Blake paced the confines of the motel room, wishing for the umpteenth time that he hadn't let Joam go back out there alone. Of course, if it had been up to him, they wouldn't have stopped driving in the first place. Two states and a desert still wasn't enough distance between them and all that had gone wrong in Beulah, but after thirty-six hours on the road, even he had to acknowledge that they needed to rest, get some food, and find proper clothes.
The room, in a Motel 6 just off the highway, was decorated in shades of seventies orange and green. There were two double beds (they only needed one) covered in desert-motif bedspreads, a dresser, and a laminated wicker table beneath a tulip-shaped rattan chandelier. Blake didn't give a damn about the decor, but he would have been happier if the windows were barred and the door was lined with steel. The better to keep you out, he thought.
Blake couldn't shake the feeling that Gregor Walsh was still out there somewhere, hunting them. As if in answer to this thought, someone knocked on the door. Blake nearly jumped out of his torn cutoffs and sweat-soaked T-shirt. His heart hammered, torn between relief if it was Joam and terror of it being anyone else. Get a grip, he admonished himself. Four years as a street hustler and now all of a sudden you're falling apart?
Well, there were two reasons for that. One, he'd never been involved in magic before, and two, now that he'd found Joam, there was so much more at stake.
Blake looked through the peephole. It was Joam, his arms loaded with carryout containers and shopping bags. With a rush of relief, Blake opened the door. "Thank God," he said. "I was afraid something had happened to you."
Joam, still dressed in the filthy coveralls they'd found in the trunk of his dead boss's car, shook his head. "I just drove a ways out so as not to attract too much attention wearing this. Here, take a look at what I got." He held the bags out to Blake.
Blake took them from him and piled them on the table, then threw himself into Joam's arms. Joam's murmur of pleasure turned to one of concern. "You're shaking."
"I'm okay," said Blake. "I'm okay now. I just keep thinking that somehow, Walsh is going to find us again."
Joam held him tight. "It's natural for you to think that. After all, you thought you'd escaped him after he killed your friend Randy, and then he showed up in Beulah, where he nearly--"
"Raped me and killed both of us. But you stopped him."
"We stopped him," said Joam. "If you hadn't tricked him, he would have finished me off. But Walsh is a businessman, besides being a varnal and a sorcerer. No matter how pissed he is about losing his virgin sacrifice, he'll have to go back to LA for a few days at least, to see to his interests. That gives us time to disappear."
Wrapped in those long, strong arms, Blake felt safe, and that wasn't a feeling he'd had in a very long time. He unzipped the neck of the coveralls and buried his face in Joam's chest, breathing in the smell of him, soaking in the warmth of his tawny skin.
"Everything's going to be all right," said Joam, stroking Blake's back. "We're together now."
Blake felt like a wuss. Here Joam was comforting him even after taking all the risk and going out to get supplies. It should be the other way around, but that didn't stop Blake from relishing the touch of Joam's big, strong hands.
"Did you take a shower?" Joam asked.
Blake shook his head. "I was afraid that with the water running, I wouldn't be able to hear if anything happened."
Joam hugged him tight. "You can take one now if you want. I'll stand guard."
They both needed to shower, badly, but the delicious aromas wafting from the carryout containers gave Blake's stomach other plans. "Food first?"
Joam released him with a lopsided grin. Joam had a long face with a beautiful, prominent nose, high cheekbones, and a wide mouth. His looks were quirky, but nevertheless devastatingly handsome, and when he smiled, his gentle soul shone right through his hazel eyes.
"You like Mexican?"
Blake swallowed past the sudden dryness in his mouth. The truth was, at this point, he'd eat a squirrel on a stick. "I love Mexican."
Joam moved the bags of clothing--jeans, T-shirts, and underwear--to the bed, and Blake started opening boxes to reveal tamales, rice, beans, chiles rellenos, and nachos. Blake's mouth watered, and his stomach bounced up and down with eagerness.
"Mind if I take this off?" asked Joam, tugging at the collar of the dead man's coveralls. "It kind of creeps me out."
The orange and brown drapes were drawn. "No, please," said Blake. "Besides, it's another chance to see you naked."
Joam blushed at that, and that made Blake grin. Joam had been a virgin until their first night together. He had no concept of how hot he was. Blake was going to enjoy helping him get past his shyness.
When Joam bent his head and slowly unzipped the coveralls, Blake forgot all about the food and sank to the bed and watched, breathless. Seeing Joam's broad-shouldered, slender frame emerge from the oil-stained gray coveralls was like watching a butterfly come out of its cocoon.
Joam was half-Native American, half-Caucasian, and a varnal. In his varnal form, he resembled a large, elegant greyhound with brown-and-gold-brindled fur. At the moment, however, he was all human, and his cheeks were pink. He shrugged the coveralls off his broad shoulders and they fell down to his hips, baring his back, chest, and belly.
Blake sighed, feasting his eyes on Joam's rose brown nipples and the light dusting of dark hair between his pecs, which ran in a thin line down his belly and below his navel.
With a twist of his hips, Joam skimmed the coveralls down over his ass and stepped out of them. The sight of Joam's tight round ass and his big, beautiful cock, now dormant in its nest of dark hair, made Blake's mouth water.
Joam was too thin by far, and numerous scars and bruises marked his body, but none of those marks made Joam any less beautiful.
Joam's boss, Higgs, had been an evil man who killed Joam's mother, abused Joam, and kept him isolated so he could sell him to Walsh as a virgin sacrifice. He'd worked Joam like a dog and paid him next to nothing. But that was all part of the past, Blake decided. No matter what happened next, he was never going to let anyone mistreat Joam again.
Joam glanced up and caught the look on Blake's face. He blushed even more deeply, and his cock swelled a little. For a moment, they just stared at one another, and Blake was about to go to his knees and bury his face in Joam's pubes when Joam turned and sat down at the table and began opening cartons.
Blake suddenly felt that he couldn't bear to sit down across from Joam wearing this torn hustler gear he'd been stranded in for the past three days.
He stripped off, enjoying Joam's wide-eyed look as he paused in spooning refried beans onto a paper plate. The beans fell off the spoon with an audible plop, and they both laughed. Without further ado, Blake sat down and for some time, silence reigned as they dug into the meal.
Everything was delicious. Of course, that squirrel on a stick would have been mighty tasty by now too, but Blake sensed that Joam had sussed out one of the many fabulous, hole-in-the-wall Mexican places that dotted the West. "This is really good," he said around a mouthful of tamale.
Joam grinned. "Yeah, and there's a lot of it. All we want. And we can get more too." Joam nodded to his former boss's cash box, sitting on the floor beside the dresser. "We've got plenty of money."
His unbridled enthusiasm over having enough to eat made Blake's heart hurt. Sure, he'd had some lean times himself, but the times he'd actually gone hungry had been a rarity. He couldn't wait to see what Joam looked like with more meat on his bones. Swallowing, he got up from his seat. "Sit on your lap?"
Joam blinked in surprise. "Sure."
Blake sat crosswise on his lap, enjoying the skin-on-skin contact and the secure feeling of Joam's strong arms encircling him. Blake picked up a nacho chip and fed it to Joam, watching the way his lips moved as he chewed. Blake fed him several bites of nacho and then the rest of the tamale Joam had been working on.
Joam seemed a bit perplexed at all this, but willing enough to play along. When the tamale was gone, Joam washed it down with a big swig of iced tea and turned to look at Blake. There was that hesitation again, that awkwardness. Blake leaned in and kissed him.
Joam's lips were soft and warm. Blake's fear and tension melted away as they moved beneath his. He licked at Joam's lips, and the next moment, all awkwardness, all hesitation, was gone, and they were plundering one another's mouths. Joam cradled his face, and Blake slid his hands up Joam's neck and ran them through his hair. The silky strands slipped through his fingers like gossamer.
They paused for breath, and Blake leaned his head on Joam's shoulder. "Did you get enough to eat?"
Joam nodded. "I don't think I've eaten this much at one time since my ma passed."
Blake wormed one arm between Joam and the back of the chair, and draped the other one around his chest and held him tight. "I want you to always have enough to eat."
Joam gave a little gasp. From this position, Blake couldn't see his face, which was part of the point. He couldn't say something like that with Joam looking at him.
For a long time they were both silent, and Blake wondered if this was too much. Then Joam said, "For as long as I live, I'll never forget you giving me those bologna sandwiches." There was a smile in his voice.