With food in his stomach, Joam's head had cleared and he could think a little bit beyond the ever-present arousal he felt in Blake's presence. Blake, not Jasper. This was some guy from the big city, not his fantasy boy come to life. He had to keep reminding himself of that.
They reached the Oldsmobile Delta 88 and Joam gave the engine compartment a quick perusal. "Your timing belt broke," he said, shutting the hood again.
"Oh," said Blake. "Can you fix it?"
Obviously this guy couldn't wait to put Beulah behind him. Who could blame him? Joam shook his head, ashamed at the pleasure the answer gave him. "Not tonight. We'll have to get the part from Greenville and the earliest that can happen is tomorrow."
"Oh." Blake looked around himself as if lost. "I'll need a place to stay. I didn't see a motel in town. I ... uh, I don't have much money."
"There's one on the other side of town," said Joam. "The Easy Rest. It's cheap. I can take you there after we get your car to the garage." And stay, his mind continued, though he didn't speak the thought. I can stay and we can make love all night long. His erection was back. Had Blake noticed? Was he even gay? He looked gay but appearances could be deceiving.
He struggled with the issue all the way back to Beulah. Even if Blake was gay, he probably wouldn't want him; and if he was a hustler, as Joam suspected, there was no money to pay for sex. Fresh anger at Higgs shot through him. He was going to miss out on probably his one and only opportunity to have sex with a real live man and it was all because of that asshole.
But wait ... Blake had said he didn't have much money. That meant he didn't have much money for the car repairs either ... Maybe they could work something out...
If Joam ever got up the nerve to say something. They were almost in town already. Come on, he thought. A second ago you were ready to go a week without food for the sake of getting it on with this guy, what's the hold up? Afraid he'll say no? What's another humiliation in the greater scheme of things? And he's a stranger--he'll be gone soon, taking your secret with him. There'll never be a better chance. "Why are you dressed like that?" he blurted.
All this time Blake had been silent, looking out the window, seemingly at ease, but now he tensed. There was a pause. At last he said, "I had to leave town in a hurry. I didn't have time to change."
Joam tried to ignore his disappointment. "So that's not what you usually wear? You were at a costume party or something?"
Blake laughed, but it wasn't a mean laugh. Joam knew it wasn't a laugh at him even before Blake said, "Oh my god. I'm sorry. It's just this situation. This is just so ... Look. You seem like a decent guy, Joam, so I'm just going to tell you the truth and trust that you're not going to beat me up and leave me by the side of the road--"
Joam just managed to stifle a gasp. Blake thought he might hurt him? He'd been in the doorway of the office. Had he seen Joam with the chair? Had he seen more? Joam had thought nothing more had happened but there was no way to be sure. He turned to look at Blake just as Blake was finishing his sentence.
"--I'm a hustler. A gay hustler."
Joam couldn't help it. He smiled then forced himself to look back at the road. They were in town now, just passing Sam's. "Don't worry," he said. "You've been nice to me. You shared your food with me. I would never hurt you. I--" He glanced over again, his last words unspoken. I want to make love with you.
The worry lines creasing Blake's forehead relaxed. He smiled back. "You're a good guy, Joam. I'm lucky I found you."
Sweating, Joam brought the truck to a stop at the blinking red light. The way Blake was looking at him--so open and friendly--he felt ... seen, for the first time since his mom died. This was better than Jasper January. Suddenly brave, he said, "I don't have any money, but ... I could fix your car for free."
Blake blinked in surprise.
Not wanting to see the distaste on his face, Joam looked away and concentrated on pulling the truck into the parking lot of the service station. What was he doing? What if Blake agreed but only because he had no choice? What was he going to do then? Let Blake "service" him because he held the power of car repair over him? Was that what he wanted?
Blake's tenor voice came to him, sweet and warm. "I think I understand what you're suggesting, Joam, and I think that would be lovely."
The words unleashed a torrent of emotion inside him and undid the last of his restraint. Lovely! He slammed the truck into park, heedless of the Olds on the hitch, which lurched forward with a crunch and a splintering of glass. The headlights. Fuck it. Higgs had some good ones, he'd steal 'em and install them when he did the other repair. His hands shook as he fumbled with his seatbelt and at last got it off.
He threw himself across the seat, grabbed Blake by the shoulders and kissed him hard. Blake's lips were soft and his stubble scraped against Joam's cheek, igniting every nerve in his face. Blake's shoulders beneath his hands were round and hard, like twin boulders. Their mutual arousal perfumed the close air of the truck cab and made Joam drunk. His dick, already sore from near-constant arousal, throbbed painfully. He took a deep breath and fought for control. It would be so easy to lose himself. As if of their own volition, his hands sought out the fly of Blake's shorts. "What ... what do we do first?"
Blake's hands, warm and strong, closed over his fingers and squeezed, stilling their frantic efforts. "First, we go someplace private. Is there someplace we can go where we won't be interrupted?"
His heart sank, thinking of his cot. He didn't even have a curtain to close off the corner. Higgs could come in at any time and find them. Frustration brought tears to his eyes.
"Hey," Blake's voice was as gentle as the hand that stroked the side of his face. "What about that motel you mentioned? Could we go there?"
"I don't have any money."
"I have enough, for tonight anyway."
Joam blinked, disbelieving. "But you're ... I'm supposed to pay you."
"You're going to fix my car, remember? Besides, I'm going to have to pay for the room anyway. I need a place to sleep tonight." Blake's voice and his gentle hands calmed Joam. "It's okay."
Joam believed him.