Paul's shift ended at the firehouse. It was Friday morning, and he headed home from Hailey. He got to the crossroads of the highway, Corbin's and his road. He smiled to himself and turned to go up the ridge to his own house.
Corbin told Paul about the invitation to Mattone e Fuoco (Brick and Fire). And for his part the fireman was excited. He actually owned a suit, and it looked like a classy joint. 'I need to pull it out of the back of the closet. Make sure it's gonna be okay.'
He soon entered his house. He walked into the kitchen, and a pot of water sat on his stove. His french press had grounds in it. It waited only for the liquid to be heated and poured in. He smiled at the sight. During the week Corbin moved the chicks and the bobcat, Zampa to his building. Corbin stayed alone at Paul's house last night to care for the animals, and he had prepped the french press for his fireman.
Paul started the heat under the water then he went out to his building. Zampa was gone with Corbin to work, where he could feed and keep an eye on her. He checked on the chicks. They looked funny, as they grew feathers which pushed through the down on their bodies. All seemed well as he looked in on them. They chirped a bit, and he checked their food and water levels. Paul nodded, happy with the chicks' situation.
He went back into the house. His water started boiling, and he poured it into his press. Paul thought about Zampa. The bobcat was bigger, stronger, and more playful. Corbin already nursed a few accidental injuries from her paws and teeth on his hands. He started using gloves when he interacted with her, and that seemed to help.
Paul knew he would see Corbin this afternoon when he got off work from the coffee place. Corbin would leave his job a little early, come home to dress, then they would head out together. Paul went to his bedroom while his french press worked on the coffee. The fireman pulled out his suit and eyed it.
It was in good condition. Paul smiled and picked a few bits of lint from the black material. 'Okay. Now I just need a sexy man to walk in with.' His smile grew into a grin.
He hung the suit in his bathroom where it would have time to air out. He walked into the kitchen, plunged his coffee, and poured a mug. He sighed as he sat, but his smile remained. He imagined what Corbin would look like in a suit and the unmistakable sensation of a growing erection began.
He laughed and shook his head at himself. "Yep. It's gonna be a good night."
It was a busy morning at the coffee shop. Early on Corbin noticed quite a few new men and women in the shop. All looked well-heeled, and all spoke perfect Italian. Corbin conversed with them, and it was apparent they were here for Luca's opening.
Bruce and Jenoah were also in the shop at their usual seven a.m. time. Apparently, the young man was also invited to the opening, thanks to his association with Jenoah.
"Oh man, it's going to be so elegant!" Bruce grinned. It was obvious that he was thrilled. "My boss was amazing. Told me to go as soon as I asked for the night off!" When he said that Corbin glanced at Jenoah. The dark-haired youth smiled slightly. Bruce didn't catch the unspoken exchange. "Lucky Jenoah and I are the same sizes. I don't have anything to wear to such a thing, so he's helping me out."
Corbin smiled and nodded. "It's going to be fun. I'll see you there." The young pair left with their drinks and Karen shook her head.
"He's REALLY excited." She smiled. "Only a few locals are invited." She winked at Corbin. "You among them, partner!"
Corbin shrugged and grinned. "Apparently knowing Italian has a few perks."
The two worked through the day. Periodically they would get another new Italian speaker at their counter. Over the time they were open Corbin counted at least a dozen of them.
Today his shift ended at four p.m. When the hour arrived, he packed up his ever more rambunctious bobcat, and he drove out of town. He turned to head up the ridge, and he parked at Paul's place. Zampa knew the routine by now, and she realized she was about to be put back in with the chicks. She cried excitedly as he carried her over his shoulder to the building.
Once he put her in with her flock, she sniffed them, then curled up, content. The chicks seemed to like her, though it was more likely they enjoyed her warm body. Regardless, everyone was happy.
She had just started eating meat. And Corbin had already fed her a bit of fish earlier. Tomorrow he would feed her some beef. He thought he should probably avoid feeding her chicken. Paul agreed.
He left her in the pen with the chicks. She would be fine through the evening. He entered the house. There were Paul's suit jacket and slacks on a hanger over the back of a chair. His clothes were there too. It looked like Paul pressed their pants, and he smiled.
Paul entered the living room from the hallway. He wore a t-shirt, briefs, and black socks. Paul smiled when he saw Corbin. "Hey!" He walked to the smaller man, his green eyes sparkled in the soft glow of his lights. His arms went around Corbin's waist like they belonged there.
"Hey, fireman." Corbin smiled up at him, and the men kissed.
The kiss drew on, and Corbin made himself pull back. "Ah, we don't have time for that." He grinned at Paul's put-out expression. "Later. I promise."
"Gonna hold you to that." Paul kissed him again. Then they separated. "Okay, let's get dressed."
The event began at six p.m. It was now a bit after five, and so the guys had about a ½ hour to dress. Then they would make the short trip into town.
Corbin pulled on his black slacks and went into the bathroom. He stood in front of the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door and buttoned up his white long-sleeved shirt. As he did, the door opened, and Paul poked his head into the room.
"Hey." He slipped inside and closed the door again so Corbin could continue to use the mirror. He was still dressed only in his briefs, socks, and t-shirt. It was impossible to miss that Paul had an erection and Corbin eyed him warily.
"Paul, you should get dressed." He licked his lips and Paul slid behind him. Corbin started to zip his pants, and Paul reached around, and gently gripped his wrist.
The tall man pressed himself against Corbin's body from behind. "I don't want to wait." He whispered in Corbin's ear. The blonde man's breathing picked up, and Paul ground his hips into Corbin's rear.
"Paul …" Corbin tried to control himself, "we need to get dressed." Paul rubbed his face against the back of Corbin's neck and breathed against his skin.
"We have time." Paul pushed Corbin's pants off his hips, and they slid down to his ankles. Then he hooked his thumbs in Corbin's boxers and pushed them down. They too slid off of his hips and exposed his growing cock.
"We … we'll get messy." Corbin felt Paul's naked penis against him as the tall man got out of his briefs. He attempted to reason with Paul, but in truth, he had already surrendered. And Corbin watched in the mirror as Paul's hands roamed over his body.
Paul reached and pulled a bottle of lotion from the vanity cabinet. Then he applied a liberal amount to himself and to Corbin. "We'll just be careful." He pushed forward, and forced Corbin to lean, and hold himself up with his arms. Corbin's hands were placed on either side of the mirror, and he locked his elbows to hold the position.
Paul found the spot and placed his cock against Corbin. He began to apply pressure, and he gripped Corbin's hips. The smaller man exhaled and dropped his head. Soon Paul entered him, and he breathed through the initial moment.
His dick dribbled precome, and it dripped onto the floor. The fluid landed only a couple of inches from the material of his pants gathered at his ankles. Paul reached around, and his slick, warm hand closed on Corbin's member.
The tall man began slowly, but soon his pace increased. This was not a tender moment. They both let desire carry them, and Corbin felt Paul's teeth as he bit down on his neck. The roughness of Paul's bearded chin rubbed against his skin, and Corbin moaned. The sound brought a carnal grin to Paul's lips.
Thanks to the stimulation from both directions Corbin felt the inevitable approach. He looked down at his dick, and Paul's hand as it slid up and down his shaft. "I .. I'm about to make a mess." His eyes rolled back, and he moaned loudly. His orgasm arrived in a powerful contraction, and semen shot from him. It spattered against the mirror and began to slide down the glass. He continued to get off, and the rest dribbled down Paul's fist.
The muscular action of Corbin's body as he got off was too much for Paul, and the fireman made a groaning sound. Paul pushed forward and released inside Corbin. He continued to pump his hips. He rubbed his bearded face against the smaller man and grunted as he finished.
Carefully the two men straightened, and Paul pulled out of Corbin. Luckily Corbin's pants seemed to evade the mess that shot and leaked out of him. He looked at his slacks, and he laughed. "You better be glad none of that ended up on my pants!"
Paul nuzzled him from behind and smiled. "Mmmm … I would have taken whatever punishment deemed appropriate." He sighed. "I really can't resist you."
"I noticed!" Corbin laughed then turned. The fireman took him in his arms and suddenly grew gentle with him. Paul kissed the smaller man, then pulled him close, chest to chest. They didn't say anything, but both felt the connection they shared. And both smiled as they held one another.
The men stripped, cleaned their mess in the bathroom, and quickly showered. Then they dressed.
Both looked sharp. Paul wore a light green button up shirt under his suit jacket. He also had a dark green tie, which complimented his eyes and his shirt. Corbin had a white button up, with a light blue tie. It almost exactly matched his irises, and the guys looked at themselves in the mirror as they stood side by side.
Paul grinned. "We look good!"
Corbin turned to him and kissed the taller man. "We do." He checked his phone then he patted Paul's rump. "But we're gonna be late if we don't go. Let's head out!"
They took Paul's truck and drove to town. They parked in the now crowded parking lot of Mattone e Fuoco. They approached the door, and two men in impeccable suits flanked the entrance. The men each nodded at them, and the guys entered the restaurant.
Corbin inhaled in surprise. "Oh, wow." It was a beautiful space. It had an open area in the middle with private booths that lined the walls. Lots of wood, and incandescent light fixtures throughout. The floors were light-stained wood. Plush red rugs were placed here and there in walking areas, but not where the dining occurred. Together it created the effect of a warm, elegant space. It was lit well, but not harsh and bright.
There were eight set tables, all in the larger center space. Each table could seat six, though some only had place-settings for four.
There were about forty people inside the large room. Well dressed men and women sipped wine, mingled and talked amongst one another. Italian was the predominant language, though Corbin's ear picked up English and Spanish as well.
As they entered, they attracted polite attention from those they passed. Corbin noticed the cordial way he was treated. Again, like he was treated by Luca's outfit. It seemed every one of the guests he passed made a point to speak to and greet him. Paul as well - even if some of them did so in heavily accented English.
They passed through most of the guests into the larger space of the room, and Paul leaned over. "Uh, are you an Italian rock star or something?" He reached and took a couple of glasses of sparkling wine from a passing server. He handed one over to Corbin.
Corbin looked carefully over the crowd and sipped his drink. "I think Luca, the owner of this place told these folks to treat us well. I think it's because I was nice to him when he first came to Hailey." Corbin shrugged. "It also helps that I know the language."
"Hrmph." Paul didn't quite sound convinced, but he let it go.
Corbin had more significant problems on his mind. He saw Luca across the room. The black-haired man was dressed in an impeccable gray suit, a white carnation decorated his lapel, and a thick silver ring glittered on his right hand. He walked through the room with charisma and confidence which befitted a king. Luca nodded at the greetings from the attendees, but his eyes were on Corbin and Paul.
Luca headed straight for them. 'I am the ranking member of Family Reina.' The thought rang through Corbin's mind, and his spine straightened. His head came up, and his eyes narrowed slightly. His mouth twisted into a small smile and Luca stopped before him. In his wake, Luca left bows of respect from his guests.
"Corbin! E 'bello vederti. (Corbin! It is good to see you.)" He smiled warmly and nodded at Paul. "E il tuo amico, Paul. (And your friend, Paul.)" Paul heard his name, smiled and nodded back at him.
"Ciao, Luca. Grazie per l'invito al tuo evento. (Hello, Luca. Thank you for the invitation to your event.)" Corbin very purposefully squashed his urge to dip his head in the subtle bow for Family elders. And instead, he stared the man straight in the eye.
Luca stood and held his gaze. A few heartbeats passed, and Paul shifted uncomfortably beside Corbin. Those close by stopped, and watched the interaction. It was almost as if they all held their breath. Slowly Luca smiled, and the barest of nods came from the raven-haired man. Corbin returned it with a smile of his own.
Luca then smiled broadly, and the moment passed. Relieved sighs came from those who witnessed the exchange. Luca motioned to Paul. "Per favore, presentami correttamente al tuo amico! (Please, properly introduce me to your friend!)"
Corbin put his hand on Paul's shoulder. "Conosci il suo nome, ma Paul è più del mio amico. Lui è il mio compagno. Qualsiasi favore per lui è un favore per me. (You know his name, but Paul is more than my friend. He is my companion. Any favor to him is a favor to me.)" His eyes narrowed. "Qualunque cosa leggera per lui un minimo per me. (Any slight to him is a slight to me.)"
Luca's dark eyes sparkled, and he nodded. Corbin had marked Paul as "his," and it had not gone unnoticed. Though it also worked both ways. It meant Paul's conduct reflected on Corbin as well. Corbin turned to Paul. "This is Luca. He is the owner of Mattone e Fuoco, and he is our gracious host." Paul smiled and nodded at Luca as he saw the Family do earlier.
"Thank you for the invitation, Luca. It was very kind of you." Paul said. His voice was respectful. He could sense the situation was a tricky one. Corbin translated, and Luca nodded, pleased with the way Paul spoke to him.
Luca motioned to a booth. It was the only one set up with place-settings. "Per favore, unisciti a me, signori. (Please join me, gentlemen.)" He smiled, a little guilty. "Confesso, vorrei parlarti in privato. (I confess, I would like to speak to you privately.)"
Cobin nodded and translated to Paul as they walked to the booth. Paul whispered to Corbin as they sat. "What's going on?"
"Later," Corbin whispered back.
They settled in. As soon as the Capo sat a server announced in perfect Italian, English, and then Spanish that all should find their seats. The crowd did so, and that's when Corbin noticed Bruce. The young man sat beside Jenoah at one of the tables and looked both elated and overwhelmed. Jenoah had his hand on Bruce's back, and he spoke to the young local. Corbin smiled at the pair. He couldn't help but remember Liam's first few Family events.
A server approached bearing bread, and Arancine, balls of breaded deep-fried rice on a platter. The plates were set on the table before them. There were six of them, and Luca motioned at the food with a smile.
Corbin took one of the Arancine and gingerly bit into the food. It was filled with melted sharp cheese and sun-dried tomato. It was tender and delicious. He unconsciously made an appreciative noise, and Luca grinned. They all ate the presented food, and then the responsive server took away the plate.
Corbin was well aware that the presentation and timing of the dishes were not typical of an Italian meal. This was designed, instead to show off the best of what the place could do.
As they waited for the next course, Luca pulled out a glossy tri-fold pamphlet from his suit jacket. "Il favore che abbiamo discusso, Corbin? (The favor we have discussed, Corbin?)" Luca's eyes focused on Corbin's, and he slid the pamphlet across the table. "Devi prendere il tuo compagno e goderti tre giorni qui. (You are to take your companion and enjoy three days here.)" He tapped on the glossy paper. "Trinity Hot Springs. Lo farai tra due settimane. (You will do this two weeks from now.)"
He sat back as another platter with three bowls of food slid onto the table.
Corbin's mind churned. He couldn't refuse this request without repercussions. He cocked his head and looked at Luca as he and Paul took a small bowl of noodles from the platter. Corbin reached and gathered his dish as well. Then he took the pamphlet. The place looked to be about a one and a half hour drive from Hailey. And it did seem nice.
Luca watched Corbin and twirled the pasta on a fork then ate the bite. For his part, Paul glanced at them both, then dug into his bowl. Corbin was thankful Paul knew to sit quietly. He needed that, at least for now. Though he knew he would owe Paul a lot of explanation.
Instead of answering Corbin too began on his bowl of noodles. The angel hair pasta was flavored with delicate and aged parmesan, butter, cracked black pepper and garlic. It was simple but sublime. The three of them finished, and again their empty dishes were removed by their server.
He looked at Luca, and his fingers drummed on the pamphlet. "Paul. What do you think about going to Trinity Hot Springs weekend after next?"
Paul looked at Corbin. He could see this moment between he and Luca wasn't entirely cordial. He slid the pamphlet across the table and looked through it. "Sounds fun. I'll have that weekend off." He shrugged. "Sure. Is it expensive? I'm not made of money."
"It's paid already." Corbin stared at Luca who only gazed back at him with a subtle smile. Paul looked back and forth at them.
The light clicked on for the fireman. "Uh … do you not actually have a choice?" Paul put the pamphlet back on the table.
Corbin sat back, thought about his answer and sighed. He owed Paul the truth. "Worse. WE don't have a choice." Corbin grimaced. "Actually, you might. But …" he tried to find the words for what he wanted to say next. Paul beat him to it.
"But you would be punished." The tall man turned his eyes on Luca, his expression cool and thoughtful.
Corbin nodded. "Likely. Yeah."
Paul sighed, and his fingers did a little drumming of their own on the table. "Well, then I guess we're going to Trinity Hot Springs weekend after next."
Corbin looked at Paul. He smiled at the fireman. "Thank you, Paul."
Paul nodded. "We're gonna talk later."
"Yeah, I have no doubt."
Corbin told Luca that they would be happy to accept his generous gift. The man smiled and nodded at them both.
Their next course arrived, and they all took another bowl from the platter. This time it was Caponata. It was a Sicilian eggplant dish, made with celery, sweetened vinegar, and capers in a sweet and sour sauce. Corbin hadn't had this dish for over two years, and his mouth immediately watered when it sat before him.
The rest of the meal was terrific. And once the business of the "favor" was done, Luca seemed to loosen up. He made a point to ask Paul questions (which Corbin translated) about his life and interests.
At the end of the dessert course, Luca stood. "Gentiluomini. È stato un grande piacere. Per favore, fai sapere a Paul che è il benvenuto nel nostro posto di lavoro in qualsiasi momento. (Gentlemen. It has been a great pleasure. Please let Paul know, he is welcome in our place of business anytime.)" With that Luca left, and mingled to say goodbye to his departing guests.
Paul looked at Corbin. The blonde man jerked his head toward the door, and the two men made their way through the crowd quickly. People seemed to step aside for them, and sketch small bows as they passed. Paul frowned at the treatment, and Corbin walked along with tiny acknowledgment of each person.
They exited, and the two men got into Paul's truck. The fireman sat in the driver's seat for a moment. He stared forward, hands on the wheel, and eyes unfocused.
Corbin watched him, then reached and put his hand on Paul's leg.
At the touch, Paul glanced at him then started the truck. He pulled onto Main street, and he set his jaw. "Okay. You're going to answer me."
"I will if I can." Corbin nodded.
Paul shook his head. "No. You WILL answer me." He looked over, his face serious and angry. "You're going to answer me because THAT was the fucking Mafia. Wasn't it?"
Corbin nodded. "Yeah. One of the Families." He shrugged. "Don't know which one. But one of the Families … for sure."
Paul swore. "And … and you knew? I mean, you let me walk in there knowing?"
Corbin closed his eyes. "I didn't have a choice." He slumped in his seat. "I … I almost stopped seeing you, Paul. Because I thought it might help. It might have kept you out of it." He shook his head. "But, Luca already knew of you. It was too late." He looked out the passenger side window. "I'm sorry."
Paul was silent. He pulled off the asphalt, and the diesel rolled to a stop at the intersection of their roads and the highway. He looked over at Corbin. The blonde man leaned against his window, face pointed down and away from him. His shoulders pulled in on themselves. As close to a fetal position as you can get sitting up.
"Is that what you want?" Paul asked. His voice was low and quiet. "You want to stop seeing me?"
Cobin shook his head. "I couldn't." He sighed, his voice shaky. "Fucking selfish of me. But … I couldn't." He made a frustrated noise and rubbed at his face. "Fuck." He opened the door. "Sorry. I'm gonna walk home."
Paul's voice was only just under his full control. "Corbin. I'm upset. But if you get out of this truck, it will redefine the fucking word." Corbin looked over his shoulder. Paul stared at him. His eyes were more intense than Corbin had ever seen. The blonde man swallowed.
"I don't know what I'm supposed to do Paul." He closed the door and sat back in the seat.
Paul's expression fell. "You know … if you had told me what was going on? If you told me, you were mixed up in the mob again? And that I needed to go walking into that nest of vipers beside you?" He reached and put his hand on Corbin's shoulder. "I would have."
Corbin's face screwed up, and tears began to stream down his face. "But … I don't … I don't deserve that."
"You don't get to decide for me. THAT is why I'm upset, Corbin." Paul squeezed his shoulder. "Trust me. Let me make my own choices. DON'T blindside me like that again."
Corbin looked over at him, his eyes red. Then he nodded. "Okay."
Paul took a breath. "That's all I ask." He put his truck into gear and drove up to his house.
Once there Corbin got out of the truck and looked over at his own vehicle. "If you want, I'll go home."
"You are home." Paul jerked his head toward his door. "Come on." Paul put his arm around Corbin's shoulders and led them both into the house.
The conversation would continue, as Paul had many more questions. 'Why was Luca here? Why did everyone in that room treat Corbin almost as well as they did Luca? Why did they eat a world-class meal for nothing? Why does Luca want them out of town?'
He would ask, but it would be later. Because right now Corbin was upset. And no matter the reason for that, even if it might be his own fault, Paul wanted to put his arms around him. And he wanted to let Corbin know, that he was here and that he would continue to be.
He put Corbin to bed, and he lay down with him. Paul spooned him and pressed his arm tight against Corbin's chest. Though he was still upset with the blonde man, this situation made Paul want to protect him even more. He had no idea Corbin was in trouble again. But now that he did Paul determined to keep the blonde man in his sight as much as he could.
He would keep him safe. He kissed the back of Corbin's neck. "No matter what, I've got you." He said quietly. Corbin sighed and slipped off to sleep.
Harris was in his Boise apartment. It was Monday evening, and he hung up the phone. He sighed and rubbed his head. The ISP (Idaho State Patrol) wanted far more details than he was prepared to give them. They finally accepted that Stefano Moretti was a dangerous man, and they also agreed any sightings need to immediately be reported to him.
He also contacted the Hailey police department again. He had already spoken to the chief, a man named Travis Adams over a week ago. And it looked as if he would cooperate fully. Once the photo of Stefano went to the chief, the man gave him an interesting bit of information.
"Not seen this guy, but he looks a lot like some of the new folks in town."
That's when Travis told him about the new Italian family in Hailey. After a bit of work, Harris managed to get his hands on surveillance videos around town. He ran the good screen captures through his facial recognition program, one at a time.
No hits on Stefano. But there were a few interesting matches. He sat at his laptop and narrowed his eyes. Three of the members of the Italian family were flagged as potentially connected to the Sicilian mob.
The Giovanni Family was a very old, very powerful, far-reaching crime syndicate. It had members across the globe. And it was suspected that they controlled a spy network as impressive as many moderately sized countries.
Though the Giovanni delt rarely in violent crime. Instead, they focused more on information and things which flirted with legitimacy. Prosecutions against them were few, and even more rare were successful prosecutions.
Harris frowned. What were the Giovanni doing in Hailey? He debated if he should inform the local law enforcement of the Family's affiliation. Harris decided against it. So far, the only thing they had done was open a restaurant. If the locals started making trouble for the Giovanni, then the Family would begin to dig into why. And invariably they would find out he was now in Boise, and behind their troubles. It would be better if they didn't know he realized who they were.
"Are they working with Stefano?" Harris murmured. He tapped his foot and thought. There was nothing in Stefano's profile to suggest a connection to the Giovanni. But Harris had his suspicions about that profile. It was too neat, too easily verified and collaborated. Too … perfect.
He sighed heavily. All he had were more questions. Though something he did begin was the local hunt for Stefano Moretti. Harris had to assume Stefano would eventually find Corbin. Should he show up anywhere near Hailey, he would be seen. Harris now had a line on multiple resources for local video feeds. With his recognition software, he would be able to search for Stefano on most video collected by the city of Hailey.
The only question was - would he be found in time?
* Paul is excited to go out to a nice dinner.
* Looks like Bruce is slowly getting more integrated to the Family in Hailey.
* Paul begins to notice how Corbin is treated by the Family in Hailey.
* Corbin channels his inner mafioso in order to deal with Luca.
* What is Luca up to? That "favor" is for Corbin and Paul to go to a resort? That's a very odd favor!
* Paul knows about the Family. He's not very happy with Corbin.
* Through luck and skill Harris discovers Luca's Family is in Hailey. Though, the agent chooses to sit on the information. The Giovanni Family, known for convoluted and complex schemes has made itself a nest in the city. The question remains - why?
Some players in the game are revealed, and more pieces moved. Schemes abound, and circle Corbin, while he remains in a vacuum devoid of important information.