The rider

by Richard Jasper

 In the near future, Immersive Reality allows you to directly connect to another person’s sensorium, experiencing all of their senses. At the end of his life, Roger Jessup decides it’s time to go out with a bang. It’s one helluva ride!

Added: Sep 2020 6,485 words 2,509 views 4.8 stars (5 votes)

Similarly Named Stories: You might be looking for: “The writer” by Frank Easky.


In the near future…

Roger Jessup looked at himself in the mirror. It was the eve of his 59th birthday.

“And likely to be my last,” he muttered.

He didn’t look like he was dying. At 5’11, he was a beefy 215 pounds, with broad shoulders, thick chest, nice arms, big legs. His waist was thicker than he would like but it was still smaller than his chest. Not bad at all, really, he thought.

But definitely not the body he’d dreamed of. All those years futzing around in the gym, all those diets (weight gain diets, weight loss diets, fasting diets, cleansing diets), multiple trainers. None of which ever got him close to what he wanted: the look of an offseason competitive bodybuilder. Too many distractions: work, friends, family obligations, relationships. And a lot of whacking off, looking at an endless stream of pix and vids. And now. “Six months,” the doctor had said. “Maybe a year. It’s all about statistics, of course, no one can give you a definitive answer. It’s whether you do better or worse.” It didn’t matter.

As soon as he’d heard the verdict a week ago, Roger knew what he would do. He cashed in his chips and made an appointment with Fantasy Rides.

“How does it work?” Roger asked the salesman. “Is it like VR?”

Brett Sullivan was about 25, model handsome, blond, well put-together, and completely condescending. “Oh, no, no, no,” he said, with you ancient dork written plain as day on his face. “In VR, you’re receiving realistic images, sounds and other sensations that replicate a real environment or create an imaginary setting, simulating your physical presence.”

Well, at least he can memorize a script, Roger thought.

“IR—Immersive Reality—connects you electronically with a real person’s sensorium,” Sullivan continued. “The actor, or, as we say, the carrier, is fitted out with nanoscopic devices that record his physical, emotional, and mental state, which is then conveyed directly to you, the Rider, via a similar set of devices that you will wear.”

Roger raised an eyebrow. He’d read the research, he’d read the reviews, and nothing Brett said contradicted what he had learned thus far.

“When the session is over, the devices are removed—if you’ve ever done a sleep study or an EKG the ledes are similar to those, slightly sticky but otherwise unobtrusive—and you’re good to go,” Sullivan said, adding. “Oh, yes, also: no wires! It’s really quite comfortable.”

Roger thought for a moment. “It’s a lot of money…” he began.

Brett interrupted. “Well, actually, for most of our customers, it’s pocket change,” he pointed out. “But it’s also the case that anyone really interested in the experience is entitled to a fifteen-minute test drive.” Roger perked up at that. The idea of handing over a cool half million bucks—half his cashed out life insurance policy—for a 24-hour adventure was causing him to have some second thoughts.

“In that case,” Roger replied. “Where’s the car?” The totally blank expression on Sullivan’s face told Roger everything he needed to know—this city kid had never actually been for a test ride.

“If you will follow me…”

This is amazing, Roger said to himself.

Physically, his body was in the equivalent of a small treatment room. Low lights, lots of equipment, in the middle a very luxe analogue of a dentist’s chair, on which Roger, in light-weight pajamas, reclined, eyes closed, a couple of electrodes (“ledes,” the techs called them) placed at his temples, two more behind his earlobes. Mentally, Roger was looking out of the eyes of another human being, in this case one Michael Wellstone, a Fantasy Rides employee responsible for client orientation.

“Mr. Jessup, in a paid session you would not only see out of my eyes,” Wellstone said. “But you would feel everything that I feel. From snapping my fingers…”

Wellstone held up his fingers and demonstrated.

“To blowing my nose…”

“To eating a candy bar…”

It was amazing. He could see and hear everything Wellstone was doing, as if his consciousness was located two centimeters behind the bridge of Wellstone’s nose, instead of two centimeters behind his own!

“What you won’t experience,” Wellstone continued, “are my own thoughts. And in a paid session, the carrier won’t address you since he or she won’t have met you, as I did, and won’t know who you are, thus preserving your anonymity.”

Will I…?

“As you will have noticed, while you are connected to the carrier, in this case me, you are entirely passive,” Wellstone added, not reading Roger’s mind but anticipating his question. “You won’t actually be under, as you would with anesthesia, but it will be as if you are in deep REM sleep. You won’t be able to move or gesture or speak. Which is why we have extensive monitoring a team of three techs with you at all times to monitor your condition. If for any reason we need to pause the ride, they will attend to it.”

An hour later Roger was back in Brett Sullivan’s office.

“I’m in,” Roger said.

Sullivan smiled his totally fake smile. He had known it the minute he set eyes on Roger. “Now, about your carrier,” he said. “As I’m sure you are aware, $500K is the ultimate experience, 24 hours with one of our five top actors. We certainly have other…”

Roger interrupted. “Jake Hardman,” Roger said. “Or no dice.”

Sullivan shrugged his shoulders. “I only suggest the others because the Ride can be a very overwhelming experience,” he explained. “Many of our customers repeat the experience three or four times or more. At least half repeat it at least once. And, as you have noted, it is a sizeable expenditure.” Roger’s smile was just as fake as Sullivan’s. “You let me worry about that,” he said. “Just get me Hardman. And I want him on April 11th.” Sullivan tapped his fingers together. “I’m not sure…” he began. Roger interrupted. “I checked his schedule already,” Roger said. “Unless you’re online scheduling tool is lying, he’s available.” Sullivan stood and extended his hand.

“We will see you here at 5 a.m. on the 11th of April.”

Jake Hardman looked at himself in the mirror.

What a fucking God, he thought.

Jake, the most successful Immersive Reality actor in the short history of the field, was a bit conceited perhaps but most people would agree with his assessment. Twenty-nine years old, Hardman was 6’5” tall and weighed 275 pounds with body fat in the single digits. His ridiculously wide shoulders framed a 55-inch chest that tapered down to a 32-inch waist, itself only slightly larger than his 30-inch quads, and perfectly offset by biceps that measured 22 inches.

Plus wavy dark hair, brilliant green eyes, long curly lashes, full pouty lips, brilliant white teeth, a strong jaw with a chin dimple. Since taking up bodybuilding at age 16 he had kept his body completely shaven, the better to show off his glistening muscles, which was more of a production every year—if Hardman ever lost his razor, he would be furry as fuck. As it was, he kept multiple shave clubs in business.

And then there was his dick.

“Yeah, Monster, you like what you see, don’t you?”

Soft it was nine inches but it was rarely soft when Hardman stood in front of the mirror. At full mast, as it was now, it was fully a foot long and nine inches in circumference, perfectly proportioned and smooth as silk, a drop of precum glistening at the very tip.

Before joining Fantasy Rides five years previously, Hardman had modeled for Colt and similar publications and done a fair amount of softcore porn, mostly jackoff / muscle worship videos. He was resolutely straight and had zero interest in being gay for pay. When Fantasy Rides was announced and once he understood the concept, he was one of the first to sign up.

“I don’t care who the rider is, male or female,” he pointed out. “I don’t have to interact with them, I just need to give them a good show.”

From the beginning he had been FR’s most successful “carrier,” doing a couple of 24-hour shows per week along with innumerable shorter stints. His earnings to date were pushing $200 million and his investment portfolio was worth three times that much.

“Why do I still do it?” he asked, when asked. “Because I love it!” Which most people interpreted as “he loves looking at himself…” And they were right.

Even so, Jake had determined that it was just about time to hang up his hat. In six months he was turning 30 and he had decided it was time to branch out into something new, possibly something a bit more respectable.

Go out on a high note, he told himself. Then rule the world.

Roger showed up at Fantasy Rides promptly at 5 a.m. on April 11th, his 59th birthday.

“Your ride won’t begin until 8 a.m.,” Dr. Harkness said. A petite blonde, Emma Harkness looked more like a college co-ed than an attending physician with an MD / PhD to her credit. “Jake isn’t an early riser. We will spend the time between now and then getting you prepped, establishing baselines with the monitoring equipment, and so forth.”

All according to the background reading, Roger thought to himself. “What about, uh, comfort needs?” he asked. Harkness had the decency to blush. “You’ve been fasting since 8 p.m., yes?” Roger nodded. “Then we should have no problem,” Harkness continued. “The IV will keep you hydrated. The fluid contains nutrients that will prevent you from getting hungry, plus they will keep your blood sugar in check and so forth. And then there’s this…”

This was an adult diaper. Roger had intuited as much but the background reading hadn’t been specific.

“Oh, lovely,” he said, rolling his eyes. Harkness favored him with a wry smile. “Chances are you won’t need it,” she said. “And believe me it beats the alternatives.” I don’t even want to think about it!

“Shall we get on with it?”

In addition to the ledes at his temples and behind his earlobes, others were placed:

• Under his nose

• At the corners of his mouth

• At the base of his neck

• On his fingers, palms, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, calves, ankles, and toes

• On his nipples


Harkness nodded.

“Customer reports consistently indicate they are part of what makes it so real…”

And last but not least:

• His nads

• His dick

• His anus

All of which took a bit more than two hours.

“Mr. Jessup,” Harkness said. “Now that you are prepped we are going to use a mild sedative and an alpha current to put you into a light trance. You will be vaguely conscious of what is going on around you but it will feel a lot like a nap.”

A technician tweaked the IV tubing and Harkness flipped a switch.

“You’ll be in under in about five minutes and you’ll stay that way until we establish the connection with Mr. Hardman, at which point you will enter a deep sleep, although it won’t seem that way to you. At that point your consciousness will be directly linked with Mr. Hardman’s sensorium. From the point of view of your mind, you will experience what HE experiences. Any questions?”

Roger shook his head.

“Best birthday present ever,” he said softly.

Harkness chuckled.

“You bet!”

Jake’s bedside phone rang at 7:55 a.m. He picked up.

“We’re ready when you are, Mr. Hardman,” the technician said.

“Copy that,” Jake replied. “I’m good to go. Tell the Rider to fascinate his seatbelt.”

Jake threw off the covers, stood up and stretched, then padded to the bathroom.

He stood in front of the toilet and waited for his morning wood to subside enough to let out his morning piss. While waiting, he cracked his neck, scratched his chin, fingered his nipple.

“Aaaah, that’s more like it,” he said, as the stream began.

Let ’em have a look, he thought to himself and shifted his gaze downward.

Monster, as usual, was going to town.

Like a fucking fire hydrant.

When the torrent subsided to a trickle, and then a drop or two, Jake wrapped his meaty hand around Monster and gave him a good shake. Like everything else about him, Jake’s hand was big and muscular and it still encircled less than half of Monster’s semi-hard length.

Then it was time for a shave.

“Hello, good looking,” Jake told the mirror, with a wink. He ran the hot water, ran a wash cloth over his rugged face, then lathered up. He had trimmed his body the night before—no time for that today. The blade felt good on his rugged jaw but the cleft in his chin gave him trouble, as usual.

Fuck it, Jake thought. Maybe I’ll grow a goatee.

Then he stepped into the shower.

Jake’s shower was the most erotic experience of Roger’s life.

The water running down Jake’s thick, sculpted pecs. The feel of Jake’s meaty, callused hands as he lathered up his thick, wavy hair. The heft of Jake’s cock, the sag of his balls, the resounding thwock when Jake slapped his rock hard abs.

Oh, yes, Roger thought. He knows his business.

So thick.

So muscular.

So powerful.

So hard.

After his shower, Jake toweled off and shrugged on a light-weight terry cloth robe. He sat at his kitchen island, switched on the television. He had a yen for Savannah Guthrie. He ate:

• A giant bowl of oatmeal.

• A twelve-egg omelet.

• A pound of turkey bacon.

• Six biscuits.

• Three Sumo tangelos.

• A handful of nuts.

• A sleeve of Saltine crackers.

Then he headed to the bathroom to take a dump.

My God, Roger thought. This is the most boring thing I’ve ever done!

Savannah Guthrie, really?

And how can he just sit here, waiting?

Doesn’t he know how to read?

Where’s the fricking Sports Illustrated.

Jake headed to Solstice Gym, top down on the Vette, as usual.

This is worth the price of admission, Jake thought.

It was push day, which had the advantage of pumping Jake’s two best features, his huge, perfectly sculpted chest, and his huge, perfectly sculpted arms.

Incline bench.

Decline bench.

Pec deck flyes.

Cable crossovers.

It went on for a long time.

Roger was in heaven.

After Jake’s workout, another long shower, followed by the steam room and sauna, then another shower, dressed, and home again.

Then time for an hour-long nap.

Roger was bored out of his mind.

I’m paying, what, $20,000 for a nap?!!

Jake had a date that night with Priscilla, one of his first string girls, but he also had an afternoon appointment with Roxanne, one of his third-stringers.

Roxanne was tall, dark-haired, green-eyed, and pale. Six feet in flats, she was nearly as tall as Jake in stiletto heels, and at first glance they could have been mistaken for siblings.

Part of that was that she was gorgeous and she knew it. Part of was that she never smiled and her eyes were, quite simply, predatory. Her general expression was that of an eagle about to descend on a particularly well-fed rodent.

That’s why she was third-string, not first.

Jake’s first-string girls were the ones who accompanied him in public and Roxanne would never do, in that regard: she unnerved people.

On the other hand, she was great in the sack.

Roxanne, who came from a very privileged background, had studied opera before she realized the only parts she wanted were those of male villains. It had taken her no time at all, however, to learn an essential opera singer trick, being able to unhinge her jaw at will. (She had had practice.)

So she gave remarkable head, even to someone as prodigiously endowed as Jake.

Plus she liked it rough and, unlike most of Jake’s girls, she could take it rough.

In fact, she could take it all, whichever orifice Jake felt like plugging. He often wondered whether she’d had some sort of surgery to make her accommodating “down there,” as he thought of it.

When at last it was time to cum, Roxanne was incoherent but Jake was totally focused, his breathing ragged but his mind completely dominated by the power of his own pending…


Roger was fascinated.

He was intrigued.

He was repulsed.

He was ecstatic.

Before he had owned up to the fact he was gay, Roger had had a few fumbling attempts with women, each of which failed when it turned out his ability to sustain an erection completely disappeared the closer his penis came to a vagina.

His sex life with men had been satisfactory enough over the years, some really great sex interspersed with mostly really mundane sex, and, over the past decade, as his years and gay male ageism caught up with him, very little sex at all.

The feel of Jake’s hands on his enormous tool, the sensation of Roxanne’s hot mouth as she inched her way down its prodigious length, the power that thrummed through Jake’s body as he took her from behind.

It was amazing.

It was incredible.

It was such a fucking turn-on.

It was…


The monitor shrieked as Roger’s body convulsed in the softly lighted room.

“Crash cart, stat,” the technician shouted.





Jake convulsed, then fell across Roxanne.

“Jesus Fucking Christ, Jake, get your big ass off me,” she shouted, coming out of her coital trance.

Jake drooled. His eyes fluttered.

“Jake? Jake, honey, what’s wrong?” she asked.


“Crap! Crap! Crap! I don’t fucking need this!”

She reached for her phone.

“This is Roxanne,” she said when her contact at FR picked up. “You guys need to get up here stat! Your boy is having a seizure or something!”

And I’m not sticking around, she added silently.

Roxanne pulled on her skin-tight little black dress and her heels, grabbed her purse, and headed out the door.

Her panties and bra were in a heap next to the bed when the medics arrived.

“Where am I?” he said when he opened his eyes.

He was in a bed, propped up, in a room that smelled vaguely institutional and that sounded, now he thought about it, medical.

The bright light coming through the large windows made it hard to focus but he could tell there were people—two men and a woman? Two women and a man?—standing around his bed.

“You had a little incident,” a male voice said. “So now you’re here at St. Margaret’s.”

He was trying to remember where St. Margaret’s was.

“I need to ask you a few questions,” the man said. “They will sound dumb but this is perfectly standard after someone regains consciousness.”

I lost consciousness?

“What’s your name?”

He licked his lips.

“Roger Jessup,” he said.

There was a muffled gasp.

One man, one woman, he thought.

“And what day is it?” the doctor continued.

He groaned.

“Beats me, doc,” he replied. “Last I knew, it was my birthday. April 11th.”

Very softly, urgent voices conferred.

“Doctor, nurse, we need a moment alone with Mr. Hardman,” the man said.

Roger passed out.

“Tell us what you remember,” the woman said when he woke up.

His eyes focused.

“Oh, hi, Emma,” he said. “What the hell happened?”

Emma Harkness licked her lips.

“Well, you gave us quite a scare,” she replied, and it was clear by the expression on her face that she was still scared.

“I was in the Rider room,” he said. “On the bed. I was under but I was aware that the lighting was dim, the machines were beeping, the techs were moving around.

“Jake was with that woman, what’s her name? Roxanne, that’s it. They were really going at it. I couldn’t tell whether I felt stimulated or repulsed. And then…”

The man standing next to Harkness erupted.

“Oh, for crying out loud, Hardman, give it a rest! Tell us how you knew your rider was Roger Jessup and why are you bringing that up now?!”

His eyes focused.

“Oh, hello, Brett,” he said, biting off the words. “Great to see you, too!”

You could steam coming out of Sullivan’s ears.

“It’s not funny, Hardman,” Sullivan continued. “You know you’re not supposed to have contact with riders. You’re not even supposed to know who they are.”

His eyes flew open.

“Why do you keep calling me ‘Hardman?’” he demanded.

Sullivan glared at him.

“We’re just trying to figure out what’s going on,” Harkness said. “Your incident, with Roxanne, happened at the exactly the same time as Mr. Jessup’s, you know, and…”

“What incident?” he barked.

Harkness took his hand.

His big, thick, meaty, muscular hand, the one with the great tan and the perfectly, professionally trimmed nails.

“When you were with Roxanne, you had a seizure,” Harkness explained. “At the exact same time Mr. Jessup, who we didn’t know you knew, had a coronary.”

He shook his head.

I’m still under, obviously.

“Coronary?” he asked.

Harkness nodded.

But this is no dream, he thought. I must still be riding.

“Fatal coronary,” Harkness replied.

His blood pressure spiked, the monitors started going off, the doctor and the nurse came in and shooed Harkness and Sullivan away.

“I’m going to give you a mild sedative,” the doctor said. “You need to get some rest…”

Lights out.

A few hours later, he awoke, needing to pee.

He threw off the covers, untangled the IV tube and monitor ledes, and shuffled towards the bathroom.

He was…


He was…


He was…

(reaching down)

Hung like a horse.

My God, he thought. I really AM Hardman!

Back in the hospital bed, he pondered.

I am Roger Jessup, he said to himself. I’m 59 years old. I just paid half a million bucks to go for a Fantasy Ride. I live at 4607 Fairmont Drive in Fishers, Indiana. I have less than a year to live.

He looked down at himself.

“And I’m clearly inhabiting the body of Jake Hardman,” he said aloud. “How can this be?”

Where does Hardman live? He asked himself.

“1005 Ocean Boulevard, Penthouse 22A, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, of course,” he said. “But how do I know that?”

Over the next half hour, Roger asked himself dozens of other questions about Jake Hardman:

• His birthday

• His parents’ and siblings’ names

• The name of his first pet

• His Social Security number

• His bank balance

Whoaaaa! That’s a lot!

• Whether Roxanne was his girlfriend.

He keeps THREE different strings of girls? That’s insane!

And so on and so forth.

By the end of the half hour, Roger realized he knew everything there was to know about Jake Hardman. Things, in fact, that only Jake Hardman could know.

Jake, are you in here somewhere?





Am I still Roger Jessup?

He asked the same questions about himself that he had asked about Jake.

He knew all the answers.

“This is too fucking weird,” he said to the room.

But I think I’m going to have to play along with it, he told himself.

The St. Margaret’s doc—Jeffrey Bean, apparently—returned the next morning.

“Let’s try the questions again, shall we?”

He nodded.

“What’s your name?”

Jake Hardman.

“Where do you live?”

1005 Ocean Blvd, Penthouse 22A, Fort Lauderdale.

“What day is it?”

I’m assuming that yesterday was the 12th and that today is the 13th. Of April, that is. Unless I was out longer than I thought?

“No, you were unconscious for about 12 hours, that’s all,” Dr. Bean said, reassuringly. “Who’s the President?”

Last I checked it was still the Orange One, God Forbid.

Bean chuckled.

“We still don’t have any idea what caused you to seize but we have monitored everything there is to monitor for the past 24 hours and can’t find anything wrong with you,” he continued. “I’m going to arrange for your discharge papers but I would like to see you in my office later this week to do some follow-up tests, okay?”

He nodded.

“Whatever you say, Doc. I just need to get out of here and get some fresh air.”

Bean patted him on the knee.

“Good man,” he said. “But one more thing: No gym until after you’ve seen me in my office, okay?”

Jake Roger Hardman Jessup nodded.

He took Uber back to the condo. The clothes were all clothes that he recognized. Same with the jewelry, the watch, the wallet (stuffed with hundred dollar bills; Hardman apparently thought $500 was reasonable walking around money.)

The doorman buzzed him in, his key fit the slot next to “22” in the elevator, another one opened the door.

He plopped himself in the Eames leather recliner in front of a wall of windows and watched the offshore cargo ships and the close in jet skis and hang gliders and speedboats for a long, long time.

Eventually, he roused himself for the recliner and took a seat at the kitchen counter in front of Jake’s laptop. He googled:

“Roger Allan Jessup”

And there it was.

Roger Allan Jessup, 59, of Fishers, Indiana, died Tuesday, April 11, while visiting Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Jessup, a native of Oneonta, New York, received his bachelor’s degree from Emory University in Atlanta. He moved to Central Indiana after receiving his MBA from Georgia State University. He spent 20 years working for Eli Lilly before opening his own consulting firm. For the past 10 years he lived in Fishers.

He is survived by his mother, Sylvia Jessup Nash (Herb), of Oneonta, NY; his sister, Karen Jessup Hart (Jim), of Raleigh, NC; a nephew, Christopher Hart of San Jose, CA, and a niece, Jennifer Hart, of Philadelphia, PA.

Arrangements are being handled by Flanner and Buchanan, Broad Ripple. The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made in Roger’s name to Emory University or the charity of your choice.

“It’s really true,” he said. “It’s a not a dream. There’s no going back.”

But what to do, what to do?

How to lead his life in another man’s body?

How to lead his life when everyone he knew thought he was dead?

How to lead a life when everyone who knew Jake Hardman was a stranger?

After he received a clean bill of health from Dr. Bean, he met with Sullivan and Harkness.

“That’s it,” he said. “I’m out.”

Sullivan’s mouth twisted in a snarl.

“You can’t…”

He raised an eyebrow.

“You’re just lucky you don’t have two corpses,” he said.

Harkness started to protest.

“I don’t know what it was,” he said. “I don’t know why I know the Rider was this guy Roger Jessup. But I don’t believe in coincidences.”

He held up a finger before Harkness could continue.

“But I seem to have suffered no ill effects, Dr. Harkness, so no big deal,” he said. “I don’t hold it against you, Emma.”

It was Sullivan’s turn to open his yap.

“As for you, twerp,” he said. “Don’t even think about it. My contract is ironclad and it says I can walk whenever I like.”

So he did and he started making changes in Jake Hardman’s life.

First he dismissed the girls, the first, second, and third strings, all 15 of them. Priscilla, who thought he was going to put a ring on it, was the most miffed. She got $5 million. The others got a million apiece, except for Roxanne, who got $2 million and a pendant necklace with a solid gold shark on it.

From one shark to another, the note read.

It being South Florida, his attorney knew how to make work things that might not fly in other places. Like the multiple shell companies that purported to hold a life insurance policy on Roger Jessup, one that paid out $2 million each for Roger’s mother and sister and $1 million each for his niece and nephew.

And Emory University was more than a little surprised to receive a gift of $1 million “from Jake Hardman in memory of my dear friend Roger Allan Jessup.”

He had to chuckle over that one.

The Immersive Reality world was totally shocked by Jake Hardman’s departure—”creative differences,” according to Fantasy Rides, “we wish him well…”—and even more astounded when he came out, announcing that he was taking a year off “to find myself” before pursuing his next entertainment endeavor.

He buzzed his hair.

He stopped shaving.

He bought the local Solstic franchise.

He spent almost all of his time at the gym.

What do I really want? He had asked himself.

The answer was simple, really.

I want to grow!

And in Jake Hardman’s memories were every tool, concept, idea, routine, and motivation that a man could use to make himself the biggest thing on Earth.

The first month he put on 25 pounds of solid muscle. At 6’5 and 300 pounds he was moving out of the porn star niche and into the competitive bodybuilder category. Or, rather, he would have been if he hadn’t grown a pelt that would put the likes of Pete Kuzak and Carl Hardwicke—erstwhile crushes of Roger, with no idea who their current day replacements were—to shame.

The second month he gained 35 pounds. He competed in his first powerlifting contest, setting a world record when he benched 1200 pounds, more than 3 ½ times his bodyweight. That was in June.

Before Labor Day rolled around he was humongous, 450 pounds of dense, steel-hard, ripped to shreds beef. His stats were off the charts:

• Chest 90 inches
• Waist 45 inches
• Quads 50 inches
• Biceps 38 inches
• Neck 36 inches

And he was benching 2000 pounds.

By that point he had 75,000,000 followers on Instagram, which put him up there with Dwayne Johnson, Neil Patrick Harris, and Barron Trump.

And he was still a virgin.

It wasn’t like there weren’t plenty of men (and women) ready to fall at his feet. Too many of them, in fact. All of them, as far as he could tell, vain, shallow, avaricious, just plain vicious, or some combination of the preceding.

The nice guys, if there were any—And I was one, he thought, so there must be others—were too afraid to talk to him, apparently.

And then one day…

The handsome blond kid walked into Solstice Fort Lauderdale and asked to speak to Jake Hardman. He looked at the webcam monitor.

Not bad.

Tallish, shaggy blondish hair, sexy dark stubble, extremely broad shouldered, obviously very well-built. And vaguely familiar somehow.

“Send him in,” he said, when the front desk staff buzzed his office.

He stood when the guy walked in (who, now that he thought about it, was probably late 20s, early 30s, so definitely not a kid.) Probably 6’2 or thereabouts and even more muscular in person.

250 at least, he thought. I wanna see what he has under that shirt.

“Jake Hardman,” he said, extending his calloused meat hook.

The guy took the proffered hand and gave it an impressive squeeze.

“Christopher Roger Hart,” he replied.

Jake staggered.

“I see the name means something to you,” Hart said with a wry smile.

It can’t be, he thought. This can’t be my Chris!

“Are you, I mean, uh, could it be…?”

Chris nodded.

“Yessir,” he said. “That’s right. I’m Roger Jessup’s nephew.”

But, but, but…

“But, but, but…”

Chris smiled.

“I began to put two and two together after I was notified of your gift to Emory in Roger’s name,” Chris said. “I’m an alum, too, or maybe he never told you that?”

Jake leaned against his desk, slack-jawed.

“And, much as I loved Roger—he was a great uncle—I knew he didn’t have six million in life insurance hanging around. There’s just no way he had resources like that. It came from you, didn’t it?”

Slowly, Jake nodded.

“You were lovers?” Chris asked.

Jake snorted.

“Uh, sorry, no, I didn’t mean it like that. He was an outstanding friend but we were never lovers.”

Chris shrugged his massive shoulders.

“I’m sorry to say I hadn’t seen him since I graduated from college 10 years ago,” he said.

It was Jake’s turn to nod.

“That’s right, you turned 32 this year, didn’t you?” he said, as much to himself as to Chris. “You were much smaller then!”

Chris gave Jake an odd look.

“He told you how old I was?”

Jake shook himself.

“He told me a lot and, the dumb jock looks notwithstanding, I have an outstanding memory,” he pointed out.

Chris smiled.

“Well, that’s really all I wanted to know,” he said. “That and to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve given all of us a great deal of economic security, especially my granny, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Jake looked at the man—the big, handsome, virile, extremely studly man—he had known since the day he was born.

“Would you care to join me for dinner?” he found himself asking. “I’d like to hear more.”

October 11th

The alarm sounded but he didn’t reach out for it. Any more that was Chris’s job.

Besides, he thought. It’s my birthday. Thirty years old.

His eyes flew open.

“Jake?” he asked.

Chris chuckled.

“Last I checked, that was your name, sleepyhead!” Chris said, prodding tugging on his lover’s gargantuan arms. He’d packed on 50 pounds in the time he’d been with Jake but so had Jake. There was no way 6’2 and 300 pounds was going to budge 6’5 and 500 pounds of muscle.

“Mom and Sis and Granny are flying in at noon,” Chris continued. “We need to hustle.”



Do you know where you’ve been?

Right here. All the time.

Am I still Roger?

I am you and you are me. Does it need to be more than that?

“No,” they said. “I guess not.”

Chris laughed out loud.

“You’re funny when you’re waking up,” he said. “C’mon, Birthday Boy, let’s go grow!”

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