Mark Palastine lives across from a neighbor who will change his life. A man he’s only seen, and crushed on, in images, a model by the name of Jimmy Saldana. When Mark is an unfortunate witness to the meltdown of Jimmy’s love life through the personality mags, his heart goes out to the other man.
And then they meet…
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Mark saw Jimmy a couple more times that week, but only once with his boyfriend, thankfully. Once he was walking around the living room talking on his cell phone in just underwear. That fueled dreams and fantasies for days! After the first week, Mark began to feel bad always looking for Jimmy. It wasn’t right. He should have privacy in his own home, except…
Jimmy never closed those damned blinds! Never! Mark swore a blue streak when he caught a flash of skin and like a bad wreck couldn’t help but watch as the two men chased each other around the apartment with cans of silly string. So he wasn’t just a boyfriend, he was a friend.
After two months of it, Mark had convinced himself to ease off on the obsession. Jimmy was out of his league and always would be. He didn’t have any more voyeur episodes either. He actually felt pretty good about that. If Jimmy was free-spirited and an exhibitionist, it didn’t mean Mark had to watch, even if he knew he’d love it.
Then something changed. Walking past the newsstand on his daily commute from work, he spotted the screaming in font headline on the cover of one of the tell-all rags. “Patton Vorga engaged!” Mark’s mouth fell open. He’d never known the man’s name, hadn’t cared. But the man in the picture next to the obviously pregnant woman was Jimmy’s boyfriend!
Usually oblivious to the snark and gossip, he bought the tattle-tale newspaper and stuffed it into his messenger bag, scurrying with the crowd to get home now to read it.
Inside his apartment, he plopped down to his couch and ripped it open to the right page, reading. There was usually a nugget of suspicion if not full truth in any gossip, and if she was carrying Patton’s child… Mark bit his lip, his stomach heaving. He leaped to his feet and rushed to the window.
Jimmy wasn’t home. God, as much as he wanted Jimmy, he didn’t want him hurt, and if this was true… After five minutes, and no sign of life in the other apartment, he left to change out of his work attire. He tossed the crumpled newsprint on his bed and stripped to an A-shirt and gym shorts. He’d relax then go for his evening run. He was sure everything was okay with Jimmy. No, it wasn’t Mark that would comfort him, but he had to believe the gossip rag was just speculating. Jimmy was an upstanding guy, charitable worker and had never been slandered.
Mark shook his head. “You know way too much about that guy,” he muttered. He just didn’t want to see Jimmy crushed by an asshole.
He balled up the newspaper and tossed the pages into the recycle bin, calling it done then spun to gather his keys to go run. And was stopped in his tracks by the flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye.
Jimmy was home. He was storming back and forth across his living room, vanishing into his bedroom then reappearing, as though the lavish apartment was just too small to contain him. The phone was plastered to his ear and he was gesturing broadly and angrily.
“Oh, hell.” Mark paused by his fishbowl window and watched the world beyond. The agony was clear even through the distance. Mark’s chest ached with the pain he knew the guy was enduring.
Jimmy froze in the living room and shouted into the phone then threw it. A heartbeat later, he followed in the same direction only to return with the trashcan in hand. One, two, three photo frames were pitched into the can.
Mark put his hand to the glass. “Oh, baby,” he breathed. “I’d never do that to you.”
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