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Raoul loved his job.

Except when he hated it. Like right now: they'd wrapped up the firefighters yesterday -- yesterday he'd really loved his job -- so today they were doing the cops.

Which meant today he hated his job; cops were an unfailing pain in the ass to style. For one thing, most of them came primed with attitudes that pushed Raoul almost over the edge. So he cajoled. He bullied. He tap-danced. He prepped, he polished, he tweaked. Christ knew sometimes he even prayed. And although even he couldn't make a silk purse out of a pig's ear, he had never yet failed to deliver the equivalent -- at the very least -- of a quality Kate Spade knockoff to Marga and her magic camera. There was a reason the two of them were booked years in advance to shoot the photos for fund-raising calendars everywhere from the Big Apple to La-La Land.

And, this week, Cascade. Raoul downed his eighth espresso macchiato of the day and looked at the lobby surrounding him with a mixture of revulsion and despair. Subtext -- subtle, but sexy subtext -- sold, and there was nothing even the tiniest bit sexy about any police station.

Or about police cars. Or -- Raoul shuddered -- police uniforms. Every wretched city in the entire country dressed its LEOs in wretchedly unflattering uniforms. It was deliberate, it had to be; fashion sadism at its officious worst. Raoul watched in horrified fascination as two of Cascade's uniformed finest strolled past him on their way to the elevators. Who on God's green earth would willingly put themselves in a position to be arrested by anyone wearing such badly fitting polyester?

Yesterday had been so much better. Of course, by some -- pathetically unenlightened -- standards, shooting the firefighters should have been worse. All that stiff, flame-retardant fabric; those big bulky coats, those overalls with suspenders...

Suspenders. Raoul sighed wistfully. There was nothing Norman Rockwellish about Fire Department suspenders; the wide, sturdy straps would fit right in at some of the clubs Raoul frequented. And they certainly did an excellent job of framing those tight FD t-shirts -- t-shirts that clung lovingly to the deliciously sculpted fire department muscles. Wet t-shirts, occasionally -- those wonderful hoses -- and sometimes, when God was in her heaven and all was right with Raoul's world, those wide, sturdy suspender straps didn't frame a t-shirt at all, just bare, gorgeous skin: Adonis rising up from his flame-retardant overalls.

Raoul sighed again. There was so much more subtext in a fire department than in a police station. Some of it was deliciously blatant -- all those big, sturdy hoses and the big, sturdy poles the big, beautiful men wrapped themselves around from time to time in the line of duty. Christ, even the fire engines had sex appeal.

Especially compared to police cars. At least they'd finally wrapped up the shots involving any sort of police vehicle as background, along with -- thank you, Jesus -- the shots featuring those wretched uniforms. Next up on Raoul's clipboard was a detective -- Detective of the Year, according to the notes.

Which probably meant Ego. Cop Ego. Raoul shuddered again. He was going to need another macchiato.


Make that half a dozen macchiatos -- right now -- and the most expensive bottle of gin the bar could provide as soon as he got back to the hotel.

The worst of it was that this particular Detective of the Year had so much potential. Great bones, great muscles, gorgeous blue eyes... and a visible aura of irritated unwillingness that virtually flipped off the camera every time Marga snapped the shutter. Raoul ran his eyes over their surroundings yet again, desperate for detective-taming inspiration.

Still nothing. It was a bullpen. Bullpens weren't sexy. There weren't even any framed sweetheart photos on Pissed-off Detective of the Year's desk for Raoul to distract the jackass with.

Just when he was wondering whether he could slip a Xanax into the cup of coffee Pissed-off was nursing between shots, salvation burst onto the scene.

He didn't recognize it as salvation at first, of course. What he did recognize, instantly, was a jawline that could make angels weep. Not to mention those eyes. And cheekbones. And mouth. And hair that ought to have a zip code of its own for all the subtext Raoul could coax out of it.

But layers, for God's sake. Hadn't anyone ever told that divine boy to be careful with layers? There was a point beyond which hiding the merch ceased to be teasingly alluring, after all, and became self-defeating. Baggy, bulky clothes flattered absolutely nobody.

Except, of course, firefighters -- those overalls -- but that only worked because of the contrast between the skin-tight tees and the bulky pants; the imagination knew exactly what to imagine underneath those stiff, loose-fitting canvas pants. This boy... Raoul sighed. He was an artist at heart, and his fingers positively itched to peel off those layers and -- at least partially -- lay bare what was undoubtedly underneath.

Yes. To start with, a dramatic white linen shirt with deep cuffs, loose against the body and open almost to the waist -- think classed-up romance novel cover. Bare chest, of course. The hair in artfully tangled curls caressing the shoulders. Skinny black jeans -- no, leather. Skin-tight leather pants, and not black, but the color of a good Cuban cigar. And eyeliner; those eyes were made for eyeliner...

The rapid-fire shutter clicks of Marga on the hunt interrupted Raoul's very enjoyable thoughts on how best to exhibit Angel's heretofore hidden qualities to an appreciative world, and he noticed two things almost simultaneously: his badly dressed Angel was making the most expressive "Oops, sorry, pretend I'm not here" face Raoul had ever seen -- it was adorable -- and Pissed-off Detective of the Year was now Formerly Pissed-off Detective of the Year.

It was to die for: the up-until-now major thorn in Raoul's backside was looking at Angel with an expression Margo's lens had to be positively in love with. There was amusement -- there were crinkles at the corners of those pretty blue eyes -- but it was subtle, just enough to lift the irritation off Formerly Pissed-off's face. And something even more subtle, and difficult to put into words -- well, not difficult for Raoul to put into words, but he was in a cop shop, and keeping the gaydar way under the table was Boy Scout Rule Numero Uno. Regardless, the current (subtext-rampant ) expression on Formerly Pissed-off's face was more than enough to transform him from No Way Jose into The Cop You'd Actually Want To Serve And Protect You.

Or to solve your murder. Detective, after all.

Raoul hummed with satisfaction as he listened to the sound of a happy Marga at work, his gaze moving back and forth between Angel and Formerly Pissed-off as they communed wordlessly. Possibly even cluelessly -- Raoul wasn't entirely certain one way or the other how self-aware the pretty, pretty boys were -- but it was adorable either way.

And hot. Even without yesterday's big, sturdy hoses. Or poles. Or suspenders.