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  2. Timothy M.

    An Arrangement

    Now they just need to make Chris return to Tad, and they can all be together. I'm glad Nate was honest about being with Chris. Tad is awesome, and I hope they have years together before the end. He deserves to be loved by two devoted guys, and to know they'll have each other for comfort when he gets sick, and when he's gone.
  3. My grandmother was a PK. Her father was a minister in one of the Anabaptist denominations. Convservative but less so than the Amish or Mennonites of the time. Her mother died when she was a young teen and she and her siblings were split up and taken in by various aunts and uncles. She used to say PK's were no better or worse than any others. They were just people. Oh, I remember that video too ...
  4. Timothy M.

    Player

    I think Chris and Nate should both be there for Tad as long as he lives, and they can stay a couple afterwards. Threesomes are great, and even better if the guys love each other.
  5. Canuk

    An Arrangement

    Well wow! That was a bit of a shake up. A wholly consistent and relatable shakeup, but one, nevertheless. And I am not sure which bit shook me most! Great writing, thanks!
  6. Thank you for your praise! I can only hope that at the end of the story, you'll still think the same thing!
  7. Thank you for another awesome bunny gif! That's definitely Aidan, chilling in Heath's pool! And I'm glad you're liking my story so much!
  8. Canuk

    A Bit Of Trouble

    It looks like a little light is shining through the fog... The balance you have created between the two characters is exceptional! Thoroughly enjoying it; thanks.
  9. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XXVII

    Thanks, Robb! The first long motorcycle trip of the year starts a week from tomorrow. Time spent on the motorcycle alone with my thoughts has led to scenes/stories in the past, and I suspect the pattern will repeat itself. Considering some of the trip is already part of research for a future story, I'm certain this one will be no different. I'll see you back here in a couple of weeks when the next installment goes live.
  10. It's been a few years. I was just thinking about all the friends I had on here and how they all helped me through a difficult time in my life. Thank you all so much (to whoever reads this or still uses it?!), honestly don't know where I would be without you all. Big love for everyone

    Connor xx

  11. As always you make my Sundays worth waking up. Thank you for this story No context, I just liked the GIF
  12. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XXVII

    @quttzik Thank you! Providing a respite from day to day struggles was high on my list of reasons for writing. For myself and readers. Whenever I see new readers pick up the series, I want to scream Don't stop! The writing gets better. I'm glad you persevered. My hope is my writing continues to improve and I can offer new stories readers will enjoy. I will revisit some characters in the future, but I also have new ones on the way. I do promise a similar tone: positive stories about people unwilling to sit and wait for life to happen. My guys tend to be fighters.
  13. Today
  14. Canuk

    Chapter 7

    Love the way the counsellors characters are being individually being built up through stories, confessions and small interactions. Fun story that is a good education in writing as well. 😁
  15. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XXVII

    Let me know if and when you're in South Florida. I'd enjoy meeting you.
  16. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XXVII

    I think if CJ ran for office, it would be because he feels he can do some good and not for the power. Considering I've had him take some controversial positions readers don't always agree with, people still supporting him has been a great experience. Proof we can all agree on basics like honesty even when some of the details may not be to our liking. I kept thinking about John McCain and that's why I included a quote from him in this chapter. The man had integrity, something our current president sorely lacks.
  17. Katya Dee

    Chapter 14

    - XIV - It was three months later, and Raven was deliriously happy, unbelievably frustrated, and disgusted with himself all at the same time. Happy was clear – he and the blond clicked together so much that it seemed unreal. When Raven moved into the house, almost every single staff member’s expression read identical, “Oh, God, now there are two of them...!” Raven couldn't care less about that, however. Julian kept his word (as he always did), and he wouldn’t go anywhere (where sex would be involved) without Raven, and he would never involve kids into any of his ‘parties.’ Seventeen wasn’t ‘kids’ in Raven’s book, so that didn’t bother him too much. Soon enough, he started to realize that he and the blond weren’t much different indeed; he had that realization before, but now, it hit him with full force, which smoothly led into frustrated part. He realized that he started to look forward to Friday nights when the ‘parties’ would usually take place. That alone wasn’t a problem, however. The problem was that he also realized that he actually liked to see the blond in action, which was disturbing to say the least. However, it remained the same. Every time he would see Julian perform something in his usual (brutal) manner, instead of becoming disgusted, terrified, or at least concerned, he would be turned on to the point of exploding. Julian was perfectly aware of that even though Raven tried to hide it from him at first. Whenever it came to pleasure, Julian turned into a Blood Hound – he simply knew, as if he had some sort of a sixth sense. That was why Raven felt incredibly frustrated. As for disgust with himself, that feeling appeared inside him the very last Friday, two days ago, after yet another ‘party.’ The blond did something along his usual lines to some unfortunate dark-eyed young woman, which left her back one bloody mess. Before Raven knew it, he was cleaning that mess with his tongue, Salamander watching him like a very horny hawk. Then, after they got home around five in the morning, they didn’t even make it to the bedroom. The farthest they got was the living room, which was quite a challenging task for the cleaning staff later in the morning. That was another thing – it didn’t matter how much ‘fun’ they would have on Friday nights; they would inevitably shake with barely controlled lust when they got back home, as if the events during the night were merely foreplay. Raven wasn’t a bit surprised at that reaction from the blond – he was a sex-crazed maniac; however, he was astonished to find out that he was the exact same way. It wasn’t as if Julian influenced or changed him somehow – Raven knew that. He always had this dark side; he simply would never feed it before. He always got off on drinking blood, and when he got involved with the blond, he realized that he enjoyed hurting him immensely. He didn’t think he would feel the same way about hurting someone else, but alas, that appeared to be the very disturbing case. That was why he felt disgusted with himself. Today was Sunday, and he lay on the bed with his eyes closed; frustration, disgust, and happiness making his head hurt. The thought of separating himself from Julian never even occurred to him – he was addicted to the blond, to say the least. That and he knew that Salamander would not let him go even if Raven somehow, managed to convince himself to get away from him (which would never happen). Julian wasn’t lying three months ago, when he said that it wasn’t about sex anymore. “Goddammit...” Raven muttered and gritted his teeth. He was somewhat startled to feel a cool touch on his neck, and opened his eyes. Julian finished his shower, it seemed, and was kneeling next to the bed, his lilac eyes solemn. “Twice a month,” the blond said, and Raven blinked at that. “What ‘twice a month’?” he asked with a small frown. “The parties,” Julian nodded. “They will be happening twice a month from now on.” Raven’s frown deepened and he sat up. “Why?” The blond sighed. “Because I hate watching you execute yourself silently every time after we come back from one,” he said patiently, and Raven blinked again. “Julian...” Raven started slowly, but the blond interrupted him. “I’ll switch to once a month without any problem,” he said seriously. “I don’t need them now as much as I did before anyway.” “Julian...” Raven said again, feeling puzzled, relieved, and regretful at the same time. The blond sighed again and pressed his chin into his palm. “I am a different matter, Raven,” he said quietly. “I welcomed this side of me; you will never be able to welcome it... Therefore, twice a month.” “Fine,” Raven let out a small smile. “I am going to take a shower now...” “Go ahead...” Julian purred in his usual manner, and Raven got off the bed, absent-mindedly tugging on the belt of his jeans. He almost made it all the way to the bathroom when he heard his phone ring. He thought of letting it ring, but then figured that it might be Magda with yet another job – he didn’t have any ever since the mirror, and to be honest, he missed that. Therefore, he sighed, turned around, took a step towards the ringing phone, and... ...he stopped in front of some strange-looking pillar, somewhere that looked like a very fancy basement. He dumbfoundedly looked around with the only thought in his mind: “Huh?!” “It’s you?” someone’s incredulous voice said, and Raven turned towards it. Then he blinked more rapidly. It was some woman who seemed to be in her mid-twenties, her short hair light-auburn, features sharp and small. “Who the hell are you...?” Raven said slowly and glanced around once again. “And where am I...?” The woman let out an exasperated sigh. “How in the world did you do this?” she said with a puzzled frown, ignoring Raven’s question. “And even better question, why?” “Did what?” Raven asked with even more amount of dumbfoundedness as before. The woman briefly closed her eyes as if composing herself. “Oh, for the love of...” she muttered and opened her eyes. “Do you have any idea how frustrated and upset I was?” she demanded. “God...! I was tearing my hair out... Literally,” she nodded energetically. “Hell, when I realized that it was attuned to someone...” “What was attuned...?” Raven felt like he was having an incredibly vivid dream Then it dawned on him. “I am dreaming, aren’t I?” he looked around again. “Holy hell, this is a dream, isn’t it...?” “Yeah, yeah,” the woman waved her hand impatiently. “It’s a dream! Now, get closer, will you?” Raven took several steps towards her even though he wasn’t planning on it. “I was going to kill you instantly,” the woman nodded energetically. “But if I don’t get some answers right now, my curiosity won’t let me sleep during the night, therefore...” She stopped talking and narrowed her eyes, studying Raven’s expression. “Bloody hell...” she finally said in a lower voice. “You have no idea what I am talking about, do you...?” “No,” Raven answered honestly, thinking that this was one hell of a vivid dream. The woman took a deep breath. “The attuning, dipshit,” she said in a low voice. “Now, judging by your expression, I am going to say that you have no idea it even happened...” she laughed shortly. “Damn...! A bloody accident...! And I thought that I would go nuts... Damn...” she said again and shook her head. “Anyway, I am going to ask you a single question, and then I am going to kill you, so I can break the bloody attuning once and for all...” She took a quick breath, ignoring Raven’s rapid blinking. “Okay, the question is...” she glanced at something behind Raven’s shoulder, and frowned with almost ridiculous astonishment. “What the hell is he doing here?!” she asked in sharp disbelief, and Raven turned his head. “Julian?” he asked incredulously, and the blond looked at him with great confusion. “I am dreaming about you...?” he shook his head. “I mean, I did dream about you before, but you would never wear anything... Holy hell...” he shook his head again while the blond got closer. “Or I am dreaming about you...” Julian said slowly. “I don’t think this is a dream, however...” He looked around, and when his gaze fell onto the young woman who looked defeated right now, one of his eyebrows immediately flew up, reminding Raven of that butler three months ago. “Celeste?!” he said incredulously, and Raven looked at him with even more puzzled frown. “Hello, Uncle,” she said with desperate calmness, and Raven forgot how to blink. “Uncle...?” he repeated slowly. “She is your niece...?” The blond looked at him and silently nodded. “Holy hell...” Raven muttered with disbelief. “Celeste, what are you doing?” Julian asked with forced calmness. “Why did you drag us here?” “I didn’t drag you,” the young woman said with a heavy, desperate sigh. “I beg to differ...” Julian looked around again, and Celeste closed her eyes. “I had no idea it would be you...” she muttered. “Or that it would be more than one person for that matter...” she added a minute later. “How did you do that...?” “Did what?” Julian’s voice sounded dangerously-even right now. “Celeste, I am running out of patience...” The woman sighed and opened her eyes, looking more and more desperate by the minute. “The attuning...” she muttered. “Attuning...?” Julian frowned. “Celeste, the last time I attuned anything to myself was twenty years ago...” “No,” she sighed again. “Three months or so ago...” She took something from the table in front of her and slowly lifted her hand. “See this?” she said tiredly, and Raven frowned. “That’s the mirror I got from the old hag...” he muttered. “Yeah,” Celeste sighed again and put the mirror down. “See,” she looked at Julian. “Olivier and I...” “Speaking of your brother...” the blond glanced around. “Where is he?” “He’ll be here soon,” Celeste nodded. “Anyway, Olivier and I found out about a very nifty although somewhat dangerous old spell... We were willing to take our chances, however... We needed a couple of objects, so...” “What spell would that be?” Julian asked tightly, his intonation nowhere near his usual purring drawl. “Oh,” Celeste sighed again and leaned onto the table with her palms. “Has to do with realities curve crossing... If performed correctly, it will grant you some very serious powers... Since Olivier and I are both Guardians, we figured that if we succeeded, then it would get Reagan’s points so high up that...” “Yes,” Julian interrupted her darkly. “I remember reading about a spell like that. It has a fifty-fifty chance of success...” “As I said,” Celeste shrugged somewhat smugly. “We were willing to take our chances...” Julian closed his eyes for a few seconds. By now, Raven knew him well enough to be able to tell that the blond was restraining himself from doing her bodily harm. “You were willing to take a chance of getting annihilated and leaving Reagan with only two Guardians?” he asked evenly and opened his eyes. “Celeste, are you completely brainless?” She blinked somewhat rapidly as if the idea that she might fail had never even occurred to her. “Uncle...” “Never mind,” Julian said sharply. “It is obvious to me that it will not happen; therefore, I don’t care right now. Why the hell did you drag us here?” “Because when I tried attuning the mirror to myself, it wouldn’t let me!” she said with exasperation. “Olivier decided to wait for me to attune the mirror before doing the same to the medallion, but the damn mirror kept throwing me off! Finally, I realized that it was already attuned to someone, so I started looking for a spell, which would help me find that dipshit... Took me a while to find the right spell,” she gloomily glanced at Raven. “I perform it, it succeeds, I am thinking, well, finally, and now...” She looked at the eerily calm blond. “Breaking the attuning is out of the question,” she finished bitterly. “You ruined my plan, which I was working on for quite a long time, thanks... That and it cost me a hell of a lot of money,” she nodded. “When you hired him to get the mirror,” Julian said so calmly that Celeste took a small step back. “Were you aware of the fact that the owner of the mirror could control black streams?” “Yes,” Celeste said slowly with a puzzled frown. “That’s why I hired him and not someone else... I needed the best thief out there, since I wanted to make sure he succeeded...” “Why didn’t you warn him?” the blond asked insinuatingly. “Because if he knew, there would be a big chance of him declining the job,” she shrugged. “I didn’t want to take that chance.” “Do you know that you almost got him killed?” the blond’s purring drawl was back, but it sounded icy-cold right now. Celeste glanced at content-looking by now Raven, and slowly blinked. “No,” she muttered. “I did not know that...” Julian didn’t say anything else; he simply closed his eyes for a second, and then Celeste’s entire body got immobile-rigid, her eyes huge and dark. Raven immediately knew that he just hit her with that nasty spell of his. He watched her paralyzed expression with mild curiosity, wondering what level of pain Julian threw at her. Finally, after five minutes or so, the blond closed his eyes again, and Celeste let out a shaky, moaning breath. She pressed both palms into the tabletop and took quick gulps of air. “I...” she said after a few minutes. “Uncle, I am sorry... Oh, God...” “Why in the world did you drag me here?” Julian asked, his expression somewhat bored by now. Celeste raised her head, her face still pale. “I...” she coughed. “I didn’t... I didn’t even know it would be more than one person... If you don’t know anything about the attuning, then how is it possible that blood of both of you ended up on the mirror...?” Julian frowned thoughtfully for a second; then there was a sudden revelation reflecting in his eyes. “I know how his blood got there...” he said slowly and looked at Raven. “That night,” he said. “When the cat attacked you... You were bleeding rather heavily...” Raven frowned at that. “I didn’t touch the mirror after the cat jumped me,” he said in a low voice. “I put it away right before it attacked me.” “Yes,” the blond nodded. “You didn’t but I did; and I am sure that I had some of your blood on me when I touched it... I never noticed it,” he shrugged, and now it was Raven’s turn to reflect revelation. “And since your blood is pretty much mixed with mine by now,” he said slowly. “This is why it got attuned to both of us...” “Huh,” the blond said thoughtfully. “What do you mean?” Celeste asked in a more composed voice. “Your blood is mixed with his...?” Julian threw her a quick glance. “He drinks it,” he said shortly, and Celeste blinked at that. “Freak,” she muttered under her breath, making sure the blond didn’t hear her. “Now that everything is resolved,” Julian said calmly. “And that you are aware of the fact that if you as much as look at him the wrong way, you will be sorry, send us back.” “Umm...” Celeste said, and Julian looked like he was about to hurt her again. “Let me guess,” he said dangerously. “You don’t know how...” “I am sorry,” she said in a small voice, and the blond closed his eyes for a few seconds. This time, however, it seemed he was simply composing himself. “I will drive you,” she said quickly, and Julian opened his eyes. “Give me the car keys,” he said shortly. “I will drive us. You can get your car later.” She pulled a set of car keys out of her pocket and cautiously made her way towards the blond. “I am sorry, Uncle...” she said again, and he grabbed the keys. “Let’s go,” he looked at Raven, who seemed to be rather thoughtful by now. “Hold on,” Raven said slowly and looked at Celeste. “You were about to complete the spell, correct?” “After I broke the attuning, yes,” she nodded stiffly. “Wouldn’t you need all of the... artifacts?” he asked in the same thoughtful voice, and Celeste frowned. “Yes,” she said slowly. “I do have all of the artifacts,” she nodded. “What about the rock?” Raven said, and Julian frowned at that. “He still has it...” “What rock?” Celeste blinked. “The dark-green rock,” Raven looked at her intently. “The first job you hired me for...” “The first job I hired you for was the medallion,” Celeste said as slowly as before. “I have no idea what rock you are talking about... Why the hell would I need a rock...?” “Magda said that all three jobs came from the same people,” Raven said, clearly puzzled. “She also said that you were asking her whether I reconsidered...” “I don’t know what rock you are talking about,” Celeste shook her head. “I only hired you twice – for the medallion, and then for the mirror... Hold on,” she narrowed her eyes. “You said he still has it...” she glanced at Julian. “Someone hired you to steal a rock from him...?” “That’s how we met,” the blond nodded. “Romantic story, really...” “You have a very interesting definition of romance,” Raven said solemnly, and now there was that small smile, playing on Julian’s mouth. “Yes,” he agreed and looked at Celeste. “So you never hired him for the rock...” he said mostly to himself, ignoring another head shake from her. “Interesting... However, I will figure it out later; the rock is safe for the time being, and if I were you, I would use my brain next time another dangerous spell caught my attention...” She started saying something, but Julian ignored it. “Let’s go,” he said to Raven, and Celeste thoughtfully frowned after watching blond’s arm drape around Raven’s shoulders in a possessive fashion while they walked away. “Well, spank me upside down...” she muttered when they left the room. “I thought it was impossible...” “Did you find the person?” someone asked, and Celeste slowly nodded without even looking around. “Yes,” she said. “Where is he? She...?” The owner of the voice came closer; it was a young man who looked strikingly identical to her – the same light-auburn hair, the same features, and even the same body complexion. In fact, if they were wearing the same clothes, it would be rather impossible to tell the difference between them. Celeste sighed and turned towards her twin. “We failed,” she said bitterly, and young man’s eyes widened at that. “We failed,” she repeated with a nod. “Guess who the mirror is attuned to...?” The young man frowned quizzically. “Julian,” Celeste sighed, and her twin’s expression became dumbfounded. “Yeah,” she nodded again. “Gets even better... Not just Julian, but his...” she stuttered for a second. “...his mate as well...” “Mate...” the young man repeated very slowly. “Vivienne...?” Celeste rolled her eyes. “No, Olivier,” she said impatiently. “Not Vivienne... How in hell do you attune something to someone who’s been dead for nine years...?” “I don’t understand...” Olivier said as slowly as before. “Apparently, Uncle has a new mate,” Celeste said, and then nodded at her brother’s expression. “Tell me about it...!” “Did he say it was his mate?” Olivier was clearly trying to make sense out of this. “No,” Celeste sighed. “But he didn’t have to... You should have seen him...! It doesn’t matter if they haven't announced it yet -- it’s just a question of time. Believe me, though, they are mates, all right...! Julian hit me with that nasty shit spell of his when he figured that I knew about black streams... Apparently, that guy was almost killed...” “Hold on...” Olivier looked beyond puzzled. “His mate it that thief?!” “Yeah,” Celeste nodded and went back to the table. She started gathering all the candles she had arranged there earlier. “Apparently, he tried to steal some rock from him, and that’s how they met... I don’t know,” she shrugged at Olivier’s unasked question. “That’s what he said. Anyway...” she sighed and left the candles alone. “Those were very unpleasant twenty minutes... Even with the spell aside, he looked like was going to kill me on the spot; and he wouldn't give a damn about the fact that I am the Air Guardian,” she nodded. “Believe me, if someone does anything to that guy, they are going to be beyond sorry... As I said, however, I just had very unpleasant twenty minutes... Make me feel better...” Olivier blinked several times, still digesting the information about Julian, and then he let out a small smile. “How much water do you want?” he asked in a low voice and walked closer. “More than usual,” she smiled slowly. “I want a hell of a whirlwind...” “Say when to stop...” he murmured, and then he was kissing her neck, thinking that this was pretty much the only thing Julian wasn’t into. His Uncle would never eye even one of his distant relatives, let alone his twin sister if he had one. Olivier didn’t care though, nor did Celeste. They were perfect together, and the question of right and wrong never bothered either one of them.
  18. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XXVII

    I'm so glad I'm single...
  19. Aidan will start, slowly, to become more of the man he wants to be. As for Heath ... he'll learn a lot in the process, too. Thank you for commenting, Timmy!
  20. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XXVII

    I shall! Spanking might be a way to deal with a husband hiding a manual. Then again, why reward the boy?
  21. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XXVII

    Sometimes I get tongue tied when reading comments. Yours is one of those. Thank you for the praise. I love the fact readers have embraced my guys and allowed them into their lives.
  22. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XXVII

    You may not comment often, but I've enjoyed the times you have. Consider doing it more often in the future LOL Let's see what I come up with to keep everyone up to date on CJ's life. Thank you!
  23. I hope Heath appreciates his friend's efforts and asks him to be best man, eventually. And YAY for Aidan finally standing up to his boss.
  24. Carlos Hazday

    GMA I

    Fixed it!
  25. Chapter Nineteen – A Bit Of Trouble Aidan was in deep, deep trouble. What was he to do about Heathcliff’s direct confession? At least, he believed it to be a confession, and it wasn’t right to think it so. For some reason, Heathcliff continued his game of driving Aidan nuts and seemed utterly oblivious to how that made his bed partner of convenience feel. In all truth, he felt pretty damn good. Having Heathcliff tell him that he liked him was a remarkable achievement. It had to be, although Aidan wondered if that was something Heathcliff told anyone who ended between the sheets with him. To protect himself, he had laughed it off. At least, for now, while they were having a so-called business lunch, he could focus on work. That was easier said than done. Heathcliff looked at him from across the table with all knowing eyes. Most probably, it was written all over him that he was falling for his charge fast. He coughed and tried to bring Heathcliff around to what he needed him to hear. “You will have to be a little more pro-active in how you promote the product,” he explained. “They want you to drink it in front of the camera, praise its qualities, you know the drill.” Heathcliff frowned. “It would look a bit pushy, don’t you think? People understand I must earn a living, but if I try to stuff this thing down their throats --” “Wouldn’t they think you a hypocrite if you advertised a product and you didn’t try it?” Aidan quirked an eyebrow, hoping he looked serious enough and Heathcliff wouldn’t derail him with innuendo and why not. But it looked like Heathcliff was all business, too. He leaned back into his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “I suppose you have a point. But I did taste the product, and I must say it tastes like any generic drink of this type. I won’t tell a blatant lie. When I tell my subscribers that my videos are sponsored, it’s one thing. But if I began blabbing about how this drink will get them ten-inch cocks or D cups, depending on what they’d like to have, that would be true hypocrisy.” Aidan knew Heathcliff was right, but he still needed to do his job. “You’re not advertising some male enhancement product,” he said thinly. “These shakes are useful for people who work out regularly.” “I’d rather they took their protein from fresh, clean sources, not off the shelf in the form of a generic shake,” Heathcliff replied calmly. “Oh, sorry, Mr. I-have-plenty-of-time-to-cook-every-meal, but that’s not feasible for most people,” Aidan pointed out. Heathcliff looked at him, a bit surprised. “That’s a pretty good argument. Okay, I’ll give it to you. You have a point. Still, you need to meet me in the middle. Everyone knows I don’t drink protein shakes. Everything about me is one hundred percent natural. No shortcuts.” Aidan threw Heathcliff a brief look. Didn’t he know that first hand? “Your ego, too?” he said, instead of voicing how right he believed Heathcliff to be on this topic. “Hitting below the belt, bunny boy?” Heathcliff leaned over the table and whispered while his deep blue eyes set on Aidan, making him blush. “You dragged me here, to this place, per your boss’s instructions, and told me we should keep it business-like. Don’t worry; two can play this game.” Aidan recoiled from the accusation. Of course, Heathcliff was right. “I apologize. It was uncalled for. And you do make a strong point. Please, tell me, what would you suggest?” “Get me the complete list of ingredients. I will break them down for the people watching, and explain why the shakes your company sells could be used as a replacement, from time to time, to healthy, complete meals. I will still insist on the importance of clean eating and cooking at home. I would present busy people with an alternative, but not any of that mumbo-jumbo with how amazing the product is. I won’t turn into an infomercial monkey. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, not even for the sake of your pretty eyes.” “Ouch,” Aidan pursed his lips, “you do know how to hit back, don’t you?” “Of course I do,” Heathcliff said with satisfaction. “You can ask anything of me, and by that, I mean anything that’s not work-related.” “Really?” Aidan cocked one head to the side. “What if I want you to come with me to karaoke and make a fool of yourself in front of strangers by singing out of tune? Will you do that?” “Is that your idea of a date? I must warn you; I’m a pretty good singer.” “Of course you are.” Aidan shook his head. There was no way to win against this guy. He had way too many aces up his sleeves. “Okay, I will take this idea to the higher-ups, and I’ll see what they say. After that, I’ll get back to you, and then you can offer your input once again. What do you say?” “You didn’t answer my question.” Aidan blinked. “What question?” “Is going to karaoke your idea of a great date? Do you like karaoke?” “I do like karaoke, but there’s no --” “Let’s go then.” “What? Now?” Aidan asked, alarmed. “No, my perfect little professional employee. Some evening. You pick the time.” Aidan exhaled. “Okay. Now --” “Hey, Heath, long time, no see!” Someone interrupted him mid-sentence. The newcomer ignored Aidan entirely and looked like he was about to climb into Heathcliff’s lap. Aidan glanced at him while trying to figure out what the best course of action would be, given the circumstances. The man looked like the usual type Heathcliff was known to take to bed. He wasn’t Matt or Heathcliff’s friend from the birthday party, but he was as drop-dead gorgeous as them. Aidan could feel his chest hurting a little as he stared at the newcomer and Heathcliff. Now that looked like the perfect picture. Which was two gorgeous men conversing in a fancy restaurant, looking like they were about to leave together and enjoy each other, as it was normal - that was what Aidan saw. If he needed a wakeup call, it was right in front of his eyes. For now, Heathcliff liked him, but just as much he liked this guy and dozens of others. As amazing as he was as a person and a fitness trainer, Heathcliff Stone was a playboy, a player, and Aidan had no business to believe him. He looked down, finding for the time being, more interesting to stare at his fingernails than pay any attention to what was happening across from him. “Hi,” Heathcliff said to the newcomer. “Sorry, it seems my memory is slipping ... What’s your name?” Aidan looked up at Heathcliff over the table. He was so nonchalant in his admittance of not remembering the other man’s name. The newcomer didn’t seem to care. “Oh, Heath, you’re such a teaser!” That Aidan had to agree with him. “It’s Han; how could you forget?” The guy touched Heathcliff’s forearm teasingly, just with the tips of his fingers. “I know a lot of people. It happens,” Heathcliff said without - at least Aidan saw it that way - one ounce of remorse. Han seemed to be pretty dense. He just laughed at Heathcliff’s dismissal and continued. “Anyways, I was so dying to see you again. How about we hang out? Unless you’re busy,” he threw over his shoulder while looking briefly at Aidan. “Sorry, you guys were in a business meeting, right? I could tell after the formal ... everything,” he gestured around, at the papers spread on the table. Aidan made a move to pick them up. “We were just finishing here,” he said with a perfunctory smile. Heathcliff placed one hand over the papers. “No, we weren’t.” Aidan looked at him and instantly felt a small chill. Heathcliff’s eyes were hard, and no trace of his usual playfulness could be seen in them. “Ah,” Han interjected, completely oblivious to the silent exchange taking place in front of his eyes. “Call me later?” “I don’t think so,” Heathcliff replied, without taking his eyes off Aidan. “Tomorrow then?” Heathcliff finally moved his eyes away, allowing Aidan to breathe. “Can’t you take a hint?” “Wow, someone’s in a mood,” Han replied and took a small step back. “Never mind. I’m back in town. Give me a call when you’re less busy. Bye!” Aidan had to give it to Han. He knew how to make an honorable retreat. The blue eyes returned to him, and he gulped. He had a feeling he wouldn’t like what Heathcliff wanted to say next. So he hurried to be the first to speak. “Why did you have to be so rude with Han?” he asked. “Why do you care? Is he a friend of yours?” Heathcliff said smoothly. “No, he is one of yours.” “No, he’s not.” “Well, at least, you were acquaintances. And I thought you were nice to everyone.” “I’m not nice to people pestering me. You should know that. But let’s talk about something else that annoys me. Why are you so quick to abandon the ship? Are you my real babysitter or what? Is enough for some random dude to walk over and you’re ready to hand me over?” “Wow.” Aidan put both his hands up. “Why are you so upset? I thought you liked handsome men.” Heathcliff seemed to ponder over what he would say next. “Is this business lunch over?” Aidan could not fathom what the hell had gotten into Heathcliff. The man was a sight when he was pissed, his eyes cold, yet burning, his handsome face cut in stone. Aidan could not recall ever seeing him like this. He hated to leave things in such a state of affairs and go to work earlier than estimated, but he doubted he could deal with Heathcliff at the moment. Aidan didn’t know him well enough. “I guess,” he said with a sigh. “I’ll tell my boss about your request, and get back to you with his input in a few days, I believe. Sometimes he takes a while to decide on things he believes important. What are you doing? This business lunch goes on the company’s tab!” He tried to wrestle Heathcliff over the bill, as while he was busy talking, the waiter had materialized next to their table. It was no surprise that Heathcliff managed to fight him off without a problem. Heathcliff said nothing, but after sending the waiter away with his usual smile, he stood up brusquely. Aidan hated this, whatever it was. He needed to say something and find out what the hell was going on, but he could not find the right words. “Come. We’re going back home,” Heathcliff said shortly. Aidan traipsed behind Heathcliff out of the restaurant, his heart beating faster, no idea why. *** Heathcliff was getting a bit annoyed with Aidan. So, after being told right to his face the naked truth, bunny boy still didn’t believe him to be serious. Yes, that had happened fast, so fast actually that it had taken him by surprise, too. But he was no confused teenager, and he knew what he wanted, which was for Aidan to understand that he was telling the truth. How hard could that be? Okay, so he had the reputation of a playboy, and it didn’t help that Aidan had seen him at work firsthand. He was honest, though, and he hadn’t ever told anyone he liked him. He had praised his bed partners for many things, and he had been courteous, but he had never said those words. The whole thing was starting to feel a little frustrating. Was he moving too fast? It didn’t feel like that. For him, things were simple. And Aidan liked him back, and just had to say it, not flippantly, not as a joke. Maybe he needed to move forward to the next stage and drag Aidan after him. As things were, they would not get anywhere. Heathcliff needed more than hot sex to convince Aidan he was the real deal. That would come later, he thought, as he looked out the car window while Aidan was driving them back to his place. For now, hot sex still had to do. *** Aidan was unsure whether it was a good idea to deal with Heathcliff right now. He shook his head. What was he afraid of, anyway? Heathcliff was just a spoiled fitness guru, and he needed to see that his constant teasing didn’t work. It wasn’t like Aidan to back down, so he had to set things right, once and for all. “What exactly made you act like that at the restaurant?” he asked, without any introduction, as soon as they were inside. Heathcliff didn’t answer. Instead, he pulled Aidan into his arms fast, locking their lips together. It wasn’t fair, Aidan thought, as he felt like eyelids fluttering and the usual response growing inside him with Heathcliff’s firm touch. One hand was in his hair, making a fist, not hurtful, but a warning, nonetheless, and the other arm was wrapped around his waist, keeping him close to the other. If things were this simple. Aidan pulled Heathcliff closer, as it was the only thing he could think of. He barely kept a gasp, as Heathcliff hiked him up into his arms, leaving Aidan no choice but to use his legs as leverage and wrap them around the other’s midsection. His back was against the wall, and they were dry humping, but Aidan couldn’t say he was complaining. Heathcliff’s mouth was hot on his, and it made him dizzy with desire. In short, it wasn’t fair. He was breathing hard when Heathcliff let his mouth free. “Aidan,” Heathcliff said, his blue eyes still burning, “is it that hard to believe that I like you and only you?” He gulped, feeling his throat getting tighter and tighter, threatening to cut his air supply. “I … really?” “Yes, really. I know what you’re thinking. That any moment, I’ll kick you at the curb, and there will be another guy in my bed, like usual.” “You’re right,” Aidan admitted. “But you can’t blame me for it. I mean, it’s part of who you are, right? This playboy persona.” Heathcliff rocked his hips slowly, making their crotches rub together. Aidan licked his lips and closed his eyes for a second. “It’s just sex, isn’t it?” “You’re asking me this like you’re about to cry,” Heathcliff replied. Aidan’s eyes snapped open. “Screw you, Stone. No one’s crying.” “I know,” Heathcliff said with a small smile. “I’m just teasing you. But I need you to look at me and understand.” “If you want that, put me down, and stop teasing me. How will I go to work with this raging boner?” Heathcliff chuckled. “I believe that’s no challenge for you. I know you to be perfect in every way,” he whispered the last words into Aidan’s ear, making him shiver. “Seriously, Stone. How can I believe you when you’re like this all the time?” “Like this how?” Heathcliff pulled back only a fraction so that they could stare into each other’s eyes. “You’re overwhelming,” Aidan stated. “I’m a complete noob, okay, I admit it, and you’re playing in the big league. It’s enough for you to touch me and I … just completely come undone.” “Wow, I didn’t know you were this easy,” Heathcliff said with a smirk. “Apparently I am,” Aidan replied and frowned. He was getting a bit weary with Heathcliff’s taunts. “Elaborate,” Heathcliff demanded directly. “You’re you.” Aidan sighed. “Handsome, no, gorgeous, okay? Famous. Dozens of conquests under your belt. And I’m me. Normal. Ordinary. Maybe adequate. And also someone who’s never been in this sort of situation. How do you think this feels for me?” Heathcliff wasn’t smiling anymore. He slowly put Aidan down and moved away. Aidan looked after him, feeling all helpless and vulnerable. If Heathcliff sent him out the door that very instant, he would go. And with all the due regrets, it would be the right thing. “What would you like me to do?” Heathcliff asked. Aidan blinked and stared at the other for a while. “What do you mean?” he barely managed to say. “I understand where you’re coming from. And that’s why I suggest something else. Let’s play by your rules.” “My rules? I’m not sure I have any.” “So make them as we go. I do like you, Aidan, and I want you to see it. So, what would make you happy right now?” Could he really believe Heathcliff? He wasn’t smiling or joking anymore. So, maybe he was serious. But Aidan was not some fool to think that Heathcliff Stone was in the mood to change for him and suddenly become all monogamous. “I think I should go back to work,” he said stiffly. Heathcliff didn’t look at him. He just made a gesture, pointing the door to Aidan with the open palm, inviting him to leave. It felt wrong to walk away like this, but Aidan knew that it had to be the right thing. It was like two parts of him were pulling him apart, each one in the opposite direction. Something stupid, like a verse from a song telling that the heart always told the truth, came to mind. He shook it off. So, it had come to an end, after all. He would not cry over spilled milk. Slowly, he moved and walked through the door, without a word. Out of the house, he looked up, in a small effort to clear his head. The bright summer sky seemed to mock him. *** He was a complete mess on the inside. The last thing he needed was for his boss to give him a lecture. Apparently, he was in for one, anyway. “Spark, can’t you just control this man?” “He does have a point, sir,” he replied, feeling tired and in no mood to take his boss’s bullshit, too. “His followers and subscribers believe in him because he’s always honest.” “He was fussy about accepting our offer. He’s a money grabber like anyone else,” his boss replied sharply. Aidan knew that wasn’t fair. Heathcliff’s agent hadn’t negotiated some impossible deal. It looked like his boss found it very convenient to overlook the fact that Heathcliff advertising their product saved them big money in marketing spending. “I think it would convince plenty of people that what we’re selling is of good quality. Having someone like Heathcliff Stone explain the benefits of our shakes is ideal. It would not be just an exaggerated ad. People don’t believe in such things nowadays, anyway.” His boss was staring at him over the tent made by his hands. “Are you questioning advertising methods that have been working for years, Spark?” Aidan squared his shoulders. “Yes, I am, sir. With all due respect.” “Let’s make it interesting then.” His boss stood up and rummaged through a folder case. “I want to see these numbers by the end of the quarter.” Aidan looked at the graphs and frowned. At first glance, the task seemed impossible. But he had faith in Heathcliff and his ability to convince people. The guy’s honesty was one of his biggest perks. “Get me this, and next year, that creative position will be yours.” “And if I don’t?” Aidan looked up, staring his boss into his eyes. “Then you will toil for greatness from the position you presently occupy for a couple more years.” Aidan pondered. “No moment like the present, Spark,” his boss interrupted his thoughts. “What will it be? Do you have it in you to put our advertising asset, aka Heathcliff Stone, to work? Or do you think you still have more to learn and it would serve you to be the office’s workhorse for a while?” “I would like that list of ingredients, sir,” Aidan said instead of a direct reply. His boss slammed the desk in satisfaction. “That’s the attitude, Spark! You’ll have it by the end of the day! Dismissed!” Aidan had a mind to ask how come they didn’t have the list of ingredients somewhere around. Maybe he could just glean over it by getting one of those shakers. Funny thing, no one in the office drank them. “What are you dallying for?” his boss asked, seeing how he remained unmoved. “Don’t we have the list of ingredients here, at the headquarters?” “We’re doing this by the book, Spark!” the man barked. “We’ll have the list that is certified by our research lab, not just the fine print from the product.” “Why? Isn’t that complete?” “It’s not official enough, Spark. How long have you been with us? Aren’t you familiar with our protocols already?” Protocols. Sort of the most significant thing the big kahuna cared about. Aidan nodded quickly. There was no need to enrage his boss with his hesitations. “I understand, sir,” he said while standing up and catching his hand right in time before he ended up saluting like a soldier. Now the only problem was to interact with Heathcliff. There was nothing left between them of whatever had been until then, but they could maintain a professional relationship. At least, he hoped so. *** “What’s happening?” Michael questioned him. “I only do house calls like this when there’s a serious situation,” he added jokingly. Heathcliff wasn’t in the mood to laugh, no matter how much he appreciated his friend’s sense of humor. “Aidan is driving me nuts. He doesn’t believe me! Can you believe it?” he said, throwing his arms in defeat. “Actually, I do,” Michael said matter-of-factly. “Not you, too.” Heathcliff groaned and covered his eyes. “Hey, if you didn’t think so too, you wouldn’t have called me.” Heathcliff sighed deeply. “Yeah, that’s right. You’re the romantic, Michael. How do you do it? I mean, do your boyfriends believe you when you tell them that you like them?” “I tell them I love them, which is a different thing,” Michael replied. “Love.” Heathcliff snorted. “It’s too strong a word. It would sound phony, and I don’t love Aidan. I just like him very, very much. It’s not like me to lie.” “You may not love Aidan yet,” Michael pointed out, “but you’re obviously falling for him.” “We’re not fifteen,” Heathcliff groaned, “no one’s falling for anyone.” “Really? Then what’s with the rush? Why don’t you just have fun with Aidan while it lasts?” “I want more than just have fun! I want him to believe him when I tell him that I like him!” Heathcliff gestured with his hands. “Hey, take a chill pill, will you?” Michael leaned into his chair. “Let’s say Aidan believes you. What do you expect to happen next?” “For him to tell me the same.” “He did tell you the same.” Heathcliff pursed his lips while looking at his friend. “Yeah, he did. But it’s not enough.” “All right, back to the previous question. What would you like to happen next? So you two like each other … let’s take it from there.” “I want him to fall for me.” “Okay, stop it right there. Where did ‘no one’s falling for anyone’ go? Your words, not mine.” “I was talking about me,” Heathcliff said curtly. “OMFG,” Michael started laughing, “you’re afraid you will end up more in love with him than he in love with you! Okay, excuse me while I do a little victory dance.” Heathcliff looked at his friend with murderous eyes as Michael stood up from his chair and dabbed or something like that. “Are you finished with your antics? And what kind of victory dance is that?” “A short version,” Michael said promptly while sitting back into his chair. “I knew you wouldn’t appreciate it.” “I don’t,” Heathcliff replied. “Now could we return to my current predicament?” “There’s no predicament. You’re just a bit of a selfish ass. But I’ll help you since you’re my best friend and I would really like to be your best man at the wedding. I have a feeling that role would suit me.” “Again, with that.” Heathcliff sighed and looked up like he needed to beg the heavens to give him the patience to deal with Michael. “No one gets married, don’t worry. I need Aidan to like me back.” “I thought you wanted him to love you. Big difference and not only of semantics, Heath,” Michael said. “Okay,” he admitted, his irritation growing. “Will you help me or not? We didn’t part today on best terms, and I have a feeling I’m losing him.” “Did you two have a fight? Over what?” “Over him not believing me. That’s the only thing we don’t seem to agree on. He would throw me to the first guy that came to me, can you even imagine that?” Michael shook his head with mirth. “I have the perfect advice for you. Let your bunny breathe a little. Everything happens a bit fast; don’t you think?” “Fast? I had to stop you from going on one knee on three different occasions. And I was right.” “You were,” Michael admitted with a big sigh. “None of them was the one for me. The question is: is Aidan the one for you?” Heathcliff nodded shortly. “As we speak, yes.” “Okay, then here’s my take. Aidan must feel overwhelmed, having someone famous and well known for his sexcapades all over him, telling him how much he likes him.” “Are you psychic?” Heathcliff stared at his friend in disbelief. “That’s about what he told me.” “I’m not psychic; I just have an ounce of common sense.” Heathcliff grimaced. “All right. Go on.” “So stop overwhelming him. Show him that you enjoy his company outside the bedroom.” “We did go out for ice cream.” It was Michael’s turn to look up at the sky, praying without words. “Show a bit of restraint, Heath. Don’t mention anything about how much you like him for a while. Let things happen naturally. He’ll come around. You’ll see. In the meantime, show him why you deserve to be looked at as more than just some playboy with the sole agenda of fucking as many guys as possible within the shortest time. Think of this as a marathon, not a sprint.” “Okay,” Heathcliff admitted. “So I should stop telling him that I like him.” “And pressuring him into responding to that. C’mon, Heath. It should be easy for you. Just have fun, the two of you.” “Outside the bedroom.” “And inside it. No one says that you two should be like monks or something. Just tone it down. You’re scaring the boy.” “Okay, that sounds like good advice. But what if he believes that I’m not serious about him?” “What he believes tells you what you need to do. Make him believe that you’re serious. You must do the whole enchilada. Friends, family, long talks about the virtues of decaffeinated coffee --” “No one drinks coffee in this house.” “You know what I mean. Talk to him. About everything. Make him part of your life, for real. Then he will see his place in it.” “That should be tough since he’s always caught up in that demanding job of his.” “Quantity is not everything. Spend quality time with him.” “You sound like a glossy magazine, Mikey,” Heathcliff said, with a smile. “Maybe I do. But that’s the whole point.” “How come you’re not in a relationship, the kind you want to be in, Mikey?” Heathcliff asked, now feeling a little better. Michael sighed. “I don’t seem capable of finding the right guy.” “How come?” “Do you really have to ask? You’re the one who saved me from three marital suicide attempts.” “I’m sorry. I did what I thought to be best for you.” “Don’t be sorry. You were right on all three occasions. The first was cheating on me, the second had a serious drug problem, and the third … well, I guess he thought it would be a good scheme to marry me for money. So, all in all, I have you to thank, despite whatever unpleasant words I had in store for you while being all caught up in rosy dreams of marital bliss.” “So who’s now on the chopping block?” Heathcliff joked, to lighten the atmosphere for a bit. He hated it when Michael went all gloomy. There were drawbacks to being a hopeless romantic. Michael didn’t want to see the bad in people when he liked them. Otherwise, he was a relatively good judge of character. But when he was love-struck, he tended to behave like nothing could go wrong in his relationship. Heathcliff had had a tough time with him on a few occasions. “No one. And I think I’ll just have fun for a while.” “Are you just going to hook up? You?” Heathcliff grinned. “I’ve never thought I’d live to see the day.” “I don’t need to cruise dating apps, you ass,” Michael said playfully. “There’s a new dancer. Don’t smile like that. He didn’t sleep with me to get the job. He did it after.” “So, how come you’re not rushing on one knee?” “I don’t feel the need. This guy is good in the sack, but otherwise, we have nothing in common. Actually, we’re a bit at odds. He’s a stubborn and quite opinionated prick.” “And how come you two ended up doing the horizontal cha-cha?” “I wish I had a good explanation for that. But one moment, we were arguing over something, that people could hear us through the door, and the next, I was taking him over the desk.” “You did it in your office? Kinky.” Heathcliff smirked. “Yeah. And the next one, we were back to arguing.” “So what’s the deal with him?” “He did ballet. I try to explain to him we’re in a different vein of entertainment. He’s so full of himself, I want to strangle him a little.” “I suppose he’s hot.” Michael smiled. “That he is. But don’t worry. This is one relationship that you won’t have to save me from.” “So, was it a one-time thing or more?” Heathcliff questioned. “Funny thing, from Saturday until today, we fucked three times. We’re still arguing over how we should do things. If it’s someone to cure me of my hopeless romanticism, he should be the one.” “Whatever works for you, my friend. But wait, didn’t you go on a date yesterday?” “Don’t remind me. It was just a disaster and a failed attempt. I was expecting that, though. For now, screwing my employee, as bad as that sounds, will have to do.” Heathcliff chuckled. “It sounds like you’re already in a relationship with this guy.” “It’s nothing of the kind. And I shouldn’t even say this. I might have screwed him, but he’s the one screwing with my head. Or, at least, trying to. So, if you don’t need me, I need to meet him again and go over his routine. If he continues to bug me, he won’t spend a lot of time as my employee.” “Make sure to fuck his brains out until you give him notice then.” “Now that sounds like good advice, too,” Michael replied with a small smile. It felt right to hear Michael talk like that. When it came to relationships, Michael was just too intense. A little fun couldn’t hurt him. In the meantime, he needed to play his cards right with Aidan because somewhere, somehow, he had failed. *** “I do have the list for you,” Aidan said after a short greeting. “When should I give it to you?” “Aren’t you coming home tonight? Just bring it with you,” Heathcliff replied. Aidan hoped a short conversation over the phone wouldn’t feel too hurtful. The moment he heard Heathcliff’s voice, a mix of feelings began roiling up his gut. He had protected himself for nothing. “Um, I thought we were like … done?” he said in a meek voice. “We’re not done.” Aidan clasped the wheel hard. He understood why driving and talking on the phone shouldn’t mix. “Is it what you want, Aidan? To be done with me?” Heathcliff’s voice seemed serious, and a tiny bit sad. “No,” he admitted, cursing himself for it. “Then come home. We have much to talk about.” “Okay.” He should have felt that it was wrong as he turned the car. But no, it felt good. Actually, it felt awesome, and his heart was beating fast. TBC
  26. Carlos Hazday

    Prologue

    @Will Hawkins LOL- I have a series of spreadsheets to help me. The obvious one is character names. Depending on how important each one is, I have certain details about them. Date and place of birth, education and profession, relationships, and for some smaller details like vehicle(s) owned. After working with them for so long, some of the information has wormed its way into my brain. I don't refer to the list as often anymore, but there are times when I forget things. I'm too old to trust my memory.
  27. i was very happy to do it, AC. i am grateful to all the authors who contributed and @Thorn Wilde who created the banner. i am grateful as well to the wonderful week last week...for the review of Levko by @Cole Matthews and to @Brayon for recommending Until The End. As well to all the wonderful people who offered their congratulations on my promotion to Signature Author. I thank them all. Thanks especially to you AC. You teach me something each day. I am grateful for having you in my life. Thank you.
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