined Wayne, the young man was trying to wash his uninjured hand in a pail of water behind the stove. He looked up and smiled as he saw Samuel approaching and the older man’s heart skipped a beat. It was identical to the ones he had been receiving all afternoon, and yet it was different. He shook his head in wonder. How could both twins look so alike and yet affect him so differently? While he found Wes amusing and entertaining, he much preferred the way Wayne’s eyes called out to him and the ghost of a smile that touched his lips when he found Samuel looking at him. It never failed to make his pulse beat a little faster. 

The afternoon was waning when the five council members sat down with heads together, going over details of the plans they would soon be presenting to the rest of the community.

“All assignments have been made and accepted,” Larry announced. “Well, that is with the exception of a couple of the men who are unwilling to co-operate at the moment. We may be given no choice but to make it a rule that those who refuse to work go hungry?” Larry knew it would be something they’d try to avoid at all costs.

“Can you tell us briefly who is doing what?” Thomas requested.

“The seven men Aiden suggested I ask to work on the tree-cutting are more than willing to do so. That crew consists of Preston, Mitchell, Brock, Samuel, Hendrik, Aiden and me. And yes, I actually managed to corner Brock when he came in from his latest hunt.” Larry smirked on the side to Aiden. “I have assigned twelve men for working the fields. They are as follows: Thomas, Troy, Levi, Gille, Brodie, Spyke, Wayne, Wesley, Quentin, Kevin, Dallas and Seth.” Larry read from the list in his hand. “Oh, but first Gille and Dallas will be assisting Kevin with constructing the new outhouse for the next day or two before moving on to fieldwork. Galen, Kelby and Raythe will be taking care of the livestock, as well as keeping plenty of wood and fresh water on hand. Walker insists on assuming the majority of kitchen duties with Thad and Jordan assisting. That leaves Lakota and Yancey in the infirmary, and Nathan up to his eyeballs in sewing.”

“Very good, Larry!” Thomas couldn’t help but chuckle at the ex-marine’s last sentence. “I have found several fair-sized areas that should provide us with the approximate twelve acres I feel need to be ploughed and seeded. We will have to plant two acres of potatoes, another of carrots, beets, parsnips, and turnips, plus three acres of corn to be used for baking and animal feed with the cobs being available for fuel. I am pretty sure Walker intends to grow tomatoes, beans, peas, broccoli, onions, and squash as well as his herb garden. We’ll be sowing a mixture of wheat, barley and oats in the remaining six acres. Of course, clover will also be planted as a winter crop for feeding the livestock, along with rye grass in one area to be turned back into the ground to replenish the soil for future rotation purposes.” 

“How long is it going to take to do all this, Thomas?” Larry asked, his voice alive with amazement at all that was in the making.

“Naturally, all this can only be started when we have a well dug to cut back on having to tote water such a distance, and the aforementioned outhouse. The latrine we’re using now is only temporary. We will cut the first couple of furrows around the parameter of each half or quarter acre to form the base for a stone barrier that has to be built to keep out wildlife. Some of the less experienced men will be taking the rocks dug up by the plough and using them to make these partitions. Others can follow behind the plough, dropping seed into the furrows. If we average half an acre a week and baring any inclement weather, we can conceivably have all planting completed before the end of May, which is just over a month away.”

“But will all that yield enough to feed us until the next harvest?” Larry wanted to know.

“With a good growing season, yes! Not only for us, but also the livestock, and with enough left over for next year’s seed.” Thomas smiled patiently and asked, “any more questions?”

“Not at the moment.” Larry shook his head. “You seem to have it all under control,” he said with a wide grin.

“Now, I know you’ve put in a busy afternoon, Aiden, so what do you have for us?” Thomas turned everyone’s attention to the big Scotsman.

“Well, here are the plans I’ve drawn up.” Aiden unrolled a sheet of paper and spread it on the ground. “The lodge ’twill be sixty feet in length, with a width of thirty feet. Also, a height of twenty feet at the back side where ’twill be a loft that’ll hold seven rooms, five measuring seven by eight feet and two measuring seven by eleven. The area below the loft ’twill be built in a similar fashion with seven more chambers of approximately the same size, for a total of fourteen bedrooms. Each is capable of housing at least two men for those of us who do not mind sharing and there is also plenty of space for several sets of bunks in the main room. The lodge ’twill have one wide, double door in the centre of the front wall, and a regular size one in the kitchen area with a matching one next to one of the fireplaces. ‘Twill be a large stone fireplace at each end of the great room. As ye enter the building, ye’ll see the kitchen and dining areas on yer left, a spacious sitting area on yer right, and before ye, dividing the two areas, ’twill be a staircase leading to an open hallway running almost the entire length of the loft.” Aiden paused to allow for questions to be put forth.

“Have you made plans yet for the infirmary?” the doctor asked.

“Aye! ’Twill be twenty-eight by sixteen feet with a height of ten feet. ’Twill house two rooms, one as an examining or operating room and another for a ward. The barn ’tis approximately the same size as the infirmary. ’Twill also be several outbuildings to use as workshops and for storage, plus a large outhouse of course.”

“Wow, how many trees is it going to take to build all that?” Larry asked a little breathlessly.

“Och, now we’re getting to the crux of the matter. This project ’twill require between two hundred-fifty and three hundred trees be cut down, the number depending on their circumferences and lengths o’course. Taking into account any possible need to clear around each tree, I figure ’twill take nigh on a month to fell, limb and section this quantity before we even start cutting lumber for floors, roofing and inside divider walls. Fortunately, we have in our possession an abundant supply of saws and axes as well as the necessary equipment to keep them sharpened.”

“How do you make planks?” Larry knew nothing on the subject but was fast becoming fascinated by it.

“Preston and I believe the best method is one called pit-sawing. Ye dig a rectangular pit about seven feet deep and wide enough for a mon to walk in. Ye set a platform o’er the pit to lay the tree on. The pit-mon hauls the saw down and the mon on top hauls it back up while a couple more men slowly move the log along the platform. ’Tis a dirty, backbreaking chore to be sure and will require a lot of time, but ’tis necessary and quite unavoidable.”

“Sorry to disturb you, gentlemen,” Walker interrupted the conversation. “But supper is ready and there are a lot of hungry men lining up to eat.”

“Please invite them to start, Walker. I believe we’ve covered all we need to,” Thomas replied, receiving nods from all.

Sometime later, Walker finally served himself. He’d been keeping a watchful eye on the others gathered around the mess hall. Most were hungrily cleaning their plates while a few just pushed their food back and forth. He noticed his assistants sitting together. As usual, Thad’s dish had been licked cleaned; Jordan on the other hand needed a little encouragement. Walker strolled over and sat down between the two men he was slowly becoming attracted to. He was optimistic of the three of them becoming more than a working team. He visualised them as someday being partners and lovers. 

With the evening meal over, Larry diligently updated his diary while Thad and Jordan worked quietly around him, cleaning up from supper and readying the mess hall for the morning. He grunted out a ‘see you later’ in response to their words of ‘we’re out of here’. He tried to ignore the banter coming from the far corner where three young men were engaged in a game of poker and concentrate harder on his latest entry.

Day twelve: Well things are starting to come together. I’m sure in my heart I have met the man I’ve been searching for most my adult life. However, I am still hoping to also find a pal of sorts with whom I can share my thoughts and feelings; something I really haven’t had in the past.

Larry looked up several minutes later when a shadow passed across the page he was writing on. He was unaware of automatically placing his hand over the notebook to protect his thoughts from wandering eyes. “Did you want to talk to me, Spyke?” he kindly inquired.

“Yeah, but I can wait until later if you’re too busy,” Spyke answered. He was already having second thoughts about approaching the man.

“I’ve got time now,” Larry said, marking his place with the pencil and closing the book. “What’s on your mind?”

Deciding to follow his usual tendency to jump in with both feet, Spyke blurted out, “I’ve been watching you since we got here, and I was wondering if there was any possibility of you and me getting to know each other better.”

Larry was astonished by this response and wanted to know exactly what the young man meant by knowing him better. “What do you mean by that, Spyke?” he asked.

Realising Larry may have the wrong impression; Spyke sat next to him and explained his statement. “I know there are guys closer to my age, but you see I’ve always been around older people and kinda find it easier to trust and confide in them. Although after the dirty trick that bastard pulled, I don’t know why I still do,” Spyke muttered and shifted uncomfortably before quietly admitting, “I’m scared here, Larry. I’ve been scared ever since I was arrested. I really need a friend. Someone I can count on and someone who knows he can count on me.”

Larry hesitated for a moment before asking, “Why me?”

“I admit we haven’t been on the island for a lengthy period of time and probably not long enough to discover very much about one another. But even though you seem to know a lot about what’s going on or what needs doing around the camp and even with your take charge attitude, I still sensed a kinda loneliness too. I was thinking maybe if we shared some of our past with each other we might find a common bond so we can be pals.” Spyke waited expectantly. He took it for granted the older, more experienced man would give the response he sought even though he wasn’t sure if his reasons had sounded at all rational.

Larry swallowed in amazement at how fate so often seemed to intervene. Wasn’t he just asking for a friend and along comes a young man on whom Larry had also been keeping a watchful eye.

The two young men spoke for what seemed like several hours but in all likelihood was probably only slightly over one hour. Although they came from completely different backgrounds, it was as if they had known one another all their lives, as they were able to talk so easily and openly with each other, something neither of them had done in the past.

Eventually, Spyke turned the topic to the other matter he had on his mind. “Larry, there’s something going on between you and Aiden, isn’t there?”

The ex-marine blinked in surprise. This was the last subject he’d have ever expected the younger man to come up with. “Why would you say that?” 

“Shit, it’s so obvious! You try to spend as much time with him as possible,” Spyke pointed out impatiently, refusing to be brushed off. “I mean, it sure as hell not hard to miss how you always seem to find your way to him, reporting daily events and sitting next to him at mealtimes. And of course, there was that private excursion into the woods yesterday? I saw the two of you leave and I saw the expressions on your faces when you returned.” Spyke smirked at the other man’s very apparent discomfort.

“Oh my God, Spyke, I thought I was being so discreet about my attraction. Was I really that transparent?” Larry hoped the younger man would set his mind at ease but Spyke’s shaking head showed he wasn’t going to be that fortunate.

Spyke let out a whoop of laughter at his newly found friend’s embarrassment.

“Quiet down over there!” Brodie called out. “Gille and I are trying to break even here.”

“Spyke, I gotta tell you, he’s sure everything I’ve been looking for!” Larry stated in a lowered voice. He suddenly realised Aiden wasn’t the only one he was attracted to. This blond-haired, blue-eyed man, six years his junior and of much smaller stature was pulling at his heartstrings.

“Are you willing to share?”

Once again Larry was taken back by Spyke’s bluntness. “You’re attracted to him, too?”

“Who the hell wouldn’t be? I’ve hardly been able to keep my eyes off him since he befriended me the day we got stranded here.” Spyke grinned. “Tell me, Larry, exactly what is under that kilt of his?”

“You’re one cheeky little bugger, aren’t you?” Larry couldn’t help but return the sassy grin that was spreading across Spyke’s endearing face.

“All joking aside, Larry. At first I was frightened by him, he’s so huge and sometimes kinda stern-looking. But that first day when I felt like ending it all, he held me and just let me cry out all my worst fears. If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t think I’d be here now. Aiden saved my life when he offered to be my friend, but I want more,” Spyke said quietly. “So, are you gonna answer my question, Larry?” he asked, his voice brightening. The young man’s sparkling eyes made it impossible for the older man to refuse.

“Well, my friend, Aiden is certainly impressive!” Larry wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

“You’re exaggerating, right?”

“No, it’s true! I tell you when I slipped my hand under that kilt and wrapped it around his shaft, my mouth just about dropped to the ground. And when he became aroused, it took everything I had to keep it in one hand, not to mention trying to put it in my mouth.”

“No shit! Did you really put it in your mouth?” Spyke’s eyes widened when his friend merely nodded.

“Although it hadn’t been part of my plan for the future, if you want to share Aiden, it’s alright with me. But you’re going to have to accept him as a man who insists on being in charge, ‘cause he won’t have it any other way.”

“And you’re okay with that, Larry?”

“Yes, Spyke, I am! Are you?”

For several long moments, the younger man gave serious thought to what he’d been asked before nodding in the affirmative. “Yeah, I guess I can handle that.” He grinned up at the other man. “So, Larry, you are willing to share him, right?”

“It’s not up to me, Spyke. That would be Aiden’s call, but if he says yes, then it’s sure fine with me.”

Two pair of blue eyes stared at each other, and then as if of one mind they embraced in a way only true friends are comfortable doing.

“Ah Spyke, I’ve one last question for you.” Larry found the younger man’s language choices amusing but was curious as to how and when it all started. “How long have you been swearing the way you do?”

“Hmm, not sure. Shortly after my parents died, I think. I don’t imagine I’d have sworn in front of them. My friend, ‘Arry swore constantly and I found him funny. His name was really Harry, but he never pronounced the ‘H’.”

“Where did you meet him?”

“He was Lancaster’s stable man. I would spend as much time as possible with him and help muck out the horse stalls.”

“And who was Lancaster?”

“He was the rich bastard who kinda owned my parents and me. They felt they owed him for giving them a better life. Then again, they also thought he was being kind to me. Man, were they fuckin’ wrong! He used me and did he ever hate ‘Arry. Of course the feeling was mutual.”

“Do you know why they disliked each other so intensely?”

“I think ‘Arry had something on Lancaster. He would often warn me about trusting the man too much. Lancaster never worked and yet he had scads of money. I think it might have been from some criminal activity he was involved in before coming to America from England. I’m pretty sure ‘Arry thought the same. Anyway, Lancaster must of felt threatened by him because he finally managed to get rid of him once and for all.”

“How did he accomplish that?” Larry was intrigued by the story and Spyke didn’t seem troubled by sharing it.

“With a whopper of a fuckin’ lie, is how he did it. I get pissed just thinking about it. He’d heard of a group of men hunting for so called ‘deviants’ and told them he’d caught ‘Arry with a man. That fuckin’ group of vigilantes hanged ‘Arry without a trial. They didn’t even ask if the accusation was true. That happened a few months before this ‘exiled’ law came into being. Making false accusations was how that miserable son-of-a-bitch got rid of people he no longer had a need of. It’s kinda how he got rid of me.”

“Why was he so anxious to have you out of his life?” Larry had a gut feeling that he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“Cause he likes them young.” Spyke sneered at the memory.

“Spyke, how old were you when he first started sexually abusing you?” Larry asked softly, fearing he was about to hear something that would make him sick.

“Not sure. Maybe eleven or twelve.” Spyke just shrugged but Larry felt he had been punched in the stomach. “It was before my parents died. He made me promise not to tell them. When I passed his age preference, he’d sell me to other men with a similar fondness for boys. He’d lie about my age too,” the young man quietly added before shaking off the sombre mood. “It’s all the past now. No sense frettin’ over it. Right?”

“I guess not,” Larry solemnly replied, swallowing hard on the anger rising in him. “I promise this will remain just between the two of us, Spyke. Okay?”

“Whatever; it’s no big deal anymore. None of it can be change now.”

Larry was amazed at the younger man’s ability to so easily and almost philosophically put such hideous events behind him. Deciding to follow his friend’s example, the ex-marine reverted back to the more pleasant part of their conversation.

“Well, looks like we’re going to need a long talk with Aiden; and the sooner the better,” Larry suggested as he gathered up his notebook and pencil. He got up and reached out his hand to pull Spyke to his feet.

“Hmmm, I wonder how surprised he’ll be,” Spyke mused as he followed the ex-marine who, according to the pact they had just made, was now his best friend.

They paused briefly to see how the card game was progressing and ask if the men playing were almost finished.

“Yep, guess we may as well call it quits,” Brodie said with a chuckle. From the self-satisfied smirks on his and Gille’s faces, it wasn’t hard to figure out they’d been rather evenly matched with no actual winner declared, but also no losers. 

“I’ll blow out the lantern,” Brodie volunteered while Gille got rid of the pebbles they had been using in lieu of poker chips or money.

Seth gathered up his cards, determined to find someone else to gamble with who was not quite so lucky.

The day was drawing to a close and almost every man was more than pleased with the day’s achievements. The evening meal had been filled with animated conversation about cutting down trees and planting fields. Most of the men had retired for the night with visions of their future to lull them to sleep. Only Thomas and Walker were disinclined to turn in just yet.

Thomas sat down beside Walker at the campfire. He had been very pleased with the land they were planning to farm, and Thomas wanted to ask the other man his opinion on certain plantings. After they sorted it out, Thomas stared into the fire. “Walker, I’ve noticed you watching those two young men working in the kitchen with you. I get the impression you find them attractive?”

Walker looked at Thomas in surprise and then couldn’t help smiling just a little. ‘The guy is perceptive,’ he had to admit. “I don’t know, Thomas,” he responded with a sigh. “Thad’s fairly independent but Jordan hasn’t any life experiences at all, at least not many good ones. He’s understandably nervous and distrustful. He is going to require a fair bit of attention for sure, but there’s just something about him, you know?”

“If you were to ask my opinion, and you haven’t,” Thomas replied with a laugh, “the lad’s very easy on the eyes. But he’s in need of a lot of love and a very firm hand to keep him from the wrong path.”

“You may have something there, my friend,” Walker chuckled.

Thomas gently placed a hand on Walker’s knee. “I didn’t mean to pry, but I couldn’t help but notice that while you were looking at young Jordan, he was looking back at you, as was Thad. We’re going to be here a long time though, so there is no rush to become involved too soon. But then it would be a shame to let a good thing pass you by.”

As Thomas spoke those words, he thought of Galen with a smile, but that smile was quickly replaced with a flash of the memory of Jacob crying out to him as he was hanged from the tree. ‘You’ve no damn business advising someone else on his love life,’ he reminded himself. ‘Get your own life in order first!’

Both men continued to stare into the fire without saying anything as they relaxed in silent companionship.

Due to the lengthy council meeting that took up a greater portion of the afternoon, Lakota had examined only one man earlier in the day. As the sun totally disappeared from view, the doctor sat diligently writing out notes on his last patient.

Mitchell Wolfe, twenty-eight years old, six feet and three inches in height is a very strong, well-muscled man of colour. Though he is the only black man in the community, he seems to be accepted by all. I am very pleased to live amongst men who see beyond the skin. Being half white and half Sioux, I have known the look of prejudice in other men’s eyes. Perhaps because we have all lived with discrimination over our sexual preferences, we have moved a bit beyond such pettiness as bigotry over skin colour, or at least I fervently hope so. Mitchell is in excellent health but mourning the recent loss of his partner. It might be good for he and Thomas to talk; sharing a mutual loss can be beneficial to both. 


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