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The Conquered - Chapter 10: Earth Quakes

***** Taylor *****

I was nervous as I walked from the parking lot into the park. "Small, attractive man found raped and strangled in the park, news at eleven," kept running through my head. I wasn't really scared, but something had me on edge and I didn't think it was the fact I was playing with emotional matches with Andrew. I'd tried to suggest that he contact Don and take him up on his offer of friendship. It seemed the only people Andrew associated with were Lee and myself. It was common for new couples to isolate themselves from their friends while they were establishing their lives, but we needed friends we could be a couple with. None of mine would do.

I sat down on the bench near the statue I had arranged to meet Andrew, Sebastian and Don at. Of course, neither Don nor Andrew knew about this meeting. Sebastian and I had set it up. We both knew it was something that could blow up in our faces.

I looked at my watch and sighed. It would be another twenty minutes at best before Andrew would arrive. I hoped I'd timed this right. I sat, breathing in the summer night, and wished the unsettled feeling would go away.

Why did time move so slowly when you're waiting? I felt like I'd been on that bench an hour, and only five minutes had passed. My I eyes followed the nearly naked man who jogged past in nothing but onionskins. "I wonder what Andrew would look like in a pair of those?" The thought had me lost in some rather erotic fantasies until the uncomfortable feeling came back. What the fuck was wrong with me?

"Waiting on anyone special?"

I nearly jumped. The man near the bench was huge. Andrew was probably bigger, but without having him there to compare made it difficult to judge. God I hated being short.

"Some friends." Why was I nervous? I tried to meet his gaze, but the shadows of the early evening masked his eyes.

He stepped in, and I fought the impulse to bolt. "I'm a really good friend."

"I'm sure, but I already have friends." Sliding from the bench cautiously I looked around. Fuck, there wasn't anyone close by.

"I bet you're one hot fuck," be breathed, pressing in close. Ok, I could see his eyes now. He had that hungry, predatory look. No, it was more than that; he looked like a man with an agenda. I didn't want to know what that agenda was.

"That's not something you're going to find out." Damn, the bench was still behind me. Could I leap it and get enough of a lead?

He leaned closer on one hand on the arm of the bench. He was too close. Why hadn't I ever taken self-defense classes? Oh, yeah, it was too cliché for me: little guy overcompensates by earning twelve black belts. At that moment, I wish I'd been the cliché.

"Oh, I don't know. I think I could shake up your world."

"Go shake someone else's."

He grinned, but there was nothing happy about it. "I plan on it."

"Hey, Taylor!" Sebastian's call caused the man to jerk back. It was all I could do not to run to Seb. Sebastian was only a few inches taller than me, but at that moment to me he was ten feet tall.

"Get lost, he's busy." The bruiser looked at Sebastian without attempting to mask his contempt. He probably outweighed Sebastian by forty or fifty pounds. Hell, he outweighed me by sixty at least.

"I don't think so." Sebastian's eyes narrowed. "What ever you're offering, he's not interested."

The man snorted. "As if a skinny spic like you could give him anything. Fuck off."

"Come on, Taylor. Let's meet the guys."

The guy reached for my arm as I tried to slide past. His hand never touched me. I'd never seen anyone move as fast as Sebastian as he caught the man's wrist and twisted. It was a small, almost insignificant maneuver, but the asshole responded like someone had tried to throw him to the ground. I scrambled out of the way as Sebastian held him, face against the bench, by simply holding his wrist, with the man's arm extended back, and Sebastian's palm pressed against his elbow.

"We'll be leaving." Seb twisted the man's wrist, causing him to grunt through clenched teeth. "Don't make me do something we'll all regret."

Sebastian let go, stepping back in a fluid motion as his arm swept wide to keep me out of the way. I wasn't going to get anywhere close; there was no worry there. The guy came up in a fury, his face flushed and his cheek looking bruised from his collision with the bench.

"You're a fucking dead prick."

Sebastian seemed resigned as the guy lunged at him. He didn't even move. Well, he did move, but only at the last second, hooking the man's wrist as he spun, elbowing him in the ribs and then whipping him around to collide face first into his fist. The guy collapsed, his hands going to his nose as blood spilled down his face.

"You okay?" I realized Sebastian was looking at me, seeming to completely ignore the muffled curses from the guy on the ground.

"Yeah, thanks."

He smiled. "That's what friends are for."

We didn't get more than twenty feet, the guy having clamored up, glared at us, and then retreated, before Andrew came jogging over, pausing only a second as he went past the jerk. He had me in his arms, clutching me like he was afraid I would disappear.

"Are you alright?" He sounded angry, worried and relieved all at the same time. If it weren't so raw and real, I'd have laughed.

"Yeah, thanks to Sebastian."

Andrew looked at Sebastian, still holding me to him with one arm, and put out his hand. "That was amazing. Thanks for helping Taylor."

Sebastian took his hand, shaking it earnestly. "It wasn't anything special."

"That's my man, modest to a fault." Don closed the gap far more calmly than Andrew had. "Don't let him fool you. He's the best damn student I've ever had."

I think it took Andrew a moment to realize that we were all here by arrangement. Sure, the whole asshole incident hadn't been planned, but he wasn't stupid. There was too much coincidence of having us all at the same location. I hoped he wouldn't be mad.

"So, we still on for dinner?" It wasn't the way I'd wanted to start the evening, but life wasn't perfect and I was making the best of what I had.

***** Andrew *****

When I arrived at the park, I was already weary. Alex had stayed with the gym, and his presence bothered me. Charlotte had been furious when I refused to take him as a client. It was my right not to work with someone, but I'd never really pushed the issue before. That only escalated Charlotte's apparent desire to get me to quit. Between the constant pressure not to "fuck up", and the unwanted and uncomfortable presence of Alex, my days at the gym were anything but good. My only reprieves were the days Taylor came in for his workouts. He'd dropped to only two days a week, but he would come in as my last appointment so we could close and go home. In the last couple weeks, that had usually meant closing and heading straight to the bed to fuck. God I'd missed fucking, and Taylor was finding ever new and incredible ways to make me cum. I needed it.

Alex simply threw me today. He did nothing obvious, but there was something there, some reason for him to be there that I couldn't figure out. What about him was familiar. I know we'd never fucked, but I got the feeling there was history there I just couldn't nail down. The man set my teeth on edge that was for sure. When I got out of the truck and saw Alex harassing Taylor, my heart lodged in my throat and I took off at a run. That was until I saw the short guy take him down. I'd never seen anyone so effortlessly subdue a man before. Alex was taller than me, yet this guy who was barely taller than Taylor grabbed his hand and had him pressed into the park bench as if he were a child.

I slowed down when I saw Alex stand and leave, after a second go at Taylor. I didn't want to come off as the over protective boyfriend, but I couldn't help it. I pulled him to me and rubbed my face in his hair. Just the smell of him could calm me. He was there, safe, and in my arms. Everything would be okay.

I began to realize something was going on when Don sauntered his way to us. What was going on? What was Don doing there? That was when I recognized the other guy. Sebastian. Don's lover. Oh Jesus, what was Taylor doing?

It wasn't until Taylor glanced nervously at me, and asked if we were still on for dinner that the pieces finally fell into place. He'd been talking about gathering friends; I just didn't know that he had chosen Don and Sebastian to start out with. Not that I didn't like Don, it's just that... well... we'd been fuck buddies. How awkward was this going to be? Fuck!

Based on the look that Taylor shot me, I knew this was important to him. I swallowed back the nervousness. "Of course. Where are we headed?"

Taylor's relief was subtle, but I could see it. Damn. I never wanted him to worry about anything. Yeah, we needed other couples to be friends with. Since only Becca knew about us amongst Taylor's friends, I guessed some of my acquaintances would have to do.

"I thought we'd head over to La Hacienda's. Spicy, cheesy Mexican sounds pretty good."

Don grinned. "You've read my mind." He turned to me and clapped me on the arm. "You've got yourself quite a guy here, you know?"

If Don could be so nonchalant, so could I. "Of course. Taylor's the greatest." I wrapped my arm around his shoulder, kissing the top of his head before leaning down to whisper in his ear. "Are you really okay? Did Alex hurt you?"

Taylor looked up into my face, smiling at me, trying to hide the last bit of nerves. He mouthed `no' to me. Later, I promised myself. We'd talk about it later.

"Seb and I'll meet you there."

Don and Sebastian walked back towards Don's truck and I took Taylor's hand in mine, linking our fingers together. "I don't know what Alex's beef is. I'm sorry you got caught up in it."

"He didn't hurt me, he only frightened me." It took me a moment to realize his nervousness was more from Alex than meeting with the guys. His smile was forced. "If it hadn't been for Sebastian though, I'm not sure what would have happened."

"Thank God he was there. I'd heard he was good, but that was incredible." We made it to the truck and I threw Taylor the keys. I couldn't watch Taylor when I drove, and I wanted to watch him as we talked. Once we were on the way, I knew we had maybe ten minutes to really talk. "What's with the double date?"

He sighed heavily. "I need some people to do couple things with. It's normal for new couples to become insular as they establish the relationship, but we don't have any real support structure." He grinned, flashing me a smile. "I'm not going to dish on you with your mother. We need some guys to be able to talk to about all this, you know?"

"What about Lee and Tyron?"

"What about them, Andrew? You've never invited them over to the house or to go do anything. I'd feel weird asking your friends to do stuff with us if you don't." He shrugged. "Sebastian and I have been working together for a while now with one of my students. We get along, and have more than a couple things in common." He looked over at me briefly. "I should have run it by you, I know."

"I'm not upset."

He raised his eyebrow. I knew he didn't believe me, but it was the truth. Honesty. We'd promised each other to be totally honest with each other. "I was only worried because of my past with Don."

He snorted. "Babe, if I worried about running into every guy you'd ever fucked then I'd never go to the gym again."

I looked away. I know he didn't mean it as a put down, but I still felt guilty. Ever since our talk after the negative HIV test and the other stupid risks I'd taken, I constantly looked back on my sexually stupid past with regret. "Don's the person who made me realize that I wanted more."

"I know that. I'm grateful to him." His words made me look back to him. "If he hadn't woken you up, you'd have just been an incredible trainer, but I never would have fallen in love with you."

I swallowed audibly in the silence that followed. "I love you, Taylor, more than anything. I never want you to doubt that. Anyone who came before us is barely a memory for me."

He took my hand and squeezed hard. "I love you too. And I never, ever doubt that." He grinned at me. "Besides, jealousy was never my thing. I know where your heart is, so I never worry."


He rolled his eyes, but kept hold of my hand. "Not about you or your past, no. I have my issues and doubts, but I do my best not to listen to them."

The words poured out before I could stop them. I hated the neediness of them, but I had to say them anyway. "I have doubts to, but I try not to hear them either."

Taylor whipped into the parking lot and parked before turning to me. "I love you; doubts, issues and all." He kissed me, brushing his lips against mine. "Now let's eat."

The restaurant was filled with delicious smells, warm, gaudy colors, and mariachi music. Don and Sebastian had already gotten a table so we joined them. I looked over the menu, still a bit unsure about how Don and I should interact. Taylor bumped my elbow, and I knew I'd hidden long enough.

Sebastian was looking right at me, thoughtfully, before he winked at Don. "Okay, now I know why you fucked him."

Shock and a blush warred to take over my face. Taylor chuckled and Don fought his own blush. Talk about an icebreaker. "Sebastian... I'm sor—"

"Stop. You didn't know."

When Don looked at me, after being so vehement with his words, I realized I knew why he came to apologize to me that day. I got it. It was the same feeling I had when I apologized to Lee. The words seemed unnecessary to Lee, but it made me feel better. I stuck out my hand, which Don shook. "I'm sorry about what I said when you tried to apologize."


Sebastian grinned big and shook his head. "So fellas, what're we having?"

After giving our orders, I started to enjoy myself. The tension melted as the smiles, jokes and knowing looks filtered in. What was in the past was truly in the past. I still thought that Don was hot, but the desire I had had for him was gone. Once I realized that, I focused on getting to know Sebastian and finding something other than hot sex in common with Don.

After a gooey bite of my chili verde burrito I mumbled, "So Sebastian, what were you helping Taylor with?"

He really had a nice smile, warm and friendly. "One of the students at the school where I study was having a hard time. Taylor came by to ask some questions, because the school was the only thing Sean talked with Taylor about with pleasure."

Taylor rubbed my thigh with his hand, sending a few tremors up my body. "Sean was having some identity issues. Some of it was the usual coming of age stuff, other parts weren't. Since Sebastian seemed to be his hero, I went to him to ask if he had any insights." I didn't follow the rolling of Taylor's eyes at Sebastian. Apparently, they shared an inside joke. "We found a lot in common and became friends."

Don took Sebastian's hand in his. "Seb has the biggest heart where Sean is concerned. Jackson and I were worried we might lose him. But he and Taylor didn't give up. Taylor is one hell of a counselor. It took all four of us to help him through it. He's still with us."

I felt such pride when the two of them praised Taylor. I knew first hand how gifted he was as a counselor, but to have two strangers agree, made my chest tight with emotion. "Taylor's the best. In every way."

Taylor's blush was so cute, and I loved making him do it. "Shut up, or you'll get yours later."

Sebastian started laughing. "Do tell."

Don was laughing too, but one look at his face made me realize that he had bitten back what he was going to say. Our eyes met and I knew he had remembered some of our time together. "Go ahead and say it, Don."


Taylor chimed in. "Go ahead, he's told me just about everything."

Don leaned across the table and whispered into Taylor's ear. When Taylor threw his head back and laughed, I felt my cheeks heat yet again. Sebastian placed his hand on my arm and stage whispered, "Don't you hate it when they compare notes?"

My own laugh was relieved. I guess the past really didn't matter anymore. Taylor wiped his eyes. "I already know that one. Sorry, nothing new to share there."

"It's good to see you blush Andrew. I always wondered if anything could ever shake you."

"Trust me, Don, there wasn't much."

The sadness in my words had Sebastian tighten his hand on my forearm. "Isn't it fun now that there is?"

"Yeah. Yeah it is." I still smiled as we settled the check and agreed to do it again sometime. I was lost in thought, realizing that Seb's words were true. My life was so much better now than it'd ever been before.

When we got home, I grabbed Taylor in my arms and ran up the stairs with him. He laughed, calling out his "objections" in a terrible imitation of Scarlet O'Hara. Once we got there, I slowly stripped off his clothes, and made sure he knew how much he'd given me to shake about. He may be have been Scarlet being carried up the stairs, but he was all Rhett Butler in the bedroom.

***** Taylor *****

I came home Friday looking forward to the weekend. Though nothing had happened, Wednesday night had shaken me up more than I'd been willing to admit. I really was an easy target. Not so much as a sexual victim, but that I knew nothing about self-defense in a practical, physical way. I was going to talk to Andrew about the idea of my taking some self-defense classes. My thoughts were jarred back to the present as I saw Andrew's truck in the drive. What was he doing home in the middle of the afternoon?

I parked, got through the kitchen, and saw a trail of clothes from the living room out to the deck; shoes, socks, shirt, shorts. The French doors to the deck were partially open. I pushed open the door, not sure if I should be worried or turned on. Ok, I was worried and turned on. What a sick combination. Andrew was in the hot tub, arms spread, and head back, looking like he was completely gone. I'd have been ready to jump him if it hadn't been for the expression he wore. It wasn't a satisfied, relaxed look he had on his face; it was a worn, tired, post anger expression.


Lifting his head, he looked at me. "Hey."

I settled onto the edge of the tub. "Hey." His eyes looked exhausted, maybe a bit hollow. I hadn't seen that look in a while. "What happened?"

"Charlotte fired my ass."

"What? Why?"

"Inappropriate behavior at the work place, assaulting a client, shit like that." He snorted. "I finally get my act together, and I get nailed because I didn't fuck some jerk with an itchy ass. Karmic justice I guess."

I didn't even have to ask whom. "Alex."

He nodded. "Bastard lied through his teeth to Charlotte. He said I all but broke his nose slamming his face against the shower wall before fucking him raw."

"Give me a break. We have witnesses as to how he 'broke his nose'."

He shrugged, leaning back again and closing his eyes. "I told Charlotte that. She didn't give a shit. She said that she knew I'd fucked more than a few of the members and that she'd looked the other way. She didn't care if he was lying or telling the truth. We both knew that I'd done similar things more times than she could count. She wasn't going to take the heat. I was fired."

As much as I wanted to scream at him that he should fight back, I realized the truth. His past left him with no leg to stand on if this went into a legal dispute. Sighing, I rubbed his bicep. "So, what now?"

He grunted. "Got any jobs at the school? Janitor?"

"We'll think of something."

He smiled. I was surprised how calm and relaxed it looked. His eyes met mine and I felt myself melting. "I know." With a wiggle of his eyebrows, he had me stripping. "Now get your naked ass in here. If I'm going to be fucked today, I want the good kind."

He got fucked all right; in the tub, on the deck, and in the kitchen bent over the table. By the time we were curled up in bed, his arms around me, I was exhausted, more than a little sore, and feeling totally loved and needed. My brain, however, wouldn't stop buzzing. There had to be a way to get something other than hot sex out of this situation. "Life isn't fair. The trick is to make the good times outnumber the bad." I had to live by that or everything I tried to teach my kids was worthless. Sometimes life required sacrifices. I had to think about it.

***** Andrew *****

I had gone into work Friday with one goal in mind, to enjoy my evening workout with Taylor, then some very hot, very heavy, very pleasurable sex once we got home. Half tented and grinning like an idiot, I was interrupted by Charlotte's voice. "Andrew? Come into my office."

I should have known that things were bad when she commanded me inside. When I got there, she grabbed some forms and picked them up. "I need you to sign these."

"What are they?"

She looked right at me, her mouth quivering to keep from smiling, her eyes filled with malice. "You're fired."

"Excuse me?" The words didn't quite register. What the hell? A small curl of panic settled into my gut.

"You heard me." Her grin broke loose from her control. "Alex Chevaldor filed harassment charges against you."

Alex! "That's bullshit! He was harassing me."

Her chuckle was anything but full of humor. "With a black eye and a split lip? You expect me to believe that?"

I ran my hand through my hair, pissed because it trembled a bit. Sebastian had busted him up. Don and Taylor witnessed it with me. "I didn't do that to him. He tried to hurt Taylor and—"

"Spare me." She picked up the papers from her desk. "Sign these, and get out."

What the fuck? I didn't do anything. Nothing. "He's full of shit. I never laid a finger on him."

"I know. You even refused to train him. That says a lot."

"The man is psycho. He kept hitting on me, even after I told him to forget it." I was losing control of this situation fast. Not knowing why Alex targeted me kept me hopping. "He got pissed when I said no."

"Amazing. Absolutely amazing."


"I've never known you to say no."

That hurt. I knew that Charlotte had an idea about what went on after hours, but being told that she did made me feel sick. "Things change."

"Not really." Her sigh was exasperated. "Look, I've overlooked a lot of your crap because you're a good trainer. But let's face it. You're no Snow White."

"I've gotten my shit together. This is bullshit and you know it. The guy who busted him up will come in here, so will the two other people who saw it." I was grasping at straws, practically begging, which sat ill with me. But damn it! I was good at my job. I loved it. This was who I was.

"Too little, too late. You're fired, Andrew."

It was over. She had all the cards. She was in control. I hated it, but there was no choice. The state law was such that I could be fired for no reason. "Fine. What are the papers?"

"Standard termination stuff: acknowledgement of your final check, acknowledgement that you are no longer covered by the gym's training licenses or insurances. I don't give a shit if you sign them or not, I can get Lee to sign as witness that I went over it with you."

It was over. Really over. What happens now? What am I going to do? I closed my eyes for a moment, hoping that the tears didn't show and grabbed a pen. I flipped through the papers, surprised to find my final check at the back. It was two weeks of pay. I looked up at Charlotte, the question obvious in my eyes.

"I'm not a heartless bitch, Andrew. Despite what you might think. You earned it."

Yeah, right. Heartless was the perfect word for her. "Thanks." The word was bitter in my mouth, but two weeks pay was two weeks pay.

I signed the forms, signed away the only place that had been fun. I loved my fucking job. It was over. The last form signed, I stood to leave. "I'll gather my stuff and get out of here."

"Lee will get your things." The malicious gleam was in her eyes, the one I'd seen many times before. "Wouldn't want you to take anything that wasn't yours."

It ate at me; hurt more than I was willing to accept. Like I would take anything from this place? It would have been like stealing from my own house. Only this wasn't my place anymore. I left her office, dejected and waited near reception. Lee looked up at me and stood when he saw my face. "What's going on?"

"Lee, could you gather up Andrew's things?" She said it loud enough for everyone in the place to hear. Bitch! Public humiliation too? I headed to the door, wanting to leave. Fuck it. Let her ship me my stuff. Lee came up to me, grabbed my arm and looked into my eyes. "I'll be right back."

I stood by the door, fighting the urge to flee. I wouldn't give her the satisfaction. Charlotte stood off to the side, watching from her office door, blocking me from reception and the rest of the gym. I couldn't even meet her eyes. Fucking bitch!

Lee had my stuff in a duffel bag and walked out to my truck with me. When we got outside, he wrapped his arms around me, hugging me tight. "I'm so sorry."

Hugging was something new to me. Except for Taylor, my mom and my sister, I didn't hug. The comfort, the warmth of a friend touching me melted my tough exterior and I gave myself over to Lee's comfort. He really was a great guy. I was going to miss him.

When he pulled away, he looked in my eyes. "What happened?"

I didn't think I could go through it all. "I got fired."

"For what?"

"Alex Chevaldor filled a harassment complaint against me. I guess it was the last straw with the battle axe."

Lee looked away. He muttered `fuck' under his breath. "What happens now?"

"I have no clue." I hated the vulnerable, weak sound of my voice, but Lee was a friend. I had to learn that it was okay to let go. "I loved this job. God damn, I was good at it."

"The best."

I looked at Lee and knew he was sincere. "Thanks."

Lee hugged me again then went back inside. I hopped in my truck and relived everything that had happened. What was I going to tell Taylor? Not that he wouldn't support me, but still. He knew about my past. Hell, he knew who I was and my reputation the moment he walked into the gym. I knew he'd be mad at what Alex had done, but like me, would learn that there was really nothing I could do about it. The fucking humiliation. I knew I'd tell him about everything Charlotte had said, but I vowed never to tell Taylor how Charlotte had made me stand at the door while Lee packed up my personal stuff. She didn't even let me have the dignity of packing my shit.

During the drive home, I let pity take over. I had finally gotten my act together. Finally, I knew what I wanted and had it. I loved my fucking job! All the people I helped out, realizing goals, setting new ones, finding dreams, I was so good at it. Now it was all gone. When I pulled into my driveway, I saw the haunted look in my eyes, the tears that brimmed but I refused to let fall. I didn't even grab my duffel out of the back before I went inside. There were a couple messages on the machine as I stepped into the kitchen. I hit the play button hoping that it had all been a mistake. A couple of my clients had called to tell me that it was a mistake and to call them when I found a new place, and they'd come over with me. It eased the sting a bit, but I was still smarting. I stripped out of my clothes and crawled into the hot tub, hoping that it would wash away the stress.

When Taylor got home, the desperate need I had for him was so strong; I couldn't wait for him to appease it. When he told me we'd figure it all out, I believed him completely. The trust I had in him was total and forever. I no longer doubted or feared the intimacy that we shared. After three very long, very satisfying rounds of sex in which my mind could blank and my body could scream in dizzying pleasure, we curled up in bed and I sank deeply into sleep.

Saturday morning I brushed up my résumé and faxed it to a half dozen gyms in the area. Whether they had openings or not. My reputation as a hard working trainer was good, much better than my fuck ups at any rate. Within twenty minutes, I got a call on one of my faxes. The smile on my face as I dressed was contagious. Taylor kept smiling at me, knowing how important this was to me.

"You'll do great, babe."

His support pulled at my heart as I leaned into his kiss, picking him up and holding him level with my heart. "Thanks, love. I'll be back soon."

The interview went well. I knew all the obscure answers to the manager's questions. I proved how I kept up with current thoughts and techniques. This was easy. Hell, I didn't know why I worried so much. "Actually, Mr. Phillips, I think the protein from eggs is a better mix. And frankly, tastes a lot better than any of the soy based powders."

The man's chuckle was warm and I just knew that I had this sown up. "You're right. Can't stand the taste of it myself. Or the cardboard energy bars. Makes me shudder thinking about it."

"I agree."

He closed up the file that had my résumé in it plus his questionnaire. "I'm sorry, Jackson, but I don't have an opening at this time."

My throat was tight. I felt color stain my face. Frustration gnawed at me. "I see."

His smile seemed genuine, but I could never really read faces that well. At least not when it was really important. "You'd make a hell of an asset here, but I'm fully staffed at the moment. I'll keep your résumé on file, and if anything comes up, I'll call you."

Well, that was that. I stood and shook his hand, then walked out. I didn't really like this place anyway. Too much aerobics, too many half-assed, uncommitted people wanting to improve without putting any work into it. Fuck this place!

Sunday, Taylor and I spent the day cleaning up around the house, cooking for the week, laundry, and taking advantage of the last of the late summer sun. The desperation was gone, but the need for Taylor wasn't dimmed at all. That night, I lay beneath him, my head pillowed on my hands as he slipped inside me, doing that jack rabbit fucking motion that turned me into warm goo. I loved feeling his hands, braced hard on my lower back and the strength of his legs as he rested on his knees, his hips pounding into me furiously in short, rapid thrusts. "Fuck me, Taylor. Fuck me hard." He kept going, panting, gasping. "Fuuuuck." My mind was screaming for me to cum, but I held back. I felt his sweat drip from his forehead against my back; his voice began to whimper. I felt my body explode as he pounded into me, growling against my back as he chewed on my shoulder blade.

When the world stopped spinning and we could both breathe a bit easier, I rolled over and pulled him against me. "Damn, you're my little jack rabbit tonight."

He twirled his fingers into my chest hair before tugging a bit. "Quiet you, or I'll do it again."

The very idea had my slowing heart speed up. But my flesh wasn't quite willing to go at it again. "Well, if you must you must. I'll find some way to suffer through it."

Taylor turned his face into my chest and bit down hard. After I yelped and pulled him away, he grinned at me. "If my mind and body weren't so totally melted, I'd fuck you senseless again. Give me a few minutes?"

"Anytime. Anytime."

On Monday, I had two interviews set up. After the first, I was glad I had the second one. The interview hadn't gone well at all. The manager kept asking me a lot of personal questions about my habits. Did I think it was acceptable to have relationships with clients? Did I have a significant person in my life? Even though I assured the guy that I didn't screw around with clients and I was very committed to someone, I still didn't get the job. The second interview went just as badly.

When I got home, there was a message for me from Lee. I called him back and he told me that Charlotte had received some calls from some of the other gyms, looking for references. That manipulative, vindictive, spiteful bitch! No wonder I was looked at like a pariah. Shit. I just couldn't win. Dejected, I fixed dinner, hoping I wouldn't burn it too badly. Taylor deserved a nice meal. He was the only bright spot in my day.

***** Taylor *****

Andrew didn't want to show it, but he was hurting. Training was his life. Spitting out a string of platitudes and words of encouragement wasn't going to cut it. I had faith in him, but his past was going to be a problem. Andrew had never cared about if his exploits would come back to haunt him. He'd called it his "Russian Roulette Days", but he'd spun the cylinder of that gun too many times. Even if he hadn't been shot, people had taken notice. I hoped to God that his past mistakes wouldn't cling to him like an albatross. I had the sinking feeling that God was not going to answer that prayer.

Monday, I knew I had to do something. I couldn't stand seeing Andrew curling in on himself. We'd worked so hard to get him out from behind the walls that I damn well wasn't going to sit by and let them come up again. "Thanks for dinner, babe."

He shrugged. "Least I could do. I know how to grill beef at least."

That shit had to stop. I got up, grabbed the plates, and headed for the sink. "Okay, you, upstairs and get on some slinky shorts and some running shoes."

"I'll do the dishes," he protested, reaching for them as I pulled them away.

"Did I ask you to do dishes? I asked you to go get ready for a run. We can't have your ass spreading from inactivity." I grinned. "Not to mention, I like watching it move in running shorts."

Andrew grinned. "I'm your entertainment for the night, huh?"

I nodded, setting the dishes to soak. "Yeah, and my show is being delayed the longer you stand around here. And when we get back, you can show me how to work out and keep all this hard earned muscle when I don't have access to a gym."

Andrew frowned. "You don't have to stop going to the gym."

I laughed. "And who is going to train me, Charlotte? Lee's already got a full client load. Besides, I'd rather have a primitive workout with my man that a high-tech one where we aren't welcome."

"Love me, love my boyfriend?"

Dropping the last glass into the soapy water, I turned around and poked him in the chest. "You better believe it. We're a team. Don't dis my man."

"Let's get changed, Mr. Madison." Andrew grinned, his eyes burning with mischief. "You're late for your workout."

"Yes sir!" I saluted and jogged up the stairs to change, followed by a sexy, hairy gorilla.

The run gave us time to chill, drain away the stress and forget about our problems. When we got back, Andrew pointed to the back deck. "Out to the workout you."

Inclined pushups, declined pushups, laying rows, hand stand presses, milk jug curls, crunches; the man was a slave driver. I loved it. Andrew was totally committed to finding every way possible to work us to burned out husks. His only problem was that he was just too strong to get much more than a cardio workout from it all.

"You're a beast," I panted, finishing a second set of close grip pushups. My arms felt like mush.

Andrew shrugged, starting right into another set while I took a breather. "Good substitute for weights, but you can only get so much done."

I grinned, enjoying the view of a nearly naked Andrew working up a sweat. "You're just too strong for yourself, huh?"

"Yeah," he said as he kept going, "but at least I can stay cut up."

He was at the bottom of his pushup when I got up. "Stay there." He did, holding still as I carefully settled down and sat between his shoulder blades. His back was so fucking wide. "Ok, try that."

He grunted as he pressed back up, noticeably slower than before. "Who's the trainer here?"

"You are, I'm just dead weight for you to move." I concentrated on feel of his muscles flexing under my ass. Damn he had a lot of them. Andrew did another fifteen pushups, slow and steady, and then he paused. "Want me off?"

"No," he breathed huskily, "this feels great." He did another five pushups. "Almost too good."

"Oh?" I'd been hardening the whole time I was on his back.

"Yeah, I can't make it all the way down now."

I slid my legs around, straddled his ribs, and set my feet on the ground. I leaned over, looking under him to see the huge bulge in his shorts. "I can fix that." I got off, grabbed his pants, and slid them off his hips and down his legs. He groaned as his dick slapped up against his stomach. Sliding off my shorts and shoes quickly I settled back down on his back. His muscles flexed under my balls, causing me to tremble. I closed my eyes. "Better?"

"I'm not going to be able to concentrate now."

I laughed. "Try... just imaging you have to keep flexing those back muscles like you would your ass."

Andrew sank down, those muscles rippling under my balls and causing my dick to throb. I was dripping. He would go all the way down till his nipples and horse dick were just touching the deck, then push slowly back up. "This is what I call a workout," he mumbled as he started another set.

"Yeah... I could train like this forever." I tried to imagine all the erotic ways we could work out. They just made me moan. "Can we work out like this more often?"

"Count on it, but you're the only client who gets a Greek workout," he grunted. Yeah, my additional weight was doing the job.

"Good," I sighed, unable to resist running my hands down his flanks to his low back. He held himself at the upper pushup as I leaned down and kissed away the sweat that had pooled just above his sacrum. "I'm not into sharing."

We didn't fuck. Andrew just went back through all the exercises, trying out partnered versions of them that kept us horny and on edge. Finally he pressed me to the deck and humped against me, grunting his love into my ear as we built. I loved having him cover me in his cum, and this time was no different. As we lay there, sweaty and spent, I stroked the hair at his neck and just let him hold me. Sometimes you had to think out of the box. Maybe that was what we needed to solve Andrew's problem.

Tuesday morning, Claire peeked into my office. "There's a Lee on line two?"

"Thanks, Claire." I picked up the phone and hit line two. "Hey, Lee."

"Hey, Taylor. How's the big guy doing?"

I sighed. "Trying to be a tough guy, but he's hurting."

"I heard Charlotte on the phone again today. I swear the bitch is black listing him."

"Wouldn't surprise me." Unlike Andrew or Lee, I didn't see Charlotte as the evil bitch from hell. Maybe she wasn't being as professional as she should have, but she'd let professionalism slip by allowing the games that happened at the gym to begin with. "Charlotte put up with a lot of inappropriate behavior. Even if she wasn't doing it with her apparent vigor, she'd be irresponsible not to give an honest accounting of Andrew's work history."

Lee paused, and then sighed. "Yeah. I'm not exactly Snow White there either."

"You've been 'clean' a lot longer than Andrew though. How long have you been with Tyron?"

I could almost feel Lee's grin. The boy couldn't talk about his man without smiling. I knew how he felt. "Closing on a year."

"If I'd come along sooner, maybe this wouldn't have happened." I shrugged, though I knew it wasn't of much use on the telephone. "He's so lost, Lee. I wish he could just 'be a trainer' without having to find a gym to work from." There was another pause on the phone. This time Lee was quiet long enough that I was getting nervous. "Lee?"

"What if he could?"

I blinked. "Could what?"

"Just train. You know, not an employee but have his own space to train and work with his clients?

"I'd do anything if that could happen. He doesn't need to be a grunt at some sweat factory."

"Can you meet me over near 'The Dojo' at lunch?"

I blinked. We were on half days at school for the rest of the summer. "Sure."

"Great... I've had an idea for a while but didn't have the guts to do it on my own. Maybe this would work for all of us."

"Lee, you're being cryptic." I hated it when people were obtuse.

Lee dropped into his horrible, fake oriental accent. "Turn adversity up side down and color outside the lines! This is the secret to happiness."

I laughed. "You're a freak, but I'll be there."

"Thanks, Taylor. You won't regret it."

I hung up and looked at the clock, 10:15am. It would be over two hours before I'd get any answers to the questions that were buzzing around in my head. I hoped Lee would be the good fortune that his cookie-like prophecy promised. We needed some good fortune.