For Phillip McKinley, life in the rural town of Verdance seems textbook perfect on the surface: he's captain of the high school football team, dating the girl most of his buddies wish was theirs, and forced to endure the usual problems of popular, attractive eighteen-year-old guys. But Phillip, like the mysterious new arrivals to Verdance who take up residence at the local haunted house late one rainy night, is a young man with secrets. Phillip's deepest desires manifest in the form of Julian, the shaggy-haired youth now living up at Hindenwood House.
Julian's crafty guardian refuses to let Phillip anywhere near his charge, though the attraction the two come to feel for one another could be the key to victory in a devastating secret war whose opening shots are creeping ever closer, and stopping an invasion that could soon engulf the world.
When the lights went out in Verdance, they usually stayed out. That was one of those facts of life you just accepted living in the shadows of Wolf Hill. Not much ever happened in the little town. The summers were hot, the winters cold, and in between the two extremes as the weather shifted, you could expect some pretty nasty storms to knock out the power. And when the lights went dark, it wasn't uncommon for them to stay dark.
The storm that Phillip McKinley would always remember as having started it all had swept in on a sticky Saturday night at the end of summer, right before the start of school. He'd planned on hanging out with a bunch of his boys and had told Patti he didn't feel well to get out of their date, which was as much the truth as it was a lie. The storm rolled in with towering thunderheads and a violent cannonade soundtrack to match. His dad and Vivienne--Phillip couldn't bring himself to think of Viv as 'mom' or even 'step mom' as she wasn't ten years older than he was--were over at some friend's party, sipping cocktails with trendy names and bright colors the human digestive system hadn't been designed to process.
Because of the weather, Tommy Toscano, who would most likely back him up as quarterback on their last season of football together at Verdance High, was the only guy who made it to the McKinley house. And he didn't come empty handed.
Phillip knocked back one of the beers in the six-pack and exhaled his frustration. "This sucks," he sighed.
Tommy checked his cell for the fourth time since entering the dark house. "No signal."
"No duh, shithead," Phillip absently responded. "No power, no movies, no video games, and no TV."
"Please stop trying to cheer me up," Tommy grumbled, draining his bottle. "I'm so bored right now, it's tragic."
Phillip finished his beer. He considered reaching for another, but stopped himself. Alcoholism had taken his mother, and the disease ran in his genes. More so, he feared a second one might loosen him up, and when Phillip got loose, he started to talk. By the third, he'd be revealing his deepest, darkest secrets to his sometimes best friend, who would probably be revealing his own by that point. No, the risk wasn't worth it.
Phillip folded his arms. "Dude, I'm gonna call it an early night. No use waiting for the juice to come back on, and I'm seriously pissed off enough as it is."
"You for real?" Tommy huffed.
"I'm sorry, man. I just need to hit the rack early. Let's hang tomorrow."
Tommy gathered up the last of the beer and trudged to the front door. "Whatever."
"I'll call you," Phillip said, noting the irony as Tommy again checked his cell phone on the way out.
He considered lighting a candle. Viv had dozens of them scattered around the place. Unfortunately, none were simple, pleasant scents, like blueberry or peppermint or vanilla. No, hers had mystical, winsome names like Heart's Desire, Summer Sorbet, and Ocean Foam, though they all smelled to Phillip like dish soap.
Defeated, Phillip trudged up the stairs to his bedroom at the back of the split-entry house, navigating the way on memory. The air in the room was hot and musty, owing to a pile of dirty clothes in one corner and the sealed windows, done so out of respect for the house's central air conditioning.
Phillip plodded to the nearest window, which looked out across the side yard and at the dark windows of the Miller house next door. He lifted it and a wave of hot, moist air billowed into the room. Phillip instantly started to sweat. The second window faced the old Hindenwood place near the pine-studded summit of Wolf Hill. Phillip pushed the other energy efficient pane up.
More wet air surged in, infused with the exotic summer smells of mowed lawn, flowers, and a trace of the chemicals from the Miller's in-ground pool. Phillip used to hop the fence and swim there late at night, until Harold Miller installed a sensor light and he'd gotten caught, which had led to no small amount of embarrassment along with plenty of grief from Vivienne, the social zealot.
Phillip peeled off his damp t-shirt and wagged it under his arms, stirring the piney scent of sweat and the dregs of the deodorant he'd slapped on during a day that already felt lifetimes in his past. Losing the lights, the power, and the gadgets instantly crippled modern human society, devolving it back to the cave, he thought, a sour smirk twisting the corners of his prickly, unshaved mouth. If the lights stayed out long enough, men would be making fires by rubbing sticks together and then clubbing one another over the head with them.
Phillip sighed out a swear and unhooked his shorts, letting them drop to his hairy ankles. He absently scratched at the meaty fullness of his balls, accessing them through the elastic leg band of his boxer briefs. He decided to do what most bored males throughout all of human history have done when confronted with too much time and not enough distraction: masturbate. And he didn't plan to think about Patti Collings, his trophy girlfriend, while he did. No, thanks to the one beer and the musky warmth in the air, the smell of his own maleness surrounding him, Phillip embraced his deepest of personal secrets.
For months now, he'd come to accept the strange, dark desires teasing him in his dreams and tempting him when he was around his friends, dating back for as long as he could remember. They weren't the automatic sentence to eternal damnation that a lot of supposed authorities on the subject of morality would have him believe. One overcast morning the previous June, he'd simply rolled over with the usual morning wood and had rubbed one out into a dirty sock. In the accompanying fantasy, he'd envisioned what it would be like to mount the ass of his fellow man, while reaching around and stroking the fuckee in this too-sweet-to-believe vision. He rode the sock to a climax equally as magnificent as the one he mentally blasted between said fuckee's ass cheeks.
Just like that. There had been no great revelation, no brush with mortality that shook him to his core, no message delivered by signs and portents. But there had been undeniable magic in accepting the truth that Phillip desired what he desired, and he could live with it, defend it if he must. Even if he wasn't about to shout out the truth to the world while bent in a huddle on the football field, Phillip was now feeling more comfortable in his own skin than he could ever recall. He was gay.
Unlike the rest of his teammates who loved to brag, Phillip was also a virgin. Not counting all the tall tales and fables of sexual conquest he'd concocted in the locker room over the past few years to keep his friends' imaginations satisfied.
Phillip's imagination drifted back into the delicious territory that had kept his cock stiff nonstop, all summer. Dropping to his knees, he licked a finger, let it wander between his naked legs, along that patch of sensitive skin between his balls and asshole, and eventually dipped it into his most private place. His flesh there was hot and moist with sweat. After a few gentle circles, he withdrew it, licked it. This was what the asshole he'd some day fuck would taste like.
His cock leaked. Phillip ran the same pointer finger and its thumb along the straining head, over the gummed-up slit. Wetness coated his touch. And that was what he would feel when he thrust in, forcing the other young man's cock to fuck his grip. Phillip tasted himself. He liked what he liked, and he liked it way too much. Certain tight-assed hypocrites on the tube, in the locker room, and worse--in his own living room--had bullied him over the years with their jokes and their dogma into believing it was evil, aberrant behavior. That any man who felt the way he did was marked as one of the living damned; that he was really only here among the chosen people to burn oxygen en route to an eternity of burning in hellfire deep beneath the surface of the earth.
"Fuck that," Phillip grumbled.
Anything that felt so right could not be wrong.