Strange doings at the hunky gay businessman’s popular teddy-bear emporium.
But he was there with Simon, his pride and joy, the youngest of his four children and the cutest, smartest kid you ever wanted to see. Horace and Simon were at Bo’s Builder Bear Workshop (Simon had heard about it from his kindergarten classmates) to celebrate Simon’s 6th birthday.
“This your grandson?” Bo asked.
“Do I look old enough to have a grandson?” Horace growled.
Oh, Shit! Bo thought. Stepped into that one!
But he didn’t miss a beat.
“I get that all the time,” Bo said, in return. “The salt-n-pepper hair! I visited China a couple of years ago all the Chinese kids wanted to take their pictures with me! I couldn’t tell if they thought I was the Fat Buddha or Santa Claus!”
“Fat Buddha, my fat ass,” he said, softly. “You’re built like a tank!”
The faux pas notwithstanding, Horace liked this guy.
So did Simon, apparently.
“Gee, Daddy, Mr. Bo is almost as big as you are!”
Bo motioned Horace towards the sofa while he lavished his expert opinion on Simon, making sure to consult Simon’s caretaker all the way through the process.
Neither Horace nor Simon noticed that the big man on the couch was subtly changing.
First, the gray disappeared from his hair.
Next, Horace’s short-cropped locks started growing out. As they did so, they started braiding themselves. When they were done, they were halfway down his back.
Then Horace’s flab started melting away, all of it being replaced by muscle. Huge and thick, NFL quality muscle, all 300 lbs. of it.
By the time Bo handed Simon his new bear, Amari Jenkins was checking his Rolex and wondering whether he would have time to snag a drink with Madison (or Taylor or maybe Mark) after he delivered his nephew back to his sister.
“You’re the best uncle ever!” Simon exclaimed.
Amari laughed, a rumble that made James Earl Jones sound girlish.
“And you’re the best nephew ever!” he replied.
Then he handed over five Benjamins to Bo and shook the big man’s hand, wincing slight.
Fuck, he thought. This old dude is strong as shit!
“You sure you didn’t play ball somewhere?” Amari said again, the light glinting off his Super Bowl ring.
“Hey,” he said. “I’m big but I’m short and I’m slow and I never had moves like you have, Mr. Jenkins. I’d still be getting off the line while you were dancing in the end zone.”
Amari tilted his head and gave Bo the patented AJ look. The one that said, I’m too much man for most—think you can handle it?
“Shop closes at 8,” Bo said. “Feel free to stop back by if you need anything else.”
Turned out Madison, Taylor, and Mark all had to wait their turn!
Several hours after 8 p.m. Amari gingerly eased himself into his Jag.
He may not have any moves on the field, he thought. But he sure as hell knows his way around a piece of NFL ass!
“Wotta man, wotta man, wotta mighty fine man, y’all,” Ramon “Ray” Alcantar muttered under his breath.
He had not been looking forward to taking his 6-year-old niece, Esperanza, to buy her birthday teddy bear but when he set eyes on Bo, the sexy 5’8, 150 lb. stud muffin with the movie star good looks he would have been happy to spend all day at the Workshop!
“This your daughter?” Bo asked.
You would have needed an ice-scraper to peel the frost off Ray’s reply.
“Do I look old enough to have a daughter?! Esperanza is my niece, thank you very much.”
Damn, Bo thought. I must be losing my touch!
So he poured on the charm.
“It seemed highly unlikely,” Bo replied. “But we don’t get many 20-something Lou Diamond Phillips lookalikes in here!”
Ray’s frost instantly melted.
“It’s okay for us to look around, yes?”
And look they did.
Esperanza, as beautiful a little girl as ever lived and all too aware of the fact, examined every bear with the studied intensity of an Antwerp gemologist. Ray, for his part, twittered non-stop.
“I’m sorry,” he said, finally. “It’s a bad habit of mine around guys like you.”
Bo arched an eyebrow.
“Oh, surely….” Ray began.
Bo held up a hand.
“Sweetie darling,” he said. “Make no mistake: I’m part of the tribe.”
After that, Ray held his tongue as Bo and Esperanza delved ever deeper into the complexities of bearology. Neither he nor Esperanza noticed that her uncle was beginning to grow—a lot!
Not up, sadly (sadly because Ray had always wanted the tall part of tall, dark and handsome to go along with his dark and handsome) but wide, yes, and thick, yes. Very wide, in fact, and very thick.
Along the way Ray’s boyish good looks changed into something darker and more powerful. Still a twenty-something, yes, but brooding and intense, with a gravity in keeping with his 250 lbs. of nationally competitive bodybuilder muscle.
Before he was hot, now he smoldered. A look that said touch me, if you’re man enough. Ray frankly wasn’t interested in any man whose arms were less than 20 inches.
“You’ve gotta be this big to ride this ride,” Ray had said to more than one suitor, breaking many a handsome man’s heart and pissing off friends who remembered when he was a 150 lb. Chihuahua.
Bo and Esperanza finally finished up.
About fucking time, Ray thought.
“I hope you will enjoy Leticia,” Bo told Esperanza. “You are a very smart girl to give her the same name as the Queen of Spain!”
“Tio Ramon,” she purred. “Thank you sooo much!”
Ray held out his hand. Bo took it—and didn’t seem to notice when Ray applied his vise-like grip.
“Damn, dude,” Ray said. “You really are a fucking tank. Just my type!”
Bo tilted his head to the side.
“Really?” he said. “A big old queen like me?”
Ray’s eyes widened.
“After I take Esperanza home, perhaps…”
Bo shook his head.
“You are one freaking handsome, studly man,” Bo said. “But you’re definitely too much man for me, kid.”
Bo smiled his best smile.
“But happy hunting, okay? I’m sure it’s easy pickings for guys like you!”
Ray turned and escorted Esperanza out the door. She turned and waved, smiling her knockout smile, the one she shared with her uncle.
“He’s a big old queen,” Ray said.
Rudy rolled his eyes. Not that Ray noticed. Even if he was apt to pay attention to what anyone else thought or did, his mile-wide shoulders were in the way.
Toxic masculinity, Rudy thought.
“So you’re telling me he’s a big old bottom?”
Ray had the decency to blush. Every gay man in Mud Creek knew Ramon Alcantar only took it one way and that he was a fucking size queen to boot.
I guess with a caboose that big you’d need to be, Rudy told himself.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Ray grumped. “Just because…”
Rudy twirled the chair and pressed the lever, dropping Ray’s 20-plus inch neck against the sink.
That’ll shut him up for a minute, Rudy thought. He’d be such a stud if he ever shut his piehole!
Rudy had been cutting hair long enough that he never had any trouble finding the perfect angle to get at a client’s hair when doing the shampoo but this time…
Why is this so awkward? This is where I always stand…
And that’s when it hit him.
Ray Alcantar was a much bigger man that he used to be.
“Ray,” he said. “How long have I been cutting your hair?”
It was Ray’s turn to roll his eyes.
“Don’t you remember?” he asked. “It was three years ago, the week I moved back to Mud Creek after graduating from Kokomo State.”
Yeah, Rudy thought. That’s right.
“And how long have you been lifting?”
“Since I was 13,” he replied. “I won my first contest win I was 18.”
But you know all this, Ray told himself. Man, the old dude is losing it!
Rudy’s 35-year-old fingers were telling him a different story. Of an equally hot but much smaller, gym-toned man. One who probably weighed no more than a buck fifty. Not this 250 lb. nationally competitive bodybuilder.
“How is Esperanza liking her bear?” he asked, changing the topic.
Ray waggled a perfectly-manicured hand that was nonetheless the size of a pie plate.
“Oh, she likes it fine and dandy,” he said. “Nice of you to recommend the shop but if I’d known just how faggy the guy was…”
Rudy’s scissors stopped mid-cut, then started up again.
“…I would have gone to the place in the mall.”
Rudy finished up, handed Ray the mirror—it was always an ordeal, the man was so vain that he almost always asked for a little trim here or a bit of extra gel there. For once, however, the big man seemed satisfied.
Ray reached for his wallet and Rudy held up a hand.
“It’s on the house,” he said.
Ray eyes widened.
“This was our last cut,” Rudy continued. “I don’t know who you think you are but if you think you can refer to my fellow businessman as ‘faggy,’ you can think again.”
“But but but…!”
Rudy shook his head.
“No buts, sorry,” he said. “I don’t have time for your internalized homophobia. Or your hypocrisy. Bo’s a gay man, I’m a gay man, YOU are a gay man, more precisely a gay man who likes getting his ass reamed by the biggest cock out there.”
Ray’s normal light tan was turning an interesting shade of purple.
“So, go on, get yourself out of here,” Rudy said. “And find yourself a new barber. I can’t recommend one but maybe you can find someone who will put up with your shit. Maybe at the mall?”
Ray stormed out, the door slamming behind him.
He was the last client of the day. Rudy sat down in the chair, pulled out the bottle of Scotch he kept under the counter, and put his feet up.
“That was fucking weird,” he said.
Not Ray’s homophobic bullshit. He had seen that train coming from a long way off, figured one day or another it was going to pull into the station, and that he was going to have to tell the stud muffin off.
“Stud muffin,” he said aloud, feeling the words on his tongue.
Ray Alcantar was definitely a stud, no doubt about it, but he was a stud hulk, not a stud muffin. So why did muffin feel right on his tongue?
The next day after closing the salon Rudy walked into Bo’s shop carrying a box of Silvia’s cupcakes.
“Why, hello, neighbor!”
The big man nodded at Rudy as he walked up to the counter and presented the pink and purple beribboned box with a flourish.
“And hello to you as well!” Rudy replied. “Very sorry that I haven’t dropped by before now but you know how it goes. Usually by the time I’m done for the day all I want is a steak, a salad, a baked potato, and a shot!”
“My kind of man!”
Was it the voice, which was deep and rich?
The laugh lines around his eyes?
The fact that he was huge, built, and hairy?
Regardless, Rudy found that he was rock hard.
Good thing there’s the counter between me and him, he thought!
Bo came around the counter.
“Like to see the shop?”
“Well, yeah, actually, now you mention it,” he said. “I’ve always been a fan of bears!”
“The fluffy kind?” he asked.
Rudy’s blush deepened.
Damn, he thought. What I am? 13?!
He cleared his throat.
“The muscle kind,” he said. “Not to put to find a point on it. It’s one of those ‘opposites attract’ things.”
Bo looked him up and down.
“Mr. Janowitz, I hope you don’t mind my pointing out that you are in NO WAY deficient in the muscle department!”
Rudy smiled and waggled his eyebrows up and down.
“Thanks for noticing, although I feel like a widdul girl standing next to you,” he said. “But I meant that I’m follicularly challenged, you might say. GREAT stubble and I can grow a knockout beard but from the neck down I’m pretty much smooth as a Chihuahua. See?”
He tugged on the vee of his Polo shirt, revealing an expanse of perfectly smooth pecs with a nice deep crease and impressive striations.
“I just assumed you shaved,” he said. “You compete right?”
“Hoo boy!” he replied. “Who has time for that? Although if I did compete I wouldn’t have to shave, so there’s that. What about you? Why I haven’t seen you at the Olympia?”
Bo arched an eyebrow.
“You follow the sport?”
“Since I was 12,” he replied. “Like some kids follow baseball or football.”
Bo pulled down the vee of his polo shirt.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Rudy thought.
Bo’s pecs were each the size of basketballs, with a six-inch canyon between the two of them, covered in a forest of auburn tinted curls.
Rudy reached for the counter.
“You okay?” Bo asked, suddenly concerned.
Rudy shook his head.
“Oh, fine, fine, no worries,” he replied. “You just took me by surprise, that’s all!”
Bo dropped his huge, thick hand on Rudy’s perfectly sculpted shoulder.
“You need to sit down?”
Rudy stifled a yawn.
“What I need, I think, is to get on home and put my feet up,” he said. “But before I go, let me give you my card.”
Rudy always had one in his wallet. This one he turned over and on the back scribbled his home number—his jealously guarded, rarely dispensed home number.
“If you need a cut or that beard needs a trim, you know where to find me,” Rudy said. “Or if you’d like to go have an adult beverage sometime, just let me know.”
Bo took Rudy’s hand in one big paw and wrapped the other around Rudy’s sculpted bicep.
“I’ll be taking you up on the haircut, for sure,” he said. “The mall people just don’t cut it.”
“Oh my God,” he said. “Another punster! I don’t think Mud Creek can handle the two of us!”
He turned and headed out the door, looking over his shoulder.
“You know where to find me!”
“Hey, handsome,” said the warm, rich voice on the other end of the line. “It’s Bo calling.”
“So how’s it going, Big Man?”
Bo cleared his throat.
“I hate to do this to you,” he said. “But I’m wondering if you could squeeze me in today. It turns out I have to meet with an investor tomorrow afternoon and I would like to look spic and span!”
Rudy didn’t hesitate.
“I have one at the end of the day,” he replied. “Can you make it then? I know you stay open an hour later than I do.”
“Pencil me in, please,” Bo said. “It’s a Tuesday, closing a couple of hours early is not going to be a problem.”
A few hours later…
The bell tinkled and Bo walked into Rudy’s shop carrying a large box done up with a giant rainbow ribbon.
“What’s this?!” Rudy exclaimed.
The twinkle in Bo’s eyes would have done Santa proud.
“I got the impression you were, uh, into bears and I never got around to showing you my, uh, private selection.”
Rudy’s eyes flew wide.
“Oh My Gosh! That’s so generous of you!” he said. “I haven’t had a teddy since, well, come to think of it, when did I ever?”
He placed the box on the counter and carefully undid the ribbon. Rudy was a great saver of ribbon (and wrapping paper, too, but a plain white box needs no wrapping, now does it?!)
The box opened and Rudy gasped.
“A muscle leather teddy bear! I’ve never seen such a thing!”
Bo had the decency to blush.
“It’s hardly an original idea,” he said. “Think of those Carlos dolls and stuff. I just adapted the theme for teddy bears.”
This teddy was almost two feet tall and nearly as wide as he was tall. A ridiculously broad-shouldered bear, in other words, and nearly as thick through the chest as he was through the shoulders, with arms and legs that on a full-sized human would have been logs—about like Bo’s, in other words.
His fur was long, slightly curly, deliciously soft, and the same reddish brown as the curls on Bo’s chest. He had on a leather vest, no shirt, inch-wide studded armbands, a pair of leather pants, and leather baseball cap perched between his fuzzy ears.
“Wow,” Rudy said. “This young man is a work of art.”
He gave Bo a glance.
“He’s handmade, isn’t he? And you’re the craftsman?”
“Well, in case you were wondering,” Rudy continued. “His name is ‘Little Bo.’ So sit yourself down here, Big Bo, and let me do my craft, okay?”
Rudy usually managed a standard cut—and with his straight, fine hair, Bo’s hairstyle was the definition of standard—in 30 minutes or less but somehow it seemed to go on and on, as if time were slowing.
They talked about everything:
Where they grew up where they went to school, what prompted them to move to Mud Creek, when they’d come out, even him.
“I gather you’re single,” Rudy said, following the last. “Although I can’t imagine why. Realistically speaking, it’s completely improbable. Was there never a Mr. Bo?”
The twinkle went out of Bo’s eyes as he told Rudy about Alan, his partner of 10 years, a traffic reporter who died in a freak helicopter crash.
“I’m so very sorry,” Rudy said, resting his hands on Bo’s traps. They were the same thickness and density as a pair of concrete blocks. “I’ve been spared that but I really can’t imagine anything worse, other than possibly losing a child.”
He asked Bo how long it had been.
“Ten years,” Bo said. “And, no, it’s not true what they say. Time doesn’t heal all wounds and, no, you never get over it. But we become accustomed to our grief.”
As Bo was talking Rudy was doing some mental arithmetic, although he scarcely noticed he was doing so.
“Ten years ago? And you were together 10 years…?”
Bo heard the tone of doubt in his voice.
“I’m older than I look,” he confided.
Rudy brushed it aside.
“He must have been a special man to have landed a man like you,” Rudy said.
Bo’s grin came back. He reached under the drop-cloth and pulled out his wallet.
“That’s Alan and me,” he said.
Rudy stared for a long time.
The Bo in the pic looked—from the neck up—like the one in his chair but only about half the size.
“You grew,” he said. “A lot.”
Bo shrugged his massive shoulders.
“Alan wasn’t into muscle,” Bo pointed out. “One of the few things regarding which we didn’t see eye to eye.”
As for Alan…
He could have been Rudy’s twin. Dark hair, blue eyes, classically handsome face, killer stubble.
“Me oh my,” Rudy said. “I can see why you two wound up together. Such handsome men.”
Bo cleared his throat.
“You have a thing for muscle, don’t you?”
“You noticed, huh? Why, yes, yes, I do. The bigger the better. And if it’s covered in a thick coat of manly hair, well, zing, I’m ready to rumble.”
Bo chuckled, then turned serious.
“Do you ever get the urge to bulk up?”
“All the time,” he said. “But I don’t think I have it in me. Plus in my line of work it isn’t really practical. I wouldn’t want to scare the little old ladies. Not that you seem to do so, and you’re the biggest man I’ve ever met.”
He handed Bo the mirror so he could check out his cut.
“And if that wasn’t an obstacle?” Bo asked. “If you had the time and the energy and the correct situation and a coach and…”
Rudy arched an eyebrow.
“I’m not big enough for you…?”
Sometimes it seemed to be the story of Rudy’s life. He was into big, built, hairy, butch men and for whatever reason they were rarely into him. He never figured out whether he wasn’t big enough, built enough, or butch enough.
“You’re perfect as is,” Bo said. “And you know it. But my fantasy…”
Rudy waited. The big man would get to it, or he wouldn’t. No point trying to hurry him along, especially since he half expected the answer.
“My fantasy is to be the little guy in the relationship,” Bo said. “I want a man who can literally sweep me off my feet. Someone who can toss me around like I was a little kid. Who makes me feel like a widdul girl. Who…”
Rudy nodded his head. He could see it. In fact, it sort of explained a lot about why he was single. He finally realized that he wanted to be the big guy in a relationship and even though there were plenty of guys smaller than he was he didn’t want a little guy. He wanted a hulk, a he man, a man mountain, a fucking beast.
Someone like Bo, in other words.
Bo kept talking, his words soft, low, urgent. And as he talked, Rudy felt himself growing.
Much taller, much broader, much thicker, much heavier.
“I know what you did to Ray Alcantar,” Rudy said, while all this was going on. His clothes had disappeared and through it all he was flexing and squeezing his rapidly growing muscles. “And I remember when Amari Jenkins was a worn out old man named Horace and a couple of months ago Elizabeth Dupuy’s dad wasn’t a world-ranked powerlifter.”
Bo’s eyes widened.
“I don’t know how you did it,” Rudy said. “And I don’t know how you did this…”
Rudy waved a hand the size of a Virginia ham.
The man who stood in front of Bo was now a good 6’2” or 6’3”—a good two or three inches taller than Bo’s six feet—and gigantically muscled, easily 500 lbs., perhaps well over 500 lbs.
With shoulders that were a good five feet across, forearms that were a good three feet in circumference (as big as Bo’s cobblestoned waist) and biceps significantly larger, a neck the size of a beer keg, quads that looked like they could hold up a 747, and a bulge between his gargantuan legs that would put a thoroughbred to shame.
The ham-sized hand reached out, attached itself to Bo’s belt, and lifted him into the air, as if he weighed no more than a kitten. He brought Bo’s head to his thumb-sized nipple and the big man latched on.
“That’s a good boy.”
Rudy’s voice was so deep it cause the walls to vibrate.
The walls of their home in the hills, the one they’d bought after they’d made their first $10 million, the one with a hot tub big enough to accommodate more than 800 lbs. of muscle.
“I don’t know how I did it either,” Bo confessed.
Rudy caressed the mountain of muscle in his gigantic arms.
“I know you don’t,” he said, his 15-inch cock rising to full mast.
“But I’m glad you did!”