Glen furiously slammed the phone down back onto its cradle. Why the fuck was he paying this incompetent jackass two hundred dollars a day just to be told, again, that his wayward lover was nowhere to be found. He stood and walked to the mahogany liquor cabinet he’d had specially designed and built two years before.
After pouring himself a tumbler of scotch from the crystal decanter he walked to the large picture window overlooking the city of Los Angeles and gazed out at the bright lights that lit up the night sky.
“You can run my dear Justin, but you can’t hide forever” he took a long drink, feeling the amber liquid burn a welcome path down his throat. He stood there for a long time staring out the window and thinking of all the delicious ways the young blond would pay for running out on him.
“I will find you.”
The meeting with the owners of Rudolpho’s, a new chain of Italian restaurants that was opening up all up and down the east coast, was just coming to an end late Friday morning. Judging by the smiles on the two men’s faces as they looked at the preliminary sketches Justin had worked up, Kinnetik was about to sign on a brand new client.
“This is wonderful Mr. Taylor.” Nico’s dark head bobbed up and down, reminding Brian of the bobble headed toys people bought to put in the back windows of their cars. He flashed Justin a triumphant look, the deal was as good as done.
“Yes it is exactly what we are looking for” Angelo, the elder of the two brothers agreed “can we meet again, in say two weeks time to view the layouts?”
“Of course, that will be plenty of time to give our art department time to get them finished.” Brian replied after getting an affirmative nod from Justin.
As the two stood up and prepared to leave, Brian and Justin shook hands with the two brothers and watched them walk out the door to finalize the next meeting date with Cynthia.
Brian turned to Justin who had a huge smile on his face.
“I’d say that went rather well” Brian said, returning Justin’s smile.
The blond head nodded in agreement “I think so too” Justin gathered up the sketch book that Nico had laid on Brian’s desk “I’ll get Mac started on this” he started to walk out the door but turned back at the sound of Brian’s voice.
“How about we go grab some lunch?”
“Know anyplace that serves good cheeseburgers?”
Brian snorted “Yeah, Ophelia’s in New Jersey but since we have to be back here in an hour I’d suggest somewhere a little more local.”
Justin laughed “be back in just a minute.”
As Brian sat down to wait, he couldn’t keep his mind from drifting back over the last four months. It hadn’t taken long for the blond to form a great working relationship with the artists he was overseeing, the three men and two women had instantly taken to Justin’s gentle guidance, quick wit and easy going nature, even Cynthia and Ted had been drawn in. The only one the younger man had seemed bent on keeping everything on a strictly professional level with was Brian, it seemed the harder the older man tried to get to know the blond better, the more determined Justin became to keep him at arms length, even though the growing attraction between the two was obvious.
Cynthia had decided to confront her boss one evening after returning to the office for a forgotten house key and found him still at his desk, a nearly empty glass of whiskey sitting on the polished wooden top.
“You really like that kid, don’t you?”
She had smiled when all she’d received was a glare “come on Bri, I know you and you know me well enough to know that what you say won’t leave this office.”
After a minute or so he’d finally relented, his assistant *was* the only one of his friends that he completely trusted and he knew that what he was about to say would never make it past the office door.
“Yeah, I do” Brian answered “for all the good it does me” Cynthia sat down in the chair across from his desk, reached across and laid her hand on the larger, slightly tanned one lying next to the glass.
“He likes you too” she chuckled when Brian quirked an eyebrow at her “his eyes light up whenever he hears your name.”
Then she sighed and drew her hand back “just give him some time, there’s more going on with him than what he’s letting on” she rearranged a small stack of papers on his desk then looked at him after taking a deep breath “I think something bad happened to him in California.”
He remembered that she had slightly shaken her head as a concerned look had crossed her face.
“You know how he doesn’t like to be touched?” she had waited until he had nodded, that had been one of the first things he’d noticed about the blond, he seemed to shrink back and fold in on himself whenever someone inadvertently touched him “I asked him about it one day, after Bill accidently brushed up against him, he’d jumped like he’d been scalded with hot water. You should have seen him, he didn’t answer me, he just went deathly white, and I actually thought he was going to be sick.”
Brian remembered thinking at the time that there was only one thing that would have caused the reaction that Cynthia had described. The same thought held true even after four months.
Rape. Just the thought had made his skin crawl and to think that someone could have done that to Justin made him sick to his stomach. After that he had quietly stood back and watched, making sure Justin had every thing he needed, while the want and need for the pale skinned man steadily grew stronger.
It had all come to a head one day when the CEO for a cosmetics company, a man who had made it blatantly clear he was used to getting what he wanted, cornered Justin in the hallway leading to the art room and had the blond pinned up against a wall, slobbering down his neck. Luckily, Cynthia saw what was happening and the next thing Justin knew, the obnoxious man had been forcibly pulled away and was facing a furious Brian.
The letch had then informed Brian and Justin that the only way to clench the deal was if Justin spent the night with him. Brian had taken one look at Justin’s shaking form and the bruise beginning to take shape on his arm and promptly had the man escorted out of the building by a security guard after grinding out a rough “no fucking way” between clenched teeth.
That was also the day Brian got a crash course in dealing with a panic attack.
Since then Brian had slowly but surely begun to break down the protective wall Justin had built around himself. They had started spending more time together outside the office and, not surprisingly, a friendship had begun to develop.
His thoughts were interrupted when Justin appeared at his door “Ok, let’s go and I’m paying for my own lunch.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way Taylor” Brian answered as he stood and led the way out the door.
The small bell above the door to the Liberty Diner jingled as the two walked in, Brian led the way to an empty booth in the back, completely ignoring the wide eyed, open mouthed looks from several of the customers as well as the brightly dressed waitress standing behind the counter. They didn’t have long to wait before the woman snatched up the order pad and came rushing over.
“Well asshole this is a surprise, you actually showed up here for lunch.”
“Nice to see you too Deb” Brian replied with a smirk, then glanced at Justin “Justin this is Debbie”
Justin, who had been watching the exchange with a wide eyed look of his own, smiled up at the woman “Hi Debbie, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too” Debbie answered, returning his smile “You could take some lessons from this kid in respect you know, it sure as fuck wouldn’t hurt” she said pointing the end of her pen at Brian.
Brian snorted derisively and looked away but not before noticing that Justin was starting to fidget nervously in his seat, Debbie noticed it as well.
“Oh, don’t mind us honey, we’re always doing this” she said “truth is I love him like my own, in fact I practically raised him and my son Michael together”
After a confirming nod from Brian, Justin began to relax and enjoy the back and forth banter between his boss and Debbie. After a few minutes it became apparent that Brian did indeed hold a great amount of love and respect for the brassy woman. At one point Justin laughed at something Debbie said and suddenly time seemed to freeze for Brian. He gazed at Justin with rapt attention; every time he saw that huge smile it always managed to knock the wind right out of his sails, the lights in the dinner suddenly dimmed in comparison, even Debbie seemed stunned by the bright smile.
“Huh?” Justin asked, confused.
Debbie gave Justin’s cheek a light pinch “Sweetie, with a smile like that, who needs the fucking sun” she said, earning another smile.
Brian was surprised to see that Justin didn’t seem to mind the light touch, but at the same time couldn’t stop the feeling of being slightly put out, why couldn’t it be him that Justin wanted touched by. He finally cleared his throat “can we get some lunch or do we have to go somewhere else?”
“Oh you asshole” she exclaimed, pulling the order pad out of her pocket “what’ll it be?”
Without even looking at the menu Justin asked “can I get a cheeseburger, fries and a large coke please?”
“You sure can sunshine.”
Brian started to open his mouth, but Deb interrupted “let me guess, turkey on whole wheat and a salad” she said, winking at Justin.
As Debbie headed to the kitchen with their orders, Justin looked across the table at Brian.
“So you come here a lot huh?”
“Yeah, it’s one of my usual haunts.”
“I like Debbie, she’s nice” Justin said, then grinned as Brian snorted and answered “bossy as hell”
The two made small talk mostly about the goings on at the office while they waited. Brian found his eyes straying to Justin’s full kissable lips time and time again. He wanted to lean across the table and take that mouth with his own, wanted to hear Justin’s moan of surrender while his tongue explored the inner crevasses of Justin’s mouth.
Meanwhile Justin was lost in his own thoughts as he gazed back at the tall brunet across from him. The attraction toward the man was getting harder to fight with each passing day, often he found himself wandering out into the main reception area at Kinnetik with some made up excuse, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ad man. A few times he had even perfectly timed his leaving for the day, catching Brian just as he was walking out to the parking area. Right now all he wanted to do was lean across the table and press his lips to Brian’s.
The sound of a throat clearing made Brian’s’ eyes flash to Justin’s face, a pink tinge glowed on Justin’s cheeks as blue eyes stared back at him. Before either one could say anything someone plopped down next to him. Justin ducked his head, thankful for the distraction.
“Hi Bri” Michael said as Brian moved over to make room for the small dark haired man “what are you doing here?”
“Its lunch time Mikey, I’m doing what everyone else does at this hour.” Brian answered then scowled as Emmett slid in beside Justin, he noticed the blond immediately scooted over as close to the wall as he could. If Emmett noticed the action he didn’t let it show as the tall queen beamed at Justin.
“Well, well, well who do we have here?”
“Emmett, Mikey this is Justin.”
“Very nice to meet you “Emmett said, extending a hand toward Justin, who gripped the hand briefly while giving the tall thin man a friendly smile. Michael looked at the blond with a critical eye.
“Isn’t he a little young for you Brian”
“He works for me Mikey” Brian answered, giving his friend a look that clearly said *mind your own business*. Michael sighed; he just didn’t want Brian getting hurt.
“We’re still on for Babylon tonight right?” Michael asked. Brian nodded as Debbie came back over and took Michael and Emmett’s orders then hurried back to the kitchen since the lunch time rush was in full swing.
Emmett gleefully rubbed his hands together “your coming with us aren’t you” he asked Justin. Justin opened his mouth then looked at Brian who shrugged his shoulders “it’s up to you sunshine”
Justin gave a shy smile at the mention of his new nickname as Emmett and Michael stared at them in surprise.
Brian grinned “that’s what ma started calling him.”
Emmett clapped his hands together rapidly and replied in a high excited voice “oh, I love it, it’s so cute”
“What’s Babylon?” Justin asked, looking first at Brian then Michael and Emmett. It was Michael that answered.
“It’s a dance club a couple of blocks from here.”
Emmett gave Justin a very well done imitation of a sad puppy-dog eyed look “please, it’ll be so much fun.”
Michael nodded in agreement “yeah, I think you’d have a good time.”
Justin nodded “ok, I’ll come” he used to love to dance and it had been so long since he’d had the opportunity, he wondered what he had in his closet at home that was dance club material. Just then Debbie appeared back at the table with Brian and Justin’s lunch.
She set Brian’s plate down in front of him “You’d damn well better be at my house for dinner Sunday” she exclaimed shaking a red tipped finger in front of his face, then turned her attention on Justin “and that goes for you too sunshine.”
Brian smirked as Justin began to stammer “I…I…uh…”
Emmett smiled and placed a hand on Justin’s arm, missing the dark look Brian shot his way.
“Sweetie, it’s better all around if you just smile, nod your head and say yes Deb.”
Justin gave Brian a grateful smile when the other man reached across and lifted Emmett’s hand from where it sat on his arm and placed it on the table. He looked at his new friends for a minute then looked at Debbie, who stood there snapping her gum “yes Deb” giving her a smile and a nod.
Emmett laughed with glee and rapidly clapped his hands together “oh good, I’ll pick you up.”
“Honeycutt, *I’ll* pick him up.”
Jennifer closed the door as Justin walked out to Brian’s car. She had met her son’s boss several weeks ago when she had stopped by to tell Justin, her and Molly were going to a movie. Unlike Glen, whom she now hated with bitter passion, she had liked Brian right from the start. The man had been unapologetically honest in his answers to her questions. He had looked her straight in the eye when she’d asked him if he was interested in her son and had answered simply “yes”. When she had turned to leave the building he had placed a hand on her shoulder.
“All I need is a chance Jennifer, I won’t hurt him.”
Jennifer had stood there for what seemed like hours looking into the unflinching hazel eyes and had seen nothing but honesty.
She shooed Molly upstairs to get ready for bed, yes, she would give him that chance and there was nothing she could do but hope Justin did too.
Babylon’s nightly bump and grind was well under way when Brian and Justin arrived. The sea of bodies parted as the two made their way across the crowded dance floor. Dozens of eyes watched them as they passed, some curious, others openly leering. Brian could feel the heat from Justin’s body on his back even though the man wasn’t actually touching him, he was just that close. Brian was so aware of the blond behind him he could feel the nervousness rolling off him in waves and wasn’t a bit surprised when he felt the tips of Justin’s fingers slip into his back pocket. He reached back and gave the trembling hand a comforting squeeze as they reached the bar.
“Hi Bri, hi Justin.”
“Oh my god, Justin that shirt is so hot on you” Emmett squealed as he reached out to touch the sleeveless, baby blue, skin tight shirt. Brian grabbed his hand before it could make contact “don’t touch” Emmett opened his mouth to say something but stopped when he saw the warning in the narrowed eyes, his own eyes flicked over to Justin noting for the first time the tenseness on the blonds face. Something wasn’t right.
He looked back at Brian, nodded and moved to stand on the other side of Justin as the bartender appeared in front of them.
“What’ll it be boys”
“Beam, two” Brian answered, then turned and rested his back against the bar, balanced his elbows on the edge and let his arm lightly touch Justin’s.
As the four drank and talked, guys began to trickle past, obviously cruising the small blond, some even had the balls to stop to talk to Justin. He politely answered their questions but turned down each request to dance.
As the last guy was turned away with a disappointed look etched on his face, Justin sat his empty bottle on the bar and grabbed Brian’s hand “wanna dance?” he asked, Brian smirked at the man Justin had just turned down as he towed the blond out onto the dance floor. Justin couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face; this was what he had been waiting for as the tall brunet turned and laid his arms on Justin’s shoulders, he just wished it hadn’t taken him this long to work up the courage to ask.
Justin placed his hands on Brian’s waist and nestled his face against Brian’s neck as the two began to sway to the music. The pounding beat wasn’t exactly the best music for slow dancing but as long Brian’s strong arms were around him Justin didn’t care.
“Doing okay?” Brian asked, his warm breath whispered across Justin’s skin, sending a quiver racing up and down Justin’s spine in response. Brian idly started to play with the silky strands of hair on the back of Justin’s neck.
“I’m fine” the puff of air that skittered over Brian’s neck when Justin spoke went straight to his cock, making it harden almost instantly. Despite what was happening in his jeans Brian had to know what had made Justin ask him to dance when he had turned down countless offers.
“Why’d you ask, me I mean?”
“Because you’re the only one I wanted to dance with.” Justin answered, lifting his head and staring into Brian’s eyes. Brian stared back, his eyes lowered to Justin’s lips then darted back to stare once again into the blue eyes that had haunted him for the past four months. He wondered if he dared take the chance. Justin seemed to read his mind.
“Are you sure?”
Instead of answering Justin closed his eyes and pressed his lips to Brian’s.
Brian had kissed, hell, had fucked hundreds of men but no one’s touch had ever effected him like this. His hand weaved through Justin’s hair as his tongue demanded entrance into Justin’s mouth which the smaller man gladly gave. They never realized they had stopped dancing as they stood pressed against each other in the middle of the dance floor. Justin’s hands had moved from Brian’s hips to wrap themselves tightly around his back. He moaned as Brian’s lips brushed softly back and forth against his while the man’s tongue darted and danced with his own. They gradually broke apart a few minutes later, amidst the cheers of nearby dancers who had stopped to watch the impromptu make out session.
As they made their way back to the bar Emmett clapped his hands gleefully “that was some show you two.”
“Eyes back in your head, Honeycutt.”
“Don’t call me Honeycutt, Kinney.”
“I’m going to go to the bathroom.” Justin said, leaning close to Brian who nodded and watched him head toward the bathroom.
“Emmett” Brian grabbed the tall queen’s arm “go with him and make sure nobody touches him.”
A questioning look appeared on Emmett’s face “why?”
Brian shook his head “never mind just” he sighed “just make sure ok?”
Emmett nodded, this wasn’t just Brian being jealous, the man was really concerned “sure Brian”
After Emmett had gone off in search of Justin and the bathroom, Brian ordered another beer and looked at Michael “what?”
“He makes you happy doesn’t he?” Michael said, thinking about the kiss he’d witnessed on the dance floor.
Brian considered not answering as he picked up his beer and took a long swallow then apparently decided against it as he looked at his long time friend.
“Yeah Mikey, he does.”
Michael smiled “I’m happy for you Brian” he said, playfully hitting Brian on the arm “maybe one day I’ll find someone who makes me happy too”
Brian snaked an arm across Michael’s shoulders “just as long as it isn’t Justin.”
It wasn’t long before Brian began to look around; he hadn’t seen Justin and Emmett return and was beginning to get a bit worried.
“Mikey, did Emmett and Justin come back yet?”
“I haven’t seen them, why missing boy wonder already?”
Before Brian could answer one of Babylon’s muscular bouncers appeared at his side.
“Hey Kinney, that kid you came in here with is in trouble.” the man had to yell to be heard over the thumping beat of the music.
“Fuck, I told Emmett to watch him” Brian yelled out as he and Michael followed the beefy man across the room. To his surprise the man didn’t lead them to the bathroom, but to the back door of the club. As they reached the darkened hallway Brian could see a group of men huddled near the opening. He managed to push through the tight knit group aided by the bouncer and Michael. What he found made his blood run cold; Justin was on his knees on the floor, arms wrapped tightly around his middle, gasping for breath and shaking like a leaf, his face was pasty white. Emmett was squatting next to him, arm extended but not touching Justin, tears streamed down his face.
“What the fuck happened?” Brian shouted, kneeling next to the distraught blond.
“We were in the bathroom and a man tried to hit on him, Justin told him he wasn’t interested but the man wouldn’t take no for an answer” Emmett cried, hiccupping through his tears “when we tried to leave he grabbed Justin’s arm and started to pull him out the door.”
Brian reached for Justin, only to have the trembling body lurch away from him.
“Noooooooo” Justin’s voice was only a low moan but filled with so much pain and fear it shook Brian to the core. Michael reached down, quietly urging Emmett to his feet and out of the way.
“Justin, it’s me.” Brian said, leaning down trying to get Justin to look at him, when he saw the terrified eyes dart to him and hold, he knew he had Justin’s attention. He began to rub soothing circles between Justin’s shoulder blades.
As soon as he felt Justin lean into his touch Brian stood up, gathering Justin into his arms as he did and looked at the bouncer standing just behind him “I need to get him out of here.”
Within seconds they were outside in the cool night air, cloaked by the darkness of the alley.
Brian sat on the ground holding Justin in his arms, Michael and a teary eyed Emmett stood quietly nearby.
Brian continued to talk to him in a calm steady voice telling him to breathe, just breathe, until the trembling in Justin’s body subsided and he felt a hand creep up to clench at his shirt.
Brian leaned to one side, wriggling his fingers into his front jean pocket until he found the keys.
“Mikey” Brian held out the key ring to his best friend “get the jeep.”
As Michael scurried off Emmett knelt down beside Brian and Justin “Justin, oh baby, I’m so sorry.”
“S’ ok, not your fault.”
Emmett’s eyes lifted to peer into Brian’s.
“This has happened before.” the other man said quietly, he didn’t have a chance to say more because just then Michael roared up in the jeep. Brian helped Justin into the passengers’ side and ran around to the drivers’. In a second all that was left in the alley were two shaken men and a cloud of dust.