When they walked Eloise to her motel room, she held Rhys's arm for support. The vodka had mellowed her. She didn't stagger, but a strong arm couldn't hurt. He unlocked the door and helped her inside while Brett and Michelle watched. He was still carrying his doctor's bag, but he didn't seem to mind lending a hand. She sat on the edge of the mattress at the foot of the bed, her back slightly slumped, her left hand pressed to her chest while she clutched her purse with her right. "I hate to think of you hitching by the side of the road," she said. "We're going through New York. Why don't you just ride with us? That old car is huge. There's plenty of room." Then she sighed and yawned.
Rhys smiled and rubbed his jaw. "I don't know," he said. "I don't want to get in the way."
Eloise looked at Michelle and Brett. They were standing in the doorway, listening. "Tell him to come with us," she said. "He can stay in Brett's room tonight."
Michelle rolled her eyes and Brett's mouth fell open. He hadn't expected Rhys to accept the invitation. He'd pictured him as the wandering type: flitting and flowing wherever the wind blew, not caring much about whom or what crossed his path.
"We're stopping off in Philadelphia," Michelle said. "It might be out of your way." Her tone was apprehensive; it seemed she still wasn't sure about him.
Rhys smiled and looked at Brett; his green eyes were clear and bright. "I've never been to Philadelphia. I'm not on a set schedule, either. And I don't mind bunking with Brett. Is that okay with you, buddy?"
When he said buddy, Brett's heart skipped a beat. He wanted to fall on his knees and suck him off right there in front of everyone. He shrugged and smiled. "It's okay with me," he said. He wanted to say "buddy" too, but thought it might sound too artificial coming from him.
"Excellent," Eloise said. "Now if you'll all excuse me, I'm tired and I want to get out of these high heels."
Michelle sighed. Her eyes were drooping and her arms were limp at her side. "You guys go on," she said, "I'm going to make sure she's all settled before I go to my room."
When they were outside, Rhys stopped in front of their door and said, "If this is an imposition, tell me. I didn't want to get into it back there because your grandmother seemed so tired. I can just leave now. If you don't want me to spend the night in your room, that's fine."
For some reason, Brett had trouble speaking to him. When he looked into his eyes, his stomach flipped upside down; just standing beside him made his palms sweaty. This was the first time they'd really been alone all night, and words were trapped in his mouth. If he'd met Rhys in a bar or another cruise spot, he would have been flirting and plotting ways to get him into bed, but this time he wasn't sure what to say. So he just smiled and said, "It's fine. I'm glad to have the company. Besides, if my grandmother woke and found you gone in the morning, she'd be devastated."
Their room was identical to Eloise's room. Beige walls, brown shag carpet and a wall of built-in Formica drawers and counter space. The only chair was Danish modern, with an orange vinyl seat and chipped legs. The television was the old-fashioned kind with actual knobs and dials and plastic wood. There was one double bed in the middle with a white chenille spread, flanked by two Danish modern end tables.
Rhys plopped his bag down at the foot of the bed and said, "Which side: left or right? It doesn't matter to me, buddy. I usually sleep in the middle anyway." His voice sounded deeper inside; the hollow voice of a strong, male athlete with rough manners.
Brett took a breath and stared at the bed. "Ah well, I guess the left is good for me."
"And I sleep in the nude," Rhys said. "I hope you don't mind." He laughed and pretended to punch him in the arm.
Brett almost fell over. He had to grab the Formica counter to keep his balance. "I don't mind," he said. "That's fine." He wanted to say more, to be witty and clever like he normally was with good-looking men. But his tongue was frozen.
Rhys stretched his arms and yawned, then pulled off his cowboy boots and unzipped his jeans as if they were in a locker room and this was all nothing. Brett turned to face the wall, but he could see Rhys undressing in a long mirror beside the bed. He didn't want to stare; they were just a couple of buddies bunking together for the night. But he couldn't help himself. When Rhys pulled off his shirt, his muscular chest had more hair than Brett had imagined. There was a fine, soft layer of sandy blond fleece that ran across his pecs and down his flat stomach. Brett could see the ripples and waves above Rhys's navel, and he had small brown nipples and a deep indentation in the center of his chest. And when he pulled off his jeans, the same layer of hair continued down his long, hard legs. Brett's eyes bugged when he saw his flaccid penis swing back and forth. It had to be six inches or more, soft. When he was completely naked, he stretched again and his penis bounced off the side of his leg.
"Do you mind if I watch a little TV?" Rhys asked. "It helps me get to sleep."
"That's fine," Brett said. He was pretending to go through his overnight bag, but he was having a hard time focusing on anything. He really liked Rhys, and he didn't want to say or do anything that would cause discomfort.
Rhys crossed the room to where he was standing. It was all so casual and easy. He reached past him and lifted the TV remote from the counter. His arm brushed against Brett's. He smelled like rising bread dough: sweet and floury and clean. Then he went back to the bed, pulled the covers over his naked body and sat back against the headboard.
Brett knew he had to undress, but he was terrified Rhys would see the erection between his legs. He couldn't turn from the counter; it was sticking out from the waistband of his underwear. He hadn't been in a situation like this since he was fourteen at summer camp when he had to share a tent with a high school football player. So he said, "I'll just turn the lights off now." At least he was wearing underwear. His cock wouldn't stick out like a flag staff.
"That's cool, buddy," Rhys said. His left hand was under the cover now and his eyes were focused on the TV screen. He scratched his balls, flipped through the channels and stopped when he found the sports network.
So while he watched baseball, Brett clicked off the lights and removed his clothes. But he didn't remove his black bikini underwear. He took his pants off last and held them in front of his body, then he casually sat on the bed. He tossed the pants on the floor and climbed under the covers. Then he turned on his side and faced the wall. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, praying he'd fall asleep fast. He could feel the heat from Rhys's body. He could still smell him; it was even stronger now.