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Website: www.JackSchaeffer.com

Comments welcomed: jack@JackSchaeffer.com


By Jack Schaeffer

Copyright 2014-2016. All rights reserved.


Chapter 18

Sam grinned at me, his arms stretched outward, the muscles in his shoulders bulging as I ran a towel across his hairy chest after our shower. Of course he was grinning - I'd just done the thing he loved so much, using my throat to bring him off. I nearly drowned in the process, but hey, my man was happy. Sex in the shower with Sam was my favorite way to start the day, but I was far from satisfied.

"Wanna go again?" I asked.

He laughed. "Fuck, yeah. But we can't. We're already late."

I dropped the towel and put my hands on his damp chest, bending my head to lightly caress his left nipple with my tongue. "Aren't you the one telling me all the time I'm the boss, and I should relax?" I looked up into his sparkling blue eyes - and suddenly they morphed into that predator thing they do. I involuntarily clenched my ass, making my hard dick bob up and down.

Sam scooped me up, hands under my ass, fingers caressing my hole, as I wrapped my arms and legs around him. He carried me to the bed, then threw me down on my back. I groaned with lust as he fell on top of me, his now steel hard cock poking my inner thigh. He pushed up with his hands on my chest, pinning me to the mattress - conquered prey.

He said nothing, his eyes telling me all I needed to know. "Take me," I whispered. His eyes flared and his mouth landed hard on mine, his tongue invading with no mercy. The kissing intensified as he ground his groin into mine. I couldn't tell who was leaking more, him or me.

Without warning, Sam lifted my legs up on to his shoulders and pushed back, lifting my ass to align with his dripping cock. I stared into his eyes as he slid his dick into my hole, balls deep. He held us still, his eyes making love to me while I gently squeezed his cock inside my ass, relishing the fullness, the completeness.

I reached up to stroke his nipples and he hissed with pleasure, jerking back slightly. I tweaked them again, and he groaned, pushing even deeper into me. I matched him grunt for groan as Sam increased the tempo of his thrusting. I relaxed my ass muscles, crying out as his rigid, veiny dick scraped across my prostate, sending waves of pleasure up my spine. A lusty smile appeared as he repositioned to continue his assault on my prostate. He loved torturing me like this.

I reached for my cock and started stroking. Sam pounded my hole even harder. "Yes! Fuck me, Sam. Harder." Sweat beads popped out on his brow, his cock now a relentless piston in my hole. I closed my eyes as my orgasm approached.

"No...look at me," Sam growled. I opened my eyes, looking deep into his. His rhythm was now erratic, a sure sign he was close. He nodded, acknowledging what I already knew. I reached up with my free hand to caress his chest. He leaned into my hand, pivoting my ass slightly higher, and his cock hit my prostate again, sending me over the edge.

"Oh, fuck!" we yelled in unison.

I could feel Sam's dick pulsing, spilling into my hole, as the first spurt of my cum landed on my chest, the rest pooling across my abs. After a few more thrusts, he collapsed on top of me. I squeezed my legs around his waist, holding him inside. He buried his face in my neck, nuzzling my throat as our breathing slowly returned to normal. After a few moments, I reluctantly unlocked my legs so he could roll off of me.

I swiveled onto my side to face him, reaching out with a hand to caress his sweaty chest. He rolled towards me and kissed me gently. I kissed him back, harder, rolling on top of him, as his hands stroked my ass. My cum, mixed with his sweat, created a slick film between us, the man smells intoxicating.

"Hold me," I whispered, and his arms encircled my shoulders, wrapping me tightly against his chest.

"I love you, Jack."

"I know. I love you, too," I said, lifting my head to look at him. "We're getting pretty good at this, aren't we?"

"Fuck, yeah. You're amazing."

"You're not so bad yourself, stud."

He pushed my hair from my eyes with his right hand, while the fingers of his left hand teased the hair in my ass crack. "Sex with you is amazing. So much more than I ever thought it could be," he said.

I leaned down and kissed him softly. "I'm glad," I whispered, then settled my cheek against his chest. Sam put his arms back around my shoulders and held me close. His body was flaming hot, and my own body heat I'm sure added to his discomfort, but he somehow knew I needed to be here, locked in his embrace. I held on tighter, trying to meld our bodies into one.

"You okay, Jack?"

"I'm fine," I murmured into his chest hair.

But I wasn't. I felt...unsettled. Normally, sex with Sam made everything right in my world. It was the perfect way to reset, recharge and refocus. Today, I couldn't get close enough to him. Something was bothering me, lurking at the edges of my mind. I knew what it was...and it scared the crap out of me.

After our second shower - with no hanky panky this time - we dressed in dark suits, sans ties, and sauntered down the hallway to the kitchen. Maggie was washing dishes. I smelled bacon and pancakes. Sam let go of my hand and grabbed a plate.

"Morning, boys," said Maggie. "I see Sam's found breakfast. There's fresh squeezed orange juice in the fridge. I didn't want to leave it out any longer."

"Well, well, well," said Ben, sitting at the table. He dropped his newspaper to smirk at me. "Let me guess - your alarm clock broke again?"

"Don't start, Jack," said Maggie and Sam in unison.

"Me? He started it!"

"Don't," they said.

I stuck my tongue out at Ben and he laughed. "It's not fair," I pouted. "Just because he has the gun, doesn't give him the right to pick on me."

"Be the bigger man," said Maggie, brushing lint or something off my shoulder.

"That's a laugh. I'm the smallest man in the room," I said. Sam put a plate of two pancakes and couple of slices of bacon in front of me as I sat down across from Ben.

"But you're the biggest on the inside, Jack," said Maggie, kissing the top of my head as she moved around to clear Ben's breakfast dishes. Sam raised an eyebrow, and shot me a questioning look. I shrugged. Maggie was certainly acting odd, hovering over us like a mother hen.

"Thanks, Maggie," said Ben.

"You're welcome," she said. "Would anyone like juice?" I nodded, my mouth full of bacon. She returned with two glasses of juice and a plate full of warm pancakes, butter melting across the top of the stack. Sam slid two more on to his plate, looking at me with a huge smile.

Maggie fell into the chair next to me. "Boys," she said. "I need to ask you a big favor."

Ben dropped his paper, Sam stopped eating mid-bite, and I set my glass down. The look on her face was serious.

Without thinking, I grabbed her hand. "Maggie...what is it? Are you okay?" I said.

She patted my hand and I let go. "I'm fine. It's Charles. I'm worried about him. Something's not right, and he won't tell me. But I've lived with that man for more years than I care to name, and something is definitely not right."

"Like what?" asked Sam.

"He's moody. He's been grumbling about work, which is so not like him. He loves his work. And his color's not good. And the other day, I caught him holding a hand to his chest, nearly doubled over. When he saw me, he pretended it didn't happen, but I watched him closely the rest of the day, and he was not feeling good."

"What do you need us to do?" I asked, looking at Sam. He looked worried, like he knew something. He looked at me and swallowed.

"What?" I said to him. He sighed. "Spill it, Sam."

"I don't know anything, Jack."

"But you suspect something, don't you?" He nodded.

"Sam...please...tell me," said Maggie.

"The other day, when Charles was cutting the grass on the hill, down by the driveway, I saw him stop and clutch his shirt front, like you said. It looked like he was having trouble breathing, so I started to go to him, but he saw me coming and waved me off. I nodded and came back inside. I did check on him again a few minutes later, but he seemed fine."

"Oh my," said Maggie, grabbing the front of her blouse. "What do I do?"

"Can you try talking to him again?" I asked.

"I can try, but he's stubborn when it comes to his health. He never wants to admit he's hurting. Years ago, when our kids were little, he worked for two days with a broken arm because we needed the overtime. He only agreed to go to the hospital after it swelled up twice the normal size and turned black and blue. The doctor said he was lucky he didn't cause permanent damage."

"If you want, I can stay here today and work with him, sort of keep an eye on him," said Sam. "That is, if I can get my boss here to give me the day off."

Maggie looked at me, but I was already nodding my head. "I think we can spare Sam for now. This is more important."

Maggie stood up. "Thank you. I don't know what I'd do if something happened to him."

"He'll be fine, Maggie. Sam will keep an eye on him. And maybe we can get him to see a doctor for a thorough checkup."

Maggie half-snorted. "Good luck. That man is mule headed when it comes to doctors."

"Leave that to me," I said, pushing my chair back. "Well, Ben, I guess it's just you and me today." He put his folded paper on the table and stood up, his leather gun holster gleaming in the kitchen lights.

"Sam, can I see you in the garage for a second?" said Ben. Sam nodded, and after putting our plates and glasses in the sink, he followed Ben out through the mud room.

Maggie grabbed my arm. "Jack...thank you so much. I didn't want to ask, but I don't know what else to do. I'm worried sick about him."

I surprised myself and pulled her into a hug. "We'll do our best to take care of him, I promise. And you don't ever have to worry about asking for help. Is there anything you need? Do you need some help with the house?"

She stepped back and shook her head, dismissing my silly notion with a wave of her hand. "No, no. I'm fine. I enjoy taking care of you boys. Besides, you two don't make much of a mess. No...just help Charles, if he'll let you."

"We will," I said.

"You better go. You're already late. Do I need to get you a new alarm clock?"

"Uh...no. I think it's fine."

"Oh...I thought Ben said..."

"Nevermind what Ben said. We're good. Have a great day, and I'll see you tonight, okay."

She patted my hand again. "Get going, before Ben leaves without you." She turned to finish cleaning up the kitchen. I checked my pockets for wallet and cellphone, then went to find Sam.

Out in the garage, Ben was showing Sam how to use a radio device of some kind.

"Hey, Jack," said Sam. "Ben's setting me up with a radio so I can reach the guard down at the gate in an emergency."

"You guys really think it could come to that?" I asked.

"No way to know," said Ben. "Hopefully not, but better safe than sorry. I'll pull the car out and wait for you, Jack. Sam, you need anything, you call me. Have a good one." Sam nodded. We held hands watching Ben maneuver the big car out into the driveway.

"I'm gonna miss you today," I said softly, gazing into his beautiful blue eyes.

Sam leaned down and kissed me. "Stay out of trouble, little man."

"Who? Me?"

"Yes, you," he said, grinning.

"You be safe, too. If anything happens to you..."

"I'll be fine, Jack. Go take care of business."

"Speaking of business, you don't have to ask me for permission for a day off, Sam. I'm grateful for all you've done, but I know working at the office isn't the most exciting thing for you."

He sighed. "To be honest, there's not a lot for me to do, now that you've got a full staff."

"So work here. Find out what projects Charles has cooking, and help him. If he gives you any grief or tries to push you away, remind him he works for you, not the other way around. Besides, I think he'll be glad for the help, and I know you'll know how to handle it."

"You gonna be okay by yourself?"

"Sure. Todd and Margie will keep me out of trouble. You know...we've been talking about updating the bathrooms in our bedroom. Maybe ask Charles for his opinion on whether the two of you could handle the work. We can always get the woman who decorated our offices out here to do a re-design."

"Yes! No more pink!" he said. I laughed. We both hated the "girls" room, and the other bathroom could use some improvements, too.

"Kiss me like you mean it, big guy," I said. And he did. When I finally pushed away, we both had large tents in our suit pants.

Sam grabbed my biceps in his big, meaty hands. "Fuck, Jack. You better not be late for dinner."

I grinned and poked a finger into his chest. "And you don't be up in the woods when I get home."

His blue eyes sparkled and his smile widened. "Deal." He hugged me tightly for two more seconds, then I moped out to the car. Ben looked at me in the rearview mirror, and nodded. I looked out the side window and tried not to miss Sam. I failed.

"Margie," I mumbled as I passed her desk a little while later. She stood up and followed me into my office.

"You're draggin' ass this morning," she said cheerfully.

"Good morning to you, too," I said.

She frowned. "You okay?"

I sighed, sitting down behind my empty desk. "Yeah...I am. Sam stayed home to help out Charles in the yard. Which reminds me, I need to let Todd know he might not be coming in for a while."

"Uh oh. Trouble in paradise? Sam's had enough of you already?"

"What? No...Sam and I are fine. No...it's Charles. He needs some help with a few things, and Sam would much rather work outside than in an office, any day."

"Makes sense. Plus you gotta keep your man happy, Jack."

I smiled. "I think I keep him plenty happy."

"Three things a man needs - good food, great sex, and work he enjoys doing," she said.

"Then I'm pretty sure I've got him covered, now that he gets to play in the dirt again."

She laughed. "I'm sure you do."

"What's happening around here this morning?"

"Well, let's see. Todd's on a tear about some investment thing involving Simon. Will is in the kitchen eating his third bagel, lamenting Valerie's impending move back to Sacramento. Danny seems happy as a lark with his new team. And Mason is as moody as ever."

"Valerie's leaving? Is she taking the baby?"

"I don't think so. According to Will, she wants no part of him or the agency."

"So what happens to the baby?"

"I have no idea."

I stood up and walked to the windows. With my back to Margie, I said, "See if you can get me a meeting with Clyde Watson sometime today."

"Sure thing. If he can't meet today, what should I tell him?"

"Tell him it's very important I meet with him as soon as possible. It can be after hours. I don't care when. Just soon."

"Is this about Valerie's baby?" she asked.

"I just need some legal advice." Something in my tone told Margie to drop it.

"Got it," she said. "You want to talk about going back to college now?"

I turned, grateful to get off the subject of the baby. "Sure. What did you find out?"

"Assuming you get accepted, you can either do an executive MBA program on weekends for three years, or you can do the full MBA program in two."

"I don't want weekends. I'm going to get little time with Sam as it is. So let's think about the full time program. Maybe they'll let me take a lighter load and stretch it to three years."

"They might. It seems very flexible. Half the credits are electives, and from what the lady in admissions told me, you can pick from any other college, not just business."

"Really? So what about the computer stuff? Is that part of their MBA program?"

"Those would be electives, so yeah, she said lots of students take computer systems courses. I think they have those under the Engineering college. But from what I gathered, you sort of create your own program after you get the required classes out of the way."

I took a deep breath. "Okay...it looks like I'm going back to school, then."

"Hold up there, boss. You still have to get accepted, and you're a little late in the process. They do take late applicants, but you need to get your application in sooner rather than later. And there's the GMAT to consider."

"What's that?"

"A standardized test for graduate admissions. You have to get a certain score on it to qualify."

"When do I take it?"

"I'll find a schedule and let you know."

"What if I don't score high enough?"

"Then they probably won't admit you. This program seems very competitive. They only admit about 150 students every year."

"Crap! I hate those tests. Could you see if you could find a tutoring program somewhere to help me prep for it, assuming there's time. I used a test prep service after I bombed my first ACT in high school, and it improved my scores a ton."

She made some notes on her yellow legal pad. "Anything else?"

"Yeah. Todd said something yesterday about getting me a laptop computer with company email. Do you know anything about it?"

"I'll ask Will. He's probably the one to set it up."

"Don't bother, I'll do it. I need to talk to him about something else, anyway. Is Todd busy, you think?"

"I don't know, but you could just go and knock on his door. You are the boss, Jack."

I smiled. "You're right, I am. But I don't want to be a pest, and my thing can wait."

"Go talk to him. If he's busy, you'll know. He won't look up from his phone or computer or whatever device he's currently attached to." We both chuckled at her very apt description of Todd. When he was in full work mode, his attention was virtually impenetrable.

Margie and I continued reviewing her work load, which wasn't much at this point. I hadn't fully engaged in the day to day operations of the business, so I wasn't putting any demands on her time, other than tracking down information on the MBA program at Wash U. She was very thorough in her research. She handed me a short stack of documents to review, including a detailed list of all the classes offered for credit in the program.

After Margie left, I spent a few minutes looking over the class list, circling several which sounded interesting to me, especially the ones related to consulting and systems analysis. I read the class descriptions and could immediately see myself doing the work. I was mildly excited about getting back into learning mode.

I was not, however, looking forward to GMAT test prep. I shuddered at the memory of tedious hours spent studying and practicing. But there was no arguing with the results. My ACT score had gone from a 24 to a 32, and was the primary reason I received tuition credits from the University of Illinois. If it hadn't been for those, I might not have been able to go.

My mind kept wandering to Valerie and a certain baby boy lying in a cold, unfeeling institutional crib in the hospital, unwanted and unloved. He was the reason for my unresolved angst. I couldn't let him go, and with him came all sorts of problems. Sam, chief among them. I sighed, collected the MBA documents into a neat pile, set them on the corner of my desk, and went to find Todd.

As expected, he was on a call. He had taken to using a Bluetooth wireless earpiece, so sometimes I didn't know if he was talking to me or the person on his phone. At least he was smiling. He nodded for me to take a seat when I lightly rapped on his door and peeked in.

He was still smiling when he hung up. "Morning, boss. What's cookin'?"

"I came to ask you the same thing. You seem very happy this morning."

"I am. One of our investments is about to pay out, big time."

"Tell me," I said, as I sat down, hoping I'd be able to follow along. I loved seeing him this excited.

"Simon came to me about two years ago with an investment opportunity in a REIT."

"What's a reet?"

Todd smiled. "It stands for Real Estate Investment Trust. Essentially it's a company set up to invest in real estate - usually commercial buildings, shopping malls, strip malls... things like that. They sell shares to raise the capital to buy the buildings, then hopefully generate a steady income stream with the leases on those buildings. At some point, they sell out, and the original investors make a nice premium on their initial investment. In this case, not only are we making a killing on the sale price, but we've reinvested the dividends over the years. Part of the deal is you get to buy additional shares at the original price, even if the market price has increased."

"Judging by your smile, I'm guessing it did."

"Oh, yeah. We bought in around eleven dollars a share. The offer on the table is for fifteen and change."

I did the math in my head. "Wow, that's like, what, a thirty-five percent return?" Todd's smile grew wider.

"More. Remember, we now have more shares, which we purchased with the income from the original shares, so our initial investment has grown nearly fifty-five percent."

"So break it down for me. How much did you make on this one investment."

"Well, it wasn't a huge investment upfront, but when it's all done, we should net out close to eleven million."

"Eleven million? On one investment? In less than two years?"

"Pretty nice, huh?"

"I'll say. Larry said you guys were good. He wasn't kidding."

"And that's just one investment, Jack," he said, his smile widening. "We do have others."

"So...I'm afraid to ask, but...just how much is all this worth?"

"You mean how much are you worth?"

I shook my head. "Don't say it like that. It freaks me out. Just...how much is Schaeffer & Associates worth?"

"I don't have the latest numbers from Danny, but I'd say close to 625 million."

To my credit, I didn't throw up this time. Maybe a little hyperventilation, but I held it together. "But...how can that be? Three months ago, Larry said it was 580."

"That's how it works, Jack. If we do our jobs right, it will keep growing and growing and growing."

"But we paid a fortune for this building, right?"

"Yes, but we still have the value of the investment, and Simon thinks the price per square foot should rise another ten percent over the rest of this year. This area is hot in Denver."

"No wonder he was pushing so hard for us to pick this one."

"He knows his stuff."

"So even with buying those worthless buildings down in Ft. Hancock, we're doing okay?"

Todd laughed. "Yeah, boss. We're doing okay."

"Cool. Guess we can afford to pay all these people, after all."

"I think we've got payroll covered."

"That reminds me, Sam probably won't be working here very often, at least for a while. He needs to stick close to the house to help Charles."

"No problem. He's probably bored here, anyway."

"So do I talk to Margie about taking him off the payroll?"


"Uh...because he's not working here."

"Jack, it's not a problem to keep paying him. We have plenty of money."

"No, I get it. But you have to understand, Sam will get pissed if he thinks he's being paid for nothing. It'll be better to...I don't know...suspend him?"

"You could make him a consultant."

I raised an eyebrow. "How would that work?"

"Tell Margie to move him to a 1099 status. He won't get a regular paycheck. Instead, we'll pay him an hourly rate, if and when he does do work for us."

"Hmmm. That might work."

"Or you can drop him altogether, it's your call. You're the boss."

I smiled. "And as your boss, today's Friday. I don't see your assistant sitting at the empty desk outside. Is today your last day, too?"

Todd grinned. "Nope. My new assistant starts Monday. Her name is Monica."

"Nice. What's she like?"

"I have no idea. I've never met her." He was still grinning.

"What! Never met her? And you hired her?"

"I called the staffing company that provided most of Danny's team. He seems very happy with his crew, so I gave them some particulars of what I think I need, and they said they had just the person. You can meet her with me on Monday."

"You're crazy. What if she's all wrong for you? What if she...I don't know...erases files on your computer or something?"

"She does, and I'll show her the door. Don't worry about me, Jack. It'll be fine, you'll see. So do I get to keep my job?"

"For now," I said with a grin.

Margie found me in the kitchen. I was on a quest to find Will, and so far I'd turned up nothing.

"You've got a two o'clock appointment with Clyde. Can I confirm?"

"Perfect. Thank you," I said, cracking open a cold water bottle from the fridge.

"Can I ask why you want to talk to Clyde?"

I shrugged. "Just a few legal questions, no big deal."

"Right. And you'll let me know when I need to know more?"

"Yep. You'll be the first."

"Did you catch up with Todd?"

"Yes, and let's just say one of his big three needs was fulfilled today."

"You didn't!" she said with a leer.

"Wha...No! Are you...? You're insane, you know that!" I said, feeling the heat on my neck and cheeks. She'd gotten me again.

She was laughing now. "Sorry, Jack, I couldn't resist."

I rolled my eyes and departed. She was still giggling to herself.

As it turned out, I never found Will. One of the IT guys told me he'd taken off for lunch, which gave me a great idea.

"Thanks for having lunch with me," I said to Sharon, standing up as she took her seat across from me. We were in a high-backed wooden booth at The Cheesecake Factory on 16th Street. Sharon had walked over from Clyde's office, just a couple of blocks away.

"No problem, baby. I'm happy you called. When your assistant asked for an emergency meeting with Clyde, I got worried. Is everything okay?" She reached out to hold my hand for a second. I would have given anything for one of her amazing hugs.

"I'm okay. Let's order, then we can talk." She let go of my hand, and we made our selections from the menu. Ben was seated at another table with a clear line of sight. He nodded to Sharon when she noticed him.

"I see you still have your body guard. Are you in any danger?" asked Sharon.

I laughed. "Only if Ben decides to shoot me. I get on his nerves sometimes."

She smiled. "By accident...or on purpose?"

"Both," I replied with a big grin. "He's fine. To be honest, I've gotten used to him being around all the time. I forget it's kind of a weird situation."

"Have there been any other threats?"

"None that I know of. Arnold Turner was a one-off, I think. He was crazy."

"How are you handling all that?"

"All what?"

She leaned in closer and whispered, "Jack...you killed a man. Surely it's had some effect on you."

"Oh...well...it was an accident. I mean, I wasn't trying to kill him. It just happened. I did have one nightmare right afterwards, but honestly, until you mentioned it, I haven't thought about it."

"If you do start having issues, I know someone you can talk to. She helped me when Big William passed, years ago. Sometimes it helps to talk it through, you know?"

I nodded. "I'll keep her in mind. But I think you might be the best person for what I really need to talk about."

"Shoot. I'm all ears, baby."

I took a drink of my iced tea, and a big breath, then started. I told her all about Will and Valerie - she remembered Valerie from my birthday party - and about Valerie's recent revelation of being a surrogate. I paused when the waitress brought our salads and refilled our glasses. I ended with Valerie moving and leaving the baby behind. Sharon was quite upset, something I hadn't expected.

"How can she do that, just abandon a helpless little baby? Can't you stop her?"

"Um...I don't think so. Technically, she isn't supposed to be the baby's mother. But the hospital is insisting legally Valerie is the mother, since she gave birth. I think she's getting out of town before they literally force the baby on her."

"How thoughtful of her," said Sharon. "And he's still in the hospital? Is something wrong with him?"

"I don't think so, but I don't know. He was premature, so I know he had a low birth weight, but that's to be expected. I think they had to do something about changing his formula, too. He was allergic to the first kind maybe? Will would know."

"Is this what you want to talk to Clyde about?"

"Yes. I need to understand the legalities around all this. It doesn't make sense to me. How can the agency who instigated this whole mess and failed to follow through be allowed to abandon the baby? Or for that matter, the intended parents?"

"Clyde's more corporate law, Jack. I don't know if he's ever even touched a case of surrogacy."

"Maybe he hasn't, but there's a company involved in this. Then we have the intended parents, and there's Valerie. Even if Clyde doesn't know what to do, he surely knows someone in Denver who might."

"Probably. You'll have to ask him. But that's not why you asked me to lunch, is it?"

I shook my head, looking down at my half eaten salad. "I don't know. I'm confused."

"About what?"

"About me and Sam. And the baby." She sat back and put her hands together, fingers all pointing upwards.

"Talk to me."

I sighed. "Sam is great with kids. He loves them. You should hear him talk about his nephews. He'd be a terrific father. And I know he wants kids someday. The only thing he regrets about being gay is not having kids. The minute he heard about this whole baby mess, he wanted to get in the car and head straight for the hospital."

"And did you?"


"Why not?"

I sighed, avoiding her eyes. "I talked him out of it," I said softly.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you," said Sharon.

"I talked him out of it," I said a little louder.


"I said we shouldn't get involved until the legal issues have been worked out. We'd just muddy the waters. Besides, I'm sure it's a non-starter. We're a gay couple. No judge is going to give us custody of a child we have no connection to."

"I see." I didn't like the tone of her voice.

"It's not like I don't care about the kid. I do care. I can't get him out of my mind."

"Hmmm...I see."

"See what?" I asked.

"What are you afraid of, Jack?"


"Yes...afraid. I've seen that look on your face before, baby. Right before you passed out on my conference room floor." Which sounded like a great idea now. I should have known she'd see right through me.

I sighed heavily. "The thing is...I'm afraid of kids. They freak me out! The last time someone asked me to hold an infant, it started screaming. I panicked and nearly dropped it."

"Jack...baby...everyone's a little freaked out by a newborn. But you get used to it, and they get used to you. You just have to take it slow and find your way. Before long, you'd be a pro."

"I doubt it. I'm not the parenting kind. And besides, I just got Sam in my life. I'm not ready to share him."

"I see."

"Stop saying that," I said. She smiled.

"I don't know what to do, Sharon. I love Sam, and I'd feel horribly guilty if I ruined his one chance to have a son. I know I'm being selfish, but I would be a terrible father. I barely like me. I can't imagine doing anything but totally screwing him up."

"Jack, stop being so melodramatic and take a breath," said Sharon. It startled me and I shut up. "Look...you're getting way ahead of yourself here. Have you and Sam even discussed adopting this little boy?"

I shook my head. "I'm too afraid to bring it up."


"Because...this is the kind of thing that could tear us apart. What if he really, really wants to adopt, and I really, really don't?"

"You'll never know if you don't ask him, will you?" She looked at me, her big brown eyes boring into mine. A man could be reduced to ashes under that stare.

I swallowed. "Fine. I'll ask him."


I nodded, feeling doomed.

"Oh, come on, Jack. Lighten up. Sam loves you, and you love him. You guys can work this out. Have you considered he may not be ready for kids, either?" I shook my head.

"Think about it - Sam starts law school in a few months. It's gonna take all his time. He'll have internships and clerkships, and all the rest. And you've got your business to run."

"I'm going back to school, too."

"Good for you, baby," she said, patting my hand. "And that's my point - you both have so much on your plates right now, a baby would change everything. Believe me, when you bring a baby into the house, nothing is ever the same again."

"But...if we don't take him, who will? I don't even know who's legally responsible for him right now. I feel like we have to do something. I can't bear the idea of him lying in the hospital with no one to love him."

"I'm sure the hospital will call in the Division of Child Welfare. They'll place him in a foster home as soon as he's ready to leave the hospital."

"With complete strangers?"

"Who wouldn't be a complete stranger in this situation?"

"Yeah, but...I mean...what if it's not a good family? Or what if they just want him for the money? Or what if..."

"Jack...baby...shhhh. Settle down. You're making Ben nervous over there."

I turned to see my personal protection agent staring hard at me, looking nine kinds of concerned. I nodded, and he nodded back. I swallowed some iced tea and tried to calm down.

"If you and Sam decide you're not ready to be parents, I know someone who might be," said Sharon.

"Who?" I asked, wiping a drop of tea off my chin with my napkin.

Sharon looked at me, her eyes suddenly moist. "You just talk to Sam tonight. Pay the bill, baby, it's getting late. I'm going to the ladies room." She stood up, put her napkin on her plate, and headed toward the restaurant lobby.

Sharon declined a ride back to the office. She claimed she had an errand to run first. Ben drove me to Clyde's office. We could have walked faster, but Ben said he was parked at a meter, so I had to wait while he retrieved the car.

Ben said nothing as we rode up to the seventeenth floor in the elevator, but I could feel his eyes on me. "What?" I asked.

He shrugged.

"Tell me. You've been looking at me strange ever since we left the restaurant."

"You tell me. You're obviously upset. Something I need to know about? Is there something I can do to help?" he asked.

I sighed. "I'm sorry. No...it's just something I have to figure out. But...thanks for asking."

"No problem." He went back to being stoic bodyguard man and I tried to sulk less.

The receptionist couldn't keep her eyes off of Ben as she pushed a button on her switchboard to announce our arrival. I heard Sharon's voice tell her to send us back. She was still staring when we turned the corner toward Clyde's office.

"I think the receptionist likes you," I whispered.

"Probably," he smirked. "I get that a lot." I rolled my eyes and he chuckled.

Sharon was putting her purse away in a desk drawer as we approached. She walked around her desk and pulled me right into a hug. I loved it. She smelled like apples and springtime.

"Baby...I'm sorry to run out on you like that," she said. "You okay?"

I nodded. "I'm fine. I'll talk with Sam tonight, I promise. You're right. I'm getting the cart before the horse."

"I want you to call me afterwards, you hear?"


She nodded. "Yes, now don't forget. I don't care what time it is, just call me. Promise?"

"Yes," I replied. It was pointless to refuse, but I did wonder why she was insisting on a phone call. Did she know something I didn't?

"Thank you. You can go on in, he's expecting you."

I looked to see if Ben was going to go in with me - sometimes he insisted on checking out a place first before he let me go in, especially if Sam wasn't with me. Instead, he just sat in one of the leather chairs in front of Sharon's work area.

Clyde looked up from some legal papers as I knocked and walked into his office.

"Jack...come on in. It's good to see you. To what do I owe this pleasure? You usually send Will or Sam to see me."

"Hello, Clyde," I said, shaking his hand and then sitting in a chair at the round table by the window. Clyde sat down across from me and waited. I sighed, thinking how to start.

"What do you know about surrogacy?"

He sat back. "To be honest, not much. Family law is not my area of expertise. Why? Are you and Sam thinking about seeking the services of a surrogate?"

"Uh...no...not exactly. Right now I'm looking for legal advice on an existing surrogacy situation. Sam and I are not a party to it."

"I see. Perhaps you'd better fill in a few blanks for me," said Clyde.

So I did. I told the whole sad tale for the second time in as many hours. It didn't get any better in the retelling. He took a few notes as I talked, and when I finished, he peppered me with questions.

"Do we know if Valerie surrendered all parental claims to the child she was carrying in the contract?"

"What contract?"

"The contract she and the intended parents must have signed. I can't imagine any reputable agency would facilitate such an arrangement without an ironclad contract spelling out all liabilities and protections for all parties."

"I have no idea."

"Could you get a copy of the contract?"

"Maybe. I'd have to try to get it from Valerie. Why would you need it?"

"Well...for starters, any decent lawyer fresh out of law school would likely write such a contract with clauses for most foreseeable events."

"Like what?"

"Like the death of the surrogate, or one or more of the intended parents."

"But they didn't die. They just walked away. Actually, I think they're getting divorced."

"There's probably a clause about that, too."

"So...what? Maybe they can't just walk away from this?"

"Probably not. To my thinking, the agency might not want to see the child placed into a broken home or any other volatile situation, but they really don't have a choice. They aren't a government agency with any kind of authority to refuse. Most likely the intended parents, should they die or be divorced, have some recourse to say who the child should be placed with."

"You mean - they can say we don't want the kid, but give him to X?"


"But...what if X says no?"

"Then it just gets messier. This is why some states frown heavily on surrogacy. Colorado allows it only by default."


"Yes. Surrogacy is legal simply because there is no law saying it's not. In Michigan and New York, for example, surrogacy is not legal."

"This contract would have been handled in California. Valerie was only visiting here when she had the baby prematurely."

"Which further complicates matters. The baby is here in Colorado, with no recognized guardian at the moment. No one currently has the authority to allow the baby to be removed to California, unless the intended parents could convince the hospital of their contractual rights. And it sounds like they won't be doing that."

"So what do we do?"


"We can't just leave him there. We have to do something."

"Jack...I can sympathize with your caring about the child, but legally, I don't think there's anything you can do."

I swallowed hard. "Well...and this is just hypothetical, but what if Sam and I wanted to adopt him? Could we do it?"

Clyde put his pen down on his legal pad and sat back in his chair. "I really can't advise you on this subject, Jack. I simply don't know the law well enough to do it justice. I suppose it might be possible for you and Sam to become the baby's parents, but what the process would be, I have no clue. What I can do is put you in touch with a family law attorney who has more experience in this type of case."

"Would you please? And could you put in a good word so maybe he or she will see me as soon as possible?"

"Certainly. Her name is Arlene Rideout. She's handled some very difficult custody cases. I'm thinking she's your best bet. Shall I try calling right now?"

"Yes, please."

"My pleasure. In the meantime, you think you could get your hands on the surrogacy contract? It would help."

"I'll try." He nodded and I followed him out to the inner lobby. While Clyde conferred with Sharon, I called Will.

"Hey boss, heard you were looking for me. Sorry I missed you. I've got your computer all ready to go."

"What? Oh...yeah...okay, I'll get it later. Hey listen, I have a question. Do you think you could get your hands on a copy of the contract Valerie signed with the surrogacy agency?"

"No problem. She gave me a copy when the whole situation went down. What do you need it for?"

"I'm not sure yet. I'm going to have it reviewed by a family law attorney here in Denver, see if we can help in some way. How's Valerie?"

"Pissed. She's packed and ready to go back to Sacramento. The hospital is threatening to sue her for all the bills. Their lawyer called and advised her not to leave the state. She's worried any minute now the police are going to show up at our door."

"It's that bad?"

"Yeah...it's not good. If you think there's something we can do to help, I'm all in."

"For now, just get me the contract. The sooner the better."

"You want me to go home and bring it back?"

"If it won't interfere with your other work, then yes, please do. I'm hoping to meet with a lawyer as soon as I can get it set up. I may have you with me, since you know the details."

"Will Valerie need to be there? She was hoping to leave tomorrow evening."

"We'll see. I'll let you know. Just get the contract."

"You got it, boss." We hung up.

Clyde was chatting with someone on the phone at the desk next to Sharon's. I waited, feeling Ben's watchful gaze on my back. Without Sam by my side, I had to admit it was somewhat comforting to have Ben nearby.

"Thanks, Arlene. I'll let him know. You, too. Bye." Clyde hung up the phone.

"Okay, Jack. You have a meeting with Arlene tomorrow morning at eight in her office. Sharon has the address. She can give you an hour or two at most, then she has to be at a ballgame with her son. She said if you can bring the contract, she'll be glad to put a game plan together."

"On a Saturday?"

"You said it was urgent. Besides, she's used to sudden meetings and emergency hearings. When dealing with kids and the court system, you have to be prepared for anything."

I exhaled heavily. "That's great, Clyde. Thank you so much."

"Feeling better, baby?" said Sharon with a smile. I nodded. "Good. It's all gonna work out, don't you worry about it. And you call me tonight, you hear?"

"Yes, ma'am. I won't forget," I said.

"Good. Now I want another hug, then take you and your sidekick and get outta here. I've got a week's worth of work to get done before I can go home tonight, myself."

I hugged her tightly, shook Clyde's hand, collected Ben, and off we went.

"I gather the meeting was productive?" said Ben in the elevator.

"I hope so. We'll know more after tomorrow morning."

"Are you and Sam going to try and adopt the baby?"

I looked at him, shocked.

"What? I have eyes and ears, don't I? I can put two and two together. Sam's brought him up a couple of times, and you're running around today talking about little else. Let me guess. Sam wants to adopt, but you're not so sure."

I rubbed my eyes, stress twisting my insides. The whole situation was sliding out of control. I didn't know what I wanted anymore. And I had no idea what Sam wanted, either.

I looked at my feet. "This whole baby thing is driving me crazy, Ben. I don't know what we're going to do. I'm sorry, can we not talk about it right now?"

"Of course," replied Ben. "Let's get you back to the office."

Nothing was said during the twenty minute drive back. As we walked across the bridge from the parking garage into our building, I debated about looping Ben into the baby quagmire. It probably wasn't wise to keep him in the dark.

"Ben, wait a minute," I said, grabbing his arm. We stopped and moved over next to the windows. The sun was hot coming through the glass. I wasn't sure what to say. Ben saved me the trouble.

"Jack, it's okay. You don't have to tell me anything I don't need to know. I only asked about the baby because it would be another thing I'd need to plan for."

"Plan for?"

"Yes. For the safety of you and your family. Babies are huge kidnapping targets for wealthy parents. That's the only reason I asked. I'm sorry if it was premature."

"No...no, it's fine. You're just doing your job, I get it. The truth is, I don't know what we're doing. I have to talk to Sam about it tonight. The meeting tomorrow morning is to find out what is even possible, legally. After that, I have no idea."

"So you take it one step at a time, and try not to wig out along the way."

"In other words, don't be my normal self."

Ben smiled. "In this case, maybe a little abnormal might be a good idea." I rolled my eyes.

"You know, you keep doing that, your eyes are gonna stick one of these days."

"You wish," I said with a grin, and started walking.

Margie waved an envelope in my face as I passed her desk. "Will dropped this off. Said it was urgent, and to give it to you the second I saw you. What's in it?"

"You mean you didn't open it?" I said, taking the envelope from her outstretched hand and moving into my office.

"No, I didn't open it," she said, hot on my heels.

I sat down behind my desk, motioning for her to sit, as well. "I thought as my assistant it was your job to open all my mail and check for suspicious substances."

"I'm pregnant. Suspicious substances are off the list for now. Doctor's orders."

"Oh...well...I guess we'll have to wait for Ben to open this letter then." I put the unopened envelope on the desk and sat back in my chair, grinning at her.

"Jack! What's in the bloody envelope?"

I laughed. "A contract."

"For what? Oh...wait...is that Valerie's surrogacy contract?"

"Ding ding ding. You are correct. Give the pregnant girl a cookie."

She smiled. "Why do you have it?"

"Clyde set up a meeting with a family law attorney for tomorrow morning. He suggested I bring the contract. Thankfully Will had a copy."

"What are you hoping to accomplish?" asked Margie.

"I don't know yet. One step at a time."

"Wise counsel from your attorney?"

"No...advice from a man with a gun."

She smiled. "Ben doesn't miss much, does he."

"Nope. And neither do you."

I picked up my new computer from Will, and he showed me how to access my company email. He also wanted to discuss his disaster recovery plans, but I begged off until next week.

"I'm sorry, Will. My brain is fried today."

"No problem, Jack. Do you want me at the meeting tomorrow morning?"

"I don't think so. You've given me enough to go on for now. Thank you for the contract. That will be the key thing."

"It looks rock solid to me. Valerie, as the surrogate, has no legal claim on the child, so I can't see how the hospital or anyone else can force her to become the parent."

"Is she leaving tomorrow?"

"That's the plan. I asked her to wait until I hear from you. I don't want her to end up in a bigger mess if it's not necessary."

"I'll call you as soon as I get some clarity, assuming I do tomorrow."

"Thanks, boss. Anything else I can do to help?"

"No, I'm good for now. Thanks for the computer," I said.

"You're welcome. Margie can help you figure out where to store files so you can share them." My eyes crossed and I rubbed my forehead. "Never mind, forget it. You can figure it out later," said Will.

"I'm sorry. Mental overload today. Have a good weekend," I said.

"You, too."

As tired as I was, I still had one more thing to do before I could go home. Todd was in Simon's office, celebrating over the details of the REIT deal.

"Hey, guys," I said from the doorway.

"Jack! Come on in," said Simon. "Todd told you the good news?"

"Yes. And I even sort of understood what he said this time."

He laughed. "We'll make a wheeler-dealer out of you yet, Jack."

I smiled. "We'll see. Do you have a quick sec?"

"I'll catch you before you leave," said Todd, picking up his iPad and a file folder from Simon's desk.

"You don't have to leave on my account, Todd," I said. "I just have a quick question."

He waved his cellphone in the air. "Margie's texting me, so I need to go. Have a great weekend if I don't see you before you leave. Tell Poolboy I said hi."

"I will. Thanks, Todd."

"Later, boss." And he was gone.

"So what's up, Jack?" asked Simon, pointing to a chair.

"Well, I need you to work some more of your real estate magic."

"Okay. What did you have in mind?"

"Sam and I need a place to live in St. Louis when we leave in August."

He smiled. "I thought you might, so I took the liberty of looking into a few options. I've got them in a folder somewhere on my desk, if you've got a minute."

I collapsed into a chair just as Simon found the folder he was looking for. "There are two properties available for sale near the University which might work. The best one is this," he said.

It was a large, three story house, set back from a beautiful, tree lined street. There was a security gate across the driveway, anchored by two high brick pillars. The perimeter of the property was marked with a six foot high black, wrought iron fence. Behind the fence, a thick boxwood hedge rose another two feet higher, blocking the view of the house from the street. It was secluded, within walking distance to campus, and it had a small pool, something I knew Sam would love.

"Wow. How'd you find this?"

"I put some feelers out to a couple of real estate groups in the area. I got a call about this house two days ago. It doesn't go on the market for a couple of weeks yet, but if you want to make an offer, I think they would listen."

"Whoa. This is happening so fast. I'd have to talk with Sam first, but it looks promising. What's the other option."

"It's a three bedroom condo in a new building about a mile from campus. You could walk it in twenty minutes. Has a doorman and high end security features."

"Crap. I totally forgot about security. Ben's gonna want a say in this, too."

"Here, take the folder. There are more pictures and details in there. Talk to Sam and Ben, and let me know. If you decide on either one, we can probably close in ten days or less."

"That fast?"

"Sure, once the offer is accepted. When you're coming in with all cash, you don't have banks and mortgage companies to deal with. It goes a lot faster."

"Uh...okay. And just what is this gonna set us back?"

He smiled. "Not much. The condo is listed for eight fifty, and the house is a tad over two."

"Only two hundred thousand?"

"No...two million," said Simon, grinning. I swallowed hard.

"Probably shouldn't volunteer that to Sam," I said. "I think the house is the way we should go, but let me talk to the guys and get back to you."

Simon nodded. "There's no rush, but the sooner you guys make your decision, the sooner we can get a crew in to make whatever changes and upgrades need to happen."

"Upgrades? When we're spending over two million?"

"The house is old, Jack. You're mostly buying location. Hey, anything you do to it will only increase the value. My guess is you'll get a ninety percent return on any improvements, for sure."

"Well, you're the expert. Oh man, what a day. I've gotta go. Sam's waiting for me. Thanks, Simon. As usual, you guys are one step ahead of me."

"That's what you pay us for, boss."

"You earned it today. Have a great weekend."

"You, too. See ya."

"You and Sam have any plans to go out tonight?" asked Ben as he maneuvered the car through heavy evening traffic.

"Don't think so. I'm tired. Why?"

"Mind if I see Peggy tonight?"

I shook my head. "Go for it. Tell her I said hi."

"Cool," said Ben.

I watched the traffic fly by as Ben dialed Peggy and made plans for the evening.

"You guys doing anything special tonight?" I asked after he hung up, just to pass the drive time.

"Naw. She has a gig until about ten. I'll swing by, help with the clean up, and then we'll find a place to eat a late dinner. Don't wait up," he said with a wink in the rearview mirror.

"You know you can always bring her out to the house if you want," I said.

"We'll see. I'll probably take her to my place."

"Wait...your place?"

"Uh, yeah. My apartment."

"You have an apartment?"

"Yes. Where'd you think I lived before I started working for you?"

"I don't know. I just assumed...so...why do you still have the apartment? Are you thinking of quitting?"


"But...you have a place with us. Why do you need an apartment, too?"

He sighed. "I don't know. I just like having my own place. Somewhere to hang out by myself."

"Or with a special friend," I said, smiling at him.

He grinned. "That can be fun, too."

"I'll bet. Fine...run away to your little apartment. Don't mind us. Sam and I will figure out something to do with ourselves while you're off galavanting across the countryside, doing who knows what with whom."

Ben laughed. "Please...you and Sam have no problem finding ways to entertain each other."

I blushed. "Never mind about that."

Ben was still laughing as he pulled through the gate.

We parted ways in the mudroom, Ben using the back stairs to go up to his room, while I followed my nose to the kitchen. Maggie looked up from stirring a simmering pot of her Italian red sauce and smiled.

"Jack! You're just in time. Sam's cleaning up, and I've just about got dinner ready. You want to change before you eat?"

"Nope. I'm hungry. What are we having?"

"Three cheese tortellini, baked zucchini, and a caesar salad." I made a face at the zucchini. "Don't knock it till you try it, Jack. You boys need to eat something besides green beans once in a while." I sighed, resigned to at least trying it. Maybe someday when I grew up people would stop making me eat my vegetables.

I heard Sam moving down the hallway and went to greet him. He grabbed me into his arms, kissed me gently, and I nuzzled into his chest, his strong arms wrapped around me. He smelled of soap and sunshine.

"Hey, little man. I missed you today," he said.

"I missed you, too. How'd it go?"


"How is Charles?"

"Fine, I think. We spent most of the day up on the mountain, clearing brush from a little meadow up beyond the lake. It's an amazing view from up there. You can actually see downtown Denver in the distance. I want to take you up there to see it."

I groaned. "Can it wait until after dinner?"

Sam chuckled. "Yes, silly. We'll go up some morning. How was your day?"

"Ugh. Food first, then we can talk."

He pulled my chin up to look at me. "Everything okay?" I didn't answer. His piercing blue eyes studied mine, looking, probing. Then, as he so often did, he nodded once. "I'm here for you, Jack."

I sighed and collapsed on his chest again. "I know. I count on it."

"Come on, let's eat," he said, kissing my forehead.

Sam grabbed my hand and we stepped back into the kitchen. Maggie was closing the lids on three plastic containers. "I hope you boys don't mind, but I'm going to take some of this food over to Charles for our dinner. Tortellini is one of his favorites, so I made enough for all of us."

I looked at the huge bowl of steaming pasta on the island. "Uh...who's us? Have we got an entire football team visiting I don't know about?" I said.

"Oh, Jack. Don't be silly. Of course not. Really, I have no idea what you're talking about sometimes. Sam, there's garlic bread in the warming oven. Whatever you don't eat, wrap it in aluminum foil and put it in the fridge. You boys have a good night. I'll be over in the morning to do the washing."

"Good night, Maggie," said Sam. "Tell Charles I'll help him with the roof tomorrow."

"I will. And thank you for watching over him today."

"No problem. It was fun."

Maggie went out through the mudroom into the garage. I turned to Sam. "What's happening with the roof?"

"Charles wants to check the seals around the different vents, and make sure the grates over the chimneys are locked in place. I guess one year they had a raccoon infestation in the attic. They got in through a broken air vent."

"Shouldn't we get a service to come out and do that?"

"Naw. We can do it. Besides, Charles would feel...I don't know...disrespected, maybe? If we had a service do it, that is."

"Well...be careful. You're supposed to be watching out for him, not helping him break his neck."

Sam chuckled. "Yes, Dad."

I rolled my eyes. "Grab some plates, I'm famished."

We ate like we had never seen food before. I even ate all my zucchini. Maggie had seasoned it, and sprinkled some kind of bread crumbs all over. It was pretty good, for a veggie. The tortellini were chewy and delicious. By the time we put our forks down, I felt sick.

"Oh man. I ate too much," I said.

"Me too. But it was so good."

"Too good."

"I wonder what she left for dessert?"

"Tums," I said, rubbing my belly. Sam chuckled.

"Why don't you get changed, and I'll clean up. Then we can talk," said Sam.

I tried to help Sam clear the table, but he kissed me, turned me around, and swatted my butt out of the kitchen. My ass tingled in a good way as I walked down the hallway to our bedroom.

By the time I had changed into shorts and a t-shirt, and brushed my teeth, Sam was finished cleaning up the kitchen. I sat down at the table and laid out the papers Simon had given me earlier.

"What are these?" asked Sam, as he handed me a water bottle, cracking open one for himself.

"Simon got way ahead of me and found us a couple of places we could live in St. Louis."

"Cool. I knew he could do it. So what did he find?"

"Wait...you asked him to find us a place to live?"

"Yeah. Isn't that what you said we should do? I didn't think you'd mind."

"No...no, I don't. Not at all. I just...um...I'm glad you're okay with this."

"Jack, you say all the time Simon is the best at this stuff, so why not use him? Besides, I wouldn't have a clue where to even start, would you?"

I smiled. "Nope. And he's found one I think you're going to love."

We spent the next few minutes going through the detailed documents. The house near campus not only had a pool, but there were four bedrooms and a mother-in-law quarters with a separate entrance behind the garage. Through a gate in the side yard, we could join a paved footpath over to the main quadrangle on campus. It would be a ten minute walk to the Law building.

Sam pointed to the plans. "You think Ben will go with us? This place behind the garage would be perfect for him," said Sam.

"I don't know. We haven't talked about it. I need to show him these plans if we decide this is what we want to do."

"I hope he comes with us," said Sam.

"I do, too. I'm used to him. I mean, he's a pain in the ass sometimes, but he's good at his job."

Sam shook his head, trying not to laugh at me.


"The two of you," said Sam.

"He starts it."

"And you egg him on. And you like it, too." I smiled and looked down at the table.

Sam leaned back and folded his arms. "You are a piece of work, Schaeffer."

I lifted my eyes and gave him a sly grin. "But I'm all yours, right?"

"Oh, yeah. All mine." Sam leaned over the paperwork and kissed me. I put a hand on his cheek and kissed him harder.

Sometimes kisses bring heat and passion roaring to the surface. Other times, kissing grabs my heart and squeezes it until tears pop out. This was one of those times.

"What's wrong, little man?" asked Sam, feeling wetness on his cheek.

"Nothing. I love you, Sam. So much it hurts sometimes."

"Forever, Jack," he said, as he wiped a tear from under my eye. I grabbed his hand and held on. I nodded and tried to say it back to him, but the words were strangled in my throat.

"You're shaking. Talk to me. What's going on?" said Sam.

I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "Please don't be mad, Sam. I can't do it. I can't. I don't want to share you. I just found you. And for once in my life, I'm happy. I have everything I want, and all I want is you. I just...I can't. I mean...I would be a terrible father. You would be great. You're like...great at everything. And you love kids. I don't. And they don't like me, either."

"Whoa, whoa. Hold up. What are you talking about? Make sense, Jack."

I took a couple of deep breaths to calm down. "Valerie's baby."

"What about her baby?"

"Well...you wanted to go to the hospital to see him, but I talked you out of it. And now Valerie's leaving. And he's just lying in the hospital, with no one. And we have to do something. But Sam, I just don't think I can do it. I...I mean, I love you, and I...I suppose if you wanted to, we could...I...I don't know anything about being a father, Sam. I never had one. You have an awesome father. And you'll be a great dad someday. But I don't think I'm parenting material."

"Jack, be quiet a second," said Sam gently. I closed my mouth. He looked at me, his blue eyes boring deep into my soul. It lasted a long time, and I was starting to get uncomfortable, but I didn't look away. This was Sam's way, and I let him do what he needed to, whatever it was. Finally he looked away and stared out a window at a squirrel on the deck. I stayed quiet. Even a fool, when he is silent, is considered wise.

"I would love to be a father someday," he said. "But not now. It wouldn't be right. I have law school. You have the business to run. For the next three years, we're going to be balls to the wall, hitting it hard, Jack. It's gonna be an endurance run. Adding a baby to that...oh man, even if they would let us have him, I can't see how it would work."

He turned to look at me and grabbed my hand. "And you're wrong, you know. You'll be an excellent father someday, Jack. You just don't know it, yet. You're everything a kid needs in a dad - a caring man who will watch over him, believe in him, and encourage him to be all that he wants to be. You have those skills in spades."

I squeezed his hand, stunned. "You really think so?" I whispered.

He nodded.

"Are you sure you don't want to try to adopt the baby?"

He shook his head. "As much as I want to be a father, I don't see how we can. Not now. But I agree, we need to do something, I just don't know what."

"I went to see Clyde today," I said. Sam let go of my hand and raised his eyebrows. "I asked him for help, and he got us a meeting tomorrow morning with Arlene Rideout, a family law attorney. Supposedly she's the best in Denver. I guess we talk with her and see what can be done."

"What can she do? Didn't all this start in California?"

"I don't know if she can do anything or not, but she might be able to tell us what our options are. It's worth a shot."

"Sure, I agree. Go for it. What do you think's going to happen to the little guy?"

"Sharon said the Division of Child Welfare will take over as soon as the hospital says he's stable."

"Oh man, that's not so good. He could luck out and get placed in a great family, but...who do we know who might want him? Think."

"I did think of Andy and Mike."

"Maybe. But running the clinic takes all their time now. And didn't Mike say they want to expand and possibly open a satellite clinic in another town?"

"Yeah, he did. You're probably right. Plus they live in Texas. I'm not sure they'd let two gay men adopt a baby down there."

"Good point. What about Billy and Jerome?"

And just like that, it clicked. "I need to call Sharon," I said, reaching for my cellphone.

"You're going to bother her with this tonight?"

"She made me promise to call her after I talked with you, and I think I know why. Just...hold that thought," I said as I dialed. She answered on the first ring.

"Let me guess, you've been waiting for my call," I said, smiling.

"Good evening, Jack. Yes, I have been expecting your call. How was your conversation with Sam?" Sharon said. I put the call on speakerphone, so Sam could listen in.

"A funny thing about that, Sharon. Sam thinks Billy and Jerome should adopt Valerie's baby. You think they might be interested?"

The sound coming through the phone was an odd combination of squeals and shouts of joy. Whatever is was, it was definitely in the affirmative. When she could speak again, Sharon said, "Jack...baby...if you can make this happen, I will love you from now until the cows come home. Oh, Jack...do you think...is it possible?"

Sam was grinning, giving me a thumbs up. I felt like a mountain had been lifted off my shoulders. Billy and Jerome. It was brilliant.

"Sharon, are you sure the guys will want him? I mean, do they want to be parents?"

"Oh my, yes, Jack. So much so. They're already licensed foster parents. They've gone through the home studies and the training and the interviews. They've been waiting for over a year."

"A year? Why so long?" asked Sam.

"Oh...hello, Sam," said Sharon. "Well...with Billy and Jerome being a gay couple, they're under a bit more scrutiny when it comes to placement decisions. I think it's a bunch of hooey, but Billy tells me it's just the way it is, and to be patient. He and Jerome would be happy just being foster parents. But if they could adopt a baby...Jack, you meet with Clyde's friend, Arlene, tomorrow, right?"

"Yes, at eight in the morning. Why?"

"Could Billy and Jerome go with you?"

"I don't see why not. It couldn't hurt."

Sam spoke up. "Sharon...maybe Jack should meet with the lawyer first. That way, if she says it's not likely the guys would have the chance to adopt, we aren't getting their hopes up."

We heard a heavy sigh on the other end. "I suppose you're right. Do you have any idea how hard it's going to be to not tell them? Jack, you've got to call me as soon as you're out of that meeting, tomorrow. Please!"

"I will, Sharon. I promise. Hang in there. We're going to do everything we can, okay?"

"Thank you, baby. You'll call me the second you get out of the meeting?"

"Yes, ma'am. I promise."

"Alright then. Good night."

"Good night, Sharon."

I looked at Sam and he smiled big. "You think we can pull this off, Jack?"

"We have to try, for the boy's sake."

Sam leaned over and put his hand on my thigh, his blue eyes blazing. "And you say you can't be a father. You already care more about him than anybody else, me included. And you've never even laid eyes on him."

"Maybe. I do know something about growing up without a parent, but I at least had a mom. This kid has nobody right now, and the idea of him laying in a bed in the hospital, with no one to hold him and love on him, that's not okay with me."

Sam stood up and moved behind me, crouching down and wrapping me in his arms from behind. "Me either, little man," he whispered.

Sam turned off the lamp on his nightstand and slipped under the covers, sliding up against my back. His left arm reached across my chest and pulled me tightly to him, as his semi-hard cock nestled into its favorite place in my ass crack. I sighed, at peace again.

"Are you sure you want to pass on adopting the little guy?" whispered Sam.

"I think so. You?"

"Yeah, I'm sure," said Sam, squeezing me tighter and kissing my neck. "The truth is, I don't want to share you either. It's hard enough to have you go to the office without me. I wouldn't want to resent the kid because he took up all our time. I know it's selfish, but I'm just not ready for that kind of commitment."

I rolled over to face him. "I know. Sometimes it feels like we've been together forever, but it's really only been a couple of months. Not even. With everything going on since we got here, we've hardly had time to be us. But I'll do it...whenever you're ready."

"Do what?"

"Be a father with you. If you think I can do it, then I will. It scares the crap out of me, though," I said with a sigh. "But then again, what doesn't?"

Sam's body shook as he stifled a laugh. I lightly thumped his chest and he grabbed my hand, pulling me into a quick kiss.

Pulling back with a grin, I said, "I know kids are important to you, Sam, and I can't wait to see your son or daughter look into those sexy blue eyes of yours and say, I love you, Daddy."

Even in the dim moonlight coming through the window, I could see his eyes staring at me. "You'd really do that for me?" he whispered, putting a hand on my chest.

"Of course." I held his palm against my beating heart.

"But...you've already given me so much, Jack."

"I love you, Sam. With all my heart. I would do anything for you, and I want you to have everything in life you could ever want."

He started to speak but I put a finger to his lips. "Shhh...I know you don't believe it, but there's nothing I could ever give you to equal the love you've shown me. You've helped me discover who I'm supposed to be, and the confidence I can actually be that guy. I've come so far since we met, and we've barely gotten started, Sam. We have a whole world to change. And no matter what comes...whatever I have, whatever I am, or will ever be, it's all yours."

He kissed me, and there was nothing left to say.

Author's Notes:

Jack and Sam have a plan to find Valerie's baby a home with Billy and Jerome. Will they be able to make it happen? Will Ben decide to go to St. Louis with the boys? Will Todd's new assistant work out? Will Jack ever learn to use his company email? Stay tuned for more...

So grateful for my editors - Harry, Darryl, and Mark. You all have no idea the sometimes subtle changes they suggest to the characters and their conversation, expression, and movements. I am in awe of their talents and vision for this story.

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