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All The Right Reasons

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All The Right Reasons by Gwen
Pairing: Viggo/Orlando
Rating: NC17
Disclaimer: Never happened
Warning: AU, Mention of het relationship

 

 

Prologue

Sleek muscles twitched beneath sun-bronzed skin as knowing lips traversed the line of Orlando’s jaw, in search of that particular spot which would be his undoing. Work-roughened hands closed around his aching length and squeezed gently, eliciting a quiet gasp of pleasure to spill between his open lips. Gooseflesh broke out on the lithe body, not from the breeze that drifted up from the lake and into his bedroom through the open French doors, but from the desire that threatened to overwhelm him.

"Orlando," the raspy voice whispered as its owner slowly worked his flesh, the strong hand sliding up and down his length.

Sienna eyes opened to find sunlight spilling into the room, a room that wasn’t his. Gone was the contemporary furniture that graced his New York loft overlooking Central Park, and in its place, priceless antiques – antiques that filled one of the guest rooms of his Gran’s house in Martha’s Vineyard.

The second thing that registered in his sleep-fogged brain was that he had dreamed of ‘him’ again, the name- and faceless lover who had haunted his dreams for the past several weeks.

Disappointment warred with shame at what had happened, not only in the dream, but in the waking world, as well. His body was tight as a newly strung bow; his cells vibrated with unfulfilled need. Just as in his dream, he was achingly hard. Shame washed over him as he debated what to do next.

This was the farthest the dreams had ventured, and until now, he had no problem pushing them to the back of his mind and starting a new day. But now, with this one, he had ‘heard’ his voice, and that one detail was what had him wavering on his decision of how to proceed now. He hated to admit that the voice affected him almost as much as what they had been doing in the dream, but it did.

Guilt ate at his conscience, nibbled at his soul. He was engaged, for fuck’s sake, due to be married in two months time, and here he was having dreams – erotic dreams – about a faceless *male* lover who was never far from Orlando’s thoughts, much to his dismay. Could the pathetic excuse he called his life be any more fucked up?

The insistent throbbing between his legs demanded satisfaction, and Orlando hated himself for what he was about to do. He had never felt the need to relieve the tension created by the dreams, but none thus far had been this… arousing. Careful not to wake his sleeping companion, he slowly pushed back the hand-stitched heirloom quilt and padded quietly into the adjoining bathroom, closing the door behind him.

 

 

Chapter 1

Over the rim of her favorite coffee mug bearing the words "Back away from the chocolate", Beatrice Copeland watched as her grandson finished his breakfast, knowing he would talk when he was ready.

It had been a pleasant surprise to hear his voice on the other end of the phone line two days ago, and she was positively beside herself when he hesitantly asked if she had plans for the weekend - plans meaning entertaining a house full of people, or a bridge tournament. Beatrice Copeland was nothing if not a social creature. But there were times, like this, where she cherished the quiet solitude she found when Orlando came to visit.

He had never let who he was go to his head, like some of the others in the family, and handled everything that came with being part Copeland with the grace that only a few could pull off. Educated in the best private schools money could buy, the young man had remained true to himself, and had never put on airs or presumed to be better than others. Beatrice had worried a bit when he had been accepted to Harvard, but it had been for naught. To this day, Orlando was the most down-to-earth person she knew – and she knew many, many people.

"Feel like wandering the beach for a bit?" he asked, breaking into her thoughts as he pushed his empty plate away and finished off the rest of his own coffee. Sidi’s ears perked up at the word ‘beach’ and dashed to the back door, his tail wagging happily as he waited to be let out.

Beatrice laughed at the canine’s antics. "He reminds me of you," she said with a smile. "When you were younger and would visit, you couldn’t get enough of that beach."

Orlando rose from his chair and held his grandmother’s so that she could rise. "Haven’t I heard somewhere that pets are reflections of their owners?" he asked as he tucked Beatrice’s hand in the crook of his arm and led her to the door where Sidi was sitting patiently, looking back and forth between the humans and freedom outside.

"In your case, I’d definitely say so. You two are alike in more ways than one. You’re both easy going, and loyal to a fault," his grandmother offered as she opened the door and stepped aside to keep from being bowled over by a four-legged streak of black hair.

The young man’s stomach clenched at the mention of loyalty and the images of last night’s dream drifted through his mind.

"Sidi is nothing if not loyal, that’s for sure," he commented as he followed his grandmother outside. Taking a deep breath of the salty air, he smiled. "I’ve missed this and I’ve missed you," he said as he placed a chaste kiss on Beatrice’s weathered skin. "Thank you for letting me come up for the weekend."

Her heart swelled with love for her grandson. "I’ve missed you too, Orli," she commented, using his childhood nickname in hopes it would reassure him that whatever reason he was here for, he was safe. "And you know you’re welcome any time you can get away."

They followed the wooden walkway out to the beach in silence, watching as Sidi darted back and forth in the sand dunes, stirring up a flock of egrets that had been hiding there. Happy barks filled the air, causing the two humans to laugh. Several gulls soared overhead, seemingly stationary, floating on a wind current that only they could navigate, while a flock of brown pelicans skimmed the surface of the water beyond the breakers in search of their breakfast.

As Orlando’s bare feet touched the sun-warmed sand, he felt some of the tension leave his body. This was definitely where he needed to be right now. They walked along the sandy shore in silence, pausing periodically to pick up a shell that caught their eye.

"I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m here." When his grandmother said nothing, he continued. "You are the only person I could talk to about this – about what’s been going on. You’ve never judged me, never thought less of me for the choices I’ve made in my life, and for that, I’ll always be grateful."

Beatrice’s hand gently squeezed her grandson’s arm, silently reassuring Orlando that nothing had changed between them.

"Christ, where to start," Orlando mumbled as Sidi darted into the surf a few yards ahead of them.

"The beginning is always a good place," Beatrice offered.

"That may be, but I’m trying to think of where the beginning is." He sighed and then continued, "Several weeks ago, I started having these dreams."

"Dreams are good," she said offhandedly.

"Yes, well, once I tell you what the dreams have been about you might think otherwise," he said with a chuckle. "They’re .. erotic."

The elderly woman smiled. "Ohh, even better," she said with a mischievous grin.

"Gran!" Orlando exclaimed.

She patted her grandson’s arm. "Oh come now, Orli. Erotic dreams are nothing to be ashamed of."

"Maybe not, if it were a woman in my dreams," he admitted.

A slow smile graced the woman’s lips. "Interesting."

"I should have known," Orlando said with his own grin. "Anyway, they started a few weeks ago, and have progressed in nature, if you will."

"You know, I think we need to sit down to have this conversation. My old heart might not be able to take the details," she teased, knowing that she was in better health than people ten years younger than herself. In truth, she wanted to see her grandson’s face as he told his tale. She knew him well enough to judge his feelings by the emotions on his face. She led them to a piece of sun-bleached driftwood that was half-buried in the sand and took a seat. "Okay, spill."

Instead of taking a seat, Orlando began pacing as he tried to put his thoughts in some kind of order. Sidi raced by, chasing a flock of kingfishers, yipping and barking as they took flight.

Long fingers raked through his wind-blown curls, pushing them out of his face. "They started out pretty tame, compared to the latest one," he started. "At first, it was just a glimpse of someone, a man, surrounded by fog, standing at the edge of a lake. He had his back to me, so I couldn’t see his face, and I still haven’t had a glimpse of it. His face is always in the shadows. From there, it progressed to him standing behind me, his hands on my waist, or his arms wrapped around me. They started to become more intense after that – him undressing me, or undressing for me," he said as his cheeks warmed from the blush that was creeping up his neck.

Beatrice watched the emotions Orlando tried to hide. These dreams were affecting him more than he cared to admit. "Are you sure it’s always the same man?"

Orlando nodded. "Yes, I’m sure. Same hands, same body. And there’s always a lake. Sometimes we’re standing beside it, or looking out at it from a house, but it’s always there. And then last night, something else was added. I heard his voice," he said as he moved to sit beside her. "Well, at least in the dream I heard his voice. We were.. well, lets just say that it wouldn’t have taken much and it would have been a done deal," the young man relayed. "When I woke up, I felt horrible because .. well, because I’m getting married and shouldn’t be dreaming about a *man*, of all things, and these dreams shouldn’t be haunting me at every turn."

His grandmother sat quietly for a moment. "I take it Kate knows nothing about these dreams," Beatrice surmised, which caused Orlando to grimace. "Didn’t think so. I don’t see her dealing with this very well, even if she knew about your sexual preferences when you two started dating."

"I think once the ring was on her finger, she realized that part of my life was over. And things were fine until a few weeks ago - no dreams, no crazy yearnings for certain things, nothing."

"So what’s been going on lately with the two of you? There has to be a reason the dreams have suddenly appeared."

Sienna eyes watched the small waves as they caressed the shore. "She’s been a basket case dealing with wedding details."

"I thought you had a wedding coordinator," Beatrice offered.

"We do. But even with that, she insists that we be involved as well. It seems that every weekend there’s something else we have to do – showers, fittings, third and fourth meetings with the caterers."

"So what was on the agenda for this weekend? How did you manage to slip away?"

He grinned. "I told her that we had a few business matters to discuss. She didn’t say a word after that."

"Smart girl," she offered. "She’s not about to bite the hand that will eventually feed her."

Beatrice Copeland owned Copeland Steel, one of the largest steel manufacturers in the world. Kate’s family, however, owned a lesser-known competitor, and was looking to make a name in the business world by forming an alliance with Copeland by way of marriage.

Beatrice knew from experience that some people viewed marriage as a business deal. Her own marriage to the late Philip Copeland had started out that way, but in time, they grew to love each other. Others weren’t as fortunate as they had been. And she wanted more than that for her grandchildren – for Orlando, especially, as he was the only male grandchild she had, and the heir to the Copeland empire. She wanted him to find someone who would love him for who he was, not what he could offer by way of his heritage. Unfortunately, his father, who was the current CEO of Copeland, was a businessman first and foremost, and had other ideas where his son’s life was concerned. And Orlando, being the dutiful son, had fallen prey to his father’s wishes.

He and Kate had met while Orlando was at Harvard, and began dating soon after. Beatrice could almost bet Kate’s family had arranged their so called meeting. Beatrice wasn’t sure if Orlando had given up ‘his other life’, as Kate called it, while they were dating, but once the ring was firmly in place on the third finger of Kate’s left hand, the young woman made it a point to keep Orlando busy, at all costs. The phone calls between grandmother and grandson slowed, something she was sure Kate had a hand in. She was surprised that his cell phone had not been constantly ringing since his arrival the night before.

It was true that Orlando could come to her with anything, and had in the past. They discussed everything from school, to business, to his personal life. This last point was why he was there now, and she was pleased that he had come to her. They had been close, the two of them, since he was a child, and could read each other better than anyone else. Orlando could not hide anything from his grandmother, and the few times he tried, she called him on it. After that, his life was an open book to her – and only her.

They sat in silence for some time, and then Orlando spoke. "So, any idea what’s going on with me?" he finally asked as he watched Sidi playing in the surf, pouncing on the small waves. He would definitely get a bath when they returned to the house.

Beatrice had a feeling why the dreams had started, but wanted her grandson to find the answer himself. She took her grandson’s hands in hers and offered the only explanation she could without giving it all away. "I can’t tell you what’s in your heart, Orli. Only you know that."

A quiet chuckle slipped between open lips. "That cryptic answer means you know something but you’re not going to tell me. You’re going to make me figure it out on my own."

"Got it in one," she said with a smile. "This is something you have to sort out for yourself."

"Not even a hint?" he pleaded.

She never could refuse those dark eyes of his, so much like his grandfather’s once were. "Think about the past, and in doing so, you’ll find your future."

* * * * *

Beatrice found her grandson curled up on the wicker sofa in the sunroom later that day, his eyes staring sightlessly out at the surf. A freshly washed Sidi had claimed the other end of the sofa and was dozing in the warm afternoon sunlight that filtered through the floor to ceiling windows.

"I’ve been thinking about what you said, and I think I’ve figured it out. It’s not just a simple case of pre-wedding jitters, which is what I chalked the first few dreams up to be," he said quietly as his grandmother lowered herself into the matching wicker rocker next to the sofa. "You mentioned my past, and the only thing I can think of is what I gave up when I became involved with her – a part of myself; the part that craves the touch of another man."

Smart man, her grandson was. She sat quietly while he worked through it.

"There’s nothing like being held in a pair of strong arms, or knowing exactly how to give pleasure to your partner because you know what it feels like; you know what turns you on and in turn, more than likely turns him on as well. There were no messy emotions involved in my relationships with men, no tantrums when things didn’t go their way."

Brown eyes finally settled on his grandmother. "The dreams are showing me the way things are meant to be, aren’t they? Weren’t you the one who told me all those years ago that dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you?" *

The elderly lady smiled. "I’m surprised you remembered that."

Orlando laughed quietly. "Well, I did, and now it makes perfect sense. My soul knows how things are supposed to be, and it’s not with Kate – not with any woman, actually."

She might have been from a different era, but Beatrice Copeland wasn’t a prude, by any means. She knew how today’s society worked, and the fact that her grandson was bi-sexual only served to reinforce the fact that some things were just meant to be, and nothing, including strict family morals, could change that.

Now that he had figured it out, she only had one question for him. "Do you love her, Orli?"

That one question gave Orlando pause. Did he love her? He had certainly said it enough over the past year and a half, but did that make it true? Yes, he felt affection for her; yes, they got along well most of the time, when she wasn’t harping about the wedding or something one of her friends did that she disagreed with, which was quite often, now that he thought about it. At one point, way back when, he thought he did love her. He wasn’t so sure about it now.

"I’m .. shit," he said with a defeated sigh. He truly didn’t know anymore.

Beatrice reached out and took Orlando’s hand in hers once again. "I’m not going to tell you what you need to do, one way or the other, because the final decision has to be up to you. You’re the one who has to live with it. But I will say this, no matter what choice you make, I will always love you."

And with that, Beatrice left him to his thoughts.

* * * * *

That night, as he lay in bed waiting for sleep to claim him, he knew he had to make a decision – a decision that would not only affect his life, but others as well. He could continue down the path that had been set by his father: marry Kate, make the corporation stronger, and give up a part of himself in the process.

Or he could break things off now, while there was still time, deal with the fallout that this choice would create, with both his father and Kate, and start over, living his life to please only one person – himself.

* dream quote by Marsha Norman

 

 

Chapter 2

A teasing tongue licked a trail from ankle to knee, lips and teeth lightly nipping at the coarse, dark hair. A quiet chuckle erupted from the darkness as Orlando half-heartedly struggled to pull the sensitive appendage away from his ‘attacker’.

"You know what that does to me," Orlando said as the slick muscle traversed its way higher.

"Yes, I do and that’s precisely why I do it," the disembodied voice replied before sucking gently at the juncture where leg met groin.

Orlando sank farther into bliss as the talented mouth continued its torturous journey.

The blissful smile that had graced Orlando’s sleep-relaxed features quickly faded away.

"Who is he, Kate? And how long has this been going on?"

"Do you know how many man-hours we have invested in this merger?"

"I don’t care! This is my life, not yours, Father. What worked for you and Mother is not what I want. I realize that now. Disown me, disinherit me, I don’t care! I won’t play your games anymore."

"Follow your heart, my son. Only then will you be truly happy."

"Once a cock-sucker, always a cock-sucker, eh Orlando?"

"Millions of dollars, Orlando! That’s what we’d be losing if you don’t marry Kate!"

"Money! That’s all that matters to you, isn’t it? Not love, not family – unless they’re doing your bidding. No wonder Mother spends the majority of her time away from here!"

Orlando’s body jolted awake from the force of the slap that his father had bestowed to his cheek less than a week ago, bringing him abruptly from the dream world back to reality. Lifting a shaky hand to his cheek, he could swear he still felt the heat that remained for long minutes afterwards.

Moonlight filtered into the darkened bedroom, highlighting Sidi as he stretched at the foot of the bed, no doubt upset by the fact that his master’s sudden movement had awakened him. Curious eyes looked up at Orlando.

"Sorry, boy," the young man offered as his fingers slid over his companion’s back, soothing not only the animal, but himself as well. Sidi was his one constant, the only thing he could count on these days. If he wanted to be honest with himself, his dream-lover was there as well. Even throughout the hell that his life had become since his return from Martha’s Vineyard, the dreams had continued.

Sleep-filled eyes finally adjusting to the moonlit room, Orlando listened to the sound of cicadas that filled the quiet night. A gentle breeze ruffled the gauzy curtains that had been tied back, drifted over and around Orlando, gently caressing his skin. He would have enjoyed this peaceful time had it not been for the ugliness that had crept into his dream. He turned onto his side and stared into the darkness beyond the windows, his mind drifting back to memories better left alone.

After the inevitable confrontations and the subsequent fallout, he had retreated to Silverlake, Virginia, more specifically, to one of Gran’s vacation homes overlooking Horseshoe Bay. The fact that it had been Orlando’s favorite while growing up did not escape his notice when Gran offered it to him.

He had turned down her offer for a housekeeper while he was there, assuring her that he could handle things on his own. It wasn’t as if he was going to make use of all five bedrooms, the three bathrooms, or the formal living and dining areas. One bedroom and bath, the kitchen, living room and study were all he needed.

Upon his arrival, he had been surprised to find a lady he vaguely remembered from his childhood, Mrs. Higgins, puttering around in the kitchen.

"Just putting away the groceries Beatrice requested," she had offered. "The house has been cleaned from top to bottom, linens on the beds changed, and even though she said you didn’t want me to help out during your stay, I’d be willing to drop in once a week and give it a quick once-over."

Orlando didn’t have the heart to say no, so they agreed she would come out on Thursdays, for the remainder of his stay, however long that might be.

When he had left New York the day before, there were only three people who knew his destination: his mother, Gran, and his co-consultant at Copeland, David Wenham. David would take care of things while Orlando took this much needed break; although his laptop was sitting on the desk in the study, in case something came up that David couldn’t handle alone. Orlando might be the heir to the empire, but he still worked for a paycheck, just like everyone else.

His thoughts drifted to the reason he was here, in Silverlake, and his body tensed at the memories. It had been a total shock to find out that Kate had been seeing someone during their engagement. He had seen it with his own eyes. Kate and a man - a Lundi Shackleton, she said his name was – were walking her dog in the park across from her apartment building. Orlando had sat quietly in his Jeep and watched, his heart pounding furiously in his chest. They had shared a passionate embrace and kiss before parting ways, Kate going into the building and the other man heading down the block, presumably to his car.

Anger flared red-hot as he slid from the Jeep, clipped Sidi’s leash onto his collar, and braced himself for what was to come. Instead of using his key, for he felt that he was no longer entitled to that one small act, he knocked on the door and waited.

Kate was all smiles when she opened it. "Oh Lundi, what did you forget this time?" she asked and then her eyes widened, realizing that she had just given everything away she had been hiding for the past year.

What followed was a scene unlike any Orlando had ever experienced before. True to form, Kate had used tears as her first weapon of choice, knowing in the past, it had worked. She was a bit dismayed when Orlando remained unaffected. Next she tried a verbal onslaught, not that there was anything she could say to explain her actions downstairs and in the park. After that came a game of ‘dodge the flying article’ as she grabbed the closest thing not nailed down and hurled it across the room. Orlando ducked just in time, although a shard of glass from the figurine glanced across his arm, leaving a scratch in its wake. Finally, Orlando did something he had promised he would never do to a female. He grabbed her by the arms and shoved her back against the wall.

"It’s over, Kate," he hissed. "You can kiss your meal ticket good-bye. Your family will just have to find someone else to manipulate, because I’m through with you."

She laughed and it reminded Orlando of the evil witch on ‘The Little Mermaid’. "That’s what you think, Orlando dear. You’ll play the good son and do exactly what daddy wants."

He leaned forward, bringing his face within inches of hers. "That’s where you’re wrong. While I was at Gran’s, I did a bit of soul-searching. Would you like to know what I found there? It sure as hell wasn’t you," he said in a deceptively calm voice. "I realized that I had given up a part of myself when we became involved, and I’m taking it back." At her confused look, he slowly released his grip on her arms and stepped back. "Oh, don’t worry, Katie. You won’t have to worry about seeing me with another woman – ever – because I’m through with the lot of you," he said with a small smile.

Realization dawned on the blonde and her eyes narrowed, but before she could say anything, Orlando continued. "That’s right. I’m going back to ‘my other life’, as you called it, because that’s where my heart is, where it should have stayed. I hope you and this Lundi fellow have a great life – without my family’s money," he said as he turned for the door.

Kate hurled herself at him and he caught her easily enough, tossing her onto the couch. "I’ll make you pay for this, Orlando! Your life won’t be worth SHIT when I get through with you!" she screeched.

Hand on the knob, the young man turned around and pinned Kate with a stare. "That’s where you’re wrong, but you’re more than welcome to try. Yours, on the other hand, is a different matter. I’m not the one who needs to marry well in order to get ahead in the world, so I’d think twice about spilling this to the tabloids. Although," he paused, "I wonder what the masses would say about your fiancé reverting back to his old ways because you couldn’t keep him satisfied?" he mused before walking out, Sidi at his heels.

"Bastard!" she yelled at the closed door, causing Orlando to shake his head as he and his companion made their way to the bank of elevators.

"One down and one to go, Sidi my man," he said as the doors slid closed.

The confrontation with his parents was considerably less violent, physically speaking. Verbally, it was far worse, but then again, his father had become a master of manipulation, knowing exactly which buttons to push and when.

The elder Bloom ordered, not requested, but *ordered* his son to make amends with his fiancé. He claimed short of the world ending, the wedding would progress as planned and the merger papers would be signed the following day. Harry brushed aside the fact that his future daughter-in-law had been having an affair as if it meant nothing.

"Probably all your fault, you know," Harry had said. "With your previous inclinations towards men, I’d be surprised if you knew what to do with a woman in your bed."

The comment stung, but Orlando shrugged it off, as well as all of the other ugly, hateful things the older man had spewed forth. He knew he was doing the right thing for himself, regardless of what everyone else thought or said.

He glanced at his mother, who sat quietly to the side, her eyes full of sympathy for her only son. His heart broke for her, a woman so full of kindness and love. She had been forced into the same kind of marriage that his father was trying to force on him. Hateful and hurtful words flew about the room until she could no longer stand it and fled to the sanctuary of her rooms. Orlando could do nothing but watch his mother go.

When Orlando joined her later, the outline of his father’s fingers could still be seen on the tender flesh of his face. She applied a cool cloth to the reddened area and brushed the curls back away from his face.

"Follow your heart, my son. Only then will you be truly happy."

Orlando had called his Gran later that evening, relaying the events of the past few hours to her. She had been a bit shocked to learn that Harry had resorted to that sort of physical violence, but Orlando was finally out from beneath the man’s thumb, free to live his life as he pleased.

"You don’t have to worry about being disinherited," Gran had said. "I still own the controlling shares of Copeland, and when I’m gone, they’ll be yours. Besides, it’s not like you don’t already have an account or two of your own."

Orlando had laughed at that, and suddenly felt better about everything.

"Why don’t you take some time off, get away from New York for a little while, and see about putting your life back together. You haven’t been to Silverlake in quite some time, have you? The house is yours for as long as you need it. Kick back and be a man of leisure."

"I can’t do that to David, Gran. I can’t just up and leave when things go south," Orlando countered.

"Don’t make me pull rank on you, Orli. You need a break and I’m telling you to take one. Copeland will survive without you. And if it makes you feel better, bring that damnable laptop you’re so fond of traveling with and park it in the study."

Her argument convinced him. He had packed the laptop, although he hadn’t turned it on yet, and wouldn’t unless David needed help. He probably wouldn’t, but his friend soothed his ego by assuring him that he would call if anything problematic came up.

So there he was, in one of his favorite places on earth, at a complete loss for what to do next. Sidi stirred in his sleep, his paws twitching as if he was chasing something in his dreams. Sleep seemed a viable option and a small smile played on Orlando’s lips as he closed his eyes, wondering what was waiting for him in his own dreams.

Skilled fingers teased and taunted, stretched and prepared him while his lover took him to the brink time and time again, only to deny him the release he so dearly craved.

In the next moment, he felt the blunt head of the thick cock pressing against him, slipping beyond the guardian muscle and into his heated depths.

Eyes closed and back arched, he pulled his lover farther into himself. He felt the butterfly-soft kisses at his throat, felt the scratch of his lover’s facial hair against his heated skin.

"Mine," he heard whispered against his ear before his lover took him to the stars and beyond.

 

 

Chapter 3

It surprised Orlando that it was after eight when he finally crawled out of bed the next morning. Normally, he was up before the sun and on one of the many jogging paths in Central Park before six. He couldn’t remember the last time he had slept in.

He stretched lazily, arms reaching for the sky as he re-energized his sleep-laden muscles.  He gazed out the large windows of his temporary bedroom, taking in the beauty of Horseshoe Bay. Sailboats lazily meandered around the area, their sails standing tall and proud in the early morning breeze; small waves lapped quietly at the sandy shore. The warm sunlight caressed his skin as he watched a flock of water foul take flight, their bodies reflecting on the water’s glistening surface.

He heard the telltale click – click – click of Sidi’s nails on the hardwood floor a moment before he felt the cold nose brush against his calf. Images from last night’s dream danced in his head, images of that wicked tongue teasing his sensitive skin, and he closed his eyes, finally able to enjoy them without feeling guilty. Sidi nudged him again and he looked down.

"Guess you need to go outside and take care of business," he said with a smile. "Let me throw some clothes on and then we’ll go for a run on the beach. How’s that sound?"

The canine visibly shook from excitement before he turned and fled the room, his nails clicking down the hallway. The sound faded away as he descended the stairs and disappeared to somewhere on the first floor.

"Crazy mutt," the young man said affectionately and went in search of his clothes.

The bay breeze wrapped itself around Orlando when he stepped onto the back patio, Sidi darting between him and the door in an effort to obtain his freedom as quickly as possible.

Orlando had a thought before he took off for his morning run and went back inside. He quickly opened all of the windows on the first floor before gathering their curtains and tying them back, allowing the morning breeze into the house.

Taking a deep breath, he smiled. "I could get used to this," he said as he stepped out onto the patio once more. Sidi was rooting around in the shrubbery and yelped suddenly, causing Orlando to lean over the deck railing. "What have you gone and done now?" he asked his four-legged friend who had moved several feet away from the spot where he had just been.

His question was answered when a huge orange and white striped cat skulked out of the bushes, its eyes never leaving the black monster sitting in the yard. Orlando laughed, startling the cat and watched as it made a beeline up the nearest tree, Sidi hot on its trail.

"You’re not a tree climber, Sidi, so give it up and leave the poor cat in peace," he said as he slapped his leg. "Come on, boy. Let’s go run."

The canine looked back and forth between his master and the thing in the tree growling at him. Orlando’s whistle caught his attention and he slowly slunk back to his master. Orlando laughed again when his companion looked back at the tree as if saying, "Yeah, your ass is mine later, fur ball."

Orlando had taken up running while in school and it had stuck with him afterwards, all through college and up until present day.  His stay in Silverlake would not change that.  At least here he had a wide-open space to run; here he did not have to stick to the same running paths that everyone else did, the greenbelts that wound their way through Central Park. Here he could relax and set his own pace, not having to worry that he might be slowing others or the opposite, that he wouldn’t run anyone over if he chose to sprint at some point.

An eclectic mix of homes lined the shore of the bay, old interspersed with new, large and small stood proudly side by side, no rhyme or reason to the architectural styles. It was like a collage of homes, each contributing to the overall beauty of the shore. A few people milled about, looking up when they heard the sound of Sidi’s playful bark as they continued on their run.  Orlando’s laughter was caught by the wind as he watched his companion sprint ahead, chasing anything that crossed his path.

* * * * *

It was an extremely rare occasion that Viggo Mortensen was still at home after eight on a weekday morning, but today seemed to be one of those few instances. He had scrambled out of bed at four that morning, propped a new canvas up on the easel in his studio, and started a new project. Now, over four hours later, he stood back to survey his work thus far.

Intertwining swirls of brown and gold covered the surface in broad strokes, with smaller alternating colors imbedded within each of those. He wasn’t sure what the end result would be, as this was just the first of a series of steps that would be taken. He wouldn’t rush or force the creativity; his mind would tell him when to take the next step, and what that step would be. Satisfied with this round, he dropped the brushes into a jar of mineral spirits and went in search of coffee. He’d clean the brushes later with turpentine, after he had his morning jolt of caffeine.

Through his open kitchen window, the sound of a barking dog caught his attention and he briefly wondered if one of his neighbor’s hounds had escaped their fence. It wouldn’t be the first time, he mused as he poured himself a cup of the steaming brew. He moved to the back door, shoulder propped against the doorjamb, his eyes looking out over the bay. It was a sight he never tired of seeing.

As he lifted the mug to his lips, a movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention. A black dog running willy-nilly down the shoreline, stopped suddenly in front of Viggo’s house and looked back down the beach.

Ahh, so it’s not one of the neighbor’s dogs, he mused. Wonder who it belongs to?

And then he heard it – the sound of someone laughing. The owner of said laughter came into view a few seconds later and Viggo’s hand paused in mid air. His artistic eye roamed the young man’s body, for it was definitely a young man, starting at the riot of dark curls that swayed with each step he took, over the long expanse of neck that disappeared into the sweat-soaked t-shirt that clung to what looked like a nicely toned chest and flat stomach. Viggo could see strong arms, the biceps filling out the sleeves, the forearms nicely muscled. Unfortunately, a pair of track pants hid the subject’s legs, but from the way the young man was running, Viggo surmised that the legs would be powerful – muscular thighs and calves, but not overly so. He wasn’t bulky, by any means, lithe yet strong, he would say. He was too far away to get a glimpse of his facial features, but what the artist had seen so far, he definitely liked.

Azure eyes watched as the man ran past Viggo’s house until he was completely out of sight. Viggo finally took a sip of his nearly forgotten coffee and wondered if this was Miranda’s new beau. She had mentioned that he was coming into town for a few days, and if it was, she was one lucky lady. Viggo would rein in his thoughts, treat him with the respect he deserved, and not ogle him in public. Or in private, he added quickly. But until his identity had been ascertained, it was open season, he thought with a smile.

Viggo had a sudden yearning to hear that laughter in a more intimate setting, say his bedroom, for instance, as they fell onto his bed in a tangle of arms and legs, each trying to get the upper hand. He had no doubt the young man was strong, and imagined himself pinned beneath the stranger’s body, his arms raised above his head as sinful lips did wicked things to his body.

Viggo smiled as the setting changed. He had the young man pinned against the wall of his studio while his own lips searched out the spots that would elicit that intoxicating sound over and over, perhaps beneath his ribs, or the skin that covered what he was sure would be delectable hipbones.

The chirping of his cell phone pulled Viggo’s head out of the clouds as his eyes strained to catch one last glimpse of the unknown man. He finished the cup of coffee as he went in search of the tiny piece of technology that had interrupted his fantasies. Whoever was on the other end of the line had better have a damn good reason for calling.

* * * * *

Fresh out of the shower, Orlando pulled on a pair of tattered jeans, complete with holes in the knees, along with an even rattier black t-shirt bearing the Jack Daniel’s logo and headed into the study. His laptop taunted him from its place on his grandmother’s oak desk, and he fought the urge to set it up. Instead, he turned his attention to the book-laden shelves, his fingers trailing over the leather spines of books he was certain were older than his measly twenty-eight years.

There was no order to the chaos; it appeared that they were just … there. Classics were mixed in with the modern day romance novels Orlando knew Gran cherished, science fiction and books on politics.

Well, he thought with a sigh, here was something that would keep him occupied for a day or so.

His cell phone echoed throughout the house and he made a quick dash into the kitchen, Sidi running after him, thinking it was playtime. He snatched up the silver case and checked the Caller ID before answering.

"I was wondering when you would get around to checking on me," he said as he took a seat on one of the tall stools at the breakfast bar.

"Wanted to give you time to get settled in. How was the drive?" Gran asked with a smile.

"We made pretty good time, actually. Pulled in mid-afternoon to find Mrs. Higgins putting away the groceries. You didn’t have to do that, you know."

Gran’s laughter filled the earpiece. "I know I didn’t, but you had enough on your mind as it was. You didn’t need to add a trip to the grocery store to that list."

"Well, thank you anyway. And she’s agreed to come by on Thursdays to give the place a quick once-over, even though it won’t need it."

"So tell me, what do you think of the place? Is it all you remembered?" Gran asked, settling into the wicker rocker and listening to her grandson’s voice recount the things he and Sidi had done since their arrival. He seemed to be doing better than he had been several days ago, and she was glad he had listened to her.

"I assure you that the books are just fine the way they are, Orli, so don’t waste one single minute on them," she admonished at his suggestion to put them in some kind of order.

"But what if I want to read something specific?"

"Where’s the fun in that? Just reach up and grab one. You never know what you might find," she teased.

"Gran, I love you, but I really don’t want to get caught up in those romance novels you’re so fond of," he said with a bodily shiver. "Not really my cup of tea any longer, remember?"

Beatrice laughed. "Well, no matter. There’s a bookstore in town that might have what you’re looking for."

"I seriously doubt it," he countered, knowing that a small town like Silverlake would not have gay erotica books readily available. "I’ll just have to hook up the laptop and do some surfing."

"Will you promise me something?" she asked, concerned now. "Promise me you won’t stay cooped up in the house the entire time. You need to get out, meet new people, broaden your horizons," Gran suggested. "Take Sidi to the park, wander the shops, enjoy not having any responsibilities."

Orlando looked down at his companion, who had stretched out on the cool ceramic tile. "I’ll have you know we got up this morning and took a leisurely run along the bay."

Delicate silver eyebrows lifted. "Did you now? Run into anyone interesting?"

Sable curls brushed Orlando’s shoulder as he shook his head. "No, but then again, it was late, so if anyone else was running, I’m sure they had already been there and gone."

A mischievous grin broke out on Beatrice’s face, one that she was glad her grandson couldn’t see. "Oh, what a shame. I was hoping you might find someone you could run with."

"Not very subtle, there, Gran," Orlando teased.

She leaned back in the rocker, setting it in motion once again. "There’s no harm in having running partner, Orli."

"My running partner has four legs, thank you very much. Besides, I thought you wanted me to take it easy, be a man of leisure and all that, which means I can sleep in, if I so choose."

Beatrice nodded. "Yes, it does, and I meant what I said. Enjoy your time there, but don’t rush it."

"I won’t."

"So what are the plans for the day?" she asked.

"Hang out here, maybe do a bit of exploring."

"Not going into town?"

"Nah. I think we’ll do that tomorrow," he explained.

"Good, good. The town square would be a perfect place to start," she suggested.

"Will do. Anything else?"

The mischievous smile returned, but she held her tongue. "No, just … enjoy yourself. I’ll talk to you in a few days," she said before disconnecting the call.

Crystal blue eyes looked at a framed black and white photograph sitting on the side table. "Well, Philip, he’s there. Now let’s hope they find each other."

 

 

Chapter 4

A normally passive Sidi struggled against his leash, eager to explore his new surroundings, but Orlando held tight, the braided brown leather loop wrapped securely around his wrist as they continued down the sidewalk. Once they were back at the house, he’d let his exuberant pup loose, free to run and play and terrorize anything he could find, but until then, Sidi would endure the restraint.

Downtown Silverlake was just as Orlando remembered, quaint and beautiful. Randolph Park was at the heart of the town, an expanse of green that covered roughly nine square blocks of real estate. Stately oak trees lined the perimeter of the area, their branches providing welcome shade to those beneath. Smaller trees, magnolias, elms, and maples, graced the center area of the park. A children’s playground reigned supreme at one end, swings, slides and monkey bars that Orlando had played on when he was a small boy. Of course, it had been updated since that time, but the memories remained. At the opposite end, a gazebo sat proudly in the center of barely controlled flora and fauna, the colors vibrant in the shafts of sunlight that filtered through the overhead canopy. Wooden benches and water fountains were situated throughout the entire area.

Numerous shops overlooked the park, their doors thrown open, welcoming all who entered. Orlando and Sidi passed antique shops, tearooms, a bakery (which Sidi felt the need to explore further only to be brought up short when the length of his leash was considerably reduced), the bookstore Gran had mentioned, a few clothing stores. A beauty shop stood beside the town’s barber, his shop complete with the requisite revolving red and white striped pole.

Orlando spotted a small art gallery he wanted to explore, but decided against it for the time being since he had Sidi with him. He promised himself that he would come back. The library shared a block with city hall on the east side of the park, a sign pointing the way down a side street to the post office and police station.

It was less crowded on that particular side of the area, so Orlando let the leash out to its full six feet, a decision that he regretted a few minutes later. Sidi had darted out in front of him at the same time someone approached the main road, coming up from the post office.

Viggo did not see the extended leash, his eyes focused on the letters in his hand, and before he realized what had happened, he had walked into it. The feel of something on his legs jarred him from this thoughts and he quickly looked down to see a braided strip of brown leather sliding across his thighs. The next thing he knew, a warm body was pressed against his side.

Orlando’s breath left his body in a rush as he collided with the stranger, and fought to maintain his hold on the leash. Viggo clenched his envelopes in one hand and grabbed for the leash with the other in an attempt to halt the black dog at its end. Sidi’s forward progress was abruptly interrupted.

"Sorry about that," the young man offered as he quickly took a couple of steps back to put some distance between himself and the very *male* body he had careened into. His eyes slid over the nicely proportioned body and halted on the man’s face. The term ‘rugged’ came to mind as sky blue eyes peered back at him from beneath a fringe of sandy blond hair. The strong features, chiseled cheekbones and jaw, reminded Orlando of a cowboy. He briefly wondered about the scar crossing the man’s upper lip.

"No harm done," Viggo replied in a soft, southern drawl. "You got it?" he asked and released the strap of leather when Orlando nodded.

"Yeah, thanks," he said with an embarrassed smile. It had been quite some time since he had actually *looked* at another man, and he was momentarily taken aback at how much he was affected by it. Adrenaline pulsed in his veins and his body flushed at the sudden jump in temperature. It was a feeling that he hadn’t experienced in a long while, not since…

"You might want to keep him reeled in over on this side of the square. City hall and all," Viggo suggested as he motioned to Sidi, who was now sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, watching the two men curiously. "Never know where the canine cops are lurking," he teased.

Orlando chuckled. "Thanks. I’ll remember that for next time."

"So you’re not from around there then. Viggo Mortensen," he said as he offered his hand. "I own Art House Coffee Shop across the way." He tilted his head, indicating the opposite side of the square.

"Orlando Bloom." Orlando took Viggo’s hand and felt another jolt of adrenaline assault his system.

Sky blue eyes took in the man in front of him and recognition dawned. "Were you running by the bay yesterday morning?" he queried and smiled when the young man nodded. "Well, welcome to the neighborhood then, literally. I live on the bay as well. Listen, I hate to cut this short, but I need to get back to the shop. I never know what crisis I’ll come back to when I leave Dom in charge," he teased. "Come by later and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee."

And with that, the older man was gone, leaving a stunned Orlando standing alone on the sidewalk, Sidi sitting quietly at his feet. His eyes followed Viggo’s form as the man walked away, his confident strides taking him through the park and to his business.

This wasn’t just a simple appreciation for the male form, Orlando thought to himself once he began to move again. His pulse was still a bit elevated from the jolts to his system, but he recognized it for what it truly was.

He was attracted to Viggo, plain and simple.

Viggo had invited him to his establishment for a cup of coffee, and Orlando wasn’t going to pass on that offer. Not if it meant seeing Viggo again.

* * * * *

Viggo’s heart thumped wildly as he crossed the park. Damn, could the young man be any more gorgeous? He mused. Eyes the color of rich chocolate framed by impossibly long lashes had captured Viggo’s appreciative eye immediately. Once he had regained a portion of his senses, he noticed the high cheekbones and a pair of bow-shaped lips surrounded by a sparse goatee that would look ridiculous on anyone else. On Orlando, it worked. Viggo had fought the urge to reach out and touch it – to see if it was as soft as it looked. The man’s hair was a riot of russet curls that seemed to have a mind of their own, blowing this way and that while they had stood talking for those few precious seconds.

At least in Viggo’s opinion, they were precious.

So now he had a face to go with the tantalizing body he had watched yesterday morning, and what a lethal combination they made. Before he realized it, he was stepping through the door to the coffee shop, bracing himself for the latest crisis.

* * * * *

Settled beneath a tree in the park with the box lunch he had purchased at Gabby’s, one of the eateries he had come across, Orlando watched the children dart back and forth between playground equipment. Sidi’s leash had been tied to a nearby bench, thus assuring Orlando he could actually eat his meal, without worrying that his dog would drag him halfway across the park in an attempt to play with the kids.

The homemade chicken salad sandwich reminded Orlando of the ones he had shared with Gran last weekend. He had laughed when she booted Gracie, her cook, out of the kitchen for a bit so she could make them herself. Never let it be said that Beatrice Copeland was waited on hand and foot. Yes, she had a cook and a maid, but she had hired them more for their company than for their assistance.

Orlando leaned back against the trunk of the old oak tree and closed his eyes, enjoying the sounds around him: the children’s laughter and squeals of delight as they flew down the winding slide, squirrels twittering back and forth somewhere above him, the sound of a nearby woodpecker. While he had heard these same sounds in New York, they had never given him a sense of belonging like they did now.

Today, he felt as if he were exactly where he was supposed to be.

His eyes drifted to the block that housed Art House Coffee Shop and Orlando wondered if its owner had anything to do with that. Before he left New York, he hadn’t gone to any of his old haunts or called any of his old friends, not because he didn’t want to, it was that he hadn’t had time to, really. He had stayed in the city only long enough to talk to David, pack a couple of bags, and visit his mother. Everything would be there when he returned.

Feeling his mood slipping, he pushed aside the negative thoughts and concentrated on the here and now. Sidi lay on his stomach in the lush green grass and watched the children. Orlando crawled over the short distance separating them and stretched out beside him. The sun was warm on his face as he looked up into the cloudless sky and he dug his fingers into the cool grass beneath him. He felt Sidi’s head propped on his chest and his hand automatically stroked the soft fur.

"What would I do without you?" he asked, knowing that one, the question would go unanswered, and two, he never wanted to find out.

* * * * *

Viggo’s hand moved steadily over the yellow scratch pad, the combination of lines and shadows creating an image that had been seared into his memory. Once again, the artist in him demanded satisfaction, and who was he to deny it? Especially when the subject looked like this.

A knock on his office door pulled his focus from the pad in front of him.

"Um, Vig. There’s someone here asking about you," the nervous young man said. "Didn’t know if you wanted to be disturbed or not."

The older man looked up from his task and through the half-opened door, caught a glimpse of Orlando standing at the counter. A small smile tugged at his lips.

"That’d be Orlando. We met earlier today while I was on my way back from the post office," Viggo said as he tossed the sketch onto his desk and stood. "Promised I’d buy him a cup of coffee."

Dom’s gaze lingered on his boss’ desk for a moment before closing the door behind him. Something was brewing, and it wasn’t coffee.

"I didn’t mean to interrupt anything," Orlando said when he spotted Viggo coming from his office. "It’s just that you said.."

"To come by," Viggo finished for him. "I did, and you weren’t interrupting anything," he said as he moved behind the counter. "Now, what can I get for Silverlake’s newest resident?"

"Cup of coffee?" Orlando asked.

"Well, you might have to be a bit more specific," Viggo said as he pointed to the menu on the wall behind the counter, which caused Orlando to laugh.

"Oh, it’s one of *those* places. A small town Starbucks?" he teased as his eyes took in the vast array of coffees and drinks Viggo’s coffee shop had to offer. "How about an iced café latte?"

"Coming right up," Viggo said as he pulled a Styrofoam cup from its holder and then filled it. "So where’s that juvenile delinquent of yours?"

"Juvenile delinquent?" Orlando repeated. "Oh, you must mean Sidi. He’s tied up to the railing outside with strict instructions to behave himself."

"Good thing. I’d hate to see my wrought iron railing dragged through the streets," the older man said before turning back to the counter and handing Orlando his coffee.

After taking a drink, Orlando nodded. "Good stuff. Thank you. Though I don’t think he’d go that far. Maybe drag a table or chair off, but not the railing," he teased. "But just in case, I’d better get out there with him. Thanks again for the coffee." Orlando raised his cup in salute.

"You’re welcome," Viggo answered before the young man walked through the door and went to sit on the covered patio.

Viggo heard a quiet whistle behind him. "Now if that wasn’t a pretty sight, I don’t know what is," Dom said as he watched his boss watch the newcomer.

"Better be careful, Dommie. Your significant other might take offense to you scamming on the newcomers," the older man said.

The Brit laughed. "Nah, he’d agree with me. So?"

Blue eyes turned towards Dom. "So what?"

The young man made a shooing motion towards the door. "So, are you going to go speak to him?"

"I thought I just did," Viggo said as he grabbed a towel and wiped down the counter.

"Yeah, but he’s still here, or rather, there," he said as he pointed to the window. "Go talk to him, Vig. You know you want to."

"Says who?"

"Says the sketch that’s sitting on your desk right now," Dom said before walking away.

Sometimes that little shit was too smart for his own good.

* * * * *

"Is this seat taken?" a voice over Orlando’s shoulder asked.

Sidi perked up when he heard the newcomer’s voice, his tail wagging excitedly. Orlando turned and looked up at the man standing above him.

"No. Have a seat," he said and watched as the man lowered himself into the matching chair across from him. "So, skiving off work? What would your boss say if he caught you?"

"Probably nothing. I’m in pretty tight with him," Viggo offered with a small smile as he stretched his long legs out in front of him, crossing his feet at the ankles. "So, Orlando Bloom. What brings you to Silverlake? Business or pleasure?"

"Ahh, so you’re the town gossip," Orlando said after taking a drink. "I tried to guess who that title belonged to while we were wandering around today. Very interesting."

"Sorry to disappoint, but that title belongs to Winifred Earle. She’s the blue haired lady who owns Winnie’s Collectables and I’d be willing to bet she’s already got your entire life figured out."

Suspicious eyes cut to Viggo. "Blue hair?"

"Well, not really blue. It’s white with a bluish tint to it," Viggo explained. "So, are you going to answer my question?"

"Pleasure, actually. Earlier you said you lived on the bay? Where?"

"Tell me where you’re staying and I’ll tell you how far you are from me," Viggo suggested.

Sidi nudged Orlando’s hand and the young man obligingly scratched him behind the ears. "You’re not a serial killer, are you?" he teased, a smirk playing on his lips.

Viggo held up his right hand, as if making a promise. "I assure you that the only cereal I kill would be my Frosted Mini Wheats each morning."

Orlando’s laughter wrapped around Viggo and the older man realized it was the same sound he had heard yesterday morning. It wasn’t a fake laugh for his benefit, but an honest to goodness laugh. "Okay, you win," Orlando said as he settled down. "I’m staying at Beatrice Copeland’s place."

Viggo eyed the young man again. "Ahh, so you must be the grandson Bea is always raving about."

"Oh dear god, she doesn’t," Orlando lamented as his head hit the table, causing Viggo to chuckle.

"Yeah, she does. Well, did, the last few times she visited. And careful there, don’t want you to damage my tables," he imparted as he reached over and lifted the young man’s head, the soft, sable curls wrapping around his wrist. It was a feeling that had Viggo’s pulse quickening. "She said something about you getting married, but I can’t remember when she said the happy event was to take place."

Orlando winced at the mention of the now defunct wedding, causing the curls to fall from Viggo’s wrist. "It was supposed to be, let’s see, seven or so weeks from now."

"Supposed to be?"

"Yeah, as in not going to happen now," the young man offered with a grimace.

Orlando was saved from giving an explanation when Dom’s head appeared in the doorway. "Hey Vig, phone call. It’s Richard over at Stewart Distributors about the order you put in."

Viggo looked over his shoulder. "Tell him I’ll be right there," he said and then stood at the table. "Listen, I need to take this call, but feel free to drop by anytime. I’ll see about ditching my boss so we can continue our conversation."

"Thanks. I just might do that," Orlando said as he also stood. "And thanks again for the coffee."

"My pleasure," Viggo said with a smile before disappearing into the coffee shop.

Orlando’s gaze followed the man and stopped short when he came across another pair of eyes watching him.

Dom smiled to himself. It seemed that Viggo wasn’t the only one interested.

 

 

Chapter 5

Just as he had done over the past few mornings, Orlando tied the curtains back, allowing the morning breeze to drift into the house. He really could get used to this way of living, he thought as he stepped onto the back porch to stretch for his morning run. No deadlines, no stress, no schedules he had to follow – work or otherwise. He knew that at some point he would have to return to the real world, but until then, he would enjoy his time away from it all.

His mind drifted during his run, his thoughts appearing in no certain order, no rhyme or reason as to why they were there. They just were. As usual, Sidi’s antics put a smile on his face. This morning, the inquisitive dog had stumbled across a hermit crab and was in the process of pawing at the shell, then leaning down to investigate.

Orlando stopped on the shoreline, watching the scene before him when he felt a sense of deja-vu wash over him, the hair on the nape of his neck tingling. He looked around and realized that he had been there before, standing in that exact spot … not when he was younger, but recently. His eyes scanned the area, searching for something that would help him remember, and as they came back to the water, he knew.

He had seen this in one of his dreams.

He had felt a presence at his back and then strong arms circled his waist. Orlando leaned back against the solid chest, surprisingly content with the minimal contact. They watched the sun as it slid behind the trees across the bay, watched the colors as they faded away.

That had been it, just the two men standing together, enjoying the peace that surrounded them. Orlando felt that same calm wash over him again and realized it was Horseshoe Bay that appeared in his dreams.

His mind was suddenly cluttered with unanswered questions, and he called out to Sidi before reversing his direction, wanting to get back to the house as soon as he could.

A bit later, he sat on the bed of the master suite, not sure exactly what was going on. He had slowly walked through the house, looking out each window, opening his mind and allowing the dreams to resurface at will. Some windows he recognized, like the one here in the master suite, which seemed to be the predominant one. There were a few others that had appeared in his dreams, as well, the one in the living room and the arched window in the attic.

But there were other windows, other places, he knew he had never seen before and he wondered where those might be. He was fairly certain that the body of water in those same snapshots was Horseshoe Bay, but where? Whose house was it?

And what about the man in his dreams? He still had not seen the face, but that was good, right? Because if he did see it, would he start looking for the mystery man in crowds everywhere he went? That in itself would be enough to drive anyone around the bend. No, it would be better for the face to remain in the shadows.

Then there was the voice, Orlando mused. He had heard it a few times in the dream world, but there was nothing remarkable about it, other than the fact that it had an interesting effect on his body. There had been nothing specific to give it away, like where the man was from, if he were old or young. It was deep and raspy, but his own voice could become that way under the right circumstances.

His eyes landed on the phone next to the bed and he was tempted to call his grandmother, to get her take on what was going on, but decided against it. She had helped him out more than he cared to admit, so he would try to figure it all out on his own. If that didn’t work, then and only then, he would call her.

Orlando shook his head, laughing at himself. He was definitely losing it. The dreams had served their purpose: they showed him who he was and how things were supposed to be. It did not mean the man in the dreams was his future as well.

He padded to the adjoining bathroom and turned on the shower, pushing his latest train of thought aside for now.

There was a cup of coffee in town calling his name.

* * * * *

"Dom, how many times do I have to tell you to stop trying to reinvent the wheel?" Viggo asked as he watched his manager and best friend pour several different ingredients into a cup.

"As many times as it takes for me to come up with something different, oh wise one," the Brit said with a smirk. "Just think, if I do come up with an interesting new taste, Art House will be the only one with it. You’ll make millions!"

The older man shook his head, although he was hiding a smile. "You’ll make me bankrupt is what you’ll end up doing."

"Gotta spend money to make money, or didn’t they teach you that in business school?" Dom’s eyes lit up when Orlando walked through the door. "Orli! Care to taste my newest invention?"

He held his hands up in a defensive position. "No, Dom. I’m not going to be your human guinea pig today."

"Smart man," Viggo said under his breath. He moved to the back counter area and efficiently prepared Orlando’s drink without thinking. It was only when he placed it on the front counter that he realized what he had done.

Orlando said nothing, just tossed a few bills onto the counter and smiled. "Thanks." His stomach fluttered a bit at the gesture and he wondered if Viggo did that for everyone.

Dom snickered before disappearing into the storeroom.

Orlando collected his cup and did what he had been wanting to since he first stepped into the small establishment – he finally took the time to look at the works of art that were hung throughout the shop.

"Art House Coffee Shop," he said with a smile. "I get it now."

Viggo tossed a towel over his shoulder as he walked beside Orlando. Not close enough to encroach on the man’s personal space, but yet near enough that Viggo could smell faint traces of aftershave. "Yeah, I wanted to give something back to the community, and this was how I did it. All of the paintings and photographs here are by locals who donated them to the shop. Everything is for sale, although not much gets sold."

"Why not?" Orlando had stopped in front of a black and white photo of an old house with a rocking chair on the front porch. The shutters were askew and a lone tennis shoe sat on one of the steps.

"I think it’s a matter of pride. These pieces are a part of the community as well as this place," Viggo said quietly. "I don’t think they want to upset the balance."

Orlando continued on to an oil painting that, at first glance, looked to be a mess, but the longer he stood there, he began to notice things. Words had been written on the canvas and then covered with a lighter coat of paint, as if the artist were trying to hide them. The young man’s eyes traveled to the gold plate below it and his eyes widened.

"This is yours?" he asked as he looked at the other man.

Viggo shrugged. "One of them."

Orlando’s eyes went back to the painting. "Wow," he said quietly, not wanting to embarrass the man by making a big deal about it. It was good, in Orlando’s opinion. Better than good. He had friends who would pay outrageous sums of money for things like this.

"So have you sold any of your stuff?" he asked as he moved on.

"A few pieces here and there. Nothing substantial, I can assure you," he admitted. "Plus, I paint when the mood strikes, and even then, half of what I start on never sees the outside of my studio. It took a whole lot of convincing by Dom and a few others for me to hang my own stuff in here."

Orlando nodded. "I haven’t had a chance to go to the gallery yet, though I want to."

"You’ll enjoy it. I go over there once a week to see what’s new," Viggo said as they moved through the building.

"Let me know next time you go and I’ll go with you, if you don’t mind," he said off-handedly. He definitely wanted to spend more time with the interesting man; he liked art, so he didn’t see the harm in it.

Viggo studied the young man’s profile while Orlando was absorbed in the pictures before him. "How long do you plan to be in town?"

"Couple of weeks, a month? I don’t know. I’m on what some would call an extended vacation."

No other information was forthcoming and while Viggo wanted to ask, he held his tongue. There would be time since Orlando was planning on sticking around for more than just a few days.

"I host a poetry reading here every Tuesday night at seven, if you’re interested. Nothing fancy. People come in and read their own works or read something that’s special to them. Others just sit and enjoy," Viggo said as he followed Orlando to another wall filled with art. "Think you might be interested?"

A small smile played on Orlando’s lips as he turned to his friend. "I could be. Do you write poetry as well?" Viggo nodded. "I should have known," he said and then rushed back to the first painting he had seen. "That’s a poem under there, isn’t it?"

"Good eye."

Sienna eyes slid to the man standing next to him. "What’s it say?"

"Come to the reading Tuesday night and you just might find out," Viggo said as he pulled the towel from his shoulder and wiped down a nearby table. "Then again, you might not."

"You realize that’s blackmail," Orlando said as he looked at his friend.

"I prefer to call it gentle persuasion," Viggo answered with a wink.

 

 

Chapter 6 

The paint spattered area rug in Viggo’s studio could not be seen, hidden as it was by the vast amounts of cocktail napkins, hastily torn bits of parchment, notebook paper, and index cards. These were his thoughts spread out before him, his life, each poem different but written with the same love and devotion as all the others.

He thought back to the times he and Orlando had sat and talked, whether it was in a quiet corner of the coffee shop or on the covered terrace when the young man had his traveling companion with him, trading bits and pieces of information in an attempt to get to know each other better.

Over too many cups of coffee to count, he had listened to Orlando’s tales of times spent in Silverlake when he was a young boy, stories surrounding his life while he attended private schools, things he had seen while living in New York, how throwing oneself from a plane gave him a sense of freedom that nothing else could. He had talked about friends, both male and female, but nothing about past relationships.

Therein lay the crux of Viggo’s current dilemma.

He knew Orlando had been engaged, although he still hadn’t shared the reasons for their breakup, only said that it wasn’t an amicable parting of ways. So Orlando liked women. That wasn’t anything new to Viggo as he had played in that arena as well. What did confuse him, however, was the almost imperceptible flirting that seemed to be going on between them. It wasn’t anything overt, just little comments that Orlando had made, like he was testing the waters, and when that happened, Viggo gave a little of it back and watched his friend’s reaction.

If the young man had been straight as an arrow, he might have acted differently than he had, which was basically to accept it and continue on. A straight man might have taken offense to the double entendres that had found their way into their daily conversations, but Viggo being the people-person he was, never noticed any reaction other than acceptance.

So the young man might not be as straight as Viggo had originally thought. Now, what to do about it? How could he subtly convey a message to Orlando that they might be on the same page with things? Sure, he could come right out with it, but he didn’t want to scare the young man off if Viggo was wrong about him. He enjoyed their friendship and would not jeopardize that in hopes that there might be something else between them.

And then it hit him.

He scrambled frantically through the mess on the floor and smiled when his fingers found the page he was looking for. Leaning back against the wall, his eyes roamed the almost forgotten words and felt a spark of hope. With a few modifications, this would be perfect.

* * * * *

As Viggo mingled with the good folk of Silverlake who had converged on his establishment, he found his eyes constantly straying to the door in hopes that Orlando would make an appearance. The young man had not made his daily stop at the coffee shop, which had Viggo worried. Had something happened to his friend or had he simply decided to forego the reading?

Before he could work himself up more than he already had, he caught a glimpse of chocolate curls and amused brown eyes staring back at him from the open doorway.

Now what to do? As the host, he should greet his newest guest just like he had every other person who had crossed his threshold that evening, but he found himself holding back. Would Orlando be able to tell what he was up to? Viggo scoffed at himself for thinking such a ridiculous thought. Of course he wouldn’t.

Decision made, he had taken a few steps in the young man’s direction when a hand on his arm stopped him.

"It’s time," Barbara said as her eyes drifted to the clock above the door.

Viggo’s eyes, however, remained on Orlando. "Okay, get everyone seated and I’ll be right there," he said before heading to the front of the coffee shop.

Orlando hadn’t moved and a grin broke out on his face as Viggo approached. "Sorry I’m late. Finding a parking place around here was no easy feat. I didn’t realize there would be this many people here."

Viggo turned and looked at the crowd. "Not a bad turn out, I’d say. There’ve been nights where this place was packed to the rafters and then we’ve had nights that just a few people showed up. Listen, I need to get this thing started, so will you hang around after we’re done?" he asked.

Orlando lifted a shoulder. "Sure. Not like I’ve got anyone at home waiting for me, except for Sidi, and he’s outside terrorizing the nocturnal animals he comes across in the yard."

Viggo didn’t want to think too much about that statement. Instead, only offered, "Good. I’ll catch up with you when we’re finished." Viggo turned to go, but paused and looked back at Orlando. "It’s nice to see gentle persuasion works on you."

If you only knew, Orlando thought as he watched Viggo wind his way through the crowd who was now settling in to their seats. He moved over to the counter where Dom was filling a cup and laughed quietly when it was handed to him.

"Thanks man. So where’s your seat?" Orlando asked.

"Don’t have one, working man and all. I’ll get one of the stools from Vig’s office if you want to sit back here with me and listen to my running commentary about everyone."

"Sounds interesting," Orlando said and Dom disappeared for a moment, returning with the promised stool.

Orlando’s eyes flew to the corner of the room opposite him when he heard Viggo’s voice.

"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another night of poetry reading at Art House Coffee Shop. Now, who will be first tonight?" he asked the crowd and then moved aside when a petite woman made her way to the podium that had been brought out from the storeroom.

Orlando listened to each offering as it was read and was amazed at the vast differences between not only each poem, but the presentation as well. Some were more exuberant than others, using flailing body parts for emphasis. Dom and Orlando chuckled quietly at these. Others were more subdued, while some could barely be heard over the almost muted background music. Orlando had recognized several passages that were being read, while some he assumed were the artist’s own works.

Throughout the evening, Viggo’s eyes would stray to Orlando, wondering if he was enjoying himself, wondering what would happen after he read his offering. Viggo sighed. For whatever it was worth, the truth about himself would be out there. He just hoped it clicked with Orlando’s.

When it looked like everyone had taken his or her turn, Viggo stood at the podium once more.

"Looks like it’s my turn now," he said as his eyes scanned the room, resting on Orlando for a few moments before looking down at the paper in his hand. Breathing in a calming breath, he took the plunge.

"He sat down across from me and said he was in love. That he just wanted to enjoy it for as long as it lasted, that he didn’t want to judge the feeling compared to other times with other partners. All that did was rob you of time better spent in those new arms, he said.

"There wasn’t anything for me to say. I listened and imagined the memorable summer he was having, felt how easily his breathing came. He seemed stronger than I remembered. It was pleasant to be with him.

"I was left staring out the plate glass at the lushness of a willow long after he’d hurried home to (him). I forgot about my work, my family, the weather, everything. I almost forgot to pay the check.

Walking slowly across the park, in no hurry to get back to the office, I couldn’t think of anything except his hands."

Blue eyes met brown across the crowded coffee shop and Viggo’s heart nearly stopped when Orlando smiled.

Message received.

 

 

Chapter 7

Viggo had been a bit disappointed that Orlando had reneged on his promise to stay after, but that changed when Dom handed him a piece of paper.

Meet me at Bea’s place when you’re finished.
O

His pulse quickened at the thought of being alone with the young man, now that they realized they were on the same page. He felt his face warm from the flush that was spreading throughout his body and quickly looked up to see if anyone else noticed. His luck ran out when he met an amused pair of blue eyes.

"Go on and get out of here," Dom said with a smile. "I’ll finish up."

Viggo quickly stuffed the note in his pocket. "Nah, it’ll go quicker if we both pitch in."

Dom picked up a chair and turned it upside down on a table. "That may be, but it’s not every day you have someone like Orlando waiting for you either. Go, Viggo," he said as he tipped his head towards the door. "I’ve got things here."

The older man hesitated for a moment, torn between the need stay and help with the clean up and the need to see Orlando again. Dom’s friendly nudge towards the door set him into action and a few minutes later, he was in his car heading towards the lake, butterflies and all.

* * * * *

From Orlando’s place on the back porch, he heard the car approach. The engine switched off and all was quiet. He lit another cigarette, the simple act a telltale sign of his state of mind. It was a bad habit, he knew, but the nicotine calmed him. Sidi, on the other hand, was a flurry of movement. In a matter of seconds, he was around the house, greeting the newcomer.

Orlando chuckled quietly as he listened to Viggo, trying his best to calm the excited pup, his ‘juvenile delinquent’ as Viggo had called him when they first met. Orlando knew from experience the only way to accomplish that was to wait out Sidi’s excitement. Once that happened, he would settle down again.

Footsteps, both human and canine, approached on the wooden porch. Orlando laughed when Sidi threw himself into the swing he had vacated when he heard the car, giving his master a kiss.

"So what did you dig up this time?" Orlando teased as his eyes met Viggo’s.

"A fossil, it would seem," Viggo said as he leaned against the porch railing, watching the two on the swing.

Orlando scrubbed Sidi’s head. "I wouldn’t go that far. You’re not in the ground yet. Alright, Sidi, off you go," he said as he gave his pooch an affectionate shove, watching as the dog leapt from the swing and bounded down the stairs into the night. "Planning on standing there all night?"

Several thoughts of what Viggo wanted to do ‘all night’ skittered through the older man’s head. He found only one fantasy with him standing … behind Orlando in the shower. Best not go there, he thought to himself as he lowered his frame onto the swing.

With a push of his foot, Orlando set the swing in motion. After a few minutes of silence, he stubbed out his cigarette, blew out one last stream of smoke. "You took a big risk with what you did tonight," Orlando said quietly. "I guess it’s lucky for you I’m the kind of guy who can appreciate it. So, are you completely bent or are you flexible?"

It took Viggo a moment to decipher the terminology, but he finally understood what Orlando was asking. "Flexible."

"Me too, although I’ve pretty much sworn off women from here on out," he offered.

The older man nodded. "Was your sexuality the reason for you and your fiancé breaking things off, if you don’t mind me asking?"

A chuckle escaped from Orlando. "Part of it," he admitted as he contemplated his next move. "I don’t know how to say this without sounding like an idiot, but several weeks ago, I started having dreams … dreams about … a man. They started off pretty tame, and progressively became more intense, more erotic." Orlando’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment and he was glad they were sitting in the darkness.

"Nothing wrong with that, I’d say," Viggo offered.

Orlando turned to his guest. "You sound just like Gran. At first, I chalked them up to pre-wedding jitters and all that, but as time went on, I had a feeling something else was going on. I spent last weekend at Gran’s house in Martha’s Vineyard, one of the few places I could go and be myself – no expectations, no stress – and finally realized that I had given up a part of myself when Kate and I became involved. I knew then that it would never work between us."

"Good thing you figured it out before you signed on the dotted line," Viggo said as he gave the swing another push.

"You don’t know the half of it," Orlando said with a snort. "Once we were married, Kate’s parent’s company would have become part of Copeland Steel. Needless to say, nobody is very pleased with me right now. Well, except for my mother and Gran. They’re behind me, no matter what I decide to do."

Viggo whistled. "Damn. That’s an awful lot to be pinned to a marriage that might or might not have made it. So you said that was part of it. What else happened?"

Orlando rose from the swing and leaned against the porch railing, his eyes taking in the moonlit lake. Regardless of the situation, finding out that Kate had been unfaithful to him still stung. "When I went back to end things with her, I found out that she had been fucking around behind my back the entire time we had been engaged. The resulting confrontation was not a pretty one. She threatened to go to the press and I told her she’d end up looking like a fool if she did."

"Did she know about you before you two got together?" Viggo asked as he rose and joined Orlando by the railing.

"Yeah, I told her about my past, that I had been with both men and women, and from that point forward, she made it a point to push all of my friends away and replace them with her own. I’m guessing so I wouldn’t be tempted to revert back to my old ways," he said with a shrug.

Viggo had had his fair share of unfaithful lovers and knew how hard it was not only to go through it, but to admit it aloud to someone, as well. The older man turned and looked at Orlando. "For what it’s worth, I’m sorry."

Orlando’s shoulder lifted a fraction. "Water under the bridge, as Gran likes to say. It’s over and done, so there’s no use in dwelling over it."

Sidi ran up the stairs and looked at his owner, then to the back door. Orlando moved away from Viggo and let the dog inside before joining him at the railing once again.

"So how long has it been since you were with someone?"

"Someone meaning a man?" Orlando asked with a small smile and Viggo nodded. "Why?"

"Just wondering," Viggo answered, a grin slowly appearing.

"Why Mr. Mortensen," Orlando said in a false southern accent, "do I detect a note of interest?"

"If I weren’t interested, I wouldn’t have put myself out there like I did tonight," the older man said honestly. "So back to my question – how long has it been?"

"Too long," Orlando admitted quietly.

Viggo reached up and brushed a wild curl away from the beautiful face, his finger trailing down the soft skin of Orlando’s cheek.

A healthy dose of good old-fashioned lust swamped Orlando’s system from the simple touch and he fought the urge to lean forward and brush his lips across Viggo’s. It had been so, so long since he felt this way about a man. He briefly wondered if it was just Viggo or would he respond to anyone who touched him right now. After a moment of thought, he realized that none of his previous male lovers, relationship or no, ever made him *want* as badly as he did at that moment.

"Ready to get back in the saddle again?" Viggo whispered, earning a chuckle from Orlando.

Boy, was he ever. Lust-filled eyes met and held for a long moment, and then Orlando closed the distance between them, their lips meeting in a tentative kiss. He took a few moments to process the fact that he was, indeed, kissing a man, and not just any man – the man who had occupied his thoughts since their first meeting. Want and need flared within him and he pressed Viggo’s back into the support column and proceeded to take what he wanted.

The older man opened himself to the onslaught and somehow managed to keep a leash on the mounting desire coursing through his veins. He wanted nothing more than to indulge himself with the young man, but held himself in check, letting Orlando take the lead in things. He wasn’t about to do anything that might put their relationship, no matter how new or fragile it was, in jeopardy.

Orlando felt the denim-covered hardness pressing against his hip and moaned at the sensation. Oh, how he missed this, he thought as his hands moved to rest on the waistband of Viggo’s jeans, pulling the man’s hips snug against his own. His breathing was becoming labored and he knew he had to slow down or this would be over before it even began. He released Viggo’s lips and stepped away from the man.

Viggo’s pulse throbbed heavily, his chest rising and falling with the force of his breathing. He watched as the young man reached for the door. Was Orlando going to leave him?

"Are you coming?" Orlando asked as he looked over his shoulder, a grin playing on his lips.

Viggo’s fingers gripped the railing as he fought the urge to pounce on his soon-to-be lover, knowing that was not what Orlando needed – not for his first time. Well, not his first time, per se, but his first time in a long while. The artist took a moment to regain his composure, and after a few deep breaths, followed the young man inside.

He caught a glimpse of Orlando rounding a corner and headed in that direction, completely oblivious to his surroundings. No matter, he hadn’t come here to see the house, only the man who currently occupied the premises. It was only after Viggo followed Orlando up the stairs and down another hallway towards the back of the house that he stopped to take in his surroundings.

The master bedroom covered the entire back of the house, a multitude of windows sharing space with two sets of French doors that opened onto another covered porch. The night breeze stirred the sheers, their gauzy material dancing in the moonlight. A large, four-poster bed was situated in one corner, angled just so to allow its occupant a beautiful view of the lake, a matching wardrobe was situated in the opposite corner. A lady’s dressing table covered part of the western-most wall, while an oversized chair and matching ottoman held court in a third corner.

"In all the places on earth, I have to say that this is my favorite," Orlando said when Viggo joined him on the porch. "I loved coming here when I was a kid. I had a few friends who could not stand spending time with their grandparents and thought I was strange because I did."

"Your grandmother is a remarkable lady," Viggo agreed. "Your grandfather was a lucky man."

Orlando turned to Viggo. "Did you know him?"

The older man nodded. "Not as well as your grandmother. Each time she was in town, she made it a point to drop by the coffee shop, or if she didn’t have time for a cup, she’d tap on the window to let me know she was there."

"Sounds like Gran. Always on the go," Orlando said with a small smile. He fell silent for a few moments, his eyes scanning the surface of the lake, thinking back to his childhood, of days spent on the sailboat his grandparents used to own. He mentally added that to his list of things to do while he was here – rent a sailboat and putter around the lake.

Viggo felt the weight of the situation settle around them and knew what the young man was doing, and didn’t really blame him. This was a big step to take, regardless of the fact that he had done this before. He would not push Orlando into anything he wasn’t ready for, no matter what his own libido was screaming at him to do. He slowly reached out to the young man, letting his fingers dance along Orlando’s arm. "We don’t have to do this, you know," he said quietly.

Dark eyes met blue and Viggo saw faint traces of desire still lingering there, not blazing hot as before, but they hadn’t faded completely away. Once again, Orlando closed the distance between them, his fingers seeking then twining with the older man’s.

"Just … go slow, okay? It’s been a long time since I’ve done this," he admitted.

"You’re in charge, Orlando," Viggo said before backing through the open doors, into the bedroom. "You tell me what you want, how you want it, and I’ll see what I can do. Do you have …?" Viggo let the sentence hang between them.

Orlando nodded. "Yeah. I picked up a few things after leaving the coffee shop earlier."

"City Pharmacy or McMurty’s Grocery?" Viggo asked as his hands went to the hem of Orlando’s t-shirt. Keep him talking, he thought as Orlando automatically lifted his arms, the material pulled up and off of him in a matter of seconds. Viggo hoped the awkwardness of it all would pass if he kept Orlando from thinking too much.

"City Pharmacy," Orlando imparted as he did the same with Viggo’s shirt, tossing it somewhere behind them. "Didn’t want to alienate the poor check-out girls at the grocery store by tossing a box of condoms and bottle of personal lubricant on the counter. Might need to buy some food there one of these days."

After they had divested themselves of socks and shoes, Viggo suddenly found himself on the bed, flat on his back with a lap full of Orlando. "Well, that didn’t take long," he said with a laugh.

"Sorry about earlier. Just had to get my mind back where it needed to be," Orlando offered with a smirk.

"And now that it is?" Viggo asked as his hands settled on Orlando’s hips, thumbs gently stroking the soft skin there.

Orlando placed his hands on the bed, one on each side of Viggo’s head, and leaned down, his breath ghosting across the man’s lips. "Show me what I’ve been missing."

Orlando suddenly found their positions reversed and Viggo did as his soon-to-be lover asked by worshipping him with hands, lips, and every now and then, teeth, slowly bringing to life thoughts and feelings Orlando had buried deep inside.

He had forgotten how the weight of another man atop him felt, but feeling Viggo – skin against skin - brought it all back. He only wished the rest of it would be as easy, but he knew the truth, knew that it was going to hurt like hell. No matter how much preparation Viggo gave him, it would be just like his first time all over again. He was just a kid way back when, in boarding school, his first partner a schoolmate trying to figure things out as well. Things were awkward, at best, but somehow they fumbled their way through it.

Or maybe it wouldn’t be like that at all, he thought as his fingers carded through blonde locks. This time around, he knew what to expect, knew that his partner was experienced with things. He felt the first finger slowly inch its way into him, was glad that Viggo was taking his time. Orlando winced as another joined the first, but a few well-placed licks to the head of his cock took his mind off of things for a moment.

"Okay?" Viggo asked as he looked up Orlando’s torso, their eyes meeting for a moment before the young man nodded – and then moaned as Viggo’s fingers slowly teased the hidden bundle of nerves. That one move had Orlando clutching the sheets with a death grip. "Hope Bea wasn’t fond of those sheets because at this rate, you’re gonna rip a hole clean through them."

"Buy … new … ones," Orlando panted as his body reacted to the stimulation.

Viggo lowered his mouth onto the leaking shaft and added another finger to the equation, relishing the taste that was trickling into his mouth. Orlando pushed down on Viggo’s fingers, taking them deeper into his body, wanting … needing more, and said as much.

"Come for me like this and then I’ll give you all you want," Viggo said as his fingers shunted back and forth in the snug passage. "It’ll be easier if you’re more relaxed, and I can’t think of a better way to accomplish that. Can you?" he asked as he stroked the bump once more.

Orlando knew his lover was right, that relaxation was the key to it all. Well, that and lots of preparation, and his lover *definitely* had a handle on that part of things – literally. He watched as Viggo’s lips slid over his flesh one last time and everything faded away into the background. His world narrowed to the feel of lips, tongue and fingers, and it wasn’t long before he felt it – the first rush of an intense orgasm. It flowed through his body, singeing every particle of his being as it went. It was too much and not enough in the same instant. Viggo’s name echoed through the house as Orlando found his completion, his lover taking everything he had to offer.

Soothing hands calmed the young man, soft words whispered against overly heated skin. "Still with me?" Viggo asked as he rolled a condom over his length, coating the latex with lubricant.

Orlando managed a smile, even managed to roll to his side, and then Viggo was there, behind him, slowly and carefully breaching the resilient ring of muscle. Back and forth he went, little movements that eventually gained him entrance into the intense heat of his lover’s body.

Viggo halted all movement when Orlando gasped, afraid of what that one sound meant. He started to pull out, but a hand on his thigh stopped him.

"No, wasn’t bad," the young man said. "Just can’t believe I was going to give this up."

The artist leaned forward and kissed a sweat-covered shoulder. "Well, you didn’t, so lay back and enjoy it."

Orlando chuckled a bit. "Kind of hard to do in this position, don’t you think?" he said over his shoulder.

"What? Enjoy it?" Viggo teased and suddenly found himself less two or three leg hairs.

"No, you ass. Move because I want to see you."

After slowly pulling away, Viggo sat back on his heels and waited for Orlando to roll onto his back. "You sure about this? You know it’s …"

Orlando sat up and placed his fingers against Viggo’s lips. "Yes, I know it’s going to hurt more this way, but I know you won’t let that happen, will you?" he asked with a grin.

Viggo knew he was right – he would never do anything to hurt Orlando so when he pulled the young man’s bottom onto his thighs and positioned his cock against the distended opening, he slid into the heat at such a slow pace he thought *he* might go mad.

Orlando relaxed his body, taking his lover in inch by inch, until their bodies were flush against each other. After that, it wasn’t long before they were both moving, slowly at first but gradually building up their momentum. Viggo smiled as long legs wrapped around his torso, loving the feel of twin heels digging into his backside as Orlando silently orchestrated their joining.

It could have been minutes, or hours even, as they slowly reached their pinnacle. Time had no meaning where they were concerned. All they knew was what their bodies were telling them … it was time.

"Close," Orlando whispered and groaned when a strong hand stroked his willing flesh, his seed spilling over soon after.

Viggo released the sated shaft and leaned over, capturing Orlando’s lips as his release hit him. His hips stuttered through his orgasm and then he was still, their mingled panting breaking the silence of the night. He slowly rose from the young man, sucking on the lower lip one last time and then he disappeared into the bathroom.

Orlando lay in a sated haze until his lover returned with a warm cloth. He was cleaned and then Viggo was beside him, strong arms cradling him close. Sleep was heavy in his veins and before he drifted off, he pressed one last kiss to Viggo’s lips.

"I’m glad it was you," he whispered before his eyes closed and his body relaxed one final time.

Viggo lay awake for long minutes after, his lips pressed against the sweat-soaked curls. I’m glad it was me as well, he thought as his body slowly relaxed. He did not want to think about anyone else touching Orlando that way, didn’t want anyone else to see the young man in the throes of passion. Viggo wanted that for himself. It was wishful thinking on his part because one day Orlando would have to leave, would have to go back to the real world, to a world that did not include him.

But for now, Orlando was here, and if Viggo had anything to say about it, would be his until he left.

He could only hope his new lover felt the same.

 

 

Chapter 8

The sun was high in the sky when Orlando finally fought his way back to some semblance of wakefulness, his arm slowly reaching out for his bed partner, only to come up empty.

And then he remembered.

Remembered how Viggo had woke him in the early morning hours with a kiss, saying he needed to get home and change before opening the coffee shop and how that kiss led to other things; remembered the feel of his lover moving slowly inside him again as the sky was painted with a myriad of colors, the day asserting itself; remembered walking Viggo to the door where they shared one last long, lingering kiss, both reluctant to part, both knowing their night together had to end sometime; remembered crawling back into bed, hugging Viggo’s pillow tight as he fell back asleep.

Orlando rolled to his side, pillow still tucked against his chest, and looked out over the lake, watching the shafts of sunlight dancing on the water. Last night had been so much more than he had expected and he was truly thankful that Viggo was such an attentive lover. Truth be told, he was probably the most attentive lover Orlando had ever had – and that was only after one night. Must come with age, he thought with a smile.

He stretched beneath the sheet and realized that he had been loved well by the older man, if the tenderness in certain areas were anything to go by. It wasn’t overwhelming, just a pleasant dull ache that let him know it hadn’t been a dream.

His brow furrowed as a thought hit him. His dreams. He hadn’t had one since … he mentally looked back over the past few days, then back a bit further, and it dawned on him that they had been absent since … since he met Viggo.

That thought brought him up short. Why? Why had the dreams stopped? What did that mean? Was it *because* he had met Viggo, and did that mean Viggo was … no, don’t go there, Orlando, he thought. You met the man less than a week ago, hopped into the sack with him once – that did *not* mean you two were … whatever. Orlando’s mind bounced from one question to the next so quickly it made his head ache.

And now his ears were ringing. Oh wait, it was the phone on the bedside table making that atrocious noise. He blindly reached over and snatched the receiver from its base, knocking over the bottle of lubricant as he did so. He watched as it landed on the hardwood floor, thankful Viggo’d had the presence of mind to replace the cap. He did not want to explain to Gran why she needed to have the bedroom floor refinished, but chuckled at the thought, nonetheless.

"Well, that’s a sound I haven’t heard in quite a while," the caller offered, causing Orlando to laugh even harder.

"And good morning to you, too, my lady," he said as he rolled onto his back and cradled the phone between shoulder and cheek. "I was just thinking about you."

Bea’s light laughter filled the airwaves. "Oh? And what brought that on?"

He turned his head and caught a glimpse of the bottle again. "You don’t want to know."

"Let me be the judge of that."

"No, I think I’ll keep this one to myself, if you don’t mind. So, what’s going on in the outside world?" he asked.

"Don’t try to change the subject, grandson of mine. You’ve never hidden anything from me before so why are you trying to now?" she asked and then paused. "Orlando Jonathan Blanchard Bloom, have you met someone? Is he there? Am I interrupting something?" she teased.

Orlando blushed, quickly buried his face in Viggo’s pillow and inhaled deeply, wishing the source of that intoxicating scent were by his side and not in town at the coffee shop. "Not that it’s any of your business, but there’s nobody here but me and the juvenile delinquent." He grinned at Viggo’s name for his canine.

"Juvenile delinquent?" Bea queried.

"Seems that Sidi has acquired yet another nickname."

"Oh? What has that hound of yours done now? Did he get picked up and thrown in the hoosegow? Never mind that … did you meet anyone interesting when you had to bail him out?"

Orlando tossed Viggo’s pillow aside and slid from the bed, stretching a bit before looking around for his boxers that had been thrown somewhere last night. "Nothing that dramatic, Gran, I can assure you."

"Well, something had to have happened for him to get the name."

Boxers procured and donned, a now partially-dressed Orlando left the confines of the bedroom and went downstairs to check on his wayward mutt. He had been inside entirely too long.

"A few days back, Sidi and I were checking out things in town and someone got tangled up in his leash." Orlando’s thoughts drifted back to that day. "But it really wasn’t Sidi’s fault. Viggo should have been watching where he was going."

Back in Martha’s Vineyard, Bea nodded to Philip’s picture. Bingo, she thought with a smile. "So, you’ve met the illustrious Mr. Mortensen. And what did you think?"

Met, lusted after, and then had some amazing sex with him last night and again this morning, he thought, but instead only offered, "Pretty decent guy, if you like the Bohemian type."

"And do you?"

Orlando opened the door and watched as his companion took off for parts unknown, then sat down on the swing. The breeze from the lake was warm on his skin, making him think of warm hands and lips that had teased him last night. "I was wondering when you were going to don your match maker hat."

"That’s not an answer."

"I know," he said with a grin.

"Smart ass."

The young man sighed. "True, but you love me anyway."

"Sometimes I wonder why," she teased, her voice full of affection for her favorite grandchild. "He’s a good man, Orlando."

"Yeah, he is," he said quietly as he turned his body and lay down on the swing, his feet propped up on the armrest.

"So you two have spent some time together?" she hedged.

Orlando chuckled. "I think Dom is going to have a nameplate made for my stool at the coffee shop. Does that answer your question?"

"That’s not what I meant and you know it."

"So why don’t you just come out and ask the questions you want answered? You’ve never hesitated before. Why start now?"

"True enough. Okay then, have you seen him outside the coffee shop?"

"Yes, the first day that we literally ran into each other. We were on the other side of the square by the library. That’s the day he gave Sidi his new nickname."

Beatrice blew out a frustrated sigh. "If I were there, I’d box your ears for that."

"But you’re not," Orlando grinned.

"Orlando!"

Uh-oh. That was his grandmother’s ‘you’re pushing me’ voice. "Okay, to answer your question – again, I might add – yes, I’ve seen him outside the coffee shop. He was here last night, as a matter of fact. After the poetry reading."

When he offered no other information, Bea sighed. "This is like pulling teeth."

"This coming from someone with dentures," he said with a snort.

"You want to play that way, young man? It’s on now," the elderly lady good-naturedly threatened. "You said he was there last night. Is he still there?"

"No."

"Did he stay the night?"

Sidi’s barking caught Orlando’s attention and he wondered what the mutt was up to. Probably treed another cat, he thought before focusing on the conversation again.

"Yes."

"And?"

"And what?"

"Did you?"

"Depends on what you’re asking."

"Orlando!"

The young man laughed. "Yes."

"Did you enjoy it?"

"Yes," he answered as his body started to respond to the thoughts currently running through his head.

"Will you be seeing him again?"

Orlando’s pulse quickened even more as the reason for Sidi’s excitement rounded the corner. "Yes," he said as a smile lit up his face.

"When?"

"I’d say right about now," Orlando answered as he sat up once again, and then laughed when he was pulled out of the swing and into Viggo’s arms.

"Who’s on the phone?" the older man whispered into Orlando’s unoccupied ear.

"Gran. Want to talk to her while I go get dressed?" he asked as one of Viggo’s hands slid down his back to settle at the top of his boxers.

"What if I don’t want you to get dressed?"

Orlando giggled. "Oh, so *that’s* why you’re here," he teased. "Didn’t get enough of me last night, or again this morning?"

"Have you forgotten your grandmother is on the phone?"

Bea quietly listened to the exchange and her heart filled with happiness that they had found each other.

"She doesn’t mind, do you Gran?" he queried and held the phone between himself and Viggo. "Say hello to Viggo, Gran."

"Viggo, my boy! How are you?"

Blue eyes met brown. "Couldn’t be better. How are things up north?"

"Same as always," she said with a smile. "So I’m guessing you’re going to whisk my grandson away for some secret assignation."

"Well, it wouldn’t be a secret if I told him, would it?"

"True, true. Orlando, better go get dressed. Wait a minute, you’re not standing outside in the all-together are you? Good Lord! You’d better not be! The poor neighbors!"

Orlando reclaimed the phone and stepped away from Viggo. "No, Gran, I’m not in the all-together, as you call it. I’m dressed. Well, sort of. Does a pair of boxers count as being dressed?" he teased.

"I guess it’s better than giving the neighbors a free show. Save that for Viggo," she said with a laugh and then became serious once again. "I’m glad he’s there, Orlando, and that you’re happy. If anyone deserves it, it’s you. I love you, grandson."

"Love you too, Gran. I’ll call you in a couple of days," Orlando said before disconnecting the call.

Viggo slid his arms around Orlando’s waist and held him close, Orlando immediately relaxing back against Viggo’s chest. They stood that way for long minutes, enjoying the closeness and then a sense of déjà vu washed over him, causing the young man to tense suddenly.

"What’s wrong?" Viggo asked, concerned about the sudden change.

He had mentioned his dreams to Viggo last night, but hadn’t gone into any detail about them. Were they something he wanted to share with the other man? No, better not dump all of that on Viggo just yet. Maybe one of these days he’d tell him, but not now. Now, he just wanted to enjoy the feel of strong arms holding him.

"It was nothing. I’m fine. So what were you saying about a secret assignation?" Orlando asked as he tried to steer the conversation into safer waters.

"Those were Beatrice’s words, not mine."

"So then why are you here?"

Viggo’s lips teased the warm skin of Orlando’s neck. "As old-fashioned as this might sound, I came to ask you out."

"On a date?" a surprised Orlando asked, causing Viggo to chuckle.

"Yep. It’s nothing fancy, so you don’t have to get all dressed up. Although you’ll have to wear a bit more than what you have on now," he teased and gladly accepted the slap to his arm. "Seriously, Saturday night, the town’s Chamber of Commerce is showing ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ over at the Silverlake Outdoor Theater. Think you might be interested? We could have a picnic dinner before the movie starts."

"Complete with a red-checkered blanket and all?" Orlando teased. "A bit cliché, don’t you think?"

"It would be if I had a red-checkered blanket," Viggo said with a grin. "The one I have is blue and green checkered."

Orlando’s laughter filled the open porch. "I was wondering what people did around here for fun."

"Don’t get your hopes up because that’s pretty much the highlight of the month. At least for Silverlake, it is. In a few weeks, Dover Creek will be having their fall festival, and since we’re neighboring towns, most of Silverlake will be there, just as they support us with our Spring Fling in April," Viggo explained.

"Small towns taking care of each other," Orlando surmised, and he could feel Viggo nodding behind him.

"They’ve done it for as long as I can remember, and from what I’ve heard, stood by each other through the Depression, trading goods and services with the townsfolk in an effort to keep things alive. Lots of towns disappeared during that time, but Silverlake and Dover Creek survived."

"Such a different way of life … so different from the big city," the young man stated as he watched the sailboats trekking back and forth across the water.

"Like night and day," Viggo admitted quietly.

Orlando turned and looked at the man behind him, surprise evident on his face. "You’ve lived in a big city?" he asked and then noticed the sadness in the normally vibrant blue eyes. "Hey, you okay?"

"Yeah, I’m fine," Viggo said as he shook off the bout of melancholy that had invaded his being. "How about you go get dressed so I can take you to lunch?" He kissed Orlando’s nose and gave his butt a quick swat.

The younger man knew Viggo wasn’t as okay as he tried to make Orlando believe, but he didn’t want to push him. Instead, he smiled and asked, "Care to join me?" as he reached for the door.

Viggo lowered himself into the swing. "A very tempting offer, but I’ll pass. If I get you naked again, food and work will be the last thing on our minds, and some of us *do* have to work for a living," he said with a wink, making sure Orlando knew he was teasing. "Now, go get dressed. I’m hungry."

Orlando shook his head. "Usually, when a man says he’s hungry, the clothes would be coming *off*, not going *on*. I’ll be back down in a few minutes. See if you can find my juvenile delinquent. He can keep you company."

The older man watched as Orlando disappeared inside and then looked out over the lake. Orlando mentioning life in the big city brought back a flood of memories, both good and bad, of the life Viggo had shared with Harry in San Francisco. It might have been twenty some-odd years ago, but the memories were still there, tucked away in a tiny part of Viggo’s heart.

Sidi joined him on the swing and his thoughts turned to the present, focused on the beautiful young man who had waltzed into town and was slowly but surely breathing new life into Viggo’s dismal existence. Since Harry, nobody had captured his attention like Orlando had, and despite the fact that the young man would leave Silverlake one day, the artist would do everything in his power to make the most of the time they did have together, however long that might be.

 

 

Chapter 9

Silverlake Outdoor Theater was situated on the outskirts of town, a massive, open structure that was home to the Silverlake Theater Troup, guided by the gentle hand of Dom’s better half, Elijah Wood. The stage held center court beneath a covered steel awning, while several rows of seating situated in a semi-circle assured patrons an unobstructed view. Those who wanted to relax and enjoy the natural ambience could do so on the large grassy knoll that overlooked both the seating and stage area.

From his place on the blue and green checkered blanket, Orlando watched a group of kids playing with Sidi across the way. They hadn’t been at the theater for more than a few minutes when the kids ran by, causing Sidi to strain eagerly at the end of his leash.

"Oh, no you don’t," Orlando had said as his grip tightened around the leather. "You, young man, have to behave yourself or Viggo won’t take you anywhere, ever again."

A shrill whistle pierced Orlando’s ears. "Joey!" Viggo shouted from behind them and Orlando watched as a young boy ran over.

"Viggo!" he exclaimed before throwing his arms around Viggo’s torso, hugging the man tightly.

"Hey, little man." Viggo’s voice was filled with affection as he let his hand rest on the child’s head. "How are you?"

"Good," Joey answered and laughed when Sidi nudged him. "Who’s this?"

"That’s Sidi. He belongs to my friend, Orlando," Viggo offered by way of introduction. "Orlando, this is Joey. Joey, Orlando."

Green eyes peered up from beneath a fringe of dark bangs. "Nice to meet you," he said politely.

"Same here," Orlando answered, silently wondering about the connection between the man and child. Kids didn’t hug older people on their own volition, unless they felt comfortable.

"Can I ask a favor?" Viggo’s voice broke into Orlando’s thoughts.

The little boy beamed. "Sure!"

"Orlando and I would like to have dinner before the movie starts. Think you can take care of Sidi for us?" he asked, knowing that the juvenile delinquent would be in the middle of everything, once the food was brought out. "Maybe take him to the other side of the hill for a bit? Is that okay with you?" Viggo asked Orlando.

Orlando wasn’t sure about leaving Sidi with strangers, but from the interplay between man and child, Joey was anything but. Nodding, he handed the leash to Joey. "He’s stronger than he looks, so make sure you keep a good hold on that. He nearly ran Viggo over last week."

Wide eyes turned to Viggo as the small hand clutched the leash. "Seriously?"

Viggo laughed. "Yes, he did," he said as he thought back to that day. "So do as Orlando says and keep the leash tight."

"Is it okay if we let him chase sticks and stuff?" Joey asked as he looked between the two men.

"Would he be okay off the leash?" Viggo asked Orlando, who nodded.

"He should be, but don’t let him off until you get over there," Orlando answered. "And keep an eye on him and don’t let him go near the road."

"Yes, sir," Joey answered with a grin before looking down at Sidi. "Come on, Sidi. Let’s go!" And with that, boy and dog ran over to the small cluster of kids and then made for the opposite side of the area, Orlando’s eyes following their progress.

"Refill?" Viggo asked, catching Orlando’s attention once again. The older man held up the bottle of wine he had packed and smiled when sienna eyes slowly turned back to him. "He’s fine, you know."

"I know," Orlando said with a small smile as he held his glass out to Viggo. "Please? I’m sorry I keep checking on him. It’s just that I’m not used to him being away from me."

Viggo topped off the glass and returned the wine to the picnic hamper. "Never apologize for caring about your animal, Orlando. I only wish there were more people like you in this world."

Orlando smiled. "I feel like an over-protective parent," he said as he mirrored Viggo’s position - reclined back on the blanket, hands bracing his weight, long legs stretched out in front of him. They were facing each other, and he noticed Viggo’s eyes search out the little boy once more. "So what’s the story with you and Joey?"

"I dated his mother for a little while about a year ago. Nothing serious, just two lonely people trying to make it by," Viggo offered. "Joey and I got along pretty well. His father wasn’t around much so I guess I became the next best thing. We used to ride bikes together, throw the ball, do all of the stuff that fathers and sons do."

A wave of sadness swamped Orlando’s system. His father never had time for any of that when he was growing up. When Orlando was home from boarding school, his father continued to work long hours, leaving no time for interacting with a son. Or a wife, for that matter.

Viggo noticed the change in Orlando and quickly slid forward, brushing the curls away from the beautiful face. "I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking when I said that," he said before pressing a chaste kiss to Orlando’s forehead.

Pale lids closed and he leaned into the touch. "It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean anything by it. I’m glad Joey had someone like you in his life, at least for a little while."

"He and his mother still come by the shop every now and then. Dom puts him to work wiping down the tables and then gives him a couple of bucks, just enough to buy sour worms or something equally disgusting, over at the candy shop."

"You’re a good man, Viggo Mortensen," Orlando said quietly as he opened his eyes and found Viggo watching him. "If we were somewhere a bit more private, I’d kiss you."

A long, paint-stained finger trailed over Orlando’s cheek. "I’d rather not wait."

"Sorry, but I don’t want to make a spectacle of ourselves, because you know what happens when we start kissing. I don’t think the good folk of Silverlake are ready for something that intense."

"Just a little one?" Viggo asked as he traced the plump lips, and Orlando laughed.

"No, not even a little one, because it would turn into a bigger one, and then we’d be in the same place that we’re trying to avoid. Now get back on your side of the blanket," he said before giving Viggo’s shoulder a playful push.

While Viggo pretended to sulk, Orlando set about cleaning up the remnants of their picnic, packing away the empty food containers and tossing their used plates and plastic utensils into a nearby trashcan. On his way back to Viggo, he caught sight of the kids coming back, Sidi straining at the leash once again. He quickly made his way to them and relieved Joey of his burden.

"Man, he *is* strong!" the little boy exclaimed. "He practically dragged me all the way here!"

"Don’t feel bad. He tries to drag me all over the place, too," Orlando said as he wrapped the leash around his fist a few times. "Thanks for taking care of him, Joey."

"You’re welcome," he said with a genuine smile. "He loved chasing the sticks we were throwing."

"I noticed that," Orlando said as they walked back towards the blanket, Sidi leading the way.

Joey sprinted ahead and threw himself down onto the blanket. "Thanks for letting me take Sidi, Viggo. He’s so smart! He can fetch and everything! I wish mom would let me have a dog." His voice was suddenly sad.

"Still no luck with that?"

Sidi rooted around the blanket, scarfing up the crumbs Orlando had missed, and then lay down beside Joey.

"No. She said I can’t have one while we’re in the apartment," the little boy said as he reached out and stroked the black fur. "I wish we had a house with a yard like yours."

"Ladies and gentlemen, ten minutes until show time," a voice announced through the loudspeaker.

"Aww, man! That means it’s time for me to go sit with mom. Unless I can stay with you, Viggo?" he asked, his eyes pleading. "I’m sure mom’ll say it’s okay."

Viggo’s heart was torn. One the one hand, he didn’t want to hurt Joey’s feelings if he told him no, but on the other, he wanted to spend the evening with his lover. He still had no clue how long Orlando was going to be in Silverlake, and wanted to spend every moment he could with him.

Orlando was torn as well, but found himself nodding when their eyes met over Joey’s head. If Viggo wanted Joey with them, he was okay with that. He knew how much the kid looked up to Viggo.

Luckily the decision was taken out of their hands when Joey’s mother came over. "Hey Vig," Edie said as she approached. "I figured I’d find him with you," she said with a smile.

Viggo nodded as he and Orlando stood together. "Seems you were right. Edie, I’d like you to meet my .. friend, Orlando Bloom. Orlando, this is Edie Stall."

Edie smiled as she shook Orlando’s hand. "Nice to meet you, Orlando," she said and then nudged Viggo in the ribs. "Friend, huh?"

Blue eyes looked down at the innocent face between them and then back at Edie, who was now sporting a grin. "Wish I could find friends who look like that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll take this little one off your hands so you two can enjoy the movie. That is, if you’re planning on watching it," she whispered.

Orlando’s face flushed at the woman’s forwardness, but Viggo only laughed. "Catch you later, little man," he said as he ruffled Joey’s hair.

"Yeah, later," Joey said in a petulant tone as he followed his mother.

Viggo watched the two as they wove their way through the crowd settling in for the movie, and then turned back to Orlando. "So it’s back to just the two of us," he said as he laced their fingers together. The lamps lighting the edges of the area began to dim and they took their seats once again, this time side by side, their shoulders brushing against the other. Sidi lay in an exhausted heap at the end of the blanket, snoring softly, causing the men to exchange an amused glance.

A large white screen was lowered from the rafters above the stage and applause swept through the crowd. A few minutes later, the movie began.

Orlando looked around and was amazed at how crowded the place was, but like Viggo had explained a few days ago, this was the highlight of the month. Several rows of seats had been filled, but it looked as if the majority of people preferred to relax on quilts and blankets beneath the stars. The grassy area was large enough that there was plenty of room for everyone.

He looked over at Viggo and found his lover looking back at him. He felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. He enjoyed feeling like he was a part of something, not just the relationship with Viggo, but with the entire community. His driver’s license might show his permanent address as New York, but in his heart, the sleepy little town of Silverlake, Virginia, was quickly becoming home to him. He smiled and slowly leaned over to Viggo, resting his head on the older man’s shoulder.

"You okay?" Viggo whispered quietly as he slid his arm around Orlando’s waist and drew him closer.

Orlando nodded. "Yeah, just thinking about things."

"Good things, I hope," he hedged as he pressed his lips to Orlando’s temple. Another nod and Viggo wanted to ask more, but didn’t press. It was enough to know Orlando was there and he was happy.

They laughed throughout the movie, especially each time the bottle of Windex was brought out to cure one ailment or another. Orlando found the scene of the elderly lady beating Ian with her handbag in front of the travel agency absolutely hilarious, and laughed until he had tears in his eyes. He could easily picture Gran in that situation.

Viggo reached over and wiped a few escaped tears away, their eyes meeting and holding for a moment before Orlando broke his promise and gently kissed the older man. It was just a brief press of lips, nothing too obtrusive or offensive to those who might have seen it.

"Not that I’m complaining, but what was that for?" Viggo whispered when Orlando pulled away.

"Because I can," Orlando whispered back and then laid his head on Viggo’s shoulder once again.

"That’s not fair, you know."

Orlando laughed quietly and linked their fingers together. "There’s a difference between me kissing you and you kissing me."

"How so?"

"I can control myself when I kiss you, but when you kiss me, my mind shuts down and I just go with it," he admitted.

A smile tugged at the corner of Viggo’s mouth. "You do, do you?"

"Every single time. Now, can we please finish watching the movie?"

"Why?" Viggo whispered against the soft skin of Orlando’s cheek.

"Because all this talk about kissing is making me want more."

A long finger slid beneath Orlando’s chin and tilted his face up to Viggo’s. "All you have to do is say the word and we’ll go." He gently brushed his lips against Orlando’s, causing the young man to sigh.

"What’s the word?"

"Whatever you want it to be."

Orlando smiled. "Home."

They quickly gathered their things and quietly wound their way through the maze of blankets. The two block walk back to Viggo’s car took longer than it normally would have, thanks to Sidi, who felt the need to investigate everything in their path, but their brief stops gave Viggo plenty of opportunities to make Orlando’s mind fray around the edges.

Before he realized it, Orlando found himself pinned against the side of the car, the weight of Viggo’s body holding him in place. As if I’d want to run away from this, Orlando thought as he was kissed breathless once again.

"Stay at my place tonight," Viggo murmured against the kiss-swollen lips and Orlando nodded. Sidi was with them so there was no reason for him to go to back to Bea’s place, and it would give him a chance to test his theory about the dreams.

"As long as I get breakfast in bed tomorrow morning," he said with a smile.

"Deal." Viggo would gladly serve this young man breakfast in bed from now until the end of time if he had the chance.

After stowing the picnic hamper in the trunk, they piled into the car, Sidi collapsing across the back seat. With a smile, Viggo pulled onto the highway and headed out of town.

They never saw the car following them until it was too late.

* * * * *

"It’s done," the caller said before disconnecting the wireless connection.

 

 

Chapter 10

Dom’s cell phone vibrated in his pocket, causing the young man to jump in surprise. That sudden movement, in turn, dislodged Elijah from his comfortable position – seated firmly between his lover’s legs, leaning back against the warm chest.

"Who the bloody hell would be calling?" Dom asked as he fished the electronic device from his pocket and checked the caller ID, his brow furrowing. "Craig, what’s up, mate? Oh shite. Are they okay? Yeah, I’ll be there as soon as I can," he said and then disconnected the call, not wanting to believe what his friend had just told him.

Eyes blue as a summer’s day were watching him. "What’s up, babe?"

Dom took a deep breath and tried to calm his racing heart. "There was an accident out on Lake Road. Craig was one of the first ones on the scene and said it looked pretty bad."

"Oh shit," Elijah said quietly and pulled his lover to him. "Who?"

A tear pooled in the corner of Dom’s eye. "It’s Viggo and Orlando. I need to get out there. Vig … oh fuck, Lij," he said as his eyes went wide. "He’s … fuck, what if …"

"Go," Elijah said. "Call me when you know something. As soon as we get things closed up here, I’ll meet you."

Dom leaned forward and gave the young man a quick kiss. "I love you," he whispered and quickly rose to his feet, Elijah following suit.

"Love you, too. Now go," he said and then watched his lover sprint down the hillside to the parking lot. When the red taillights were swallowed up by the darkness, he raised his eyes to the stars. "Please, please don’t make Viggo go through this again. He won’t survive it a second time."

* * * * *

Viggo could hear voices around him, heard his name being called several times, and then he slowly opened his eyes, immediately regretting it as the bright lights momentarily blinded him. He quickly closed them again.

"Vig, can you hear me, man?"

He knew that voice, but for the life of him, couldn’t place it. His body felt heavy, drained. His head hurt and he felt something warm on his cheek. Ever so slowly, he reached up to brush it away.

"No, stay still," the voice said again. "Vig, do you know where you are?"

There were hands on him now, checking his arms and legs, his stomach and ribs. He felt something going around his neck, and then he started to notice other things going on around him: the crackle of a radio off in the distance, a dog whined behind him, and then more voices, off to his right. He slowly opened his eyes again.

"Good, good," the voice was saying and this time Viggo recognized who was speaking to him.

"Craig," he croaked and was rewarded with a smile.

"Good, you at least know me. How about yourself? What’s your full name?" Craig asked as he carefully lifted Viggo’s eyelids, shining another bright light into his eyes.

"Viggo Peter Mortensen," he haltingly answered.

"Good. And today? Do you know what day it is?"

"Saturday. August eleventh."

"Do you know what you were doing earlier this evening?" Craig asked as he took a gauze pad and carefully started to wipe the blood away from Viggo’s face. It wasn’t too bad, a few cuts here and there.

"Yeah, we were at the outdoor theater," he answered with a raspy voice and then the severity of the situation hit him full force. His eyes widened and he tried to turn and check on his lover, but the neck brace hampered his movement. Instead, he turned his entire body towards the passenger side of the car, his eyes widening in horror.

Orlando was slumped against the passenger door, blood covering his forehead and trickling from the corner of his mouth.

"ORLANDO!" he yelled as he scrambled for his lover’s hand. "NOOOO! Oh, God! Not again!" Viggo cried into the night as he touched the lifeless fingers. "Please, baby, don’t leave me! I’m so sorry!"

Hands tried to pull Viggo back but he resisted. "Viggo, don’t make me sedate you because you know I will, you stubborn ass. I need to get you out so they can get to work on Orlando."

Viggo heard Craig’s words and knew his friend was right, but he didn’t want to leave Orlando alone.

"They’ve done a quick assessment and he’s alive, but barely. And the longer you sit here, the worse his chances are. So let’s get you out of here, okay?" he asked when he finally caught Viggo’s attention.

"Craig, don’t let him …" Viggo couldn’t bring himself to say it. "He’s everything to me," he admitted.

"I know, Vig, and we’ll do everything we can. Now, care to tell me about the mutt in the backseat? He wasn’t too happy with us when we first arrived," he said as he moved aside so the other paramedics could get to work.

"Sidi," Viggo said as he was slowly lifted out of the car. "He belongs to Orlando." Once situated on the stretcher, he managed a faint whistle and the black canine left the backseat and went straight to Viggo. "Good boy," he said as he tried to look down.

"I’ll take the brace off when we're done," Craig said as he started a more thorough exam.

The police had waited patiently for Viggo to be extracted from the car, and once that had been accomplished, he was bombarded with questions. What happened? Who is the passenger? Did you see anything out of the ordinary? Could you identify the person or vehicle? Viggo did his best to answer them, but his eyes kept drifting to the wreckage, and his unconscious lover. The rescue squad had removed the windshield of Viggo’s car and was finally working on Orlando.

Please don’t take him from me, he silently begged to whatever higher power might be listening.

With the questioning out of the way, Viggo heard his name being called and his eyes filled with tears again, this time at the sight of his best friend coming towards him.

"Thanks for calling, mate," Dom said as he pat Craig on the back and then turned his attention to Viggo. He noticed the scratches on his face, but that seemed to be about it. "How is he?"

"Cuts and bruises, mostly," Craig said as he continued his exam.

"And Orlando?"

"They’re working on him now. With the car wedged up against the tree, they’re having to go through the windshield and the driver’s side."

Concerned blue eyes turned to Viggo. "Vig? What happened, mate?"

"Car came out of nowhere, sideswiped us and pushed us off the road," Viggo said as he watched the paramedics with Orlando.

"I’d advise you to have those lacerations checked out at the ER. Doesn’t look like you’ll need stitches, but it’s better to be on the safe side. You’re going to be sore tomorrow, so take it easy," Craig said as he finished his exam and took off the neck brace. "Now, can I trust you to sit here and behave yourself while I go help out or do I need to knock your sorry ass out?"

"Vig?" Craig asked again, unsure if his friend had heard him.

"How about you leave the syringe with me," Dom offered with a grin. "If he starts to act up, I’ll gladly knock him out."

"I’ll be fine," Viggo said with small nod. "Go take care of Orlando." They watched Craig join the others and then Viggo whispered, "I can’t lose him, Dom. If I do …"

Dom shushed his friend. "They’ll take care of him, Vig. They know what they’re doing."

The older man snorted. "I thought the same thing years ago and look how that turned out."

There was nothing Dom could say, so he stayed at Viggo’s side, offering his silent strength and support to his friend. Together they watched as the paramedics slid the backboard through the driver’s door and carefully placed the unresponsive Orlando on it. He heard snatches of conversations – pulse was thready, breathing was labored, possible broken ribs and punctured lung.

Tears streamed down weathered cheeks, unchecked, at the damage his lover’s body had sustained.

"They’re taking him to Fairmont General if you want to follow," he heard Craig telling Dom as they prepared to load Orlando into the ambulance.

The artist slid from his own stretcher and went to Orlando’s side. Sidi wanted to follow, but with a stern "stay" from Viggo, the canine did as ordered and went back to Dom. The beautiful face was covered with blood, cuts and scratches; chestnut curls were plastered to his head.

Craig saw the love in his friend’s eyes and wished there were more he could do. "Vig, I’d let you ride with us, but there’s not enough room."

Viggo knew his friend was right, that there was only room for the stretcher and two paramedics in the back of the ambulance, and even then it was cramped.

"I know," Viggo answered with a nod. "Just … take care of him, okay?"

"I won’t leave his side until we get to the hospital."

Viggo leaned down and placed a kiss to Orlando’s thankfully warm lips. "I’ll be there when you wake up, baby," he said before stepping away.

"Vig, what do you want to do with Sidi?" Dom asked from behind.

"Take him to Bea’s place, for now," Viggo answered as he watched the ambulance drive away. "After that, we’ll see."

* * * * *

Orlando had already been taken into surgery by the time Dom and Viggo arrived at the hospital. The on-duty nurse in the ER assured them that their friend was in very good hands.

Viggo knew he needed to make at least one call, but he did not have Beatrice’s number. He needed Orlando’s cell phone. After a quick trip back to the nurse’s station and a whole lot of sweet-talking, one of the floating nurses agreed to go up to the surgical ward and get Orlando’s things.

Viggo’s hands shook when he was handed the bag containing Orlando’s personal belongings – wallet, keys, watch, necklace, and his phone. It felt like … no, Viggo, don’t think about that. Focus on the present, on Orlando.

From his place in the tiny waiting room, Dom watched his friend struggle with everything. He knew Viggo was reliving events that had taken place nearly twenty years ago.

"Hey," the younger man said as he laid his hand on Viggo’s shoulder, hoping to pull the man back to the present. "I just talked to Lij and he’s on his way."

Viggo said nothing, his eyes staring sightlessly at the bag. Slowly, a tear spilled over already damp lashes, followed immediately by several more. Dom pulled his friend into his arms and held him tight as the tears flowed uninterrupted. Paint stained fingers gripped the fabric of Dom’s shirt and Viggo held on for dear life.

"Why?" Viggo whispered. "Why is this happening again? What have I done to deserve this?" Question after question was asked, each one of them answered with silence.

Time ceased to matter as Dom held his friend, his shirt soaking up the tears that were being shed. He had no answers, knew Viggo wasn’t expecting him to answer. He let his friend rant and rave and rail against the fates that had brought Orlando into his life, only to try and take him away again. It had happened once before, but Viggo would be damned if he was going to let it happen a second time.

With steely resolve, he slipped out of Dom’s arms. "I need to go downstairs and call Bea. If anything ..."

"If anything changes, I’ll come and get you," Dom promised and then watched his friend move to the elevators.

Viggo found a small courtyard and sat down on one of the stone benches provided for those seeking solitude. Flipping open Orlando’s phone, he thumbed through the list of contacts until he found Beatrice’s number. Taking a deep breath, he hit the send button.

"Hello?"

Another deep breath. "Bea, it’s Viggo."

"What’s happened?" Bea asked, hear voice tinted with fear. She knew something was wrong, could always tell when something had happened to Orlando. This time was no exception.

"There’s been an accident. We were run off the road and ... Orlando’s in surgery right now," he managed to say.

"How bad is it?"

"The paramedics said he might have a couple of broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He’s been unconscious since the accident," he said as his voice caught in his throat. "Bea, I’m so sorry." Tears were falling again.

"Vig, shhhh, it wasn’t your fault, honey. It was an accident. Now, is anyone there with you because you don’t need to be alone right now?"

Viggo nodded, as if the woman were sitting next to him, and not several hundred miles away. "Dom is here, upstairs in the waiting room. And Elijah is on his way."

"Good. Have you called anyone else? Orli’s parents?"

"No, I know how things are between them, so I figured I’d call you first," Viggo admitted.

"Smart man. I’ll call Sonia and let her know what’s happened."

"Thank you," Viggo whispered.

"You’re welcome. Now, go back upstairs and wait with Dom. I don’t want to be the reason you missed an update with the doctor. Oh and be sure to give my number to the nurse in case they have any personal questions they need answered."

"I will. And again, I’m sorry."

"Please don’t blame yourself for this, Viggo. Things happen for a reason, just remember that. We might not understand it, but there’s always a reason for everything. Now get back upstairs and give me a call when the doctor comes out."

"Yes, ma’am. I’ll call you as soon as we hear something," Viggo answered and then disconnected the call. Elijah was with Dom when he went back upstairs a few minutes later. "Any news?" he asked as he collapsed onto one of the couches, tucking the small bag of his lover’s things by his side.

"No. The nurse said it’s too soon," Elijah said as he crouched down in front of Viggo. "Want me to get you something? Coffee?"

Viggo tilted his head back, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The only thing he wanted right now was to know that Orlando was okay. He answered Elijah’s question with a shake of his head. "Maybe later," he said quietly.

One hour went by with no word, then two. The three men took turns pacing the small area, like tigers in a cage at the zoo, each of them following the same path. Finally, the swinging doors opened and a doctor dressed in blue scrubs approached the men.

"Since there’s only one person in the OR right now, I assume you’re here for Mr. Bloom," he said as he looked at the three men. "I’m Dr. Ross."

Viggo stepped forward. "I’m Viggo Mortensen, and this is Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Wood. Please, sir, is he going to be alright?"

Dr. Ross motioned to the chairs. "Have a seat, please, gentlemen."

Dom guided Viggo to the center of the couch, while he and Elijah each sat by his side. If it was bad news, he wanted to be close to his friend.

"He’s stable and in recovery," the doctor said and the fear that Viggo would never see his lover again slowly receded. "He needed a lot of work. His right lung had collapsed and had to be repaired. He’ll need physical therapy for his right shoulder. It separated in the crash but we were able to reset it. Other than that, he has a concussion, some lacerations and bruising."

Viggo processed the information, knew that the injuries could have been a lot worse.

"There was a complication during surgery," the doctor added.

"What?" Dom asked.

"Your friend lost a lot of blood, which caused his heart rate to drop. We lost him for a few seconds."

Viggo’s breath caught and he felt Dom’s arm slide around his waist.

"But as I said, he’s stable now and all his vitals look good."

"How long will it be before he wakes up?" Viggo asked.

"Could be a couple of hours or a couple of days. That’s up to him. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back and check on things," Dr. Ross said as he rose from his chair.

Viggo stood as well and shook the doctor’s hand. "Thank you."

"We’re not out of the woods yet, Mr. Mortensen."

"When can I see him?" Viggo asked before the doctor left them.

"He’s in recovery right now, and will be there for a few hours. After that, we’ll move him into ICU. He’s heavily sedated for the time being, so why don’t you go home and get some rest?" the doctor suggested.

Viggo shook his head. "I promised him I’d be here when he woke up."

Dr. Ross could see how much the older man cared for his patient, and decided to ignore the rules. They weren’t busy tonight, so he wouldn’t be in the way. "I’ll have someone let you know when they move him into the ICU. You can see him then."

"Thank you," he said before the doctor turned and disappeared back through the swinging doors. He turned to his friends and was enveloped in their embrace. "Thanks for being here, the both of you. I don’t know what I would have done if..."

"He’s alive, Vig, and you’ll get to see him in a few hours," Dom said as he held his friend. "So no more negative thoughts."

"I know." Viggo pulled out of their embrace. "Why don’t you two go home and get some sleep? There’s no reason for you to stay now that he’s out of surgery."

"Will you be okay here?" Elijah asked as he looked up at his friend.

"I’ll be fine, Elwood," he said with a small smile. "Take your other half home and tuck him into bed. He has a coffee shop to run. And notice I said *run* and not *ruin*, so no funny stuff while I’m gone."

"Deal," Dom said with a grin.

"We’ll take care of everything. You just concentrate on Orlando," the youngest member of their group said before gently kissing Viggo’s cheek. "We’ll be back later on with a bag for you. Key still in the same place?"

"Yeah. Thanks guys," Viggo said as he hugged them one last time. "I don’t know what I’d do without you."

"We’ll be back later," Dom said as he kissed the opposite cheek.

As his friends left, Viggo collapsed onto the sofa once again. Pulling Orlando’s cell phone out of his pocket, he hit the send button and waited for the call to be answered in Martha’s Vineyard.

 

 

Chapter 11

Viggo was shown into the ICU with a warning from the nurse that Orlando still looked pretty rough. As far as Viggo was concerned, anything was better than what he had seen earlier, but even so, he approached the bed with slow, tentative steps.

The majority of the blood had been cleaned from the beautiful face, but there were plenty of cuts and bruises to take its place. Three butterfly bandages graced his right temple, holding together a pretty nasty gash. Orlando’s right arm was cradled in a sling.

Several IV lines had been threaded into one and attached to the back of Orlando’s left hand, while different colored wires snaked their way out from beneath his hospital gown, connecting to the monitor positioned by his bed. The soft sound of <i>beep – beep – beep</i> filled the otherwise quiet room and somehow gave Viggo a measure of peace.

This time, his lover had survived.

Viggo stood silently just inside the curtain and watched as the nurse tore a strip of paper from the monitor and made notes in Orlando’s chart.

"I’ll be back in an hour or so to check on him. Do you need anything?" she quietly asked.

"No, but thanks anyway," Viggo answered, not taking his eyes off of his lover. When the nurse left, he pulled the standard plastic hospital chair to the side of the bed. Not comfortable, by any means, but ICU normally only allowed family members to visit for twenty-minutes at certain times of the day. Dr. Ross was breaking two hospital policies by allowing Viggo access in the middle of the night.

A shaky hand reached up and brushed the curls away from Orlando’s face, careful not to touch any of his wounds. Leaning over the silver railing, Viggo kissed Orlando’s left cheek.

"I’m here, baby. Just like I promised," he whispered before lowering himself into the chair and taking Orlando’s left hand in his own, careful not to interfere with the IV line. "I called Beatrice and told her what happened, that we were in an accident and that you had to have surgery. It was sort of strange, though, when I was talking to her. I got the feeling she knew something had happened. She said she’d call your mom and tell her what happened. We took Sidi back to Bea’s, and Dom and Elijah are going to take care of him for us. I figured he’d be better off there since he’s familiar with the place."

Viggo’s voice trailed off to a faint whisper as he felt his emotions getting the better of him again. "I’m sorry about all of this, Orlando. God, you don’t know how sorry I am," he said as tears slid down his face. He leaned forward, pressed his lips to the unresponsive hand. "I promise I’ll make this up to you. Just please, baby, please wake up. I need you. I couldn’t handle it if you slipped away from me. I couldn’t live through that again."

It took a few moments, but Viggo managed to rein in his emotions and slipped outside into the corridor where he pulled Orlando’s cell phone from his pocket and dialed Beatrice’s number.

"Hello?" came the sleepy voice through the phone.

"Bea, it’s Viggo. Sorry to wake you," he said as he closed Orlando’s cell.

"Wasn’t asleep, just dozing. How is he?"

"He came through the surgery okay and they just moved him from recovery to ICU. They repaired the punctured lung and his separated shoulder. He’s got a pretty big cut on his forehead, but other than that, he seems to be okay. Dr. Ross is letting me stay with him since they’re not busy."

"How long will he be in ICU?"

Viggo shook his head. "I’m not sure. Listen, I want to get back to him so I’ll call you with another update later."

"Don’t worry about it. I’ll call the hospital from time to time to check on him. You stay with him. He needs you, Viggo, more than he realizes."

The artist’s heart warmed at Beatrice’s words. "I need him, too, Bea."

"I know you do, son. That’s why I sent him there." Before Viggo could question that statement, Bea continued. "Call me when they move him to a private room, that way you won’t have to leave him alone."

"I will. I’ll talk to you later," Viggo said before replacing the receiver. Again, he had a feeling that there was more to Beatrice Copeland than met the eye. He made his way back to the curtained area, but before he went in, one of the nurses stopped him.

"We have a fresh pot of coffee, if you’d like a cup."

Viggo declined the offer. "Thanks, but maybe later," he answered, wanting to get back to Orlando immediately.

Soon, exhaustion set in and Viggo slept. Hours went by, the nurses came and went, and still he slept. His dreams turned into nightmares as he relived another car accident, this one almost two decades ago. He and Harry had been on their way home from a friend’s house when someone ran a stop sign and hit them on the passenger side – Harry’s side. Viggo suffered a broken arm along with cuts and bruises, but Harry wasn’t as lucky. His leg had been broken in two places, his arm and wrist shattered, several broken ribs punctured his right lung, and if that weren’t enough, he had massive internal bleeding. Viggo relived the horror of being told that his lover had succumbed to his injuries while in surgery.

He cried out, jolting himself back to the waking world. Sleep-blurred eyes slowly focused on the man in the bed, his Orlando. The machine by his side beeped quietly, recording the presence of his lover’s heartbeat, reassuring Viggo that history hadn’t repeated itself.

A hand on his shoulder startled him and he looked up. "Sorry about that," the nurse offered. "His vitals are improving, getting stronger."

"Good," Viggo said quietly as he reached out and stroked the warm skin of Orlando’s arm, linking their fingers together again.

* * * * *

Viggo dozed off and on for a few more hours before the shift-change signaled the start of a new day.

From his place beside Orlando’s bed, he watched the first rays of the sun filter into the room through the narrow windows at the opposite end of the room and thought back to the first time he had watched the start of a new day with Orlando, tucked safely away in a room that overlooked the bay. He recalled the way the faint shafts of sunlight danced across his lover’s skin, remembered how his hands had followed the same path.

He picked up their joined hands and brought them to his lips. "I promise we’ll have that again, baby, if you’ll just wake up," he said quietly. "Wake up and let me love you, let me show you how much you mean to me." Again, his requests went unanswered.

Hours passed with no change, Viggo never leaving his lover’s side. Lunch came and went, the artist ignoring the hunger pains that gripped his stomach. He’d eat later, when Orlando came back to him.

Elijah, on the other hand, had other ideas. After flashing his big baby blues at the nurses, he slipped into the ICU with a sack lunch in hand and stayed until Viggo had eaten every last bite.

"It wouldn’t do for you to pass out from not eating only to have Orlando wake up wondering where you were," he had argued. "If you have to be admitted to the hospital, you won’t be able to sit here, and you can’t give him your strength if you don’t have any."

Dom had sent along one of the books Viggo had been reading at the coffee shop, knowing the older man was probably going crazy with nothing but outdated magazines to read.

The afternoon found Viggo seated once again in the uncomfortable plastic chair, his feet propped up on the bottom rung of Orlando’s bed, their fingers linked together as the older man read quietly to the unconscious patient. It was then that he felt it – a tiny twitch in Orlando’s hand, almost like a muscle spasm. His eyes flew to their joined hands, mentally willing it to happen again. Viggo smiled as the long fingers flexed and relaxed back into their original position. He set the book aside and stood next to the bed, his hand gently squeezing Orlando’s.

"Baby, can you hear me?" he asked softly as he gently cradled Orlando’s unblemished cheek in his free hand. "Come on, baby, wake up for me. Let me see those beautiful eyes."

Said eyes moved rapidly beneath the closed lids and then they were fluttering open, the long lashes separating.

"That’s it," Viggo crooned as the brown eyes slowly focused, looking around the room and coming back to land on Viggo.

"Vig," Orlando whispered as he squeezed the older man’s hand.

"I need to get the nurse, okay? I’ll be right back."

"Wha ..." Orlando tried to ask but Viggo shook his head.

"Let me get the nurse and then we’ll talk," he said before leaning down and brushing a light kiss against the dry lips.

Orlando watched as Viggo disappeared behind the curtain, immediately missing his lover’s touch. He slowly looked around the room, realizing that he was in a hospital somewhere, but why? Before he had time to think, Viggo was back with two nurses in tow.

After taking a sip of water, Orlando quietly answered the nurses’ questions as best as he could, his throat sore from the intubation tube that had been in place during the surgery. He watched as they checked the monitor, listened to his heart and lungs, gently poked and prodded different parts of his body. They explained his injuries to him and at his confused look, Viggo relayed the events of the accident.

It took him a few moments, but then he remembered – remembered leaving the outdoor theater, being on their way to Viggo’s house when a car pulled alongside of them. After that, nothing.

"You’ve been unconscious since the accident," Viggo said as he brushed the hair away from Orlando’s face.

"What ... what day is it?"

Viggo checked the clock on the wall. "It’s almost four o’clock on Sunday afternoon. The accident happened around nine thirty last night."

"You …" Orlando said as he slowly reached up to Viggo’s face. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, just a few cuts and bruises. We slid sideways into a tree and you took the brunt of the impact," he said as his eyes filled with tears.

"Everything looks good, Mr. Bloom. I’ll page the doctor and find out how he wants to proceed. Is there anything I can get for you?" one of the day nurses asked.

"No, thank you," Orlando answered before the two women disappeared around the curtain.

Viggo lowered the railing and carefully slid onto the bed, sitting next to Orlando’s hip. "How do you feel?"

Orlando shifted in the bed a little bit and winced. "Sore," he said and noticed the tears filling his lover’s eyes. "Vig?"

"I’m so sorry, Orlando," he said quietly. "I don’t know …"

"Hey," Orlando said as he slowly reached out to his lover, struggling to stay coherent as the drugs in his system tried to pull him under once again. "It was an accident. I don’t blame you," he whispered.

Viggo blinked back the tears. "We’ll talk later. You get some rest."

A nod. "Will you be here when I wake up?"

Viggo leaned forward and gently kissed his lover, smiling as Orlando sleepily returned the kiss. He tasted like anesthesia. "I’m not going anywhere." He slid from the bed and watched as his lover slipped into sleep’s embrace once again.

* * * * *

The next time Orlando’s eyes opened, Viggo was speaking with the doctor.

"… keep him here for a couple of days, make sure there’s no complications with the punctured lung, and then he can be released. Someone will need to be with him for a few days, make sure he doesn’t overdo it. In about a week or so, he can start therapy for his shoulder."

"Vig?" Orlando said quietly and then his lover was by his side.

"Hey," he said as he brushed the curls away from Orlando’s face. "Dr. Ross is going to check you over and then they’re going to move you to a private room. While he’s doing that, I need to make a few calls and then I’ll be back."

Orlando nodded and then Viggo quietly slipped from the room.

"That’s a good man you’ve got there. Hasn’t left your side since they moved you into ICU," Dr. Ross said as he went over Orlando’s chart.

"Thank you for letting him stay."

"I have a feeling he would have annoyed the nurses if I hadn’t," he offered with a smile. "Now, let’s see how things are going with you."

Viggo called Bea with the update, giving her the room number where Orlando would be for the next couple of days.

"After that, then what?" the elderly lady asked.

"I thought about taking him back to my place. I don’t think he’s in any shape to tackle the stairs just yet."

"Or anything else, for that matter," she teased, making Viggo chuckle.

"I promise to keep my hands, and other things, to myself while he’s recuperating. Listen, I need to make a few more calls, so I’ll talk to you later."

"Take care of my grandson, Viggo."

"I will. I promise." After hanging up with Bea, he quickly called the coffee shop and spoke to Dom, telling him they would be moving Orlando to a private room shortly.

"I’m going over to Bea’s to check on Sidi in a bit. Want me to pack a bag for Orlando?"

"If you don’t mind. I don’t want to leave him."

Dom chuckled through the phone line. "Consider it done. Want me to bring anything else? Lube? Condoms?" he teased.

"Just bring the bags, smart ass," Viggo said with a smile. "I’ll see you later."

When he returned to the curtained area, Dr. Ross was finishing up the exam. "Everything looks good. They should be here momentarily to take you to your room. I’ll be back to check on you tomorrow morning and if things look good, we’ll remove the catheter and you can work on getting out of bed."

When the doctor left, Viggo slid onto the bed again, taking Orlando’s hand in his. He needed the contact, needed to reassure himself that his lover was still here. "How ya doing?"

"Better. Doc says I’ll live, but no monkey business for a few weeks."

"I just had the same conversation with your grandmother," Viggo admitted. "So, I was thinking that when you’re finally released, maybe you’d like to stay with me, at my place. I’m sure the stairs at Bea’s aren’t such a good idea, right off the bat," he said as he let his fingers card through the limp curls.

Orlando leaned into the caress. "What about Sidi?"

"The invitation extends to the juvenile delinquent as well."

The young man started to laugh, but stopped when a pain ripped through his side. "Oh, fuck that hurts."

"Sorry."

Orlando nodded. "Staying at your place sounds great. You still owe me breakfast in bed," he said with a smile.

* * * * *

Later that evening, the phone in Orlando’s private room rang. Viggo reached over and answered.

"Hello?"

"Viggo, it’s Dwayne. I just wanted to let you know they found the car that ran you off the road. It was registered to a Mike Pennington over in Williamsburg. He reported it stolen yesterday around noon."

"Mike Pennington? Never heard of him. Where’d you find the car?"

"Abandoned down by the mill. Some of the old timers who fish down there reported it this morning. Forensics hasn’t turned up anything yet, but they’re still looking. Could be nothing but a couple of kids out for a joyride, but I’ll keep you posted."

"Thanks Dwayne."

"Who was that?" Orlando asked from the bed as Viggo replaced the receiver.

"Police Chief Johnson. Said they found the car down by the old mill this morning. It was reported stolen yesterday and he thinks it might have been just some kids out for fun. They’re doing some tests, but don’t have anything conclusive yet. He’ll let us know when he finds anything else out."

Just then the door opened and in walked Dom and Elijah with the overnight bags, gifts and balloons in hand. All thoughts of stolen cars were promptly forgotten.

 

 

Chapter 12

Orlando had decided, in all his infinite wisdom, that Mother Nature and Fate were related – perhaps sisters, and not nice ones, either. They appeared to be sisters who were decidedly at odds with one another, and Orlando was the one caught in the crossfire.

Fate, it seemed, had seen to it that he and Viggo were thrust together in the most peculiar situation, the accident and Orlando’s subsequent convalescent stay at the older man’s home. Under other circumstances, Orlando would have been thrilled to have Viggo all to himself, twenty-four/seven.

The few times they had been together, intimately, had shown Orlando an extremely passionate man, one who could excite him quicker than any person, man or woman, had before. Be it with just one touch, or one look, the embers that had begun to burn upon their first meeting would quickly flare into an all-encompassing firestorm of emotions. Lust, need, and want fuelled the flames that burned between them. It was only when, bodies joined, they reached that single moment of perfection where nothing else existed but the two of them - only then would the flames die down, silently awaiting the next time.

From his place by the water’s edge, Orlando carefully turned and looked back at Viggo’s house, wondering if he would ever feel that again, now that he had made a complete mess of things between them.

This would be where Mother Nature stepped in and forced her wicked hand.

He had been at Viggo’s for two days when it began to rain. Late summer storms were the norm in Silverlake. Orlando thought nothing of it, until he realized that being cooped up inside, with Viggo acting more like his nanny-slash-keeper than his lover, was slowly becoming a problem.

During his hospital stay, Dr. Ross had told him to take it easy, to start out with a few trips around his room, taking care not to overdo it and cause more damage to his repaired lung and broken ribs. Before his discharge, Orlando had managed to make it to the nurse’s station and back to his room before his body told him it was time to take a much-needed break. He had looked forward to taking quiet walks along the shore, short walks, of course, with Viggo by his side, Sidi splashing alongside them. He wanted to take advantage of their time together and learn all he could about the artist, make plenty of memories to take back to the real world when his grandmother-imposed vacation ended.

Now that he was in Viggo’s care, however, things weren’t what he had imagined. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had seen fit to send rain, effectively squelching any thoughts of venturing outside to exercise, which left him slowly ambling around Viggo’s house.

Then the mothering side of Viggo’s psyche took over.

Orlando found himself constantly being ushered back to bed if Viggo thought he had been up for too long. Obviously their ideas of ‘too long’ were measured differently: Orlando listened to his body, Viggo looked at the clock. The young man didn’t think his feet had made contact with the floor for more than ten minute intervals before Viggo gently turned him back towards the bedroom.

Today, Orlando’s tenuous hold on his patience had snapped.

The steady downpour had tapered off to a light drizzle earlier that morning, slowly fading away completely as the day wore on. Orlando had watched this from the bed he had shared with Viggo for the past several nights, one that had become his prison. He needed to get out of there, away from everything, away from Viggo before he did or said something that he would regret.

Sidi rushed by for probably the twentieth time, happy to be outdoors again, barking at everything that moved. Orlando envied the innocent, childlike antics his pup was indulging in at the moment. He hated the fact that Sidi had been cooped up with him, knowing how much the canine had gotten used to being outdoors since coming to Silverlake. Since the accident, the only times Sidi had been out was to take care of business. Called immediately back by Viggo, Sidi would slink into the bedroom, an almost mournful look on his features. Orlando knew exactly how he felt.

He heard the phone ringing inside the house and hoped it wasn’t Gran making her daily call. He wasn’t ready to give up his solitude just yet. Truth be told, he wasn’t ready to face Viggo after the argument they just had.

Viggo had been in his study, sketchpad in hand, when Orlando poked his head inside and told him he was going outside for a bit, now that the rain had stopped. Viggo the Protector had given his opinion about the matter, citing that it was too soon for Orlando to be up and about like that and tried to usher him back into the bedroom.

Orlando had dug in his heels and said things he now wished he could take back. Viggo was his lover, not his mother or his keeper, and as far as he knew, the letters MD were not attached to the end of Viggo’s name. If he didn’t back the fuck off, Orlando would gladly go back to Gran’s. At least there, he wouldn’t be nagged to death, ordered around, or smothered.

There was a bench twenty yards or so to the left, and Orlando slowly made his way over to it and took a seat, completely ignoring the fact that it was still wet from the rain.

Like a never-ending movie, their argument played over and over in his head, Orlando wincing each time the hateful words spilled from him. This man, his lover, had not left his side since the accident, completely neglecting himself in the process. It was only when Dom and Elijah visited Orlando in the hospital and took one look at the haggard man, did Viggo acquiesce to their wishes. He slipped into the bathroom of Orlando’s private room and made himself fit for company again.

Instead of thanking Viggo for everything the man had done for him, he had pitched a fit worthy of a seven year old being told he couldn’t go out to play.

Orlando knew what he needed to do and for the first time in his life, he was afraid. He was afraid that Viggo would not accept his apology; afraid that he had lost this chance at happiness; afraid that he would never find someone as kind, compassionate and caring as the artist was.

With his heart in his throat, Orlando slowly made his way through the rain-soaked grass back to the house where he found Viggo sitting on the floor of his studio, back pressed tightly against the wall, looking through what appeared to be an old photo album. Standing quietly in the doorway, he watched as long fingers traveled lovingly over the pictures.

Sidi nosed his way into the room, snapping Viggo out of the trance-like state he had been in. Blue eyes met brown and Orlando could see the sadness there.

"Can we talk?" Orlando asked quietly and Viggo slowly closed the book, nodding. The young man moved further into the room and took a seat on the backless, swivel stool that Viggo sometimes used while painting. "I’m sorry for the things I said earlier. I had no right to …"

"Yes, you did," Viggo said as he sat the book aside. "You had every right to call me on my actions, because everything you said was true. I’ve done nothing but coddle you since the accident, and I realize now I was doing more harm than good. I know the doc said you needed to be up and around, but I didn’t want you to overdo it and end up back in the hospital. I couldn’t go through that again," he added, his voice barely above a whisper.

At Orlando’s puzzled look, he continued. "There’s something you need to know, something about my past. Maybe it will help you understand why I’ve acted the way I have," he said as he picked up the book again and stood. "Come sit with me on the couch?"

Orlando nodded and followed Viggo out of the studio and into the living room, wondering what he was in for. He opted for the right side of the couch, keeping his injured shoulder out of the way. Viggo sat down on his left, opening the album and sliding it onto their legs.

The first picture was a much younger Viggo and another young man with dark hair, their arms wrapped protectively around each other. The caption beneath the photo read ‘Harry & Viggo – New Year 1984’. "I think that’s my favorite picture of us," Viggo said quietly.

Orlando recognized the structure in the background – the Golden Gate Bridge. So Viggo had lived in San Francisco. That would explain how he knew the differences between living in the big city and Silverlake.

"Harry Sinclair was a force to be reckoned with. A mutual friend introduced us at an art gallery opening in March of eighty-three," he started as they slowly thumbed through the pages of Viggo’s past. "He intimidated the hell out of me. He was an investment broker, one of San Francisco’s most sought-after bachelors, on both sides of the fence. He was like a magnet. Everyone was instantly drawn to him and for some strange reason, he was by my side the entire evening."

They made a stunning couple, Orlando thought, Viggo’s light complexion complementing Harry’s dark features. Page after page revealed two men very much in love, and Orlando’s heart ached for what they had; he wanted something like that for himself.

"After a couple of months, he had practically moved into my barely furnished loft, and by barely furnished I mean I had a bed, a chest of drawers, and a couple of bar stools. The majority of the area was littered with art supplies - canvases, paints, brushes, and worktables. Our bathroom doubled as my darkroom. It was a big change from the lap of luxury Harry was used to, but we were happy. I did my ‘artist thing’ during the days, as Harry called it, and tended bar a few nights a week to pay the bills. I was never at a loss for inspiration when he was around."

Orlando had stopped on a page with several pictures of Viggo sitting in an unmade bed, wearing nothing but a pair of faded jeans, pen to paper and a smile on his face. On the opposite page was one of him on hands and knees, spreading paint over a canvas that was lying on the floor. There were more pictures of them together, vacations they had taken, and friends they had.

"We were coming home from a dinner party one night when someone ran a stop sign and hit us. I ended up with a broken arm. Harry lost his life," Viggo said, his voice now a whisper. "When I came to after *our* accident, the only thing I could think of was that history was repeating itself and I made a promise to myself that if you somehow made it, I would do everything in my power to make it up to you, to protect you. I realize now that I went about everything the wrong way."

The thought of Viggo losing his lover in an automobile accident sent a fresh wave of sadness through Orlando’s system and the fact that it had nearly happened a second time … now he understood. Slowly, Orlando linked their fingers together and leaned his head on Viggo’s shoulder. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For telling me about Harry. Now I understand why you acted the way you did."

"I was just doing what I thought was best," Viggo offered.

"I’m sorry about everything I’ve said to you today. I feel like such an ass."

"You didn’t know, and I’m sorry for not telling you sooner. I’ve had plenty of opportunities where I could have, but … I don’t know … I guess I wanted to keep that part separate from everything else … so I could focus on what we have."

Orlando’s body suddenly felt hot as a spike of adrenaline hit his system. In the beginning, he had assumed that they were just having a little fun while he was there and that things would end when he went back to New York.

Again, Fate had waved that damn magic wand of hers and Orlando found himself wanting more. He wanted more than what was waiting for him back in New York, which amounted to absolutely zilch where his personal life was concerned; wanted to spend more time with Viggo, wanted to explore the feelings that had been slowly deepening since their first meeting; wanted to give their fledgling relationship a chance to grow.

With Viggo’s last comment, though, Orlando wondered if the older man’s feelings mirrored his own. He wanted so very badly to ask, but fear of the unknown held his tongue, and instead he offered a truce.

"So, now that we’ve both made mistakes and apologized for them, how about we start over?" Orlando asked. "You curb your over-protective tendencies and in exchange, I won’t mention leaving again until I’ve been released."

Viggo’s gut clenched at the thought of Orlando leaving him, even if he was just going back to Beatrice’s house. He wasn’t sure how he would handle it when his lover left to go back to the real world.

The artist kept his thoughts to himself and pressed a kiss to Orlando’s temple. "Deal. From here on out, we keep the lines of communication open."

Sidi, sensing that things were better between the two humans, stood at the end of the couch, looking expectantly towards the door and then back again, causing the men to laugh.

"Looks like the juvenile delinquent needs to go out again," Viggo said as he closed the photo album and set it on the coffee table. "What in the world did he do when you two were in New York? Now that he’s got a taste of being outside all the time, it’s the only place he wants to be."

"Can you blame him?" Orlando asked as he watched Viggo rise from the couch and head towards the back door. The young man winced as he slid to the edge of the couch and slowly stood. His ribs were still sore, and would be for the foreseeable future.

Viggo stood in the doorway and watched Sidi nose around in the flowerbeds before going in search of other things. He felt his lover’s presence behind him, felt Orlando’s left arm slide around his waist, chin propped on his shoulder.

"It’s beautiful here," Orlando said quietly as he looked out over the back yard that sloped down to the bay. He felt a sudden calm settle over him and he realized that this was yet another place from his dreams. He had been so wound up from the accident and Viggo’s incessant mothering that he hadn’t had time to really think about anything else. But now, standing here like this, he knew exactly what the dreams were showing him.

It wasn’t just the fact that he belonged with a man … he belonged with *this* man.

* * * * *

From behind the shimmering curtain of reality, Fate and Mother Nature shared a knowing smile.

"The rest is up to you two," Fate whispered as Mother Nature rolled back the clouds, allowing the sun’s rays to caress Horseshoe Bay.

 

 

Chapter 13

It was raining again, or so Viggo thought as the sound of running water penetrated his sleep-addled brain. Slowly rejoining the waking world, he cracked one eye open, expecting to find the bedroom shrouded in darkness, but found the items within illuminated with moonlight, instead.

All but one.

And it would have been if it weren’t missing.

He now recognized the sound for what it was – the shower running. Indecision clawed at Viggo’s mind. He was torn between the need to allow Orlando his space and the need to make sure his lover was okay. The protective side won out. Viggo pushed aside the covers and walked towards the closed door, knowing he would probably get yelled at again.

After several knocks went unanswered, he became worried that something had happened to Orlando. Turning the knob, he sent up a silent ‘thank you’ that the door hadn’t been locked. Stepping into his bathroom, through the bank of steam that filled the room, he could barely make out Orlando’s form in the shower.

"Orlando? Something wrong?" Viggo asked as he approached the blurred figure. Watching Orlando’s reaction, he berated himself for scaring his lover.

Orlando was standing beneath the showerhead, left hand braced against the front wall as the hot water flowed over his right shoulder and ribs. At the sound of Viggo’s unexpected voice, he tensed, his head snapping upwards and barely missing the showerhead itself.

"I’m sorry I interrupted, but I heard the water running and thought something might be wrong," Viggo hurried to explain.

There is, but it’s not what you think, Orlando thought as he closed his eyes and let his chin rest on his chest once again. "Sorry I woke you," he said quietly.

Viggo pushed the shower curtain aside, not caring that water was splashing onto the floor. "Don’t be. I just wanted to see if you were okay." The image of his lover naked and wet was a tad bit distracting, especially since they hadn’t done anything sexual since before the accident. It was hell sleeping next to Orlando night after night, knowing he couldn’t touch the young man. He quickly put a leash on his wandering thoughts. They would lead to nothing but trouble.

Orlando turned his head from left to right, enjoying the water pressure pounding into his skin. "My shoulder was bothering me … thought a hot shower might help."

Viggo nodded, knowing he was pushing his luck. "I noticed you were a bit distracted this evening. Want me to get your pills?"

"No," came the quiet voice from beneath the running water. "But thanks anyway." True, his shoulder was bothering him, but not much. He didn’t want to take the pills because he had things he needed to think about, hence his escape into the shower. The lull of the water, the heat against his skin relaxed him and allowed him to slip into a trance-like state where he could think things through without interruptions. That was, until his lover had found him.

"Oh, well, okay. As long as you’re all right, I’ll leave you alone." Viggo closed the shower curtain and moved to the door.

"Stay."

Orlando’s voice stopped him in his tracks. He slowly turned around to find the shower curtain pulled back, his lover’s face framed by sodden curls plastered to his skin. "Please?"

Viggo nodded and moved to sit on the closed toilet lid.

"No, in here … with me," Orlando said with an impish grin before sliding the curtain back into place.

Viggo’s heart rate jumped. "As much as I’d love to, I don’t think that would be a good idea," the older man stated. "Doc said we had to behave ourselves."

"It’s just a shower, Vig."

Just a shower, my ass, Viggo thought as he took a seat. His normally loose sleep-pants weren’t as loose as they’d been when he first walked in. "You’re naked and wet, Orlando. How long do you think I’d be able to keep my hands off of you?"

"You’ve been doing a good job, so far. It’s been, what? Six days already?"

"Entirely too long," Viggo mumbled to himself, his eyes narrowing at the closed curtain. "I thought you said your shoulder was bothering you."

"It was, but now there’s something else bothering me."

Viggo had a fairly good idea of what was bothering his lover, because he was finding himself in the same situation. Desire waged a full-on assault against Viggo’s better judgment and after a few moments of indecision, he watched his common sense execute a perfect swan dive off of a tall building. He quickly slid his sleep pants down his legs, stepping into the back of the shower.

"Nice to know I’m not the only one gentle persuasion works on," Orlando said before pressing himself, albeit carefully, against his lover and laying claim to the tempting lips. They had shared kisses since the accident, but they had all been brief and almost chaste for fear of it exploding into something uncontrollable.

Viggo fought to control the kiss, wanting to slow things down, but Orlando refused to be dissuaded. It was feral and messy, all lips, teeth and tongues, and soon the sounds of erotic growls and answering moans filled the tiny enclosure as twin columns of silk-covered-steel slid together between their bodies.

It wasn’t enough.

"Need you," Orlando said as he sucked at Viggo’s bottom lip.

"We can’t. Not until the doc says you’re able to."

Orlando’s lips left a trail of teasing kisses from Viggo’s lips, across his unshaven jaw, up to his ear. "Then suck me," he whispered as he slowly rolled his hips against Viggo’s, ignoring the pain in his ribcage.

Viggo groaned at the teasing images Orlando’s words had called forth. He needed this as much as Orlando did, but he would not be responsible for causing his lover any additional pain.

"Wouldn’t you be more comfortable on the bed?"

Orlando shook his head. "Too much pressure on my ribs when I lie down. Here is fine. Besides," he said as he caught Viggo’s earlobe between his teeth and gently tugged, "it’ll be easier to clean up afterwards."

His lover had a valid point and Viggo didn’t need much convincing. He slowly reversed their positions until Orlando was leaning against the wall of the shower. Then it was his turn to lay teasing kisses on the smooth flesh as he nipped, teased and sucked his way down Orlando’s torso, taking extra care with his bruised right side. Once he arrived at his intended destination, he pressed Orlando’s hips to the wall, holding him in place, and did as he had been instructed.

But not before having a bit of fun.

Pressing his nose into the saturated curls, Viggo inhaled deeply. Beneath the smell of Irish Spring lay the intoxicating scent that was pure Orlando - male, musky and dark - and it made Viggo’s mouth water. He nuzzled the base of Orlando’s shaft, his tongue darting out every now and then to taste. Mmmm, heaven, he thought.

Careful to keep his right arm as still as possible, Orlando slid the fingers of his left hand through his lover’s damp hair, flexing them against Viggo’s scalp each time the older man did something he particularly enjoyed … which turned out to be just about everything. Closing his eyes, he laid his head back against the wall and gave himself over to the sensations coursing through his body. It had been so long since he had felt his lover’s touch and he needed this, needed this physical reassurance that they were okay after their fight earlier.

Viggo released his grip on Orlando’s left hip and wrapped his hand around his own throbbing cock, his strokes synchronized with those he was lavishing on Orlando’s shaft with his mouth. He would have preferred that it was Orlando’s hand, or mouth, that was bringing him closer to completion, but for now, his hand would suffice.

The prolonged absence of Viggo’s hand on his body had Orlando opening his eyes and looking down. He had expected to feel his lover’s touch again, and now he knew why he hadn’t. The sight of Viggo bringing himself off was so unexpected, and so unbearably erotic, that he came a few seconds later, his orgasm ripping through his body, his essence filling Viggo’s mouth.

The artist swallowed everything Orlando gave him and then placed one last kiss to the stated shaft before resting his forehead against his lover’s groin and tugging on his own swollen flesh.

"Fuck, that’s hot," Orlando said, his voice breathless. He slid his left hand beneath Viggo’s chin and tilted his lover’s face up. "Come for me, Vig."

Blue eyes slowly looked up and locked with brown, and Viggo was lost. With a long, drawn-out groan, he closed his eyes and gave in to his own completion. His cock twitched and erupted, painting the inside of Orlando’s calf and the wall of the tub white. He remained where he was for a few moments, slowly recovering. Over the din of the shower, he heard his lover chuckling quietly.

"Told you we’d be better off in here," Orlando said as he watched Viggo slowly get to his feet.

"You okay?" Viggo asked as he brushed several wet strands of hair away from Orlando’s face. "Was that too much?"

Orlando brushed his lips against Viggo’s, tasting himself there. "Just what the doctor ordered, I’d say," he offered with a grin.

"I rather think Dr. Ross would frown upon our recent activities," Viggo commented as he grabbed the bar of soap and quickly, but carefully, washed Orlando, and then himself.

Orlando grabbed a towel from the nearby towel rack and stepped out to dry himself. "What the good doc doesn’t know won’t hurt him."

"That may be," Viggo said as he turned off the shower and retrieved his own towel, "but if he does find out, I’m the one he’s going to come after for causing his patient’s recovery to take a few steps in the wrong direction."

Orlando did the one-armed bandit dance as he pulled on his boxers and then tossed his towel over the shower curtain rod. "I wouldn’t go that far. Look at it as therapy," he said as he watched Viggo get dressed. At Viggo’s raised eyebrow, he continued. "If I don’t get off every few days, I get grouchy. And seeing as my right hand is out of commission, and jerking off left-handed is completely out of the question because the angle is all wrong, the job falls to you."

Viggo’s laughter filled the bathroom. "So now I’m your sex therapist?" he asked as his towel joined Orlando’s.

"You can be whatever you want to be, just as long as I get some form of relief every few days. Six days is too fucking long," he said as he walked back into the bedroom and carefully slid back into the moonlit bed.

Viggo turned the bathroom light off and joined him. He almost protested when Orlando slid his uninjured arm beneath Viggo’s back and pulled him close. He had to let the young man do things without his interference, and besides, he missed his lover’s body pressed against his, and vice-versa. He tucked his head into the crook of Orlando’s neck and slid his hand over warm flesh to settle on his lover’s hip.

"This okay?" Viggo asked, not wanting to put any additional pressure on Orlando’s injuries than absolutely necessary.

Orlando pressed his lips to Viggo’s forehead. "Perfect."

Orlando wasn’t sure how long he lay there, but sleep still eluded him. He watched as shadows silently danced their way across the room, and listened to the soft, steady breathing of his lover.

While in the shower earlier, he had thought long and hard about his dreams and what they had revealed to him … that Viggo had been a part of them all along. Looking back, he realized that something inside of him recognized Viggo, and that was why they clicked instantly. Spending time with the artist, getting to know him had strengthened the bond between them, and now …

"I’m falling in love with you," he whispered into the night. "And it scares the hell out of me because I don’t know what to do."

Viggo fought to keep his breathing calm and even, to keep his body relaxed in an effort to hide the fact that he was awake and listening to Orlando’s private ramblings.

"At first, you filled my dreams and now you fill my life. Silverlake has become my home and everything before feels like a different life. I guess in a way, it was. I left that life behind and started a new one here, and I don’t want to leave it. I don’t want to leave you."

It soothed Viggo’s battered and beaten heart to find that Orlando’s feelings mirrored his own but it still worried him, that beneath it all, they were two completely different people from two completely different worlds.

In order for them to be together, one of them had to make drastic changes in their life.

Could either one of them do that and not resent it in the long run?

 

 

Chapter 14

"You up for a field trip today?" Viggo asked when Orlando returned from the short walk he and Sidi had taken down to the water’s edge.

Orlando’s eyebrows disappeared beneath the wind-blown curls resting against his forehead. "Field trip?" he asked with a laugh.

"I thought that sounded better than ‘day pass’. Though that’d probably be the more appropriate term, since you’ve been living in a prison for the past few days," Viggo offered with an apologetic look.

"Don’t you dare say it, Viggo," Orlando said as he moved to stand in front of his lover. "It’s over so there’s no need to bring it up again. We both made mistakes and apologized for them."

Viggo knew Orlando was right. There was no use in dwelling on something that was in the past, and they needed to move on. He leaned in, giving the young man a brief kiss. "I rather enjoyed our make up session last night in the shower," he whispered against the moist lips.

Orlando groaned as he recalled the image of Viggo on his knees, those long fingers working his own flesh. "So did I," he said, his stomach clenching with desire. "Maybe we need to have another argument. Or better yet, how about we skip the argument and go right to the making up part?"

Viggo chuckled. "As much as I’d love to, I can’t. Dom just called, said there was a problem with one of the deliveries and the distributor is being a hard-ass about it. I need to go to the coffee shop to straighten things out and I was wondering if you wanted to tag along? It’d get you out of the house for a little while; give you a change of scenery."

Orlando thought about it for a moment. A change of scenery would be great, but he wasn’t ready to venture into town just yet. What he needed was to talk to Gran about what had been happening with Viggo, so he offered a compromise.

"Would it be okay if I went to Gran’s while you’re in town?" he asked. "I need to check on the place, make sure everything is okay. You could drop me off on your way and pick me up when you’re finished."

Viggo was a bit disappointed that Orlando didn’t want to go with him, but maybe it was for the best. He needed to do some thinking about the things he’d heard last night, and suspected Orlando needed some time alone as well.

"Beatrice’s it is," Viggo said with a nod.

* * * * *

"You’ve got your cell, right?" Viggo asked before allowing Orlando out of the Jeep. Sidi, on the other hand, had already been granted his freedom and was in the process of inspecting the flowerbeds for trespassing critters.

Orlando carefully leaned across the arm rest and brushed a gentle kiss to Viggo’s lips. "Stop worrying, Viggo. I’ll be fine."

Viggo nodded as permanently paint-stained fingers worked their way into the dark curls, holding Orlando close. "Sorry."

Orlando rested his forehead against Viggo’s. "The sooner you get to the coffee shop, the sooner you’ll be back," he suggested.

"True. So why are you still here?" Viggo teased as he reluctantly pulled away. "Do you need anything while I’m in town?"

"Not that I can think of. Now, go battle the evil distributors who are threatening to create chaos in the world of coffee," he said as he opened the door and climbed out of the Jeep. "And take care of my baby. It’s not everyday I let just anybody drive her."

"So that’s what I am? An ‘anybody’?" Viggo watched the young man walk around the vehicle and come to stand beside the driver’s door.

Orlando leaned in and kissed Viggo again. "Yeah, but you’re not just anybody’s anybody.  You're *my* anybody. There’s a difference."

To hear that in the light of day, and not under the influence of sleep, put a smile on Viggo’s face, made his stomach flip. He wondered if Orlando even realized what he had just said.

"Be careful, okay? You’re not the only one who worries."

Viggo was glad to hear that. "I’m not sure how long I’ll be, but I’ll call when I’m done," he said before putting the Jeep in gear and pulling out of the driveway.

After making a round through the house, being extra careful navigating the stairs, Orlando slipped a few CDs into the stereo, grabbed the cordless phone, and settled himself in the swing on the back porch. The soulful sounds of Miles Davis filled the air, drifted through the open windows and wrapped themselves around Orlando as he watched Sidi playing in the yard.

As much as he enjoyed spending time at Viggo’s, it felt good to be back on his own turf, so to speak. And to be alone. He had never lived with anyone before, and realized that he missed his solitude. Even when he and Kate were together, they maintained separate residences, occasionally staying at one place or the other on the weekends.

Made it easier for her to live her double life, Orlando mused as Sidi raced by, chasing a wren that had flown into the airspace the canine had dubbed ‘restricted’.

Orlando quickly halted that train of thought and focused on the here and now, on Viggo and what he felt for the other man. Before meeting Viggo, he had scoffed at the idea that someone could fall in love in such a short period of time, but here he was, living proof that it could happen. It was so unexpected – and thrilling – and scary – all at the same time.

With Kate, it had been an expected progression from meeting to dating to engagement, certainly not as overwhelming as the combustion he had experienced with Viggo the first time they had literally bumped into each other. In that instant, something clicked inside him and he just knew … knew he wanted to get to know the other man, knew he *wanted* the other man.

And now that he’d had a taste of heaven, what was next? Take a page from one of Gran’s romance novels and declare his undying love, ask Viggo to give up his life and move to New York with him? Orlando shook his head. There was no way he would ask Viggo to do that. Art House Coffee Shop was Viggo’s life. Silverlake was his home and given the choice between the big city and small town living, Orlando knew what his lover’s answer would be. So that left him with only one other option.

He picked up the handset and dialed Gran’s number.

"Why are you calling me from the house?" Beatrice asked when she answered after the second ring. "Aren’t you supposed to be at Viggo’s? Is everything okay?"

Orlando smiled at the concern in his grandmother’s voice. "Things are fine. He had to take care of some things at the coffee shop and I wanted to check on the house."

"Pauline was there yesterday, Orlando," Bea reminded him. "The house is fine. So why are you really there?"

He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Because I needed some time alone," he offered. "I’m not used to having someone around twenty-four/seven, you know?"

"Probably better than most. So what happened?"

The young man settled into the cushions and set the swing in motion. "We had a fight yesterday. I said some things I shouldn’t have and stormed out of the house like a petulant child."

Orlando recounted the events for his grandmother, hating himself all over again for the way he acted, the way he had treated Viggo. He told her about Harry and why Viggo handled things the way he had. "We both made mistakes, but we’ve promised to keep the lines of communication open so it won’t happen again," he concluded.

"Sounds like solid relationship advice to me," Bea said with a smile. "And you said things are fine between you two now?"

"Yeah, we’re good. Which brings me to the real reason I called."

"Oh? And what would that be?" she asked.

"Don’t play innocent with me, Gran. I know you too well."

"So, you’ve figured it out, have you?"

"If you’re referring to the fact that my future is here in Silverlake with Viggo, then yes."

"I knew you were smarter than you looked," Beatrice teased.

"And that just earned you one less Christmas present."

"Actually, I think I received my Christmas present a bit early this year. Don’t you?"

Orlando relaxed back into the cushions and smiled. "I think we both have."

Beatrice could hear the love in her grandson’s voice. "You’re in love with him, aren’t you?"

"You’re the psychic in the family. You tell me," Orlando teased.

"Cheeky boy," Bea playfully admonished. "So what do you plan to do about it?"

Orlando sighed. As much as he wanted to shout it to the heavens, he wasn’t sure his love was returned, and said as much to his grandmother.

"I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, Orli. I was on the phone with you two the morning after your first night together and from what I heard in his voice, he was feeling it as well. Then the accident happened, and who was by your side the entire time? Viggo was, and it wasn’t out of some warped sense of duty. He cares for you, Orli, more than he probably wants to admit. So when you think you’re alone in the way you feel, I’d be willing to bet that he’s feeling the same things."

"Guess we need to get to work on that communication thing then, right?" Orlando joked. "It’s just … I hate the fact that one of these days I’ll have to leave. That’s something I’m not looking forward to, not now."

"So don’t," Bea said with a grin. "Stay there as long as you want. Copeland will be here when you get back."

Orlando leaned his head back, closed his eyes and gave voice to the idea that he had been tossing around since last night. "And what if I don’t want to come back?"

That put a smile on the weathered face. "You might be the heir to Copeland Steel, but nobody said you had to be here to run it. That’s what Chief Operating Officers are for. As long as you have a trustworthy set of people working for you, you don’t have to worry about it."

Orlando hadn’t really thought of it that way. He’d always assumed that he’d be there, in the trenches, so to speak, when the time came. But now his grandmother was offering what appeared to be a very appealing option.

"So, hypothetically speaking, if you stayed in Silverlake, what would you like to do? Besides Viggo?" she teased.

"Viggo’s a ‘who’, Gran. Not a ‘what’."

"That may be, but he’s got a ‘what’."

"Can we please leave Viggo’s ‘what’ out of this conversation?" Orlando queried, his voice taking on a slightly agitated sound.

"Missing it already?"

"GRAN!"

"When do you go back to the doctor?"

"Monday," he said with a sigh.

"You’ll survive a few more days without Viggo’s ‘what’, and then I’m sure the doc will release you, in more ways than one," Beatrice teased.

"God, I hope so. I miss Viggo’s ‘what’," he admitted with a snicker. "He’d kill me if he knew we were talking like this."

"This is a grandmother/grandson conversation. Significant others are strictly forbidden."

"Deal. So, back to the original topic … what would I like to do? I honestly don’t know."

"You like to read, so what about working at the library, maybe do some volunteer work with the kids there? Or how about the bookstore? Maybe you could set up some kind of reading program with Copeland as the sponsor. There are lots of opportunities out there. You just have to know where to look."

"And have the right connections," Orlando said as he sat up in the swing again, the ideas starting to take shape. "So, you think Copeland would be willing to back something like that?"

"Do you even have to ask? Why don’t you take a few days to think it over, and then let me know what ideas you come up with? I’ll pull out my little black book and do some digging on this end."

Orlando felt better than he had in several days and it was all thanks to his wonderful grandmother. "You are so good to me, Gran."

"You deserve to be happy, Orlando, in every aspect of your life. Now, enough of the serious stuff. Tell me how the juvenile delinquent and Viggo are getting along. I know how protective of you that mutt can be."

For the next half-hour, they avoided anything serious and talked about whatever struck them at that moment. Only when Orlando’s cell phone vibrated against his leg, did he reluctantly say goodbye to his grandmother.

"Please tell me the coffee world is safe again," he said after checking his Caller ID.

"Yes, I single-handedly vanquished the evil distributor who threatened to end the world by giving it too much caffeine."

"Huh?"

"They screwed up my order and sent too much, then demanded that I accept the delivery. Dom tried to head them off at the pass, but they were in the mood to fight, so he called me."

"And Viggo rushed in on a white horse, no, a black Jeep, and saved the day. My hero," he playfully sighed.

"You finished swooning there, Scarlet?"

"Yeah, what’s up?" Orlando asked with a laugh.

"Bad choice of words, but I’ll let it slide this time."

"Thank you so much, oh magnanimous one."

"I thought I’d pick you up and we’d go out to dinner, if you’re feeling up to it."

"Sounds good to me. What are you hungry for?"

"Orlando," Viggo warned.

"Hmm, I think the only place you can get that would be if we were to stay in."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Because I’m just as sexually frustrated as you are."

"I’ll be there in fifteen minutes."

"Just follow the sound of running water."

"Make that ten," Viggo said before hanging up.

Orlando’s stomach tightened with anticipation … Viggo was on his way.

 

 

Chapter 15

Fingers of silver moonlight caressed Orlando’s features as he stood on the balcony of his room, his mind still reeling from the events of the last few hours. He looked over his shoulder to the sleeping man inside, and wondered, not for the first time, how he had managed to find a man as special as Viggo Mortensen.

Thank your meddling grandmother, a little voice inside said.

Come morning, he would be thanking Gran for a hell of a lot more than that. He would be thanking her for his future.

His eyes strained to see the papers sitting on the dressing table in the dark master suite. To say that he was shocked speechless when they had been delivered earlier that morning would be the understatement of the century. Orlando was downright floored by his grandmother’s actions.

After being released from Dr. Ross’ care two days earlier, he had quietly packed his things and moved back to Beatrice’s.  He had been torn between the need to get back on his feet and wanting to stay with Viggo, especially after his middle-of-the-night realization. 

Viggo had disappeared into his studio while Orlando gathered his things, not wanting to watch the man who held his heart preparing to leave him, as silly as that might sound. He was just going back to Beatrice’s, but Viggo had entertained more than one fantasy that ended with Orlando staying with him – permanently.

After settling Orlando back at Beatrice’s, Viggo spent his days at the coffee shop while Orlando spent most of his time curled up on the swing, Sidi by his side, thinking. Thinking of his future, of *their* future, if things went as he hoped they would.

Receiving the package from his grandmother was the icing on the cake - it was time to put things in motion, to start living again. Without a moment’s hesitation, he picked up the phone and called Viggo at the coffee shop, inviting him over for dinner that night.

It had been perfect. With Ms. Higgins’ help, because heaven knew Orlando was no master of the culinary arts, together they had prepared a candlelit dinner for two, complete with all the trimmings. The formal dining room table had been covered with a white linen tablecloth, two place settings of Beatrice’s fine bone china and Waterford crystal, and a silver candelabrum with white tapered candles graced the center of the table.

Viggo had been a bit surprised by it all, but Orlando was never one to do things by half. It was all or nothing, as far as he was concerned. After dining on top sirloin, herb roasted potatoes and mixed sweet yellow and white whole kernel corn, Orlando had refilled their wine glasses, led the older man out to the porch and settled them into the swing.

After a few minutes of listening to the water lap at the shoreline, Orlando finally spoke. "I have a confession to make," he began, his voice barely above a whisper.

Viggo turned in his seat, confusion marring his rugged features, and Orlando pressed on.

"I heard what you said in the hospital, that you didn’t want to lose me, that you wanted me to come back to you so you could love me."

So that’s what he was up to, Viggo thought with an inward smile. On the phone, Orlando had played dinner off as a thank you for everything he had done after the accident. Now the real reason had been revealed. It was time to put *all* the cards on the table, so to speak.

"Do you? Do you love me, Viggo?" Orlando asked. His voice was tight from the emotions that were running through his mind and body.

Viggo slowly wound his fingers into the riot of curls as blue eyes met brown. Several seconds passed, neither man moving, both barely breathing, knowing that this was the moment of truth for them. Viggo leaned in and gently brushed his lips against Orlando’s.

"More than life itself," he confessed and felt the rush of air as Orlando exhaled.

Orlando’s smile was so radiant that Viggo felt as if a thousand suns were shining down on him. Guess that was the right answer, Viggo thought. A second later, he had a lap full of squirming flesh and his mouth was being plundered relentlessly by his lover. Viggo made a mental note to make Orlando happy every chance he got if this was his reward.

Orlando finally broke the kiss, leaning back and smiling a secretive smile. The corners of his eyes crinkled, making Viggo wonder if he had missed something.

"What’s that for?" Viggo asked as he traced the curve of Orlando’s lips.

"Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t alone in my feelings, is all."

"You’re not, if your midnight ramblings are honest," Viggo said and laughed at the shocked look now gracing Orlando’s features.

"You heard that?"

"Every word," Viggo said with a nod.

Orlando slid from his lover’s lap and pulled him up from the swing. "You loved me even knowing that I would leave one day?"

"The heart loves who it loves," Viggo answered as he pulled Orlando into his arms. "I can’t tell it not to love you just because you have a life somewhere else."

"Interesting," Orlando said with another knowing grin.

"Why do I get the feeling there is still something you haven’t told me?"

"Probably because there is, which brings me to my next question - if you could have anything, anything your heart desires, what would it be?"

Viggo’s heart thundered in his chest. He didn’t know what game Orlando was playing, but from the look on his face, he probably held all the aces. "Anything?"

"Anything."

"Even if it makes me look like a fool?"

At Orlando’s nod, Viggo took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet. "That you never leave, that we make a life together here in Silverlake."

The radiant smile was back. "I love you," Orlando said before claiming Viggo’s mouth once more. Time stood still as they poured everything they felt into this kiss, the first one of their new life together. Finally, when both felt lightheaded from the lack of oxygen, Orlando took Viggo’s hand and led him into the study.

The artist watched as Orlando slid what looked like a legal document from a manila envelope, flipped to the tabbed page and signed his name. With that done, Orlando pulled Viggo back into his arms.

"Your wish has been granted," he said with a grin and laughed at the bewildered look in Viggo’s face.

"Come again?"

"Haven’t come the first time yet," Orlando quipped. "What do you say about taking me upstairs and remedying that?"

Now Viggo *knew* he was missing something. "Orlando, what’s going on?"

"You wished for something and I granted it. Well, Gran did, actually," Orlando said as he released his hold on Viggo and handed the document to him.

Viggo’s eyebrows disappeared beneath the fringe of hair that covered his forehead when he realized what he was holding. "She gave you this house?"

"Actually, I think she was giving *us* this house," Orlando clarified as he handed Viggo the note that had been included with the paperwork.

May your home be filled with happiness to match the love that fills your hearts.

"It would have been mine, eventually," Orlando said as he fought off a wave of sadness at the thought of Gran not being there for him one day. "I’m not saying you have to move in, or anything, just that I think that was her intention, us living here, together."

Viggo shook his head, amazed, once again, by the wonderful lady that was Beatrice Copeland. "She’s one of a kind, that’s for sure," he said with a smile, and then a thought hit him. "But what about New York? Your job?"

Orlando carefully slid onto the side of the desk and pulled Viggo into the open space between his legs, fingers hooking in Viggo’s belt loops. "It seems you have a knack for attracting the attentions of wealthy young men. Would you believe me if I said I didn’t *have* to work?"

Actually, yes, he could. Copeland Steel was the number one steel manufacturer in the world. It would only stand to reason that the heir was already worth a pretty penny. "Ahh, so you’re one of those," Viggo said with a grin as he sat the papers back on the desk.

"Does that bother you?"

Another shake of blonde hair. "I’ve taken on an investment broker before so being in love with the heir to the world’s largest steel company can’t be all that different. So if you don’t have to work, why do it?"

"I decided a long time ago I wasn’t going to be like the other heirs and heiresses to multi-million dollar empires, sitting around and doing nothing, living off their inheritance. I had friends like that, saw how they lived their lives and didn’t want anything to do with it. That’s not to say I didn’t party while I was in college, but I knew I wanted an education so I would be better prepared when the time came to step in."

"So, what? You’re going to quit your job and move here? Orlando, I can’t ask you to do that."

Orlando pulled Viggo closer, their chests now touching. "You’re not asking me to do anything. I’m doing this because it feels right. Being here, with you, is where I’m supposed to be. The dreams showed me that."

"The dreams? The ones you told me about?" Viggo asked as he pulled back a little, effectively putting some space between them.

Orlando nodded. "At first I took them to mean that my future was with men, which is true. But after I arrived in Silverlake, I started to notice things, places mostly, that I had seen in the dreams … like the bay and different parts of Gran’s house."

Viggo looked at his lover, his curiosity piqued.

Strong hands tightened around Viggo’s waist. "Everything fell into place when we were standing together at your back door, watching Sidi play outside, after … the rain stopped." He did not want to bring up their fight again.

"In the dreams, there were a few places I couldn't identify. Standing there, I recognized your house. My lover was always in the shadows, and I had only heard his voice in whispers. I knew, in that moment, with complete certainty, you were that man. The way you feel pressed against me, your touch, your scent, they all match my dream lover. Gran said I needed to *get away* from everything, but I think she really sent me here to *find* something ... the part of me I lost ... and the part I needed to complete my soul. I don't know how she does it, but she always knows exactly what I need."

Now Viggo was beginning to see the big picture. "Bea sent you here in hopes that our paths would cross."

"Seems that way. She wanted me happy and knew that you were the person for the job."

"But how could she know that if you never described the man in your dreams?" Viggo queried.

"Who knows where she gets her information? It brought us together, and who am I to question it?" Orlando asked. "I love you and want to be with you."

"The same goes for me." Viggo lowered his lips to his lovers.

"Now, what do you say about christening my new house?"

There were so many things he wanted to ask Orlando, things they needed to talk about, but they were pushed to the back of his mind by the excitement shining brightly in his lover’s eyes. "Is your shoulder giving you any trouble?"

"Not at the moment. Care to give it a test run?"

"Only if you promise to tell me if it gets to be too much," Viggo said as he lowered his lips to the bronze skin of Orlando’s neck. He sucked lightly on the spot right beneath his lover’s ear, causing Orlando to utter the most sinful groan.

Orlando came out of his revere when he felt those same lips teasing the back of his neck.

"What are you doing out here?" Viggo asked, his voice deep and gravelly from sleep.

Orlando leaned back against his lover and smiled. "Thinking about tonight."

"Which part?"

"All of it."

"Not changing your mind, are you?" Viggo asked as he moved to stand in front of Orlando, his eyes searching the chocolate depths.

"Never. I’m right where I belong."

Viggo chuckled as he slid his hands down the long arms, linked their fingers together and brought them to his lips. "I wouldn’t go that far," he said as he placed a kiss to their joined hands.

Dark eyebrows rose. "Oh, really?"

"Really."

"And where am I supposed to be?" he asked with what Viggo assumed was supposed to be an innocent look.

"In bed. In *our* bed," Viggo clarified.

"You mean in *my* bed," Orlando taunted as he was pulled against the hard planes of his lover’s body.

"We’ll see what Bea has to say about that when we call her in the morning."

"I knew I shouldn’t have shown you that note," Orlando teased as he allowed himself to be backed into the bedroom.

"Well, you did, and now I know, so there’s no going back," Viggo said as he followed Orlando down onto the bed, carefully covering his lover’s lithe body with his own.

Orlando’s heart swelled with joy. "No, there’s no going back," he said as he joined his lips with Viggo’s one more time.

 

 

Chapter 16

Sunlight streamed through the floor-to-ceiling windows of Art House Coffee Shop, wrapping Orlando in its warmth. His physical therapy session earlier had gone well; his shoulder was healing nicely, the pain now down to a dull ache that could be eased with a hot shower or a couple of Advil. Now all he needed was for his lover to join him.

"Hey," Viggo said right before he gave Orlando a quick kiss and slid into the booth across from the young man. "Been waiting long?"

"Not really. Five minutes at the most."

"Sorry about that. I’ve been on that damn phone for half-an-hour, trying to find out where everyone’s paychecks are. ADP says they’ve been delivered and that someone signed for them, but when they faxed over the log, it wasn’t any of our employee’s signature."

"That’s what Dom said." Orlando took a drink of his coffee. "Did you get it all straightened out?"

"Yeah. The bank has stopped payment on the missing checks and ADP is sending replacements by special courier to me this afternoon. So, enough about my day, how’d therapy go?"

"Pretty good. Rita said we’ve made substantial progress, and if things keep going the way they are, I might be released in a couple of weeks."

Viggo grinned. "And I’ll bet you can’t wait for that, can you?"

Orlando looked thoughtful. "I don’t know. I rather like the way you take care of me when I’m injured, especially in bed."

Viggo cleared his throat, shifted positions in the seat to relieve some of pressure that was pooling in his groin. Orlando loved it when he wound his lover up.

"So, what are you working on?" Viggo asked.

"Phase Two of Orlando’s New Life," he said with a laugh.

"What was Phase One?"

"According to Gran, that would have been coming to Silverlake and realizing that I belonged here."

"And this?" Viggo asked, tilting his head and attempting to decipher the notes Orlando was making.

"I’m trying to figure out what I want to do now. I’ve thought about staying on at Copeland as a part-time consultant, maybe help David with the new things that come in. Gran suggested a few things I could do around here, so I’m just trying to get them all lined out and see what appeals the most," he said as he pushed the notepad across the table to Viggo.

Viggo was pleased to see the types of things on Orlando’s list: after-school programs, mentoring programs, volunteering at different places, possibly buying into one of the local businesses.

Viggo picked up the pen, added one more thing to the list and then passed the pad back to Orlando. "That’s got my vote," he said, smiling when his lover’s laughter filled the coffee shop.

Orlando grabbed the pen and circled Viggo’s suggestion. "And we have a winner!" he announced. "When do I start?"

"Not so fast," Viggo said with a smile. "You have to go through the interviewing process."

"Hmm," Orlando said as he tapped the pen against his chin. "As long as it’s on a horizontal surface, I have absolutely *no* problem with being interviewed."

Now it was Viggo’s laughter filling the air. "Deal. But seriously, all of those are great ideas, and any of them would be nice additions to the community. I’m sure that whatever you put your mind to will be a success."

His lover’s praise went straight to Orlando’s heart. "You don’t know how much that means to me," he said as he reached out and joined their hands. "So you’d be okay with me working part-time at Copeland?"

"If that’s what will make you happy, then I’m all for it."

"I’m sure my father will have plenty to say about all this, but I don’t want to abandon the company completely," Orlando explained.

"You don’t have to justify your decisions to me. I’ll support you with whatever you choose to do."

Orlando nodded. "So, would you be up for a trip to New York in the near future?"

"Would this be a business trip?" Viggo asked. "I don’t want to be in the way."

"You’d never be in the way, and it would be both business *and* pleasure. We could fly out Friday morning, if you can manage it, so I could put in an appearance at the office that afternoon to talk to the powers-that-be. Once I’m finished there, pleasure would be the name of the game for the rest of the weekend, well, except for the times that we’d be packing," he said thoughtfully.

"Packing?" Viggo asked, his brows drawn together.

"Isn’t that what you do to get ready to move to a new place?" he asked teasingly.

"Well, yeah, but you already have your stuff here."

"I have vacation things here," Orlando clarified. "I need to go through my apartment and decide what to leave and what to pack up and ship. I figured I’d leave some suits, maybe a few pairs of jeans and shirts, in case I have to stay overnight if I’m there working, but the rest I could probably send back here."

"So you’re keeping the loft," Viggo surmised.

"I love that place too much to let it go. Besides, I’d rather stay there than a hotel when I have to go back. And then there’s the added bonus of us having a place we can escape to if we want to get away from Silverlake," he explained.

"Ahh, so now the truth comes out. You just want another place to fuck in, is that it?" Viggo teased quietly. "Two houses in Silverlake isn’t enough?"

Orlando shook his head and smiled. "What have I gotten myself into?"

"You know, I could ask myself the same question."

"You could, but you won’t."

"And why not?"

Orlando carefully leaned across the table and captured Viggo’s lips. "Because you love me," he whispered when he pulled away.

"Is it too late to return you?" Viggo teased.

"I told you before, there’s no going back. You’re stuck with me."

"And you’re stuck with me. So, are you coming over tonight for your job interview?" Viggo asked with a wink as he slid out of the booth.

Orlando gave a little chuckle. "Yes, sir. What time should I be there?"

"Seven, and don’t be late," Viggo said with an authoritative voice.

"And what would be the consequences of that infraction?"

Viggo leaned over and whispered, "You won’t get fucked."

"Do I get a reward for arriving early?"

"Anything’s possible," Viggo said before heading back into his office.

Orlando looked down at his notepad and smiled at the scrawled addition to his list. He was already Viggo’s sex slave, whether the man realized it or not.

Viggo checked his calendar, noting that they had two deliveries scheduled for this coming Friday. Nothing Dom couldn’t handle, he thought, clearing his schedule for the trip to New York. With a smile, he settled into his chair and mentally planned out their night.

* * * * *

Orlando lay in a panting heap in the center of Viggo’s bed, feeling as if his brain had oozed out through his ears. He was pretty sure if he looked, there would be puddles of liquefied gray matter on each side of his head.

They had just finished round number two, and from the smug look on Viggo’s face, Orlando had a feeling it was going to be a long night. He would be completely incoherent by the time Viggo got finished with him.

He had no more stepped inside the door when Viggo had pinned him, albeit carefully, to the wall, kissing him senseless, completely oblivious to the jealous whines coming from the ignored canine who was fighting with all his might to worm his way between the two men. His focus was on Orlando, and Orlando only.

The kiss was hot, sexy as fuck and had Orlando’s motor red lining in ten seconds flat. His jeans had been unbuttoned almost as quickly, his cock swallowed seconds later in a sea of heat so intense that Orlando’s knees nearly gave out. The only thing he could do was hang on for the ride.

Before he reached the point of no return, Viggo had stepped away and gave him an order, which he happily, and somewhat shakily, carried out.

"Strip and lie on the table."

Kinky devil, Orlando thought as he struggled to get out of his clothes, leaving them in a pile where he stood. He turned and scooted onto the scarred tabletop, the wood cool against his heated flesh. Careful with his shoulder, he laid back, his knees hooked over the side, feet dangling, and his cock pointing north like a compass’ arrow.

Viggo had yet to undress, but that only served to excite Orlando even more. Being watched with that predatory gaze, as if he were being stalked? Oh yeah, Orlando thought. He *really* liked that. He watched through passion-glazed eyes as Viggo moved to the head of the table and bent over him, his lips only a hairsbreadth away.

"Your shoulder okay?" he asked and Orlando felt Viggo’s breath caressing his lips as he spoke. He gave a quick nod. "Pleasure yourself."

Sienna eyes rolled up into his head. Orlando hadn’t taken himself in hand since the accident, but his body remembered all too well the mechanics of getting himself off. His cock was still damp from Viggo’s oral assault a few minutes ago, so his fingers slid easily up and down the shaft.

From somewhere beside him, he heard the unmistakable sound of a zipper being lowered, heard the swish of denim as it slid down Viggo’s legs.

He nearly leapt out of his skin when a warm, wet tongue lapped at his left nipple. Capturing the nub between two rows of teeth, Viggo gave it a gentle tug, causing Orlando to tighten the grip on his member and a low groan to spill between his open lips. Viggo chuckled against the raised flesh before moving away.

Pre-come seeped from the slit and dribbled down the side of Orlando’s cock, his long fingers catching and spreading it over his length as he continued to stroke himself. There was a faint throb in his shoulder, but it was nothing compared to the one between his legs. His left hand gently cradled his balls, slowly rolling them in their fleshy sacs.

Viggo took a moment to stand back and watch his lover. God, but Orlando was a vision to behold – all long limbs and smooth flesh. The day he finished his physical therapy would be one they would celebrate in a most pleasing way – Orlando buried to the hilt inside his ass. He had yearned for that since their first time together, but always gave in when Orlando uttered those two words that Viggo would never tire of hearing.

Fuck.

Me.

He watched the up and down movement of Orlando’s hand, the little twist at the head, Orlando’s thumb caressing the spot right beneath it that Viggo knew was oh-so-sensitive. He quickly gave his own shaft a squeeze, craving the touch, but also helping to hold himself back. He had a whole mental list of things that his ‘slave’ was going to do tonight, and they were only getting started.

Orlando opened his eyes to find Viggo standing at the foot of the table, that same predatory gaze aimed at him. He sighed when he felt his lover’s hands on his knees, pushing them up so that his feet rested on the table, hiding nothing from Viggo. Jesus Christ, he had never felt so exposed before.

Viggo leaned forward, his nose nudging at Orlando’s fingers, his tongue teasing both fingers and the heavy sacs. He breathed deeply, inhaling his lover’s musky scent. "Beautiful," he whispered against the skin that was now tightening.

And then his tongue was moving lower.

Orlando’s strokes faltered at the first pass over his hole, stopped all together with the second. He heard Viggo’s quiet chuckle a split second before a hand covered his own, and the stroking resumed. He relaxed his shoulder and arm, letting Viggo set the pace. Every now and then he would tighten his grip, but only to stave off the orgasm that he could feel hovering just beyond his reach.

Over and over the tongue moved, laving, teasing, prodding. Lips were added to the equation and Orlando groaned when they closed over the puckered opening and sucked.

It took Orlando a moment to realize that Viggo was speaking to him. "You like that?"

"Mmmm," was all he could manage.

"Shoulder?"

"Hurts a bit," he said honestly and then the hands were gone and he was deep inside Viggo’s mouth once again. His hips were pinned to the table and his vision went black for a few seconds as Viggo took him deep, deeper than he had ever been. His body tensed and then he was coming in long, drawn-out pulses, his seed shooting down Viggo’s throat. He was boneless, a puddle of oversensitive flesh splayed out on Viggo’s table, but he couldn’t find the energy to care.

"Don’t drift off on me," Viggo said as he kissed his way up Orlando’s torso. "The interview’s not over yet. That was just one of the examinations."

Oh, and what an exam it was. Orlando had a feeling he had passed that one with flying colors. He managed to crack open his eyes and came face to face with a smug looking Viggo. Then Viggo’s words hit him.

"Just one? How many tests am I going to have to take?"

"I guess that all depends on how many positions you want to apply for," Viggo said as he lifted himself up and carefully helped Orlando to sit as well.

How many … "Oh, hell no. There’s no way anyone else gets this job. I’m applying for all of them."

Determination. Viggo liked that.

"There’s a debate in some circles that say there are sixty-four positions, while others proclaim sixty-nine is the magic number."

Okay, now Orlando was confused. As far as he knew, there was only one position available, and that was *his*. Leave it up to Viggo to lose him in some off-the-wall post-coital conversation. During his less-than-steady walk to the bedroom, he heard the words ‘Kama Sutra’, but immediately tuned his lover out. Right now he was in no frame of mind to debate the pros and cons of sexual positions. All he wanted to do was stretch out and recover, and not have to think about anything.

Orlando saw the bed – it was nearly within his reach – but Viggo stopped him before he could get there.

"I asked you a question." Viggo’s stern voice cut into his meandering thoughts. It seemed that the dazed and confused look would be permanently etched on Orlando’s face this evening.

Viggo sighed. "Orlando, I expect my employees to answer me when I’ve asked a question."

Oh shit, he thought to himself. He had absolutely no idea what Viggo had asked him. Fuck, he was so not getting this job.

And then it hit him.

Orlando turned to face his lover, a sly grin playing on his lips. "If you weren’t so thorough with the first part of the interview, Sir, maybe I would have heard you. My mind is a bit fuzzy at the moment."

Viggo fought hard to contain his laughter and Orlando sent up a silent prayer when he was gently pushed onto the bed. Finally!

"Seems you need a bit of discipline, Mr. Bloom. I will not tolerate any cheekiness from my employees."

"You seemed to like my cheeks earlier, Sir, if your tongue wiggling between them was any indication," he said with a grin.

Viggo crawled onto the bed and braced himself on his hands and knees, hovering above Orlando’s supine body. It was several heartbeats before Viggo’s mock-seriousness took a hike.

"God, I love you," he said before practically devouring Orlando’s mouth. He slowly lowered himself onto his lover, his weeping cock nestled against Orlando’s slowly reawakening one.

"Please tell me you’re going to fuck me sometime tonight," Orlando whispered against the kiss-swollen lips.

"All in good time, baby. All in good time," Viggo said as he captured Orlando’s lips once again.

Ding-ding went the bell.

Round two had begun.

 

 

Chapter 17

Viggo shook his head for the third time. Christ Almighty, how the boy ever thought he could possibly live the life of a straight man was beyond Viggo. His lover was a clothes … and shoe whore! Anyone who took one look at his closet would know the truth.

The bedroom closet of Orlando’s loft was packed to the rafters, literally, with more clothes than Viggo had probably owned in his entire lifetime. Two of the three full walls of the enormous walk-in closet sported double rods that held the majority of Orlando’s clothes. Suits, dress pants, jeans, dress shirts, casual shirts, t-shirts – each type of clothing relegated to a specific area, unlike Viggo’s closet where everything was just … there. The third wall was comprised of two rows of floor-to-ceiling open cubicles that housed what looked to be jogging attire and more t-shirts, and a shoe rack, although Viggo didn’t know why Orlando had one since his vast number of shoes were tossed willy-nilly on the floor.

Viggo shook his head. Orlando wanted to go through *all* of these clothes to decide what stayed and what went back with him? If it were up to Viggo, everything would be shipped to Silverlake and if Orlando had to come back to New York for business, he could pack whatever he needed. This was insane.

Well, it might have some advantages, Viggo thought as he eyed the luscious ass of his lover as he crawled around on the floor looking for something. The black Calvin Klein boxer briefs left absolutely nothing to the imagination, and Viggo had a very active imagination where Orlando was concerned.

He could hear the young man grumbling, catching a few words here and there, words that sounded suspiciously like Prada and Gucci, and felt sorry for the beautiful pieces of leather that were being thrown haphazardly over his shoulder.

Enough was enough.

"Babe, what is it exactly you’re looking for?" Viggo asked, moving into the closet with Orlando, who sat back on his heels and sighed.

"I have a pair of black Bally lace-ups in here somewhere and I can’t find them."

Viggo eyed the number of discarded shoes and wondered what was wrong with them.

"Okay, as much as I hate to ask this next question, does it *have* to be that particular pair? Because I can see several other pairs that would work."

"You *would* think that," Orlando grumbled beneath his breath, quickly stood and stalked back into the bedroom.

Viggo had never seen the prima donna side of his lover, and wasn’t sure he liked it. He understood Orlando was stressed about the meeting later, but that was no reason to take it out on him. Not wanting to say or do anything that would provoke a full on attack, Viggo retreated into the living room where he grabbed the remote and turned on the wide screen plasma television that was anchored to the wall. Sinking into the black leather couch, he propped his bare feet up on the chrome and glass coffee table, practically daring his lover to say something about it.

Everything in Orlando’s loft screamed money: polished hardwood floors, charcoal and gray granite countertops, gleaming stainless steel appliances, black and chrome glass top tables, black lacquer bedroom furniture, and more audio and video gadgets than Viggo had ever seen.

He should have known, he thought as he channel surfed a bit, looking for something that appealed to him, he should have known Orlando would have the best that money could buy. But to see it, up close and personal, well, to say that Viggo felt out of place was a bit of an understatement. He should grab his bag, call a cab and go back to his little house on the bay, where he belonged.

He heard more muttering coming from the bedroom. Four movable, frosted glass panels separated that area from the rest of the loft. The panels were open and Viggo could see Orlando dressing, pulling on the pants of the suit he had retrieved from the closet before he went off on the shoe tangent. That one suit probably cost more than the coffee shop made in a week.

Yeah, Viggo was way out of his league here.

Harry might have had money, but it was probably chump-change compared to Orlando’s.

Deciding that daytime television was not worth his time, he turned off the monstrosity and laid his head back on the couch. There were things he could be doing at the coffee shop – going over invoices, working on the upcoming shift schedule. Hell, he and the juvenile delinquent could even spend some quality time ‘bonding’, but here he was, in New York City, of all places, watching as his *man* prepared to battle the corporate dragon. He had a feeling Sidi was having a much better time at Dom and Elijah’s place than Viggo was having at the moment.

Okay, enough of that shit, old man, Viggo thought with a quiet snort. He really needed to get a grip on things or this was going to be one hell of a long weekend.

A knock at the door caught his attention and he rolled his head in the direction of the bedroom.

"Someone’s at the door."

Brown eyes looked up from the hands that were in the process of buttoning the crisp white shirt.

"Must be Sean. Should have known he’d be here early," he said as he crossed through the living area and opened the front door, shirt only half-buttoned.

Viggo watched with wide eyes as his lover was gathered in a pair of strong arms that were not his. He certainly did not care for the large hand that had slid beneath the dress shirt and settled itself against the soft skin of Orlando’s back.

"Glad to have you back home," Sean said quietly before discreetly kissing Orlando’s cheek.

"Just a quick trip, I assure you," Orlando said as he gave the man a quick kiss in return and then slipped from Sean’s hold. "Give me a few minutes and I’ll be ready. Oh, Sean this is Viggo. Viggo, Sean," he said as he breezed by the couch once again.

Jealousy was an emotion Viggo had not dealt with in many, many years, but there it was, wrapping itself firmly around Viggo’s heart. Exactly who was this Sean character, and how well did he know Orlando? From the way he had held the young man, Viggo had a feeling there was more between them than a platonic relationship. The question was what, how long ago, and was it over?

Viggo slowly got to his feet and extended his hand. "Viggo Mortensen," he said, realizing the blonde was sizing him up with the firm handshake he was receiving.

"So you’re the reason for our boy’s absence," Sean said with a grin. "Sean Bean, Orlando’s chauffeur, bodyguard, and …"

"You are not my bodyguard, Bean," Orlando said as he stood beside one of the frosted panels and tucked the tails of the dress shirt into his pants.

Viggo caught a glimpse of golden skin and had the sudden urge to cover it. That was his.

"Before I was so rudely interrupted by the brat, I was going to say ‘and all around good guy’," Sean offered as he released Viggo’s hand. "And yes, dear Orlando, I have had to act as your bodyguard on several occasions, if you recall."

"I’d rather not," Orlando said before disappearing back into the bedroom area.

"Oh come on, guarding your body is not exactly a hardship," Sean said before he went into the kitchen and retrieved a bottle of water from the refrigerator, acting as if were something he did every day. "So, what do you think of our Orlando?" he asked Viggo as he twisted off the top and took a drink. "It was quite a shock to hear that he broke things off with the girl."

Our Orlando? Oh, I think not, Viggo’s subconscious screamed.

"Yeah, well, some things just aren’t meant to be," Viggo said as he eyed the other man. Take that comment however you like, the little voice inside Viggo’s head added.

Sean joined him in the living area and took a seat on the couch. Viggo opted for the matching chair.

"Truth be told, I never liked her," Sean offered. "She was a gold-digger and once she set her sights on Orlando, nothing was going to get in her way."

Bet you hated that.

Orlando grabbed the black silk tie off of the dresser and looped it around his neck, listening as Sean went on.

"And then we hear that Orli took off for parts unknown, on an extended holiday," Sean was saying. "Can’t say we didn’t miss him around Copeland. It’s good to have him back."

"Just for today, Sean. After that, we’ll see," Orlando said as he slid into his suit jacket and joined them. "Good?"

Sean stood and reached up to adjust the tie. "Perfect," he said with a wink, making Viggo’s blood pressure rise. "Now, shall we?"

"We shall, but in a sec. Wait for me in the car?" Orlando asked and with a nod, Sean made for the door.

"Good to meet you, Viggo. Hope to see you again." And with that, Sean was gone, silence settling between the two remaining men.

Orlando toyed with the cuff of his jacket. "Look, about earlier," he said, walking over to where Viggo was now standing. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. I don’t know why I’m nervous. I just …"

Viggo reached out and took Orlando’s hand, pulling the young man to him. "It’s okay," he said and felt his lover relax against him. "You’ll be fine. Just tell them what you want, and if they don’t like it, fire them all," he joked.

Orlando chuckled. "I’ll keep that in mind. So we’re good?"

"We’re good," Viggo said before he tipped Orlando’s face up and gave his lover a brief, but loving kiss. "Now, go be brilliant."

"I’m glad you’re here," Orlando breathed against Viggo’s lips.

"As long as you are here, there is no where I’d rather be," Viggo admitted. "Love you," he said before stealing one last kiss.

"Love you, too," Orlando said before pulling away and heading for the door. Before he reached it, he turned and looked at Viggo. "For the record, there’s nothing between Sean and I but friendship. It was over a long time ago."

Busted.

* * * * *

Orlando felt self-conscious as he walked through the halls of Copeland’s corporate offices. He had been gone for nearly a month, with no official explanation of his absence. Of course, there had been plenty of speculation since it coincided with the break-up. Everyone’s eyes were glued to him as if they were waiting for him to do something. Juggle, perhaps? On some faces, he saw pity. On others, he saw elation. The happy ones belonged to the women, who now thought they had a chance with the golden boy, single and married alike.

Not in this lifetime, he thought with a grin as he made his way towards the boardroom. Oh wait, stop grinning. They’ll think it’s for them. Stoic look back in place, he approached the massive narrow wooden doors and swallowed. This was it. When he left, he would either be a part-time consultant or unemployed.

He relaxed when he caught sight of his grandmother.

Part-time consultant it would be.

* * * * *

Orlando leaned over the back of the couch, trailing the ends of his tie across Viggo’s face and trying not to laugh each time his lover’s hand tried to bat away the annoyance disturbing his sleep. After a couple of minutes of persistent irritation, Orlando got what he wanted ... Viggo awake.

Viggo carefully pulled him over the back of the couch and onto the hard body stretched out the length of the black leather sofa. Still wearing his dress shirt and pants, Orlando happily settled into the sleepy embrace, wrinkles be damned. That’s what dry cleaners were for.

"We have dinner reservations for eight. The car will be here at seven thirty."

"What time is it?" Viggo asked, his eyes closed once again.

"Four thirty."

"Guess you need to go get ready, then. From what I saw earlier, you need all the time you can get. I, on the other hand, have plenty of time."

Orlando snorted. "I’m going to ignore that remark."

"Doesn’t make it any less true. Now, will you please be quiet so I can go back to sleep?"

A long finger traced the scar on Viggo’s upper lip. "Don’t you even want to know how the meeting went?"

"Figured you’d tell me when you wanted me to know. Now, shhh!"

Orlando wiggled around, trying to get more comfortable. "Well, I want you to know now."

Silence.

"Vig?"

No answer.

"I know you’re awake."

Nothing.

"Fine," Orlando said with a sigh. "I’m not telling you anything."

Viggo could picture that delicious lower lip protruding just a bit as Orlando pretended to pout … the same lip he loved to suck on while he slid into the velvet heat of his lover’s body. As expected, his body reacted to the thoughts swirling around inside his head.

Orlando felt the hardness growing against his hip and grinned. "Wacha thinking about, Vig?" he asked as he folded his arms across Viggo’s chest, his chin resting on his forearm, dark eyes watching his lover’s face, hips rocking to emphasize his question.

It took everything Viggo had not to crack a smile … or move. He lay deathly still.

"Thinking about fucking me in the shower? Gonna press me up against the tile and have your way with me? Or maybe against the front door? Or how about …" Orlando’s words were cut off by Viggo’s lips pressed against his.

The images Orlando’s words were creating spurred Viggo into action. He wanted to erase any and all memories his lover had of time spent in anyone’s arms but his, especially memories of a certain blonde chauffer. By the time they flew home on Sunday, Viggo’s image would be the one imprinted on Orlando’s psyche. No matter where he looked in this loft, he would see the two of them – Viggo and Orlando.

Orlando suddenly found himself on his back with Viggo perched above him. He knew that look – it was the same one he saw several nights ago when Viggo was ‘interviewing’ him. He sent up a silent prayer that the seats at La Bernardin were padded because he was about to get well and truly fucked.

* * * * *

The seats were indeed padded, the food mouthwatering, and the company … Viggo sat back in his seat, swirled the wine around in his glass and listened to Orlando and Beatrice try to one-up each other. The company was better than all of it put together.

It had been a nice surprise to find Beatrice waiting at the table for them.

"Orlando didn’t tell me you were in town," he said as he enveloped the elderly lady in his arms.

"That’s because he was instructed not to," Beatrice said as she returned the embrace. "It’s wonderful to see you again."

"Same here," Viggo said as he held the chair for her and then took his seat next to Orlando. "So I’m guessing you were here for the meeting this afternoon."

"And you would be correct. Had to make sure Orlando got what he wanted, not that he needed my help. He walked right into that boardroom, said that effective immediately, he would be working part-time, dealing strictly with special projects. Period. End of story," Beatrice relayed. "Got fire, my grandson does. But I’m sure you’ve already figured that out, haven’t you?" she asked with a wink.

Viggo blushed. It wasn’t every day your lover’s grandmother alluded to the fact that she knew about said grandson’s bedroom activities. This was going to take some getting used to.

"So tell me, how are things in Silverlake? Heard any good gossip?" she asked and from that point on, the conversation never stopped.

They had just finished their salads when Orlando heard a familiar, and unwanted, voice behind him.

"Well isn’t this lovely," the voice said as it came closer.

All conversation came to an abrupt halt and the air around them crackled with tension. Viggo looked over at his lover, noticed the tightness around his mouth, and then turned towards Beatrice. He saw her take a deep breath and slowly release it.

This was not good. Nothing rattled Beatrice.

"So you’ve finally decided to come out of hiding. Well, after that little stunt you pulled, you …"

Before anything else could be said, Orlando was out of his chair, hand wrapped tightly around an entirely too thin arm.

"Do you really want to do this here?" he asked in a hushed tone. "Do you really want everyone to know the truth, the *real* truth about what happened? That you were only with me for the benefits that marrying into the Copeland family could give you? That you were having an affair," he looked behind Kate to the man who had remained quiet through the entire exchange, "the entire time we were engaged?"

By this time, several waiters were hovering in the distance, ready to intervene in case all hell broke loose, but Beatrice waved them off. Her grandson would not stoop that low. A quiet, but very public, confrontation was precisely what the situation called for, and that’s exactly how he handled it.

"The truth? You want to talk about the truth, Orlando? I wonder what everyone would say if they knew about your past, and present, from the looks of things," she said, throwing a disgusted look Viggo’s way.

"Leave Viggo out of it," he said as he tightened his grip on her arm. She would have one hell of a bruise there tomorrow, but he could care less.

"It’s too late for that. He became a part of this when you let him fuck you," she spat and then moved closer, so only Orlando could hear what she was about to say. "You’ve gone too far this time. That little accident you and your boyfriend had … consider it a warning," she said, wrenching her arm free and walking out of the restaurant.

Orlando’s head was spinning. The accident …

"Shit," Orlando muttered as he slowly took his seat. Not the most appropriate place in the world to be uttering profanities, but he didn’t care. She was behind …

Viggo reached over and tilted Orlando’s pale face towards his. "What is it?"

Brown eyes met blue. "It was Kate … the accident … she was behind it … said it was a warning."

Oh, this was *really* not good, Viggo thought, breathing a sigh of relief when Beatrice immediately called for the check. Ten minutes later, the three of them were on their way to Orlando’s loft. Nothing else had been said about the confrontation, silently agreeing that all conversation could wait until they were somewhere more private.

Once Orlando closed the door behind them, he all but collapsed into Viggo’s embrace. Beatrice dropped her purse and coat on the table and went to fix everyone a drink, giving the men a few moments alone. She knew Orlando would feel guilty about the accident, try to take the blame for it now that they knew the truth.

In between Orlando’s quiet sobs, she heard Viggo’s soft words of assurance: ‘It’s not your fault’ … ‘I don’t blame you’ … ‘This changes nothing between us’ … ‘We’ll get through this’ … ‘We’ll do whatever it takes’ … ‘I love you’. That last one made her smile.

Viggo managed to extricate himself from Orlando’s grasp long enough to get them over to the couch. Beatrice perched herself on the arm and brushed the curls away from the tear-streaked face.

"Orli, no matter what you think, you did not cause this. This is her problem, not yours."

"That may be, but she’s taking it out on us," Orlando said. "Viggo has already lost one lover in an automobile accident, and thanks to her, he nearly lost me as well. I don’t even want to think about what else she might have up her sleeve." His voice was determined now, all traces of his earlier distress gone. He reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone, punching in a few numbers.

"Who are you calling?" Viggo asked, completely confused now.

"Someone who can help," he said as he looked at his grandmother, earning a nod from her.

Orlando sighed with his call was answered. "Sean, it’s Orlando."

There was only one word, in Viggo’s opinion, appropriate for this situation …

Fuck.

 

 

Chapter 18

Orlando stared out the large windows, overlooking Central Park, faint pinpricks of light from the gas lamps breaking up the large area of darkness in front of him. He could identify with that, with the darkness. He felt as if his life was out of control, the darkness had crept in and swallowed up the light, the happiness that he and Viggo shared.

He heard Viggo shuffling around behind him, bare feet slapping against the hardwood floor as he carried their glasses into the kitchen, heard the water running as he rinsed them out and sat them in the sink. The light over the cook top was switched off, followed by the few lamps in the living room, casting the loft into darkness.

More darkness – and the feeling that things were spinning out of control grew.

He felt Viggo behind him, the warmth of his lover’s body seeping through the clothes he was wearing, teasing the skin beneath. He sighed when strong arms enveloped him from behind, when warm lips pressed a kiss to his neck.

"I’m not going to ask if you’re okay, because I know you’re not," Viggo said quietly. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Make this all go away," Orlando whispered. He knew it was a fool’s dream, but for one moment, he wished his lover could make it all better. "Make the darkness go away so I can have my life back."

Viggo knew exactly how Orlando felt. He had felt the same way when Harry died – lost, unsure of not only himself, but of what came next. In the blink of an eye, the control he had had over his life had been shattered, obliterated by a drunk driver.

Their situations were different, yet the same. Although, Orlando had one thing that Viggo hadn’t all those years ago … someone to stand by his side, to help him get though it all. And Viggo would. He would do anything to see that they came out on the other side in one piece - alive, happy, and together.

"I wish I could," Viggo admitted as he held the young man close. "I wish I could wave a magic wand and make things right. What I can do, however, is weave a few spells around us that will let you forget for a little while."

Forgetting sounded nice, Orlando thought as he tilted his head to the right, issuing the silent invitation for his lover to do just that. "I’d like that," he said, the fingers of his left hand sliding into Viggo’s hair, holding the warm lips to his neck.

Viggo teased the soft skin there for long minutes before pushing the curls out of the way to continue the assault across the back of Orlando’s neck, over to the right side.

Five floors beneath them, cars passed by unnoticed, pedestrians bustled to and fro, oblivious to the two men standing at the window. Loving hands touched and caressed each inch of skin that was bared as Viggo slowly undressed the man who held his heart. He knew all of Orlando’s secret places, the ones that had him melting beneath Viggo’s touch – the soft flesh at his hip, the crook of an elbow, the back of Orlando’s knee, the crease between thigh and groin.

"Vig," Orlando whispered as Viggo’s teeth pressed into the skin of his shoulder. "Need you."

"What do you need, babe? What do you want? Tell me."

And then Orlando realized that this – their intimacy – was something he *could* control.

"I want to make love to you," he said as he turned in Viggo’s arms, their eyes meeting in the faint light from the streetlamps below. "I need to do this. I need to …"

Viggo’s lips on his silenced whatever Orlando was going to say. When Viggo pulled away, he slid his thumb over the swollen bottom lip, catching the saliva there. "Whatever you want," he said and smiled when Orlando linked their fingers together and led them behind the frosted panels.

Orlando followed Viggo’s lead and undressed his lover slowly, peeling each article of clothing off of the toned body, pressing his lips to each patch of skin that was revealed. He relished the tremors that ran through Viggo’s body when he found one of Viggo’s hot spots, filing that knowledge away to explore in depth later. Right now, he needed to be connected to Viggo, needed to feel his lover writhing beneath him, clenching around him.

After pulling the black, silver and tan striped comforter from the platform bed, Orlando unceremoniously dumped it onto the floor, unconcerned by the fact that it cost several thousand dollars. "Lay back," he softly commanded and watched as Viggo stretched out across the cream colored sheets. His pulse quickened at the sight of Viggo laid out before him, love shining brightly from those beautiful blue eyes, completely at ease with what was about to happen. He slid onto the bed with Viggo, careful of his shoulder, and reached into the bedside table, tossing what they needed onto the bed.

He laughed at Viggo’s raised eyebrows. "They’re not leftovers, if that’s what you’re thinking. I brought those from home and stashed them there this afternoon."

"Would that be before or after the shoe tantrum?" Viggo’s laughter turned into a gasp as Orlando’s teeth closed over his nipple while a fist closed around his cock and squeezed gently.

"Hush," Orlando said, smiling against the reddened nub. "I’ve already apologized for that."

Viggo did as instructed and kept quiet, well, quiet as he could be when Orlando’s skilled fingers were teasing his sacs and drifting lower. He spread his legs, giving his lover more room, not wanting to put any additional strain on the still-healing shoulder.

"I’ve been dreaming about this," Orlando said as he ran a fingertip lightly over the puckered flesh, "how it would feel to be inside of you." The finger circled and pressed, not breaching, just applying a bit of pressure.

Viggo picked up the bottle of lube and opened the top. "You’re not quite there yet," he said with a grin and poured a small amount on Orlando’s fingers when they were offered.

"Are you a bossy bottom?" Orlando asked and lowered his hand to tease Viggo’s opening once again.

"I think you hold that title," Viggo said and then moaned as a digit slid into his body. "Fuck, that feels good."

"Yes, you do." And with that, the finger moved, in and out, mimicking the actions that were yet to come. Orlando felt Viggo’s body relaxing and carefully added another digit to the equation. "Okay?"

"Mmmhmm," Viggo mumbled and held up the bottle. "More."

Well, who was Orlando to argue with that? After coating his fingers again, he slid them back inside, twisting and scissoring, searching … and finding.

"Jesus Christ!" Viggo exclaimed as his body melted. The muscles loosened even more and at Viggo’s nod, Orlando added a third.

His own cock was throbbing, the slit wet, and he wanted nothing more than to dive right in, but he held himself in check. His control nearly snapped when Viggo reached down to take himself in hand. Watching Viggo in the shower that one time was an image he would never forget.

"Can I help you with something?" Orlando asked as he pushed Viggo’s hand away.

Blue eyes pinned him to the spot. "Yeah, get up here and weave some magic for us."

Removing his fingers, Orlando accepted the foil packet from Viggo and quickly rolled the latex onto himself. Viggo’s slick hand closed over Orlando’s length, coating him quickly.

"Shoulder okay?" he asked and Orlando nodded. "If it gets to be too much, stop. I don’t want you in any more pain."

"Guess we probably shouldn’t try face to face then. Roll over onto your left side," Orlando said, sliding behind Viggo once he got settled. "And the same goes for you. Tell me if you want me to stop."

After Viggo’s nod, Orlando pressed forward, meeting the expected resistance.

"Relax, Vig," he said softly. "Isn’t that what you told me to do the first time we were together?"

Taking a deep breath, Viggo closed his eyes and willed his body to relax. It had been some time since he had allowed someone into his body. His breath hissed between clenched teeth when he felt the muscle stretch … and then came the burn. Nothing he hadn’t expected, but he looked forward to the time when the feeling passed from pain into pleasure.

Orlando paused, allowing Viggo’s body time to adjust to the intrusion. The ring of muscle squeezed his cock right below the flared head and Orlando fought to retain control of his body. Tight. Christ, his lover was tight.

Slowly but surely, the muscles began to relax as Orlando carefully worked his way inside. It was slow going, but finally, after too many minutes to count, he was in, his hips flush against Viggo’s backside.

"Ready?" Orlando asked, moaning when Viggo’s internal muscles clenched around him. "I’ll take that as a yes." Chest pressed tightly against Viggo’s back, Orlando moved slowly, as if they had all the time in the world. He lost himself to the languid rhythm, his world narrowing to just himself and Viggo. Everything else faded away.

Viggo’s hand on his thigh brought him out of his thoughts. "More," the raspy voice said and Orlando smiled. More he could do.

Gripping Viggo’s hip, he started to thrust deeply. He leaned forward, pressing himself deeper into the hot cavern and dropped a kiss to the sweat-slick shoulder.

Orlando could feel the fire spreading through his abused ribs and fought tooth and nail to keep the pain at bay. He was not going to give this up, not when Viggo was pushing back against him, matching him thrust for thrust and babbling like he was. Snatches of phrases and nonsensical words drifted back to Orlando’s ears and they were like a warm blanket wrapping around him.

This was what he needed – to control every aspect of their joining.

Sliding his right hand around Viggo’s torso, he fisted his lover’s weeping flesh in time with his movements. The fire spread from his ribs to his shoulder and it was more than he could handle. His hand relaxed and fell to the bed. He couldn’t finish Viggo off like that.

"Fuck," he swore, letting his head fall forward onto the sweaty skin between Viggo’s shoulder blades. All movement ceased.

"Shoulder?" Viggo asked and felt the nodding motion against his back.

"And ribs," Orlando admitted. "Fuck!"

Viggo’s heart broke for his lover, knowing that what he needed and what his healing body were capable of conflicted. "Babe, it’s okay," he said as he brought the quiescent hand to his lips. "We’ll just have to do it a different way. Why don’t you roll onto your back?"

Orlando held onto the condom and gently pulled out of Viggo. "I wanted to do this for you."

Viggo rolled onto his stomach and looked at his lover. "You did. You reminded me how good it feels to give myself to someone. Now let me remind you that it takes two to make love," he said as he straddled Orlando’s hips, and with a heartfelt groan, Viggo lowered himself onto the glistening shaft.

Leaning forward, he captured the succulent lips, reassuring Orlando of his love. He began to move, riding Orlando slowly, returning the favor from their earlier loving. There was nothing better than a long and drawn out round of sex. He knew that was what Orlando had intended for them but his own needs had caused them to deviate from the original plan.  Now, however, he was going to make up for his earlier actions, no matter how much he wanted to speed things along and watch Orlando shatter beneath him.

Viggo tugged one last time at the swollen bottom lip and sat up. Orlando’s hands roamed over Viggo’s lightly furred chest, blunt nails skating over the peaked nubs, following the line of his ribcage, settling on the soft skin above his hips. He wanted to do more than just lay there, wanted to thrust up into his lover’s body, but knew if he did, the pain would return. It had receded to a dull ache and he did not want a repeat of earlier.

Viggo took Orlando’s left hand and moved it to his leaking shaft, covering it with his own hand. "Together. Always together," he said as he started to slide their joined hands up and down, squeezing rhythmically.

Orlando closed his eyes and lost himself in a sea of sensations. He could feel Viggo’s internal muscles clenching around his cock, could feel the muscles in those strong thighs flexing as his lover moved atop him, and could feel the cock in his hand pulsing in time with Viggo’s heartbeat.

He felt so much and yet it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.

"Open your eyes, babe. Watch what you do to me," Viggo said as he increased the pressure and speed of their joined hands on his cock.

Together they worked to bring Viggo to his completion, and Orlando gasped when Viggo sank down onto him, driving his cock even deeper. And then he felt them … the tremors wracking his lover’s body, the hot strands of come streaking his chest. A few seconds later, he was arching up into his lover, heedless of the pain lancing through his chest, threatening to steal his breath. He was coming inside his lover for the first time, and he had never felt anything more perfect.

Viggo fell forward, bracing his weight on the hands placed on each side of Orlando's head. Their panting breaths mingled between them, neither one capable of anything more than that just yet. Viggo regained his senses first and cupped the side of Orlando’s face, lowering his mouth to his lover’s. Long and slow, just like their loving, he worshiped the full lips, teasing, licking, and nipping. Orlando cradled Viggo’s head between his hands and returned the kiss with equal passion.

"Thank you," he said as he nuzzled Viggo’s cheek, his warm breath drifting over the flushed skin.

"I think I’m the one who should be saying that," Viggo said with a grin. "You okay?"

"Ask me that after I’ve used up all the hot water and taken a couple of my pain pills. Think you can help me with that?" He felt himself slipping from Viggo’s body and quickly held onto the condom.

"Guess that would be my cue to get up," Viggo said as he sat up and slid from the bed. "Stay there and I’ll start the shower."

Orlando rolled onto his left side and pulled a few tissues from the box beside the bed, wrapping the used condom in them and cleaning himself up a bit. He hurt but he would not complain. He had made love to Viggo, and even though they had to make a few adjustments mid-way through, he accomplished what he set out to do.

The magic worked. The darkness was fading.

He wasn’t sure how long it would last, but he realized that it didn’t matter because as long as he had Viggo’s love, he would get through this.

* * * * *

True to Orlando’s word, there was not one drop of hot water left by the time they stepped from the shower later that night. His side and shoulder felt marginally better, but knew the real help was in the two pills he had taken. Viggo had assisted Orlando into bed and then replaced the comforter before joining his lover.

Sean and Beatrice would be at the loft first thing in the morning to discuss what had happened, and where they would go from here. Viggo wasn’t looking forward to dealing with the chauffer-slash-bodyguard-slash-so called all around good guy, but if Orlando said there was nothing between them and hadn’t been for some time, then all he could do was grit his teeth and bear it.

He looked down at the man sleeping peacefully in his arms and knew that he would do anything to keep him safe, even if it meant playing nice with the bodyguard.

 

 

Chapter 19

The smell of freshly brewed coffee drifted into the sleeping area of Orlando’s loft, teasing the young man’s olfactory senses just enough to ensure that he was at least semi-conscious. The sounds of pots and pans being moved around inside the cabinets brought him fully awake.

What in the hell was Viggo doing?

Beneath the cream colored sheet, Orlando carefully stretched, taking extra care with his right side and shoulder. The pills had worked their magic the night before, allowing him to fall into a deep, dreamless sleep, his body needing the extra relaxation to assist with the healing process.

Orlando knew he had seriously overdone it, but the feel of finally being inside of his lover, of dictating their joining (to a point) was worth every excruciating pain that had assaulted his injured body parts. His ribs still ached a bit, but his shoulder seemed to have recovered.

And the darkness in his heart was gone.

Would he do it again, knowing how much pain he had been in afterwards? In a heartbeat, he thought with a small smile as he wrapped the sheet around his naked form and slowly made his way into the kitchen. There he found Viggo in the process of beating what looked to be eggs in a mixing bowl.

"Omelet work for you?" he asked as he eyed Orlando coming his way.

"I had food here?" Orlando asked, surprise evident in his voice. He thought he had thrown the majority of perishables out before he left, not knowing how long his grandmother-prescribed vacation would be.

Viggo shook his head. "Nothing I could use to make breakfast with. Your grandmother called earlier to say they’d be here around ten or so. I asked where the closest market was. Mmmm, good morning," he said as leaned in and gave Orlando a lingering kiss.

"Morning to you," Orlando said as he wrapped his arms around Viggo’s waist and leaned against the older man. "I didn’t hear the phone ring."

"Babe, a herd of elephants could have danced the Riverdance in here last night and you wouldn’t have heard it. You were out for the count as soon as your head hit the pillow. Feeling better this morning?"

Orlando nodded his head against Viggo’s shoulder. "Much. Anything I can help you with?"

Viggo added milk to the beaten eggs, followed by the diced ham and green onions. "Nope. I’ve got it all under control. The coffee just finished brewing if you want a cup."

Orlando moved to the opposite counter and retrieved a black coffee mug from the cabinet, filling it with the hot liquid. "Did you happen to get cream while you were at the market?"

"In the fridge," Viggo said as he quickly sprayed the nonstick skillet with cooking spray and turned on the stove.

After fixing his coffee, Orlando slid onto a bar stool on the opposite side of the cook top and watched Viggo prepare their breakfast. He felt a sense of rightness with the situation, as if this was something the two of them shared every morning.

He hoped it would be. One day soon.

* * * * *

The dishes had been loaded into the dishwasher and the kitchen cleaned when they realized it was later than they had anticipated. Viggo insisted that Orlando take the first shower, knowing if they were in there together, bathing would be the last thing on their minds, and with company expected in less than half-an-hour, that would be cutting it entirely too close.

Viggo silently vowed that at some point before heading back to Silverlake, he and Orlando *would* make a few memories in that huge shower of his.

He had just pulled on his jeans when he heard the front door open and the voice of his lover greeting his guests. He smiled when he heard Beatrice asking where Viggo had disappeared to and Orlando informed his grandmother that he had just finished his shower and was dressing. There was silence for a bit, followed by laughter.

"Gran!" Orlando exclaimed and Viggo had a sneaking suspicion their sex life was being discussed.

"Nothing like a lazy morning shag to start the day," Viggo heard Sean say, and the green-eyed monster Viggo had metaphorically shoved into a box, ripped said box to shreds. His hackles rose immediately. He quickly pulled on the t-shirt he had planned to wear, took one look at his shoes and decided they could all take a hike if they didn’t like him going around barefoot. He wasn’t wasting precious minutes on them while Sean was probably out there touching what was his.

So much for playing nice with the bodyguard.

He quickly slipped between two frosted panels and joined the others.

"Sorry, but someone decided to take their time in the shower this morning," Viggo said with a mock-glare directed at Orlando. He approached Beatrice, giving her a kiss on her weathered cheek. "Good morning."

"My grandson seems to have developed a deep, abiding love for that shower of his," Beatrice imparted, earning a snort from Orlando. "Among other things," she added as she patted Viggo’s cheek gently.

A movement in the kitchen area drew Viggo’s attention. Sean was there, filling a coffee mug and handing it to … someone.

"Oh, Vig, this is Copeland’s head of security, Karl Urban," Orlando said by way of introduction as he ushered Viggo into the kitchen. "Gran thought he might be a good person to have here, seeing as that’s his area of expertise."

"Pleased to meet you," Karl said as he reached out to shake the other man’s hand. "Wish it could have been on different terms."

"Same here and I agree," he said with a faint smile. His eyes cut to Sean. "Nice to see you again," he lied, and from the quirk of the other man’s lips, he knew it as well.

"Well, now that we have the meet and greet out of the way, what do you say we take a seat at the table, put our heads together and figure out what’s next on the agenda," Beatrice said as she joined the others, accepting her own mug of coffee from Orlando.

Karl retrieved the briefcase he had dropped beside the door and took a seat at the head of the table, Orlando and Viggo to his left, Sean and Beatrice to his right. A notepad and pen was removed, and Viggo was surprised to notice the amount of writing that already graced the page.

"Beatrice has given me a rundown of everything, and I’ve taken the liberty of putting some ideas together," Karl started. "First on the agenda is surveillance."

"How many on the team?" Sean asked.

"Two," Karl informed the group. "We don’t want to call undue attention to what we’re doing, so the less the better. Their cover will be as friends visiting Orlando, so it would only be natural if they stay at the house with him." Karl looked at Orlando. "Any ideas as to who you want?"

Viggo’s mind was racing. A surveillance team? What in the hell was Karl talking about? They needed to call the damn police, and Viggo said as much.

"Hang on," Viggo interjected. "We know Orlando’s ex is behind it. She admitted it last night. Why can’t we file charges against her? It happened in Silverlake, and the chief of police there is a good friend of mine. I’m sure he’d be willing to do whatever it takes …"

"Orlando," Karl said and everyone’s attention was suddenly on the young man.

Brown eyes met blue. "We can’t go to the police, Viggo," he said quietly. "This is something we have to take care of ourselves."

Confusion firmly attached itself to Viggo’s features. "Why?"

"If we were just normal people, I would agree with you one-hundred percent. But we’re not. I’m not," Orlando quietly admitted. "We need to keep this out of the media and going to the police practically guarantees headlines all across the globe. I can’t chance that, not right now."

"Why not right now?" Viggo asked.

Orlando looked across the table at his grandmother and after a quick nod, he continued.

"Copeland is in the process of acquiring a company that owns the patent to a new way of forging steel, making it stronger than anything previously tested," Orlando explained. "If news about what’s happened gets out, there’s bound to be negative publicity, and that’s a chance I can’t take. The other company may decide that it doesn’t want to be affiliated with Copeland, no matter how much money they’re being offered."

Viggo said nothing. The business side of his brain realized the repercussions Copeland would suffer if they went public with what had happened and could understand why they needed to keep things quiet, but the human side balked at it. His lover had been seriously injured, and he did not want to take a chance with Orlando’s life. The police were trained for things like this.

"The police can only go so far when it comes to certain aspects of their jobs," Bea offered quietly, and Viggo wondered how the elderly lady knew what he was thinking. He remembered Orlando’s comment about not questioning how Bea knew things – it was just a given. Spooky, but a given.

Karl’s voice drew Viggo’s attention. "If Kate said the accident was a warning, I can pretty much guarantee that whatever she and her accomplice have planned next is going to be much worse."

Viggo’s mind nearly shut down at the thought of losing Orlando.

"Orlando is the future of Copeland Steel, and as Chief of Security, it is my job to see that he is kept safe, at all times. I’ll take whatever steps necessary to see that task carried through."

Viggo was smart enough to know what was *not* being said, and for a moment, he felt as if he had stepped into another world, one where everyone played by their own rules. In this particular one, it would be Karl’s rules, Karl’s ‘people’ making sure that nothing happened to Orlando. Could he trust this stranger to keep the man he loved safe?

A hand on Viggo’s arm brought him out of his thoughts. "Vig? I need to know you’re okay with all of this. It’s just not my ass on the line here, it’s yours as well."

Hell no, he was most definitely not okay with this. This was so far out of his league he honestly had no idea how to deal with it all. He could rant and rave until he was blue in the face, but he had a feeling it wouldn’t do a bit of good. The decision had already been made. The only thing he could do now was put all of his faith in his lover’s judgment.

Bea reached across the table and took Viggo’s hand. "Karl’s the best in the business, which is why Copeland owns him. You and Orlando are in the best hands that money can buy. Trust me on this."

Having Bea’s stamp of approval gave Viggo the extra assurance that this was the right thing to do. Taking a deep breath, he nodded. "As long as it keeps you safe," he said and then gave Orlando a small smile.

Ignoring the people around them, Orlando leaned over and brushed his lips against Viggo’s. "Thank you," he said quietly before pulling away and looking over at Karl. "And to answer your original question, I want you and Sean with us, if you can manage it."

"That was going to be my suggestion, as well," Beatrice offered. "Do what you have to do to make it happen, Karl, because I’m not taking any chances where these two are concerned."

"Consider it done," Karl said, making a few notes.

Orlando’s hand found Viggo’s and he squeezed it tightly. "Together, right?"

"Always," Viggo said as he squeezed back.

The discussion moved on to security at the house, things that were already in place, things that were needed. Karl assured everyone that he’d have the items that they needed by the time they left New York Monday afternoon.

"That quick?" Orlando asked.

"Actually, we should be going back with you guys tomorrow, but I need to take care of a few things at the office, put in a few calls to get the equipment taken care of. We should be on the road no later than two or three," Karl stated. "I’d send Sean on ahead, but if we’re supposed to be visiting, we need to show up together."

Thank goodness for small miracles, Viggo thought. That would give him time to find a lead box to contain his green-eyed monster. If it was strong enough to keep kryptonite in, maybe it would work for Viggo’s jealousy.

One could only hope.

* * * * *

The men stood together on the balcony of Orlando’s loft, Viggo’s arms wrapped possessively around Orlando, Orlando’s head resting against Viggo’s shoulder, and together they watched as daylight faded into night.

"Tell me about Sean," Viggo found himself requesting. He needed to know what the two had shared, if there could be any residual feelings lurking about, ready to rear their ugly heads, given the right circumstances.

Orlando closed his eyes and sighed. He knew this conversation was inevitable, knew it from Viggo’s reactions to the other man the previous day. Their relationship had resembled a tennis match, bouncing from friends and confidants to lovers and back again at any given time. The day of Orlando’s engagement to Kate, their relationship had permanently shifted back to a comfortable level of friendship. They still cared deeply for each other, but knew that they both had to move on, that their time together had come to an end. There had been no promises made, no declarations of love, but it had been felt, in each gentle touch, in each kiss, in the way Sean held Orlando after making love.

But that was nothing compared to the way he felt for the man whose arms were wrapped around him now. What Orlando felt for Viggo went beyond the realm of his knowledge and experience, and saying ‘I love you’ didn’t even begin to cover it. It was deeper than that, felt more right than anything in his life ever had before, and it was something he would never give up.

So, how to convey all of that and avoid the pitfalls that usually accompanied a talk of this nature? After thinking on it for a few moments, it came to him.

"I can sum up Sean Bean in three words," he said with a smile.

Just three, Viggo thought. He had a whole host of words that could be used to describe the bastard and he had only known him two days.

Orlando straightened in Viggo’s arms, looked deeply into the wary blue eyes, wanting nothing more than to watch that caution fade away and be replaced by the love he knew was there waiting to make its appearance.

"He’s. Not. You."

 

 

Chapter 20

Desire swept through Viggo’s body as a playful tongue bestowed tiny, kitten-like licks to his chest, lapping at the tight buds as if they were a savory treat. His breath hitched as teeth were introduced into the equation, albeit lightly, causing his fingers to flex in the riot of chestnut curls that were wrapped around his hand and wrist. That same teasing tongue was now soothing the sting.

"Better?"

"Mmm hmm," Viggo breathed as he shifted his hips, pressing his swollen cock against his lover’s stomach.

"Patience," Orlando whispered against the lightly furred chest before reaching for the ceramic dish again. "You know good things come to those who wait."

"Tease," Viggo said as he eyed the other man.

Orlando chuckled to himself as he gathered more of the sweet confection onto his finger and painted yet another circle around Viggo’s nipples, taking care to cover the entire area.

"You’re loving every minute of this," Orlando said as he lifted his finger to Viggo’s lips, allowing his lover to clean off the excess. With his free hand, he reached for the silver condiment shaker that held yet more goodies. "And if you say you’re not," he said as he tipped the shaker over and gave it a few taps, watching as the sugar and cinnamon mixture fell onto Viggo’s chest, covering the honey butter, "then you’re a liar." Orlando pointedly looked down at the column of heated flesh nestled against his own.

Viggo groaned as Orlando’s mouth met his overly sensitized skin yet again. His lover was going to pay for this, and pay dearly. Whatever action Orlando’s shower had seen before would be nothing compared to what Viggo had planned.

Their morning had started out innocently enough. Orlando had pressed a quick kiss to Viggo’s sleep-lax lips, said he was going out to get breakfast and he’d be back shortly. After making a quick trip to Antoine’s Bakery, two blocks away from the loft, he returned with a half-dozen freshly baked croissants and two large cups of Italian Roast coffee.

A dozing Viggo heard the front door open and close, signaling his lover’s return. He heard rustling in the kitchen, cabinet doors being opened and closed, heard the chink of metal against stoneware. Just as Orlando had done the previous morning, Viggo wrapped the sheet around his torso and joined his lover in the kitchen only to be shooed back to bed. Orlando joined him a few minutes later bearing a tray laden with his purchases.

The croissants were fresh from the oven, steam billowing from the pastry when Orlando pulled it apart. The honey butter that had been purchased was quickly added, melting almost instantly. After that, a dash of the cinnamon/sugar mixture was added and then Orlando took a bite.

"Mmm, perfect," he said as he closed his eyes, letting the sweet taste roll across his tongue.

Viggo tried to ignore the way his stomach tightened at the sight of his lover enjoying his breakfast, as it called to mind things that were better left alone until after the bed had been cleared of their breakfast. Scalding hot coffee spilled on tender bits was not something he was eager to experience as it tended to put a damper on the romantic side of things. With the utmost effort, Viggo managed to tune out the sounds Orlando was making, pick up a croissant and prepare his own piece. After taking a bite, Viggo had to hand it to him - it was damned good, and before they realized it, all six croissants had been devoured.

That would be when innocence fled the premises.

Viggo had picked up his cup of coffee when he noticed the mischievous look on Orlando’s face. He watched with rapt fascination as Orlando undressed, sliding the navy blue track pants and boxers down until they were a puddle around his feet, watching as the t-shirt was slowly lifted up and off of the lean torso, bearing that beautiful body to Viggo’s gaze.

The forgotten cup of coffee was carefully taken from Viggo’s hand and placed on the floor beside the bed. Viggo found himself being slowly pushed back so that he was lying supine once again with a naked Orlando perched on his thighs.

A small smile played at the corners of Viggo’s lips. "What are you up to?"

"We’re leaving this afternoon. Would be a shame to let it go to waste," Orlando answered as he picked up the bowl of honey butter and dipped his finger into it.

Well, who was Viggo to argue with that?

So here he lay, completely at Orlando’s mercy and enjoying every touch, every flicker of that wicked tongue. After a few more minutes of the delicious torture, both figurative and literally, Viggo’s patience had reached its limit. With a gentle tug on dark sienna curls, he brought Orlando’s lips up to his and delved into the hot cavern of his lover’s mouth, searching for the sweet taste he knew would be there.

Orlando pressed himself against Viggo, letting the older man take control of their kiss. Their cocks slid together sinuously in the clear fluid that had accumulated on Viggo’s stomach during their play, plastering coarse hair to skin. Orlando moaned in protest when Viggo slowed the kiss and eventually pulled away.

"My turn," Viggo said as he gently rolled them over.

Dark, lust-filled eyes looked up at him. "Planning a little payback?" Orlando asked hopefully as Viggo scooped the remaining honey butter from the bowl. "That’s a bit much, don’t you think?"

"Not for what I’m planning," Viggo said with a smirk as he reached down and slowly covered Orlando’s shaft with the pale yellow confection, his middle finger dipping lower and sliding across the drawn-up sac.

Orlando’s knuckles were white where he gripped the sheet beneath him. "Not gonna last long if you keep that up."

"You’re not gonna last long, period," Viggo said before leaning down and taking Orlando deep into his mouth. His tongue massaged the thick vein on the underside of Orlando’s cock, teasing the knot of nerves just below the flared head. He lapped at the weeping slit, coaxing more of Orlando’s essence from the stiff flesh. Above him, his lover was slowly sliding into his incoherent phase, one that Viggo loved to witness. For long minutes, he teased his lover this way, slowly bringing him to the edge and then holding him there. When he felt the slight trembling in Orlando’s flanks, he knew Orlando was not going to last much longer. All thoughts of taking him in the shower were pushed to the back of Viggo’s mind as his own need reasserted itself.

He gently pushed the young man’s legs up and back, spreading him open. When his tongue made its first pass over Orlando’s opening, the young man cried out. The second pass had him pulling at the sheets, his head tossing left and right as he tried to stave off the orgasm he felt building.

And then Viggo’s touch was gone.

Utter, utter bastard, Orlando mused and then quickly amended his thoughts when he felt the bed dip beside him, followed by the sound of the drawer to the bedside table being rifled through. Ohhh, fuck yeah. He’s definitely forgiven.

After a few agonizing minutes of teasing preparation, Viggo placed the flared head of his cock at Orlando’s entrance and slowly pushed into the velvet sheath, watching for any signs of discomfort from his lover. When none were detected, he changed the angle and slowly pulled back a bit, watching the expressions on Orlando’s face for that flash of wonder when his shaft slid across the sensitive area deep inside.

And yep, there it was.

It wouldn’t be long now, especially when Viggo wrapped his lube-covered hand around Orlando’s stiff flesh and stroked it in time with his thrusts. Each advance and retreat into the heat of Orlando’s body was designed to harass the delicate bundle of nerves that would be the young man’s undoing.

Broken moans interspersed with gasps of pleasure spilled between Orlando’s lips as his body was wound tighter and tighter by Viggo’s movements. His lover’s earlier assault had left him teetering on the brink of completion, but when Viggo pulled away, he had managed to gain some control over his body. However, whatever control he had garnered from that brief respite was rapidly disappearing as Viggo continued to move within him.

After four deep, well-placed thrusts, Orlando’s body tightened one final time as he found his completion. The muscles clenching around Viggo’s length coaxed his own orgasm from him, his cock swelling and then filling the latex sheath with his seed. Viggo hoped that at some point they would be able to dispense with the use of condoms, but that was a conversation for another day. Right now, he needed to focus on remembering how to breathe properly.

And not collapsing onto Orlando.

He held onto the condom and slowly slid from his lover’s body, rolling to lie on his back. A tissue was passed to him and Viggo wrapped the used latex in it, tossing it into the trashcan beside the bed. Orlando rolled onto his side, slid one leg over Viggo’s and settled against him.

Viggo pressed his lips to Orlando’s forehead. "Told you you wouldn’t last long," he said with a smirk.

"Smug bastard," Orlando whispered, still floating in a post-coital haze.

Viggo chuckled. Oh yeah, he could live with that.

They lay quietly together, both coming down from their high, enjoying the feel of the other man’s body against their own. Viggo had learned early on that Orlando liked to curl up against him, something that he found he had missed in the long years between losing Harry and finding Orlando. Orlando, in turn, loved the feel of Viggo’s arms wrapped around him, holding him as if he were a treasure the other man didn’t want to lose. Viggo’s fingers trailed absentmindedly up and down Orlando’s arm, relaxing the young man even further.

"Vig?"

"Hmm?"

"Move in with me," Orlando said quietly.

A slow smile spread across Viggo’s lips. He had been thinking about it since the night Orlando had shown him Beatrice’s note, but had avoided bringing up the subject for fear that Orlando would think he was being too pushy. The final decision had to be Orlando’s.

"You sure?"

Orlando nodded against Viggo’s shoulder. "We practically live together anyway. We spend all of our nights together at one place or the other, so why not make it permanent? That is, if you want to," he hastened to add.

"Does this have anything to do with what’s going on?" Viggo asked.

"No, not really," Orlando said as he slowly raised himself up so he could see Viggo, bracing his weight on his left arm. "I had already decided to ask you this weekend, before our little run-in with my ex on Friday night. Although knowing what we do now, it would make it easier for Karl and Sean to keep an eye on things."

Viggo had to agree with his lover’s thinking. The only time they’d be apart was when Viggo was at the coffee shop, and then he’d be right back at Orlando’s house, bickering over what they would have for dinner and what programs to watch that night, if they chose to watch them at all. Making love sounded like a much more pleasurable option.

Viggo raised his hand and brushed an errant curl away from Orlando’s face, tucking it behind his lover’s ear. "Are you sure you’re ready for this? It’s a huge step, living with someone on a permanent basis."

Orlando leaned into his lover’s touch and pressed a kiss to Viggo’s palm. "I signed those papers because I want us to have a life together, in every sense of the word. Right now, even though we’re spending the nights together, you’re still going back to your place to get things. I want to walk into the bedroom and see a pair of your jeans lying over the back of the chair with one of my t-shirts thrown on top of it. I want to see your wallet and keys tossed on the dresser with mine."

Sounds like heaven, Viggo thought.

"I’m sure that there will be times we’ll want our own space and the house is big enough to allow that," he said with a smile. "I’ve already chosen the perfect spot for your studio."

"You have?"

"Mm hmm. I think it has the second most beautiful view of the bay."

"And what would be the first?"

"Our bedroom," Orlando clarified.

He thought for a moment and then a smile spread across his face as he realized which room Orlando was talking about for his studio. "The attic?"

Orlando nodded. "During the day, you’d have all the sunlight you could ask for."

And he would, Viggo realized. The enormous floor to ceiling arched window was an artist’s dream. Natural light was something he’d always been short on, and a few times, he had actually taken his canvases outside to work on them. It was great while he was ‘in the zone’, as Dom called it, but moving everything back in after he finished was a bitch. Now he wouldn’t have to do either … the sunlight would be at his fingertips. Well, as long as Mother Nature cooperated.

"And what about at night?"

Orlando leaned down and brushed his lips across Viggo’s. "At night, I’m hoping you’ll be a bit too busy to think about painting."

The artist knew that was a fairly accurate assumption on Orlando’s part.

* * * * *

Orlando left Viggo with instructions to pack everything that was in the closet. With all that had happened since their arrival in New York on Friday, there had been no time to go through it all, so it would be easier to just take everything and deal with it when it arrived in Silverlake.

"Where are you going?" Viggo asked as he looked around at the vast amount of clothes he had to deal with.

"To the living room to pack up the electronics. Just put all of my suits and dress shirts in the hanging garment bags and the rest can go in boxes," he said before ducking out and leaving Viggo with the daunting task of clearing out the closet.

He looked around the area and decided that for safety purposes, the shoes would be first. After filling two boxes with more footwear than any man had a right to own, he moved on to the racks of clothes. He had just finished packing all of Orlando’s jeans when he heard voices in the living room.

Beatrice.

"Karl called earlier to say that he has secured all of the equipment they’ll need and once he squares things away at the office in the morning, he and Sean will be on the road," Bea said as Viggo joined them. "They should be there late afternoon."

"Didn’t expect to see you here today," Viggo said as he kissed Beatrice’s cheek.

"You think I’d slip out of town without saying goodbye? Not likely," she teased and then looked around the room. "So you’re packing it all up?"

"Pretty much," Orlando answered with a grin. "We’ll tackle Viggo’s place next weekend."

Knowing eyes took in the identical smiles on the two men’s faces. "When did you two decide this?"

"Just this morning," Orlando said as he slid his arm around Viggo’s waist. "Figured that since he was practically living there already, we might as well make it official."

"So how much persuading did it take to convince you?" Beatrice asked, her own smile matching the men’s.

"None," Viggo answered. "I already knew my answer when he asked. Although keeping my mouth shut earned me the attic as my personal haven."

"Smart move," Beatrice said with a wink. "Now, I’d best be on my way. Don’t want to miss my plane back home."

"Gran, you have a private jet," Orlando reminded his grandmother. "You can’t be late."

"Maybe not, but it is common courtesy to show up at the time you yourself designated. You never know what the pilot will do to retaliate if you deviate from the original plan," she said in a conspiratorial whisper. "Not that Gerald would, mind you. Speaking of private jets … feel free to use it any time you wish. Maybe bring Viggo up to Martha’s Vineyard for a visit once this unfortunate business is settled?"

"We just might do that," Orlando said as he and Viggo walked Beatrice to the door. "Have a safe trip back, and don’t do anything that would cause Gerald to hit the eject button for your seat."

Beatrice swatted Orlando’s arm. "He’d do no such thing. That rascal loves me. But just in case," she said as she turned to Viggo, "you’ve got my back, right?"

Viggo’s laughter rang throughout the loft. "Any day of the week," he said as he kissed her cheek once again.

Beatrice pulled away and looked at the two men, her manner turning serious. "Take care of each other and call me if you need anything."

"We will," Orlando said as he kissed his grandmother one last time. "On both counts."

Beatrice was counting on it.

 

 

Chapter 21

Viggo eyed the black Hummer that was parked in Orlando’s driveway - correction … in *their* driveway - and took a deep breath, trying to quell the uneasy feeling in his stomach. It wasn’t the fact that Karl and Sean had arrived; it was the reason behind their visit. Never in a million years would he have pictured himself in a position where he would need a bodyguard, or two, in this case.

Okay, to be honest, Viggo still had a few reservations about Sean’s presence, but Orlando had assured him that he felt nothing other than friendship for his former lover. Viggo was the one he had chosen, the one who held the keys to his happiness, the one who held his heart.

As Viggo pulled alongside the black monstrosity and parked, he caught sight of the owner of his heart sitting on the railing of the porch, watching the other two men who looked to be fiddling with the porch lights.

And so it begins, he thought to himself as he climbed out of his car only to be assaulted by the juvenile delinquent.

"Sidi! Leave Vig alone," Orlando shouted as he watched his enthusiastic pooch jumping frenetically around the other man.

Viggo deftly caught Sidi’s front paws and looked down into the dark eyes. "What’s wrong, boy? Nobody paying attention to you?" he asked before dropping a quick kiss to Sidi’s head and scratching behind the black as coal ears.

"He’s been banned from the porch until Sean and Karl finish up," Orlando said as he slid from his perch and went out to greet Viggo. "He’s entirely too wound up to behave himself and kept getting into things."

"When’d they get here?" Viggo asked as he released the now squirming canine and motioned to the men on the porch with a tilt of his head.

"Couple of hours ago." Orlando slid his arms around Viggo’s neck and pressed the older man against the side of his car. "Missed you today."

Viggo’s hands settled at Orlando’s waist. "Did you, now?" he asked with a grin before capturing the alluring lips that were only a few inches from his own. He let Orlando do as he pleased, which pleased Viggo as well. In the back of his mind, he crowed in delight that Orlando had approached him in front of Sean, and not the other way around. Viggo wanted it made perfectly clear that Orlando wanted to be with him, and him alone. Childish, to be certain, but Viggo was beyond caring because at that moment, he had a very willing young man pressed against his body.

"Better watch what you’re asking for," Viggo whispered, putting some space between them.

"I know exactly what I’m asking for. Question is … can I have it?"

Blue eyes peered over Orlando’s shoulder just in time to catch Sean turning his back to them and walking into the house. The little voice inside Viggo’s head snickered in glee. "I’m not really keen on the idea of giving our company a free show if we were to continue this."

Orlando stiffened in Viggo’s arms.

"What?" Viggo asked, wondering at the change.

"You said ‘our company’," Orlando clarified.

"Isn’t that what they are?" Viggo asked as he carded his fingers through the sienna curls. "I live here now so I figured that anyone who visited would be ‘our’ company; not yours and not mine, but ‘ours’."

Orlando’s heart swelled with love for this man, the one who had stolen his heart in the space of a few weeks. "Have I told you today how much I love you?" Orlando asked before pressing another kiss to Viggo’s lips.

"Hmm," Viggo said as his brow furrowed. "I vaguely remember hearing something like that coming from the mound of blankets on the bed this morning."

"Fucker," Orlando said playfully.

Viggo linked their fingers together and brought them to his lips. "Later, I promise," he said with a wink. "So, since you’ve been home all day, what’s for dinner?"

"I thought we could go to Ziti’s once Karl and Sean finish up with whatever they’re doing," Orlando said as he backed up a few steps and led them towards the house.

"Shouldn’t be too much longer," Karl said from his perch on the ladder as he installed another wireless camera alongside one of the many floodlights that graced the covered porch. "Sean has already installed the infrared motion detectors on each support column, so all we have left is two more cameras. Then we’ll get it all up and running. Nice to see you again, Viggo."

"Karl," Viggo said as he carefully wound his way through the empty boxes that littered the porch and extended his hand. "How was the drive down?"

"Not too bad," Karl answered as he shook the other man’s hand then went back to work. "We actually made pretty good time."

"Would have made better time if I had been driving," Sean grumbled as he joined the others on the porch, laptop in hand. "Viggo."

"Sean," Viggo said as he tipped his head to the other man. He knew he should just bite the bullet, so to speak, and get over this petty jealously crap, and maybe at some point he could … right after he figured out whether or not Sean still had feelings for Orlando.

"Last time I let you drive, you nearly wrecked my Hummer," Karl said as he drilled the last screw into the faceplate, anchoring the small camera to the floodlight.

"Need I remind you of what you were doing to cause the near-collision?" Sean said, taking a seat in the swing and turned on the computer.

Amused hazel-green eyes met green. "You asked for it."

"That may be, but I didn’t mean in the middle of traffic!"

Orlando eyed the two men and then laughed. "Please tell me Gran wasn’t in the vehicle with you."

"No, this was a few weeks ago," Sean offered. "Although from the way she’s been talking about you two, I doubt she’d turn down the offer to watch. Christ, Orlando, your grandmother is well on her way to being the oldest living fag hag!"

"She’s always been my number one supporter, Sean, you know that," Orlando said as he perched himself on the railing again, drawing Viggo into the open space between his legs.

"That she has," the blonde agreed. "Now, think you can move that tiny ass of yours so I can test the infrared sensors?"

Viggo was torn between wanting to slug Sean for talking about Orlando’s ass and laughing.

"At one time, you loved my tiny ass," Orlando tossed at the other man, then propped his chin on Viggo’s shoulder. "You love my ass, don’t ya, Vig?"

"And everything that’s attached to it," Viggo answered as he linked his fingers with Orlando’s and settled them around the young man’s waist.

"Still, think you can move so I can get the security going for this place?" Sean asked again and watched as the men moved out of the beam’s path. He pulled up the program and checked that each motion detector was registered. "Now, go make yourself useful and wave your arm between the columns, about a foot above the railing."

Orlando rolled his eyes, but did as Sean asked. They were doing this to keep him safe, and the least he could do was help out when needed. After making a complete trip around the house via the covered porch, all detectors had registered the motions.

Sean was chuckling when Orlando joined them again. "What?"

"You looked like a dodo bird trying to get his ass off the ground," Sean said with a grin.

"Dodo birds don’t fly, Sean."

"Exactly."

"Cunt," Orlando threw at his friend, who only laughed harder.

Viggo and Karl looked at each other and shrugged. Their partners were crazy, no doubt about it.

Viggo felt a little more secure, knowing that Karl and Sean had something going. Exactly what it was and how serious, still remained to be seen.

* * * * *

The clock read 1:37 as Orlando slid quietly from the bed he and Viggo shared. His mind would not shut down, and not for the first time he wished for a switch somewhere that could be flipped, giving him some measure of peace. Deciding that a few shots of brandy might do the trick, he pulled on a t-shirt and pair of sleep pants before leaving the privacy of their bedroom.

The house was dark, moonlight spilling through the windows as he and Sidi made their way down the stairs. Orlando continued on to the study and poured himself a drink while Sidi opted for his water bowl in the kitchen. As Orlando was pouring, he caught a whiff of something he hadn’t thought about in a long while.

Knowing Sean wouldn’t smoke in the house, Orlando took his glass and went outside, trying to close the screen door quietly and failing as Sidi pushed his way through behind him. He found his former lover reclining in the swing, the tip of his cigar glowing red against the darkness of night.

"I see you still have a thing for cigars. Hoyo de Monterrey?"

Sean took a deep draw on it, holding the smoke in his lungs for a few seconds before slowly exhaling. "Only the best," Sean said as he looked out over the bay. The light, smoky aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air.

Orlando took a seat beside Sean. The smell of the cigar brought back pleasant memories of lazy weekends spent where no one could find them, hidden away from the world. Just the sight of Sean smoking used to cause Orlando’s blood to boil. He loved the way Sean tasted after he smoked an expensive Cuban cigar. He had spent many an hour chasing that elusive taste around the inside of Sean’s mouth, which invariably led to other pleasurable acts. Tonight, though, the scent of Sean’s cigar comforted him, rather than excited him.

Sean nodded. "Don’t know what I’m going to do if they ever quit making these things."

"Try a different brand?" Orlando quipped.

"More like, go down there and knock some heads together," Sean said with a quiet laugh. "Can’t be messing with a man’s vice. It’s just not done."

Sidi nosed around in the flowerbeds for a moment before darting off into the night. "Will his being out here trigger the cameras?"

"Good of a test as any," Sean offered before taking another pull from the cigar. "He blends in perfectly with the night. If we can catch him on the monitors, then I’d say we’re pretty much set with things."

Orlando tried to follow Sidi’s progress but lost sight of him. "And if we can’t?" he asked before taking a drink.

"Then we’re in trouble because the equipment we have is the best there is." Orlando’s head snapped around to Sean, who chuckled quietly. "Don’t worry, Orli. Whoever is out there won’t be getting anywhere close to you or Viggo. If anything were to happen to either of you, your grandmother would not be happy."

"And when Gran’s not happy, nobody’s happy," Orlando finished.

"Exactly. So, what brings you out of your lovers’ haven in the middle of the night?"

* * * * *

Viggo reached out in his sleep, expecting to wrap himself around his lover’s warm body. He found a cold pillow instead, which meant that Orlando had been gone longer than usual. Sidi’s trips outside during the night normally took just a few minutes, certainly not long enough to warrant a cool pillow.

His mind went in ten different directions at once, and none of them ended in a good place. He threw back the covers, dressing quickly and heading downstairs.

He heard voices on the back porch and felt both irritated and elated at the same time. Orlando was safe, but he was with Sean. The irrational part of his mind screamed at him to snatch his lover away, but the rational part told him that if he did, and he was wrong about Sean, he would screw up the best thing that had ever happened to him. As a compromise, he walked silently to the door … and listened.

Maybe he would finally get the answer to the unvoiced question that had been driving him crazy for the last three days.

* * * * *

Orlando relaxed back into the cushions of the swing and took another drink. "Couldn’t sleep."

"Old man not doing his job?"

A smile hovered on Orlando’s lips. "You and Viggo are practically the same age, so I’d watch who you’re calling ‘old man’, old man. As for getting the job done … oh yeah."

Sean had seen that smile on Orlando’s face many times before and knew his former lover was quite happy with things.

"So why can’t you sleep?"

Orlando’s smile faded and he took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled. "I’m just worried about everything."

Sean pulled the young man against his side, wrapped an arm around his shoulders and Orlando relaxed against Sean’s body. Viggo’s gut tightened.

"Talk to me, Orli."

"I’m more worried about Viggo than anything else, I guess. He’s done nothing to deserve this. He doesn’t even know Kate, and yet his life is being threatened because of his involvement with me," Orlando started. "I don’t understand why she’s doing this. She was the one who was fucking around while we were engaged. Christ! If I had known what she was up to, you and I could have …" Orlando caught himself before he finished that sentence. "But then I wouldn’t have met Viggo, and that man means more to me than anyone has ever before. I love him, Sean, more than I thought was possible, and if something were to happen to him, I don’t know what I’d do."

Sean pressed a chaste kiss to Orlando’s forehead. "You need to stop thinking like that, Orli. Nothing is going to happen to either of you. Karl won’t allow it, and I sure as hell won’t allow it. We might not be lovers any longer, but you will always have a special place in my heart."

That caused Orlando to smile. "I know, just like you’ll always have a special place in mine. What we had was good, but what I have now is so much more than I ever expected."

"Same here," Sean admitted.

"So things are good with you and Karl?"

"We’re working on it. Of course, we’re no where near the place you and your artist are, but I’m hoping that one day we might get there," Sean admitted.

Orlando sighed happily. "That’s good. You deserve to be happy, Sean."

"I am," Sean answered honestly. "So are you in a better frame of mind now that we’ve talked?"

A quick nod. "I think so."

"Good," Sean said as he slid his arm from around Orlando’s shoulders. "I’m going to check the monitors, see if they caught that spastic mutt of yours on film, and then I’m heading upstairs."

Before Sean could move too far away, Orlando pressed a light kiss to his cheek. "Thank you."

"Any time," he said as he left the young man alone on the swing.

Viggo remained where he was, just inside the door to the kitchen, his heart lighter than it had been moments before. He had heard all he needed to know.

"Take care of him," was all Sean said as he passed Viggo and headed for the study.

The screen door opening again drew Orlando’s attention away from the silver moonbeams dancing along the shoreline.

"Hey," he said softly. "What are you doing up?"

Viggo approached his lover and took his hand, pulling Orlando up from the swing and into his arms. The lithe body molded itself to Viggo’s own. He could feel the rise and fall of Orlando’s chest.

"Not that I’m complaining here, but are you okay?" Orlando whispered against the soft cotton of Viggo’s shirt.

For the first time in several long days, Viggo felt as if he could finally breathe. "I am now," he said, his arms tightening around his lover’s frame.

 

 

Chapter 22

Dom and Elijah were talking quietly at the end of the counter when the bell over the door of Art House Coffee Shop announced a new arrival. Two sets of blue eyes slid to the man standing in the doorway and within two seconds, had scanned the tanned and toned body from the toes of the black Doc Martens; up the long, denim encased legs; over the tight navy blue t-shirt that clung to the muscled chest and arms; upwards to the chiseled face, sporting a five-o’clock shadow (and it wasn’t even noon yet); to the black Ray-Bans that were now being pushed up onto a head with equally dark hair.

Dom let out a quiet whistle at the same time Elijah muttered a quiet “damn”.

Viggo caught sight of Karl as he entered the coffee shop and dropped the invoice he had been reviewing back onto the pile. His first thought was that something had happened to Orlando and he was out of his chair before the paper hit the desk.

“Down, boys,” Viggo said under his breath as he walked out of his office, noticing the expression on their faces. “Didn’t expect to see you out and about today. Everything okay at the house?” Viggo asked as he made his way over to take Karl’s order. He hoped his voice sounded normal.

“Everything’s fine. Sean took Orlando to his physical therapy appointment, so I thought I’d drop by and see for myself if this place is all your other half said it was,” Karl offered, his eyes scanning the interior of the coffee shop.

Viggo breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing bad had happened. “Yeah, well, I think he’s a bit biased when it comes to this place. He practically lived here his first two weeks in town. What can I get you?”

Hazel-green eyes looked over the menu board. “How about a cup of French Roast?”

“Coming right up,” Viggo said as he reached for a cup.

“So two weeks, huh? That’s all it took?”

Viggo chuckled. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

“I would,” Dom chimed in. “I knew it the day Orlando walked into this place. Couldn’t keep their eyes off of each other, those two. And then Vig goes and reads ‘Lunch’ on poetry night. Poor boy didn’t stand a chance after that.”

“Lunch?” Karl asked as he accepted the cup from Viggo.

“One of Vig’s poems,” Elijah supplied. “He read it that night in hopes that they were on the same page with things, if you catch my drift. Orlando had been engaged, so Viggo wasn’t sure of his orientation.”

“That was the first night they spent together,” Dom added.

“And they’ve been inseparable ever since,” the wide-eyed young man finished.

“I take it you two are the town criers?” Karl asked good-naturedly, laughing at the expressions on the two young men’s faces.

Viggo’s laughter joined Karl’s. “No, but they do give Winifred Earle a run for her money. That’s Dominic Monaghan, my manager, and his better half, Elijah Wood - also known as Frick and Frack. Come on, I’ll show you around the place.”

Just as Viggo had done with Orlando, he let Karl wander around the coffee shop, not intruding on the other man’s space, but staying near enough if he had questions.

“Nice,” Karl commented when he spied Viggo’s name on a few of the nameplates.

“Thank you.”

Silence settled between the men as they slowly made their way around the coffee shop. “Got a few minutes? I’d like to talk to you about something,” Karl said when the ‘tour’ had ended, sliding into a booth near the back.

“Sure,” Viggo answered, taking a seat across from Karl.

“I’m guessing that things are good between you and Orlando now?”

Viggo’s brows furrowed in confusion. “What do you mean? They’ve always been good.”

“Sorry, I should have said ‘where Sean is concerned’.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ve noticed that you’ve stopped trying to incinerate my boyfriend with your eyes.”

“Oh, that,” Viggo said sheepishly. “Yeah, I’m okay, now.”

Thoughtful eyes met Viggo’s. “You’re a bigger man than I am, then. Took me a hell of a lot longer to work through what I felt towards the brat,” he said with a small smile. “Orlando had what I wanted and I knew that there was no way I was going to get it with him in the picture. I couldn’t have been happier when his engagement was announced.”

Blonde eyebrows rose. “You’ve been in love with Sean that long?”

“Pretty much,” Karl said as he sipped his coffee. “There were times I wanted to scream at the man to just get over Orlando already, but when feelings run as deeply as they did between those two, I knew it was going to take some time.”

“How long did it take?”

“He caught me under the mistletoe at the Copeland Christmas party last year and planted one on me that had my toes curling in my boots,” Karl said with a knowing grin. “Fucker knew I had feelings for him, but said he wanted to make sure that he was over Orlando before he did anything.”

“I wanted to beat the shit out of him Friday when he came to pick Orlando up for the meeting.”

Karl laughed quietly. “Yeah, he told me about that. Want to know why he did it?” At Viggo’s nod, he explained. “Beatrice had already told us about you two, but Sean needed to see it for himself. He said you turned a lovely shade of green when he was holding Orlando and knew then that you really cared about him. As you’ve obviously noticed, he’s still very protective where Orlando is concerned.”

“Doesn’t that bother you?” Viggo asked as he relaxed back into the seat.

“At the beginning it did … made me wonder if he was really over him or if it was just wishful thinking on my part. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like there was a third person in our bed.”

“And now?”

Karl smiled. “The Orli demon has been completely exorcised. The only one on Sean's mind is me, which is exactly how it should be. And based on what I've learned about Orli in the last few years, I'd say that he's a one-lover man - and that man is you. You should see his eyes when he looks at you." Karl laughed into his coffee cup. "The boy's got it almost as bad as I did."

Viggo relaxed. He had come to the same conclusion, but it was nice to hear it from someone else. “Thank you,” he offered.

“No problem. Just thought you should know where things stood. And now that the air has been cleared, I’d best get back to the house. Orlando said something about grilling tonight and Sean nearly had a heart attack. Started muttering about calling the fire department and putting them on stand-by if the boy went near the grill.”

Laughter filled the area around them. “He’s good with the microwave, but that’s about it. He fixed dinner for me one night and ended up calling our housekeeper to help.”

“Sounds like Orli,” Karl said as he rose from the padded bench. “And with that, I’ll leave you to your work while I go supervise what I’m sure will be a battle of wills.”

Viggo slid from his seat. “Just make sure Sean wins. I’m rather fond of our house the way it is.”

“Will do,” Karl said as he made for the door. “See you later.”

“Later,” Viggo called out as he entered his office and looked at the clock. There were entirely too many numbers between now and the time when he could go home and hold his lover again.

* * * * *

The smell of rain was thick in the air and a faint rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance when Viggo closed the door of his car later that afternoon. It looked like the weatherman’s prediction was correct. Silverlake would be entertaining a thunderstorm or two before the night was through.

He took a deep breath, pulling the fresh scent deep into his lungs, holding it there for a few seconds before slowly exhaling. In the past, people had laughed at him when he said he could smell the rain. They had said that rain *had* no smell, but Viggo knew better. It did; although you couldn’t define the smell; it was just … there.

Another aroma teased his senses and he smiled when he spotted Sean at the grill in the back yard, beer in one hand and a wicked looking three-prong fork in the other, poking and prodding the steaks that were cooking.

“Thank you,” Viggo said with a grin as he approached the cook.

“For what?” Sean asked, confusion written on his face.

Viggo chuckled. “Making sure I had a house to come home to.”

A quick nod. “No problem, although you might want to go check on the brat. I left him in the kitchen, buttering the ears of corn – with no supervision,” he said with a laugh. “Not sure if that was a wise choice or not, seeing as there are sharp instruments in there.”

“Better go check on him then.”

“You do that,” Sean said as he turned his attention back to the steaks.

At the sound of the screen door closing, Orlando looked up and smiled. I was wondering what time you were going to get home today,” he said as he dug three fingers into the butter container and smeared the yellow substance on the corncob he was holding. “You’re early.”

“The coffee shop was quiet this afternoon,” Viggo said as he rounded the corner of the island, slid his arms around Orlando’s waist from behind and placed a lingering kiss to the soft skin beneath the young man’s ear. “I think everyone wanted to get home before the storm moved in.”

Orlando nestled closer to the warm body behind him and tipped his head to the side, silently giving permission to do as Viggo pleased. “Glad you’re one of them. Want to help so we can get these out to Sean before he gets drenched? All of these are buttered,” he said as he pointed to several cobs on a plate. “They just need to be rolled in the foil.”

Viggo sighed inwardly. He knew he should help with dinner, but after his talk with Karl, all he wanted to do was hold Orlando; hold him and tell him what an idiot he had been for doubting what they shared. His common sense won out and he slowly released his lover and moved to stand beside him, reaching for the box of Reynolds Wrap that was sitting nearby. There would be time enough later for Viggo to apologize for being an idiot.

As Viggo rolled the corn in foil, his eyes strayed to Orlando’s hands as they dipped into the butter. Memories of breakfast in bed at Orlando’s loft sprang to mind and Viggo’s body reacted, his internal temperature rising a few degrees as lust swamped his system. He had wrapped three ears of corn, his eyes never leaving Orlando’s hands, when his control snapped.

Orlando suddenly found himself wedged firmly between the kitchen island and Viggo’s body, his mouth being invaded by a very insistent tongue. The granite of the counter top dug into his lower back as Viggo pressed against him, but he couldn’t find the effort to care. He felt the hardness pressed against his hip and his body responded in kind. Butter-covered fingers grabbed hold of Viggo’s waist and pulled the hard body against him. Their tongues battled for dominance and eventually Orlando backed down, letting Viggo take the lead.

Once his initial bout of need was sated, Viggo slowed their kiss to something more manageable.

“What in the hell brought that on?” the young man asked through broken pants as he tried to breathe normally again.

“The butter made me do it,” Viggo said with a smirk as he nuzzled his nose against Orlando’s.

“The butter?” Orlando queried as he pressed himself harder against Viggo.

Viggo nodded. “Reminded me of our breakfast in bed.”

“Ohhh, guess I’ll have to keep honey butter on hand then. Although I draw the line at making freshly baked croissants.”

“Don’t want croissants. Just you,” Viggo informed him, “covered in butter.”

“Here’s an idea,” a voice said from the doorway, “how about you forget about your butter kink for a moment so we can get dinner finished. I was just watching the Weather Channel and it looks like the storm is getting worse. By the time it gets here, they’re saying to expect twenty to thirty mile an hour winds and possibly some hail,” Karl informed the men as he joined them in the kitchen.

“That’s not good,” Orlando said as he twisted around in Viggo’s arms and looked at Karl. “How long until it reaches us?”

“It’s a slow-moving cell so it won’t be here until later this evening, but I’d just as soon get dinner finished so Sean’s not dodging lightning bolts while he’s cooking, on the off-chance that it starts to pick up speed.”

Orlando mock-sighed. “Fine, butter kink put on hold until later,” he said with a wink as he went back to work, covering the ears of corn again, while Viggo picked up where he left off.

Orlando knew exactly what he and Viggo would be having for dessert that night.

 

 

Chapter 23

A steady rain was falling, tapping out a sporadic beat against the bedroom windows. A flash of lightning illuminated the room, for a brief moment throwing into stark relief the two sated bodies that lay in a tangle on the bed.

"One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand," Orlando quietly counted, waiting for the sound of thunder that was sure to follow. Viggo chuckled quietly. "What?" the young man asked, lifting his head from where it lay on Viggo’s chest.

"Nothing."

Orlando raised himself up, bracing his weight on his left arm. "If it wasn’t ‘nothing’, you wouldn’t have laughed."

"I haven’t heard anyone do that in a long time," Viggo offered as he stroked Orlando’s sweat-slicked back. "You’re adorable, you know that?" The predicted thunder rumbled in the distance and Orlando’s brow furrowed. "What’s that for?" he asked as he reached up and ran a finger over the wrinkled skin.

"You made me lose count. Guess I’ll have to start over," Orlando said as he took up his previous position against Viggo’s side, waiting for the next flash of lightning.

"How about we shower first," Viggo suggested as he shifted his body. "I’m not looking forward to waking up with dried come all over me."

Orlando snorted. "You asked for it."

"No, what I asked was for you to fuck me," Viggo said as he placed a kiss to Orlando’s forehead.

"Begged me, more like it," Orlando teased. "And what’s wrong with being covered in come? You never hear me bitching about it."

Viggo gently rolled Orlando onto his back and ran a teasing finger from the hollow of his lover’s throat down his chest, stopping when he reached Orlando’s navel. "That’s because you don’t have hair that gets stuck to your skin when it dries."

"Do too," Orlando said as he moved Viggo’s hand down a bit more, laughing when the older man gently pulled on the soft hair there. "See?"

"Oh, please," Viggo huffed.

"I do, if your reaction earlier was anything to go by, thank you very much," Orlando said smugly. He pushed Viggo’s hand aside and sat up. "Fine, come on, you big baby. Let’s go get you clean."

**

Viggo leaned back against the shower wall and enjoyed the feel of the soft washcloth running over his body, leaving a trail of soapsuds in its wake.

"Feels good."

"I hope you plan on returning the favor," Orlando said as he slid the cloth down Viggo’s stomach, washing the evidence of their loving away. "Or am I on my own here?"

Before Viggo could answer, the room was plunged into darkness.

"What the hell?" Orlando asked as he looked up in the direction of the light fixture.

A feeling of unease crawled down Viggo’s spine and took up residence in his gut. "Must have lost power," Viggo said as he rinsed off and stepped out of the shower. Grabbing a towel, he quickly dried off.

"Where are you going?"

"To check the house. Finish your shower," Viggo said as he walked out of the bathroom in search of his clothes. After dressing, he went downstairs.

Sean met him on the landing. "I was just coming up to check on you. Where’s Orlando?"

"In the shower," Viggo answered as he followed Sean into the kitchen where Karl was waiting. He caught the concerned look that passed between the two men and knew something was up. "What is it?"

"We’ve lost power, which means the security system is down," Karl said, his voice concerned. "Sean is going out to the garage to get the generator going. In the meantime, I want you and Orlando down here with me."

A flash of lightning lit up the room, but the roll of thunder was still several seconds away.

Viggo gave voice to his earlier thoughts. "We’ve had storms worse than this and never lost power."

Karl shook his head and sighed. "That’s what I was afraid of."

"Regardless of how we lost power, we need it back up and running for the security system," Sean said as he handed a loaded Beretta Tomcat to Karl, then slipped a clip into his own SIG/Sauer 225 and loaded a round into the chamber.

"I’ll go get Orlando," Viggo said and headed for the stairs.

Karl pulled Sean into his arms. "Be careful. We don’t know who it is, or how many there may be."

Sean’s lips met Karl’s in a loving kiss. "I will. Keep them safe," he said.

Sean walked to the back door and pulled a weatherproof jacket off of a wooden peg. He bundled himself up, slid the pistol into the right pocket and a flashlight in the left. He would not use it until he reached the garage, lest he give away his position. With one last look at his lover, he opened the door and stepped onto the porch.

Viggo joined Karl in the kitchen with both Orlando and Sidi in tow. The canine made for the open door, but stopped suddenly, his low growl filling the kitchen.

"It’s just a storm, you big baby," Orlando said as he crouched down beside the animal and tried to soothe him.

"Has he reacted this way to storms before?" Karl asked.

"Never," he said as he stroked the black fur. "Sidi, shhh."

Just as Karl had suspected, things were about to get sticky.

Sean’s booted feet splashed in the puddles that had quickly formed on the sidewalk, sending the accumulated water in every direction. Lightning streaked overhead, resembling gnarled tree branches devoid of life. He heard the clap thunder a few seconds later and decided then he didn’t want to be caught out in this mess when they happened simultaneously.

It was then that time seemed to have slowed to a snail’s pace.

From his place on the porch, Karl caught a flash of orange beside the garage and together the three men watched, in horror, as Sean’s body jerked backwards and then fell to the ground. Without a second thought, Karl lifted the muzzle of his pistol and squeezed the trigger … once, twice. The report of the shots filled the small porch, but none of the men noticed. Their focus was on the figure that had crumpled to the ground beside the garage.

"Get back in the house!" Karl instructed tersely as he descended the stairs, gripping the pistol securely in both hands, and slowly approached the intruder, strategically placing himself between the shooter and his friends. He reached the injured person, noting the pistol with silencer laying a few feet from the lax hand. The area was illuminated with light again, giving Karl three seconds to assess the damage. He had hit the man in the thigh and stomach … the poor bastard wasn’t going anywhere.

**

Ignoring Karl’s order, as well as his own safety, Orlando rushed to Sean’s side. The fear that had taken hold of him when Sean had fallen was replaced with profound relief when he and Viggo had arrived at his friend’s side to find those beautiful green eyes looking up at him.

Sean struggled to sit up, wincing as he did so. "I’m fine. Got me in the shoulder is all."

Tears slid down Orlando’s face, salty wetness mixing with the rain, when he saw the damage. He knew Sean’s body, knew he had scars from times past, even knew the stories behind them, but this was almost too much for him to take. This one was because of him.

Seeing the distress on the young man’s face, Sean reached up cupped Orlando’s cheek. "I’m fine," he said before pressing a kiss to Orlando’s forehead and then struggled to stand. "Viggo, take him to the house. I have a job to do." Not waiting to see if his friends did as he asked, Sean pulled the pistol from his jacket and joined his lover.

**

Kicking the pistol out of reach, Karl held the Beretta to the man’s head as he quickly searched the body for other weapons, relieved when he found none. What he did find was a cell phone and wallet, which he slipped into his shirt pocket.

"Gut shot," Karl said as he knelt down beside the body, "Damn, that’s gotta suck. You know, many people don’t live to see another day if they don’t get help right away. The bullet does all kinds of nasty shit to your insides."

The supine man’s body was shaking, his breathing a series of broken gasps for air.

"So here’s what we’re going to do … you’re going to tell me why you were trespassing on private property and then you’re going to tell me who sent you to do it. If I’m satisfied with your answer, I’ll call 911. If I’m not, well, let’s just say the gut shot will be the least of your worries."

"Fuck … you."

Karl shook his head. "No, I’d say that you’re the one well and truly fucked here. So how about it? Going to cooperate?"

"No," the man breathed.

Karl sighed. "Okay, we’ll do this the hard way," he said before pressing his knee against the open wound of the man’s leg, provoking a scream of pain. "Hurts like a bitch, doesn’t it? Tell me what I want to know, and I’ll stop."

"Never."

Karl applied more pressure to the wound and another scream ripped the air. "You sure about that?" he asked, never taking his eyes off of his prisoner.

The man’s eyes grew wide as he looked at something over Karl’s shoulder.

"Talk, little man," Sean’s voice commanded in the darkness.

Karl breathed a sigh of relief that his lover was by his side once again. He wanted to look up and assess the damage, but this wasn’t the time. They needed information, and they needed it now.

Sean aimed the nose of his pistol at the man lying on the ground. "Did you not hear me?"

"Fuck … you," the perp spat out, along with a good amount of blood.

"Sorry, but you’re not my type," Sean said, his voice a growl as he cocked the gun. "How about I add another decoration to the ones Karl gave you?" When no answer was forthcoming, Sean fired his pistol, the bullet striking the rain-soaked earth several inches to the left of the man. "Next time I won’t miss."

Dustin Simms looked into cold, hard eyes of the hulking man standing above him and knew he was living on borrowed time, in more ways than one. He could already feel the tendrils of cold wrapping themselves around his wounded body and knew that he would not live out the night. He cursed the day he had crossed paths with Lundi Shackleton.

Well, Dustin thought, if I’m going down, so is he. Through long, agonizing minutes of trying to speak while his body was wracked with sporadic bouts of coughing that left his lips stained with crimson, the dying man told his unfortunate tale. With one final gasp, Dustin turned loose of his tentative hold on reality and quietly slipped away.

Karl looked up at Sean. "Satisfied with his confession?" he asked as the storm continued to rage around them.

Sean nodded. "Nothing we didn’t expect. Guess we need to call the locals and report the ‘attempted burglary’."

"Attempted burglary, huh?"

"You got something better?"

Karl shook his head. He had been mulling over the different angles they could play and this one had been at the top of his list as well.

"Works for me, but not until you dig the bullet out of the mud. Might look like we’re trying to hide something if they found it and he’s only got two holes in him. Christ, I’m not sure my hearing will ever be the same," Karl said as he massaged his left ear.

"It got him to talk, didn’t it? Here, hold this," Sean said as he handed his pistol to Karl and ignoring the fire searing his left shoulder, pulled the flashlight out of his pocket. Shining the light on the ground near the unmoving body, Sean spotted the glint of silver imbedded in the muddied earth and quickly retrieved the incriminating piece of evidence. "There, happy?"

"Almost," Karl said as he stood and carefully pulled Sean’s body against his. Their lips met for a brief moment, an act of reaffirmation that they both needed. "Now I am. Let’s get the power back on then get you up to the house and make the call. I want that shoulder looked at." He reached over and flipped on the main breaker.

"I’ve had worse," Sean said as he cradled his left arm.

"Don’t remind me," Karl grumbled. Together the men made their way to the safety of the porch and then inside the brightly lit house, leaving the dead body where it lay.

**

Karl leaned his forehead against the window of the surgical waiting room, watching as raindrops slid down the glass surface, his thoughts focused on his lover who had been taken into surgery over an hour ago.

"Thought you might need this," Viggo said as he handed Karl a cup of coffee. "Not as good as mine, but it’ll do."

Karl accepted the paper cup and smiled. "Thanks."

"So you think the police bought your story?" Viggo asked as he leaned back against the windowsill and sipped his own coffee.

Karl nodded. "Yeah. The only things that could have connected the body to Orlando were the cell phone and wallet, and they’re both tucked away at the house."

"So what are we going to do about Lundi and Kate?" Orlando asked as he rose from his seat and leaned against Viggo’s side. He had been on an emotional roller coaster and wondered if Viggo had felt like this after the car accident. "Do you think they’ll try something else once they figure out the job didn’t go as planned?"

"Not after I get finished with them," Karl said and before any more questions could be asked, the automatic door that led to the operating rooms opened, admitting a doctor wearing green scrubs.

Orlando smiled when he recognized the friendly face. "How’s Sean?" he asked as Dr. Ross approached.

"You again?" the doctor teased and shook everyone’s hand as Viggo introduced Karl. "Your friend is in recovery right now. Surgery went well. We removed the bullet and repaired the damage. I’m going to admit him for a few days, keep him hooked up to a continuous feed of antibiotics to make sure infection doesn’t set in. He’ll need to see his regular physician to have the stitches removed in a couple of weeks."

"Good luck with that," Karl snorted with amusement. "He’s not known for his patience where doctors and healing are concerned."

Dr. Ross nodded his understanding. He had had plenty of patients check themselves out of the hospital before they had been officially released. More often than not, he saw them a few days later, for one reason or another.

"Anyway, once he’s awake, we’ll move him to a private room," he said as he looked at the clock on the wall. It was after three in the morning. "Why don’t you go home and get some sleep."

Karl wasn’t going anywhere until he saw for himself that Sean was okay. He looked at Viggo and Orlando. "You guys go on back. I’m going to stay."

"You sure?" Orlando asked.

"Yeah, I’ll be fine. Vig, take the brat home and put him in bed. He looks like he’s ready to fall over."

"Tell Sean we’ll be back later," Orlando said before he and Viggo walked to the elevators.

Once the sliding doors closed, Karl pulled out his cell phone and called New York.

 

 

Chapter 24

Bright morning sunlight spilled around the edges of the drawn curtains, casting a soft glow on the walls adjacent to the window. The television was on some morning talk show, the volume turned down to its lowest setting, one notch above MUTE. Karl paid it no mind; it only served as background noise in the otherwise silent hospital room.

Sean lay quietly in the bed, his left shoulder sporting a bandage where the bullet had entered, but not left, his body … not without the help of Dr. Ross. Karl had thanked the man several times over the course of the previous night for taking care of Sean.

"Just doing my job," Dr. Ross had said.

Karl could definitely identify with that sentiment.

The quiet rustle of blankets moving drew Karl’s attention from the notes he was making from his contact’s last text message. He scooted closer to the bed, hoping that this time when Sean awoke, it would be for more than just a few minutes.

Last night, Karl had made his call to New York and put a watch on both Kate and Lundi’s apartments, leaving instructions with his counterpart to text him with their movements. His contact was a trusted colleague, one he had worked with before joining the Copeland family, and someone he knew would not ask questions. With that task taken care of, Karl had then waited patiently for the orderlies to move Sean to his private room.

Once there, Sean had opened his eyes for a few minutes, long enough for Karl to assure the older man that he was in one piece, that Orlando and Viggo were safe, and that Karl wasn’t leaving his side. With a nod, Sean had slipped back into a deep, drug-induced sleep.

Now Sean felt as if he were swimming through molasses, his limbs sluggish and uncoordinated. Closer and closer to the surface of coherency he swam, until he broke free of the quagmire that surrounded him. Green eyes slowly opened and he took in his surroundings, and not immediately recognizing the room he was in, felt the panic that goes hand in hand with disorientation. He tensed and immediately regretted it … his left shoulder throbbed violently.

"Hey," Karl said softly, not wanting to alarm his lover any more than he already was. He slowly rose from the recliner chair/bed and lovingly brushed blonde hair away from Sean’s face. "You going to stay awake this time?"

Everything came back to him and a slight nod was Sean’s answer as he carefully shifted positions in the bed. He reached up and gently touched the bandage. "How bad?" he asked, his voice quiet and raspy from sleep.

Karl laced their fingers together, careful of the IV that was taped to the back of Sean’s hand. "Just some tissue and muscle damage. Doc said you’re going to be sore for a while, but it’s nothing you haven’t gone through before."

Another nod. "How long are they going to keep me here?"

"A couple of days. They want to make sure the antibiotics get into your system to fight any infection that might crop up," Karl said as he lifted their joined hands and pressed a kiss to their entwined fingers. "You going to stay put this time?" he asked, referring to his lover’s penchant of ignoring doctor’s orders and skipping out before being officially released.

Sean chuckled quietly. "Probably not. We need to take care …"

Karl knew exactly where Sean’s mind was headed. "Hugh and Billy are watching their every move. The bottom dwellers will keep until you’re up and around, then we’ll take care of this mess, together, once and for all."

Determined green eyes met hazel. "No," Sean said, a bit of force behind the word. "The sooner Orlando is safe, the sooner everyone can get back to their own lives. I’m sure Viggo would be happy to have the brat all to himself again."

Karl smiled. "You know he's just jealous, picking up on the feelings between you and Orli."

"Could be," Sean said with an answering smirk. "I've never seen the kid so in love, not even when he was with the she-hag. Viggo doesn't have anything to worry about."

"Guess that means I don't either."

Sean pulled Karl close with his good arm and nuzzled his lover's neck.  "You didn't have anything to worry about even before Orlando met Viggo.  Now get out of here and finish this."

Karl lifted his chin a fraction and brushed his lips against Sean’s. "I’m not going to win this one, am I?"

"Doubtful," Sean said as he accepted the reaffirmation of their love. "Just do me a favor and be careful."

Karl carefully pulled away. "Don’t you want to know what I have planned?"

"Knowing you, I’m sure it will include some major intimidation. You’ll throw Copeland’s name around a bit, maybe make a threat or two and then remind the two of them of their place in the scheme of things, which is exactly nowhere," Sean offered, causing Karl to laugh.

"You know me too well," he said with a wink.  

"Yes, I do, so get out of here and get it taken care of."

Karl bent down and pressed one last loving kiss to Sean’s lips. "Love you."

"Love you, too. Now go," Sean answered before watching Karl leave the room. He shifted beneath the covers again, searching for a better position and once he had found it, closed his eyes and offered up a silent prayer that his lover would return safe and sound.

* * * * *

The next time Sean opened his eyes, he found Orlando standing at the window, looking out.

"I was wondering when you were going to show up," Sean said, causing the young man to spin around, nearly ripping the curtains off their track in his haste.

"Fuck, Sean, give me a heart attack, why don’t you!" Orlando quipped as he settled the swinging fabric back in place.

Sean shifted in the bed, taking care not to jostle his shoulder. He succeeded, to a point. He tried to school his features and hide the pain he was in, but winced just the same.

Orlando was by his side in a matter of seconds. "Let me help you," he said as he reached for the spare pillow sitting in the vacant chair. "I know all about propping up a bad shoulder."

The older man saw the tears that were threatening to spill over and knew Orlando was close to losing it. He wondered how long he had been there, replaying the scenes from last night in his head. Sean reached over with his good hand, taking the pillow away from his friend. "Orli, it’s fine," he offered, dropping the pillow beside the bed and then reaching for Orlando’s hand. "I’m fine."

Now the tears did fall and it broke Sean’s heart to know he was the cause of them. "Talk to me," he said as he pulled Orlando closer to him, giving the other man no choice but to slide onto the bed facing Sean.

Watery sienna eyes finally looked up. "I was so scared," Orlando admitted. "I could have lost you."

Sean's eyes glowed with tenderness, a sharp contrast to the hard, emerald facets they usually showed.  "I know, Orli.  I'm sorry you had to see it, but I'm tougher than this and you know it." He reached up and brushed away the wetness sliding over sculpted cheeks.

Orlando nodded, not trusting his voice at the moment.

"Come here," Sean said and pulled Orlando down to his chest, wrapping his good arm around the boy’s waist.

The sound of Sean’s steady heartbeat beneath his ear calmed Orlando’s frazzled nerves.  He couldn’t count the number of times they had lain like this, Sean’s strong arms wrapped around him, offering him a safe haven in the craziness that was his life.

"You know my body almost as well as I do, you know the stories behind each and every scar, but this one will always mean the most to me because I got it while protecting you," Sean said before pressing his lips to Orlando’s hair. "And before you go off on a rant saying that it’s your fault, don’t. I was doing my job, and you know better than most that in my line of work, nothing is guaranteed. We play the hand we’re dealt to the best of our ability. Some days we go home; some days we go to the hospital."

Orlando knew Sean was right, what’s done was done, and there was nothing he could do to change it. The only thing he could do was to accept it and move on. In an effort to lighten the mood, he pulled away from Sean and braced himself on his arm. "From now on, you are management only.  No more field work that puts you directly in the line of fire."

"I'm already management. You and Bea are the only two I pull out my gun for and that's not going to change, so why don't you settle down with your artist in this backwater town and quit giving me reason to fret."

A ghost of a smile played on Orlando’s lips. "I wouldn’t say Gran and I are the *only* ones you pull out your gun for," he teased as he gently nudged Sean’s knee with his own.

Sean’s quiet laughter filled the room. "Brat."

"Speaking of, where is your other half?" Orlando asked as he slowly slid from Sean’s arms, but remained perched on the side of the bed.

"New York," Sean said with a sigh.

* * * * *

Orlando’s mind was still reeling when he pulled into the driveway later that afternoon; so much so that Viggo’s car parked there didn’t faze the young man. Karl haring off to New York without Sean, even at the other man’s insistence, was just one more thing for Orlando to worry about. Sean had told him he had no idea what Karl had planned, but was confident that their troubles were about to become a thing of the past. He just hoped he wouldn’t have to make a trip to New York to bail Copeland’s head of security out of jail, or worse.

The screen door slamming brought Sidi to his side, all happy puppy licks and wagging tail, just the thing Orlando needed to lift his spirits.

"How’s Sean?"

The question floated to him from somewhere in the living room, startling Orlando.

"Vig?" he asked, looking around the immediate area, feeling like an idiot because he knew his lover’s voice. "Where are you?"

An arm rose up over the back of the couch, a book held tightly in Viggo’s hand, giving away his hidden position.

Sidi’s nails clicked against the ceramic tile as he followed Orlando deeper into the house, then took up his vacated space at the opposite end of the couch, once Viggo moved his legs.

Orlando perched himself on the back of the couch. "You knew?"

Viggo laid the book upside down on the coffee table, marking his place.  "Of course I knew.  Personally, I'm amazed you waited this long." He reached up, grabbed the front of Orlando’s shirt and pulled the young man over the back of the couch to lie on top of him. Sidi growled his protest at being jostled around but after a bit of shifting, all three were comfortable.

Orlando relaxed in Viggo’s embrace, even more so when long fingers carded their way through his curls. "Why are you home?" he asked.

"Don’t change the subject."

Orlando sighed. "I just needed to see with my own eyes that he was okay."

"And?"

"He’s fine. Nothing he hasn’t gone through before, though the other times I wasn’t directly involved, so it’s messing with my mind a bit."

"I figured as much. The fact that you two still have feelings for each other makes it that much more difficult to deal with."

Orlando struggled to sit up, but Viggo’s arms held him in place. "But I don’t ..."

Viggo nodded. "Yes, you do," he said as Orlando settled on him again. Long, tender strokes on Orlando’s back helped to calm the young man. "Just like Harry will always have a special place in my heart, I’ll bet Sean has one in yours, as well. And believe it or not, I’m fine with that." And he was.  Hearing Orlando and Sean's conversation a few nights ago, followed by his own talk with Karl the following day, helped Viggo to put things in perspective.  To hang on to the animosity he felt towards Sean would eventually taint what he and Orlando shared, and he would not allow that. Orlando was his world now, and nothing was going to touch that.

The young man wanted to protest, to say that Sean didn’t have a part of his heart, but he would not lie to his lover. Instead, he nodded. "He does, but like I said before, he’s not you, Vig." Orlando lifted his head so that he could see Viggo’s face. "What you and I share is so much more than what I had with Sean. We knew that our time was limited, that one day we would go our separate ways, but now I don’t have to worry about that. I’m living my life as I see fit, and this time I’m doing it for all the right reasons, because as far as I’m concerned, you and I *are* forever."

Orlando’s words went straight to Viggo’s heart. "Do you know how much I love you?" he asked as his fingers slid from the curls to skate over Orlando’s features.

A quick nod. "Probably as much as I love you."

Viggo caught the succulent lips with his own, showing Orlando just how much he was loved.

"Care to take this upstairs?" Orlando asked when they finally came up for air.

"What’s wrong with here?"

"Not enough room. I want to love you properly," Orlando said as he extricated himself from Viggo’s arms and stood beside the couch, waiting for the other man.

Linking their fingers together, they left the living room and made for the stairs.

* * * * *

Viggo had just stepped into the shower later that evening when the phone rang. A few minutes later, Orlando popped his head into the bathroom.

"That was Karl. As soon as we’re done here, he wants us back at the hospital."

"Did he say how it went?" he asked as the hot water flowed over him. Orlando had given Viggo the same information that Sean had relayed regarding Karl’s trip to New York, which wasn’t much.

"No. Just that he had news," Orlando said as he joined Viggo beneath the spray of hot water.

Viggo could only hope that the black cloud that had been hovering above them since Orlando’s arrival in Silverlake had been taken care of. He was ready to get on with his life … with *their* life.

 

 

Chapter 25

From his hidden place on the opposite side of East Tremont, Karl watched the unsuspecting couple as they dined on the patio of Tosca Café in the Bronx. A barrier of potted plants gave the illusion of privacy from the outside world, but Karl wasn’t there to debate the aesthetics of patio dining with anyone. He was there for one reason and one reason only.

He tagged along with a group of people as they crossed the street, even followed them as they made their way toward the restaurant. There he bypassed the hostess on duty, saying that the couple he was to meet was already there. She smiled politely at the handsome man and then turned her attention back to the patrons waiting to be seated.

Karl wove his way through the interior tables to the far door that led out to the patio. A waiter was refilling their water glasses and Karl waited until the young man had left their table before he approached.

"Well, isn’t this quaint," Karl said with a sneer and stifled a laugh at the predicted shocked looks on both Kate and her companion’s faces. "Bet I’m the last person you expected to see."

Lundi made to stand, but a firm hand on his shoulder pushed him back into his chair. "No need for that."

"What do you want?" Kate spat.

"Not going to invite me to join you?" the dark haired man taunted. "Guess it’s up to me to remedy the oversight." He turned and retrieved an unused chair from a nearby table, turning an intimate table for two into a crowded space for three. The chair was partially blocking the walkway, but Karl didn’t plan to stay there long.

"Now, I think we have some unsettled business," he said in a low voice as he looked between the two. "First off, your latest plan failed in a big way. You won’t be seeing your friend again unless you want to claim his body at the Silverlake Morgue."

When no reaction from the couple was forthcoming, Karl plowed on. "But if you did that, then you’d be implicating yourselves and I don’t think either of you would survive very long in prison, and trust me, both of you would be put behind bars for a very long time. Being an accomplice to attempted murder, especially premeditated, isn’t an offense the officials in Silverlake take lightly."

"You can’t prove a thing," Kate threw out.

Karl reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the cell phone he had retrieved from Dustin’s body and threw it on the table. "Recognize this?"

"Still can’t prove anything with it," Lundi said. "Cell phones can be bought at the local corner store. That one could belong to anyone."

"Could be, but funny how there’s only one number listed in the memory for both incoming and outgoing calls. A number that belongs to you," Karl said as he pinned Lundi with furious hazel eyes.

"Still not seeing how any of this can be pinned on us," he tossed back.

A sly smile played on Karl’s lip and he played his trump card. "Did I forget to mention the taped confession we have?" With that, he pulled out a micro-cassette tape from the same pocket and held it up between his thumb and index finger. "There’s enough information on this tape to put you both away for a very long time."

Kate made to grab it, but Karl was expecting it. Before the too-thin fingers could close around the cassette, Karl had closed his fist over it. "Bastard!" she hissed.

Knowing that their freedom could come to an end at any moment, Lundi sighed. "What do you want?" he asked.

"Lundi! No!" she fairly shouted across the table. "He could be lying!"

Shrewd eyes took in the uninvited guest, looking for a chink in Karl’s armor, so to speak. When determined hazel eyes met his own, Lundi knew the other man was not bluffing. "He’s not."

"How do you know?" Kate taunted.

"I just do, all right?" Lundi said with an exasperated sigh. "So again, what do you want?"

"Leave Orlando and Viggo alone. If I hear that you’ve sent someone else sniffing around to finish the job, the powers of God, Jehovah, Allah and Buddha combined won’t save you from the hell your life will become. If anything happens to either one of them, the cell phone and tape will be turned over to the police and you can kiss your lives goodbye. Are we clear?"

Lundi knew when to cut his losses and nodded.

"He should have killed the two of them after the accident," Kate mumbled.

Karl reached into another pocket and pulled out a running micro-cassette recorder and pushed the stop button. "And with that last piece of information, I’ll take my leave," he said as he rose from the table and turned to leave, but pausing for a second. "Oh, I nearly forgot," he said before pivoting around and punching Lundi in the jaw. "That’s for Sean, who *did* wind up in the hospital."

Karl was gone before anyone around them realized what had happened.

* * * * *

"You fucking punched him? In the middle of a crowded restaurant?" Sean asked, his mouth gaping open.

"Damn right I did," Karl said with a smile. "I’m not one to hit girls, even though I desperately wanted to. Lundi was the only other option."

"But what if they had wanted to hear the tape?" Viggo asked from his seat beside the bed.

"They would have heard their names amongst a lot of wheezing and coughing," he said with a grin. "I told you at the beginning we play by our own rules. Need I say more?"

Viggo shook his head. That was more information than he probably needed to know.

"Besides, if we have to use it, which we won’t because the horrid little couple values their freedom too much, there’s no way the police could prove it *wasn’t* the deceased on the tape since they can’t get a voice print from a corpse."

"Brilliant move with the real confession though," Orlando chimed in from his place on Viggo’s lap. "I’m sure she didn’t even realize what she had just done."

"Probably not, which was why I got the hell out of there as soon as I could. And I’m sure Lundi was still too dazed to think about it."

"You fucking punched him," Sean repeated.

"Defending your honor and all that, old man," Karl said as he leaned down and brushed a kiss against Sean’s lips.

Orlando settled back into Viggo’s embrace and watched the other two men. It did his heart good to see the love they shared. "Think we should leave before they get carried away?" Orlando whispered to Viggo.

"Can’t get carried away. Doc’s orders," Karl said with a grimace.

Orlando and Viggo shared a look. "What the good Doc doesn’t know won’t hurt him."

Sean’s eyebrows rose. "Oh?"

Orlando slid from Viggo’s lap and pulled the other man up from the chair. "Blowjobs in the shower," the young man said with a grin. "Great therapy."

"Sex Therapy, to be precise," Viggo added as he wrapped his arms around his lover’s waist. "If he can’t get comfortable in bed, give him a blow and he’ll relax and fall right to sleep. Well, that always worked for Orlando."

Two sets of eyes widened as they looked at the other couple.

"Every single time," Orlando said as he kissed Viggo’s cheek.

Green eyes met hazel and Orlando knew then they really needed to leave. They weren’t going to wait until they got home to start their therapy. "And with that, we’ll leave you two to it. Karl, thanks for everything you did today, ethical or not," he said as he hugged his friend. "It gave us our lives back and for that I’ll always be grateful."

"As will I," Viggo said as he opted for a quick handshake. "Thank you."

"Just doing my job," Karl said with a grin and watched the two men leave the room, closing the door behind him. He turned back to Sean. "So, you ready for your first round of therapy?"

"Thought you’d never ask," Sean said as he stroked his swelling flesh.

* * * * *

The table was set, dinner was in the oven, and now all they needed was for the guest of honor to make his appearance.

Karl had called earlier from Sean’s hospital room to say they would be home later than they had expected. It seemed Dr. Ross had been tied up in surgery all day and hadn’t made his rounds to release his patient yet.

"I’m surprised he hasn’t walked out already," Orlando said.

"I think he’s sweet on the good doc," Karl teased and Orlando heard Sean’s mouthy reply in the background.

"That’s a crock of shit and you know it!"

"Me thinks the man doth protest too much. Then why haven’t you left yet?" Orlando heard Karl ask.

"Because if I did, Orlando would tell Bea, which means she’d probably come down here and drag my ass back to the hospital and I don’t want to deal with her."

"Put him on the phone," Orlando said and waited for his friend to get on the line.

"What?"

"Scared of a little old lady, Bean?" Orlando teased.

"No, just scared of your grandmother."

"Tell me someone who’s not afraid of her," the young man said with a laugh. "All right, call me when you’re on your way."

"If I must," Sean said with a mock-sigh before disconnecting the call.

"Idiot," Orlando snickered as he set the cordless handset on the counter and then joined Viggo and Sidi down at the water’s edge. His pup was dripping wet from numerous forays into the bay, fetching anything and everything Viggo was throwing for him.

He dropped onto the sand beside his lover. "Dinner is going to be late. Dr. Ross hasn’t been by to release Sean yet," he said as he watched the canine swimming out to retrieve a tennis ball that was floating on the water’s surface.

"I’ll bet Sean is going crazy," Viggo said with a grin.

"He is, and driving Karl nuts, as well. Those two definitely deserve each other," the young man stated as his finger picked at a buried shell.

Viggo picked up on the oddness in Orlando’s voice and finally looked over at his lover, noticing the almost sad look on his face. "You okay?"

Orlando thought for a moment and nodded. "Yeah, I guess. I just wish he’d take a couple of days to rest before going back to New York. He’s going to be in a world of hurt traveling tomorrow."

Viggo linked their fingers together. "He’s a grown man, Orlando, and if he wants to go home, we can’t stop him."

"I know," Orlando said with a sigh. "It’s just … I don’t know."

Sidi bound back onto the shore with the soggy ball clutched between his jaws and dropped it into Viggo’s lap. In a few seconds, it was sailing through the air once again and the canine splashed his way back into the water.

"Now, tell me what’s going on," Viggo said as he tilted Orlando’s face towards his.

"I guess I miss him, is all. Before I came to Silverlake, he was always around, you know? Not as a lover, because that was over when Kate and I got engaged, but after that, the friendship we shared meant a lot to me. Then I came here and things changed," he said. "Seeing him again, even for these few days made me realize how much I took his constant presence for granted."

Fear wrapped itself around Viggo’s heart as he listened to Orlando’s words. Was he saying he wanted to go back to New York because Sean was there? Did the life the two of them were building together mean so little to the other man that he would just up and leave?

Orlando leaned into Viggo’s side, his head resting on his lover’s shoulder. "But then I look at what you and I have and feel like an idiot because I realize that things can’t stay the same forever. Everyone has to move on, experience new things, meet new people, make new friends. You’re my life now, and as long as I have you by my side, I’ll be fine."

Viggo breathed a sigh of relief and pressed a kiss to Orlando’s wind-blown curls. "Sean’s not going away forever, babe. You’ll still see him when you go back to New York for work, and he and Karl can come visit any time they want to get away from it all. I’ve made my peace with what you and Sean shared and I don’t have a problem with him being around. Besides, you two are great entertainment for Karl and me when Sean gets you wound up," Viggo said with a chuckle.

Orlando elbowed Viggo in the side and laughed as well. "We’re entertaining, huh?"

"Yeah," Viggo answered as he gently pressed Orlando back onto the sand, his own body following, "though I'm thinking of a much different kind of entertainment since it's just the two of us right now."

Orlando sighed as Viggo's lips met his, and then the world faded away, leaving just the two of them.  Long minutes passed as they conveyed their love in this age-old fashion, and though they had kissed hundreds of times before, this was the first time Orlando heard a ringing in his ear.  It took him a few moments to place the sound and then he was pushing Viggo off of him.

"Fuck!  Dinner!" he shouted as he ran for the house, Viggo and Sidi hot on his heels.

Once inside the smoke-filled kitchen, Viggo disarmed the smoke detector while Orlando carefully pulled the burnt Mexican casserole from the oven and set it on the cook top.

Viggo looked at the charred mess and laughed. "Well, so much for Sean’s welcome home dinner."

Orlando, however, was close to tears. He had shooed Viggo out of the kitchen that afternoon with a warning that if he ever wanted to have sex again, he would not interfere while Orlando made their dinner. Viggo took the threat to heart and made himself scarce, which was how he came to be on the beach with Sidi.

And now all of Orlando’s hard work had been for naught.

"Aw, babe, come here," Viggo said as he pulled Orlando to him. "It’s okay. It’s the thought that counts."

The phone setting on the countertop rang and Viggo answered.

"Hello. - Oh, that’s good. Bet he’s glad to finally get out of there. Listen, there’s been a slight change in plans for dinner. How about we meet at Boondoggle’s, down at the marina? – Yeah, that’s the one. – The dinner Orli cooked? Well, seems there was a slight miscommunication between the cook and the oven and the oven won. – You’ll see when we get back home later. Hopefully the place will be aired out enough by then. – Okay, see you in a bit."

"A slight miscommunication between the cook and the oven and the oven won," Orlando repeated once Viggo had disconnected the call.

"I thought it sounded better than ‘dinner was burned beyond recognition’."

Orlando finally cracked a smile. "You’re right, it does. Sean will never let me live this one down."

Viggo led them to the back door and they stepped out onto the back porch, enjoying the fresh air. "Well, look at it this way. Be glad they are going back tomorrow, that way they can only torture you about it for one night."

When put that way, Orlando had no qualms about Sean going back to New York so soon.

~ END ~