The light was getting brighter in my bedroom. As I opened my eyes I saw Dante curled up next to me. I had to smile. As I gave him a kiss on the cheek. He smiled in his sleep.
I slide my arm out from under Dante. As I grabbed clean clothes and started to put them on. I looked at the time, seven fifty-eight. I had forgotten to turn my alarm back on.
"Hey Dante," I said pulling the tee shirt over my head. "Time to get up."
"Give me 5 more minutes," he groaned as I pulled on my jeans. "What time is it anyway?"
"It just turned 8 am," I said.
Before I could say anything else. Dante leaped out of bed and scooped up his clothes and boots. Then headed for the door naked.
"Whoa," I said catching him in the living room. "While I love to see that cute ass naked. First, get dressed. Second, I'll bring your truck up here."
"Anything else?" Dante asked a little testily.
"Yeah," I said handing him a clean tee shirt. "This. And I need your keys."
"Here and thank you," Dante said handing me his keys. "My truck at the far end the horse barn."
I slipped on my hiking shoes and trotted down to the barn. I saw it by the back door, which was closed.
So I climbed into Dante's old Ford and turned the key. There was a loud bang and groan as the truck started. I quickly turned it off and jumped out. I checked for smoke or fire but there was none.
Then I looked underneath. All I could see was several fluids pouring out. And then I heard running feet.
"What happened?" Dante asked as I stood up.
"Your engine blew up," I told him throwing his keys on the dash. "Every fluid is pouring out of it."
"How am I going to get to my exam?" Dante asked in a panic.
"I'll take you," I told him. "Here's the keys to my Wrangler. So go get it and meet me at the house."
"I've got to get my pistols and lock up the house."
"Get going," I barked.
Dante ran to the garage while I ran up to the house. I grabbed my pistols and a ball cap. Then I locked the door.
I wondered to myself what was I doing? I had only planned to fix him dinner, wish him a happy birthday, and tell him thanks but no thanks.
To hell with it. I was falling in love and knew it. The horn sounded bringing me out of it. Dante was in the driver's seat in a hurry to go.
"I'll drive," I said walking up to the door and opening it.
"But I'll be late!" Dante said climbing out and going around.
"Well while I drive," I said. "You can call your professor. Let him know what happened. And a friend is bringing to class."
So Dante called his professor. As long as Dante could prove his truck was broke down he would be let in. Well, I had some pictures.
"Thank you, Professor McCord," Dante said then hung up.
"Thank you too," Dante said leaning over and kissing me on the cheek.
When we got to the university Dante still had a few minutes. But Professor McCord was waiting for us as Dante got out.
"Dante," I said stopping him for a moment.
"Call me when your exams are done. So I can pick you up."
"Okay," Dante replied with both happiness and surprise.
"Well get going, Mr. Green," Professor McCord said to get him going.
"Thanks again, Professor," Dante said as he hurried into the building.
"Thank you, Professor," I said holding out my hand and we shook hands.
"So how bad is Dante's truck?" he asked me.
"Bad! My guess is he'll need a new motor at least," I told him. "Maybe whole new truck."
"That bad?" He asked.
"That bad," I said showing him the video. "Well, I have to get to work."
So I headed for the office. I called a mechanic friend to go get Dante's truck. I was getting off the elevator.
"Well look who the cat dragged in," said Ethan McCall, the Fugitive Task Force boss.
"Funny Ethan," I said walking past him going to my Cubicle. "Oh, I have my doctor and HR after me to take some time off. So I'll be on vacation as of this afternoon."
"Well you've earned it," Ethan said. "But talk to me when you get a chance."
"Sure," I said entering my cubicle. Bob was waiting and came in. His finished report in his hand and a grin.
"I'm guessing everything went well last night?" He asked closing the door.
I tried to give him a stern look. But it only lasted a few seconds before I laughed and shook my head.
"Well, it didn't go as I had planned," I told him. "But yeah. It turned out very well."
"How'd to go with Jean?" I asked getting a funny look.
"I told her what you said," Bob replied. "I told her you wanted her to meet someone. So she knows something is up."
"So it didn't work at all," I said.
"Didn't work a little," Bob said. "But she does want to know what she can bring."
"That's easy," I said at a ray of sunshine. Her Coleslaw and potato salad are the best."
"And keep telling her it's a surprise," I said.
"Well that may buy you some time," Bob told me.
"Me!" I said as my report was printing. "What about you?"
"Oh! I’d sell you out if I have to," Bob said. "Remember I have to live with her."
"Oh thanks," I chuckled printing off my vacation papers.
"Here's my report," Bob said handing it over.
I signed both reports and my vacation papers. Then I printed off the paper from HR telling me I needed to take some time off.
"You going to tell George?" Bob asked hooking a thumb at George. George was leaned. Upon the cubicle across from my cubicle. As my cubicle had glass walls he couldn't hear us. Seeing I was looking he smiled and waved.
"Let him in," I said giving Bob a true stern look this time.
"You’re a little late there, boss," George said walking in. "You okay."
"I'll live George," I replied. "Close the door please."
"This must be important," George said looking serious.
"This is between us and personal," I told him.
Then I told him about Dante. To say it was a surprise was an understatement. I explained it all. Well, almost all.
"And George," I said. "There's a cookout at the ranch Saturday."
"How about you and Sherry coming."
"Sherry's going to want to bring something," George told me. "And what about the new guy?"
"New guy?" Bob and I asked.
"McCall didn't tell you?" George asked.
"That's why he wants to talk to me," I said. "Where is he?"
The conference room doing paperwork," George told me.
We stopped by the office to file the paperwork. As I handed it over Ethan stepped out.
"Vacation!" Jeanie blurted out amazed.
"When does that start?" Ethan asked.
"When I leave here today," I told him. So he leads the way to the conference room. Then we walked in.
"Let me introduce..."
"Jessie Holmes," I said recognizing the young marshal. He smiled and stood up. The others were confused.
"Senior deputy Hickok, sir!" he said holding out his hand. "I’m glad to be part of your team."
"First lose the sir," I said as we shook hands. "Second, how's your old man?"
Suddenly it hit them. They started to laugh.
"What's with them?" Jessie asked.
"They figured it out," I told him. "Now your dad?"
"He retired last month," Jessie told us. "He's bored to tears and driving mom nuts."
We all knew Louie Holmes. So Jessie caught us up on his dad. Where he retired and what he hopes to do.
Then we explained what we did in special operations. And nearly two hours rolled by. Ethan asked for some extra help with finding a cartel suspect.
"As long as we don't get a call," I said. "Bob you're in charge."
"I need to get out of here before I get a call," I told them. "But first. Jessie are you up for a cookout Saturday? "
"I'd love to. But we don’t have all our stuff here yet," Jessie replied. "And we haven’t found a place to live yet."
"The last is easy enough," I told him. "Bob get him the keys to number three. And show him where it is."
"It's a good excuse to get out of here early," I told him.
"What’s number three? Jessie asked.
"Billy owns three townhouses around town," Bob told him. "He works with a builder to buy and renovate houses, condos and townhouses."
"So kept 3 for just such emergencies," I told him.
"Well thanks, boss," Jessie said.
"Weekend after next is the law enforcement picnic," I said getting up. "We'll see you there?"
"Sounds like a plan," Jessie said with a smile. Then my phone rang.
"Well, I'm off to pick up a friend," I said getting a chuckle from Bob. "Bob, you got this?"
"No problem Billy," Bob said. "See you Saturday say 11:00 am."
"Hey, are you ready?" I asked giving Bob a thumbs up.
"Just talking with one of my professors," Dante sighed. "I'll be done by the time you get here."
"What's wrong?" I asked. "You do badly on an exam?"
"No, no," Dante told me. "You can pick me up at the duck pond. Do you know where it is?"
"I can find it," I said walking back to my cubicle. I grabbed a few things. And tossed Bob the keys to townhouse three. Then I left.
Twenty minutes later I was on campus and parked in a lot. As I got closer to the duck pond. I heard loud voices and outright yelling. I saw a campus officer watching from behind a bush. And doing anything.
I could see Dante and another young man squared off with some of the football team. Just then one of football team shoved Dante down to the ground.
Dante was right back up before I could react. Then a third young man stepped forward.
"This is our spot!" Dante told the football players. "Tim built our picnic table."
"And we have permission to put it here," said Tim. "Just like all the others."
"Yeah, sure," the big guy sneered. "One of you gay guys made that table."
I stood there watching the officer. He still hadn't done a thing so I texted the chief of campus police.
The Dante got in the big guys face again. Becoming concerned I started forward slowly.
"Brad you and your boyfriends just need to leave," Dante said getting the reaction he wanted. Brad drew back a fist.
"Hold it!" I barked getting closer. The officer stepped forward to stop me.
"I'll handle this sir," he said firmly. As he stepped from behind the bush.
"Well you haven't been," I said showing him my badge. "And it's Marshal."
"Well, I would not let the delicate one get hurt," he sneered.
"The delicate one does karate," I told him. "And he can handle himself."
"Well it's still my job," he said making me upset.
"Which you are obviously not doing at all!" said the chief walking up. "The Marshal texted me."
"Now, chief I had this under control," he said defending himself.
The chief showed him his phone. With the camera feed, I was sending to the chief.
"So the gay boys had some harsh words thrown at 'em," the officer said condescendingly. "No one laid a hand on any of them."
"Really," I said. "This guy here shoved Dante to the ground."
"If Dante files a complaint. He's at best suspended, or worse off the football team."
"You afraid I hurt your boyfriend?" Brad asked me.
"Yes I was," I told him. Everyone seemed to stop at that. Then Dante's friends erupted in congratulations for him. I was known to them.
"How about we get this worked out," the chief said. "And maybe no one gets suspended, Grossman."
"How about we do this," said the young man I took to be Tim. "You guys buy the lumber and I'll help you build a stronger table than this."
"After the crap that we just gave your girls?" Brad sneered. "You’d do that?"
"Just because I'm gay doesn't mean I don't like football," Tim said. The football players huddled up. "And football players."
Brad either didn't hear it. Or they were ignoring the statement. I chuckled at that.
"What about it you guys? asked the chief. "There's one spot left. Which I'll hold if you're okay with this."
Brad took a quick vote. It seemed to be unanimous.
"Okay Chief," Brad replied. "We're in if you will hold that spot for us."
"I'll hold it for you," the Chief said. "You. My office now, Officer Grossman."
"Well I have an exam," Tim said. "I'm guessing some of you do."
"How about we meet at noon tomorrow," Brad said. "We can work out the details."
"Sounds good to me," Tim said eyeing Brad. "Dante?"
"Sorry, my truck is broke down," Dante started.
"He'll be here," I told Tim. "I'll bring him."
"Are you sure?" Dante asked me. I smiled. "You don't have to."
"You got to see it through," I told Dante. "Now how about we get some lunch?"
"I could definitely eat," Dante said. Then his stomach seconded that.
"I guess you could," I said as several of us chuckled. I put my arm around his shoulder and kissed his cheek.
"How about Chinese?" Dante asked as few of guys hooted. "That's good," I said. "There's one just across Central."
"I know a better one," Dante said with a guilty smile. "It's on Central a little further down.I'll give you directions."
We had reached the parking lot and my Wrangler. I had my keys in my hand.
"How about you drive," I told him handing over my keys.
"Okay," Dante said with a smile from ear to ear. Dante hopped in the driver's seat.
I had an idea where we were going as we drove down Central. I told Dante someone was looking at his truck. After he told me about his exams. Then we pulled into a hotel.
The Chinese restaurant was in the courtyard. As usual, it was crowded. But we found a place to park and went in.
"Hey Felix," Dante said to the host as we walked in.
"Hey Dante," Felix replied. "You guys are at your usual table."
"Thanks, Felix!" Dante said cutting him off and chuckling a little.
"You reserved a table?" I asked. But before he could answer. We turned the corner. A lady sat at a lone table, which Dante was walking toward.
"Oh! Didn't I tell you!" Dante said blushing. "My mom wants to meet you."
"I hope you don't mind?" She asked as she smiled and rose to shake my hand. I couldn't speak.
"Dante didn't tell you," Mrs. Green said. "Did he?"
"No, no he didn’t," I told her looking at Dante.
"He gets that from his father," Mrs. Green told me. "And I'm Diane. Dante has been talking about you, to me, for years."
"Years?" I said amazed she knew so much.
"So when he wasn't home last night. We figured he got his 17th birthday wish," Diane told me. Dante giggled and looked away.
"You mean his 18th birthday," I said a little surprised.
"No," said a male voice from behind. Dante is only 17."
Dante and I looked at the man. Then Dante looked back at his mother.
"You told dad I was gay?!" Dante asked upset.
"I promised you I would wait till you were ready for that," Diane said. "But it was your father who told me you were gay in the first place."
"First, Billy don't worry," Sam said as I looked at Dante in disbelief. "The age of consent is 17, and I've been keeping an eye on things."
"Besides," Diane said. "We approve of Dante's choice."
"Thanks," I said feeling relieved with what they said. Then I turned to Dante.
"So you let me think you were 18?" I asked Dante a little upset.
"I never said that I was turning 18," Dante said defensively. Then he switched it up. "Dad, how did you find out I was gay?"
"Trevor Bond," Sam told him rather matter of fact way.
"Trevor Bond," Dante said getting mad. "That spiteful..."
"That spiteful boy told me he had caught something from a girl before you two broke up," Sam said cutting him off. And he wanted me to know you had a need to be checked out."
"He felt bad about that and the break-up, and couldn’t tell you.
"That’s why you took me to the doctor about then," Dante said.
"Correct," Sam told him. "And I kept your secret, so to speak."
"How about we get something to eat," Diane said after we heard Dante's stomach growl loudly.
So we settled down to lunch and to talk. I was starting to relax when my phone rang.
"Sorry, but Dante you want me to take this," I said. "It's Bobby Esteves."
"Bobby's good," Sam said. "Dante's truck?" I nodded yes.
"Hey, Bobby. What's the word?" I asked. "You're on speaker."
"That's good," Bobby said. "Your friend there and ready."
"Yeah Bobby," I answered. "He's ready."
"I hope so," Bobby said. "It's bad. A cracked block, and transmission bell. And rear gearbox got punched by the driveshaft."
"Sounds expensive," Dante said getting pale.
"Well yes," Bobby said. "But there is a light."
"And that is?" I asked with a sly smile.
" Well I have a client who bought a Ford of the same year," Bobby explained. "He needs a frame and body. And he's seen it."
"What'd he offer?" Sam asked. "It's Sam Green."
"Two thousand, but I told him I couldn't accept it yet," Bobby told us. "Then he jumped up to twenty-five hundred."
"Bobby, what's scrap on that truck?" I asked trying to calm Dante down. "Twenty-six or twenty-seven hundred."
"Bobby I'm the owner," Dante said with a smile. "Dante Green. Tell him I'm asking thirty-five. Keep it above three thousand."
"Sounds good," Bobby said. "I'll give him a call and tell him cash. He needs it."
"Thank you, Bobby," Dante said.
"Thank you, Bobby," Sam and I both said. And I hung up.
"Dante," said Professor McCord walking by.
"Professor McCord!" Dante said totally surprised.
"I saw you. So I thought I would give you your grade," the Professor said handing Dante a slip of paper.
"I hope it changes your mind about missing next semester."
"What are you talking about Professor?" Sam asked before I could. "Sam Green. I’m Dante's father."
"Dante told me after his exam that he couldn't afford next semester," he told us. "His truck is broken down."
Sam and I looked at each other. Then we nodded at each other.
"He'll be there!" We both said together. Professor McCord smiled.
"But..." Dante started.
"No arguments, Dante," I said cutting him off. Suddenly I was involved in his life.
"Now Sam, Diane, are you two free Saturday for a cookout?" I asked them. "I'm introducing Dante to my team."
"So it's serious between you two?" Sam asked me.
"Yeah. I haven't felt this way in a long time," I told them.
"There's no other way to say it," I continued. "I love him."
Dante grabbed me and he kissed me. And I kissed him back.
"Well, Professor. I guess I’ll be there this semester," Dante said. Then kissed me again.
"I'll see you then Dante," said the Professor with a smile. Then he went to his table.
"Well it looks like we'll be there," Sam said.
"Can we bring anything?" Diane asked me.
"Well we've got the meat," I said thinking out loud. "Jean Driscoll is making cole slaw and potato salad."
"Mom your baked beans are the best," Dante said.
"Baked beans it is," Diane said. "And roast asparagus if you want."
"I'll leave some room on the grill," I said.
"Well Dante," Diane said. "Well, I guess I'm your chauffeur for a while."
"Oh!" Dante sputtered looking at me.
"Well Diane," I said cutting in. "I was hoping Dante could help me get ready for the cookout.
"So Dante," I said. "If you’re staying at my place. We'll need to get some things from your parent's house."
"You do want to?" I asked. Diane was flustered. And Sam was grinning like a Cheshire cat.
"YES!" Dante said leaping into my arms. "That's if you Guys don't mind?"
Sam laughed And shook his head no. While Diane punched Sam in the shoulder.
"Dante, it's your decision," Sam told him.
"Billy," Diane asked. "Are you sure you want him for a few days?"
Dante looked at me. Anxiety all over his face.
"Well I think I would like Dante to just move in," I told her honestly. "That's how I feel and what I want."
"Okay!" Dante said elatedly. "Let's go get my things."
To say Dante couldn't be happier was an understatement. Especially when I gave him the keys again.