Jim Ellison rubbed his hands over his face and wondered how everything had gotten so far away from him. This day. His pathetic excuse for a career. His whole damned life. He could feel the headache gathering its forces, twin points of pain in his temples that would soon flower into blinding agony. He'd never realized how damned loud the airport was before. But then, everything was too loud for him.
He shifted his weight, impatiently waiting for his "charge" to come off the plane from London. He sighed. It seemed like a hundred years since he'd gone on missions, defended his country, since he'd done work he could be proud of. Now, his job was to babysit rich assholes while they played at ruling the world. He shook his head and held the sign with the name of his charge on it a little higher. His headache only grew worse.
"Hey, man. I'm Blair Sandburg. You must be the guy they sent from the security firm, right?" a low, mellow, almost musical voice came from behind him. For one brief, blessed moment, it chased away the pain pounding in his temples.
He turned to his charge, and his jaw dropped open.
Jim found himself staring into impossibly captivating blue eyes, open and curious, not cynical or calculating, as he'd come to expect from senior level executives. And then there was the man those unusual blue eyes belonged toshort but powerfully built, long, curly auburn hair, turned up nose, strong jaw, an honest, expressive face. And young. Far, far too young to be the CEO of Sandburg Enterprises.
"Hey, man, you still with me?" the young man asked, and it jolted Jim back to reality, out of the temporary blankness he'd slipped into, one of his episodes, that were happening more and more frequently these days.
Shit! If this keeps up, I'm not going to be able to keep this job either.
He sighed. "Sorry. It's just that I was told to expect the company's CEO. Are you his son?" Jim asked, taking in his charge's torn jeans, faded T-shirt, the strange looking native fetish that was tied around his neck.
The young man laughed. "No, I'm him. Not exactly your picture of the CEO of a multinational corporation, huh?"
Jim colored. "No, I didn't mean... Mr. Sandburg, I apologize."
But the young man simply clapped him on the back, companionably, obviously not taking offense. "Don't sweat it, man. Hell, I'm not my idea of a corporate bigwig. And call me Blair. I insist."
"I'm Jim. Jim Ellison. I'm here from Cascade Security," he managed to say through his embarrassment, his throat strangely dry.
He finally remembered his manners and offered his hand. Blair smiled, his face lighting up, and Jim shifted uncomfortably, feeling even more parched.
"Good to know you, Jim," the young man said and shook his hand.
"Let me help you with that," he offered, reaching out to take one of Blair's bags.
"Thanks, man. But be careful. That one has Colombian artifacts in it. I need to deliver them to the university."
"Colombian artifacts, huh?" he asked, arching an eyebrow at his young charge.
Blair ginned. "What can I say? I wasn't always an overpaid corporate do-nothing living off the honest labor of other people. Actually, I was in London to present a paper at an anthropology symposium. I guess it'll be my last one," Blair said, his voice faltering a little.
Jim didn't think he looked very happy about the change in his profession.
"Anyway," Blair continued. "Professor O'Neill, a colleague of mine, had just come back from Colombia and was supposed to bring these terra cotta statuettes to Professor Jacobs over at Rainier. He got held up, so I agreed to bring them with me. Man, you would not believe the problems I had with the Customs people at Heathrow. I had to spend a good hour explaining what they were, who I was, why I had the artifacts with me. It didn't matter how many times I showed them the papers from the Colombian Ministry of Culture releasing the statuettes. I ended up laying it on pretty thick about educational discovery, the importance of understanding other cultures, the sanctity of academic pursuits, blah, blah, blah. They finally saw it my way."
Jim smiled. "Sounds like you were pretty persuasive."
"So are these artifacts of yours very valuable?" Jim asked.
"Not particularly, at least not monetarily. Actually, they're produced by one of the indigenous tribes in Colombia who have actually started selling them to tourists. But the iconography has its roots in myths that go back thousands of years, something anthropologists just figured out not that long ago. Professor Jacobs is an expert on folklore, and he's hoping they'll shed some light on a particular legend he's trying to decipher."
Blair nodded. "Yeah, man, it really is."
Jim took the bag, but made certain to handle it with care. He changed position so that he was slightly behind, but still beside, his young charge. His eyes remained alert, glancing around the terminal, searching for any possible threat.
Blair turned to him in surprise, apparently not expecting the bodyguarding to begin so abruptly. The bizarre respite Jim had received from his pounding headache ended without warning, and a jagged blade of pain sliced him between the eyes. He struggled to contain it, to keep a grip on himself, to maintain control of the situation.
"Hey, man...are you all right? Maybe you should sit down?" the young man suggested, laying his hand on Jim's forearm.
Jim turned to him, a scowl on his face, a sarcastic reply on the tip of his tongue. But there was nothing in Blair's expression but genuine concern, and that softened him somehow.
He sighed. "I'm fine. Just a little headache," he said and offered a nervous smile.
Blair looked at him skeptically, obviously unconvinced, but he said simply, "Okay, man. If you're sure."
Jim accompanied him out of the airport, continuing to scan the crowds of travelers for anything out of the ordinary. At the same time, though, he couldn't keep his mind from replaying how it felt when Blair touched him. It had only been for a moment, the man's hand on his arm, just to express basic human concern. But it had been long enough for the heat and feel of it to sink into his bones, to make his stomach flutter with something, some emotion he couldn't afford to examine.
Not when Blair Sandburg was his professional responsibility. Not when his freaked out senses were already enough of a distraction. Not when the thought of something happening to this young man tore at him in a strangely emotional way, despite the fact he'd known him only for a few minutes.
"So can you tell me more about these latest incidents?" Jim asked, trying to resume a more professional demeanor.
Blair sighed. "It's nothing I can prove. Hell, maybe they were accidents. I don't always have the greatest luck in the world. In one instance, the brakes on my car failed. Ah, man, it was a classic Corvair, a real beauty, completely totaled. The cops couldn't say for sure that it had been tampered with. After the explosion, there just wasn't enough evidence to tell."
"Explosion?" Jim asked, a cold, sick chill prickling along the back of his neck at the thought of what could have happened to Blair.
The young man grimaced. "I was really lucky to make it out of that one. Then a few weeks later, a chandelier almost fell on my head when I went to the Sandburg family estate to sign some papers. They blamed a servant for improperly rehanging it after it was cleaned, and they fired him. But..."
"You didn't believe it?"
Jim shook his head. "Not for a minute. So how did you come to inherit the company?"
Blair laughed, humorlessly. "That is the $25,000 question. Or should I say the $250 million question. I'm like the serious black sheep of the family. My mom wasn't married when she had me. Hell, I don't even know who my father is. I've been persona non grata in the family all my life, and that was always fine with me since I never had the slightest interest in the business anyway. Now I'm the heir. It's a mystery to everybody, most of all to me."
"I'll need you to fill me in on all the people who might want to see you dead."
All the light drained out Blair's face, and he suddenly looked older than his age. "I hope you've got some free time, man. It's not exactly a short list these days."
"I find that hard to believe, Chief," Jim said, leading the young man across the parking lot to the security company's Ford Bronco. "You seem the sort who makes more friends than enemies."
He took Blair's bags and stowed them in the back, then opened the door for him.
"Yeah, well, it's amazing how a whole lot of money and more power than you ever wanted can really screw up your life," Blair said, as he settled into the seat and fastened his safety belt.
Jim went around to the other side of the vehicle and got in. "So tell me about the rest of the family."
Blair sighed. "My mother had one brother, who died in a car wreck about ten years ago. He had three kids, two sons and a daughter. The oldest is Elliot, a real buttoned down type, a lawyer at one of the big firms downtown, huge house out on the sound, country club membership, the whole nine yards. It was always just assumed that he'd take over the business, ever since I can remember. And then there's Marissa. She's this blonde, busty femme fatale type that everybody thought would marry well and fade into the background. But I could always tell she had bigger plans than that. Actually, she's probably got the best head for business of all of them, but my grandfather wasn't too keen on the idea of women working. Andrew is the baby. He's still in college, really just looking to have a good time and to have it financed with family money."
"I take it you're not that close?"
"I think you can see how I wouldn't exactly fit in with that kind of crowd."
Jim nodded. From the sound of it, he thought it was just as well that Blair was nothing like his cousins, but he kept that opinion to himself. They were still the man's family, after all.
"And they're all here in Cascade?" he asked.
Blair nodded. "My grandfather was British, so we have a family estate in the north of England. But my grandmother was old Cascade stock. Everybody in the family pretty much splits their time between here and there. Well, except for me and my Mom. We've always kind of gone our own way."
"And what does your mother think of all this? I'm surprised she isn't here to help you deal with the rest of the family."
Blair smiled. "You don't know Naomi, man. This is exactly the kind of thing she can't deal with. When she heard about the will, she took off for a meditation community on Sumatra. She said she needed to process what had happened, and she was sure I'd do whatever was best."
Jim frowned. The woman sounded like a flake to hima flake who abandoned her son when the going got rough. But he kept that opinion to himself, as well. She was family too, and he could tell by way the younger man talked about her that he was very attached to his mother.
"So you ever think of giving it up? Letting the ambitious cousins have what they want?" he asked, gently, hoping he wasn't treading on sensitive ground.
"Are you kidding? Since all this happened, I've pretty much thought of nothing else. There's nothing I'd like more than just to throw my hands up and walk away from all this shit forever. But..."
"I just really believe that things have a purpose, you know? It's completely freaky that my grandfather left his company to me, his least favorite grandkid, but maybe he wanted me to do something with it. Maybe he had his reasons and wasn't just kind of loopy there at the end. Sandburg Enterprises has extensive dealings in South America. Mining, oil, timber, you name it. All my work in anthropology has been centered on legends among native tribes in the Amazon basin. A lot of what we're doing with the business down there has profound repercussions on the ecosystem and on tribal life. Maybe I can find a way to keep this big corporation from killing off the indigenous cultures and destroying the rain forest."
"Make sweeping reforms? Completely retool how Sandburg Enterprises does business?"
"Yeah. That's what I'm thinking. And we'll use that in our marketing strategy. We'll position ourselves as the company that cares, the one that's taking steps to preserve the planet and our heritage for future generations."
"You've shared this philosophy with people on the board of directors?"
Blair grimaced. "Yeah. They weren't too thrilled about it."
"Anybody particularly vocal?"
"A few people. Brett Carney, the company's president. He's responsible for the day-to-day running of our operations, while as CEO and Chairman of the Board, I set the overall vision and goals. So he'd be the one who would have to make my plan work, the details and stuff. He didn't seem too happy about that. Ted Johnson didn't like my proposition very much either. He's in- house legal counsel. There's also Jay Etris, the Chief Financial Officer. And then, of course, all my cousins."
"You were right, Chief. It really is a long list of people who might want you out of the way. If the thing with the chandelier wasn't an accident, then we're definitely looking at a member of your family. If it was though, hell, it could be any major stockholder or an employee worried about keeping his job."
"There are a few people who like my ideas," Blair said, defensively.
Jim shot a glance over at him. Blair's shoulders were hunched and tense. He looked hurt.
"Hey, Chief, I think it's a great idea, okay? I mean, it's the right, the decent thing to do. It's a testament to who you are that you even thought of it. But people don't always react well to change, even when it's for the good. And most people are a hell of a lot greedier than you are."
"You aren't," Blair said.
Jim looked at him. "You don't know that."
"Yes, I do," the young man insisted, holding his gaze. "I feel like I know a lot of things about you, Jim."
Blair's voice dropped into the husky, lower register on those last words, and the sound got inside Jim somehow. For a moment, the chaos of his senses cleared, and he could see, hear, feel, smell, taste with such clarity, with such impossible acuity, without the blinding pain that usually went along with it.
He stopped at a red light and took the opportunity to stare at his companion, to really take him in. The late afternoon light played in Blair's hair, and suddenly, he could see all the individual colors, some light and metallic, others rich and deep. Chestnut. Gold. Brown. He could smell the man's shampoo and soap, the orange juice he'd had on the plane, his sweat, and something else too, something warm and friendly and uniquely Blair. He could hear the man's heart beating and the breath rushing in and out of his lungs, and instead of repelling him like it usually did when he forgot to tune such things out, he found it inordinately comforting. For the first time ever, his senses felt like a gift, rather than a curse.
A gentle touch on his hand shocked him back to reality.
"It's green," Blair said.
"Uh, yeah. Sorry," he said and headed the truck into the intersection.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"That's the second time today that's happened."
"I'm fine. Really, Chief. I'm perfectly capable of doing my job. I won't let anything happen to you."
"I wasn't worried about me, man."
He could feel Blair watching him, but he kept his eyes on the road. The last thing he needed was for his client to find out about his condition. That would definitely spell the end for him at Cascade Security. There was a part of him that insisted he could trust Blair, that he could finally share the burden of this bizarre illness with someone else, someone who might understand. But the rest of him knew from experience that trusting people was a luxury he couldn't afford.
He turned the truck into the driveway of the Cascade Intercontinental Hotel, the address his firm had given him.
"You don't have your own place? I thought you lived here in Cascade."
Blair nodded. "I do. I'm a grad student over at the university. Or I guess I should say I was. I had to give that up to take over the company. I did have an apartment until a few weeks ago, but it...well, it blew up, actually."
"It blew up?"
"Drug lab next door. Who knew?"
"Geezus, Chief. Where the hell were you living?"
"The only place I could afford as a poor student."
"I guess things are looking up, huh?" he said, gesturing to the lavish stone exterior of Cascade's most exclusive hotel.
"This was the idea of the people over at the corporate office. They thought I'd be safer in a place like this."
Jim parked the car. "Yeah, I'd have to agree."
He got out and retrieved the luggage from the back. Blair reached to take one of the bags, and their hands brushed. Jim sucked in his breath. He felt the contact, like a jolt of electricity, all the way up to his elbow.
"I should come up," he said.
"Oh, definitely," Blair agreed, his voice low and inviting and...
Jim blushed hotly, something he hadn't done since junior high. "To make sure...uh, you know, to check to see that everything's okay. To keep you safe."
Blair nodded and smiled. "Yes, Jim. You should definitely come upstairs and take care of me," he said and headed inside, leaving Jim standing there on the sidewalk with his mouth hanging open.
Eventually, Jim did remember where he was and, more importantly, why he was there. The urgent need to protect Blair slammed into him, and he hurried inside to catch up with him. I shouldn't have let him out of my sight. Anything could happen, at any moment. I know that. Got to start doing my damned job. He mentally reprimanded himself. No matter what, I can't allow this to become personal. Even if he seemed like he wanted...no! Don't go there. Shit! And I thought I was being so discreet.
He could not have been more surprised that Blair had seen through him so easily, that he'd been able to read his desires that way. Discretion had been a way of life as long as Jim could remember. There had always been some reason to be careful, always some part of himself he was forced to hide, to protect. He was usually quite good at it.
It had all started a long time ago, way back in his childhood, when his mother had left them. His father had been so angry that he forbade her name from ever being mentioned in his presence again, preferring to pretend she never existed. He expected his sons to follow suit, and when they forgot, the punishments were swift and sure. Jim quickly figured out how to dissemble. He learned to be a seamless picture of normal boyhood on the outside, all the while he was shattered and empty on the inside, a lonely, cratered place in him, deep and wide, where he mourned the loss of his mother, whose very memory was taboo.
After a while, it didn't seem so odd to be one thing on the outside and quite another on the inside. It began to seem natural that only he would ever really know who he was. In fact, in time, this came to feel like the only way to be safe. So when his senses went berserk, when his marriage failed and he was forced to face the truth about his sexual nature, he kept his own counsel about it all. He practiced the kind of stone-faced secrecy he'd learned in his Covert Ops training back in the army. He became a psychological master of disguise, fooling everyone he met.
Until now. Until Blair.
He found the young man in the lobby, waiting for him by the elevator.
"Hey, what took you so long?" Blair asked, grinning at him.
That caught Jim up short, for a moment defusing his anger. It was the most completely disarming smile he'd ever seen. He stared into Blair's face, into his eyes. They weren't sky blue or baby blue, certainly not pale, faded blue like his own. They were dark, rich, bottomless, like he could get lost in them, just the way he got lost in the man's scent and sound. The way he'd love to get lost in the taste and feel of him. Jim had never been more intimately aware of anyone in his life. No one had ever had such a profound effect on him. His vision practically sparkled when he was in Blair's company. His body tingled all over, pulsing with want and well-being, those places inside him that he'd thought were long dead now becoming green and vital again. It was a good feeling. He wanted more of it. He wanted everything he could possibly get.
It took a supreme act of will, but he did manage to catch himself just before he fell off the edge into complete infatuation. Get a hold of yourself! He ordered, forcing himself to close up, to withdraw, a well-practiced habit by now.
"Don't ever do that again!" he yelled at Blair, more harshly than was absolutely necessary, angry with himself, with his traitorous feelings and his rebel body, taking it out on his charge.
"What?" the young man asked, his expression instantly changing, twisting into surprise, then hurt, then anger.
"Never run off without me. It only takes a second for something to happen. I can't protect you if you won't work with me."
"Chill out, man. I was out of your sight for maybe a millisecond. Maybe."
"That's all it takes."
"Fine," Blair said, in a clipped voice. "I'll
be more careful."
The elevator doors opened, and they both got on. Blair pressed the button for the 32nd floor, and they rode up to the penthouse in strained silence. They got off, and Jim followed Blair down the corridor to his room. He mentally surveyed the surroundings, looking for problems, places where assassins could hide, slipping into protector mode, anticipating the dangers. But he sensed nothing, no one.
"You have the whole floor to yourself?" he asked.
"There are only two other suites up here. The people at the corporate office thought it would be safer if there wasn't anyone else around, so they rented out everything."
Blair unlocked the door to the Presidential suite.
Jim reached for his arm. "Let me go first."
After a moment's hesitation, Blair nodded. Jim slipped into the suite and did a quick check to make sure all was clear.
"It's okay," he called to the young man when he was satisfied there was nothing amiss.
His charge dropped his bags by the door and shrugged out of his jacket.
"Nice place," Jim commented.
Sandburg Enterprises was obviously sparing no expense. The suite was five roomsliving room, dining room, kitchen, two bedroomstastefully decorated in an early American style, with a few pieces that looked like actual antiques. Jim couldn't imagine how much they must be paying for the place and the other two suites as well.
"I suppose it's fine," Blair said, sounding distracted, settling tiredly onto the sofa.
"We should discuss your schedule. Let me get a sense of where you're going to be. That way I can be prepared for whatever comes up."
"If you don't want to guard me, you can say so. I'll work it out with your company, make sure they know it's not because you weren't doing a good job. I can have internal security at Sandburg Enterprises look out for me. We don't have to do this."
Jim froze, stunned. "You don't want me protecting you?"
Blair sighed. "Not if I make you uncomfortable. I figure your taking my head off down in the lobby was because you didn't appreciate my flirting with you out on the sidewalk. What can I say? Apparently, I colossally misread the situation. But the cat's out of the bag now, and I just wanted to say that I understand if you'd rather not be responsible for looking out for me."
"No! You look," the young man said, angrily jumping up from the sofa to pace by the windows. "I don't want to end up with a bullet in my brain because you're trying to keep a safe distance from the little faggot who had the nerve to come onto you. Okay?"
"I would never"
"It's bad enough the shit I have to put up with from my own family. I'm not going to take crap from someone who's going to be in my face 24-7, someone who's supposed to be on my side."
"Would you just"
"And don't you dare try to tell me I'm crazy. I know I didn't imagine"
A familiar noise distracted Jim, a sliding sound, metal against metal, and then a clicking he recognized all too well. He tracked the sound back to its source, the high rise building across the street from the hotel.
"the abrupt change in your attitude. I know when someone is disgusted by me. I'm not stupid. I notice when"
"Blair! Get down!" Jim screamed and dove for him, knocking him down, covering the young man's body with his own.
He could hear the shatter of glass, the hot zinging of the bullets over their heads and the sound of the impact as they tore into the plaster on the opposite wall. He could feel Blair trembling beneath him. When it seemed safe, he rolled off him and helped the young man sit up.
"Are you okay?" he asked anxiously and then noticed a cut on Blair's forehead where he'd hit the leg of a chair on the way down. "Ah, shit!" He gently touched the wound, wiping away the blood with his fingers. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Blair smiled weakly. "I don't think you're allowed to apologize when you've just saved my life."
"Stay here, okay? I'm going to close the blinds and then call the cops. I'll be right back."
Blair nodded. Jim crawled over to the windows, carefully checked the building across the street for any sign of the shooter, and closed the blinds when he was satisfied the guy was long gone. He used the phone in the bedroom to call 911, then went into the bathroom to wet a towel for Blair's head, rummaging through the medicine cabinet for a bandage and disinfectant. He came back to find Blair still sitting obediently on the floor.
"I'm pretty sure it's clear now. But just in case, let's get you over here out of the line of fire."
He helped Blair to his feet and settled him onto a chair that was clear of the windows. He began to clean and dress the cut, which thankfully wasn't too bad.
"I'm sorry," Blair said.
Jim shook his head. "You have no reason to be."
"Yes, I do. For what I said. I really thought you might not care about keeping me safe given how I... Obviously, I was wrong."
"It's okay. No offense taken."
Blair smiled. "Thanks, man."
Jim brushed back his hair and applied the bandage. He let his hands linger a little longer than was entirely necessary, enjoying the feel of Blair's warm skin and his soft hair. One of Blair's hands came up to cover his.
"How did you know?" the young man asked him.
"That someone was there, that they were going to shoot?"
"I don't know," he stumbled. "I guess it's just instinct."
Blair shook his head. "No. I saw your face. You heard something. You saw something. How is that possible, Jim?"
A voice inside Jim, one he wasn't used to, clamored for honesty, for self-revelation. Tell him. Trust him.
A knock on the door interrupted him.
"Mr. Ellison? Mr. Sandburg? This is Captain Simon Banks with the Cascade PD. Open the door, please."
Jim sighed. "I'll get that, Chief."
Blair caught his arm just as he was about to turn away. "We will finish this later, James."
He hesitated a moment, then nodded. Blair let him go.
"Captain Banks," he said, as he opened the door for the policeman. "Thanks for coming so quickly. I'm Jim Ellison, Mr. Sandburg's security consultant."
Jim led the police officer into the living room where Blair was waiting.
"Is everybody all right?" Captain Banks asked.
"Fortunately," Jim said.
"Thanks to Jim," Blair added.
"It's a good thing you were on the job, Mr. Ellison," Captain Banks said.
"I'm just glad no one was hurt," Jim said.
"I'll need you to tell me what happened," the captain said.
Jim nodded. "Of course."
"Won't you sit down?" Blair said, gesturing toward the couch.
The policeman made himself comfortable.
"So you've been having some problems lately I understand, Mr. Sandburg," Captain Banks said.
"Yeah. There have been a couple of accidents that were suspicious, but this is the first time anybody's shot at me."
"I saw the police report on the car wreck. Do you have any idea who'd want you dead?"
"The same long list I gave you guys after the accident."
Captain Banks nodded. "So what happened here today?"
"We had just arrived. Jim and I were...discussing plans for security, and somebody shot at me through the window."
"That how you got hurt?" the captain asked, pointing to the bandage.
"I pushed him down," Jim explained. "He hit his head on a chair."
"A small price to pay to still be breathing," Blair said.
"I'd say so," the captain agreed. "How'd you get to him in time?" he asked Jim.
"I don't know," Jim lied. "I guess you'd have to call it instinct."
"Mmmm," the police captain said, noncommittally. "So the bullets came through the window and..."
"Hit the opposite wall," Jim said, pointing.
Captain Banks got up to examine the bullet holes, and Jim joined him. What he saw caused all the blood to drain from his face.
"Shit!" he cursed.
"You said it," Captain Banks said, looking a little pale himself.
"What?" Blair wanted to know, getting up from his chair.
Both Jim and Captain Banks headed out to the hall, and they found more bullet holes there, in the wall opposite the suite.
"This is a problem," the captain said.
Jim could only nod, his throat too constricted to speak. He followed the captain back inside.
"What?" Blair demanded.
"I'm afraid it's looking like this was a professional hit, Mr. Sandburg. The shooter obviously used a high powered rifle if he took the shot from across the street, and from the way the bullets tore through several walls, I'd say they were teflon-tipped," the captain explained. "Whoever wants you out of the way is getting pretty serious about it."
"Those teflon bullets are like really dangerous, huh?" Blair asked, his voice small and shaky.
"Yeah, Blair," Jim said. "Yeah, they are."
Jim tried not to picture what one of those bullets would have done to Blair if it had hit him. He tried not to dwell on what he knew to be true about teflon bullets, the way they tore their victims apart, the way they practically exploded vulnerable human flesh.
"Oh, God," Blair said, sinking weakly onto a chair.
"I just want you to know, Mr. Sandburg, that the police department is taking this matter very seriously. I'm going to assign your case to our top detectives. We will find out who's behind this. In the mean time, you'll have a full detail of officers at your disposal for security purposes."
Jim glared at the man. "I'm his security. You're not getting rid of me."
Captain Banks shook his head. "You misunderstand me, Mr. Ellison. I'm putting the officers at your disposal as well. I'm sure you could use some back up, right?"
"Well, yeah, I guess," he said, somewhat mollified. "Let's just remember that I'm in charge of protecting Mr. Sandburg. What I say goes."
The captain held up his hands. "No problem. We can work with that. In the morning, I'll need you both to come down to the station to make a formal statement. Then we can get going with the investigation. And Mr. Sandburg, you'll need to move to a more secure location"
"He's coming home with me," Jim interjected.
"Oh," the captain said, surprised, looking from Jim to Blair and then back again, one eyebrow arched. "Well, I guess that...it seems like it's settled then."
"Right. It's settled," Jim said, leaving no room for argument, not caring about the speculations he could see so clearly on the police captain's face.
"Okay. Well, I suppose we're finished for now then. I'll be on my way. See you in the morning," he said, getting to his feet.
"See you then," Blair said, moving to shake the man's hand. "And Captain Banks, thank you so much for your help. I appreciate your personally taking charge of this."
Simon smiled. "Sandburg Enterprises is the biggest employer this town has. We can't exactly have someone shooting its CEO, now can we? Thank you for your cooperation, gentlemen. I'll see myself out."
Jim heard the door close behind the captain, and he turned to Blair. "Uh, Chief..." he stammered.
"You will come stay with me, right?"
Blair moved beside him and looked him full in the face. "Yes, Jim, I will. That's exactly where I want to be. Wherever you are," he said.
The low, gravelly, sultry quality had returned to Blair's voice, and Jim felt something turning upside down in his chest.
Jim was amazed by how nervous it made him to have Blair in his territory, making himself at home in that easy way of his, indulging a curiosity that he was beginning to understand was insatiable. Jim stood in the kitchen and watched as Blair drifted around the living room taking in what few things there were to see.
"How long have you lived here?" the young man asked.
"Oh, about five years now."
"Five years? Geez, it's time to let yourself go a little, Jim. Make yourself at home. It looks more like a hotel here than over at the hotel. It would be nice to see you in this room, you know what I mean?"
Jim shrugged, not really understanding why this was important. "When I was married, there was more stuff. Carolyn took most of it when she left. I guess it reflected her more than me anyway. The truth is that this...well, this pretty much is me."
"What?" Jim asked, looking over at his companion, surprised, not expecting disagreement.
"This..." Blair said, waving his hands at the room.
"This emptiness does not represent you. I won't
let you go around thinking it does."
Jim shifted his weight nervously, completely at a loss for what to say. He stared at Blair, helplessly, feeling the old, impossible longing constricting his chest, the desire for someone who would see him, the real him, the way Blair seemed to. At the same time, though, he felt the familiar, crushing certainty that this would never happen, that it was not possible. Even if by some miracle Blair could want him, he couldn't afford to pursue him, not while Blair's well-being rested in his hands. Turning over the case to another of the consultants at the firm was not an option. He was determined to watch over Blair personally. He wouldn't leave this important responsibility to anyone else.
And then even if the danger was dealt with, vanquished, there would still be all the things he could never tell Blair, the secrets he kept, the words that just would never come. All of that would get in the way, just as it had with Carolyn, just as it always did, with everyone, sooner or later.
He turned away and went over to the refrigerator. "Could I get you something to drink? Then if you want, you can get a shower and rest a little. We can order dinner in. You must be tired and hungry. It's a long flight from London."
Blair followed him into the kitchen. Jim could see from his expression that Blair realized he was trying to change the subject, but he didn't call him on it. "Yeah, man. That would be great. It's been an eventful day, you know?"
Jim shuddered, remembering how that bullet had torn through three thick hotel walls, sturdy walls, constructed back when workmanship meant something. He had calculated the trajectory, and he knew that if he hadn't reached Blair in time the bullet would have hit him in the back of the head. He felt his stomach turn over at the nightmarish image that flashed across his mind, the sickening thought of what might have been.
He tried to shake it off. But it didn't happen. He's here. He's fine. And I'm going to make sure he stays that way. He grabbed two beers out of the fridge and handed one to his guest. Blair took it, and Jim led him back to the living room. The young man sank onto the sofa and sighed heavily, leaning his head back against the cushions.
"It's catching up with you, huh?" Jim asked.
"You said it, man. A long flight and a near death experience all in one day. That's really more than I was prepared for," Blair answered, trying to make light of it, trying to laugh it off. But he sounded shaken.
"Are you sure you're okay, Chief?" Jim asked, gently.
Blair shook his head. "No, not really. I don't actually know how I feel right now. And unfortunately, I don't have time to sort it out just yet. I've got to face the firing squad over at the corporate office tomorrow. You know, figuratively speaking. Well, hopefully."
"I won't let anything happen to you, Blair. I promise."
Blair turned to him, watching him in that careful, assessing way of his. He nodded. "Thanks, man. I really appreciate your being around. More than I can ever tell you." He paused for a moment, and then continued, "No one's ever wanted me dead before. It's just really..."
"It's okay to be scared," Jim reassured him.
"That's good, man, because I'm freakin' terrified. It's tough enough to hold my ground and do what I think is right at the company without bullets flying around my head."
"I understand, Chief. I'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again," Jim said. "So what's the plan for tomorrow?"
"I go before the shareholders to present my plan for the next fiscal year, and they'll vote to support it or not. I mean, it's not binding or anything, more like a vote of confidence. But it's still really important. If they don't like what I have to say and divest their shares, it could send the stock price plummeting and hurt the company. It's not gonna be fun. I have to convince a roomful of powerful, driven, profit-hungry investors that implementing new environmentally friendly, culturally sensitive polices will have long-term benefits that will offset any short-term impact on revenues."
"Yeah. I know."
"Hey, I didn't mean... I'm sure you'll get them to see your side of it. I haven't known you that long, Chief, but from that story you told me at the airport about dealing with the Customs agents, it seems you have something of a gift for talking people into things."
Blair tilted his head. "Are you trying to tell me I'm pushy?"
"Hey!" Blair elbowed him in the side.
Jim smiled. "No, Chief. Not pushy. I just get the idea you can be persuasive when you want to be."
Blair returned the smile. "Okay, I'll accept that diplomatic response. And thanks, man. It's nice to know that at least one person has some confidence in my abilities."
Jim lightly touched the young man's shoulder. "I really do, you know. Have confidence in you. If anybody can pull this off, you can. I just have a feeling."
Blair blinked. "Wow, man. That's so cool. Thank you."
Jim cleared his voice, feeling suddenly embarrassed. "Why don't you go get that shower now? I'll call for some dinner. Then you can get some sleep. You'll need to be at your best tomorrow."
As if on cue, Blair yawned, a big, wide, jaw-cracking yawn. "Yeah, man. That sounds good. Which way to the shower?"
"It's just around the corner there," Jim said, pointing. "And the spare room's right across from it. Feel free to make yourself at home."
Blair yawned again and then levered himself up from the sofa. "Thanks, Jim. I really appreciate your going out of your way for me like this."
Jim shook his head. "Don't mention it, Chief. There's clean towels and stuff in there. Just help yourself to whatever you need."
Blair thanked him again and padded over to his luggage, carrying it into the spare room. Jim could hear him toss his stuff onto the bed, unzip the bag and then begin digging around in it. He got up and headed over to the kitchen drawer where he kept the take-out menus. It was mostly Chinese and a few pizza places, nothing very adventurous. With his spazzed out senses, he preferred the tamest food possible. Somehow he suspected Blair didn't share his meat-and-potatoes sensibility.
"Hey, Blair?" he called. "What do you want for dinner?"
"What are the options?" his charge called back.
"Uh. Let's see. Pizza. Chinese," he said, sifting through the stack. "Thai." Jim squinted at the menu, wondering where it had come from, thinking it must be some leftover from the Carolyn days.
"Yeah. That. Thai."
Jim shook his head, unsurprised. Blair had "exotic" written all over him.
"Do you know what you want or do you want to look at the menu?"
"Nah, man. I don't need the menu. Get me an order of mixed vegetables with red curry and some sticky rice."
"Okay," he said, scanning the menu, seeing nothing that seemed even remotely familiar. "Do you have any idea what I might want?"
Blair's belly laugh, deep and rich, washed over him, both soothing and stirring at the same time.
"I take it your not a big fan of Thai cuisine, huh?" Blair asked from the other room.
"Never really tried it," Jim admitted.
"Do you like noodles?"
"Try the pad Thai. Ask them to make it really mild for you. I think you'll like it. And get us both an order of spring rolls while you're at it. You can never go wrong with spring rolls."
"Hey, no problem. Thank you for indulging me. I haven't had Thai food in like...forever."
Jim picked up the phone and dialed the restaurant. He found himself automatically tracking Blair's movements as he placed their order. He listened to the young man head into the bathroom, close the door, but not lock it. He could hear the soft sounds of clothing hitting the floor, the airy whoosh of the shower curtain as it was pulled back, the sharp spray of the water against the tile. Then that sound became muffled as Blair climbed into the shower and the water began to travel down his body. An image of Blair naked and wet, relaxed and flushed from the moist heat sprang fully formed from the depths of Jim's imagination. His hand trembled on the receiver. He quickly finished the call and hung up, hoping he'd given the address clearly enough for the delivery guy to find them.
He tried to breathe deeply, to clear his mind, to expunge the erotic, forbidden pictures crowding his thoughts. But the air rattled in his lungs, with labored effort. His chest was tight with desire, and he struggled to push it back down to the shadowy places inside him where such impossible feelings could lurk harmlessly in secret. He tried to pry away his attention from what was happening in the bathroom, the rough, wet slide of a cotton wash cloth over firm flesh, the slick glide of soapy fingers over smooth skin. But it was an aural banquet, and his senses stayed on automatic pilot, hungry, determined, attuned to Blair like nothing he'd ever experienced.
Jim shook from the force of his sudden, uncontrollable need. He took a step toward the bathroom and then another and another. He no longer simply felt want. He had become it, an elemental force, undeterrable. The longstanding disjuncture between what he did and how he felt began to disappear. Images collided in his brain, fast and furious. Blair on his knees, open to him, ready to be taken, needing to be possessed. Blair moving aggressively above him, parting his thighs, claiming him, taking him. Blair, nude and beautiful and eager. Blair, demanding and hungry and forceful. Blair. He moved closer still, one step followed by the next and the next.
It was only the abrupt twist of the faucet and the empty sound of silence after the water had been turned off that jolted Jim out of his zombie state. He returned to rational thought, and quickly became ashamed of himself. He remembered how Blair had trusted him, had placed his safety, his very life in his hands, had unquestioningly agreed to come home with him, a veritable stranger, had not even bothered to lock the door as he showered. And Jim had wanted... Jim had been about to...
The appalling realization of how close he'd come to betraying Blair's faith in him chased away the last vestiges of his desire. The barriers quickly went back up; the powerful, nameless urges were carefully walled off from his outward demeanor. By the time Blair came out of the bathroom and padded back to the spare room, Jim was once more the perfect picture of control, his erection gone, his reason returned. He had returned to the kitchen and was busying himself getting out plates and silverware.
A few minutes later, Blair joined him in the kitchen. His hair was damp and loose around his shoulders. He wore a faded, comfortable looking pair of grey sweatpants, the drawstring pulled tightly at his waist, and a pale blue cotton shirt that he'd left unbuttoned. Blair's upper body was more developed than Jim had expected, not exactly cut, but the muscles were strong and firm, his shoulders broad, his furred chest powerful. Manly. Beautiful. Jim tried not to gawk and thanked every lucky star he had when the door bell rang and the food arrived, giving him something else to focus on.
They were both hungrier than they'd realized and set upon the food like vultures, not talking, except for a few vague noises of satisfaction and the occasional request to pass something. Jim tried to keep his eyes on his plate, his mind on his food. But a greedy, half-starved Blair lustily enjoying his meal struck him as bizarrely erotic. He could hear the action of the man's teeth, the motion of his swallowing, the dull groans and rumbles of his stomach as he digestedall things he'd somehow taught himself to tune out with other people, usually finding it far too disgusting. But not now, not with Blair. Now, it tingled along every sensual receptor in his body.
When they'd finally finished their dinner, Blair helped him clear away the mess and clean up the kitchen. Jim washed the dishes, and Blair stood beside him, drying and putting them away. It felt to Jim like no one had ever been that close before. With every breath, he inhaled the young man's clean, warm, honest scent. Even with the humid warmth of the dish water, he could still feel the heat radiating off Blair's body, sinking into his skin and bones and heart, searing him, making him begin to shake again, the want returning abruptly and with a vengeance.
Finally, he couldn't take it any more. He threw down the dish cloth. "That's good for now, Chief. The rest can soak, and we'll finish them in the morning."
Blair arched an eyebrow at him. "Really? You strike me more as the 'don't put off' type."
"Well, you know. It's getting late and all. I think I'll grab a shower," he said, skittishly backing away.
"Uh...okay, man," Blair said, his brow wrinkled, obviously confused.
"I won't be long. Make yourself at home. There's more beer in the fridge. Help yourself to whatever you want."
He turned and practically ran for the safety of the bathroom. He turned on the faucet in the sink to cover the sounds of his labored breathing. When he'd regained something of his composure, he stripped off his clothes, brutally, taking no care with his erection, punishing himself. He flipped on the water in the shower, making it as cold as he could stand, and forced himself into the icy spray. The cold water stung his sensitive skin, like a million painful pin pricks all over his body. His arousal quickly died, his private parts shriveled with the cold, the desire forced back where it belonged, out of sight, out of mind.
By the time he left the shower, he was shivering, aching from the cold. He roughly toweled himself dry and wrapped the terrycloth around his waist, holding it carefully closed. He threw open the door and made a beeline for the stairs.
And ran smack into Blair who was waiting for him just outside the bathroom.
"Oof." The sound escaped him as he collided with the younger man, grabbing his arms to keep from knocking him over. "Chief! Geezus, I didn't see you there."
Blair grasped his forearms, not letting go. "My God, you're freezing. What did you do to yourself in there, Jim? I can feel the goose bumps." He began gently stroking along Jim's biceps, and Jim could feel that lazy, sweltering heat sinking into him once more, making him tremble, in a far more profound way than the cold had. "What were you trying to avoid? Huh? And why? When there's no reason to run from it."
"Don't, Blair!" Jim said, sharply, grabbing his hands, trying to push him away.
But Blair was the kind to push back, the sort to persist. Jim could see that. He could also see that Blair hadn't believed his hard-ass routine for a minute. Blair wasn't even remotely intimidated by him. The younger man returned his hands to Jim's shoulders, determined to touch him.
"You know, I was way beyond mortified back at the hotel when I came onto you and you freaked on me. Thought I had it all wrong, that you weren't interested. Hell, I figured you weren't even into guys and I was lucky you hadn't decked me. But then when you saved my life, the way you looked at me, like you were just so relieved and happy that I was all right, I began to think that maybe I hadn't been so mistaken after all. And then when we were in the kitchen just now, I knew. You want me just as much as I want you. It's just that for some bizarre reason you don't think you can let yourself have me."
"I can't have you, Blair. I can't," he declared, trying to pull free again.
But Blair held on for all he was worth. "Yes, you can, man! You can. If you want it and I want it, that's all it takes. That's the green light. Go for it!"
"Stop it! Just stop it! We can't do this."
Blair shook his head vehemently. "You've got it all wrong, Jim. From what I've seen of whatever this is that's developing between us, we can't not do this."
Anger and desire collided in Jim's blood stream, burning away the last vestiges of cold. His skin felt hot now, his pulse throbbed in his neck, and his cock, which he'd thought he'd cold-showered into submission, began to take a renewed interest in the man standing before him. Out of desperation, he shoved Blair, more forcefully than he would have if he'd been thinking clearly. Blair stumbled backwards a few steps, only managing to stay on his feet by catching the wall.
Jim watched, frozen, as the young man nearly fell, a sick, sinking feeling riddling his gut. That's it. That did it. He's not going to want me now that he's seen what a prick I can be. That'll be enough to drive him away, like all the rest. There was a detached, critical part of Jim that thought this was probably for the best. The rest of him collapsed under the weight of an enormous regret, more sad, more sorry, more heartsick than he'd ever been in his life.
The last thing Jim expected was for Blair simply to regain his balance and get back in his face, grab his arms, hang on to him, shake him with all his strength, still determined to make Jim see it his way.
But that's exactly what he did.
"Do you want to fight?" Blair asked, his face red, his expression urgent. "Is that what you really want? To hit me? 'Cause I don't think it is. I know that's not what I want. So how about it, man? How about going for what you really want for a change?"
Jim gripped Blair's shoulders so hard he knew he must be leaving bruises, but the last thing he had the strength to do was let go. He stared into the younger man's face, searching it, for something, for answers, even though he realized he would only find them inside himself. He began sorting through all his swirling, torrid emotions, and he did find something urgent and frenzied and extreme, but it most definitely was not the urge for violence. He wanted intensely, but not to hit Blair, not to hurt him. He wanted... He needed...
Jim's mouth found the answer for him, pressing itself against Blair's, opening those abundant lips, making himself at home there. Kiss Blair. I want to kiss Blair. And he did, thoroughly, repeatedly, breathlessly. And Blair kissed him back, with an equal appetite, filled with just as much need. Seemingly of their own volition, Jim's arms wrapped themselves around the strong, warm body plastered against his. Mmmm. Yeah. I want to hold Blair. And Blair returned the embrace, just as passionately.
The towel around Jim's waist had begun to loosen, and before he could stop it, it slipped from his hips and fell to the floor. When he was naked and could feel the cottony press of Blair's semi-clothed body against his, the hard heat of Blair's erection, even through his sweat pants, searing into him, he knew what else he wanted. He began frantically to tear at the young man's shirt, pulling at the drawstring, pushing down the clothing with hands made clumsy with desire.
Fortunately, Blair seemed to want, to need all the same things, and he helped Jim get his clothes off, shimmying his own pants and boxers down his body, kicking them off. Jim loosened his grasp just long enough to let Blair finish undressing, but when the clothes were gone, he tightened his hold again, hissing aloud at the electrifying sensation of naked skin against naked skin. Oh, my God! The little needy sounds pouring out of him unleashed something in Blair, and he began moving and undulating against Jim like something possessed, his hands and lips and body pressing everywhere, setting Jim's skin on fire.
Jim's knees trembled, and he suddenly felt too weak to remain standing. He wrapped an arm around Blair's waist, holding him close against his side, and led him over to the sofa. He lay down, pulling Blair on top of him, and they went back to consuming one another. Blair's mouth and hands roamed over Jim's body at will, licking and kissing and sucking him, biting and marking tender flesh, teasing and stroking all the most sensitive places, making Jim writhe beneath him, begging for more.
Jim returned every sensual favor, running his hands all over Blair's body, exploring his back, his belly, the soft skin on the insides of his thighs, his furred chest, his hard, responsive little nipples, causing Blair to cry out as he toyed with the silver hoop threaded through one of them.
The more they kissed and touched and gave to each other, the more the barriers between outside and inside collapsed for Jim. All the things he'd long desired but resistedand so many, many other desires he never even suspected he hadbegan welling up to the surface, taking on a life of their own, demanding expression in the world. He found himself spreading his thighs for his lover, making a place for him, hooking one leg over the back of the sofa and propping up the other on the coffee table, offering what he'd never given anyone, ashamed even when he touched himself there.
It had been one thing to accept that he was gay and quite another to deal with this...this urge to be taken, possessed, penetrated, filled. All the other guys he'd been with had believed the bluff of his exterior and had just taken for granted that he would be the aggressor. They'd just expected that he'd take them, possess them, fill them, never once suspecting that he wanted to experience all that for himself.
But Blair did not appear even remotely surprised. He knelt on the sofa cushions between Jim's splayed legs, ghosting his hands over his chest and belly and thighs, tenderly, worshipfully. "Oh yeah, Jim. Is this what you want, man? Is this what you need?" he asked, lightly circling his thumb around the opening to Jim's body.
Jim could only manage a small, strangled sound in the back of his throat as Blair touched him there, the noise affirmative and insistent, still tinged with a little shame that this was what drove him totally wild, that there was anything he needed this badly.
Blair shook his head, seeming to understand without being told. "Oh, no, man, no. It's okay to want things, to need things. Whoever told you it wasn't, they were wrong, Jim. We all want something. I want to do this," he said, stringing a line of dry kisses, soft as petals, along the inside of Jim's leg, from knee to the crease of his thigh. "And this," he said, repeating the gesture on the other leg. "I need this," he murmured huskily and pressed a light, chaste kiss to Jim's opening. "And this," he whispered and began to make love with his mouth to Jim's most private place.
Under Blair's insistent, erotic ministrations, Jim could feel his body opening, the walls inside him crumbling, all the need and want surging out.
But his lover didn't stop.
"Blair, please! I want... I need..."
That finally got the young man's attention, and he lifted his head.
"Yes," Jim said, his muscles trembling, his insides aching.
"Okay. Okay, Jim," Blair murmured, but then he began to move away.
Jim grabbed his wrist. "No!"
Blair caressed his hands, easing his grip. "I'll be right back. Right back. Promise. Trust me?"
Habit made Jim need to stop to think about it, but he finally nodded and released his lover. Blair was true to his word, racing into his bedroom and quickly hurrying back.
He settled between Jim's legs again. "Just had to get the condoms and lube, man. I want to make it good for you, and I need to keep you safe."
Jim heard the pop of the tube, and then Blair's hands were on him once more, fingers stroking his center, gently pressing inside. He tensed at first, more out of habit than anything else.
"Shhh. It's okay. Just let go. I'll take care of you," Blair crooned to him, and he began to relax.
Blair's fingers moved deeper inside him, twisting, stroking, opening him.
"Let it go, let it go," Blair murmured.
Jim whimpered, the most needy sound that had ever come out of him.
Blair changed angles and stroked a place inside him that felt like he was touching fire.
"Ahhh! God! Blair!" Jim screamed. "Do it again. Please, please."
"Oh, yeah, baby. Yeah," Blair said, his voice as smooth as a caress.
Blair's fingers massaged that magic spot, and Jim's cock, lying on his belly in a puddle of his own cum, jerked and quivered with each touch.
His lover just kept stroking inside him.
"I need..." Jim tried to say.
"What, lover? What do you need?"
"What do you want, Jim?"
"I want you to fuck me! Now!"
Blair smiled and gently withdrew his fingers. "All you ever had to do was ask."
Jim's chest heaved up and down with excitement, anticipation and a little fear. He watched Blair rip open the foil packet and roll the condom onto his erection, liberally spreading lube all over himself.
"I want you to fuck me," Jim repeated, trying to convey something important with that, although he wasn't entirely sure what.
Blair's eyes darkened, and Jim thought that he must somehow, miraculously have understood. "I'm going to fuck you and so much more, Jim."
With that, Blair pushed inside him, and finally, Jim felt the lifelong emptiness beginning to recede.
"Yes, more. More, please," Jim chanted.
But Blair wouldn't be rushed. He eased inside Jim little by little, careful not to hurt him, until finally his balls rested against Jim's ass and they were fully joined. Blair pulled back onto his knees a little and began to move gently inside him.
"So good," Jim told him. "So, so good."
Jim started to reach for his cock, but Blair pushed his hand away.
"That's mine," the younger man warned him.
Blair set a steady rhythm, thrusting neither too fast nor too hard, making it last. He moved up on his arms and rounded his back, taking Jim's cock in his hand.
"I promised you more," he told Jim. "And I always keep my promises."
With a degree of flexibility Jim would not have guessed was possible, Blair leaned all the way over and took his cock in his mouth. Jim moaned out loud. It was too much, too perfect, a complete connection. Blair was in him, and he was in Blairthe way he somehow knew it was meant to be. He thrust into Blair's mouth, and Blair thrust into his ass. He felt singed by joy, every nerve ending in his body alive and awake and erupting with heated pleasure. It was awkward and even a little difficult to get it right at first, but as they approached orgasm, they found their rhythm, moving together in mutual need, bringing each other to trembling fulfillment. Jim came in his lover's mouth, and Blair swallowed his cum, happily, greedily. Then it was Blair's turn, and he came inside Jim, his whole body shaking, screaming his head off.
After it was over, Blair managed to remove the condom, and then he collapsed on top of Jim, sated, worn out, exhausted from what had proven to be the most eventful day of his life. Jim felt weirdly calm, as close to peace as he'd ever come. He wrapped his arms around Blair's back, twining their legs together, stroking his lover's hair. There was something light and fluttering moving against his ribs, and he thought, quite possibly, that it might be happiness.
"That was so good," Blair murmured groggily against his ear. "So good."
Jim pulled him closer.
"Tomorrow... Tomorrow, you do me, okay, man?" Blair said, already beginning to fade. "Then you can tell me what's been going on with your senses, huh? Thought I forgot, didn't you? But I didn't. Never forget important stuff..." Blair trailed off.
Jim shook his head. Somehow, he suspected Blair was going to prove more than a handful. He fell asleep with a smile on his face.