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By Lauren Baker Bonnie Dee
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2007 Bonnie Dee and Lauren Baker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMegan looked at the boy under the awning, bathed in the glow of pink neon. He shifted his back against the wall, finding a more comfortable position, and drew a long drag on his cigarette, letting the smoke out in a thin, steady stream through his nose.
It had been two years and one month since Megan's last cigarette and the nicotine craving still ached like a sore tooth sometimes. Watching his sensual enjoyment of the cigarette awakened more than one kind of desire in her. She drew a deep breath and walked up to him. "Hi. Remember me from, uh, last night?"
He slid a sideways glance at her.
"That boy Ricky said you could help me with something. It's a writing project I'm working on."
He looked away from her without answering. Either he was considering speaking or waiting for her to give up and walk away.
"I'm a reporter. I just want an interview. That's all. Really."
"What are you reporting?" He stared at the street, dropping the hand with the cigarette to his side.
"I'm writing about street kids, how they get in that situation and what they do to survive." When the boy turned and looked through her with his cool blue eyes, Megan's idea for her article suddenly sounded completely stupid. How could she understand his life from asking a few questions? But she was here and she had his attention. Bracing herself, she plunged on. "I have a few questions about your background, a little about your daily life and what your hopes are for your future."
He snorted in derision.
"If you prefer the interview to be confidential, we could go to that diner." She gestured down the street. "I'll buy you dinner. You answer my questions. Quick and painless." She smiled.
"Fifty bucks for twenty minutes. My time is valuable."
"Um." Megan calculated the cash she had available and what bills she needed to pay. "I can give you, uh, twenty." He seemed to be considering so she added, "Plus the meal. It's all I can afford." The ethics of paying for an interview were questionable, but she decided this was a one-time transaction.
His gaze slowly wandered over her from head to foot.
Megan wanted to wrap her arms around her body to cover it.
Finally he nodded. "Okay."
"Great." It sounded way too enthusiastic. She repeated in a less spunky tone, "Great."
This young man was so self-possessed he made her feel like a child. He strolled toward the restaurant with long, easy strides. Megan had to walk quickly to keep up.
She sat across from him in the booth, torn vinyl scratching the back of her legs. Inside the diner, she could see the boy more clearly than in patches of neon and shadow. His eyes seemed a brighter shade of blue in the fluorescent light. He scanned the menu and placed his order. The strappy, once-white T-shirt he wore showed off his well-defined arm muscles when he passed the menu back to the waitress. The material of the shirt molded to his chest, outlining the bump of each nipple pressing against it.
Megan quickly lifted her gaze back to his face.
He stared at her, eyes flat and calm as a lake on a hot summer day.
She could read nothing in them and wondered what he could possibly be thinking of her.
"You have questions?" he prompted.
"Oh, uh, right." Megan pulled out her notebook and a small recorder from her purse. "You don't mind if I tape this? It's easier than writing everything down."
He considered a moment then nodded.
She pressed the button and spoke. "Interview with ... Mouth. White male, age ...?"
"Can you tell me a little about your family and your parents?"
"There was just my mom." He didn't offer anything else. Megan began to understand why Ricky had laughed when he suggested Mouth for an interview. He wasn't a talker.
"How did you come to be on your own?"
"My mom was an addict. After we got evicted, there didn't seem to be much point in sticking around anymore. I could take care of myself better than she could."
"You didn't have any relatives to stay with?"
"No. I stayed at a friend's place for a while, but I couldn't live there forever. Then I hooked up with some other kids who live in this abandoned building."
"What about a foster home? Did you consider that?"
He stared at her for a second like she was stupid. "No. I'd rather be on my own."
"How did you reach the point of," she searched for a polite way to phrase the question, "considering prostitution as a source of income?"
"Some of the kids I knew were whoring, but I wouldn't at first. I was sure I could find a job. But the days went on and I had no money. This kid, Donnie, convinced me sucking cock was a pretty simple way to make fifty bucks. So one night I did it."
Megan swallowed. "How did you feel about it?"
"I didn't feel anything. He was right. It wasn't such a big deal and I had enough money to eat for a few days." His voice was perfectly steady and emotionless.
Megan felt the cold reality of his answer hit her in the chest. Jesus, what kind of a life was that for a kid? She stared at her notepad, scribbling a few words, afraid he might see the pity in her eyes. "So how old were you when you did that? When you first sold sex?"
He hadn't been on the game all that long then. Megan remembered what she'd been like at sixteen when the whole focus of her life was school, she had an unrequited crush on the captain of the football team and her knowledge of sex was still mostly theoretical except for a little fumbling with Ray Marsden at a house party one summer evening. And even then, nothing much had happened.
"May I ask about your early sexual experiences?" She referred to her list of questions. "How old were you when you first had sex?"
"Fourteen." Again, his answer was succinct, and Megan had to ask him to elaborate.
"Kristina Taylor. Eighth grade formal. In back of the gym. Less than five minutes."
"How did you feel about it?"
"Embarrassed. But she was cool about it and it was better the next time and even better after we'd had more practice." There was a hint of humor in his tone despite his blank face.
"When did you realize you were gay?"
Megan paused, taken by surprise. "But your clients are male."
"What I do is work. Doesn't mean I like it. You know anybody who works at McDonald's and loves the job?" He smiled slightly for the first time.
"True." She returned his smile.
The waitress returned with Mouth's meal and a soda for Megan, who turned off the recorder.
The boy tore into the burger, his jaws bulging as he chewed an oversize mouthful. He didn't look at her as he methodically ate his way through the food, chased by great gulps of soda.
Megan wondered when he'd last eaten.
If it bothered him to be watched, he gave no sign of it, but then anyone who engaged in intimate acts with strangers on a daily basis must have long ago lost all self-consciousness.
Excerpted from Finding Home by Lauren Baker Bonnie Dee Copyright © 2007 by Bonnie Dee and Lauren Baker. Excerpted by permission.
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