The Power of Three
Is it really possible for three people to love each other equally?
Trisha Marks-Davidson has been lucky enough to win the love of two smoking, hot men, but working two jobs to make ends meet while the trio strives to build a fledgling business has her struggling to juggle their demands for attention, both in and out of the bedroom.
Meanwhile, her men, Tommy and Ken, have troubles of their own. Feelings of jealousy and insecurity test their friendship, not to mention the difficulty they face coping with their growing attraction to each other.
Trisha Marks-Davidson is determined to prove true love between three exists. She’s been lucky enough to win the hearts of two smoking hot men, but working two jobs to make ends meet while the trio strives to build a fledgling business has her struggling to juggle their demands for attention, both in and out of the bedroom.
Since childhood, Tommy Marks and Ken Davidson have shared a dynamic synergy, complementing each other perfectly—is it any wonder they both fell hard for the same girl? Feelings of jealousy and insecurity test their friendship, not to mention the difficulty they face coping with their growing attraction to each other.
Remove any one of the three rings from their Brunnian link, and the whole shebang will fall apart. Neither man is willing to give up Trisha nor are they able to get along without each other. Trisha must find a way to become the glue that binds them all together.
Warning: The Power of Three contains blush-inducing, erotic, love scenes, graphic language and the positive portrayal of an alternative lifestyle, including M/M attraction and relations.
* * * * *
Trisha gritted her teeth as the irksome beeping of one of the three alarm clocks in her room put an abrupt end to her afternoon slumber. She rolled over to lie flat on her back. Staring at the ceiling, she sighed heavily. No rest for the wicked. Reaching over, she pressed the button that would allow her a ten minute reprieve.
Exhaustion weighed her down as if she had a twenty-pound barbell resting on her chest. The daily grind of working two jobs was getting stressful but there was no help for it. She’d sunken nearly every dime of her inheritance from her grandmother into Marks-Davidson Computer Technology, the business she had started with the two men she loved, Tommy Marks and Ken Davidson.
Satisfying two strapping young studs and providing them with equal attention took a toll on her body, but was certainly a lot more fun than leasing apartments and ringing up groceries. Sweet memories of her two husbands reminded her why she was working so hard.
From the beginning, Trisha was intrigued by Ken Davidson’s perfect mixture of fascinating brilliance and ethnic beauty. Physically, Ken took after the Japanese father he had never met. Silky black hair and almond-shaped, silver-gray eyes showcased his Asian flair. Aside from his handsome face, Ken’s sexy behind and slender, well-defined musculature also caught Trisha’s eye, but it was his brilliance that kept her interested. When prodded to open his mouth, Ken could speak intelligently on nearly any subject.
Because of Ken’s reserved nature, Trisha had never expected Ken to have such a lively and outgoing best friend. At first glance, the two seemed like polar opposites—the tall, hunky, blonde athlete versus the sexy intellectual with the average build, but something more was afoot.
In a word, the dynamic duo had synergy. She had never seen two people play off of each other so well. Back then and still to the present day, Tommy drew the seemingly mute Ken into the action and served as a sort of human security blanket that allowed him to relax while Ken reeled Tommy in when he went over the top. Even more impressive, they were always setting up little opportunities for the other without even being asked. Ken’s massive brain power made Tommy’s endless flight of ideas concrete. Gradually, Trisha was accepted further into the fold, allowing her opportunities to hang out with the two, both together and individually.
Trisha found herself faced with a dilemma. She was interested in Ken but was enamored with Tommy too and couldn’t decide which one she liked best. Alone, neither of them were perfect boyfriend material. On the other hand, when the three of them hung out as a trio, she always had the time of her life. Besides, if she made either man her lover, the change in dynamics could disrupt the special synergy between Tommy and Ken and ruin the niche she had carved within.
All it took for Trisha’s dream of having her Tommy and eating her Ken too was a ton of liquid courage, a game of strip poker and a hurricane—that’s right; an actual act of God—to turn the tides. One fateful night in 1996, she hunkered down with Tommy and Ken in their college apartment to wait out big, bad Hurricane Fran.
Now in most regards, Fran was quite the bitch. She brought a lot of destruction and even some death to the Atlantic coast, but Fran also set the scene for a night of pure magic—the booze chipped away at any inhibitions the three might have held while the fear of not having a tomorrow gave the sexually charged atmosphere a sense of urgency that none of them could have ignored. As Tommy and Ken worked together to give Trisha the night of the life, their incredible synergy was never more evident. The fantastic evening of sweet debauchery was more than Trisha could have asked for so when Ken and Tommy both professed their love for her and agreed to her demands for a three-way relationship, she felt downright greedy.
Trisha forced herself to sit up straight in bed and stretched before reaching over to turn off the alarm clock with a minute to spare on her snooze. She had an hour and fifteen minutes to get ready and make the ten minute drive to the grocery store. Luckily, she had washed her hair that morning before going to the apartment management office but she still wanted to get another quick shower to freshen up before leaving.
Trisha took a deep breath and hopped out of bed. Nothing to it but to do it… Stark naked and yawning, she walked toward the bathroom. Before crawling into her bed, she had shed all her clothes and carefully hung up her dry-clean-only suit with its short skirt and silvery-gray sheen. Her tired feet tried to make her regret purchasing the strappy heels she had worn earlier that day, but a little discomfort wasn’t enough to turn her against the fabulous footwear that literally matched her outfit perfectly. Screw you, achy feet. Be thankful you won’t show behind the register tonight or you wouldn’t get to wear sneakers now either.
Trisha tucked her hair under a light pink, dollar store shower cap to keep her sandy blond tresses dry before she got in the shower to enjoy ten minutes of steamy, hot water. Thank God for good water pressure and showerheads with a massage option. The wet warmth penetrated her skin, comforting her achy back as she quickly soaped up and rinsed.
She grabbed the blue terrycloth towel she had thrown over the side of the stall and dried her skin. Groaning, Trisha rolled her eyes up at the ceiling as she remembered the load of dirty towels and linens she had stowed in the washer before collapsing for her hour-long nap. She shed the shower cap, dropped it into the sink, and carefully hung her towel up to dry.
Before she could forget, she dashed out into the hallway that linked the bedroom to the only bathroom in her seven-hundred-square feet apartment. Turning to the left, she took three steps before opening the sliding door that hid the washer and dryer her in-laws had given her and Tommy as a wedding present. Hurriedly, she grabbed an armful of wet towels from the washing machine and started to move them to the dryer but stopped short and sighed when she opened the door to the dryer and saw the shorts and t-shirts residing there. Trisha dropped the wet laundry back into the washer, grabbed a white, plastic laundry basket from where it had been stored atop the dryer and tossed in all the dry clothing. Huffing and puffing, she wrestled the damp towels back out of the washer and threw them into the dryer and started the machine. Do those two think they live in a hotel?
She picked up the basket of clean clothes and carried it the twenty paces it took her to walk down the short hallway and across the living room where she abruptly dumped the clothing all over the couch and sat the empty basket on the coffee table, strategically placing it to block the television. Maybe Tommy and Ken would get the hint and fold their own damn clothes.
While smiling and giggling to herself, Trisha reveled in the tiny display of petty revenge as she made her way back into the L-shaped hallway and took a left into the bedroom to get dressed. As rentals went, the place she shared with Tommy and Ken was pretty nice with hardwood in the kitchen and living room, up-to-date kitchen appliances, and new carpet in the bedroom. They could never have afforded a posh apartment in such a safe area of San Antonio if it weren’t for her job.
Trisha stepped into her walk-in closet, and a few minutes later she was all dressed up in her regulation khaki pants, white polo shirt, and lovely, red, uniform vest. She checked herself out in the cheap, full-length mirror Ken had hung on the back of the walk-in closet’s door, making sure her zipper was up and nothing was noticeably askew.
Using her brush and a coated rubber band, she pulled her mane up on top of her head in a modified ponytail loop. Carefully, she sculpted the loop of hair to look like a bow, pinning it down with bobby pins before giving it a heavy dose of hairspray.
She checked the clock, lifted an eyebrow, and smiled to herself. There was just enough time to nuke some leftover pork fried-rice in the microwave and scarf it down before she had to go. As she headed toward the kitchen, the front door swung open and Tommy strutted over the threshold.
As usual, he looked damned fine, rocking a button-down dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and a pair of gray slacks slightly rumbled from the long work day. His shoulders were broad, his body tight, his blond locks were slicked back with business-like elegance. She stopped short to greet him, and he shot her a million-dollar smile that made her knees weak. “Hey there, sexy lady,” he crooned, flashing her some bedroom eyes. Uh oh—no time for that!
Trisha rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Hey,” she replied as she made her way into the kitchen and opened up the refrigerator. Tommy followed her, scooting up behind her to wrap his long, muscular arms around her waist. “Whatcha lookin’ for?” he asked, leaning over to get his head closer to hers.
“I could have sworn there was some leftover Chinese…” she said.
“You mean the pork fried-rice?” he asked innocently.
Trisha sighed, closing the door. “Yeah, that’s what I meant. I guess it’s gone.” Guess I don’t get dinner before work. I’ll just have to grab a soda and a candy bar when I get there.
“I’m pretty sure I saw Ken greedily scarfing it down all by himself,” Tommy fibbed in the most obvious but adorable manner.
Trisha couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, I hope you…I mean, he, enjoyed it.”
Before she could leave the kitchen, Tommy trapped her between the counter and his hard body by placing an arm on each side of her and closing in until he was practically on top of her. “Tommy?” she asked, raising an eyebrow as she looked up at his chiseled jawline and ruggedly handsome features.
He had taken to the fresh-shaven look now that he was a suit-and-tie boss man. Trisha missed the couple-of-days overgrowth she found so sexy, but she understood he wanted to give off a clean-cut appearance to his clients. Unfortunately, he was only managing to make himself look about five years younger. Not exactly the look she imagined the twenty-four-year-old was going for, but Trisha couldn’t bring herself to tell him.
Tommy tilted his head to the side and gave a smile that left no doubt what he wanted. In spite of the flutter of her heart and the tingling between her legs, Trisha raised her hands in front of her in protest, pushing against his muscular frame. “No, no, no! I have to go to work,” she insisted.
Tommy broke out the puppy dog eyes and Trisha sighed. That adorable expression wore away any resistance she had left. She made one last attempt to wiggle away, but all was lost when he bent down and brushed a kiss across her lips. She closed her eyes, breathing in his fresh but manly scent, a woodsy base of sandalwood with hints of citrus lime, rose, and jasmine. Her knees went a tad wobbly—he always smelled good. Tommy’s hands ran down her sides and made their way to her rear, caressing her bottom over her pants. As much as she didn’t care to get disheveled right before work, Trisha’s nipples were already stiffening as they rubbed against Tommy’s chest, and her resolve was even weaker than her knees.
She moaned as he broke their kiss, but before she could react, he grabbed her, pivoting her body until she was facing the kitchen sink. “Tommy!” She feigned aggravation at his manhandling, but truthfully, she loved it. His forearms crisscrossed in front of her as his large hands and long fingers snuck under her vest, each hand finding a breast to knead. She bit down on her bottom lip, repressing another moan.
Tommy was relentless in his pursuit, using his thumbs to strum her nipples over her shirt and bra. “Seriously, I have to be at work soon…” Her protest melted away into a low whimper as he gave one of her hardening peaks a slight pinch.
Wasting no time, his hands slipped down to unfasten her pants, yanking them down around her knees. Trisha pursed her lips expectantly, just imagining the look on Tommy’s face as he realized she didn’t have on any underwear.
“Oh my, my, you complain, but your lack of panties tells the real story.” Tommy was, unable to hide the smug delight in his voice.
“Only if the story is about a busy woman who didn’t have any clean underwear in her drawer or any time to do another load of laundry between leaving her first job and heading to her second,” she huffed with annoyance.
“Aw, poor thing.” He pushed her head down closer to the sink just before dropping to his knees. Trisha rested her forearms on the small amount of counter bordering the front of the two, side-by-side, stainless steel basins, gasping as Tommy’s hot breath resonated over the now throbbing flesh peeking out from between her thighs.
A tingling sensation chased his tongue across her skin as he lavished her pink folds with wet attention. Trisha moaned as her legs quivered. Tommy teased her, lapping all around the hooded button. He was driving her crazy! She sucked in her breath and let it out along with a long whining moan. She wanted him inside of her. “Hurry, Tommy!” she cried out.
His tongue nudged her clit, sending a shiver up her spine as he slathered the sensitive area with hot saliva. Back and forth, his nimble muscle worked up her senses. She groaned as a single finger breached her opening and pushed all the way up, finding her special spot and giving it a quick rub.
“Eeeeee,” Trisha squealed, nearly hitting her head on the faucet as she lunged forward while lifting up on her toes.
“Where you think you’re goin’,” Tommy asked as he stood and grabbed her hips, pulling her back a tic before placing a palm on the small of her back. Trisha’s hands grasped the counter, her fingers curling over the edge of the sink while her thumbs pressed against the edge as she listened to the sound of Tommy’s opening zipper. Her mouth watered as she hung on for dear life, groaning as Tommy’s long, hard member nudged against her dewy folds. As the head breached her, she moaned, closing her eyes and visualizing every inch as he slowly slid within.
His first thrust was fierce. She cried out, arching her back to get him deeper. Tommy gripped her hips tightly, his thumbs pressing into the flesh of her ass as he yanked her back in time with his rhythm.
“Ah,” she screamed. He was fucking her hard, his pelvis smacking against her cunt while his sac lightly spanked her entrance’s crowning bud. Her temperature rose, heating her skin as his cock swelled. The fullness allowed perfect friction against her sweet spot, sending tremors out from her core to her limbs. She clenched against him as her mind went blank and her body shook in orgasm.
Tommy grunted loudly as he pulled out of her. She slid over about a foot, flopping her torso down over the counter, pressing her cheek against the hard, cool Formica while catching her breath. Vaguely, she noticed Tommy’s flurry of movement next to her. The combination of familiar howling that always accompanied Tommy’s climax and the subtle squelching sound of release jarred her brain to realization. She jolted upright, exclaiming in horror, “You didn’t!”
“Huh?” Tommy’s chest heaved and he was asked, red-faced.
Trisha frowned at the white fluid marring her previously clean counter and sink. “We put our dishes in there, Tommy!” Her tone was scolding.
“Sorry,” he said, fastening his pants. “I was trying to be considerate and keep you clean since you don’t have on any panties.” He raised an eyebrow and bit down on his bottom lip.
Trisha’s nostrils flared as she stood with her pants down around her ankles. While shaking her head, she replied sarcastically, “Well, my hero…” After pulling up and fastening her trousers, she retrieved the generic bleach and water solution from the cabinet under the sink and smacked the bottle on the counter. “Gross! Clean that mess up!”
Tommy took a couple of swaggering steps backward, leaning against the door to the pantry as he gave a cocky smirk and winked. “Yes, ma’am.”
Trisha rolled her eyes. “Don’t be so smug! And while you’re at it, fold the clothes in the living room and put them away!” she demanded as she ran off to the bathroom to tinkle and tidy up before leaving. Tommy followed behind her, slipping into the bathroom with her. She cut her eyes his way. “Do you mind?”
“Nah, go ahead,” he answered. She shot him a look of annoyance. As she washed her hands, he moved in behind her, leaning down and giving her a kiss on the side of the head. “Sorry for jumping you so suddenly, but it’s been a while and I really…”
She cut him off. “That’s fine, but I need to get going.”
Trisha watched Tommy as she straightened her clothes. He gave her his endearing hair toss and smile combo, making it impossible for her to stay annoyed with him. “How ‘bout I throw some of your panties in with my laundry and do a load tonight,” Tommy offered.
Trisha giggled. She couldn’t even be mad that such a scenario seemed to just occur to him. They’d all have to sit down and talk about chores soon, but there was no time for lectures right now. “That would be great,” she said, before allowing him to give her a final kiss. “Later gator,” she added as she grabbed her purse and headed out the door.
As Ken approached the entrance of the apartment he shared with Trisha and Tommy, the door flew open and Trisha nearly knocked right into him. “Whoa!” he cautioned, jumping back as she gasped.
“Sorry!” Trisha said as she got her bearings, teetering as she fought her old nemesis—gravity. “I’m in a hurry.”
Yeah? No shit. Ken grabbed her around the waist to make sure she didn’t fall on her clumsy little butt. He looked her over and instantly saw past the antsy energy that showed up whenever she was afraid of being tardy. Something was off. Trisha’s crimson cheeks weren’t the result of haste. She looked guilty. He opened his arms, pulling her closer before she could bounce off. “Wait a second. I haven’t seen you since last night!”
Trisha’s face morphed into a worried but sympathetic expression. “I’ve missed you, too, but I can’t be late!”
“One little kiss?” he begged, noting the looseness of her normally perfect, cutesy hairstyle. She nodded with a smile before closing her eyes and puckering up. Ken leaned in, pressing his lips against hers and holding her tight against his body as he deepened the kiss. She felt soft, yet firm at the same time. His tongue plunged between her lips, seeking hers hungrily. The oral embrace sent his heart racing but was all too fleeting. Trisha broke the kiss and squirmed out of his arms while pulling away.
“Bye, cowboy!” she said, panting as she turned to hurry to the parking lot.
Ken sighed with disappointment and longing. “Damn…” he muttered, watching her tight ass as she ran off. Once Trisha was in her car, he strolled into the building and set his keys down in a crystal bowl on the end table closest to the door. “Yo Tommy!” he called out as he headed toward the bedroom to change. Just then the big, blonde stepped out of the bathroom.
Tommy’s bangs had fallen and were sticking to his forehead. His face was just as red as Trisha’s had been, and he was smiling like a loon. They had definitely been fucking. No wonder she was running late and acting so squirrelly. Ken frowned.
Jealousy was against the rules of their three-person relationship, but Ken couldn’t shake the sinking sensation in his gut. He hadn’t been there, so technically, he hadn’t been excluded, making a two-person romp perfectly legal. Trisha had come up with a list of regulations to prevent competition and envy, and on the surface, they had been working for the nearly two and a half years the three of them had been together, but inwardly, Ken still felt left out at times. Having just been brushed off only to walk in and realize what had just gone down moments before was unsettling, and gave Ken’s chest the tightest, most suffocating sensation.
He fought his inclination to hole up in the bathroom alone to sulk and greeted his best friend, business partner, and co-husband. “Hey man, what’s up?”
“Not much I was just…running through my hair with a wet comb,” Tommy looked off to the side as he blatantly lied.
Ken rolled his eyes and shook his head. “You don’t have to lie. It’s insulting.”
Tommy ran his hand through his hair, pushing back his wayward bangs as he looked down at Ken’s chin. After an awkward pause, the blonde, who stood a good six inches taller than Ken, spoke up, “I wasn’t…um…that is…I just didn’t want to rub it in. Bragging’s against the rules.”
Ken swallowed the lump in his throat and forced down the bile inching up his esophagus. He had to get it together. After all, he had agreed to this arrangement. Sharing was the only way to have the woman he loved and keep his best friend. “No, it’s okay. I wasn’t here. You didn’t know I was going to finish up my conference call early. It’s not like you’re smart enough to purposely set something up to get me out of the house so you could have Trisha all to yourself. ”
As Tommy chuckled and let out a sigh of relief, Ken could see his friend’s stance relax. It was obvious Tommy didn’t want to upset him or make him feel like the odd man out. Will this situation ever get easier? Truth be told, Ken was probably more insecure than he should be, but as much as he hated to admit it, it drove him crazy that Tommy was Trisha’s legal husband and not him. Damn heads…if only I had chosen tails…One stupid coin toss and Tommy won the right to stand before a judge and recite vows with Trisha, leaving Ken in the cold shadows.
Trisha had asked for the words “forsaking all others” to be omitted from the vows, but the change hadn’t kept Ken from standing helplessly, struggling not to puke his guts out as the love of his life and his best friend became man and wife. I’ll never forget the way my heart sunk as those two looked into each other’s eyes and said those words. His consolation prize was the right to father the first baby, but that happy event was likely years off. By then Trisha could have a change of heart and decide she couldn’t handle a polyandrous marriage. It was Tommy’s name, not his, on the marriage license. It would be far easier for her to choose to stay with Tommy than to get divorced to be with Ken. Then he’d lose them both. Ken wasn’t sure how he would go on living if they both disappeared from his life.
Even the thought of being just friends with either of them put a lump in his throat. If he was forced out of the relationship, there was no way he could be near either of them ever again without losing his mind. Over twenty years of friendship would go up in smoke while his ripped-out heart roasted over a spit.
“Ken?” Tommy asked.
“Huh?” Ken was jolted out of his own head and looked up at his friend’s face.
“Are you sure you’re okay? I know that look,” Tommy said. His keen gaze zeroed in on Ken making him feel like he had just gotten his gym shorts yanked down in front of a gaggle of cheerleaders. Surely his embarrassment was palpable but the cold, hard truth was worse. Ken’s pain was like a book stripped of its cover—raw and exposed, yet at the same time painfully dull and not worth noticing.
Ken didn’t want to be angry. Tommy had done nothing wrong, but it wasn’t easy to cope with the nagging suspicion that he was second best—just a side dish. Tommy was a porterhouse steak, while he was just a mother fucking baked potato…or worse, the obligatory side salad that no one could get excited about but ate just for roughage and antioxidants. Trisha was taking time she didn’t have to spare to make love with Tommy but could barely spare Ken a kiss. Absentmindedly, he pressed his palm down against the ache in his chest.
No matter how much he tried not to think about it, Ken’s mind was already wandering. Had they done it in the bed or right here in the living room, possibly right where I’m standing? In order to keep his cool, he had to clench his jaw and grit his teeth behind closed lips. He looked down at the floor to keep Tommy from noticing how upset he was. Not that it would help…fucking Tommy, always analyzing me.
Ken shrugged, attempting to play off Tommy’s worries and his own jealousy. “What look? I’m just thinking about what I want to eat for dinner. You hungry?”
Tommy nodded. “Yeah, I could eat.”
“Mexican or Thai?” Ken asked, anxious to push thoughts of the tryst he had missed completely out of his consciousness.
“Thai,” Tommy answered, raising his light brown eyebrows and giving two thumbs up.
Tommy made small talk with Ken during the drive, him in the passenger’s seat and Ken at the wheel. They chatted and laughed just as they always had since they were small kids, but Tommy knew something was wrong. Ken had seemed down in the dumps for the last six months. Business was good and Ken was healthy so the cause had to be personal. Seemingly, their bromance was great. They never even fought anymore. Tommy and Ken had always been in sync, and now that they had grown up and were a little more mature even small arguments were rare. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe Ken just needed to blow off some steam.
Until very recently, the two of them had been incredibly happy living with Trisha. All three of them lived busy lives but always made time for lighthearted fun, and whenever the three of them heated up the sheets, everything was perfect. He and Ken were still a team, complementing each other better than ever. One major change nagged at Tommy. He found himself looking at Ken the same way he looked at Trisha. Ken would probably be freaked out, or maybe even disgusted if he knew, so Tommy kept his thoughts to himself.
Though no one said a word about it, a much larger problem had been brewing for a while now, looming in the background like a like a computer virus ready to bring the whole system down. An underlying tension weighed down their happy existence, stifling them. Ken’s demeanor at work was the same as always, but the moment he walked through the door to their home, a dark cloud seemed to hang over him. Chances were no one aside from Trisha would have ever have noticed because of the creepy, polite shell covering what was steeping beneath like the skin that forms over unstirred gravy. Tommy knew better. He’d just have to keep poking and prodding Ken until he admitted there was a problem, but it had to be done delicately.
Tommy was fairly certain he understood what had Ken’s nose all out of joint. His bestie was all shook up over a damn piece a paper—a legal document tying Tommy and Trisha. Ken’s name was on it, too, but only as a witness. A few weeks ago, Tommy and Trisha spent part of the day at the courthouse getting married but the ceremony had just been a formality.
The three of them had already said personal vows in private. Tommy meant every word and held them dear. They had even exchanged matching rings Trisha designed and had forged in platinum. They were engraved with the word, Trinity, and the date the three of them first made love, but apparently, Ken still wasn’t satisfied. What the hell is wrong with that guy? How can he be so untrusting? Have I ever lied to him…well, yeah, I guess I just did earlier, but only because I didn’t want to upset him. Maybe Tommy had told the odd white lie here and there, but he had never, nor would he ever, betray Ken. Tommy frowned. Ken’s lack of faith pissed him off.
Still, Tommy couldn’t be too harsh. As much as he liked to think he would be fine if the shoe were on the other foot, he couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t react the exact same way as Ken was.
The worst part was the lack of communication. Tommy would rather Ken just say what was bothering him. It wasn’t like they couldn’t both feel the pain. It was as if they were walking under a ceiling so low they had to crane their necks and hunch their shoulders but all the while they were pretending they couldn’t see the other struggling. As crazy as it would sound to anyone who didn’t know them, Tommy just wanted Ken to insult him, punch him in the arm, or at least yell at him. He missed the old Ken, the one that had been his best buddy since they were in diapers. Nice Ken was just eerie and unsettling to the extreme.
Once they pulled into the lot of the strip mall, Ken parked. Tommy unfastened his seatbelt and jumped out of the passenger’s side before leading the way into the Asian Kitchen, their favorite Thai restaurant. The owner was a retired military man who had married overseas. His wife, Mei, a lady in her sixties, had some delicious, authentic recipes. She adored Tommy and had no qualms about giving him special treatment.
“Good to see you boys!” the older lady said, smiling warmly as she welcomed them and showed them to a table.
“You’re looking good today, young lady,” Tommy said as he pulled back his seat.
She held her hand up and replied, “Always Tommy, always.” They shared a laugh while Ken sat quietly and perused his menu. “Let me guess; to start you want some gyozas.”
“You know us well,” Tommy said, winking at her flirtatiously.
“Coming right up—tea to drink?” she asked.
“Sounds perfect to me,” Tommy replied before asking, “Ken?”
“I’ll have the chicken, Thai fried rice,” he replied, obviously clueless to the conversation that had just unfolded right beside him.
“We’re not quite there yet. Do you want tea to drink?” Tommy asked.
“Yes please,” Ken said. As the two sat there silently, Ken turned the condiment bottles around, placing each of them so that the labels faced him while arranging them from tallest to smallest. Tommy rolled his eyes. Ken was always a bit OCD, but this was ridiculous, not to mention extremely awkward. Thank goodness Mei soon returned with their drinks. At least now, Tommy had someone who wouldn’t avoid eye contact with him.
“Thank you,” Tommy said as Mei placed the glasses on the table. To his credit, Ken lifted his head and gave a polite nod to acknowledge her presence. Tommy held back a proud smile. It had taken him years to drill that simple nicety into his friend’s head, and he didn’t want Ken to backslide.
“Your appetizer will be out in a minute. So, the chicken fried rice for my fellow Asian friend, and how about you, Tommy?” Mei asked with a good-natured smile.
“I keep promising myself I’m going to try something different, but I just can’t get enough of your Pad Thai, Mei,” he answered.
“Yes, yes,” she said, before heading back toward the kitchen.
After another uncomfortable pause, Tommy spoke up, “So the conference call went well?”
Ken lifted his head and nodded. “Yeah, simple technical issue. I got it resolved for the client fairly quickly. Actually, it was just user error on his part.”
“Typical,” Tommy replied with a smile.
“Yeah,” Ken agreed with a nod before the two went silent again. Tommy drummed his fingertips on the table, fully aware of how much Ken hated for anyone to do such a thing…no response. This is bullshit. I’m tired of it. If Ken thinks he can just check out of life, he has another thing coming.
When the gyozas came, Tommy made sure not only to double dip but to do it in such an obvious manner that Ken was certain to catch him. Ken’s nostrils flared slightly but he didn’t say a damn word. Okay, if that’s the way you want it, buddy. I’ll up the ante.
After Tommy used chopsticks to perform a short drum solo on the soy sauce bottle’s lid without so much as a dirty look from Ken, he decided it was time to move on from annoying to downright offensive. As the door to the kitchen swung open, letting out the sounds of the worker’s lively conversations, he got an idea. On more than one occasion, Tommy had met Mei’s brothers, both of whom worked in the kitchen and still spoke mainly in their native tongue. “So what are they saying, Ken?”
“Who?” Ken asked, looking up from his plate.
“The people in the kitchen—they’re speaking Thai,” Tommy responded matter-of-factly.
Ken stared at him blankly for a few seconds, seemingly at a loss for words. Tommy worked hard to keep a straight face but inwardly, he was busting a gut. Ken finally spoke up; his voice was calm and devoid of anger. “Thai’s a Siamese language…it’s um…I think maybe it’s similar to Lao or maybe Vietnamese.”
Tommy’s inner glee deflated like a punctured balloon. Oh, hell no! That son-of-a-bitch is trying to logic his way out of this shit show. Well, no fucking way. I’m so not having that. There is no logic to full-on ignorance, and I’ll make damn sure he knows it. “Yeah, but couldn’t you make any of it out?” Tommy asked, doe-eyed with false innocence.
Normally, Ken would be about to blow a gasket but not today… The dark-haired Brainiac just stared at him, unable to hide the annoyance in his face as his eyebrows narrowed, but apparently unwilling to kick up a fuss. Ken covered by picking up his drink and taking a sip through his straw before answering simply, “I have no idea.”
Don’t try to get all matter-of-fact with me! I’m going to push you until you’re backed so far into the corner you can’t help but drop this act. “But you’re half Japanese, and you speak Japanese,” Tommy answered, speaking while chewing the noodles he had just shoved into his mouth. After swallowing and beginning to slurp a single noodle up, Tommy met Ken’s gaze, eagerly waiting to see how close Ken was to the edge.
Ken appeared dumbfounded. A year ago, this absurd conversation would have never gotten anywhere near this far, and if it had, Ken would have already called Tommy an idiot at least once and would be ready to come across the table to smack him across the back of the head. Surely his pal hadn’t changed so much.
Tommy smiled mischievously, waiting for the inevitable, but Ken took another sip of his drink, looking off the side as if he were either trying to think of an answer or trying to get a hold on to his considerable temper.
Ken gave a long sigh and calmly replied, “Tommy, I barely speak Japanese, and it bears little to no resemblance to Thai.”
That was bullshit. Ken didn’t barely do anything. Every single thing Ken attempted he did well. Tommy could feel his blood pressure rising as the steam poured out of his ears. Are you fucking kidding me? If we weren’t in public I would have already called him out! This bogus, fake, phony, counterfeit Ken has to go!
Tommy was well aware of the risk he was taking. Ken was smaller than him in both height and build, which meant absolutely nothing when it came down to a fight. Ken was a ranked Karate champion and could easily kick Tommy’s ass all over the restaurant if he so desired, but at this point, getting the hell beat out of him would have been preferable to this tense dinner date.
The two finished their meal in absolute silence, barely looking at each other. Once they were finished, Tommy paid the bill, said his goodbyes to Mei, and headed out to Ken’s truck. Ken was already seated behind the wheel. Might as well continue to push my luck…Tommy walked over to the driver’s side of the black Toyota and opened the door. “Can I drive?”
Ken shot him a look that Tommy registered as aggravation but instead of telling Tommy to fuck off, all Ken did was slide over into the passenger’s seat and fasten his seatbelt. On the way home, Tommy sang along to the radio, loudly and off-key, and took the long route home. To be more precise, he drove around his asshole to get to his balls, deliberately taking wrong turns…Nothing. Tommy’s skin prickled at Ken’s newfound tolerance for dumb ass behavior.
Once they arrived back at the apartment complex, Tommy pretended to have forgotten the combination to the gate’s keypad, messing it up three times before Ken slid closer, reached over him and input the numbers. “Keeeennnnji!” Tommy whined shrilly, delighting in the small wince Ken gave when he heard his given name spoken. “I almost had it!”
Ken looked straight ahead as he answered, “Sorry, a line was starting to form behind us.”
Tommy glanced at his rearview mirror, noting the two cars lined up behind their truck. Furious, he gritted his teeth, looking straight ahead as he drove into the complex. Ken’s indifference was unbearable. Who was this fucking zombie and where was his best friend?
Ken’s mother was the only person allowed to call him Kenji. Ken even asked Trisha to stop when she playfully dropped the K-bomb, and he had never tolerated it from Tommy. After parking, Tommy walked back to their place, unlocking the door, flinging it open in anger before throwing Ken’s keys down on the floor.
“Dude? What the hell?” Ken asked as he closed the door behind him and locked it.
“Are you fucking kidding me, Ken?” Tommy asked, balling up his fists by his sides and hitting the outside of his own thighs.
“What did I do?” Ken asked with a shrug before shoving the pile of laundry littering the couch to one side, plopping down and reaching for the remote control.
Tommy struck like a viper, grabbing the remote before Ken could turn on the television. “Oh, hell no! I will not be ignored, Ken!”
“Are you serious?” Ken stared at him with the most incredulous expression.
“Am I serious? Who the fuck are you? I don’t know who you are, but you aren’t Ken Davidson!” Tommy raised his voice.
“I don’t understand why you’re mad. I’ve been nothing but nice…”
Tommy cut him off, “That’s the problem! My Ken would have given me hell for double-dipping, put me in my place during that whole dumbass Thai versus Japanese bullshit, and knocked the hell out of me if I drove his truck like such an idiot.”
Ken shook his head. “So, to be clear, you’re pissed at me because I’m not being a dick to you?”
Tommy huffed angrily. “I’m pissed because you’re not being you!” Ken sat silently, staring down at his feet. “Speak up, Ken. Tell me how you feel.”
Leaning back, Ken let his head smack down on the sofa’s padding, his eyes glancing toward the ceiling. “I…I’m relieved.”
Tommy was about to jump out of his skin. Ken was being way too chill, treating him the same way he would have treated some schmuck off the street. Before Trisha, Ken held everyone except Tommy at arm’s length. Ken was supposed to be his partner in crime. This couldn’t be happening. “Relieved?” Tommy asked, narrowing his brow.
“You were wilding out on purpose to piss me off?” Ken asked.
“Of course! Do you really think I’d be crude enough to double dip and slurp noodles from my plate?” Tommy huffed.
“No, I guess not,” Ken answered. “But I was worried the new behavior was going to stick. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to tolerate that shit without kicking your ass.”
“Talk to me, Ken,” Tommy said, more gently now as he sat down on the couch next to him.
“I’m not good at putting my feelings into words. You know that,” Ken replied. “I know I’ve felt…off, but we’re not kids anymore. We’re supposed to be mature, not blow up over any little thing. No one has done anything in particular to upset me. Well, at least not until today.” He shot Tommy a look. “If I lost my shit just because I was feeling…I dunno, jealous, I guess, I’d be just like a kid having a tantrum. I don’t think Trisha would find that all too sexy.”
Tommy chuckled and shook his head. “So this whole act was to impress Trisha—your own wife?” Ken showed an expression most would miss, but Tommy read it as a gut punch. So he had been right—Ken didn’t have faith in their relationship. That’s hurtful.
Ken looked off past Tommy as he answered, “I didn’t think I was acting fake.”
“Even so, if something is bothering you, you should say so. You’re not acting right,” Tommy replied, poking at his friend’s shoulder with one finger in an effort to force a reaction.
“Stop,” Ken replied, shifting his body to push his shoulder against the couch’s back. “Don’t be an ass.”
“Well, that’s a little better,” Tommy replied, smiling as he started tugging at Ken’s shirt and pushing his knee against Ken’s.
“You are such a fucking child,” Ken said with a laugh.
“There we go! That’s my Kenji!” Tommy crowed, wrapping his arms around Ken for a bear hug but half expecting a punch.
“Okay, okay, but you know only my mom can call me Kenji. Got it?” He used both hands to gently push Tommy off him.
Tommy released Ken from the hug and smiled. “No smack across the side of the head?”
Ken rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to hit you anymore.”
“I guess I shouldn’t complain but why exactly are you changing your MO?”
“Now that we’re like…husbands or whatever, it would be spouse abuse. That’s disgusting,” Ken explained.
Tommy busted out laughing, holding his gut as he hemmed and hawed. “Oh my God…now that’s funny.”
“I don’t see what’s so amusing,” Ken said, frowning. “Are you making fun of me?”
Tommy shook his head, wiping a tear from one of his eyes as he held back more laughter. “Nah, it’s just weird to hear you call yourself my husband.”
“We took vows, asshole,” Ken replied, rolling his eyes.
Tommy held up both hands in front of his chest. “I know…I know we did, and I meant them, but I always assumed you only considered yourself to be Trisha’s husband and not mine.”
“That’s not what we promised Trisha. Is that how you see it?” Ken asked.
“No, you’re very special to me, but we aren’t exactly lovers or anything, unless you’re ready to bend over and surrender your asshole to me.” Tommy snickered at his own joke.
“Moron.” Ken shook his head. “Like that will ever happen…”
“It will if Trisha gets her way,” Tommy replied, raising an eyebrow.
“Umm, no…you would be handing over your ass if we ever bow to Trisha’s desire,” Ken replied, folding his arms over his chest.
Tommy shook his head. “No, no, no, I’m over six feet and jacked…that would be like hooking a tractor-trailer to a Volkswagen Beetle.”
Ken laughed. “Fuck you, Tommy.”
Tommy smiled. “Bet you wish you hadn’t made that little smacking Tommy is spousal abuse connect now, don’t you.”
“Well, you are kind of making me regret it,” Ken replied with a chuckle.
“I’m glad to have the old Ken back, but come on, spill what’s had you so…neutered.” Tommy already knew but he needed Ken to say it.
“Oh…fuck you, buddy!” Ken rolled his eyes. “I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s not like I’m mad about anything. Sometimes I just feel out of place in my own home.” Tommy reached over and started unbuttoning Ken’s shirt. “Huh? Did I get food on myself?” Ken asked, squirming.
“You trust me and Trisha, right? You shouldn’t feel left out. You belong here with us,” Tommy said as he worked down the buttons until Ken’s shirt was completely open.
“Yeah, but what does that have to do with you undressing me, you freak show?”
Tommy stood. “Follow me.” Ken wasn’t sure what Tommy was up to, but all the same, he followed him into the bedroom. Ken sat on the bed as Tommy walked into the closet. A couple of minutes later, he exited wearing only a pair of gym shorts and threw a pair to Ken. “Get changed.”
Ken stood up and removed the rest of his clothes. He wasn’t embarrassed about undressing in front of Tommy. Even if they didn’t share the same bed and a wife and make love as a team, they had participated in sports and gym class together and seen each other naked more times than Ken could count. When they were in the locker rooms in middle school and high school, Ken had never given Tommy a second look except to tell him to stop preening in the mirror like a damn girl and get out on the field. Things were different now…weirder.
Ken’s muscle memory associated naked Tommy with making love to Trisha, so now anytime Tommy started to undress near him, Ken got an erection. Today was no different. “What are we doing here?” Ken asked as he hung up his pants and threw his shirt into the hamper.
“Are you going to put on your shorts?” Tommy asked, ignoring Ken’s question.
“Yeah,” Ken replied, clad only in his boxer briefs. “Give me a second and tell me why we’re changing. Are we going jogging?”
“We have to do our exercises,” Tommy answered, backing up to sit on the edge of their king-sized bed.
“You want to go to the gym?” Ken asked.
“No, I think that might be kind of embarrassing,” Tommy replied, reclining backward on the bed but letting his feet remain on the floor.
“Huh?” Ken stared at Tommy. What’s this fool up to now?
“I thought they were ridiculous too, but now I see Trisha was right. They’re necessary. Come lay down next to me.”
Ken’s stomach dropped and he rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. “You have got to be out of your mind.”
“We promised Trisha we would do them,” Tommy answered, patting the mattress next to him.
“Yes, but I thought we were both firmly in the ‘let’s don’t and say we did’ camp,” Ken answered. “It was all a big joke as long as it was just hand holding and fully clothed hugs, but after we graduated to level two that list started getting out of hand. I don’t even want to think about what’s hiding between those paper-clipped pages in level three.”
“I know it will be a little uncomfortable at first, but it’s important. We have to have a complete sense of intimacy. I think once we expand our horizons, you’ll stop feeling like you don’t belong.”
Ken frowned, raising both eyebrows as he looked at his big, blonde friend. They had very different builds. Ken was thin and ripped, but Tommy had a lot more muscle mass, and nearly half a foot on Ken in height, not that it mattered when it was time to get physical. When it came time to throw down for a fight, Tommy was completely useless unless he was livid. Ken continued to eye Tommy in disbelief as Ken ventured over to the nightstand, opening the drawer and retrieving a small, spiral notepad. That blue-eyed, all American fool needed a bucket of ice water poured over his head.
Ken lifted the cover and flipped over to the first page with writing, perusing Trisha’s list of intimacy exercises as he went along. He skipped over the ones he and Tommy had completed, and even the next few on the list before he read aloud, “Number six: Give each other a calf massage lasting no less than ten minutes each. Number eight, rub lotion onto each other’s feet, sensually caressing each part of the foot, i.e. heels, each toe, ankles right down to every single cuticle.”
Ken paused, cutting his eyes toward Tommy dismissively before continuing, “Number ten: remove all clothing. While one man rests on his stomach, the other will straddle him and give a full, ten minute back massage…” Ken shut the notebook and dropped it down on the bed next to Tommy. “Does that sound appealing to you, Tommy? Do you want to lie down for a back massage while I straddle you, tea bagging your ass or the small of your back while I lay my hands all over your bare skin? Sound like fun?”
Tommy looked off to the side. “Not especially, but the opposite scenario with me rubbing you down and tea bagging your ass wouldn’t bother me.”
Ken pursed his lips in annoyance and he stared down his friend as he said, “Well, it’s official. You’re a perv.”
Tommy chuckled but held his ground. “How often is Trisha wrong about relationship stuff?” The smug look Tommy shot him had Ken’s blood starting to boil. It didn’t happen that often, but when the dumbass was right, he was right.
Frowning, Ken acquiesced, “Almost never.” He flopped down on the bed next to Tommy. “Whatever, let’s just get it over with.”
“We’re up to shirts off cuddling,” Tommy said.
“Fine, but I’m setting a timer for ten minutes, and I’m not going a second over. Now get under the covers.” As Ken set his alarm clock to go off in ten minutes, Tommy did as he was instructed slipping between the sheets and holding them open for Ken. Reluctantly, Ken joined him. “I’m not really sure how we’re supposed to do this.”
Tommy was resting on his back with his head on the pillow. “Just lie next to me, rest your head on my chest, and put your arm around me.”
Ken sighed. “And that will be enough to count?”
“I think so. Trisha’s instructions just say skin-to-skin contact has to be achieved,” Tommy answered as Ken cozied up next to him.
Once Ken was in place and all snuggled up against Tommy’s hard chest and warm body, the brunet halfheartedly complained, “This is gross. I can feel your nip.”
While running his fingers through Ken’s hair with one hand and rubbing his back with the other, Tommy replied, “It’s not so bad.” Ken would never admit it, but Tommy was right. It was actually kind of nice.
Warning: The Power of Three contains blush-inducing, erotic, love scenes, graphic language and the positive portrayal of an alternative lifestyle, including M/M attraction and relations.