“We’ll get you back to Malibu and get you all settled in,” Clara said to her favorite son in a doting way. The limo whisked us north on the PCH, even as she continued to cluck over Zach like the mother hen that she was. She’d flown out here yesterday to make sure he was alright and to take care of him, but that had been a major pain in the ass for me. It was impossible to talk to Zach when she was around, and she was always around. But in a way, that had been a good thing, because I’d resolved not to talk about any of this shit while he was still in the hospital. I’d put on my happy face, and I think I’d done a pretty good job, good enough that he didn’t seem to sense there was something bothering me. Then again, I had an advantage in that the pain meds had probably dulled his senses.
“I’ll be fine, Mom,” Zach said forcefully. Even he was getting tired of her cloying attention.
“Well I fly back to Ohio tomorrow night, but I’m worried that you won’t be OK.” She looked at Zach with real concern. “Maybe I should stay for a few more days.”
“I’ll watch out for him,” I said forcefully. Zach gave me a look of sheer gratitude. It was nice of her to show up, but it was time for her to go home.
She smiled at me. “I know you will. But still…”
“You’ve got stuff to do at home, Mom,” Zach said, to stop her from changing her mind. “Didn’t you say you were planning to help Zeke get ready for school?” Zeke was Zach’s older brother, and Zeke was as dorky as Zach was cool. And even though Zeke was older, he was such a fucking space cadet that he pretty much needed Clara to help him with basic organizational shit. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
“That boy is so scatterbrained,” she said, shaking her head. That brought about a long-winded rant from her on how smart he was, but what a total tool he was. Both those things were true. I pondered that Zeke must get his total ditziness from Clara. I looked out the window, enjoying the beautiful coastline as we drove up the PCH. If only the waves would improve, it would be perfect. I zoned out on Clara and let her babble on to Zach, while I labored over the bigger problem in my brain.
I was trying to decide how I felt about this, about Zach going to Charlottesville and beating the shit out of Trevor. I’d pretty much decided that he’d done it. There was no other reason for him to go to Charlottesville, and no other reason for him to be so secretive about it. I was even more confused about what to do about it.
I could leave it alone, and not say anything, but that bugged me. First off, it would be this big piece of shit between us, that was always there, at least for me, and that would suck. One of the coolest things about our relationship was how open we were with each other. If he was hiding this, it would bug me that he was keeping this big secret from me. And it would probably be even harder for him, because he was like an open book with me. The other reason was that it kind of bothered me that he figured he could pull this off and not tell me about it. Did he think I was so stupid that I couldn’t figure this out? Besides, why wouldn’t he tell me? Shit, I wasn’t pissed at him for fucking Trevor up. I thought about how masculine and butch that was, for Zach to fly across country to beat the crap out of this guy who had fucked up his life so badly. That actually made me giggle.
“What’s so funny?” Zach asked, pulling me out of my introspection.
“Nothing,” I said dismissively, since I sure as fuck couldn’t talk about that, at least not with his mother here.
“Did you talk to the insurance company about the Durango?” Clara asked Zach.
“Not yet,” Zach said. “I’ll work on that on tomorrow.”
“We should probably report the accident to them at least,” she said. And then a whole new train of though blasted through my brain.
“I’ll handle it,” I said with a smile. “I’ll make that my project.”
“Well that’s very nice of you…” Clara began.
“Not a problem,” I said, cutting her off before she began to voice objections to me dealing with the Durango. “We should be there in a few minutes.” We were almost to our house in Malibu.
“Let me get my things together,” Clara said, and began fumbling around the limo for her purse and her phone. Zach and I shared a knowing look.
We got home and I helped Clara get Zach all set up in the guest room. She would have probably found it freaky if he was in my room, and Zach couldn’t handle a waterbed anyway with his ribs all fucked up. Cody and Kevin had gone away for the weekend. Cody took him up to the mountains, hoping that environment would help him feel better. The upside was that it meant I didn’t have to deal with them and Clara at the same time.
“With Zach in this room, we’ll have to put you in the other house,” I apologized.
“Well I don’t want to be any trouble,” she said. “I can just sleep on the couch.”
“Nonsense,” I said, sounding like Grand. “Come on, I’ll show you to your room.” Zach would appreciate a little break from her company. I led her over into the other house and up to one of the bedrooms, and made sure she was all settled in, listening to her mindless prattle as she did.
I hurried back to Zach’s room, hoping we could have some time alone. I was so horny I was about to explode, and I knew he had to be the same way, whether he was in pain or not. “Hey there, sexy,” I said, and climbed into bed with him.
“You’re the sexy one,” he said with his deep voice. I kissed him, and unlike at the hospital, I didn’t break it off, I just let the connection between our lips fuel our bodies. I was just about to take things to the next level when I heard Clara stomping up the stairs. “Sorry,” Zach said, as I pulled away from him.
“I’m going to calm down,” I said with a giggle, glancing at my tenting pants, “then I think I’ll hit the surf.” There was no way I could put up with Clara for much longer, so I decided to escape to the ocean.
“Have fun,” he said pleasantly. “I’ll try to sneak into your room so I can watch you.”
“You do that,” I said, like I’d put on a show for him. I would, if the waves cooperated.
I put on my wetsuit, grabbed my board, and headed out into the ocean. The surf was pretty lame, but I was OK with that. I was more interested in being out here, away from Clara, in a place where I could think and not be interrupted. In addition to the other shit on my mind, now I was suspicious about Zach’s accident. It’s not that I was questioning whether he had one; that was obvious. I was just wondering if it was intentional or not. Did he wreck the Durango on purpose to muddy the waters? And to hide the injuries he may have gotten when he was tangling with Trevor?
My mind went back and replayed my conversation with Zach, and I went from suspicion to almost certainty. He’d told me that he knew that being in the hospital would spark a sympathetic reaction from me, and that I’d probably overlook him blowing me off for a couple of days. Would he have crashed the Durango just to placate me? No, that was ridiculous. He would tell me what was going on before he did that. He must have been pretty beaten up, and he figured that the accident would give him a plausible excuse for it. Not pissing me off was just a bonus. Then I remembered his other comment: that he hadn’t planned for it to turn out this way, in reference to his broken arm. Maybe his arm hadn’t been broken until the accident? He’d figured he’d use the accident to explain the bruises on his body, not even contemplating that he could hurt himself even worse. I had to admire his strategy, and how he’d planned this all out. I wondered if Trevor knew if he was the one who had done it. I wondered what Wade and his family would try to do to Zach if they found out.
I was so deep in thought, I missed the best wave of the day, which really fouled my mood, but I re-immersed myself in my theories. If he had crashed the Durango on purpose, the last thing he should do is file an insurance claim. If it ever came out, he’d be facing charges for insurance fraud. I had to make sure Clara didn’t get involved and try to do that. I paid enough attention to the surf after that, so I was able to catch another wave that was pretty good. I decided that I’d spent enough time out in the water, so I headed in, taking my time to put my board away and wash off my wetsuit. I rinsed off in the outside shower, grabbed a towel, and went up to the pool deck.
I was surprised to find Brent there talking to Clara. “Hey Will!” he said, and jumped up to give me a distant hug, since I was still wet.
“Good to see you,” I said.
“I thought I’d come up and stay here with you guys until Mom goes home,” he said nervously.
“That is awesome!” I said enthusiastically. “You’re always welcome, though.”
“Thanks,” he said, and smiled at me. He was such an attractive guy, with his laid back, masculine manner.
“I think I’ll go check on Zachary,” Clara said. She got up and wandered into the house, while Brent shook his head.
“Figured you could use some help dealing with her.”
“That is very nice of you, and very true,” I said, chuckling. “Dude, no one has ever cock-blocked me as bad as your mother.”
That made him really laugh. “She’s really good at that. Cost me some good times, that’s for sure.”
“I’ve never seen her do that before,” I said.
“She’s not like this when my father is around,” Brent said. “She focuses more on him, enough so she doesn’t worry so much about the rest of us.”
“Makes sense,” I said, then changed the subject. “So did Zach talk to you about a new car?”
Brent was a total car guy. “Says he likes SUVs. I asked him if he wanted another Durango, and he said ‘whatever’.”
“So he left it up to you?”
“I guess he did,” Brent said, giving me a conspiratorial grin.
“Let’s do this,” I said, springing into action. “I’ll get ready, and then we’ll go car shopping, and surprise him.”
“I can do that,” Brent said, totally excited to go look at new vehicles. I got ready in about 20 minutes, and then I went in and checked on Zach. He was pretending to sleep so his mother wouldn’t talk to him.
“He’s sleeping,” she said softly.
I ignored her. “Hey, I’m going out with Brent.”
“Where are you going?” he asked. He asked too alertly for him to have been asleep, but his mother didn’t seem to get that.
“Out,” I teased. “We’ll bring dinner back.”
“Sounds good,” Clara said. “Brent will know what to order for me.”
“And I know what you like,” I said to Zach, with just a hint of sexiness that he caught but she didn’t.
I bolted down the stairs and went out to the front, where Brent’s car was parked. “I can drive there,” he offered.
“Kick ass,” I said, and hopped into his car. It was a 1967 Pontiac GTO Convertible, red with a black interior and top. “You’ve really fixed this thing up.” He’d started working on this in Claremont, and brought it out here with him.
“Helps that I work at a shop,” he said. Made sense. “So what should we get him?”
“You’re the car guy.”
“Newest SUVs out there now are the Ford Expedition and Porsche Cayenne,” he said. “And the Porsche is too much.”
“I think I’m the one who gets to decide on the budget,” I said with a smile.
“Yeah, but you don’t want to be too flashy,” he said seriously. That was a really good point. If Zach was driving around in a Porsche SUV, people would probably talk about it, and the trail would lead back to me, and that would make people talk about us.
“So let’s hit the Ford dealer,” I said.
“I passed one on my way up here, in Santa Monica,” he said, so we went there. A really handsome Hispanic salesman came out to greet us; he reminded me of Paul.
“Welcome,” he said. “Kick-ass car.”
“Thanks,” Brent said, and then he proceeded to show the guy all the stuff he’d done to it. I finally cleared my throat to get them back on track.
“We’re looking for a Ford Expedition,” Brent said.
“It has to be blue,” I said firmly. They looked at me strangely; I guess color was a total chick thing to focus on, but that was too bad.
“There’s the base model…” he began.
“What’s the top of the line?” I asked.
“The Eddie Bauer edition, with the 5.4 liter Triton V8. Cranks out 260 horsepower and a whole bunch of torque,” he said. “You could drop down to the 4.6 liter, with 232 horses.”
“You got the 5.4 liter in blue?” I asked.
“We got one,” he said. “Comes in Wedgewood blue. You want a brighter blue; you have to get the XLT.”
“What’s the difference?” Brent asked.
“The Eddie Bauer has a better sound system, automatic climate control, and radio controls on the steering wheel,” he said.
“Let’s drive it,” Brent said. The guy brought it around, made copies of our driver’s licenses and insurance cards, and then hopped in with us to go for a drive. Brent drove first. “Only got 15 miles on it,” Brent said.
“Just got it in,” he said. It still had plastic on the tan leather seats.
“I like it,” I said.
“You wanna drive it?” Brent asked.
“If you think it will work, I’m good with it,” I said.
“Maybe we should drive the 4.6 liter,” Brent said.
“Or maybe we should just buy this one,” I said, telling him that I didn’t want to dick around all day. He gave me a dirty look.
“This is the first one we looked at,” he almost whined. I think I hated whining as much as my father did. He was gearing up to negotiate with the sales dude.
“What’s this one run?” I asked the salesman.
“Sticker is $42,750 with destination charges,” he said.
Brent drove it back onto the lot. “So what will you give it to us for?”
“I could probably go down to $41,000,” the guy said, getting a frown from Brent.
“I think $37,000 is a better price,” Brent said. They argued back and forth for about ten minutes, until I got annoyed.
“Forty grand and we drive it home now,” I said.
“How are you paying for it?”
“With a check,” I said.
“OK,” he said skeptically. Brent leaned in and whispered something to him, and he smiled. “I’ll write it up.”
“What did you tell him?” I demanded, as soon as he left.
“Told him Stef was your grandfather,” he said, chuckling. “You’ll get some of that cash back when Zach gets the insurance settlement.”
“We’re not going to put in a claim,” I said. He looked at me, amazed. “The fewer records about this, the better.”
“Who gives a shit about that?” Brent asked.
“What if they start asking if he was fucked up, and that’s why he wrecked it?” I challenged, even though that’s not what I was worried about. Besides, they’d checked his blood at the hospital.
“I see your point,” Brent said, falling for my shitty rationale. “That’s real nice of you.”
“I love him,” I said firmly.
“Almost as much as he loves you,” Brent said, making me smile. The salesman came back and we signed off on all the paperwork, registering it in Zach’s name.
“We could have gotten another thousand bucks off,” Brent grumbled to me as we walked to the cars.
“Maybe, but then we’d still be in there talking to those guys,” I said.
He chuckled. “It’s your money. Which one you want to drive?”
“The GTO,” I said, grinning at him. He hated it when other people drove his car, but at the same time I knew he wanted to drive the new Ford.
“Don’t wreck it,” he grumbled as he gave me the keys.
“I’ll try not to,” I said flippantly to annoy him, and then laughed. I was used to the Ferrari, which was fast but refined, but the GTO was a whole different beast. It was basically raw power channeled right to the street. It was a lot of fun, especially when I weaved in and out of the lanes on my way up PCH, losing Brent with my slick California driving moves.
I got home and stood out front, waiting for about five minutes for him to show up. He was frowning. “Probably need new tires and brakes after you drove my car.”
“Probably” I said, rolling my eyes at him. We went inside and found Zach out on the patio with Clara. He looked like a caged lion. Brent and I paused to watch him, chuckling at how he was trying to put up with his mother’s rambling conversation. I opened the door, which got their attention. “Hey!”
“You’re back,” Zach said.
“Duh,” I joked.
“Did you bring dinner?” Clara asked. “I’m getting hungry.”
“I thought we could go out,” I said.
“I don’t think Zach should go out,” she said protectively.
“Not even if we take his new car?” I asked, smiling at Brent.
“What?” Zach asked. I handed him the keys. “A Ford?”
“It’s the nicest fucking Ford I’ve ever seen,” Brent said, and then remembered his mother was there. “Sorry,” he mumbled to her.
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, you buying Zach a car…” Clara said, getting all nervous.
“I know it’s a good idea,” I said. Zach got up slowly, and walked delicately out to the front of the house. It was so cool to see the huge smile on his face as soon as he saw it.
“Holy shit!” he exclaimed and started poring over it with Brent, who was pointing out all the cool features in it.
“Well, that was very nice of you,” Clara said grudgingly.
“I’m glad he likes it,” I said. We went inside and let Zach hang out with Brent. I ordered some pizzas to distract me from having to talk to her, and then I went back out and spent time with Zach as he bonded with his car. The pizza guy got there, so we paid him and took the pizzas into the house. Dinner was a thankfully short meal, one that Zach ended by yawning.
“You’re tired,” Clara said with concern.
“I am,” Zach said. He looked at me.
“I’ll help you back upstairs,” I said, picking up on his cue.
“I’ll come help you get settled,” Clara said.
“Will has things under control,” Brent said, in an unusually firm tone. “You can help me get set up next door.”
“Alright,” Clara said reluctantly.
“I’ll see you tomorrow morning,” Zach said, kissing her on the cheek as he did.
“You call me if you need me,” she said.
“I’ll be fine,” Zach insisted. Brent was shaking his head at her behind her back. We walked up the stairs and into his room, pausing to shut and lock the door. “Finally,” he said, and latched onto me.
“Dude, your mom is an expert cock-blocker,” I said.
“She’s not here now,” he said. Our lips met, and our clothes all but flew off of our bodies. “I need to take a shower.”
“I’ll help you,” I said. I got him ready, making sure to cover up his arm cast, and then helped him get in the shower. “Put your hands up against the wall,” I ordered.
“I only have one,” he joked.
“Well then put that one against the wall, and keep the other one out of the water,” I said. He stood there, with the water cascading over him, while I gently washed him. I was usually into that, because he had such an amazing body, but this time my goal was less about worship, and more about investigation. I could see some big bruises on his chest and abdomen, bruises that looked like they came from a punch more than an airbag. And most fascinating of all, there were nail marks on his arm, like someone had clawed at him. I tried to wash him and take my inventory without tipping him off, and that was pretty easy since I got him pretty fucking horny. Using the soap, I lubed him up and then gently and slowly fucked us both to a massive orgasm.
“That was fucking awesome,” he said, grinning at me.
“I thought so,” I said, even as I got all task-oriented and dried him off. He walked gingerly back to the bed and I gave him some pills to take, then went back to the bathroom to finish drying myself off. By the time I got back to the bed, he was sound asleep.
August 10, 2003
“Would you like a drink, Mr. Brad?” Consuela asked.
“I would. A gin and tonic,” I said with a smile. “Thank you.”
“It is no problem at all,” she said, and vanished into the house, leaving me alone in the courtyard. It was a nice day, and I was relaxed and content. I’d had a blast surfing in Hawaii, but more importantly, I’d sealed the rift that had been there between me and Will and me and Darius. And I’d had some great sex with Scott Slater. There had been times in the past when his friendship had seemed like a liability, but he had saved my ass back in 2000. More than that, he was the kind of friend who would tell me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear.
“Here’s your drink,” Consuela said, interrupting my train of thought.
I took a sip. “Good job. Thank you.” She smiled and left me alone to enjoy my solitude, only that was shattered when my phone rang. I was tempted to ignore it until I saw that it was Wade. “Hello,” I said cheerfully, as I answered the phone.
“Good evening,” he said. His tone was serious, so I modified mine accordingly.
“I need to meet with you,” he said. “It’s important.”
“And it’s not a phone conversation?”
“It is not,” he said firmly.
“Stef and I are going to be in New York tomorrow. We’ve got meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
“Can you get there in the morning?” That was strange, but Wade’s sense of urgency was not a little scary.
“I think so,” I said. “I’ll fly out tonight instead.”
“Then I’ll fly up and meet you at the condo tomorrow morning,” he said. Whatever Wade had on his mind, it was certainly removing any joy from his voice.
“You are on my schedule,” I said. “Should Stef be there?”
“He should,” Wade answered. “I know it’s a busy time, but if JP is available, it would be good if he could come along.”
“I can ask him,” I said, knowing that JP would probably go if only because Wade thought it was important. “Anyone else I should have in my entourage?”
“I was going to invite Will, but he’s not speaking to me,” Wade said.
“I called to tell him that Trevor was in the hospital,” he said. “He got beaten up pretty badly.”
“Is he alright?” I asked, with fake concern.
“We’ll see how well he walks after physical therapy,” Wade said.
“I guess Trevor is a hot button topic for Will,” I said, not getting it.
“It’s worse than that,” he said with resignation. “I implied that he was responsible for it.”
“I can see how that would annoy him,” I said. Wade had questioned Will’s word. That was about the biggest insult that he could have thrown at Will.
“So can I, but he’s not answering my calls,” Wade said. Now he sounded upset, which was rare for Wade. He must have realized how he’d totally pissed Will off.
“He’s been preoccupied,” I said in a soothing way. “Zach was in a car accident on Friday. Totaled his Durango.”
“Is he OK?”
“Broke his arm and bruised a rib,” I said. “Will says they think he may have gotten a slight concussion too, because he’s pretty fucked up.”
“That’s too bad,” Wade said. “I’ll leave him alone.”
“I’ll see if I can get Will to go with us, but I’m not optimistic, what with Zach in recovery,” I said. “If not, you can talk to him next weekend.”
“I can,” Wade agreed, but reluctantly. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll call you with our schedule,” I said, confirming we’d be there. I hung up the phone and finished my drink, even as I wondered what had Wade so upset.
Stef and JP came out, looking relaxed and content. “I am very excited about the plans for Will’s villas,” Stef said.
“I think they’ll be pretty incredible,” I agreed, even though, to me, Will’s gesture of putting the thing together was as valuable as actually building it. “I got a call from Wade.”
“Oh?” JP asked.
“He’s meeting with us in New York tomorrow morning,” I said to Stef. “Assuming you can leave tonight.”
“I can work that into my schedule,” Stef said.
“He wants you to come along as well,” I said to JP.
“Indeed?” JP asked, surprised at that.
“He said it was important, and sounded a bit frazzled,” I explained.
“Wade sounded frazzled?” Stef asked, which was funny, because while his French accent had faded, the word ‘frazzled’ was tough for him to pronounce.
“Then I will join you,” JP said.
“He wanted Will to join us, but he and Will aren’t on speaking terms,” I said. That shocked both of them, so I explained the reason.
“If you would like me to call him, I will be happy to try and persuade him,” JP said. Part of me was of a mind to call Will myself. I figured that if I could talk him into going, it would show that he and I were at a good place. But this was a big deal, whatever it was, for Wade to be this intense. I decided that this wasn’t the time for us to mess around.
“I think that’s a good idea.”
“Then I will try to accomplish that before dinner,” he said, and vanished into the house, presumably to go to the privacy of his study.
“Will is going to be pissed,” I said to Stef.
“I think that, based on how Wade has summoned us, it is important enough to risk his wrath,” Stef responded.
Stef nodded. “My instincts are telling me to be careful.” And while Wade’s call and even JP’s reaction hadn’t had much of an impact on me, that one statement by Stef changed my whole outlook. Stef’s instincts were almost never wrong.