THE FAN twirled like madness against the purple water-stained ceiling. The whisper of those dusty blades touched Jonny Callahan’s bare, taut body. He was sprawled and limp—well, not entirely limp—beneath that soothing artificial breeze. One could only be naked in a New Orleans summer. It was the sole way to survive the experience.

And naked he’d been tonight, and the days and nights preceding. He had lucked in on a tasty retreat here. Someone with some tin and not too shy about spending it. Someone with this nice doss, an apartment right in the frantic heart of the city’s French Quarter. Someone with a talented mouth and cock, who wasn’t repulsively old or fat, who didn’t beat on him, who was generous with the ale and absinthe.

Jonny, at age twenty-one, could scarcely remember when he’d had it so good.

It was a third-story room, connected to other rooms. The building itself possessed a kind of charming squalor but was hardly a tenement such as could be found all over New York City. Jonny had been born in a place like that, choked with decay and disease, crowded with a squabbling humanity. He’d gotten out as soon as he could, but that early life had left him with lessons and memories.

He knew how to survive, knew the smart means to fight back against enemies. Most of all, he knew when to run. Running was good. It was a noble option, and let no one say otherwise. He had run before, and no doubt he would run again. But for the present, he enjoyed a sultry contentment in these rooms, delightfully circumscribed by the ongoing lunacy of the Quarter.

The revelry was audible, even up here, on this brass-framed bed beneath the spinning fan. Voices cried out in drunken elation. Some would turn ugly later when the alcohol and whatever else got the emotions churning in anticlockwise fashion. Not everyone could handle spirits, but virtually every person who came to this decadent city imagined that they could, as though New Orleans cast a spell upon its visitors and inhabitants, bequeathing them all the ability to absorb murderous measures of intoxicants.

Amateurs aside, it remained a splendid city. Yet even here he had found trouble. Or it had found him. Kane. He was on the outs with Kane, the local crime lord. It had probably been a mistake to become the man’s lover, but Jonny had never had much control over his impulses in that area. His cock did a lot of his thinking for him, and Kane was a dashing male specimen, darkly complected, hair coarse and wavy, with piratical features and a big arborvitae….

Jonny’s own staff, still halfway stiff, stirred against his flat, hard lower abdomen. He had jetted just ten minutes ago, Malcolm working his shaft with his hand and setting his tongue busily to Jonny’s swollen crown while Jonny writhed on the disheveled sheet beneath the whirling fan blades. Jonny himself had sportingly swallowed Malcolm’s juice earlier, allowing the older male to straddle his face and thrust himself at will into Jonny’s mouth.

His balls had slapped Jonny’s chin, and he had grunted repeatedly. Jonny had taken the man’s every plunge, no matter how forceful or deep. His throat had opened to the thrusts of that gaying instrument, and when Malcolm gave a final cry and went into his spasms, Jonny drank the salty issue until the last of it spurted from the man’s organ.

It was the least he could do for his room and board.

But it was memories of Kane roiling the spunk in his ballocks now. Jonny had joined the man’s larcenous circle, proving his worth on his first night’s work—which was how such things went. You either made good on the spot, or you could go get prigged, and maybe get the cosh on your way out.

Jonny had aided in a piece of burglary. He’d done what he was told when he was told to do it and hadn’t sassed or panicked, not even when the night watchman had come around. He had frozen with the other two men from Kane’s gang, had waited while the heavy footsteps moved on, and then quietly and efficiently resumed the job.

That had gotten him in with Kane. Provisionally, anyway. He had intended to make the most of the opportunity, for opportunity it was. Kane’s reputation in the city was sound among the underworld. If Jonny stayed with the gang and continued to keep his powder dry, he would have something like a real future amongst that crew of gainful ne’er-do-wells.

But secure futures and intelligent moves weren’t Jonny Callahan’s forte, he thought now with a self-deprecating chuckle. No. He was more for the complete cock-up, for the ill-advised gamble, for the burned bridge. Maybe that was why he was always running.

Yet, why complain? He grinned up at the madly turning fan, its housing a tarnished copper. The stained purple ceiling topped the bedroom’s gaudy green walls and velvet appointments. Somehow every building’s interior in New Orleans bore the mood and demeanor of a brothel.

Malcolm had these rooms because he was a financier of some stripe or other, sent down to this tropical city from Philadelphia or New Jersey—Jonny couldn’t remember—to transact some months-long business for an import/export concern. A great deal of cargo passed through this seedy municipality. It was a major destination for airborne goods. The mighty Mississippi also ran alongside it, the riverbanks ever threatening the low-lying streets of the French Quarter itself. There was ready access to the Caribbean from here and all the complex trade plying those waters. Malcolm no doubt had plenty to do. Mercifully he didn’t bother Jonny with any of the details. Rather, he seemed quite content to enjoy his enticing twenty-one-year-old catamite, sucking his stiff sinew and fucking his mouth and ass.

It certainly suited Jonny just fine. He’d needed somewhere to hole up… and Malcolm’s holes were a pleasing enough diversion. The financier was perhaps thirty, likely married. His hair was thinning, but he still cut an athletic figure, with hardy thighs and a tendency to shadowbox when he was puzzling over some entrepreneurial matter.

But he was no Kane. Jonny had felt an electrical jolt the first time he laid eyes on the underworld kingpin. It had taken some finagling to even gain an audience. Kane drank regularly at a particular Quarter watering hole, Jonny had learned, but strangers couldn’t get near his closely guarded table.

Jonny had visited the pub night after night, each time asking the barkeep to ask Mr. Kane for a moment of his time. Each night his request was passed on and ignored. Jonny always stayed to finish the drink he had ordered, then made a rigid bow toward the dim corner where Kane sat surrounded by bodyguards.

Had he known at the time that Kane was partial to gal-boys, he would have presented himself in a more seductive manner. But all that was to come later, once he was a regular with the crew.

However the night did come when the bartender came back from the table and said formally, “You may go over, young sir.” Checking his eagerness, Jonny went calmly toward the table. Kane struck a match to light a cheroot as he approached, and the flame illuminated his rakishly fine features. Jonny was struck by the palpable presence of this individual. It was little wonder he was a leader of men. Charisma radiated from him even before he spoke. And when he did speak, his voice was both harsh and mellow, a siren’s song to Jonny’s ears. He was told to sit, to make his supplication. Jonny would gladly have done so on his knees. In fact, being on knees before this man would have thrilled him to no end.

Instead he presented his case and was given a chance to perform well on a job, which he did. He had needed this employment. He’d been in the southern Colonies some while, but the money he’d gotten to town on was about used up. So the weeks of steady work were very welcome. He got the smallest cut of every job, as the newest member, but the crimes were lucrative enough that he still took in a decent percentage. Whatever his litany of faults, greed wasn’t included. He was content with the tin he was making.

But then things had taken a wondrous erotic turn with Kane. The crime ring operated out of a riverside warehouse, which the police were paid to leave alone. Kane had stately lodgings elsewhere in the city, up on St. Charles Avenue, but he sometimes billeted at the warehouse itself, where there was a screened-off corner, a couch, and a few amenities.

One night after a job, Kane told Jonny to stay behind at the warehouse, where they’d unloaded the goods. Kane’s other gang members promptly vanished, and Jonny, still awed and delightfully intimidated by the magnetic man, followed him to the corner, where Kane poured him a drink.

“Thank you, Mr. Kane.”

“Actually, it’s just Kane. And actually actually it’s not even that. You might do well to fashion yourself a false name or a moniker, lad. If you intend to stay in this business.” He had a drink of his own in hand.

Jonny saw that the man was already rather inebriated but that he was one of those who could maintain speech and bearing no matter how much he imbibed. Jonny sensed something else as well, an undercurrent at play. The flesh prickled up his spine as Kane waved him to the couch and sat next to him.

He wore an open-throated shirt and twill trousers. Jonny furtively studied his profile. Kane seemed an ageless male. He was in robust physical shape, with a sinewy physique belied by a dancer’s ease of movement. A soft smile touched his lips. Jonny gazed a bit too long, fantasies rippling through his brain. What would it be like to kiss those lips?

They talked. Kane asked him languid questions about his past. Jonny prettied up his squalid upbringing somewhat, reluctant to relive those early memories of tenement dwelling.

“My lieutenants tell me you are performing well,” Kane said, draining his glass of brandy and setting it aside. Jonny had finished his own drink. “But that’s not why I asked you to join me tonight. I… uhm….”

In all his weeks of dealing with this strong-willed and decisive figure, it was the first time Jonny had ever seen the man hesitate about anything. But he fumbled now, hemming and hawing. It unnerved Jonny, but his instincts told him what Kane wanted. If he was wrong, there would no doubt be consequences. But he had faced dire aftermaths before. That was life. That was his life, anyway, one lived on the dangerous edge.

Besides, he thought with an inward leer, his main axiom was this: never pass up a chance at cock.

So he reached over and laid a hand on Kane’s thigh. This stilled the man’s verbal flounderings. Jonny, to drive the point home, moved his hand up and boldly cupped the black-haired man’s crotch. There was an alluring bulge stirring underneath his fingers. Kane sucked in a sharp breath. Jonny knew he was armed, a pistol in his pocket. If this move was some terrible error, he would find out about it right quick.

But it was no mistake. His well-honed instincts had proven true once again. Kane’s handsome face went slack with pleasure as Jonny gently kneaded his swelling organ through the trousers’ twill. Then, of a sudden, the look of vague bliss sharpened into one of concerted lust. He turned on the couch, seized Jonny’s bony shoulders, and mashed his mouth hard atop Jonny’s lips.

The contact was as vibrant as any Jonny had ever known. He returned the pressure of those smooth lips, parting them to thrust his tongue into the man’s mouth. Kane’s tongue answered, all hesitations cast aside now. They devoured each other’s mouths. Jonny groped his crotch more aggressively, pulling at the fastenings of the trousers.

He supposed the crime boss was ashamed of his homosexuality. Or at least he saw his proclivities as some sort of disadvantage in his particular field. Maybe some wouldn’t take seriously a criminal man who liked the sexual attentions of other males. It seemed laughable to Jonny in this day and age. The world was advancing at a dizzying speed. Technology was everywhere. Steam-driven airships. Electrically propelled land vehicles. People could travel to every corner of the globe now. So too the obsolete restrictive social structures were all falling away. Whatever else about New York City, nobody there had seemed to care who fucked who, or what their genders were.

For Christ’s sake, this was 1867! The old prejudices were dead. Or they were certainly in their much-deserved and overdue death throes.

Jonny’s blood raced in his veins, that familiar lovely rise of excitement. His cock thumped needily as Kane’s strong hands tore at his clothes. The two men were still kissing ravenously, grappling now as they each tried to divest the other of his apparel. Jonny had the man’s trousers halfway down his legs and absolutely had to pause to take true hold of that gloriously full root, squeezing it tightly so that he felt there the pound of Kane’s aroused pulse.

Somehow they paused long enough in these initial gropings and maulings to undress each other totally. A lone lamp burned. The warehouse wasn’t wired for electricals. The tender light buttered Kane’s bare body, making bronze of his swarthy complexion. Jonny couldn’t help but gape at his revealed form, which was just as gorgeous as it had always been in his fevered daydreams.

Kane lay back on the couch, and Jonny’s mouth watered. The crime lord’s cock was like a cudgel, resting on the muscled swell of his belly. His legs were open wide, inviting Jonny into their embrace. Jonny hurried forward, knelt, and felt his shoulders grasped by those inner thighs.

The cock lay before him, twitching with anticipation. He took hold of the balls, the warm pouches stirring on his fingers. He lowered his head, which was shaggy with blond hair. Kane’s pubic curls were dark and abundant and fragrant. Jonny inhaled their potent, sweaty scent. Before taking a taste of the cock, he dropped his mouth to suck on one ballock, then the other.

Kane groaned. Breathlessly he said, “My prick, boy! Put that lovely mouth on my prick!”

So despite whatever professional misgivings he might have with regard to his own sexuality, this wasn’t the man’s first queer experience. Jonny wondered remotely if he bedded every comely boy who was hired into his gang. Perhaps. It didn’t arouse the least jealousy in Jonny. Only shitwits and killjoys indulged jealous impulses, which were the most useless of the human emotions. Jonny Callahan believed in carnal jubilation, and anything that stood in the way of that was to be devoutly resisted.

He looked up the length of Kane’s splendidly molded body, saw the wide eyes and features torn with passion, and finally put his mouth to the swelled crown, allowing his lips to melt luxuriantly over that smooth purple knob.

Kane’s whole body jerked on the couch, which was upholstered in dusty red. Jonny set his tongue to the cockhead, swirling through the piss-slit to obtain the first oozy taste of the man. Keeping his lips cinched tight, he slowly dropped the circle of his mouth down the stiff shaft. He found the squiggles of veins with his tongue. He applied suction to the staff.

Kane wriggled more. Jonny continued to slide his mouth downward. He didn’t hesitate when the plum-shaped cockhead entered his throat. He kept right on swallowing until his nose was buried in the spit-wet pubic bush and he had engulfed the full length of the man. He held Kane like that a moment, shamelessly showing off his cocksucking skills, breathing carefully and steadily through his nostrils.

Somewhere above, Kane moaned with pleasure. Jonny grinned inwardly. Then he set about sucking off his boss.

It was a dandy chore in every sense. Jonny had never questioned his own attraction toward the male of his species. It had never seemed unnatural, unlawful, or—heaven the fuck forfend—sinful. Well before he had ever known the touch of his own gender, he had been aware on some misty but profound level that he would one day cavort and gambol with other males. He recalled infatuations, many unrequited, with other boys. Later he had experienced his first kiss, his first grope, his first all the rest of it. What a wonderful repertoire was available when two eager males got together.

He slid his mouth up and down on Kane’s cock. He cradled the man’s balls. The prick quivered. He had flattened his cheeks in around the fleshy rod and maintained his suctioning pressure. Kane’s ass squirmed on the dust-foul upholstery. His thighs crushed Jonny’s shoulders and sides. He reached down for a fistful of blond hair, thrusting upward helplessly now, crying out strings of barely coherent obscenities, most of which included the word “fuck” or “suck” or both.

At last he shouted, “Drink down my spend, you fantastic queer boy!”

Jonny had had stranger things said to him in the crisis moment. He did as his employer wanted, swallowing his hot, sticky spew as it erupted from his cock. Jonny kept up the seal of his lips so that no drop escaped. He drank the lively, salty liquid, relishing the flavor. Such a primal taste, the very essence of any man, it had always seemed to him.

Eventually he raised his head, smiling, showing by his clean chin that no globule of jissom had gone to waste. He even opened his mouth and waggled his spotless tongue, proud of his accomplishment.

It might have ended with that lone act. He understood that. Kane was his professional superior. Though he might accept the avid oral attentions of someone in his employ, it didn’t necessarily follow that he was inclined to reciprocate. Jonny could well be left to tend to his own painful hard-on alone. Very well. Even so, he felt a keen satisfaction. There was nothing so fine as putting reality to a longstanding fantasy, and Kane had played for some while in his lustful thoughts.

But Kane smiled languorously and said in his harsh-mellow voice, “Bring that stiff up here, lad. I need its taste.”

So Jonny stood up next to the couch and dutifully presented his yearning cock to Kane’s mouth. Kane was no dilettante, though perhaps his cocksucking talents weren’t quite as perfected as Jonny’s own. Twice teeth grazed his sensitive crown, but it was a small cost to pay for the privilege of filling that beautiful man’s face with his swollen staff.

When the final throes began to overtake him, his hips thrust as if with a mind of their own. He fairly fucked that mouth, quickly losing control, until instants later he was issuing a prodigious load of semen into Kane’s maw. He wasn’t nearly as neat with the stuff as Jonny, but it was a luscious sight as he staggered back from the couch on bare soles, seeing the sparkling dewdrops he’d left on the cheeks and chin and lips and throat of the dark-haired male.

Once more Kane smiled, with real affection, it appeared. He said, “That was a glory, boy. We will do that again, I assure you. We will have many a night ahead of us. Meanwhile, don’t give any other man a taste of what is now mine. Do we have an understanding?”

Jonny had started to smile before Kane had spoken these words. He left the smile frozen there, as frozen as when the watchman had come along during that burglary. A deep, quiet dread touched him. Kane should not have said what he had just said, though the man surely couldn’t know what he was setting in motion with that demanding, restricting statement. Don’t give any other man a taste of what is now mine.

Kane wanted his exclusivity, his carnal loyalty. The thought fairly turned Jonny’s stomach. It wasn’t that he didn’t still find this man appealing. But such regulations bucked against Jonny’s nature. He had no wish to be any man’s private lover. A relationship like that was like jealousy put in motion, given full dominion. He wouldn’t be able to live up to any such oath.

Standing there with his cock oily with seed and saliva, he offered up what felt like a grotesque grin and said, “We have an understanding, Mr. Kane.”

“Just Kane.”

“Just Kane it is.”