William Andrew Philip Bodie might have been the world's most popular actor, but he was also one of the world's most private men. These two things were often at odds with each other but Bodie was steadfast in his resolve. He loved his work, but he heartily disliked a portion of what came with it. He wasn't a hermit by many means. He understood the need to do public appearances. He'd appeared on the red carpet in Great Britain at the BAFTAs, in the United States at the Academy Awards and the Emmys, and in France at the César Awards. He'd been photographed constantly in Cannes at the film festivals, and in Toronto at TIFFs. It wasn't that he avoided the paparazzi when he was working, but while he was on his own time, he thought of each and every one of them as "the plague”.
Bodie, as he preferred to be called, was currently planning how he could marry his true love, Kieran Murphy, without anyone interfering with their plans. Once they'd applied for and received their marriage licence, the madness had ensued. It took the press about two seconds to discover that he and Kieran had been issued the licence. Since then they'd both been under constant surveillance. Their first attempt to wed was at a small ceremony, totally on the sly, with pre-planning of about an hour. It was a no go. The paparazzi flooded the vestibule at the small chapel they'd snuck into, disrupting the service. Infuriated, Bodie grabbed Kieran's hand and stomped from the building.
The second time Bodie had arranged for four decoy couples to sneak out of his house at various times dressed in dinner jackets and top hats as if they were Bodie and Kieran. Each couple rushed into a waiting limousine, and while each couple managed to take some of the paparazzi on a merry tour of London, there was one who obviously was psychic or had ESP. Bodie and Kieran were the third couple in the deception and the mind-reading photographer somehow discovered the plan and followed the correct car to its destination. This particular photographer, Yannick Bouchet, was well known to Bodie. He'd spotted Bouchet crouched down between two parked cars as they approached the church. Bodie had, of course, ordered the chauffeur to drive on, and he cursed like a sailor all the way home.
"No one," Bodie groused to Kieran once they'd locked themselves behind the secure gates of Bodie's house on Abbotsbury Road, "is going to keep me from marrying you, and no one is going to know when and where we do it!"
Kieran laughed, his long silky brown fringe flopping over his eyes. He swept the hair back nonchalantly with one hand and shook his head, giving Bodie a benevolent smile. "And how do you propose we do that? You know I'm not nearly as interested in a wedding and privacy as you but I love you so now what?"
Bodie scoffed, pouring himself a dram of Scotch whisky. "You?" he asked, holding the glass out to Kieran. He loved how Kieran looked at him, like he was the most important person in his lover's life.
At Kieran's nod, he poured another glass and passed it over. Dropping down on the sofa, he said, "At this rate, there won't be any wedding, let alone a big one." He sipped his drink. "I don't necessarily need a large wedding with a lot of guests but I would like some flowers and a cake, and to be able to toast to the beginning of our lives together! I want to do it without flash bulbs blinding me unless it's a photographer we've hired."
"Hey, you don't have to explain it to me, Bodie. I'm on your side. I want to push some cake into your face and kiss it off. We could still have a ceremony here, at the house."
Laughing, Bodie slipped his arm around Kieran's shoulders. "I'd rather smash cake on your body and lick it clean."
Letting out a happy sigh, Kieran snuggled in. "I'd be okay with that!"
Bodie ruffled his hair. "Hedonist."
"Guilty as charged."
Bodie leaned over and kissed Kieran, savouring the taste of the malt on his lover's lips. "I won't give into them. I won't. We're going to have a wedding and that's final."Abruptly he pulled back and stared at Kieran.
"What? Do I have something growing on my forehead?" Kieran's hand flew to his face. He patted his skin.
Bodie blinked, refocusing on Kieran. "No, you silly prat. I just had a thought!"
"Oh God, we're in trouble now."
"Smart arse. Listen, how about if we run away?" Bodie grinned, waggling his crooked eyebrow.
Kieran studied him. "Run away? Don't you have a shoot next week?"
"I do, but I have six days. Six whole days to do what I like, and I like running away!" Bodie jumped from the sofa. "Go and pack. We're heading out in an hour." He went to the window and peered out. "Looks like we're not being watched at the moment. Thank heavens for rain. Makes for lousy photos." He looked left and right. "I'm going to go and check the surveillance cameras. If the coast is clear, we'll head out as soon as we're packed." He rubbed his hands together. "This is going to work!"
Kieran finished his drink. "I like a good adventure, but can you tell me where we're going? Do I need my passport? What about your agent? Your housekeeper or Frank?"
"No to where we're going, no to needing a passport, no to my agent knowing. I'll leave the housekeeper a note. She has a key anyway, and no to Frank. He loves micromanaging my schedule so the idea that he'll be in a total frenzy not knowing where I am makes me happy. Sweetheart, we're staying in the United Kingdom. We're going to Lewis."
Kieran scrunched his nose. "Lewis? Is he some ex of yours?"
Bodie burst out laughing. "No! Good grief, but you're a funny lad. It's in the Outer Hebrides! We'll fly into Stornoway. Didn't you study your lessons at school?"
Looking shocked, Kieran gave a theatrical shiver. "Outer Hebrides! Christ, I'd best pack the woollies."
Bodie pulled him in for a quick kiss. "I wouldn't want those tasty bits of yours to freeze."
Giving Bodie a patient smile, Kieran patted Bodie's bum. "Same with your bits. They're all mine, you know."
"I know, now shift it so we can get to the airport before the hordes descend on us. Plain and dowdy, all right? Jeans and tee shirts, hiking boots, and I'll wear my old wool toggle coat. No designer jeans and get those old Army rucksacks out of the back cupboard. I think I'll put on a fake beard."
"We'll need raincoats too. It's murder on those islands with the rain." Kieran chuckled. "Might be hard to get through airport security with a fake beard."
"Nah. People grow hair all of the time and use their ID. I'd shave me head if I thought it would get me away from the damned paparazzi for six bloody days!" Bodie grabbed Kieran's hand. He'd been issuing orders without considering his lover. Contrite, he asked, "Are you okay with all of this?"
Putting his free hand on Bodie's face, Kieran smiled. "I love you. And yes, it will be fun!"
"I'd best get moving if we're going to make a break for it. And I'll pack your woollies as well."
"You're too good to me."
Bodie, in his beard disguise and wearing worn black jeans and the dark blue toggle coat that was ten years old, purchased two tickets to Lewis while Kieran kept a lookout, just in case. They removed their fake beards before boarding so that the woman checking passports didn't make a fuss about not recognising them from their photos. They got on the plane with no problems, changed planes at Glasgow and arrived at Stornoway in the middle of (surprise!) a rainstorm.
Thankfully, because it was off season, it hasn't hard to hire a car without a reservation. Kieran drove while Bodie consulted a travel guide he'd bought at the hire counter.
"Do you want a hotel?" Kieran asked.
Bodie glanced over. He enjoyed the vision of Kieran's profile for a moment. He had strong features and was incredibly handsome. He must have felt Bodie's eyes on him because he looked at Bodie, gave him a smile, and returned his focus to the road.
"Nah. Not a regular hotel. Something more remote. A cottage maybe? This booklet says there are several cottage rentals and a few B&B's out along the main road."
"Hmmm. Does it say they're open?"
"Nope. But this is an adventure, remember?"
Kieran headed out of town at Bodie's direction and after an hour, the driving rain hadn't let up. "I'm getting a headache staring out the window. I don't see a thing any more. No houses, no petrol stops, nothing. Are we lost?"
After peering out of the steamy windscreen, Bodie wiped the side window and pushed his nose against the glass. He sighed, looking at the map for the umpteenth time. Then he turned the map around.
"Ah, have you seen a road sign lately?"
"It's a tarmac road so that's a good sign. It has to lead somewhere," Bodie offered. As soon as the words left his mouth, the tarmac suddenly stopped. With a bump, they were now traversing a dirt track. A wet and muddy dirt track.
"Shit," Kieran muttered. He turned the windscreen defroster up to high and swiped his hand across the glass to clear it. "It's not nice out there!"
The car hit a hole and skidded on the mud. Bodie grabbed the door handle while his partner wrestled with two tons of automobile. Finally, Kieran regained control and stopped the car, breathing heavily.
"That wasn't fun, Bodie," Kieran complained.
"I'm sorry! I have no idea where we are. Can you turn around?"
He looked out the windscreen and side window. "Not here. Let's find a place and go back. We'll search out a room in town and make do. Maybe it will stop raining and we can try again later on."
"Okay. Makes sense," Bodie said, mollified that the best laid plans hadn't worked. Actually, there hadn't been a plan, only an impulse, and it was his fault they were lost in the wilds of the Isle of Lewis.
"At least we're on an island. When we hit the ocean, we won't be able to go any farther!" Kieran said.
Kieran's good humour and easy going personality were two of the things Bodie loved about him, not to mention his trim body and nicer than average cock. He was rarely in a temper or foul mood, and other than the occasional sulk which lasted for no more than a few hours, he was an easy-to-love bloke.
Bodie put his hand on Kieran's shoulder. "Love you, mate."
"You might think twice about that after you buy me a steak dinner and the best single malt in the pub."
"It will be my pleasure." Bodie squeezed Kieran's shoulder.
"There's a road up ahead. I can just make it out." He leaned forward.
Bodie did likewise. "Great. Let's get out of here!"
Kieran turned down the dirt road. It was very narrow, with hedges on both sides, making it look like a long, dark tunnel.
As Kieran carefully backed out of the lane, Bodie caught sight of a sign that was attached to a post. It was hidden by greenery but he could make out the text.
"SEAVIEW LODGE" was carved into the wood in large, weather-worn block letters that were barely visible, and underneath: "Rooms to Let".
"Hey!" Bodie said, "Look." He pointed at the sign and read aloud at the same time.
Kieran leaned forward to look past Bodie's pointed finger. "Looks... creepy."
"What looks creepy? You can't see the lodge from here. How can a sign look creepy? Scared?" Bodie said teasingly.
"Nah." Kieran put the gear lever into first. "Let's explore. Nothing says we have to stay at a haunted lodge if we don't want to."
"Right." Bodie rubbed his hands together gleefully. "If anything jumps out at you, I'll protect you."
Kieran snorted in amusement. "My hero. Like in films, eh?"
Bodie grinned and said, "Got a good feeling this is the hideaway we've been looking for!"
"That would be fantastic." He leaned closer to the windscreen. "This defroster is bollocks!"
"There. Be careful. The road's horrible." While Bodie extolled the virtues of the track they were traversing, the car slid sideways in the thick mud and came to an abrupt stop, rocking a few times before settling in.
The engine was still running. Kieran gently released the clutch. The wheels spun in the thick mud. He rocked the car back and forth by putting it into first and reverse in an attempt to release it but after several vain attempts, he looked over at Bodie and gave an annoyed grunt.
"Guess we're walking."
Bodie tried to peer out of the foggy windows. "Wonder how far it is?"
"Let's find out. Get your coat." Kieran pulled the keys from the ignition and pocketed them. When Bodie gave him a raised eyebrow, he shrugged, grinning. "Don't want anybody to steal it."
"Perish the thought." Bodie grabbed his coat from the back seat. "Now I'm glad we wore these clothes instead of anything decent but I doubt even these boots and jeans will survive this sort of trek."
With a wry laugh Kieran said, "Good thing you don't have on those £40 Italian loafers you bought last week!"
The men climbed from the car and began to slough down the track. Despite wearing a heavy wool coat, he was soaked inside of five minutes. Bodie clasped Kieran's hand. He was afraid he'd lose his lover as nightfall quickly descended, darkening the track until Bodie wasn't sure they were going in the correct direction.
Slipping and sliding, Kieran's boot became stuck in deep mud. He yanked and pulled but his foot was held fast. Bodie leaned down, blinking rain from his eyelashes. He yanked and pulled until he was able to untie the laces so that Kieran could pull his foot free. Bodie swore the mud sucked the boot further down until it disappeared. What was that? A gateway to the underworld? He shivered.
"You okay?" Bodie shouted at Kieran.
Kieran nodded but he looked miserable. Bodie slipped an arm around his waist and together they forged ahead. Finally, after what felt like hours Bodie could see a light.
"Look!" he shouted, pointing ahead.
Kieran didn't speak but he did lean into Bodie. Bodie hauled him close. They forced their way down the track the last quarter of a mile until Bodie saw the large edifice looming ahead.
It wasn't a large manor or a mansion or a lodge (as advertised!). It was a bloody castle! Three stories high, and from what Bodie could see through the driving rain, made of large stone blocks, complete with turrets. As they made their way to what Bodie thought might be the main entrance, he realised they were walking on a wooden bridge. He had no doubt that there was a moat beneath his feet. He wouldn't be surprised if the place had a dungeon with a skeleton still hanging from shackles.
It was a relief to be standing under the overhang at the main entryway. The wood door itself was tall, well over 10 feet. Bodie hoped that somebody would answer since there were no cars to be seen. Now that he was close to the building he couldn't see the light any longer.
Banging with his fist, Bodie shouted, "Hello! Anybody home?"
Kieran was leaning against him, shivering in spite of the wool coat he wore. He stood on one foot. Bodie had no doubt that Kieran's bootless foot was freezing because he had both of his boots and he was chilled right through.
"Hang in there, sweetheart," Bodie said. "Hello!" He banged again, shouting as loud as he could. "Help us!"
The great wooden door swung open. A man stood there, arms crossed, clearly not the welcoming sort.
"We're freezing!" Bodie said. "Car's stuck in the mud in the lane."
"Wouldn't have if you hadn't come down the lane," the man said coldly.
"You've a sign for this place saying rooms to let!" Bodie shouted, shivering. Kiernan gave a small moan. "Please. My friend is freezing. He's lost his boot in the mud. We've got money!"
Bodie blinked rain water from his eyes. The man appeared to be a younger bloke of about thirty but Bodie was shivering so badly he couldn't focus on his other features at the moment. All he cared about was that the man glared at them for a good while before he finally backed up and reluctantly waved them inside. Bodie didn't waste a moment. He grabbed Kieran and hurried forward as fast as his cold feet would allow.
"Thanks," Bodie said from between chattering teeth.
They followed their host through a large stone-floor foyer and into a room that could only be described as a hall. It was huge, with leather furniture scattered through the space, along with tables bearing lit cut glass lamps that cast warm glows on the polished wood beneath their bases. At one end a giant fire place burned brightly. The snap and crackle of the logs was a welcoming sound. Bodie hauled Kieran across the floor and pushed him into one of the leather chairs that flanked the fireplace. Bodie glanced back and saw that they'd left a trail of water and mud on the flagstones. He would have apologised if the bloke had been the least bit civil but for now he kept his mouth shut.
"Cheers," Kieran said, his voice barely a whisper.
Bodie patted his shoulder before he turned to his host. Best smooth the way with his considerable charms. No sense risking being chucked out into the night. "Sorry. I thought this was a public lodge, with rooms available."
The man looked confused for a brief second before he sighed. He ran a hand through his abundance of curly hair, making it stick out like Einstein's. "My fault. I haven't taken down the sign. I don't even notice it when I drive in and everybody who lives on the island knows it's no longer a public establishment. At least not yet," he muttered darkly before he huffed out a breath and gave both his guests a lopsided grin. He must have found his humanity because he waved towards the other chair flanking the fire. "Please, sit down and get warm. I'll get some blankets."
Bodie nodded, finally able to observe the man's features more closely. He wore well-worn jeans and a grey sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up past his elbows and white trainers. He was about Bodie's and Kieran's ages, as he'd first thought. Thirty, give or take a year or two. He was quite slim, with that full head of curly brown hair and lighter coloured eyes. It was hard to tell exactly what colour they were in the darker atmosphere of the room but they sparkled as they reflected the fire's glow. The smile he cast Bodie's way revealed a chipped front tooth which made him even more handsome.
More handsome? When did Bodie's brain decide the man was handsome in the first place? He felt a touch of guilt that he quickly brushed away. Why not look? He wasn't touching, and he certainly wasn't dead, merely engaged to the man of his dreams. Everybody looked, he told himself.
"I'm sorry. We didn't introduce ourselves properly," Kieran said. "I'm Kieran Murphy and this is my fiancé, Bodie." He smiled at his lover.
"Just Bodie?" their host asked, studying Bodie far too closely for his liking.
"I prefer it." Bodie eyed the man. "You haven't heard of me? William Bodie?" He didn't trust anybody who wouldn't admit that they'd seen every one of his movies and watched his many television roles. He was more comfortable if they gushed and got it over with. After all, he was internationally famous.
"Ah, no. Why should I have?" The man raised an eyebrow. "Are you a mass murderer? A politician?" At Bodie's wide-eyed look, the man shrugged. "I'm Ray Doyle, by the way. Owner of this-" he glanced around and gave a sigh, "-abode."
Kieran gave Bodie a look that said, 'Sit down and shut it.' To their host, he said, "Bodie's got a problem with people who try to pretend they don't know him. Then five minutes later they're calling the press to start negotiating a price for giving out his location and for exclusive photographs."
Doyle looked genuinely baffled. "Eh? I have absolutely no clue what you're blabbering on about. I'll buy the fact that he's somebody well known," he looked at Bodie with a gimlet eye, "but I assure you I don't have a clue."
"You've not seen any of my films or seen me on the telly?" Bodie asked, struggling to imagine how someone could 'not' know about him. They weren't in the depths of the Amazon or on an island in the South Pacific with no cinemas or television reception.
Doyle rolled his eyes heavenward as if asking for patience, then he threw out his hands. "Don't have a telly nor have I been to the cinema in the past ten years. Sorry."
Bodie stared. Doyle didn't sound contrite in the least. In fact, he sounded pleased about his lack of cultural education. "Really?"
"Do you want tea?" Doyle asked, his tone annoyed.
Bodie had a moment's spark of his own annoyance. How could anybody not know who he is? But then he caught himself. What was he doing? Was his ego so out of control that everyone in the world had to know and love him? He was a moron sometimes. Thankfully he hadn't opened his mouth and revealed this to Kieran or to Doyle. He cleared his throat. "Could we change first?" He was uncomfortable in his now clammy clothing, and he was sure Kieran would appreciate getting into something dry.
"Of course," Doyle said.
Bodie stood up. "We, ah, don't have any dry clothing to change into. Couldn't carry the bags in the storm." He shrugged, hoping Doyle couldn't see him blushing at being so needy. "Sorry."
Doyle stood silently. Bodie got the impression he'd like to have asked them to leave. From his body stance, he clearly conveyed that he was annoyed to have his privacy invaded. If he insisted, they'd have to leave. Bodie held his breath while Doyle looked at each man in turn. After what felt like an hour, Doyle gave a curt nod.
"You're both larger than me but I do have some track suits and bathrobes. There's hot water."
"Cheers, mate!" Kieran said before he sneezed loudly.
"You're going to catch your death." Bodie took Kieran's hand. He'd been holding his hands towards the fire and his skin was now warm. Bodie was grateful his lover had been able to finally get rid of his chill, thanks to this Doyle.
"This way." Doyle led the way across the large hall and through the foyer. They climbed a large set of wide, well-worn stone steps.
"I'm surprised this place isn't drafty and cold inside."
"It's called central heating," Doyle remarked smartly, looking over his shoulder. "We even have indoor toilets and running water. Electricity as well."
Doyle was a prickly one! "I wasn't disparaging your home," Bodie said quickly. "I was merely curious about living in a castle. Not everybody does, for your information." His tone was flippant. He and Doyle didn't seem to have gotten off on the right foot and he was at a loss on how to correct that. If he was interested in doing so anyway. They'd just met this bloke. It was true they'd barged in but it was an emergency. There was no reason to be best friends or even like the man. They only needed shelter for the night, to dry off, to have something to eat, and in the morning, to call a tow truck to pull out the mired car. They'd be gone as soon as humanly possible.
'Only.' Bodie sighed to himself. The 'only' was quite a bit. Best be nice to his host so they would get out of this godforsaken place tomorrow. Wouldn't want to end up in that dungeon!
Following Doyle, he wondered how had he gotten into this mess? Oh right. He wanted privacy to marry Kieran. Maybe he should have married his man that first time in spite of being overrun with paparazzi. But no. This was special! He wanted it the way he wanted it: private and on his own terms.
"Guest room." Doyle pushed open a door. "I'll get you those clothes. The dryer is electric." He glared at Bodie. "We have appliances here in the wilds as well."
Bodie started to apologise but Doyle turned and stalked off. He watched the man's retreating back, gave his bum a cursory glance, looked again at it, and for a second he admired the view. Nice arse. Bodie kept his gob shut and turned to his lover.
"Let's get out of these wet togs! Me jewels will never be the same!" Bodie exclaimed.
Kieran limped into the room, leaving a trail of damp footsteps on the wood floor. "I'm freezing in spite of the fire," he muttered, coughing into his hand.
Bodie put a hand to Kieran's forehead. "You're a little warm." He forgot his own discomfort and hurried over to the door on the far wall. He threw it open and was relieved to find a bathroom. Rushing over to the bath, he turned on the hot water tap full blast, holding his hand under until the water was as hot as it could be without scalding either of them. He then adjusted it to a more reasonable temperature with the cold tap, but he left it as hot as he felt Kieran and he could withstand.
"Get your bum in there now," Bodie ordered.
Kieran's fingers fumbled on his buttons and flies. Bodie batted his hands away, taking over the duty of stripping Kieran to his bare skin. "In."
"Cheers."Kieran sank into the warmth with a sigh. "Nice." He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
"Don't fall asleep and drown." Bodie ruffled his hair.
Kieran gave a grunt in response, making Bodie chuckle.
"And don't leach all the heat from that water with your cold body! I'll be joining you." He hurriedly stripped and climbed in facing Kieran. Thankfully the bath was a big one and he fit in it fairly comfortably. The hot water felt so good! He let out a huge sigh and closed his own eyes. Leaning back, he made sure not to bang himself on the taps. "This feels amazing."
Kieran nodded, not opening his eyes at all. He coughed twice.
"Hey, you feeling all right?" Bodie asked, putting hand on his lover's knee.
"I'm not sure. Feel a bit off."
"It's because you sloughed through cold mud for an hour!" Bodie took Kieran's hand.
"Not some wilting flower. A bit of cold wouldn't make me sick."
"True, but you felt under the weather last week. I think this lowered your resistance enough for those sodding germs to take over!"
Unhappy, Bodie gave himself a quick wash and climbed out. "Come on. Into bed with you. I'll find you some hot soup and then you're going to have a good kip."
Uncharacteristically, Kieran agreed without protest. That made Bodie worry even more. Kieran was generally an easy-going bloke. He'd have to be to live with Bodie and his crazy life, but he wasn't a push over. He didn't like being babied unless he really was feeling crappy. Maybe this whole adventure wasn't such a good idea after all. Maybe he and Kieran would never get married!
"I refuse to believe that," Bodie muttered.
"Nothing, mate. Let's get you tucked in."
After getting Kieran settled into bed, Bodie wandered out into the hallway and down the stairs to the lower level. He tugged on the waistband of the track suit he was wearing. It was snug in a couple of places since Doyle had a thinner frame than he, but he had to admit it was nice not being cold and dirty. The bathrobe he had on was a thick, soft blue terry.
"Oh." Bodie stopped three steps from the bottom. "Sorry. Didn't see you there."
Doyle looked up at Bodie. "Do you need something? Food? You probably haven't eaten in hours. Oh, I promised you tea as well."
Bodie returned Doyle's gaze. The man had gorgeous eyes. They were hazel- no, green. Changeable. Bodie was drawn into them.
He swallowed, and gave himself a mental shake. "Sorry. I'm a bit tired."
Nodding, Doyle waved a hand. "This way."
Doyle turned and walked off. Bodie hurried after him, admiring the view of that nicely rounded arse. Christ, he was a prat. He was once again being drawn to Doyle and he didn't even know the man! Look but don't touch, he reminded himself. He did wonder why he was suddenly looking at another man when he hadn't bothered in the almost two years he'd been with Kieran. Why this bloke? Was he having second thoughts and using Doyle's good looks as an excuse to question his commitment to Kieran? He best give that some thought in a quiet moment.
Right now, though, Doyle had led him into the kitchen and was piling items from the refrigerator onto a huge old wooden kitchen table that had to be twelve feet long. Bodie looked around. The kitchen was modern in some ways because the appliances were from the last decade. Otherwise, the room was what people called "full of character”. There were large wood shelves along one wall holding plates, glasses and mugs. Along part of the bench was a kettle, along with multiple lidded pottery containers. As Bodie watched, Doyle fished tea bags out of one of the containers and turned on the kettle.
"Help yourself," he said, waving at the bread, butter, cheese and meats he'd put out. There were jars of mustard, mayo and pickle as well. "I'm not into waiting on people these days."
"Ta, mate." Bodie started to make a large sandwich on one of the pottery plates. "I'm used to being waited on hand and foot."
Doyle paused in his tea making activity. He turned and stared at Bodie as if he had two heads. "You mean that, don't you? You're used to snapping your fingers and getting whatever you want."
Bodie bit into his sandwich. He chewed the bite before he spoke. "I've worked hard to get where I am so yeah, I have a personal assistant, a housekeeper, a secretary, an agent, a chauffeur, a tailor-"
"Enough." Doyle turned away. He dropped tea bags into the flowered porcelain teapot. Putting on the lid, he plated the pot on the table in front of Bodie and sat down. "You can be mother."
Bodie met Doyle's eyes. They stared at each other for a full minute before Bodie burst out laughing. "You bought all of that, didn't you?"
Doyle glared. "You're an arsehole."
"True," Bodie admitted. "What else is true is that for the past dozen years I've worked at least twelve hours a day when I'm on set. Bloody hell. I've worked eighteen and twenty before when it was necessary. I make sure the film gets finished and that the crew makes a living." He poured tea into two of the huge mugs Doyle had set out. He added milk and sugar to his liking to one of the mugs and to Kieran's in the other. Standing up, he made some toast.
"I do pay people to help me, and I pay them well. I think Kieran's coming down with something, bronchitis or pneumonia. He's got dodgy lungs sometimes." He spread the toast lightly with butter and put it on a small plate.
"I'm sorry to hear that. There's no way we can get the doctor out in this weather."
Bodie gave a curt nod. "Yes, I know. Be right back." He hurried out, not looking back. Let Doyle mull over what he'd said. He had been serious about his work. He liked his profession. Most of the time, at least.
In the bedroom, with a small lamp glowing on the chest of drawers, Kieran was fast asleep. He had his hand curled under his chin and looked about ten years old. He also looked pale. Bodie didn't want to disturb him so he put the tea on the bedside table and put a small plate on top to keep it warm in case Kieran woke shortly on his own. Bodie carefully put the back of his fingers on Kieran's forehead. He wasn't happy that Kieran seemed to be running a fever. Leaning down, Bodie listened. Kieran's breathing seemed all right but he was no doctor. In the morning, the first thing he'd do was get his fiancé to the nearest clinic. He put a light kiss on the top of Kieran's head and returned to his host.
Doyle was sitting at the table, drinking tea and staring morosely out the window. The rain fell steadily. Bodie wondered about the bloke. He seemed sad somehow. Funny, he barely knew the man yet he felt in tune to his moods, his emotions. Doyle hadn't heard or seen him yet. He sighed, put his chin in his hand and continued to stare outside. Even his curls seemed lank and unhappy.
Bodie cleared his throat to announce his return. Doyle looked over. He instantly straightened up and squared his shoulders. Proud fellow.
"Going to finish my grub," Bodie said, sitting down and returning to his sandwich. He took a swallow of his now cold tea and must have grimaced because Doyle pointed at the teapot.
"Pour another. That one's cold by now."
"Cheers." Bodie did as bid, adding sugar and milk. He took a deep drink, savouring the warmth that coursed through him. "I appreciate all of this."
"Are you a local lad?"
"Nope. London born and bred."
"Really? How'd you end up here? If you don't mind my asking." Bodie wiped his mouth and balled up the paper napkin. "That hit the spot."
Doyle stood up and began to put away the food items into the fridge. "Got shot so I was medical-ed out of me job." He paused, absentmindedly rubbing his chest. "This was left to me by an uncle and since I didn't have any work, I decided to see if I could make a go of a B&B. Apparently I wasn't a good copper or a good host."
"I find that hard to believe. You didn't get shot on purpose, did you?"
Doyle turned and glared at him. "Of course not! Why would you ask that?"
"You seem to be blaming yourself so I wondered. I'm a nosy sort," Bodie offered, grinning.
"I can tell that about you," Doyle said smartly. "It was this bird. She fancied herself some sort of terrorist, wanted to right the wrongs she'd seen. I was the revenge she sought, apparently."
"Christ, that's rough. What happened to her?"
"She died and I didn't. Shot in the heart. Apparently I was some sort of miracle." Doyle rinsed the dishes and put them to the side to drip. "She didn't make good decisions obviously."
"Did you get her first?"
"No! We reckon she was shot by one of her own people but there wasn't any proof so... That was that."
"Please tell me they didn't kick you out," Bodie said adamantly. "Not after you were almost killed in the line of duty. Even the coppers aren't that cruel. Are they?"
Doyle wiped his hands on a towel. "Not that cruel but... I couldn't get cleared to be back on the streets so my only choice was riding a desk." He sighed. "Not my thing, so I took my pension and left. Here I am!" He waved a hand to take in the castle. "Lord and master of my domain, such as it is. But enough about me. What about you? Are you really a world famous actor?"
Bodie felt himself blush. Usually he was glad to boast but Doyle's story had humbled him. The worst injury he'd suffered was a broken wrist during a stunt on one of his films about five years ago.
"I make films. I enjoy it. It pays the bills. End of story." Bodie finished his tea and stared down at the empty cup. .
Bodie's head snapped up. "Booze?"
"No, milk. Of course, booze. Got a fine malt waiting to be savoured." Doyle gave Bodie a warm smile.
Bodie was thrilled. Doyle was warming up to him. As he followed his host, he wondered why the thought made him so happy. He told himself to watch out or he'd be getting into trouble. Worse, he'd be betraying Kieran. The man he loved.
But Doyle was so bloody intriguing! Christ, he was an arsehole for even thinking about Doyle in any way but as his host. He would not betray his lover. On that he was adamant. He could, however, have friends and at this moment, he wanted Doyle as a friend.
God knows why. The man seemed morose and ready to argue at a wrong word or a raised eyebrow. Holding in a sigh, Bodie sank into one of the leather chairs that flanked the fire.
When Doyle handed him a glass, Bodie took it with a smile. "Ta. One drink. Then I've got to see to Kieran."
"Fine." Doyle sat across from him. Bodie studied him over the rim of his glass. He admired how the fire played off the amber liquor in Doyle's glass, giving it a fiery color. He also admired how the fire played off Doyle's hair, giving it a lustrous glow. Lustrous glow? What the bloody hell was wrong with him? He was being daft! Uncomfortable, he tossed back his drink, swallowing too quickly. He began to choke, coughing the delicious liquor into his nose. He coughed harder while his nose dripped. Doyle leaped up to pound him on the back.
Bodie held up a hand, still hacking. Finally, he was able to catch his breath. "Sorry," he choked out.
"Down the wrong pipe, eh?"
"Yeah. Sorry. Shame to treat such good scotch that way." Bodie gave a final cough into his hand. His eyes watered and he swiped at them with the back of his hand. "I'm beat." He stood up. "Listen, Doyle. Thanks for everything."
Doyle nodded. "In the morning, I'll call for a tow for your car. In the meantime, if you think your guy's really sick, you're welcome to take my Rover. She's seen better days but she's more reliable than any lass. There's a back lane. It'll be muddy and slick but the old girl will get you into the village."
"You'd do that for us?" Bodie asked.
"Don't go making a mountain out of a mole hill. I'll be charging you for petrol and usage." Doyle glanced up at Bodie, his face serious.
"Of course. I wouldn't want it any other way." Bodie turned on his heel. He was tempted to act affronted by stomping off but he stopped himself. They had interrupted Doyle. They'd come uninvited and had been nothing but trouble since they'd arrived. Doyle had a right to be touchy and demand payment. Bodie realised he had no reason to be insulted. Being the world's best actor didn't give him the right to dictate other people's lives. At least not the people who didn't work for him. When they did, he could be as big a bastard as he had to be to get what he wanted.
Once he'd entered the bedroom and closed the door behind him, he leaned back against it. He was a bastard. He ordered people around, expected everyone to jump to his every command, and to admire his talent. Maybe he was the touchy one, after all. Doyle hadn't fawned over him once and he wasn't used to that; to being the unknown in the room.
Maybe he'd better learn he wasn't the centre of everybody's universe after all!
He washed his face and scrubbed his teeth with his finger. He used the toilet before climbing into bed beside Kieran. He put the back of his fingers on Kieran's forehead. Kieran must be exhausted because he didn't move when Bodie touched him. The man was definitely running a fever. Poor bloke. In the morning, he'd take up Doyle's offer. He'd use the Rover and get Kieran to the nearest hospital or clinic as soon as he could.
He stared into the darkness, remembering Doyle's snappy remark about how his Rover was more reliable than any bird. Was that one of the reasons Doyle was morose? Bad enough taking a bullet but having your woman dump you or run off with your best mate? That could make anybody want to hide out in the wilds of the Isle of Lewis. Bodie's last thought before he drifted off to sleep was of Ray Doyle.
The trip back into town was made at first light. Kieran had woken up in the night with a raging fever. Bodie had been tempted to call for an ambulance but he doubted they'd be able to navigate the muddy secondary track that Doyle had said ran along the property boundary for over a mile before hitting the tarmac.
Bodie had made a foray into the kitchen in the dark. Thankfully he'd found his way without incident and hunted until he found some fruit juice for his partner. He knew Kieran had to be dehydrated so he had coaxed him into drinking the juice and downing some paracetamol for the fever. Kieran didn't protest, merely stared at Bodie with fever-bright eyes and pouted, looking adorable.
Even Bodie's admonitions that Kieran's state was all Bodie's fault fell on deaf ears. Kieran patted Bodie's hand and professed his undying admiration for his fiancé, making Bodie feel like a total prat for having even glanced in Doyle's direction. He vowed to do better, to give more attention to Kieran, and to get him back on his feet in record time.
Driving through the streets on a bright, sunny morning made Bodie feel somewhat better. The roads would begin to dry and hopefully the tow truck could get their car free. Depending on Kieran's needs, Bodie would stay with him in the local hotel he'd passed coming into the main part of the village or close by in case Kieran needed to stay in hospital for a night or two. As he pulled into the car park, he hoped and prayed Kieran wasn't bad enough to have to be admitted.
"How are you doing, sweetheart?" Bodie asked, pulling up under the canopy near the door closest to the A&E.
Kieran coughed, sneezing twice. "Feel like hell."
Bodie patted Kieran's arm. "Let's get you checked out and get some drugs into you so you'll feel better."
"Cheers," Kieran said, opening his door. "Bloody hell." He stopped part way out.
"What?" Bodie paused in his own departure from the vehicle.
"Look." Kieran pointed to a bloke lounging on a bench that sat along the outside wall near the A&E sliding doors.
"Bloody hell," Bodie echoed. "Is that that moron, Yannick Bouchet?"
"Yeah. How in hell did he know we were here?"
Yannick Bouchet, paparazzi extraordinairé and a huge pain in Bodie's arse. The man was relentless in his coverage of Bodie's life. He had no boundaries and felt he had a right to follow any famous person twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He was a menace, and Bodie had once grabbed his camera and ground it to dust under his boot when he'd shoved the lens into Bodie's face, smacking him on the nose. The Frenchman was in his late thirties, not a bad looking bloke if one were attracted to annoying parasites, with his tall, lean body and long, dark flowing hair. The man must think he's Roth or Sambora. Not even close, Bodie reckoned.
But his looks were the least of their worries. If he saw either of them, the entire paparazzi world would descend, and he and Kieran's privacy would be invaded.
"He's leaving," Kieran said, leaning back into the car to hide his face.
"Maybe he's here on holiday and is ill," Bodie mused. "Why would he be here for us? He had no way of knowing and we weren't followed. It makes no sense."
Kieran stared at Bodie. Bodie stared back until the light bulb went off over his head. "Bloody fucking Doyle! He sold the story to the fucking press! I'll kill the bastard."
"Bodie, take a breath. It could be a huge coincidence."
"I don't believe in coincidences," Bodie ground out, clenching his fist. Kieran began to cough, and Bodie hated how Kieran sounded. He looked around but didn't see Bouchet lingering in the car park. Maybe they'd escaped his eagle eyes after all. "Let's get you inside."
Bodie drove carefully back to Doyle's castle. Not because he was a cautious driver, but because he was furious. He knew if he didn't channel that rage he'd more than likely wrap the Rover around a tree or plough into another car on the road. He kept his mind blank and his eyes focused, and he only missed the turn off to the secondary track once. Parking the Rover back where he'd found it, he removed the keys and climbed out. He didn't lock the car, however. Any criminal who braved the wilds of remote Lewis deserved to hot wire the huge vehicle, he reckoned with a smirk. Let them steal the damned thing.
In the bright sun, Bodie looked around as he squished through the muddy ground towards the main door. For a second he forgot about his fury. He had his first good look at the grounds, clean and bright after yesterday's rain.
The building really was a bloody castle, complete with moat full of water and not one but two turrets. The drawbridge he crossed, stomping his feet and leaving a trail of muddy prints, didn't look operational. Somebody had turned it into a stationery bridge since it was lacking the chains to raise the bridge that castle inhabitants used when they were under attack by marauders. The castle also lacked the normal courtyard that he'd seen in other historic buildings. The main doors that they'd used last night and this morning led directly into the large foyer. It was on that main door that Bodie pounded his fist.
Doyle flung open the door. "Stop with the bloody pounding!" he growled.
"How could you?" Bodie grabbed Doyle's shirt and propelled him backward.
Doyle never missed a beat. He used a martial arts move to quickly block Bodie's free hand while he dislodged the hand Bodie had used to grab shirt.
"Get off!" Doyle said, his voice raising. He balled his fists. "You're a maniac!"
Bodie stood toe to toe with Doyle. "How could you sell us out? Did you need the money that badly?" he shouted. "You're a mean, greedy sod!"
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Doyle shouted back. "I didn't sell anything! Get the fuck out of my home!" He pointed to the door, shaking visibly. "Get out!"
"Kieran's in hospital! He's got pneumonia and thanks to you, the paparazzi might find out! He needs rest, not some god-damned camera stuffed in his face!"
Doyle's eyes narrowed dangerously. "I did not sell anything nor did I contact anyone on the planet about you and your friend being here! You're a suspicious, nasty man!" He advanced on Bodie, poking his finger into his chest.
Bodie backed up a step. Doyle stood before him, hands on hips. His face was flushed and his fists were ready. Bodie glared at Doyle.
"Then who else?" Bodie demanded.
"I'm the only person you spoke to on the entire island? What about the stewardess on your flight in? What about the people at the car hire counter?" Doyle's voice was hard. "You're so bloody famous why am I the one who sussed you out? Especially considering I have no idea who are you!"
"Because you need cash for this dump!" Bodie shouted, waving his hand to take in Doyle's castle.
"Get out now before I do something you'll regret." Doyle crossed his arms. "You invaded my privacy. I helped you and your bloke. This is how you repay me." His voice was cold and calm now.
Bodie had a sudden feeling a calm Doyle was more dangerous than a shouting one. Doyle had helped them. Maybe, just maybe he wasn't the traitor. Bodie rubbed his hand across his forehead.
"I'm... I'm sorry," he blurted out. "I was so pissed off when I saw Bouchet at the hospital. Who else could have known we were going there? You're the only one who knew!"
"Did you ever think," Doyle spat out softly, "that maybe the guy was there because he was sick? Food poisoning or God knows what else? How can you live with yourself being such a bastard?"
"I was... I am upset. Kieran's got pneumonia; I saw that damned reporter, and I saw red. I thought you'd sold our location for quick cash."
"It never crossed my mind. I'm not a prick like you." Doyle let out a deep sigh. "You really should go."
"Doyle, listen," Bodie said, deflated. Had he accused Doyle without bothering to ask first? Was he that much of a dick? Doyle had helped them when they'd needed it. Sure, he hadn't been warm and welcoming but he had stepped up and done the humane thing. Bodie doubted he would have let two strangers into his home if they'd showed up uninvited, wet and bedraggled, demanding entrance. Hell, he would have called the police and reported them as trespassers.
"You're right," Bodie said. "I'm a bastard. I wouldn't have let two ratty-looking pillocks into my house. You're a better bloke than I am."
"This is not a competition!" Doyle threw up his hands. "Christ, you're the pillock! You think the entire sodding world revolves around you! I'm guessing you're so used to being the centre of attention that you think everybody should bow down before you!"
"I'm not like that! I'm not egotistical in the least," Bodie shouted. "You don't know the first thing about me."
"And I don't want to!"
Bodie gathered himself, ready to throw another barrage of insults at Doyle but his anger suddenly melted away. This wasn't getting either of them anywhere. He was tired and hungry and out of sorts. Bodie sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I've got a raging headache. I don't want to argue any longer. I just want to go back to sit with Kieran."
"The tow truck pulled your car out while you were in town. It's out front but I doubt you bothered to notice since you were too busy accusing me of selling you out. Leave whenever you like." Doyle turned and walked off, his shoulders squared and his back straight.
Bodie felt utterly dismissed. He stamped down the urge to hurry after Doyle to - What? Pound him? Apologise? Kiss him senseless? He was horrified at his own thoughts. Violence was bad but kissing? That was worse! Instead, he shouted after Doyle, "Cheers, mate," he snapped. The last thing he wanted was to owe Doyle anything. "I need to pay you for the room, the tow and for use of your Rover!"
Doyle didn't pause. He called back over his shoulder, "Leave a hundred on the table in the foyer."
Bodie put the money on the hall table. He left Seaview Lodge and the company of Mr Raymond Doyle for good.
Not for long, apparently. The gods were against Bodie on this trip because the hire car wouldn't start. Bodie pounded on the steering wheel with the heel of his hand before he put his forehead down on it. He felt like crying, something he hadn't felt in many years. Why was his life so complicated? Was he asking too much to have some peace and quiet? To spend time with his fiancé alone and without a camera being stuffed in his face? Which deity had he pissed off anyway?
There was a knock on the window. Bodie snapped his head up. Oh, great. Doyle. He hit the window button but the battery was dead and it wouldn't operate. He sighed, opening the door.
"Trouble?" Doyle asked.
Bodie expected a smart remark but Doyle looked concerned, not snarky. "Yeah. Dead battery. Probably forgot to turn off the headlamps in the deluge yesterday. Stupid, eh?"
"Nah. You were not having a good day." Doyle rubbed his upper lip. "Sorry about shouting earlier. There's no reason for two adults to act like that." He held out his hand.
Bodie climbed out and took Doyle's hand. It was warm and inviting, with some calluses on the palm. Doyle didn't shirk for hard work, apparently. "Thanks. I'm sorry as well, about all of this mess. You didn't ask for any of it."
"You didn't either. I think all you wanted was a quiet place to be with your fellow." Doyle gave him a smile.
Bodie's breath caught. When Doyle smiled, his entire face changed. His eyes brightened and he was bloody gorgeous, with that abundance of curly hair and his strong captivating features. Bodie's heart pounded. He made himself let go of Doyle's hand even though he wanted to keep holding it. Doyle had somehow gotten to him and his defence had been to be abrasive and unkind. It wasn't Doyle's fault Bodie was attracted. Doyle hadn't done a thing to warrant it. In fact, he'd been testy more than inviting. But this calm, friendly Doyle was more appealing. Bodie was a grown man. He could resist a sexy, tempting bloke. He owed Kieran his loyalty and he wouldn't stray no matter what.
"I didn't ask the tow truck operator to check the car and he must not have thought of it." Doyle waved toward his home. "How about we call them back and have lunch while we wait. I know you're tired and hungry and worried about Kieran. Truce?"
Bodie smiled. "Cheers. Truce."
In spite of his promise to never darken Doyle's door again, Bodie found himself in Doyle's kitchen once more.
"Stew is on the stove. Dish us up some while I call Gary. He'll be busy with the storm but I'm sure he'll do his best to get back out today." Doyle went to the hallway to use the phone.
Bodie opened the lid on the cast iron pot on the stove. A low flame kept the stew warm and the fragrance that hit Bodie's nose made his mouth water and his stomach gurgle. He pulled a ladle from the rack on the wall and fetched two stoneware bowls from the shelf. Filling both bowls, he put them on the table and looked around. From the wooden box on the bench by the Aga, he found bread and a knife. He put four thick slices on a plate, along with butter, salt and pepper. Smiling, he hunted for cutlery. Before he sat down to dig in, he filled the kettle and turned it on.
Doyle returned. "Nice." He sat down and began to eat.
The beef stew was flavourful, full of chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots, leeks and onions, in a dark, rich gravy. Bodie ate a few spoonfuls before he reached for a slice of bread.
"You're a good cook," Bodie remarked.
"Don't sound so surprised, but thanks. I like cooking but I hate baking. Not good with a bed and breakfast when bread of some sort is a breakfast necessity. Do you cook?" Doyle asked, tearing a piece of bread and dipping it into the gravy.
"Nah. When I'm home, I have a woman who comes in to clean, do the laundry, and cook. She'll put up some meals in the freezer for me." Bodie ate more of the delicious stew. He used the crust of his bread to wipe the last of the gravy from the bottom of the bowl. "I can do toast and call for delivery. Eat out a lot."
Doyle laughed. "No delivery on Lewis, but we do have a fabulous Indian place in town." He finished his bowl. "Go on, have seconds." While Bodie hurried to fill his bowl, Doyle made a pot of tea. "I don't usually talk about myself but I feel I owe you an explanation." He fixed himself a cup and waited until Bodie had sat down. "I'd just got a letter about fixing the road. Two thousand pounds. I was upset because I don't have that kind of cash laying around. I was brooding, then you both showed up. Perfect. Stuck in the bloody road I can't get fixed so I can open this place and start having paying guests.
"I think I can attract people. There's some great hiking and bird watching places on Lewis. Nice town. Decent pubs. But it rains a lot and with the state of that road... Well, you know what happened. Guests need to be able to get in and out, not be mired in a foot of mud."
"Two grand, eh? Tarmac?"
"Yeah. I considered gravel but I need a good solid surface. People will hike in rain if they're seeing some bird they've come two hundred kilometres to see but not if they can't get to the castle. With good boots, you can hike the trails and beaches, but nobody can slough through an ocean of mud." Doyle sipped his tea. "And on sunny days, Lewis is about as beautifully wild a place as you can see. The Stones are amazing and the cliffs on the Butt are breathtaking."
"The Butt of Lewis. Most northerly place on the island. There's a lighthouse and everything. It's the stuff of many paintings, posters and photographs."
Bodie laughed. "You sound like a tour guide."
Doyle joined Bodie, grinning. "I can give you the ten pound tour if you like."
"I just might take you up on that." Bodie glanced at his wristwatch. "Damn."
"Gary said not before 4 o'clock so I'll take you into town. I've got errands while you visit your fiancé."
Bodie studied Doyle for a good while before he slowly nodded. "You don't have to do that but thanks. I'd appreciate it. I'll pay you, of course. And don't say no. You're running a business or at least trying to. I'd feel better if you'd take some money."
Doyle looked at Bodie closely before he nodded. "If you let me cook you dinner, then you can pay me."
They cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to soak. Doyle told Bodie he'd do the washing up later on. They headed into town as soon as each man had visited the loo. Bodie had considered changing into clean clothes but he'd do that when they came back later in the day. Right now, he wanted to see Kieran and make sure his man was being well cared for. He could take care of his creature comforts after the visit.
When they arrived at the hospital, Bodie did a quick survey of the surrounding area. He didn't see Bouchet or any other of the paparazzi that he knew hanging around. Several people in hospital scrubs walked down the pavement and one bloke was leaning against a wall having a fag. It looked normal so Bodie opened his door.
"I'll pick you up in about 90 minutes?" Doyle asked. "Is that long enough?”
"Sounds good." Bodie watched as Doyle left. He then once again studied the area. When he felt comfortable, he quickly walked to the entrance and hurried inside.
It was nice sitting quietly with Kieran. They talked, Kieran had tea, then he drifted off to sleep, with Bodie watching over him. The meds and fluids had helped immensely. Bodie was thankful he was on the mend and would be able to leave hospital the day after tomorrow. A glance at his watch informed him it was time for Doyle to fetch him. He stood up next to Kieran's bed, leaned over and brushed away the fringe that covered his forehead. He kissed Kieran lightly. Kieran muttered in his sleep but didn't wake. Bodie found a pen and paper in the drawer and wrote a quick 'good-bye for now' note. He slipped it beside his lover and after giving Kieran a last look, he went to meet up with Doyle.
When Bodie climbed into the Rover, Doyle handed him a newspaper. Bodie unfolded it and gave a snort of disgust. It was The Stars and Moon, a tabloid that loved to publish the worst of the worst. And on the front page was a photograph of Bodie and Kieran walking into the hospital. Who had taken it and why hadn't Bodie seen him wasn't surprising. The byline was Yannick Bouchet. Of course, the rotter had been lurking about, obviously hiding and snapping his invasive photographs. The headline read: Bodie Suffers Caring For Inebriated Fiancé! How in bloody hell had he had the time to take the photo, get it to the newspaper to be printed, and distributed to the outer reaches of the British Isles? And how did he know to go to the hospital when it wasn't a planned outing! The sodding bastard must have a time machine like that bloke on that television programme!
Bodie balled the paper in his hands and stared out the windscreen. On the drive back to the castle, the first half of the journey was made in silence. Bodie was glad that Doyle didn't feel the need to fill that silence with idle chit-chat or with the need to ask nosy questions about them or the newspaper report. He was the kind of friend Bodie liked. Wait. He liked Doyle enough to consider him a friend after barely twenty-four hours? That had to be a record for him. It usually took him weeks or months to form a friendship and nine times out of ten it ended up not lasting. Most people wanted something from him, either a foot in the door or money or a piece of his soul. Doyle didn't appear to want anything. He'd only taken the money from Bodie after Bodie had pushed the issue. Maybe Doyle was a keeper. Would be nice.
Bodie relaxed. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Out of the blue, he had a flash of insight that made him suck in his breath noisily.
"What?" Doyle asked, looking sideways at Bodie.
"I've had a fabulous thought!"
"Why don't I like what's coming?" Doyle muttered.
"It will be great! I think you'll appreciate this!" Bodie said enthusiastically. "You need money to get your B&B off and running. I need private time with Kieran. I have money!"
"What do I do for this money that you have?" Doyle asked cautiously. "I'm not a cheap slag, you know."
Bodie laughed. "All you have to do to earn three grand. Three grand, mind, is to marry me!"
Doyle looked over at Bodie for so long Bodie was sure he'd run off the road. "Marry- No."
"I don't mean really marry me, you prat! I mean be the decoy groom!"
Doyle stepped on the brakes. He down-shifted, slowed and finally pulled into a lay-by. He turned in his seat and gave Bodie a look that said he was sure murder would be justified in his case.
Bodie held up a hand. "Hear me out. I'm serious and I have an offer that you might like."
"I doubt that, other than you'd like me to drive you to the nearest mental hospital so you can get checked out!"
Bodie had to laugh. "Listen. You need cash to fix your place, get it up and running. I know that your pension from the coppers probably isn't that much and I want to help. You help me; I help you."
"You are not making sense. In fact, I'm thinking you need a psyche evaluation now. Today. Before you hurt something!"
"Doyle, I just want to be with Kieran! I want to marry him in private. Is that too much to ask?" Bodie pleaded.
"No, but me marrying you is!"
"No, no, no! I want to give the paparazzi something to photograph so they run back to the big city and leave me alone! Me marrying you on the sly will do that! And I'll pay you three thousand pounds. For half an hour's work. I'd say that was a fabulous offer." Bodie gave a satisfied nod and crossed his arms.
Doyle stared. "You are definitely a nutter." He chewed his lower lip. "Five."
"Eh?" Bodie gave him a sideways glance. "Five?" The tip of his tongue came out while he considered. "Four."
"Four thousand pounds. Not peanuts or pence or credit. Four thousand cash. Before the-" Doyle waved a hand through the air haphazardly. "-whatever you call this farce."
"Done!" Bodie thrust out his hand.
Doyle took it slowly, and they shook. "I'm going to regret this," he muttered.
"It will be marvellous! Just wait and see! Let's get back so we can get the arrangements made today. I'm hoping you know of a chapel and a minister who will be glad of a donation." Bodie rubbed his hands together gleefully.
Doyle pulled out onto the road. "And, of course, this calls for a stop at the bank before it closes." He glanced over at Bodie, grinning. "Cold, hard cash. Makes the world go round."
It didn't take Doyle long to call about and make the arrangements to meet with the minister, along with his wife and daughter who would act as witnesses, at ten in the morning at the minister's church not far from Doyle's castle.
Bodie made the next call, to his agent in London so that George Cowley could arrange to tip off Bouchet about the upcoming nuptials. His agent then had the good sense to sell the information that Bodie was on Lewis and would be doing something newsworthy before noon the following day, for the grand sum of five hundred pounds, which was the icing on the cake as far as Bodie was concerned. He told Cowley to keep half and send a cheque to Doyle for the other half.
However, he did have to listen to his agent's ranting for over ten minutes about Bodie's original ridiculous plan to run off to the Isle of Lewis without telling him. Cowley reminded him that he should have been the one to make the arrangements. He let Bodie know in no uncertain terms that if he'd made the plans, he'd have had enough sense not to use Bodie and Kieran's real names on the hire car reservations when they'd reached their destinations. He didn't say it out loud but Bodie understood that Cowley blamed the entire mess on him, as well he should. It was his fault, thereby making the fact that Kieran was ill his fault. Wrapped up with the fact that someone had tipped off Bouchet about Bodie's whereabouts, which was also Bodie's fault. The young woman at the hire car agency was looking more and more like the suspect to Bodie. She'd ignored them when she filled out the paperwork. At the time it hadn't crossed Bodie's mind considering she was the prime age for being a Bodie-fan. Now he knew why. She had played it cool and cashed in big time. She had to be the one who had sold the information to Bouchet.
He was subdued when he begged off from his long-time agent. It was with a heavy heart that he walked into the kitchen to see a grinning Doyle at the table, drinking a freshly-made cup of coffee.
"I can't believe we're doing this," Doyle said, slurping his beverage. He waved at the coffee carafe, indicating Bodie could join him if he liked.
Bodie liked a good cup of coffee and the fragrance of freshly brewed smelled wonderful. "I appreciate your help. It's-"
"This is a business transaction, nothing more."
Doyle's tone was curt. Earlier in the day Bodie thought they'd started to become friendly, if not actual friends. Now he wondered what was going on. Maybe the bloke was always mercurial, friendly one minute, testy the next. Bodie was tired dealing with it after only one day. If they were with each other every day, it would be exhausting to wonder what sort of mood Doyle could or would be in from one second to the next, his moods seeming to rely only on how the wind was blowing at any given moment.
"Right." Bodie looked into his cup and held in a sigh. "Nothing more." He echoed the words, but deep in his heart, Bodie felt more, a lot more. He didn't know how he was beginning to feel about Raymond Doyle at all, and he certainly didn't like that he was wondering about his feelings for Doyle in the first place. It could cause nothing but trouble, falling for Ray bloody Doyle, keeper of the castle.
"William Andrew Philip Bodie, will you take Raymond Thomas Doyle, for your husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?" the minister asked, his bright blue eyes gleaming as he smiled at Bodie.
Bodie shifted uncomfortably in his hastily-rented dinner jacket. Doyle gave him a gimlet eye. Bodie reckoned Doyle would figure he wouldn't go through with this charade. He winked at Doyle. "I do indeed."
"Raymond Thomas Doyle, will you take William Andrew Philip Bodie, for your husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?" the minister asked, looking expectantly at Doyle.
"I do." Doyle gave a smirk. "Indeed."
The minister closed his book. Bodie's mind started to wander. He didn't pay attention to what the man was saying until Doyle grabbed his right hand. Bodie gave a start, and when he looked at Doyle questioningly, Doyle cocked his head towards the minister.
"Please exchange rings as a symbol of your pledge."
Bodie fished the two five pound bands they'd bought an hour ago out of his pocket. He held out his hand to allow Doyle to snag one of the rings. He slipped it onto Doyle's finger and Doyle did the same to him.
Now that the minister had Bodie's attention, he looked at the two witnesses, his own wife and grown daughter, and said, "Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder."
Bodie stood beside Doyle, their hands joined. He waited for a moment but the minister was silent. "Is that it?"
"Yes, other than to sign the licence."The minister put out a hand. "Follow me." He led the way to the back of the church where he had Bodie and Doyle sign the paper, along with the witnesses, then the minister himself. He held out the paper. Doyle took it.
"Cheers," Doyle said.
"Thank you." Bodie shook the minister's hand, sliding in a twenty pound note. He nodded and followed Doyle from the church...
... Into the flash bulbs of more than twenty photographers. Doyle stood grinning, waving the paper. Bodie grabbed Doyle's hand and hauled him down the stairs and around the building to Doyle's waiting Rover. The paparazzi followed, zipping about wildly around them, snapping pictures and shouting questions.
"Where's your lover-boy, Kieran Murphy?"
"Who's the new man in your life, Bodie?"
"How long have you been cheating on Murphy?"
"Did you dump Kieran because your new husband has a better arse?"
Bodie ignored all of their questions. He pushed one photographer out of his path with one hand, keeping his other firmly locked with Doyle's. They finally got to the Rover. Bodie hurried into the passenger seat and Doyle ran around the vehicle to get into the driver's side. He cranked the engine and jammed his foot on the accelerator, scattering the braver photographers who tried to block their escape with their bodies.
"What the fuck? Is that how you live?" Doyle asked, shifting into third and then fourth. "It's insane!"
"Welcome to my life," Bodie said. "That was actually a much smaller, calmer gang than usual."
"Tell me you're joking. Because you're in films? That's mad."
Doyle turned at the next corner. "How well?" He asked, looking sideways at Bodie.
"None of your business!"
"But it is. We're married now so what's yours is mine, and what's mine is yours. You lucky devil." Doyle laughed wickedly. He glanced in the rear view mirror. "Your fans are following."
"What?" Bodie looked over his shoulder. "Marvellous. This has worked like a charm! You're a good actor."
Doyle grinned. "Didn't have to act much." He made the turn to the castle without bothering to slow town.
Bodie grabbed onto the window frame. He held his breath as the Rover skittered on the muddy road. Doyle expertly spun the wheel until she righted herself. He didn't let up on the speed.
"Slow down! We want them to take more photos, remember?”
Doyle left off on the accelerator enough for the Rover to slow as they approached the castle. He slid the Rover to its usual spot and turned off the ignition.
Bodie climbed out, meeting Doyle as he came around the vehicle. "Do you think you're some sort of racing driver in this tub?" He patted the Rover.
Several cars plowed through down the muddy lane. Bodie could hear shouting as one or more became mired in the mess. He waited until he saw several photographers approaching on foot. Bodie started to pose, slinging an arm around Doyle's. Doyle had other ideas. He slipped one arm around Bodie's waist and the other behind his head. Before Bodie had a chance to take another breath, he pulled Bodie's face close, mashing their bodies together.
"Let's give them something to talk about."
To Bodie's shock, Doyle held the back of Bodie's head to keep him in place and kissed him. Hard. With tongue. All Bodie could do was respond, kissing Doyle with all the passion he felt for this bloke. He didn't register the flash bulbs going off or the photographers hooting and shouting, encouraging the kiss to continue. He only registered the soft-hardness of Doyle's mouth, the wetness of his tongue, and the taste of peppermint. He never wanted the kiss to end.
Finally, Doyle pushed him away. They stood staring at each other, chests heaving. Doyle swiped the back of his hand across his mouth. His expression was unreadable. What was he thinking, Bodie wondered, touching his own lips with his fingertips. Neither man spoke. After a long moment, Doyle gave him a lopsided smile, turned and waded through the photographers, ignoring them completely. He walked across the drawbridge and went inside.
It took Bodie a few moments to gather his wits. His gaze took in the paparazzi. One by one they fell silent. Bodie cleared his throat.
"Don't you have some sort of deadlines to meet?" he asked menacingly, taking the time to stare into the eyes of each person.
The photographers stepped aside as he walked firmly through their midst. He felt like Moses parting the Red Sea. Stifling a derisive laugh, he followed Doyle, slamming the door behind him.
Bodie leaned against the closed door. Doyle stood in the centre of the foyer, arms crossed. His face was not pleasant.
"We've got a problem," Doyle snapped.
"What now?" Bodie asked, suddenly tired. All he wanted to do was crawl into bed, pull the blankets over his head, and hide for days and days. "I don't have time for this."
Bodie's gaze caught Doyle's at the adamant tone. He was tempted to blast him a good one but that look in Doyle's eyes gave him pause. Doyle was upset. No, past that. He was- Shocked? Furious? Something was wrong. Bodie knew Doyle well enough by now to see that he was trembling with anger.
"What is it?" Bodie asked. "Just say it!"
"Did you sign the marriage licence with your legal name?" Doyle demanded. Bodie nodded. "Well, so did I!"
"So what? We both know it was a farce."
"Did you explain that to the minister and the witnesses?"
"No, you did." Bodie took a step towards Doyle. "You did, didn't you?"
"No. I thought you did!" Doyle ran a hand through his hair. The static electricity made it wild and untamed.
Bodie glowered at Doyle, moving close to him. In an icy tone he asked, "Why do you ask?"
"Because we're married, you great pillock! We are fucking married legally and in the eyes of God!"
"Oh, that's all right then," Bodie answered, ignoring the sudden rush of cold through his body, "I don't believe in God."
Doyle's eyes widened and his mouth fell open. "That makes it okay? Us being married? I want a divorce!"
"I don't want this any more than you! I'm going to marry Kieran the moment he's out of hospital!"
"Not unless you want to be arrested for bigamy." Doyle sighed deeply. "Moron," he muttered.
"This is not my fault! You made the arrangements, remember? You called the minister, I didn't!" Bodie shouted.
"Don't yell at me!" Doyle shouted back. "I asked him to marry us. I didn't even think it would be real. Hell, I didn't think it was real! But on the drive back, I started to think about it. I didn't tell him it was a farce! I'm sorry! But you didn't ask either!"
"No, I trusted you to be smart enough to have done what we needed. You said you made the arrangements! How was I to know you'd fuck it up!"
"Do not talk to me like that! I'm sorry. Okay? I- fucked up! We'll call him and tell him that we're ripping up the licence and that it didn't happen. I don't want him filing any sort of legal papers or whatever ministers do to make things- I don't know! I've never gotten married before!"
"Neither have I. And I don't plan on it now!" Bodie poked a finger into Doyle's shoulder. "You fix this! I refuse to be married to the likes of you!"
"Don't you dare touch me again or you'll lose that finger, maybe the whole hand!" Doyle's eyes narrowed and his fists clenched.
"Watch it. I know karate." Bodie crouched down, hands in the defensive position.
Doyle brought his fists up, ready to launch himself. Bodie glowered at Doyle. Doyle gave him a black look in return. Their gazes met. Bodie couldn't help himself. Doyle looked so silly, face scrunched up in a scowl; fists clenched; chest puffed out. He reminded Bodie of one of those roosters they'd had on set during one film. The birds had red combs on the tops of their heads and thin chests. Doyle looked like one of those roosters, ready to strut around the yard looking for a fight or trying to attract a mate. Bodie didn't mean to but he began to chuckle, then laugh out loud.
Doyle stared angrily at him. "Don't laugh at me!"
Bodie laughed again. "Sorry." He hiccupped, wrapping an arm around his belly. "This is so utterly ridiculous! Look at us. Our first hour of married life and we're already fighting."
Doyle lowered his hands, gave Bodie a hard-done-by look and rolled his eyes. "I do not want to be married to you."
"I know. But fisticuffs won't solve our problem. So let's call the minister and ask him what we should do to unmarry ourselves."
"Right." Doyle snatched up the phone receiver and punched in the number. "Reverend O'Brien? Yes, Ray Doyle. Listen, we have a problem. Bodie and I made a mistake. Neither of us wants to be married. How do we undo it? Doyle paused. "Yes. Immediately." He listened for a minute before he said, "Thank you." He hung up and turned to Bodie.
"He said it's not his department. He can't unmarry people but he did say that if we really want to undo it, there's an old medieval law still on the books that we have to find a practitioner to undo the vows before the sun sets. It has to happen on the same day as the marriage."
"Where do we find a practitioner? What sort of practitioner?" Bodie asked, wondering if Doyle had heard correctly. "Really?"
"That's what he said," Doyle explained. "I know a practitioner. She's a Druid."
Bodie snorted with amusement. "Right. A Druid."
"Do you want to get unmarried or not? We have two hours before sunset or we'd better start planning the honeymoon." Doyle waggled his eyebrows. "How much are you worth anyway, husband?"
"No." Bodie backed up, hands in the air. "No, no and no. Call the practitioner. Now."
"Thought so."Once again Doyle went to the telephone. After he looked up a number in the directory, he dialed. Bodie waited impatiently while he made arrangements to meet this person at the beach near the lighthouse. "Better vibes, apparently," Doyle said when Bodie asked about the location.
Shrugging, Bodie said, "I don't care about the vibes. I only care about doing this. I can't be married to you."
"Tell me about it," Doyle said under his breath, not bothering to hide his annoyance. "Come on then."
"Look outside first," Bodie snapped, gesturing towards the door.
"Now what?" Doyle snapped back.
"Photographers. Remember? They followed us."
"Right." Doyle went to the huge entry doors and slowly slid open a panel that Bodie hadn't noticed before.
"Handy." Bodie looked over Doyle's Shoulder.
It was raining again. The paparazzi were outside, huddled under umbrellas, obviously waiting for the newlyweds to make an appearance.
"Damn it. We don't need them following us," Bodie said.
"This way." Doyle hurried to the kitchen and through a small archway. It led into a utility room of sorts, with raincoats hung on hooks and Wellies lined up in a row. There were brooms and a rusty shovel leaning on one wall, and a battered tin bucket rested in the corner. An old rug on the floor looked like it made a feeble attempt to gather some of the mud and water that had been tracked in from the wet garden at the back of the castle. Doyle slipped into one of the coats and kicked off his shoes. He put on a pair of black knee-high boots, then flipped the hood of the coat up and tied it.
Bodie nodded his approval and put on a long black mac.
"The green boots are water tight. Those blue ones have small hole in them."
Bodie toed off his shoes and put on the green boots. "Cheers." He likewise put up the hood and tied it.
"Ready?" Doyle asked.
"Lead on, my liege."
"You are a moron."
Bodie grinned. He liked when Doyle teased him. Or at least he seemed to tease Bodie. It could be he was just always snarky. In any event, he followed Doyle out the back and down a muddy track. As they walked, Bodie realised he liked being with Doyle. He liked it a lot. He liked everything about him, from that never hidden snarky attitude to his strong personality. He was drawn to Doyle physically as well. He wondered what it would be like to lay next to Doyle, to run his hands down that lithe body. To suck his cock and bite his nipples.
Bodie came to a full stop. Doyle didn't notice; he kept walking on. As Bodie watched Doyle's retreating back, he discovered that he wanted to be with this cocky, temperamental man. He wanted Doyle for his own.
Bodie was indeed a moron. It was not to be. He had Kieran. He'd made a promise to Kieran and Kieran had made one to him. They would be married. There was no other choice.
Doyle finally realised that Bodie wasn't behind him. He turned, raised a hand. Bodie raised his in return and trotted to catch up. Bodie knew he couldn't say anything and even if he did, Doyle would more than likely punch his lights out. He hadn't done a single thing to let Bodie know that he liked Bodie in the least, even as a friend, let alone a lover.
Other than kiss him in front of paparazzi.
Bloody hell. With rain dripping down his face, Doyle smiled and held out his hand. Bodie took it.
Other than offer his hand.
"Can't have you getting lost," Doyle said by way of explanation. "Wouldn't want to be a widow without even having a wedding night!" He laughed.
Bodie swallowed around the lump in his throat. Doyle liked him! But it was too little, too late. He took Doyle's hand and squeezed. "What would I do without you, husband?" he said teasingly.
Doyle laughed and hauled him onward, their fingers tightly wound together. "Be a virgin a while longer?"
"Ha. Ha. You are the funny one." Bodie held onto Doyle and he didn't let go until they walked from the headland down to the beach, where a figure waited, hunched in a bright yellow mac.
Bodie reluctantly unclenched his hand. Doyle had other ideas. He pulled Bodie close.
"Sorry I've been such a prat. I'm- Sorry. I sometimes still have pain from that hole in my chest, and this weather has been a bitch. I shouldn't have taken it out on you."
Bodie choked up at the honesty in Doyle's eyes and in his words. He wasn't used to most people being so open with him. Most wanted "something”. Other than Kieran, he didn't have many friends, true friends, mates. Doyle made him feel wonderful, and his heart told him that while he loved Kieran, it wasn't the same. With Doyle, it was more. He wished he could explain it to himself but since he was confused about his loyalties, he kept his mouth shut. He needed time and space to think about himself, Kieran, Ray Doyle, and his heart. It was best that they parted soon so he could think without having Doyle so close.
"No worries, mate," Bodie said, keeping his tone light. He didn't like the idea that Doyle was sometimes in pain from his copper-days' injury. He was also angry for Doyle. Anybody who was hurt on the job, shot for Christ's sake, should be well compensated for the rest of their lives. Not booted out with a stipend that barely kept them in kippers. Life was not fair, as Bodie well knew.
"Bodie, this is Miss Cassiopeia. She'll do the ceremony to unmarry us."
Bodie nodded to the older woman. She was hunkered in her mac against the chill rain but she had bright, intelligent blue eyes, a wide smile with a gold front tooth, and liver-spotted hands.
"Miss," Bodie said politely. "Thanks for doing this."
Doyle shifted next to him as Miss Cassiopeia cocked her head to examine both men minutely. She walked close to Doyle and stared into his eyes before doing the same to Bodie. He was uncomfortable under her deep scrutiny. It felt as if she were staring into his soul and that she could see his conflict about Doyle. After what seemed to be forever, she stepped back, shaking her head.
"Are ye sure about this unbinding?" She glared at Bodie.
He swallowed. "Yes, please."
Miss Cassiopeia narrowed her eyes and scowled for another minute before she turned to Doyle. "You as well, Mister Ray? Seems you two are suited, well and good."
Doyle's eyes were wide when he glanced over at Bodie. Bodie could tell it was fear in his eyes but he had no idea if it was fear that someone felt they were suited, or that they were suited, or that he didn't want to be near Bodie for another minute! If Bodie were braver, he'd ask. Taking the coward's way out, once again he kept silent. He told himself he was keeping his pledge to Kieran. It was getting to the point where he was sure he was trying to convince himself that this is what he wanted to do, marry Kieran and live happily ever after. Once he was back in London, things would work out. He would forget about Doyle. He would be happy. His career would be fabulous. Life would be perfect.
Then why did he feel like rubbish?
"Eh?" Doyle had been talking to him and he'd been lost in thought. "Sorry. Go ahead." He took a step away from Doyle so that they wouldn't be so close, so he could think more clearly.
Miss Cassiopeia glared icily at the men. "I've got supper in the oven. Could we get on with this?"
"Sorry," Doyle muttered. "I'm ready."
Bodie didn't say anything, but nodded.
The woman said, "Do you Raymond Doyle take-"
"William Andrew Philip Bodie," Bodie supplied.
"...take William Andrew- this bloke for your lawfully wedded husband?"
"I do not," Doyle said firmly. "Thanks for asking."
She turned to Bodie. "Do you, William-" The woman chewed on her lip.
"Bodie," Doyle offered.
Miss Cassiopeia sighed. "Do you, William Bodie, take Raymond Doyle here to be your lawfully wedded husband?"
"No, I do not. Not ever." Bodie nodded curtly.
"Before the sun sets, go up to that headland, rip up the licence and toss it into the sea, along with the rings. Now hurry or you'll be forever wed once the sun sinks into the sea."
With a heavy heart, Bodie headed to the top of the rocky ledge, with Doyle close behind. On the high point above the sea, Doyle took the paper from his pocket and tore it to pieces. He opened his hands and the bits fluttered away on the ocean breeze. He took off the band Bodie had put there barely five hours ago and threw it out into the ocean as hard as he could. Bodie watched it arc and plop into the dark water. He followed suit, slipping the wedding band off and throwing it. Good thing he'd paid only ten pounds for those rings!
"That's it then," Doyle said. "Cheers." Without a backwards glance, Doyle started the hike back to his castle.
Bodie stood looking at Doyle's stiff shoulders and tense back. Doyle was upset. Why? Could it be he cared about Bodie?
"Oi. Wait up!" He trotted along the track, grateful that in spite of the rain, it was mostly hard-packed by many footsteps over the decades.
"I have a headache," Doyle called over his shoulder.
"Doyle!" Bodie stopped. "Ray?"
Doyle stopped. He turned around. "That's the first time you've used my given name."
Bodie blinked raindrops from his eyes. "Okay. Is that important?"
Doyle studied him for a moment. "Probably not."
Bodie gathered his courage. "Are you sorry?"
"That we're, you know, unmarried."
"Nah. We didn't get married on purpose. It was a stupid accident." Doyle shrugged. "Not the best way to get hitched, eh?"
"No. Probably not." Bodie sighed softly. "Still, it feels funny. Like I've lost something. Daft, isn't it."
Doyle smiled softly, his eyes warming. "Weird. I feel funny too. Never been married before, even for a few hours. Sometimes- But it's done. Drink?"
"Christ, yes. Please."
"I have a nice whisky back home. This coat has a tear! My underpants are getting wet!"
Bodie laughed. It was easy talking to Doyle when he was being amenable. Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, "I like you, Ray."
"Don't look so shocked! It's not a crime." Doyle stepped closer. "I like you too, William Andrew Philip Bodie, but I'm freezing.”
With a chuckle, Bodie followed Doyle as he turned and broke into a jog, running carefully on the uneven, rain-slicked stones. Bodie was warmer by the time they'd reached Doyle's castle. Thankfully the paparazzi were gone. For the moment anyway. They went through the back door that led into the mud room, laughing while shaking water from their rain coats and stamping the mud from their Wellies.
After shedding the outdoor togs, Doyle went into the kitchen. He stopped short, causing Bodie to slam into his back. He couldn't resist. He put his hands on Doyle's shoulders and playfully pulled him backwards until Doyle sprawled against him.
"Bodie!" Doyle cried out.
Bodie laughed and tugged at him, taking him off balance. He had to kiss Doyle again. He'd liked the first time and he wanted a second, and a third, and a fourth-
"Bodie, stop!" Doyle snapped angrily.
The tone of Doyle's voice finally made Bodie pause. He was ready to ask why Doyle had gone from playful to angry so quickly when he glanced up. His heart went into his throat because sitting at the table with his hands wrapped around a mug was his fiancé, Kieran.
Kieran was staring at them and his eyes were wide with surprise and hurt.
"Oh," Bodie said, suddenly feeling as if he'd been caught doing something wrong. He knew he blushed. Was he doing something wrong? From the look on Kieran's face, he must be, because Kieran looked gutted.
"What are you doing here?" Bodie blurted out. To Bodie's shock, Kieran's eyes filled with tears. Kieran wasn't one to cry. He must be feeling rotten. Bodie rushed to his side. "Why aren't you in hospital? You aren't well enough to be out in this weather!" He tried to wrap an arm around Kieran's shoulders but Kieran pushed it away.
"I checked myself out. The doctor wasn't happy but he gave me the tablets I need. Besides, I was lonely and I want to go home and recuperate in my own bed. In our bed," he said testily, looking directly at Doyle. "With my fiancé beside me."
Bodie had to admit, Kieran's possessive attitude made him warm inside. Kieran had staked his claim. Kieran loved him. Maybe Kieran was right. They needed to go back to London, to their home, and be together. Now. He had to forget about Ray Doyle and this whole trip!
Doyle straightened out his t-shirt. He looked at Bodie, paused for a heartbeat. Bodie understood that at that second, if he'd spoken up, said something, anything to indicate his feelings for Doyle, that Ray would have stood by him, shoulder to shoulder, and together they'd tell Kieran they'd- What? Fallen in love? Yes, Bodie reckoned, he had fallen in love and from the look on Doyle's face, he returned the feeling. But Bodie couldn't do it. He couldn't abandon his ill lover. Maybe he never would be able to do what his heart wanted. He was a sodding coward.
Bodie put a hand on Kieran's shoulder. Doyle's eyes widened momentarily. With a curt nod, Doyle turned on his heel. After snagging his dripping raincoat, he went out the kitchen garden back door and slammed it behind him.
In a turmoil, Bodie's first instinct was to chase after him but Kieran must have seen something in his demeanour, because he stood up and coughed into his hand.
"Can we leave now? Hire car is out front. Our luggage is inside." Kieran cleared his throat. "I want to go home, Bodie. Please."
Unable to refuse Kieran in his condition, Bodie nodded. Kieran handed him the keys and they went out the castle's front door. It wasn't raining any longer but a brisk wind was blowing. Bodie opened the passenger door for Kieran before he went around to the driver's side. He paused, looking over the car's roof at the castle as it loomed before him. The sky was clearing and blue sky appeared behind the turrets. Dark clouds scuttled away, giving way to the sun. It would be a beautiful day after all.
"Bodie?" Kieran called.
Opening the door, Bodie climbed in, started the car and drove to the airport. He left Doyle behind, and he left part of his heart as well.
Six Months Later...
Bodie made the turn to Seaview Lodge. It was a familiar drive and one he was happy to make once again. Driving down the track to the castle he'd visited before, he was pleased to see that his money had been put to good use. The road was no longer a dirt track that turned into a quagmire when it rained. It was now a hard surface, with what looked to be good drainage along the sides. That must have cost Doyle a pretty penny. Still, it was nice being able to drive down the track without worrying about sinking into the mud. He wondered if the workers had found Kieran's lost boot when they were laying the tarmac.
With a chuckle and a smile on his face, Bodie pulled into the small car park that ran alongside the castle. There were four other vehicles in the space. Doyle must have bookings. He was pleased about that. He climbed out, paused and took in the vista. The castle looked like it had had a face lift. The walls looked the same, hewn grey stone that had withstood the weather (and marauders more than likely) for centuries and could do so for a few more eons if properly maintained. Overall he could tell it had been brightened up. No dead ivy climbed up its walls and there were new flags above the turrets, snapping in the sea wind against the clear blue sky.
Bodie snagged his travel bag and the well-wrapped carrier bag from the bed of the large pickup truck before he walked across the drawbridge. Large stoneware pots dotted the way with flowers that seemed happy in their sunny spots. Blue, green, pink and yellow posies that brightened the way. Everything was clean and appeared cared for. The entry doors were freshly painted.
Pulling on the red bell cord that was also a new addition, Bodie smiled even more when he could hear the merry tinkling from the other side. It was a happy sound and it made him feel good. He had a wide smile on his face when the door was opened. Before him, with a shocked expression and wide, surprised eyes stood Raymond Doyle.
Doyle looked good enough to eat. His hair was still long but it was clean and shiny, pulled back into a bunch at the base of his neck. His face was fuller. Doyle tended to the more slender side but he looked healthy. No more bags under his eyes. His body was trim and fit, and he looked amazing in those tight blue jeans that hugged all the right places, as did the grass-green tee shirt. The black trainers he wore were newer. Bodie was incredibly thrilled that Doyle was taking care of himself. And since he was now being honest with himself, he was incredibly thrilled to see Doyle.
"Bodie?" Doyle asked unnecessarily. "What- Come in!" His eyes danced and his smile widened. He stepped back, waving Bodie inside.
"Hello, mate." Bodie sauntered in. He held out the carrier bag. "A house- make that castle-warming pressie. Looks good." He took in his surroundings. The stone floor of the foyer was gleaming. There was the smell of fresh baked bread and from the lounge, Bodie could hear the crackling of a fire in the hearth.
Bodie had come home.
"What's this then?" Doyle asked, taking the bag. "Why are you here?"
"I have a reservation.”
"You do? I don't have your name- Oh, you're Byron Lord?”
"Fooled you, huh? Get it? Lord Byron? Byron Lord?" At Doyle's look of fond exasperation, Bodie laughed. "I didn't want to tip my hand too soon. In case you had a notion to refuse the booking."
Doyle rolled his eyes, smirking. "I very well might have! I haven't heard from you in six months! I figured you were making babies with that man of yours."
Bodie shuffled his feet. He was sure he would make a disaster of this but he forged ahead. "Nah. Kieran found a better offer."
Doyle looked at him sideways. "Really? I don't believe that. How could he find a better- Well, you're a nice enough bloke."
With a satisfied smile, Bodie realised that Doyle did like him! For Doyle, that was a declaration of adoration. "In all honesty, it was mutual. We talked a lot after we got back to London, and in the end we decided to part friends." Bodie rubbed a finger on his nose, wrinkling it. "Believe it or not, he's been trying to make babies with that berk, Yannick Bouchet."
"No! Will wonders never cease," Doyle said.
Before Bodie could explain, a young couple clattered down the steps into the foyer. Bodie watched the lovers stop and kiss once before they made it down.
"Off for the day? Don't forget about the lighthouse," Doyle said with a smile. "Picnic basket is on the kitchen table."
"Mr Doyle, you're a dear!" the woman said. "Thank you."
"It's only a cold lunch. But you're welcome. This is Bodie. He'll be staying a few days as well," Doyle said. "Mr and Mrs Thompson. On their honeymoon."
"Pleasure," Bodie said. "Lewis is beautiful, even when it's raining."
"Tommy and Paula, please," Tommy said, shaking Bodie's hand. "Come on, luv."
Paula waggled her fingers at Bodie. She took Tommy's outstretched hand and they practically danced their way towards the kitchen. Bodie waited until they'd gone before he turned to Doyle.
"Can we talk?" Bodie asked.
"Come through. We'll have tea." Doyle led the way into the kitchen.
Bodie followed, admiring the fine arse he'd waited six months to see again. Nicely rounded, encased by close-fitting denim. From his perspective, it had been worth the wait. The only thing better would be when he took off those jeans and could touch that firm flesh. His cock gave a lurch. Soon, I hope, he told his anxious body part.
Doyle placed the bag on the table that Bodie had given him. "What's in this?" he asked, his eyes twinkling.
"Only the finest whisky for the finest castle owner I know." Bodie grinned, giving Doyle's right shoulder a playful punch.
"Know many castle owners?"
"Nope. Only you."
Doyle laughed. "It's the cheap stuff then. Really, Bodie. What are you doing here?" He became serious when he asked the question.
"I'm here to see you. You don't mind, do you?" Bodie asked, suddenly feeling shy.
"Could have come sooner. Written. Called." Doyle fiddled with his fingernail.
"I... Listen, I had a contract signed, sealed and delivered. I've never reneged on a deal in my career and I felt it was the honourable thing to do. We were on location in the States for a good while. One of those George Lucas films. I'm rubbish at writing or calling. Besides I didn't want to give you the chance to tell me to bugger off. Not before I spoke to you in person." Bodie sighed. "Sorry. I was being selfish. Thought about you every day."
Doyle studied him for a good thirty seconds before he smiled. "I'm glad you're here."
Relief flooded through Bodie. He was light-headed for a moment. Doyle wanted him here!
"I'm glad you're glad I'm here."
Doyle gave him an exasperated look. "What? You came all this way and you can't admit you're happy to see me?"
"Sorry. Ray, I'm elated to see you." Bodie enjoyed the view while Doyle moved about, filling the kettle, getting mugs and putting a plate of biscuits on the table. Bodie snagged two of the chocolate discs immediately. "I'm starving." He chewed the homemade treats. No store-bought for Doyle's guests. "Good."
"You're a cretin," Doyle said, nibbling a biscuit.
"You're a fabulous cook."
"Can I be honest?"
"Of course." Bodie took a swallow of tea.
"I can cook but I detest baking. I buy all my breads and biscuits from the bakery in town."
"No harm in that. Not when they're this tasty."
"Mrs Edison puts the bread in the tins to rise and I pick them up in time to pop them into the oven. Hence the smell of freshly-baked bread."
Doyle finished his biscuit. "So why are you here, Mr Lord?"
Bodie stared at Doyle for a moment before he remembered his fake reservation name. "Came to help you. Thought you could use backup for this place." He waved a hand, taking in the entire edifice.
"You want to become a king of the castle?" Doyle asked. "Doesn't seem like your chosen profession. What happened to the film star?"
"Retired him. He wasn't happy and he was wasting his life." Bodie swallowed half a cup of his tea. He licked his lips. "He did make a pile of money, though, so it wasn't a total loss. He also had a grand time of it, but now he's ready to settle down."
"Oh. Interesting. Does he have anybody or anything in mind for this life transformation?" Doyle asked.
Bodie saw Doyle's hand shake as he lifted his tea cup. Doyle was nervous about Bodie's answer. Was it because he wanted to be the 'anybody' or because he didn't want it? This was so hard! Bodie girded his loins, as the saying goes, and forged on, full steam ahead.
"Definitely have somebody in mind, as well as what I've already said. Want to be one of the kings of the castle, but only if you'll have me." Bodie smiled, and he prayed his own nervousness didn't show. "It wouldn't be any fun doing it without the original king. He's the one who knows what's what and he'd have to be willing to help the newly crowned out a hell of a lot."
Doyle looked directly into Bodie's eyes. "And is this new bloke really sure this is what he wants? To be stuck out in the wilds of an island, with not much entertainment and with no big time reporters following him around, snapping photos of every aspect of his life?"
Bodie leaned across the table and took Doyle's hand. "It's exactly what I want, every wet, boring, dull and uninteresting second of it. With you, Ray." He squeezed Doyle's hand. "Will you marry me?"
Doyle squeezed back, taking Bodie's hand in both of his. "We'll see. Six month trial. If at the end of it you still want me and all of this," he looked around the room, "then yes, I will marry you."
Bodie laughed happily. "Deal!" He pulled on Doyle's hand until they were leaning across the table, close enough to kiss.
Doyle put a hand on Bodie's shoulder, stopping him. "Tell me in detail. Why me?"
Bodie licked his lips, staring at Doyle's mouth. Those lips. How he wanted to nibble them and suck on them and have them wrapped around his cock! Doyle asked why? "Christ, Ray, you're the sexiest man on the planet. I want to fuck you so badly!"
Doyle pulled his hand back. "Fucking is fun but I need something more. You said you wanted to marry me? Why? You can get a good fuck any place you like, even on Lewis!"
Bodie circled the table and put his hand on Doyle's shoulders. "I can tell you're the romantic type. I can't say I am but Kieran- He loved romance. I think that's why I'm attracted to blokes like you and he. I want that romance. I don't know how to do it! You have to help me out here."
"Repeat after me: I love you, Ray."
Bodie swallowed and cleared his throat. "I do love you, Ray. I wouldn't marry you if I didn't. Happy now?"
"Extremely." Doyle quickly planted a kiss on Bodie's mouth. "Time to change the beds and put out clean towels in the guest rooms."
"Change the beds? I like the sound of that."
"Change the beds means only that, Bodie. You're going to be a hard one-"
Bodie wrapped an arm around Doyle and kissed him firmly. "You can say that again." He pulled Doyle against him to let him know that he did have a hard one. "Looks like you're having a hard one as well." He palmed Doyle through his tight jeans. "Going to do yourself a mischief if we don't take care of that."
Doyle's eyes narrowed. "Upstairs. Now." He walked awkwardly out of the room and up the stairs.
Bodie had the same trouble as he followed Doyle. Doyle. Soon to be his lover. And soon to be in his arms. He'd waited so long for this and now that it was here, he felt like a kid in the sweet shop with unlimited funds. He hoped he came away with ten cavities!
Once in Doyle's bedroom, Bodie leaned against the door, enjoying the view. Doyle was everything he liked in a bloke.
"You're staring," Doyle said.
"Ray..." Bodie couldn't keep the grin from his face even if wanted to. "Christ, you're gorgeous."
"I hope you lo- like me for more than me looks." Doyle unbuckled his belt.
"I like you for your looks and your dazzling... castle."
Doyle laughed before he turned serious. "We really don't know each other that well."
"We'll learn. I have a good feeling about you and my life and us together." Bodie walked over to Doyle and pulled him close.
"I like feeling good about you too."
They kissed. Bodie savoured the taste of coffee and chocolate on Doyle's lips. He shivered lightly, his emotions on high alert.
"We'll be good together, Ray. I know we will."
Doyle looked into Bodie's eyes. He seemed to study Bodie clear to his soul before he must have found what he was looking for. Bodie hoped his feelings were shining through, and he was tickled that he had been successful when Doyle pulled Bodie to him by his shirt. Their mouths met and they kissed for long minutes, murmuring words of encouragement and making happy noises.
"Bed," Bodie managed to blurt out.
"It's there," Doyle said, nodding to the left.
"Smart bloke." Bodie began to undress Doyle, slowly. He started to pull the tee shirt over his head, taking the vest he was wearing along with it. Doyle's hands stopped him.
"What?" Bodie looked into Doyle's eyes. He saw how nervous Doyle was, more than he should be. "What's wrong?"
"Remember when I told you about being shot?"
Doyle sighed heavily. "Nobody's seen it since it happened. Seen me."
"You mean you have a scar?" Doyle nodded, licking his lips. "Hey, look at me. Nothing about a silly scar is going to bother me. It's better than the alternative, and I'd rather you had a scar than you'd been killed. Then we'd never have met and that would be a bloody shame."
"It's silly, like you said."
"Let me rephrase that. It's not silly that you feel embarrassed. I honestly don't care." Bodie tugged on the material again. "Can I see?"
With a nod, Doyle closed his eyes and raised his arms. "Sure."
Bodie felt the slight tremors coursing through his body. Poor bloke was so nervous! Slowly Bodie lifted off the tee shirt and vest. He tossed them aside and with one finger, traced the scar on Doyle's chest. His nipple had not been removed but it did seem off kilter because of the surgery.
"Does it hurt?" Bodie asked.
Doyle opened his eyes. "Not any more. It's faded a good bit over the past three years. I had a nurse in hospital from Italy and she told me after it was completely healed to rub a little olive oil on it a couple of times a day. Smelt like a salad but it worked a treat."
Bodie leaned down and kissed the scar before he licked it lightly.
Doyle sucked in a breath. "Bodie," he said huskily.
Bodie smiled, undoing the snap on his lover's jeans. "Shoes." He gently rubbed the nipple closest to Doyle's heart.
"Mine or yours?" Doyle asked, breathing heavily.
Bodie released Doyle and they each toed off shoes and tossed socks to the floor. When Bodie reached for the button on his own trousers, Doyle smacked his hand.
"Let me," Doyle said huskily.
Bodie held out his arms in surrender. Doyle unbuttoned his shirt and shoved it back. Bodie yanked his arms out of the sleeves without unbuttoning the cuffs. He threw it aside. Next Doyle removed his vest and paused. He leaned down and licked Bodie's nipple.
Bodie gasped. "Christ. That feels good. Haven't had- Ray!"
Doyle had nipped his flesh. The feeling zinged straight to his cock. He grabbed himself and squeezed before he exploded in his underpants before he'd gotten naked.
"Once more like that and it's all over," Bodie warned Doyle.
Chucking evilly, Doyle returned to his duties of removing Bodie's trousers and briefs in one motion. Bodie stepped out of them. Doyle unzipped his jeans. The sound made Bodie's mouth water with anticipation. He did the honours of pushing Doyle's jeans and- Fuck! Micro briefs. Red ones at that!
"Raymond," was all Bodie said. He propelled Doyle backwards to the bed and pushed him down. With one hand he ripped off the pants and jeans that were tangled around Doyle's ankles and with the other he encircled Doyle's cock.
Doyle let out a yell. "Bodie!"
"Yes?" Bodie answered calmly in spite of his nervousness. His hand began to stroke Doyle's hardened flesh.
"Not fair!" he blurted out.
"Why not?" Bodie asked, leaning in to give the head a lick.
"Because!" Doyle lifted himself to his elbows. "Want to see you also! Not fair for you to go first."
Bodie waggled an eyebrow. "Is this a competition?"
"Damned right it is," he said gruffly. "Now get up here!"
"Your wish-" Bodie's words were cut off when Doyle cupped his balls and his fingers danced up and down Bodie's cock.
"If... nothing else," Bodie managed to say, "I think... we're going to have fabulous sex!"
Doyle laughed. "Bring it up here."
Bodie almost broke a toe flipping himself around so that he was on his hands and knees over Doyle with his cock mere inches from Doyle's mouth. Doyle wrapped his arms around Bodie's hips and pulled him down until he could suck the head into his mouth. Bodie let out a cry of delight. It took all of his wherewithal to remember that Doyle's cock was right there. He only had to lean down to lick. Which he did, with relish.
It was distracting to suck Doyle's prick while the same was being done to his own but he managed. He closed his eyes and let the feelings wash through him. Doyle's mouth and lips and fingers were busy, sucking, licking and tugging. He returned the favour, using his own mouth and hands to enjoy his lover's cock and balls. He thought he'd won the competition when he felt Doyle's cock swell even more. Bodie readied himself to take Doyle's orgasm into his mouth.
But Doyle cheated! Before Bodie could say, Fuck Me, Ray!, Doyle slipped his finger into Bodie's arse and jabbed his prostrate. Bodie froze, his mouth fell open, and his orgasm raced through him. Doyle's mouth never paused. He sucked hard, rolling Bodie's balls with his hand and massaging his prostrate, all at the same time. Bodie didn't stand a chance. He came so hard he saw stars.
It was a good thing he didn't bite Doyle's cock in half. Bloody cheater. Bodie finally could breath. He let go of the body parts he was clutching and sat back. Doyle looked at him upside down with such a satisfied look on his face that Bodie had to laugh.
"Fuck, Ray. That was the best orgasm I've had in my life!"
"All well and good," Doyle said, pride shining on his face, "but what about me?" He pouted nicely, making Bodie's heart patter.
"Poor baby. Let me take care of that for you."
Bodie did exactly that. He soon had Doyle writhing on the bed while he nibbled on his cock before he took as much as possible into his mouth. Not willing to be outdone, he returned the favour, pushing his finger into Doyle's arse and cupping his balls at the same time, rolling the sac in his hand. Doyle shouted his name and came. Bodie sucked Doyle dry. It wasn't until Doyle was sprawled on the bed, breathing as if he'd run a marathon, that Bodie considered his job done. It was with great satisfaction that he flopped down beside Doyle and pulled him close, kissing him again and again until they were both woozy.
Relaxing into the mattress, Bodie enjoyed a few minutes of lying next to Doyle and holding him. Doyle seemed to like the cuddling, which made Bodie happy. He wasn't a fuck and run kind of bloke, preferring a quiet time afterwards to talk and kiss and doze. He knew Doyle did also because Doyle snuggled closer and sighed deeply, his body going limp.
"Sleepy?" Bodie asked, kissing Doyle's temple.
"Nah. Content is a better word." Doyle slid his arm across Bodie's chest. "Nice, this."
"In a bit."
Bodie dozed for a while until mother nature called. He shifted, tapping Doyle's shoulder. "Wakey, wakey. Gotta use the loo."
Doyle rolled over and burrowed into the blankets. Bodie chuckled, patted his bottom, and went to the toilet. When he returned, Doyle was lounging on his back, hands behind his head, body in full view.
"Not modest, are we?" Bodie said, admiring the lithe form.
"Not much with somebody I want to see what's on offer," Doyle admitted, grinning sheepishly. He blushed, which Bodie thought was adorable.
Christ, he had it bad! To distract himself from launching onto Doyle and eating him from head to toe he stood beside the bed, arms crossed on his chest. Doyle looked him up and down, and he appeared to like what he saw if Bodie was any judge of his new lover's expressions. Doyle was fairly easy to read.
"You make me feel- happy," Bodie admitted before he changed the subject. No sense getting sloppy over their new romance. "Brought you a pressie."
"Oh? Why is that?"
"In case you chucked me out, I was going to try and bribe you."
Doyle laughed. "So even though I didn't toss you out on your ear, I still get the gift?"
"Yeah. Consider it my buy-in for this establishment."
"What is it?" Doyle looked around as he slipped from the bed, heading for Bodie's duffel bag.
"Not in there. Outside, in the car park."
"Please tell me you didn't bring me a Ferrari or some other thing that isn't-" Doyle peered out the window. He stood quietly for a good two minutes before he turned around. If Bodie didn't know better, he'd say Doyle was speechless. His Ray was never speechless. "Really?"
"She's three years old, and not a Ferrari. I didn't think a sports car, while fun, would be practical running an estate. Mud and all, if I remember correctly.”
"Hey," Doyle said, cheerfully affronted, "you saw that new road! It costs me a good bit plus a lot of hard work."
"It looks fabulous," Bodie said. "I appreciate not being mired in a foot of mud. Did you find a boot in it?"
Shaking his head, Doyle turned back to look out the window. "It's red. I love it."
"Not easy finding an American Ford F-150 in the British Isles, with low miles and in good shape. It's all yours. I think she'll be a workhorse."
"Bodie, thank you." Doyle came over to him and kissed him. "Partner."
"Can I bake?"
"You mean are you allowed or are you a good baker?" Doyle asked playfully.
With a roll of his eyes, Bodie grabbed Doyle and pulled him close. "I'll have you know my Irish soda bread is to die for. I make a mean Victoria sponge as well."
Doyle smiled. "This is a bed and breakfast. If you can make breakfast rolls or bagels or scones, I will be indebted to you for life. I won't have to buy them from the bakery in the village any longer. Plus I can advertise homemade on the premises."
"Then we're partners?" Bodie asked. He didn't try to keep the hopeful tone from his words, and he also let all the affection he felt for Doyle show.
Doyle, for his part, returned the favour. His eyes were sparkling with merriment and his hands held Bodie's buttocks firmly. "It's a deal."
"Sealed with a kiss."
Bodie kissed Doyle, more than once. To Bodie's immense pleasure, Doyle kissed him back. More than once.