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    Laura S. Fox
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Love, Again - 9. Eyes And Ears

Chapter Nine – Eyes And Ears

The venue definitely had an indie vibe, with its paper lights hanging from the ceiling, and refurbished furniture that looked like it had been saved from some dumpster somewhere. Mason sat gingerly, afraid that the old wood might just give up under his weight. Rhys grinned at him. “What are you so spooked about?”

“Spooked? Just worried that the chair won’t hold me.”

Surprisingly, the table cloth was real cloth, and so were the napkins. The light was insufficient, but maybe that was on purpose. The color of failure wasn’t a pretty one, and the audience seated already at the tables seemed colorful enough not to give a damn about sensitive artists who came there to bare their souls on the small stage located at the back of the room.

“It will hold, don’t worry,” Rhys replied. “When things look cheap, people tend to feel better about themselves. That doesn’t mean that they truly are.”

“How do you know that?”

Rhys leaned closer. “I know the owner. He wouldn’t risk having to collect his patrons from the floor.”

Mason smirked. “Does it mean that we can expect some exquisite cocktails on the menu in exchange?”

“No, the booze is cheap and plenty.”

“For real this time.”

“Yes. Just in case there are still people who don’t already feel better about themselves the moment they walk in. Drink enough, and you’ll gain a new perspective.”

“Let that be nothing but theory. You’re not allowed to drink.”

“All right, Master,” Rhys cooed and put his head on his shoulder.

“Phew, I barely managed to find a place to park the car,” Billy said, as he joined them at the table. “This place is packed. You wouldn’t think it was just amateur night.”

“Every amateur who will sing tonight has family and friends. It’s good for business, actually.”

“Smart idea. So, who’s the owner?”

“If we’re lucky, we’ll see him tonight. This bar is not the only business he runs. The name is Renzo Ora if that rings a bell.”

Mason shrugged.

Billy cut in. “THE Renzo Ora? The guy behind Bucket Of Light, and More Of You?”

“I have no idea what Po’s talking about,” Mason said. “What are those?”

“Indie groups that got big,” Billy supplied the information right away. “Renzo Ora is also a big shot producer.”

“Why didn’t you lead with that one?” Mason asked, turning toward Rhys.

All he got in return was a shrug.

“Hmm, and how come this Renzo character let you go with Levine Goldman since you were friends with him?” Mason insisted.

“I didn’t say that. I just said that I know him,” Rhys corrected him.

“That hurts, Rhys my prince,” a voice from behind them startled their little group.

Mason turned and noticed a man in his thirties standing so close to them that all his senses went in high alert. How come hadn’t he sensed that the guy was standing right there? He was hovering above Rhys, forcing him to throw his head back to make eye contact.

Taking advantage that Rhys and the bar owner had their eyes locked in a silent battle, Mason took his time to look at him. Renzo Ora was dressed in an expensive casual suit, but he wore the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, showing sinewy forearms. In the low light, Mason could make the guy’s olive complexion, and the thick platinum bracelet on his left wrist drew attention right away. If Renzo was as successful as Billy and Rhys said he was, it was probably the real deal. No watch, Mason noticed.

Renzo wore his black silk shirt opened a few buttons in front, allowing a bit of skin to show. That was a man who liked to take care of himself and also loved putting on a show. A matching platinum chain shone through the opening. The guy really liked his bling. Heavy, aggressive, probably just like the owner.

The suit hugged him nicely, showing off a lean but strong physique. While examining him, Mason realized why the sense of danger had hit him so sharply earlier. There was predatory grace in how the man leaned over Rhys to tease him. It looked like he could move around without making a sound.

Mason couldn’t see his face well, but he noticed that Renzo wore his hair in a fashionable high cut, and a bit of stubble, just as fashionable after dark, covered his face.

“Are you going to blind me with that gaudy thing around your neck?” Rhys asked.

Renzo laughed, and Mason shifted in his chair. It looked like Renzo’s game was seduction, at least tonight.

“Do you still wear that cheap thing?” Renzo made a move to sneak one hand inside Rhys’s shirt, but he was pushed away.

“Yes, and I don’t see why you should ask.”

“Of course. A gift from your dead lover.”

Mason grimaced. No more seduction. That was a hit under the belt. Rhys didn’t seem to mind, as he pointed at the free chair at their table. “You’re free to have a drink with us. Although I won’t drink anything alcoholic.”

“Did Levine manage to wean you off booze?” Renzo asked and took the seat.

Mason examined his face. Renzo Ora was an attractive motherfucker. He had the high cheekbones of a fashion model, but his face was too harsh to be that. Dark eyes, fringed by long curled eyelashes, took in Rhys as if he were dessert. At this point, Mason wasn’t sure whether that was something Renzo did as his favorite pastime and with anyone, or if he had a clear interest in Rhys.

A short look at Rhys made Mason curious; his precious charge was holding the pendant on the chain around his neck tightly in his fist. Mason hadn’t thought of that piece of jewelry as cheap. It brought the color of Rhys’s eyes beautifully. Toby had good taste.

He sighed as he remembered how Toby had just disappeared earlier that night. How would it feel to ache for something you couldn’t remember having? Mason could only imagine how it had to feel being in Toby’s shoes. At least, his heartaches and painful memories had shape and substance.

“No, not Levine, but my dear bodyguard right here.”

Renzo looked at Mason, for the first time since he had joined them, and brushed a thumb over his bottom lip, while his eyes turned their hypnotizing gaze on him. “Delicious, but not your type.”

“Oh, really? How would you know that?” Rhys asked and placed his chin in one palm, his elbow on the table.

“Because I’m dark, brooding, and sexy, and you’ve never cared for me.”

Rhys laughed. “You, brooding? I can’t remember anything ever happening to have you brooding. Come on, Renzo, you’re a little sunshine.”

“Are you going to introduce us, or is your dark, brooding, and sexy bodyguard going to stare at me, hoping that I would melt and disappear?”

There was a challenge in Renzo’s eyes, but Mason schooled his face into a neutral demeanor. He didn’t know what Renzo’s deal was, so he wanted to keep from jumping to conclusions.

“Well, since I’ve already told them about you, you don’t need any introduction. For you, here they are, my two lovely bodyguards. Mason Knight, who, obviously, is my knight in shining armor, and Billy Jackson, aka Po, the heart and soul of our little group.”

“Po?” Renzo’s eyes lit with amusement. “Like the cartoon character? Who came up with the idea? Rhys couldn’t have since he doesn’t have this kind of brash humor.”

Billy laughed. “I don’t mind. I love my nickname. It’s great to make your acquaintance, Mr. Ora.” He hurried to offer his hand over the table.

Renzo took it and shook it firmly. “Renzo, please.” He offered his hand to Mason, too.

There was no point in antagonizing the guy who owned the joint. Mason shook his hand, as well.

“You have two strong men here with you. I almost envy you, Rhys my prince.”

“Why would you? They’re not your type, either.”

It was Renzo’s turn to rest his chin against his curled fist and look at Rhys. “What’s my type?”

“Cute and flirty? No, not really.” Rhys appeared to ponder. “Bitchy?”

“Bitchy?” Renzo laughed, throwing his head back. “Where do you get these ideas?”

“Hmm, your last known lover was a model with a taste for expensive clothes, and looking down on everyone. Cute? He could be if only he smiled for real, at least once in a lifetime. Flirty? Yes, with the pool boys. As for bitchy --”

“Yes, yes, you made your point,” Renzo stopped him. “So, bodyguards. What’s going on? Why do you suddenly need bodyguards? No offense, guys,” he offered to Billy and Mason. “I’m sure you’re great at what you do.”

“None taken,” Billy replied for both of them.

“Levine’s ideas,” Rhys said.

“Hmm, so after keeping you away from the world for almost a year, he wants to keep an eye on you still. I wonder what you did to warrant this little obsession.” Renzo narrowed his eyes and stared at Rhys.

Rhys shrugged. “Beats me. But if it hadn’t been for him --”

“The truth would have come to light either way. I know you must think that you owe Levine, Rhys, but they couldn’t pin that on you even if they wanted to.”

“What makes you say that?” Mason asked.

Renzo was a bit surprised by the question. “The police couldn’t ignore irrefutable evidence.”

“What evidence?”

Rhys touched his knee under the table.

Renzo studied Mason; his eyes were no longer seductive, nor playful. A cold hard light burned in them. “Rhys couldn’t have been the one to commit that horrendous crime. And the police knew.”

“You’re not saying anything,” Mason said, his voice harsh now.

“Mason,” Rhys warned. “What’s with the twenty questions? Are you obsessed with who killed Toby now?” His voice was low and pained.

Renzo quirked an eyebrow and smiled. “It’s all right. What amazes me is how Levine wasn’t more curious to solve this mystery. I can’t give away sensitive information, Mason. I barely know you. But if we get to know each other, maybe I’ll share.”

Rhys sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. “One year after, and everyone is still talking about the same thing.” He looked down, and Mason wondered if he weren’t fighting back fresh tears again.

“Hmm,” Renzo said. “How come you don’t want to learn who took away from you the man you loved?”

Mason froze. That was a direct accusation. Next to him, Billy shifted in his chair.

Rhys continued to look down. Mason wanted so much to see his face right now; he didn’t deserve to be surrounded by insensitive bastards. “What good will it do?” His voice was quiet and strung with pain. “Will it bring Toby back?”

Renzo exchanged a quick look with Mason. “No. But whoever did it, they should pay.”

Rhys grabbed his arms with his hands, hugging himself. “Yeah, they should. But the police didn’t catch them. They must have been very lucky or too smart. What’s left for me to do? Investigate? With what? All I know is how to write stupid songs about --” His voice broke.

“Oh, Rhys.” Billy stood up and hurried by Rhys’s side. His embrace was accepted.

“You knew Toby like no one else,” Renzo continued.

Mason frowned. It looked like tears didn’t impress Renzo.

“What was he hiding? What was he afraid of?” Renzo continued.

“Hey, man, drop it,” Mason intervened.

Rhys was crying for real this time and hiding his head in Billy’s embrace.

Renzo sighed. “The key to all this is you, Rhys. You must be.”

That was a strange thing to say. Mason observed Renzo again. He watched Rhys, and finally, there was a glimpse of empathy in the dark eyes.

Renzo reached for Rhys and squeezed his shoulder. “Whenever you want to talk about Toby, I’m here, okay? When you’re ready. Don’t keep it all locked inside you or you’ll drown in it. Someone, out there, is free and enjoys his life, while you’re here, crying. What’s fair in that?”

“What’s in it for you?” Mason asked directly.

Renzo turned toward him. The empathy was gone; his smile was feral this time when he looked at Mason. “What’s in it for you, Mr. Bodyguard?”

“I’m in charge of Rhys’s safety and wellbeing. It’s my job.”

“That’s a bit of stretch. You only need to fend off paparazzi.”

“It doesn’t look like there’s much of that.”

“So?”

“So, I need to do my job, paparazzi or not.”

“If you’re bored, take up a hobby,” Renzo offered with a smile.

“I don’t have hobbies. My job is what matters.” Mason was conscious of how much he was lying through his teeth. It looked like Renzo didn’t buy it. What he suspected, Mason could only guess.

Renzo laughed and ran one hand over his face. “I think I like you, Mr. Bodyguard.”

“Mason will do.”

“All right, Mason. I feel like we’ll get to know each other more, soon.”

During their little verbal sparring, Rhys had managed, somehow, to get a hold of himself. He wiped his tears and put on a brave face. “I apologize for my outburst.”

“There’s no need for that,” Renzo replied. “I know how fresh that wound still is. Please, forgive me for being a bastard, but you know me, right? I won’t leave a stone unturned.”

Mason looked from Renzo to Rhys. Rhys nodded quietly.

“I need to tend to other patrons, but please, have fun, and put everything on my tab.”

Mason intervened. “Maybe we should just get back home. And you, Mr. Hot Shot Producer, you’ve done enough.”

Renzo was already on his feet. His eyes never leaving Mason, he reached for Rhys with one hand and caressed his cheek. “You should stay. There’s nothing like music to heal a broken heart.”

“But Rhys --” Mason insisted, pinning Renzo with his eyes.

“I’m fine now, Mason. And I would love to hear some new music. Sometimes, the inspiration runs dry if you’re stuck between four walls, with nothing but misery as company. And thank you, Renzo. I don’t want people to treat me with kid gloves. When I’m ready, I’ll come to talk to you.”

Mason tsked. Talking about annoying interventions. He was the one Rhys was supposed to confide in because, whether he liked it or not, he could see Toby’s ghost. What exactly did Renzo have to do with anything?

“That’s great to hear. Don’t forget that you’re my prince,” Renzo said and leaned in to place a small peck on Rhys’s cheek. “Always. See you around, Mr. Bodyguard. And Po.”

“Have a nice evening, Mr. Ora,” Billy replied.

“Renzo, please. Enjoy the show.”

Mason watched Renzo for a while before he looked back at Rhys. His eyes were already on the stage where a group began performing. He looked calm, and only his eyes shone too much. But there was a newfound peace in them, and Mason felt jealous for no reason.

***

“Where is Billy?” Mason asked, once outside.

Rhys looked behind them. “I saw Renzo talking to him. Probably he wants to give Po some pointers about how to take care of me.”

“Hmm, so he doesn’t like me,” Mason said.

“I think you’re wrong. Renzo is a good judge of character. He and Toby liked each other so much, it wasn’t even funny.”

“I thought you said he wasn’t a friend.”

“Not mine, he wasn’t. He wasn’t Toby’s, either, in the sense that they didn’t hang out to drink or anything. They just liked each other. That was all.”

Renzo had one arm slung over Billy’s shoulders, and he was talking fast, by how his lips moved. Billy appeared to listen with the utmost attention.

“I’m sorry I cried in there,” Rhys said, pulling him back.

Mason looked at Rhys. “It’s okay. Sorry if I don’t offer hugs and nice words. I’m not the type.”

Rhys nodded. “I gathered as much. You’re made from the good stuff, Mason. I wish I were like you.”

“It’s not hard. Stop crying.”

“Easy for you to say. I can’t just forget Toby. He was my heart.” His voice was breaking again.

Mason couldn’t have that. “I’m not saying that. I know you can’t forget him. But get stronger.” He took Rhys’s face in his palms and looked into his eyes. “I mean it.”

Rhys placed his hands over Mason’s wrists and caressed them lightly. “When you’re this close, I can’t think of anything but how you kissed me.”

Mason’s eyes traveled to Rhys’s lips. They were so close; it would only take a heartbeat to sink into that beautiful sensation once more. But, regrets notwithstanding, he let his hands drop.

“You’re a good man, Mason Knight.”

Rhys’s words took him by surprise.

“What do you mean?”

“I know you like me. But you keep the distance because you think it would be wrong.”

“It would be wrong.”

Rhys sighed. “I know. But I feel like a leaf carried by the current. I would like someone to hold on to.”

Mason understood. “Hold on to me.”

Rhys offered a strained smile. “As a friend?”

Mason nodded.

“That would be too much to ask of me. I feel drawn to you, and I’m not good at managing desire.”

“I’m just a stranger, and you’ve had a tough time for a while now. It will pass.”

“My attraction toward you?” Rhys quirked an eyebrow and watched him, amused.

It was hard to believe they had that conversation. It was Mason’s choice to keep the distance, but he was on edge. The promise was more than physical closeness. There was just something about Rhys that made Mason want to delve and drown in him. And that was completely new, surprising, and frightening.

“Yes. I just happen to be close. There’s nothing else to it.”

Rhys smiled, and Mason felt his heart beating faster. “What happens if it doesn’t pass?” He leaned closer and looked Mason in the eyes.

“Stop flirting, you spoiled celebrity,” Mason scolded him and moved away as if annoyed.

Rhys hurried by his side and took his arm. “It feels nice to be outside at this hour. While I was locked away, this is what I missed the most, this simple freedom.”

The street noises were dying down around them, with the crowd thinning more and more.

“Locked away? You make it sound like you were in jail.” Mason didn’t put it behind Levine to have held Rhys away from his normal life with a crafted purpose in mind.

“I couldn’t leave, so it felt like it. And yes,” Rhys sighed like he couldn’t hold everything in, “I know that Levine only wants what’s good for me, but that kind of attention and care can get suffocating at times.”

“Did he visit you there?”

“Yes. He was the only one. Ary wanted to come, too, but I agreed with Levine that it wouldn’t do anyone any good to see me fucked up like that.”

Mason knew that asking painful questions wasn’t that great an idea, but he wanted to know more. Toby was of little help, and Rhys was, as Renzo had put it, the key, at least to deciphering Toby’s past life. “Did they let you attend Toby’s funeral?”

Rhys shook his head. “No. At the time, I was too mixed up with the police.”

Mason said nothing. He could sympathize with Rhys, not being able to say goodbye.

“Stay with me tonight, Mason,” Rhys said, wrapping his arm tightly around Mason’s. “In my bed. I promise I’ll be a good boy and keep my hands to myself.”

“It’s inappropriate. I’m your bodyguard.”

“And you need to make sure that I’m out of harm’s way. Correct?”

“Correct.”

“I don’t like the dark and I can’t sleep. Doesn’t that harm me?”

Mason smiled. Rhys had no qualms with playing him, but for them both, the game could prove dangerous. “I’m afraid the answer’s still ‘no’.”

“Are you afraid of me, Arnie?” Rhys teased him.

“You could make me lose my job. I’ll be in my rights to be afraid of you.” Mason looked over to Billy and Renzo, who were just parting their ways. “What could Renzo have to say to Billy?”

Rhys shrugged. “We’ll find out from Billy. Now, Mason, are you going to let me go to bed alone and have nightmares?”

“How can you have nightmares if you don’t sleep?”

“Ah, you caught me.”

Billy walked over to them. “Just let me get the car, and we’ll head back home.”

“What did Renzo have to say to you?”

“He just wanted to make sure we’re taking good care of Rhys.”

“That looked like a pretty long conversation to be just that.”

“He had many ideas on how we should do our job.”

“Really? And what does he know about being a bodyguard?” Mason asked.

Billy shrugged. “Not much, but when someone important like that wants to talk to you, you just listen.”

“Don’t tell me he bribed you with something.”

Billy grinned and took out what looked like concert tickets. “Of course, he did. But I won’t be able to enjoy these,” he said with a sigh. “I have someone to give them to, though. And it’s nice to have a trading chip when needed.”

“Your trading chip must be time-sensitive,” Mason pointed out.

“Not really. This is an all-access type of thing,” Billy explained.

“All right. Let’s just get home. We all need our sleep.”

“Mason sleeps with me tonight,” Rhys announced. “Don’t tell anyone, okay, Billy?”

Billy watched them and laughed. “Can’t a man leave the two of you alone for two minutes? Of course, my lips are sealed.”

“I’m not going to sleep with him,” Mason protested.

“Yes, you are,” Rhys said like he was talking to a hard-headed child. “I won’t sleep if you don’t.”

“Tough luck. You’ll have a headache tomorrow.”

“Don’t be so hard on me, Mason. I told you it would be only sleeping, nothing else.”

Unfortunately.

Mason couldn’t say that out loud. “I’m curious how that will help you.”

“Well, if you’re curious, try it once. You might like it.”

I’m sure I’ll like it. That’s the issue.

Billy hadn’t cared to listen to their little argument and was now pulling the car next to them. “Ready to go?”

“I won’t let you go to sleep,” Rhys promised. “If you think Angel is the right nickname for me, you’ll have to think again.”

“I’m shaking in my boots.”

“See? My dark magic is already working.”

Mason shook his head. Why did Rhys have to be so much his type? He was sweet, and a little pushy, and he could knock Mason off his feet with just one kiss. But Mason was no masochist; Rhys would have to sleep alone, no matter how nicely he begged, or how much he threatened.

***

Mason placed his watch and phone on the nightstand. He lay on the bed and closed his eyes. Despite his threats, Rhys had gone to sleep like a nice kid, without insisting for Mason to come with him. Mason hadn’t missed the sad look in his eyes as he had gone up the stairs, but even if he knew that Rhys was telling the truth about not liking the dark, he couldn’t risk it.

“Eyes and ears everywhere in this house.”

Mason opened his eyes. He didn’t want to say or show it, but he was relieved Toby was back. He turned on the lamp on the nightstand. “What do you mean? Ah, the surveillance equipment, right? It’s needed.”

Toby shook his head. “Not that. When you were away, a woman came and changed the sheets.”

“The maid, Anita. I suppose that’s the agreement, for her to come when no one is home.”

“She spent a lot of time in Rhys’s room. She checked every inch as if she could read the future in the carpet fibers. And she also left something behind.”

Mason straightened up. “What did she leave behind?”

Toby scratched his head. “A pen. She took it from a pocket on her apron and replaced the one on the nightstand. She appeared to be extra careful to place it in a certain position.”

Mason cursed. “That bastard.”

“Who?”

“Levine Goldman. The maid works for him, and I bet she just did something shady. He wants to spy on Rhys.”

“The producer? I thought he was shady, too, from that conversation with the assholes at the radio station.”

“I’ll have to go to Rhys’s room and remove that thing,” Mason said as he climbed out of bed.

“What do you think it is?”

“Some kind of surveillance equipment. We don’t have a camera inside Rhys’s room, for obvious reasons, such as privacy. But it looks like Levine wants to know what his protégé is doing all the time, which is fucking creepy.”

“All right.”

“Shit. It’s kind of late.”

“Rhys isn’t sleeping,” Toby said. “He just lies on the bed, and I think he’s crying again.” Toby sounded guilty. “Just go.”

“Are you telling me I should go and comfort your boyfriend?”

Toby nodded. “I can’t do it, so sorry, but I’ll use you as proxy.”

Mason grimaced. “Just fucking great.”

“Why are you so mad about?”

Mason wasn’t going to tell Toby that spending time in close quarters with Rhys was bound to lead to X-rated stuff if they weren’t careful.

Toby came closer and inspected Mason with curious eyes. “Man, is this about how Rhys wants to get in your pants?”

More like the other way around, but Mason wasn’t particular about details. “Aren’t you supposed to be jealous? You shouldn’t want me in your boyfriend’s bedroom after dark.”

Toby sighed. “I don’t remember him, or loving him. But I want to protect him, and there’s no other way. And, don’t worry, I’ll watch over the two of you like a hawk. Do you think you’d be able to make out while a ghost stares at you? Like this?” Toby came closer and looked Mason in the eyes.

“Sounds like you might have been an expert cockblocker in your former life,” Mason said with an annoyed grunt.

“Hey, what would you do if you were me?”

Mason shrugged. “I wouldn’t be an annoying ghost like you, that’s for sure.”

“Yeah, you would be a stern ghost, I bet. Whoever you chose to haunt, they would be scared shitless.”

“Funny thing, you don’t look scared.”

“Of course. I’m the one doing all the haunting. Now, let’s go to Rhys’s room so you can check the pen the maid left there. Keep your hands to yourself, and we’ll continue to be friends.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Do I have to say it? I’ll haunt you forever, and I’ll be a prick about it, too,” Toby promised.

There was half a joke in there, but Mason didn’t want to take chances. He was getting much too used to being haunted like it was the most natural thing in the world. “Okay. But Rhys might get upset over me barging through the door like that.”

“I doubt it. I think he’ll be happy to have company.”

“You owe me big time,” Mason said.

He grabbed a t-shirt and a pair and sweatpants and headed for Rhys’s bedroom.

***

“Go inside and check if he’s sleeping,” Mason whispered. “Maybe I can just go, grab the pen, and head back without waking him.”

“Okay,” Toby whispered back.

“Why are you whispering? No one but me can hear you.”

“I don’t know. You’re the one who’s making me.”

“Just go and look.”

Toby disappeared through the door, while Mason listened, his ears pricked. He felt like a criminal, sneaking around like that, but there was no alternative. That asshole Levine wasn’t entitled to listen to Rhys’s crying over his boyfriend. It was such a disgusting invasion of privacy that he wanted to put an end to it as fast as possible.

“He’s asleep. The pen is on the nightstand, by the stack of books that’s there.”

Mason nodded. He turned the knob, all his muscles tensed and walked inside as if on eggshells. Good thing the door hinges appeared to be well-oiled as there was no sound. He closed it after him so that Rhys didn’t wake up because of the draft.

Luckily, Rhys lay on one side, facing away from the nightstand. The lamp by the bedside was on, making things easier for Mason. He noticed the pen right away and moved as fast as possible, without making a sound.

“Why am I holding my breath?” Toby whispered.

Mason made a small gesture to shut him up. He took the pen and opened it. No surprise there, there was a small electronic mechanism inside. Without hesitation, he tore the wiring that probably connected the small camera installed in the tip. Mason would take it apart later, to see what that was. He screwed in the two parts of the pen.

“What are you doing?”

Toby yelped and ran for the door. The traitor. Mason put on a brave face. Rhys was very much awake and staring at him.

“I needed a pen,” Mason replied and showed the object in his hand.

Rhys blinked a few times, and then, he laughed. “That’s the lamest excuse I’ve heard in my life. Get into bed, Mason.” In one smooth motion, he pulled the duvet.

“I’m really here just for the pen,” Mason said and made the pen disappear into the pocket of his sweatpants.

“Hmm, right. Now, Mason, or I’ll get really mad.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

“I wouldn’t if I were you.”

Mason had a mind to argue some more, but the sadness Rhys didn’t always hide shone in his eyes, again. “All right,” he said. “But we’ll just sleep.”

With stiff moves, he walked to the other side of the bed and got inside. Rhys wrapped himself around Mason’s body instantly. Someone was going to get very little sleep.

TBC

 

 

What will follow is anyone's guess! I mean, you're invited to guess :) Mason, as you can see, encounters all kinds of obstacles, some pleasant, some not so much, in his quest. What did you think of the chapter? And, of course, of Renzo Ora? Please let me know in the comments below! All feedback is appreciated!

Thank you for reading,

Until next time,

All the best,

Laura.

If you like this story and would like to support me, check out my Patreon. You will find there complete books - others than the ones published here - , and extra content for finished works.

Copyright © 2020 Laura S. Fox; All Rights Reserved.
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Her's another comment you will undoubtedly ignore. Spellcheck is not enough! Especially for someone not wholly familiar with the vernacular. And being a donald about criticism won't make it disappear.

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1 hour ago, Ken Ransom said:

Her's another comment you will undoubtedly ignore. Spellcheck is not enough! Especially for someone not wholly familiar with the vernacular. And being a donald about criticism won't make it disappear.

If you pointed out the mistakes you noticed, it would be more helpful. Otherwise, there's nothing for me to learn from your comments. And I don't understand what you mean about ignoring you. I think I repaired the shiny/shining armor mistake, and even replied to you. Of course, I might be wrong since when there are many notifications, I might skip some by mistake.

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4 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Levine is definitely a creep, he's involved with Toby's death. I don't like that he's spying on Rhys, I'm glad Mason knows and disabled the camera. I'm not sure what to make of Renzo, he has a lot of information on Toby and seemed quite chatty with Billy.

Renzo will make other appearances throughout the story, so maybe his role will become clearer. Thanks for your comment!

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3 hours ago, pvtguy said:

And just to complicate matters, even though the made works for Levine, who says Levine is behind the espionage?  Can't there be others involved?  The maid could be double-dipping...

Hmm ... that's an interesting angle. I'm glad to hear new ideas!

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Ok so someone said something in a previous chapter that i was vehemently against but now, im considering it. Could Po be involved somehow? That long talk with Renzo could lead to some credence to that theory.

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59 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

Ok so someone said something in a previous chapter that i was vehemently against but now, im considering it. Could Po be involved somehow? That long talk with Renzo could lead to some credence to that theory.

Hmm ... could he? Let's think ... :) Thank you for your constant sleuthing, Wes!

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We should take a guess?!  Everyone you introduce is more and more suspect. My guess is, they are all involved, except Mason. Maybe...  I hope. 

The Big Lebowski What GIF by MOODMAN

 

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4 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

Ok so someone said something in a previous chapter that i was vehemently against but now, im considering it. Could Po be involved somehow? That long talk with Renzo could lead to some credence to that theory.

Wondering GIF by memecandy

Wonder who that was?  LOL

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Don't be mad, I really like your stories. They're fun and keep me interested. And this is going to be the longest comment you've seen in a while. (these are in chronological order):

The guy really liked his BLING.

how Toby had JUST disappeared earlier that night.

with a taste for expensive clothes and - looking down ON everyone (at everyone implies physical height, on everyone implies contempt)

but they couldn't pin that on you EVEN if they wanted TO.

don't you want to learn who took the man you loved away from you?

I don't want people to HANDLE me with KID gloves

I have SOMEONE to give them to

Can't a man leave the two of you alone for two minutes question mark

Why am I HOLDING my breath? Toby whispered.

See, nothing serious, just a few wanderings away from common usage, and a couple of grammar errors thrown in just because I'm a pedantic SOB.

Bring back Donny Allerton! I even learned  the Whip and Nae Nae.

Do da bop!

 

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9 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

Does anyone else feel like they are watching a Film Noir from the 40s while reading this?  I know this is a modern story, but that’s how the pictures come up in my mind!

You have now put that thought into my mind....I can hear the seedy music as they enter that establishment the dark ambience, I like that idea. 💜💜

@pvtguy and @Wesley8890 comments also make a person stop and think that maybe they might be heading in the right direction.

If, IF Po is involved its really going to break my heart I really like him, I do have a lot of questions about Renzo, but ill hold on to them until I learn more about him.

Edited by 1brokNangel
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21 minutes ago, Ken Ransom said:

with a taste for expensive clothes and - looking down ON everyone (at everyone implies physical height, on everyone implies contempt)

To me using, looking down ON everyone, implies contempt, not the other way around, I think different readers see it differently.

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This story seems to have plenty of twists and turns but I’m loving the way you’re developing the storyline with these characters; murder she wrote with characters we’re starting to love; great job, I’m eagerly awaiting the next twist! lol  

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5 hours ago, Philippe said:

Unless you’re trying to publicly pat yourself on the back for single handedly unearthing these jewels, or you believe yourself to be above us unlearned ruffians you’re trying to educate with a public shaming, a private message would achieve constructive criticism without having to display your credentials as a pedantic SOB.

Many authors here work hard to bring forth a story to entertain us, balancing personal lives and livelihoods to post regularly without the reward of a mere thanks from many. To bare ones sole, their creations, and to accumulate a following that surely bears witness that their efforts as a minimum command enough respect to receive the common professional courtesy of a private submission for edits and administrative drivel.

So, @Ken Ransom, you can tap on the messsge envelop at the top toolbar and address to @Laura S. Foxto submit edit type inputs with details that go beyond the spellchecker.

Well said, @Philippe

Apparently this member fancies himself the guru of proofreading and editing.  But he never publicly volunteers to offer his "services" to any of the GA authors.  Typical behavior for a troll.  

Pay him no mind @Laura S. Fox.  Your readers greatly appreciate your efforts and talent. 

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9 hours ago, Ken Ransom said:

I don't want people to HANDLE me with KID gloves

Sorry but THAT'S wrong....."I don't want people to TREAT me with kid gloves", you were right about the kid being added.

 

9 hours ago, Ken Ransom said:

See, nothing serious, just a few wanderings away from common usage, and a couple of grammar errors thrown in just because I'm a pedantic SOB.

Also shouldn't GRAMMER errors be GRAMMATICAL errors ?

I mean after all if your going to be a pedantic SOB you need to make sure your usage of the English language is correct, RIGHT?

Nothing worse than a grammar Nazi if you yourself don't use the proper words when correcting someone else on their grammar.

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I had no idea it was possible to send a private message, of course that is a better approach. I'll definitely try that, but if it's a twitter or facebook platform, sorry I don't indulge.

To the guy who questioned the "looked at" or "looked down", what you said is exactly what I said.

So much anger! Grammatical errors or grammar errors, same, same. But "GRAMMER" (see above)? Gotcha there! Come on, laugh at yourself, I do it all the time, useful for brushing  the chips off one's shoulders. That's why I added the "pedantic SOB".

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22 hours ago, Kapucinski said:

We should take a guess?!  Everyone you introduce is more and more suspect. My guess is, they are all involved, except Mason. Maybe...  I hope. 

The Big Lebowski What GIF by MOODMAN

 

Oh gawd, perfect gif as always, dear reader! I guess I managed to make everyone completely confused!

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21 hours ago, spyke said:

Wondering GIF by memecandy

Wonder who that was?  LOL

Time to copyright your theories, everyone!

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19 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

Does anyone else feel like they are watching a Film Noir from the 40s while reading this?  I know this is a modern story, but that’s how the pictures come up in my mind!

It's great that readers can find such imagery in this story! I'm constantly influenced by what I'm reading or I've read, so this particular chapter might have had something to do with a certain feeling I got while reading Dennis Lehane's Live by Night.

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16 hours ago, Ken Ransom said:

Don't be mad, I really like your stories. They're fun and keep me interested. And this is going to be the longest comment you've seen in a while. (these are in chronological order):

The guy really liked his BLING.

how Toby had JUST disappeared earlier that night.

with a taste for expensive clothes and - looking down ON everyone (at everyone implies physical height, on everyone implies contempt)

but they couldn't pin that on you EVEN if they wanted TO.

don't you want to learn who took the man you loved away from you?

I don't want people to HANDLE me with KID gloves

I have SOMEONE to give them to

Can't a man leave the two of you alone for two minutes question mark

Why am I HOLDING my breath? Toby whispered.

See, nothing serious, just a few wanderings away from common usage, and a couple of grammar errors thrown in just because I'm a pedantic SOB.

Bring back Donny Allerton! I even learned  the Whip and Nae Nae.

Do da bop!

 

All implemented, and they were useful. Except the handle/treat. Treat appears to sound a little better. I'm glad they weren't more. Just for the record, when I do go through the text before publishing it, there are plenty more others. For each one you listed here, there were at least several more.

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16 hours ago, 1brokNangel said:

You have now put that thought into my mind....I can hear the seedy music as they enter that establishment the dark ambience, I like that idea. 💜💜

@pvtguy and @Wesley8890 comments also make a person stop and think that maybe they might be heading in the right direction.

If, IF Po is involved its really going to break my heart I really like him, I do have a lot of questions about Renzo, but ill hold on to them until I learn more about him.

Your heart won't be broken ... but you will have a big surprise! Just saying!

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