The following is a complete work of fiction.


The following story may contain erotic situations between consenting adults. If it is illegal for you to read this please leave now.

Any resemblance between the characters and any real life person is completely coincidental. Please do not copy or distribute the story without the authors' permissions.

Important -

If you enjoyed this chapter, you can find more of A.B. Guye's art and writing at or at

If you would like to be updated of new stories and chapter releases, please join A.B. Guye's yahoo group at

Please feel free to send any feedback or comments through the writing journal or you can send it directly to abguye[at] or mercutio3000[at] . Please just remember to add something in the subject line so we know it's not Spam. Enjoy!

The Conquered - Chapter 34: Trials (part 8)

***** Sean *****

I cringed as I sat on a bench near the cafeteria. My belly button stung and burned whenever anything rubbed the ring. I was tempted to yank the thing out, but even lightly tugging at it hurt like hell. Thank God I had a few pairs of jeans that were crotch riders. Big, baggy t-shirt and low rise pants made life tolerable.

"Hey, Sean!"

I looked up to see Katie coming out of the cafeteria with a guy I'd seen around campus, but hadn't met. I eyed his ripped, multi-pocket pants with the ragged cuffs, black net shirt, and at least a half dozen piercings. The tat down his left arm looked like it was painful as hell, but it was beautiful. I'd expected something gothic and horror bent, but he had really cool tribal patterns from over his shoulder to just below his elbow. He was kind of skinny for my taste in guys, but it looked like he had good definition.

"Hey, Katie."

She plopped down on the bench next to me with her grease burger and milkshake. It didn't even smell appetizing. "Sean, this is Gordon. Gordon, this is Sean."

Gordon put out his hand, which I shook. "Nice to meet you. Katie says we live in the same neighborhood."


"Yep. I live there with my Dad."

"I'm living with my Grandmother."

"Mind if I pull up a spot of grass?" Gordon gestured at the ground in front of the bench.

"No, not at all. I can move," I offered, grabbing my lunch.

"Nah, I like the ground," he replied as he sank down cross legged, slipping his feet up into a full lotus.

"Damn," I breathed, as he unzipped his book bag, "I've been doing martial arts for years, and I can't do that in big sole boots."

"Cool, what kind?" He pulled out a small container of rice and a package of boiled eggs.

"Tai Chi and Jujitsu, with a few other things tossed in." I watched him grab an egg with a pair of chopsticks and take a bite. "What kind do you do?"

"I don't know any martial arts. My mom's a yoga instructor. I've been doing it since about the time I learned to walk."

"I thought you said you lived with your dad."

Gordon shrugged, scooped up some of his vegetables and rice, and waited to swallow before replying. "Mom's off somewhere finding enlightenment. She started searching for the answers when I was seventeen. I wasn't too hip on living out of a suitcase at Buddhist temples in the Far East, so I moved to live with my dad. It's pretty cool. He's trying to make up for the fact he and Mom got divorced when I was seven, so I've got a pretty good ride for a little while."

I frowned. "It doesn't seem fair to play on your dad's guilt."

Gordon grinned. "I don't do it much. Really, we get along great. I even like Lyle."


Gordon chewed up another mouthful of rice. "Yeah, Dad's boyfriend." He tapped his tattoo with his chopsticks. "Lyle's been doing my tat. He owns Taboo Tattoo on Colonial." His lips curled into a wry smile. "He trades me time on the tattoo for evenings alone with Dad." He rolled his eyes, but the warmth in them was real. "Something about having his kid in the house turns Dad into a prude."

I leaned forward to get a better look at the tat, and I winced. "Damn."

Katie looked at me funny. "What?"

"Oh, this stupid belly button piercing you talked me into."

Katie rolled her eyes. "I had nothing to do with it. You nearly jumped into the chair when Carlos told you you'd look hot with a belly piercing."

"Whatever, it's sore."

"Yeah, belly piercings are bitches. All the movement and rubbing keeps them irritated and they take forever to heal. Almost as bad as noses about infections."


Gordon frowned. "Come on, you know, keeping them clean and using salt rinses and shit?"

"Yeah, I think they gave me a piece of paper about that. Said keep it clean for a week or so and such."

"A week? More like six weeks. Where the hell did you get your piercing?"

I shrugged. "Over on the beach."

Gordon set aside his food and unlocked his legs as he sat up. "Lets see."


"Is it hot? Are you getting any discharge?"

I lifted the hem of my shirt and let him look at the red, swollen area.

"Yep, looks like it's infected. Did you do something stupid, like roll in the sand or something? Get dirt in there?"

"No, I didn't; thanks." I pulled my shirt down.

"When did it start getting sore?"

I thought about it. "I don't know, maybe Monday night?"

"What'd you do over the weekend?"

"We met Carlos at P-house and danced, and Katie and I moved a weight set to our carport."

"Well you must have gotten something on it."

I shrugged. "No. I mean, we put on some pixie dust at P-house, but that was on Katie's shoulders and my upper abs."

Gordon frowned. "You mean the sparkle shit?"


He sat back and groaned. "Newbies... Lyle would shoot any of his employees if they didn't make sure to beat the rules into the head of anyone, even people already with piercings, about cleaning them and infections. I bet what happened is you sweated some of the glitter down and it got into the piercing. You're going to have to get that thing clean or you could get a nasty infection in no time."

Great. That was all I needed.

***** Andrew *****

I flinched; missing the loop in the knot I was tying in the waist cord of my sweat pants, as Taylor wrapped his arms around me and kissed between my shoulder blades. Taking a breath, I closed my eyes, struggling not to tremble. Fucking nightmares, I hated them.

"You sure you're okay?"

I nodded, finishing the knot. "Yeah, I'm sure. You know how it is after one of those things."

"Yeah," Taylor sighed, squeezing me once, and let go. He hobbled back to the bed and picked up his sweater. "Help?"

I focused to keep my hands from shaking as I helped him slide the sweater past his wrist cast and settle it comfortably on him. He looked very GQ with his hair pulled back, wearing a v-neck sweater over his collared button-down shirt. I couldn't stop myself from stroking his cheek. "You sure you don't want me to take you?"

"I'd rather we called in sick." I gave him a doubtful look as I tied my sneakers, and he shrugged. "Wednesday is a heavy day for you, Andrew. You're probably going to be late as is. Grace seems to need the distraction from the wedding jitters. Let her have her way; it will be easier in the long run."

I pulled on my tank top and sweat shirt, stuffed my keys and wallet in my pants pockets, and turned to Taylor as he fussed with his collar. "Ready to go downstairs?"

"Yeah, my briefcase is down by the coffee table." He hobbled to the stairs and let me pick him up without more than a frown in protest. "This still makes me feel like a baby."

I ran my nose along his ear as I carried him down the stairs. "You're my baby; don't forget it."

He hooked his fingers behind my neck and kissed me before I set him down. "You're my gorilla; don't forget that either."

I swallowed, nodding. How could I have forgotten that so easily? Shaking off the thought, I smiled. "See you around ten."

"Drive safe, Andrew."

I left, but the nightmare and Taylor's possessive words wouldn't leave my mind. The tenuous bond we'd reformed felt so fragile. As I took a swig of coffee from my travel mug and zoned out on the way into work, I'm such a fucking hypocrite. I was doing exactly what Taylor had done to me. I was scared that he couldn't handle the news about Kevin, or that he couldn't handle the nightmares again. I needed to talk to him. I promised myself I would, later, when I understood it better.

The day sucked. I was distracted and agitated. I couldn't get into the grove with any of the routines. Coach's voice crept into my thoughts at odd moments, making me shudder. How badly had I fucked up? Kevin would be back Thursday night. They always came back, no matter how hard I'd fucked them; they always did. Even Frank came back.

Lisa waved good-bye as she got into her car, and I locked the front door. Closing time, finally! I sat on one of the benches while Lee was wiping the equipment his last client had used. "Hey Lee? I need a favor."

He kept wiping down the bench and moved on to another. "Sure. What?"

I plucked at the hem of my shirt. "Will you take over one of my clients?"

Lee paused, looking back at me over his shoulder. "Which one?"

"Kevin Jasper."

"Why," he asked as he turned and sat on the bench to face me, leaning in while propping his elbows on his knees.

I looked away, staring at the mirrors on the wall, and then looked down at my hands. I didn't like the person looking back at me in the reflections. "He comes in on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Those are your light days."

"I know his schedule. I want to know why."

I was startled by the sharpness in his voice. I looked up, meeting his gaze. I couldn't make out his expression, but his eyes were hard. I swallowed. "Two years ago, we'd have added Kevin to our list of plucked cherries."

Lee sat up, straightening his spine in surprise. I could see the wheels turning behind his eyes. "That's why you rushed me out of here Saturday? So you could fuck him?"

I turn away from the anger and pain I saw in his face. The same anger and pain I feared I'd see in Taylor's eyes if he knew. I shut my eyes and nodded once. "That was the plan."

My eyes flew open as Lee shoved me from the bench, sending me toppling onto my ass. "I can't believe this." Standing, he paced away. "How could you?"

My chin resting against my chest, I shrugged, not making any move to get up from where he'd put me. "I was hurting. I was angry."

Lee spun, flexing his fingers as if itching to ball them into fists. "I hope it was worth it. You've thrown away everything to scratch a damn itch!"

His words sliced through me; made me wince. Lee grabbed his towel from the bench and threw it across the room before kicking a near-bye exercise ball. It bounced off the wall and bounced across the room.

I steeled my resolve and kept my eyes on him. "Will you take him on or not?"

Lee came around the bench and glared down at me. "You never had a problem working with one of your conquests before."

I blinked away the tears that were trying to fall. My voice was barely a scratchy whisper. "He wasn't a conquest. Nothing happened." I remembered how I'd teased Kevin, pushed him, left him feeling confused, and lost when I sent him home. "I could have, but I didn't go through with it."

Lee let out a long exhale and looked at me. With a grunt, he straddled the bench, tired relief melting the anger from his face. My vision blurred from restrained tears as he nodded. "Tell me what happened." I shrugged, but he just smiled encouragingly. "You need to talk to someone, big guy."

"Taylor and I had a big, huge fight Friday. He said something that cut me to the bone." Just the memory of those four words still took my breath away and hurt like fire in my lungs. I don't need you. I had to shut my eyes to keep from weeping. "When I got here Saturday, I tried to work through it, tried to get past it, but nothing worked. Nothing was helping." I dropped back on my elbows and stared at the ceiling. "I wanted the pain to go away."

"And to be in control."

I almost missed his soft words. I nodded. "Yes. Exactly."

He laughed quietly, shaking his head. "Jesus, Andrew. Haven't you guys ever had a fight before?"


He stared at me as if I were crazy. "You and Taylor never argue?"

I smiled. "Of course we've argued; about things like his Dad, or Sean, but always something outside of us." I thought about it for a moment. "The most we do is snipe over little things like who was going to pick up the check or where we were going to put the sofa. You know stupid things. But this was... more. It was personal."

"Come on, Andrew. You know that words said in anger are usually never meant how they come out."

I looked away. "There's never been anyone to fight with before."

Lee waited for more, but I really didn't have anything else to say. The more I thought about it, the more stupid I felt. I should have had more faith in what we had. One fight and I went running back to my old ways without even trying to deal with the problem.

Finally, Lee changed the subject. "So, what stopped you?"

I blinked, and mutely shifted gears.

"Saturday night," he coaxed.

"I don't know..." I shrugged. "I thought it was over, and I pushed you out the door so I could make myself feel better." I looked back at Lee and smiled. "Then my cell rang. At first I thought it was Taylor, and I was just going to shut off the phone and get on with it. But when I saw that I'd missed Sean's call, and that he'd left a message, I had to make sure nothing was wrong." I smiled, remembering how three little words could melt away so much anger. "He'd just called for no reason... to say he loved me." I wiped a tear from my cheek with my fist. "That was it. I backed off and sent Kevin home; end of story."

Lee studied me for a moment or two, and then nodded. "Okay. I'll take on Kevin."


"Have you told Taylor?"

I shook my head. "Not yet. I'm going to talk to him about it when I get home." I grinned. "I didn't want to talk to him until I could figure it out. I didn't have a grasp on it until now."

"Good." Lee reached forward and ruffed up my hair. "Go home and finish this, big guy. I'll cover your ass here."

"Like always," I muttered, getting off my well covered ass.

Lee stood and pushed my chin aside with his fist. "Just like you do for me."

***** Taylor *****

"So, is it later yet?" Becca sounded like one of her boys.

"Chronologically speaking, yes, much later." I rolled my eyes; not that she could see it.

"So, what's going on with you two?"

"What do you mean?" I hobbled from the fridge to the stove. I loved my Bluetooth headset.

"Don't play that game with me, Mr. Madison. We both know something more happened after dinner Friday than we've talked about." I could hear her tapping on the receiver. "Just spill, Taylor. You know I'll get it out of you eventually."

"Andrew wasn't particularly pleased by my refraining from telling him about Trish's return." I stirred the rice and popped open the container of chopped onion.

"If I were him, I'd have been pissed."

Dumping in half the container of onion, I stirred in the onion as the microwave dinged. "Isn't that what I just said?" I pulled the defrosted peas from the microwave.


"Becca." Dumping in the peas, I put the top back on the rice pot and hobbled back to the fridge. "We had a fight, okay? I said some stupid ass shit that I didn't mean, would never mean, and promptly chewed up Andrew's heart and spit it out."

"Okay, so there was a little hurricane that blew through paradise. Then what?"

I pulled out the minced garlic. "I threw up."


"I had a migraine. I managed to clean it up before having to lie down." I dumped a few spoonfuls of garlic into the rice and shrugged.

"You're a freak, you know that? Who the hell cleans up when they puke from a migraine?"

"It would have ruined the finish on the wood floor." I put the garlic back in the fridge. "It was going to take a while for the pain pills to kick in, so I had to do something until they started to work."

"I can hear you're in the kitchen. What are you cooking with a broken wrist?"

I sat down at the kitchen table. "Don't be a nag, Becca. With all the prechopped, packaged and prepared stuff these days, cooking with a limitation is easy." I thumbed absently through the stack of legal papers Tom had sent. Andrew still hadn't signed them. "Becca, how pissed would you have been if you were Andrew?"


I sighed. "We got the legal stuff from Tom on Saturday. I signed the paperwork, but he still hasn't."

"Have you asked him about it?"

I shook my head. "No. It still feels like I'm on thin ice." I thumbed the paperwork again. "I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop."

"Maybe he's feeling as unsure as you are, Taylor; probably more. I mean, you are his first real relationship and all."

"Yeah, I know." Reaching for one of the pennies that'd come out of my pocket with my keys, I began absently sliding it about the table. "It's just so hard to believe that I didn't even know him a year ago, Becca. This time, last year, falling in love with a big, hairy gorilla of a man was the furthest thing from my mind."

"Yeah, Larry's made comment about that a few times."

Picking up the penny, I turned it over as I thought about how important someone I hadn't even been looking for had become to my life. "I don't know what I'd do if I lost him, Becca. I don't mean just because I came out and faced a lot of shit for this... I just can't remember what it was like not to be in love with him."

"I'm sure it will all work out, hon. You guys are talking, right?"

I nodded. "Yeah, and cuddling."

"No nookie, huh?"

"Not even a hint of it. I know sex doesn't fix anything, but at this point I'd like to put a hold on the cures and go straight to a Band-Aid."

"Amen to that. You can only do so many nights of heart-to-heart before you just need a little bed rocking respite."

I was about to answer when I saw headlights coming up the drive. "Looks like Andrew's home."

"Okay, I have to prep for tomorrow anyway. Keep your chin up, Taylor."

"Thanks, Becca." I clicked off the call and set my earpiece on the table. I just got the stove turned off and the rice to a back burner when Andrew came in, stomping off his shoes.

"Damn this is a cold winter."

In some ways more than others, I mused. "How are you doing?"

"Could be worse," Andrew replied as he hung his coat. Crossing the distance between us, he paused before stepping in close. "How are you?"

"Better now that you're home."

He studied my eyes for a moment. "You really mean that don't you?"

I nodded. "Can you believe it's been less than a year?"

"Sometimes it feels like we met only yesterday," Andrew sighed, cupping my cheek in his palm. "Sometimes I can't remember what life was before you."

"Ditto." That was his cue to kiss me, but he didn't.



"If I did something really, really stupid, do you think you could still love me?"

Drop. I stepped back. "I think I could love you through most anything."

Andrew sighed, and started pacing. "I'm..." He stopped, looking at the table and the stack of papers. "Shit." Turning to back to me, he set his jaw. "Last Saturday I almost fucked a client."

I blinked. Almost? I looked at Andrew, not sure if I was pissed or wanted to laugh. "How almost are we talking? Did you just think about it, or did you have him pressed down against the bench and sliding in before you stopped?"

Andrew swallowed. "To the point of stripping and taking the guy down... but I didn't."

I wasn't sure if my legs went weak out of relief or what, but I wobbled. "I think I'd better sit down for this."

I sat down, and Andrew sat down a little ways away.

"I'm so sorry."

I blinked. "For what?"

"For cheating on you."

I shook my head. "Okay, I'm confused. I thought you said you didn't do anything."

"I didn't."

"Then you didn't cheat."

"I was going to."

He was losing me. "We were both wrecks last Saturday, Andrew. I thought about some pretty horrible things too. Neither of us did them."

"No, you don't understand. I really was going to."

I paused. Okay, that mattered. "But?"

"Sean called. He kind of pulled me out of the hole I was in." He looked at his hands. "After that, I couldn't go through with it."

"You stopped because of Sean?" Why did that hurt? Who cared why he didn't do it. He didn't, that was all that mattered.

Andrew looked at me. His eyes were so worn. "He said he loved me."

"I love you too, Andrew!" He blurred a little as I blinked away the tears I didn't want to acknowledge.

"I know." He stood up and started pacing again. "Don't you think I don't know that? I was so fucking mad at you. I just wanted to hurt you back... to be in control again... to feel like I had some power over my life."

I looked away. "You have power over mine..."

"Do I?" I looked back at him. "It didn't' feel like it. I felt like you had all the cards and you were about to call in your chips."

"How can you say that?" I wanted to stand up and punch him, but my stomach was churning again. "I came out for you, Andrew. I moved out of a comfortable, safe life because I had to be with you. I needed you, Andrew... You turned my entire world on its ear and you say you don't have any power in this relationship? I'm living in YOUR house, Andrew. YOUR mother is taking care of me. YOU..."

"It's OUR house damn it!" He slapped his hand on the table, causing the papers to slide out of their neat stack. "I don't want you to live in MY house. It's OURs. YOU, ME. I can't live like it isn't permanent."

I looked away. "Is it? You already said that I wasn't enough."


I looked back at him, no longer caring if I had tears running down my cheeks. "What we had wasn't enough to keep you from looking to fulfill your needs elsewhere, Andrew. Sean may not call next time. What then? How long before we have another fight, or you get the scent of a cherry you can't resist?"

Andrew looked away. "I'm not like that any more..."

I just looked at him, and it took me a moment to realize he was shaking. Who had said that? I'm not like that any more, repeated in my head. That wasn't big Andrew. I knew that voice. I swallowed down the bile in my throat and stood up. "Andrew..."

He looked back at me, his pupils wide. "I can't be like him, Taylor. I can't..."

Shit. I took a cautious step towards him. "You aren't, baby."

"How do you know?" His eyes pleaded with me.

"Because if you were, a call from an adopted little brother wouldn't have stopped you." I stepped in, reached up, and cupped his cheek. "Because I couldn't love someone like that. I love you, and you aren't like him."

"I love you so much..." His voice was barely a hoarse whisper.

"That was the nightmare."

He nodded and looked away.

"Andrew, look at me." He did, reluctantly. "We'll get through this; okay?"

He sank in as I pulled him down and kissed the side of his head. Before I knew it, I was in a weeping death grip as he cried into my neck. "I don't want to be like him... but I'm so fucking scared that I am."

I just held on and let him cry, kissing the side of his head every so often. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't sure what would make it better. All I could do was whisper, "I love you," and hope that would be enough.

***** Lee *****

I wiped my palms on my shorts and wondered why I was nervous. It's not like I'd never taken a client over before. Andrew kept incredible notes. Now that we had the palm pilots and laptop, I didn't have to search for them. But, what was I going to be facing when Kevin came back in? I'd soothed enough of Andrew's fucks. Hell, look at Don, I reassured myself, How messed up would he be?

It was eight thirty when the chime on the door sounded. I waited for Kevin to come around the partition. He looked okay. He didn't look haunted or nervous, mostly just haggard. I could deal with haggard. "Hello, Kevin."

He stopped and looked around. "Where's Andrew?"

We'd discussed possible reasons, or at least plausible ones. "We've had to adjust some of our schedules. Andrew needs to be free earlier because he needs to take someone to physical therapy."

Kevin thought about it for a moment and nodded. "Okay, so... Where do we start?"

I took out my palm pilot. "Well, Andrew had your workout program all done. Unless you want to change something, we'll stick to that."

Kevin looked at his workout sheet and then shrugged. "It looked good, and we can adjust if it needed."

"Then let's get started." I pointed to the treadmill for his warm up.

I watched as Kevin set down his bag and took off his wedding ring. Andrew was a stickler for no jewelry while working out. I agreed. "Are you over the flu?"

Kevin looked up after he took off his coat, pulled out his workout gloves, and tucked the bag into the corner. "I didn't have the flu; just under the weather a bit."

Okay. This was too easy. "Let's start with some stretching."

I watched him as he warmed up. Something from Andrew's notes clicked in my head and I skimmed them again before he finished his warm up. "I'm going to make a modification to the routine."

Kevin looked at me as he jogged. "Oh? What?"

"We're going to sacrifice some of the weights for stretching."

Kevin frowned. "Stretching?"

I nodded. "Your routine is pretty heavy on the weights, and I think you might find your flexibility will diminish if we don't compensate for the weight lifting."

Kevin got off the treadmill after a brisk cooling down. "Okay, so that's next?"

"Yep, just follow my lead." We got out the mats and I led him through a complete stretching regimen. He couldn't bend or twist anything near as far as I could, but he tried. After ten minutes of stretching, I had him climb on the bench press and start some reps. "Doing well. Twelve more."

He worked through all of them, breathing hard, and sweating, but quiet. I liked to talk and joke around, listen to music. He wasn't opening up at all. "I know what's in your file, but tell me why you're doing this?"

I walked to the leg press with Kevin as he shrugged. "I work behind a desk. Spend too much time watching TV." He grabbed his solid and slightly large belly and patted it. "The spare tire is getting old."

I chuckled. "Some walking, adjustments in your diet, and other things could have done what you wanted."

He looked up after one set, at the weight Andrew had indicated. "Probably true. But... I'm doing this for me. You know?" When I nodded he continued. "I don't expect to be a super model," he said as he rubbed his thinning hair. "But I want to be in shape. I want to be able to keep up with my kids."

"Are they a handful?"

He laughed as he went into his last set. "Sure. But they're still small enough that I can heft them around." When he was finished, we went over to the next set. "Soon, they'll be getting closer to my size. I'm Superman to them now. I don't want that to go away."

I was able to get Kevin to talk, but it was limited conversation at best. Perhaps he was simply shy with new people, or perhaps he wasn't all that social? I didn't know for sure. I got the feeling he wasn't all that affected by Andrew's actions last Saturday, or he was in denial, or he was really good at hiding things, or a combination of the last two.

I put Kevin back on the treadmill, and I stepped away to wipe down some equipment. After Kevin finished his ten minutes of cool down cardio, I thumbed at the bathroom. "Want a shower?"

For a moment I thought I saw a flicker of panic in his eyes, but after a blink it was gone. He shook his head. "No, I'll get one at home." He grabbed his bag and picked up his coat. "Thanks, Lee."

"My pleasure. See you Saturday?"


I walked him out, and shut and locked the door. Flipping off the lights, I picked up my cell. I tapped the speed dial as I walked to the car. I smiled as a deep, sexy voice to answer.

"Hey, babe."

"Tyrone. How are you doing?"

"I miss you."

"When will you get home from Philadelphia?"

"Tomorrow night, probably late."

I pointed my key chain remote at the car, undoing the locks and starting my Mustang. "How late?"


I grinned as I put the car in gear and headed onto the street. "Perfect. I'll wait up."

"You'd better."

I chuckled as I drove downtown towards our apartment. "I've missed you too, Bull; in so many ways."

"Good. That's what I like to hear." Someone cut me off and I hit my horn. "Where are you?"

"Driving home."

"That's awfully late."

"I swapped a client with Andrew."

I heard a groan. "What happened now?"

I snorted. "Nothing major." It wasn't the whole truth, but until Andrew talked with Taylor, I wasn't sharing. "He needed to swap, and it wasn't that big a deal."

"There's more to this. You just aren't telling me."

I flipped on the blinker to turn towards the apartment complex. "I can't. Not yet."

He was silent on the line. After a few moments he sighed, "Okay. It can wait."

As I pulled into the parking lot and turned off the engine, I stared up at our balcony. "Hey, Bull? Do you have any plans for the weekend?"

"I have a meeting Saturday afternoon, but nothing Sunday. Why?"

I smiled as I walked up the stairs. "Want to go into San Francisco and rent a hotel room Saturday night?"

"Any particular reason?"

I chuckled as I let myself into our apartment. "I miss you."

I heard him take a slow breath over the phone, and then the silence stretched out to the point I thought I'd lost reception. "I love you."

The words still hit me in the gut and made me feel weightless. "I love you, too."

"When's your first client Monday?"


"We'll stay Sunday night too and head back early Monday morning."

"Okay. Want me to make the reservations?"

"I'll take care of everything."

I sat on the couch and kicked off my shoes. "You remember the wedding Monday night, right?"

"Of course. I've cleared my schedule from three on."

"Good. Andrew won't be in at all. We were able to cancel or reschedule nearly all the appointments. I'll be done by noon."

I looked at the VCR clock. Damn, it was nearly ten. "I'm sorry, Bull. It's nearly one. When do you have to be up tomorrow?"


"I should let you go."

"Yeah. I can't hold you or do what I'd like to be doing right now."

"I'll see you tomorrow when you get home."

"I love you, Lee."

"I love you, too. Good night."

I grinned after the phone disconnected. I stretched long and curled against the arm of the sofa. Life was good. Life was very good.