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by Lex Valentine
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: The specter of Don't Ask, Don't Tell hovers ominously over the romance between former USAF Thunderbird pilots, Sebastian Marchetti and Ryder Beckett. Sebastian Marchetti has spent his life doing two things, hiding his sexuality and flying. After leaving the USAF, Bas meets active duty pilot Ryder Beckett. Bas loves Ryder enough to be his dirty little secret. But Ryder loves his man so much he'll risk court martial to be with Bas. This story is part of the print anthology DON'T ASK DON'T TELL.
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: March 2012
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [106 KB]
Reading time: 64-90 min.
Sebastian heaved a sigh of satisfaction as the Slick 360 aerobatic plane performed every maneuver he asked of it flawlessly. It made the hours he'd spent working on it worthwhile. Now, he could be sure his brother Cristiano would be flying a perfectly prepped plane at next week's air show in Northern California. As he brought the plane in, visually lining it up with his family's private airstrip, he noticed a car sitting just to one side of the runway, near the hangars. Since he wasn't expecting company, he wondered who it could be.
Shifting his focus back to the plane and the task at hand, Bas brought the light aircraft in for a perfect landing. Once on the ground, he taxied toward the hangar, intent on putting his brother's "baby" away. It would stay locked up for the next two days until Cris and Max came out to prep for the next show. The Flying Marchettis were scheduled to be in half a dozen air shows over the next three months. Bas figured maintaining the equipment would keep him busier than the accounting usually did especially since his brother had purchased some new planes in preparation for the new routines he planned when Bas joined them next year.
Bas turned the Slick into its hangar and shut it down. By the time he'd gotten out of the cockpit and finished tethering the plane, his visitor had appeared in the open hangar doorway. Bas noted that the man's height was similar to his own six foot two and they had similar builds. Back lit by the bright desert sun, the visitor's features lay in shadow.
"Can I help you?" he asked as he walked toward the stranger.
"I'm looking for Marciano Marchetti."
The man's voice was deep and sexy. Bas suppressed a shiver, telling himself that he'd only reacted because he spent too much time alone and it had been nearly a year since he'd been with anyone. Celibacy had never been his thing, yet he'd learned to live with it over the years, knowing that his chosen career and his sexual orientation would never mix well.
"My father." Bas stepped out of the hangar and punched in the code to close the door. "He died six months ago. He'd been ill with cancer for several years. Did you know him?"
He turned to face the stranger and had to bite back the urge to suck in his breath. Cobalt blue eyes set in a rugged, tanned face--a Marlboro man kind of face-- stared back at him. Dark blond, honey colored hair crowned the man's head. Almost absently, Bas registered the military haircut, but then focused on the broad shoulders, lean hips, and washboard abs defined by the t-shirt plastered to his visitor's torso by the hot desert wind.
"Yeah. I rented the apartment over the garage from him when I was here for test pilot school some years back," the man said. "I thought maybe I'd get lucky and find the apartment available again."
"It is, but no one's lived in it for a couple of years. It's probably a mess from neglect," Bas told him, all the while admonishing himself to stop mentally drooling over the guy. He'd admitted he was an Air Force pilot and his haircut and bearing confirmed it. And besides, there was no way in hell the guy could be anything but straight. In his entire Air Force career, Bas had only ever come across one gay pilot.
The man took a few steps toward Bas, holding out one hand. "I'm Ryder Beckett."
Bas shook the hand, trying hard not to think about the little zing of electricity he got from their palms meeting. "Sebastian Marchetti."
Ryder grinned. "I know. You're 'Babe' Marchetti. I recognized you."
Eyes narrowed, Bas went on alert when Ryder spoke his call sign, a nickname given to him when he'd drunkenly joked that he'd learned to fly before he could walk. "You do?"
Ryder tipped his head to one side, his grin still evident. "Yeah. I got your plane when you left the Thunderbirds."
Shit. Just what Bas needed, a former Thunderbirds pilot living over his garage. He forced an easy smile to his face. "Number Five. I took good care of her."
"You did." Ryder's blue eyes twinkled. "So if this apartment is in good enough shape, do you think I could rent it?"
Bas bit back a sigh. Maybe it would do him some good to have someone around. He'd cut himself off from people in the last year, only spending time with his family. It was time to let go of the past. At least he and Ryder had a few things in common. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities that maybe they could hang out and have a few beers together at the local tavern in town.
He gestured toward the classic Mustang convertible sitting at the edge of the airstrip. "Let's go take a look at it."
Ryder's grin widened impossibly. With infectious enthusiasm, he led the way to his car. "No wheels?" he asked as he opened the driver door.
Bas shook his head. "Since it's only a quarter mile to the house, I usually hoof it." He got in the Mustang, stroking the silver blue paint. "It's beautiful. Very nicely restored."
The engine started with a muted roar and Ryder put the car in gear. "I did the work myself. It's kind of my hobby."
"Must have been hard to work on when you were at Nellis. Being gone so much with the team and all," Bas remarked casually. Inside, he felt far from casual. Ryder's long fingers turned the wheel with an economy of movement that most jet pilots displayed. With jets, the sensitivity of the stick meant that the smallest movement could put the plane into a roll or dive.
"Oh, I'd finished by the time I got to Vegas. I did most of the work before I went in the academy, back when I was in high school."
Ryder's words reminded Bas of his own journey in the military. It seemed they'd had similar paths. Not that what he'd done had been unique. The only thing unique about him had been the fact that he was one of the Flying Marchettis. He'd entered the academy with a commercial pilot's license and airshow certification at age eighteen, the only cadet ever to have that certification at entrance. Of course, the military course in acrobatics turned out to be somewhat different from what he knew, but the basics were the same. Learning to do acrobatics in an F-16 with the Thunderbirds was a big jump from a plane like the Slick 360.
The Mustang pulled up to the garage and Bas got out, feeling acutely conscious of Ryder Beckett's lean body. He led the way up the stairs attached to the side of the garage and pulled a set of keys from his jeans pocket. The door opened easily and he stepped inside, Ryder on his heels. Shockingly, the place seemed fine. A little dusty and musty and certainly way too hot from being closed up, but all it really needed was some elbow grease.
"Hey, the furniture is newer than when I was here," Ryder remarked as he looked around.
Bas walked over to the windows and opened them wide. "My brother replaced it all when he lived here for a short while after my Dad was diagnosed."
With all the windows and blinds open, Bas could see that the tiny living room slash dining area looked fine. The kitchen counters and breakfast bar all had a serious layer of desert dust on it, but nothing that a sponge and some cleaner wouldn't take care of. He walked across the room and opened the bedroom door. The same musty, dusty smell greeted him. He opened the blinds and windows, noting that the king sized mattress looked brand new and took up much more of the room than the old double bed had. A check of the bathroom told him it needed cleaning in much the same manner as the kitchen.
When he came out of the bathroom, Bas found Ryder sitting on the bare mattress.
"This is great," Ryder said, looking up at him. "If you're up for a neighbor, I'd definitely like to rent it. Is there garage space?"
Trying not to think about how sexy the pilot looked sprawled on the edge of the bed, Bas jerked his chin toward the window. "There's some in the boathouse behind the garage. My brother Cris used to have all kinds of watercraft in there but it's mostly down at his house now."
"Great! How much you do want for this?"
Bas rubbed his head thoughtfully. Since he'd come home, he'd not given the apartment a second thought. He'd had no plans to rent it. The only reason he was doing it now was because he felt a huge tug of attraction to Ryder Beckett. He turned away and walked back into the main room of the apartment before his cock sprang to life and told Ryder how much he wanted him.
"Utilities, a damage and cleaning deposit, I guess," Bas said gruffly, trying to control his intense reaction to the other man. "But other than that, you wouldn't be in anyone's way or anything so I wouldn't feel right charging you a large amount of money."
"I can afford to pay rent. Uncle Sam does pay me." Ryder chuckled. "I'm sure you have a good idea just how much, since according to my CO, you had my job until a few months ago."
If Ryder had the same commanding officer as Bas at Edwards Air Force Base then he had to be a test pilot. Bas had gone to test pilot school before he'd been selected for the Thunderbirds. His goal had always been to come home to the desert and fly jets for the testing wing. Just as planned, he'd retired from the Air Force after twenty years. Unfortunately, his father's illness and death and Bas's own circumstances had changed his retirement plans somewhat. Instead of joining the Flying Marchettis right away, Bas had elected to wait until next year's season while teaching as a civilian contractor at the test pilot school. His father's lingering illness had left the family's business and monies in disarray and Bas figured it would take at least another six months to get everything straightened out and probate settled.
"So you're my replacement." Bas flashed a smile at the other man before crossing the room toward the door. "They were quick."
As he spoke, a hand gripped his elbow and spun him around. Surprised, he got a glimpse of dark blue eyes sparkling with excitement before a hard mouth came down on his. A bolt of sheer lust rocked him. As Ryder's tongue pressed for entrance, Bas opened his mouth, thrilling to the taste of the other man. Minty, smoky, and fueled with high octane arousal. Hard hands swept his back, his shoulders, and finally his buttocks. Involuntarily, Bas thrust against Ryder's body and through the layers of their clothes he felt the erection that rivaled his own.
And then the kiss ended.
Standing with chest heaving, two full feet between them, Sebastian stared at Ryder Beckett in pure shock. An Air Force officer, a jet pilot, had kissed him. Blatantly. Sexually. Forcefully.
"I figured I should just get that out of the way before we went any further," Ryder said, his voice deep and husky with arousal.
"What the hell do you mean?" Bas demanded, confused.
Ryder ran a hand through his already ruffled hair. Then he stared hard at Bas. "I could see you were thinking the same thing I was. You're attracted to me. I'm attracted to you. I just thought I'd show you that your feelings were reciprocated."
"You're a pilot. An officer." Bas stared at Ryder, feeling a little shocked.
The words hung in the hot, musty air between them. Bas felt his heartbeat increase. Air Force officers did not say the word gay. Not to someone they didn't know and trust. And Bas didn't know Ryder. Despite being a civilian now, he could not say the word to the man. Twenty years of holding it in, twenty years of repression, twenty years of yearning, held him back.
Anger flickered on Ryder Beckett's face. "You're such a die hard," he muttered, shaking his head. "Somehow, I didn't expect that. You're retired, aren't you? They don't own you anymore."
Bas swallowed hard and watched Ryder's gaze flick over his throat, the color of his eyes deepening to midnight. "Technically, they don't. But...I don't...I can't..." he broke off. He frankly didn't know what to say to a man who was still in the military but who'd admitted to being gay.
Ryder nodded crisply. "I get it. I know it's hard to admit to when you've lived your life in the Air Force. Everyone expects jet pilots to be macho men who fuck anything in a skirt that comes into range and then suit up and shoot ten MiGs out of the sky."
"That's putting it mildly," Bas muttered, leaning back against the apartment wall as he stared at the pilot. The other man, despite being younger, had much more confidence in himself and his sexuality than Bas ever had.
"I've never hidden who I am, Sebastian," Ryder admitted in a low voice. "I've used caution and exhibited extreme discretion to avoid the witch hunt 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' can be sometimes. Usually, people just assume I'm straight, and I let them. It frees me up to be who I am in private. I've never been with a woman. I don't want to. But I've been with quite a few men. You'd be surprised how many of us there are in the service. And you'd be surprised at how many people actually know what your real preferences are, but would never turn you in for being a homosexual."
After a moment of hard thinking, Bas realized Ryder probably had the right of it. Why he'd never picked up on it, he didn't know. It had just been ingrained in him to hide his sexuality. Only in the last year had he begun to loosen up a little and not worry so much about others finding out. Only in the last year had he decided he needed something more than his hand, gay porn, and furtive encounters. And his first and only try at a relationship hadn't been anything to write home about. When it ended badly, he knew he needed to get out of the service and get a real life. Hiding didn't cut it any longer.
Drawing a breath, he stared into the very dark blue eyes of the man he'd just met and said, "I'm gay too. And yeah, I'm very attracted to you."
A gorgeous smile broke out on Ryder's face. "So what are we going to do about that?"
With a short laugh, Bas pushed off from the wall and pulled the door open. "Right now, we're gonna agree on a price for this apartment. Then I'm going home to make lunch which you are invited to. Unless you'd rather just start moving in."
Ryder laughed and the sound made Bas's breath catch in his throat. "I think I'll give it some soap and water before I bring my stuff over from the motel," he admitted. "But lunch sounds great."
On legs that should have felt shaky after their frank conversation, Bas led the way down the stairs and across the yard to the kitchen door at the back of the Marchetti house. The simple ranch style house he'd grown up in had been added on to a couple of times by his dad. The first expansion had been a deck with a built-in barbeque pit and spa. Then had come the in-ground swimming pool. And finally, not long before his Pop had gotten ill, Bas's brothers-in-law, the two brothers who had married his twin sisters, had done an expansion and renovation of the kitchen for Bas's mom.
The Todd brothers were contractors and they'd built a fantastic kitchen for Mona Marchetti. She'd lived in that kitchen, spending most of her days there, until the day Bas's youngest sister Rita had talked their mom into moving to Florida where her widowed sister lived. Since Rita lived in that area too, dividing her time between teaching at Florida State University and doing something she never talked about at the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion, it meant at least one of his siblings could keep an eye on their mother. The rest of the family used Rita's place as a staging area for all their east coast air show dates so Mona saw her babies on a regular basis.
Bas pushed open the kitchen door and led the way inside. Behind him, he heard Ryder's soft footfalls on the flagstones. Tossing his keys onto the granite counter, Bas leaned over the sink, turned on the water and thrust his hands beneath the faucet. He reached for a bottle of soap and gestured toward a door on the far side of the room.
"Bathroom's over there if you want to wash up. I'll have lunch put together in a few minutes."
Ryder grinned and headed across the kitchen. Bas stared at the man's very fine ass until the bathroom door shut. He finished washing his hands. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been so intensely attracted to a man. Usually, he suffered from flash in the pan lust. Even the last man he'd been with had started that way, but even though the relationship had evolved into something else, it hadn't ended well. And he didn't really want to think about what had happened a year ago, not when he was going to spend the next hour with Ryder Beckett.
Opening the refrigerator, Bas took out the salad he'd made that morning, the container of dressing, and the foil wrapped loaf of bread he'd spread with garlic butter. By the time Ryder reappeared, the bread was in the broiler, the antipasto salad and homemade dressing on the table and Bas had his hands full of plates and silverware. He quickly set the table while Ryder sniffed the air appreciatively.
Bas laughed. "Good thing you like it. I cook with it all the time. The air around the house probably smells of garlic 24/7."
Ryder looked at the container of salad dressing. "You make your own dressing? Impressive."
With a shrug, Bas pulled a couple of glasses out of a cupboard. "My mom taught us all to cook. I make my own dressing and garlic spread. The bread is loaded with real butter mixed with mashed roasted garlic cloves."
A cross-eyed expression of bliss settled on Ryder's handsome face. "My God. I'm in love."
"If you are, you'll have to get used to kissing a man with garlic breath then," Bas joked, then realized maybe he'd chosen his words a little too carelessly.
Ryder's eyes darkened and he stepped into Bas's personal space. Their hips brushed and Bas felt his cock spring to life. He held his breath as Ryder leaned in.
"If it means I get to kiss you, I won't mind the garlic at all," he whispered.
His head dipped and once again, Bas felt the incredible rush of excitement and lust he'd experienced in the apartment. Ryder Beckett wound him tighter than a two dollar watch with nothing more than a light brush of lips. That small, teasing contact made Bas want to push the man onto the table, strip his faded jeans from his long legs, and feast on the cock he could now see outlined beneath the button fly.
"The bread," he murmured and slipped away from Ryder, reaching for an oven mitt.
Minutes later they were seated at the table, eating antipasto salad with Italian dressing, and munching on the crusty bread that dripped with melted butter and creamy garlic spread. Ryder apparently didn't have any problem with eating lots of garlic. He devoured the bread and when he finally sat back from the table, apologized for making a pig of himself.
"Sorry man, but that beats fast food and chain restaurants all to hell," he sighed. "You know how bad it gets when you're reassigned and in the process of moving."
Bas nodded. He did indeed know. Luckily, he was finished with all that now. He'd settled down in the house he'd grown up in, all of his siblings having married and moved into their own homes. By virtue of his sexual orientation, his family had all assumed he'd never get married, never have kids. While he was in the Air Force, they and his parents had all decided that he should get the property. His brothers, Cristiano and Maxim, and twin sisters, Valeria and Veronica, inherited the business in equal shares since they were in fact the Flying Marchettis. Rita hadn't gotten anything, but she hadn't wanted or needed anything either. Technically, the house still belonged to Bas's mother, but to the family, that didn't mean anything because she refused to live in the house without her husband of forty five years.
"I was lucky to have put my ducks in a row so I could spend the last six years of my career here. I grew up to the sound of sonic booms, and Edwards has always meant home to me," Bas admitted. "Coming back here was bittersweet. My dad had just been diagnosed. My siblings took it hard too. I suppose it was easier on me because I'd spent fourteen years away from home. Plus, I'd been to Iraq. I understood war and death in a way they didn't. My father got it. He always had an uncanny ability to know me better than I knew myself."
Ryder's expression sharpened. His posture tensed slightly and Bas knew what the other man would say before the words even came out.
"Did he know you were gay?"
Bas nodded slowly. "Yeah. Like I said, he knew stuff about me before I even did. He's the one who sat me down and gave me a speech about the birds and bees at age 11 or 12. He also gave me a speech about being open minded and about how some people were different. Not better. Not worse. Just different. And he told me to never be afraid to go after what I wanted nor be ashamed of who I am."
"Wow. You're lucky." Ryder toyed with his empty water glass. "My dad was a Ranger. When I came out to him at sixteen he told me I'd better never say the word gay to him again. I didn't. I left at eighteen for the Air Force Academy and you'd have thought that was a slap in the face to him as well since I hadn't chosen to enter his branch of service. I don't speak to him. He likes it that way and it's easier on us both. I talk to my mom on the phone though. They live in Indiana."
"You're an only child?" Bas felt a wave of sympathy wash over him for the pilot. Although his parents had always accepted his sexuality, he knew a number of people whose families struggled with it.
Ryder shook his head. "I have a brother. He plays hockey professionally. My father brags about him constantly. When I was a Thunderbird, my dad never told a soul. But my mother made up for it. She was so proud. She told my aunts, uncles, cousins, the neighbors. The rest of my family is okay. It's just my dad who has issues."
Bas started to say something about families and tolerance but then something Ryder had said clicked in his head. His mouth dropped open and Ryder gave him an odd look.
"Your brother...is he Ryan Beckett?" Bas finally managed to ask.
With a laugh, Ryder nodded. "Yeah. Mr. I-Lost-My-Front-Teeth-But-Look-Ma-I've-Got-the-Stanley-Cup!"
"Damn!" Bas shook his head in awe. "I love your brother!"
Ryder's dark blond brows rose. "Won't do you any good. He's not gay."
For a moment, Bas thought Ryder's gruff tone meant he was serious. Then he noticed the twinkle of humor in the man's eyes.
"I love how fiercely your brother plays hockey," he quantified, leaning across the table to flick a finger across the back of Ryder's hand. "I don't want to suck his cock."
The emphasis he placed on the last two words of his sentence sent a wave of color to Ryder's cheekbones in a flush of arousal. "Well, that was pretty forward of you, Sebastian," he said with a laugh.
"Call me Bas." Bas touched the back of Ryder's hand again. "I'm not sure how to do this, getting involved with someone in the military. When I did it once before, it turned ugly. I haven't so much as touched another man in the year since that ended. Some of it was fear of exposure. I've only been off active duty a few months and didn't want my sexuality causing a problem at the end of my career. The rest of it was probably just the depressing sense that I won't ever have a true relationship. I'm doomed to a life of quickies, one nighters, and fuck buddies."
Ryder half rose from his chair and planted a hand on the table, leaning in close to Bas's face. "I'll have a quickie with you if you want. And an all-nighter. But a one nighter?" He shook his head slowly. "Don't think so. And I'll fuck you, buddy, but it won't be because we're friends. I like you and I want the chance to see if there's more to this attraction than just the need to get naked with you."