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Riley grabbed the bars of the headboard and arched his body into the touch. It was so dark. He didn’t know if the darkness was because it was night, or if he wore a blindfold. In the midst of overwhelming pleasure, he found he couldn’t bring himself to care.
Other than the mouth on the bare flesh of his chest, teasing his aching nipples, there was no touch to his body. Had he given in to a male or female lover? His mind wouldn’t concentrate enough to allow him to either remember or find out. A bite, just hard enough, made him arch up again, whimpering at the delicious sensation that burned through him.
Finally, a hand stroked at his hip. How he wanted to see whom that hand belonged to! Its touch didn’t help with identification, as it seemed to be covered by a glove of softest silk. Riley tried to twist, to bring his throbbing hardness into the touch, but the anonymous hand held him in place. The pressure of the torturing hand didn’t feel very strong and he didn’t understand his inability to move.
“Please, touch me! Please! I need…you have to…”
Riley didn’t know how much more he could stand. His entire body cried out for satisfaction, sweat dripped from every pore under the cruel torture. The most wonderfully cruel torture that increased as the mouth wandered down his chest towards his navel. Muscles clenched and quivered, anticipating each caress, desperate for more.
He couldn’t feel anything but smoothness where the chin made contact with his skin, so he determined his lover was female. The span of the fingers around his hip was wide, indicating the breadth of a man. Confusion reigned until Riley decided he didn’t care if the anonymous figure was man or woman, or even one of each. All he wanted was for them – for one of them? – to help him find his release.
The low groan when the roving tongue encountered the pool of pre-cum on his stomach finally answered the question of gender. The person touching and arousing him to previously unknown levels was definitely a man. A man Riley admitted was quite knowledgeable in the art of making love.
Having that confirmation had an unexpected effect on Riley. All his pleasure receptors seemed to freeze up, one by one. It came about gradually, unnoticed by his partner until that one hand left his hip and moved around to his ass. As soon as the fingers began to dip into his crease, Riley launched himself to the side, rolling away with a shout of fear.
The impact with the floor brought Riley awake and he lay there for a moment, blinking in confusion. What the hell? It was only a dream. He waited for a moment, lungs laboring to draw breath and skin tingling with arousal, before reaching up for the clock. Damn, he’d only slept for an hour. He remembered now coming home from the meeting with Jacob, and seeing Sara kissing Derek on the street, and falling straight into bed. Cursing and wincing at the slight pain from hitting the floor with his elbow and hip, Riley decided to get a start on opening a file for the Baxter investigation.
He plugged in his earphones and booted up the laptop, settling in at the desk in the living room to begin one of the lists he lived by when working. In spite of the realism of the dream, Riley refused to dwell on it and on what it might mean. It meant nothing. Dreams didn’t always have to have some deep meaning that needed to be investigated and analyzed, he reassured himself. They simply were, even if they left him achingly hard in spite of the less than arousing ending.
Sara Ward slid into the apartment later that Saturday afternoon and looked around. Riley was sitting at the desk in the living room, headphones on as he listened to music while working. She sighed and walked over to him, gently laying a hand on his shoulder to announce her presence.
He darted a quick look in her direction before saving his work and pulling off the headphones. “Hey, I wasn’t expecting you.”
“I’m so sorry about earlier, Ry. If I’d known you were going to be there, I would never…”
“It’s all right. I should have known that kind of deception wouldn’t work for long. It was nice of Derek to go along with it at all.”
Sara went to start fixing their dinner and Riley followed her. They’d been rooming together since he started working for her father’s agency and they quickly became fast friends. He tried, in the beginning, to keep his distance, but she was very nice and he soon found himself confiding in her.
If there was one thing about Sara, it was that she didn’t pull her punches. She told him straight out that he acted like an emotional girl towards Blue. She agreed that Blue hadn’t used the best judgment, but he hadn’t deserved the way Riley treated him. Her favorite word was ‘communicate’. There weren’t many problems or disagreements that couldn’t be solved by both parties being willing to talk them through.
Riley was actually surprised when Sara agreed to pretend to be his fiancée when he called her after seeing Jacob walking along the sidewalk. She promised casino oyna to meet him there and act the part, and he’d been happy to see her during his conversation with Jacob. When he asked her about it while they drank their coffee, Sara said that it was his decision what to tell others of his sexuality, and only for that she would help him out.
“What were you meeting with him again for, anyway?” She placed a plate of Irish Stew in front of him and poured out some wine.
“He’s the lawyer from Foster, Delaney and Foster I have to work with,” he muttered, still having trouble believing his luck. “I lost my temper with him when he said that a private investigator should be ‘…big and bulky. It can be a dangerous job and a person has to be able to handle himself in any kind of risky situation that might come up’. I almost walked out, but decided against it and things weren’t too bad afterwards.”
“He said that, did he? I wonder what his reaction would’ve been if I’d been assigned that case!”
The two of them laughed as they imagined it and dug into their meal. It was their custom not to talk about anything work-related while eating, so they discussed recent movies and where to go out that night. Riley spared a private thought for the work he needed to get done, but decided he would make more progress on most of it if he started fresh Monday morning.
His thoughts turned to Jacob while he dealt with the dishes. He remembered how his breath caught in his chest when he realized Jacob was about to kiss him. If the man had kept quiet, Riley was certain that he would have returned the kiss without a second thought. Thankfully for him, Jacob had to say he was beautiful. It was like a splash of cold water to know his looks alone had attracted Jacob. When would he learn?
It wasn’t until later that Riley realized he was just as guilty of going by appearances as Jacob was. Well, maybe not precisely appearances, but Riley certainly hadn’t given a thought to Jacob’s motives when he’d moved close. No, all he’d thought about was the way Jacob’s eyes were drawing nearer, revealing that they weren’t quite brown at all, but a mixture of brown and gold. His thoughts were consumed by the image of broad shoulders and long-fingered hands.
After the incident with Hunter, Riley had gone to see a therapist, just as he told Jacob. He wanted help to find a way to make sense of what went wrong. Was there some way to ensure he could connect with a person, without being afraid? Were there signs he could look for to keep his heart safe? In that respect, the therapist, Janet Montgomery, hadn’t helped very much. Instead, she wanted to focus on his self-image.
She asked him why he wore the green silk shirt for his appointment that day. Her question baffled him as he looked down and considered. Riley wasn’t sure what she wanted to hear, but told her he liked the shirt, had many green shirts because people told him it was his best color. That particular shirt was his favorite and he wore it often.
When Janet pointed out that he took care of his appearance, choosing a color people complimented him on, he simply stared at her. Riley understood what she was trying to say, but it wasn’t the same. Yes, he wanted to look good, but that shouldn’t be the only consideration when someone wanted to get to know him better. There should be at least some interest in the person behind the clothes, he insisted. She countered that interest had to start somewhere. Many times clothes sparked interest when you saw someone across the room. Other times, when you had time to sit and talk to someone, their opinions and sense of humor could capture attention. It all depended on the situation.
Riley wasn’t sure what to make of all that. He pretended to accept what the woman said but he’d simply shunted it off to the back of his mind. From time to time, Riley found himself thinking over her words. He understood up to a point, he really did. Sometimes, however, the first impression people got wasn’t changed with prolonged exposure. Just like Hunter.
Hunter had talked with him, asked his opinions and supposedly valued what Riley had to say. Riley believed Hunter took him seriously. In the end, it was a lie, a pretense used to lure Riley into a relationship that benefitted them both in very different ways. For Riley it was love; for Hunter it was convenience.
Enough deep thoughts about things you can’t change, Riley told himself. It was still early, but he went to his room to pick out clothes for going out later that evening. He passed over his many green shirts and sweaters and chose a rather ugly brown shirt, with pink snaps up the front, given to him by his grandmother a few years earlier. There, nobody could say he was putting himself in the best light. It wouldn’t be easy to explain to Sara why he was wearing the damned thing, but it was something he needed to do.
Riley frowned and went over his notes and files while waiting for Jacob to join him for their Tuesday meeting. He deliberately got to canlı casino the coffee shop early, needing this time to organize his thoughts and have a little something to eat.
Nothing about the case made sense. Every time he thought he might be making some progress, something new came up to confuse the issue. He wondered if maybe he was doing something wrong. This kind of thing had never happened to him while investigating someone. Another glance at the papers and computer screen in front of him convinced him that he did everything right but the results weren’t what anyone might expect.
Riley looked up when the door opened and immediately he stared at the sight of Jacob in a suit. He’d obviously just come from the office and the tailored cut of the black pinstripe almost made Riley drool. Damn the man looked fine! Realizing that he was being taken in by appearance, Riley forced his eyes back onto the screen in front of him to save the file. Everything he needed to share was printed onto paper, and he didn’t need his laptop out during the meeting.
“Riley, it’s good to…to see you.” Riley hid a grin at the way Jacob had to force himself to continue. He knew that his oversized red shirt with a ripped black tee underneath wasn’t the most fetching outfit he could have worn. “I’ll get myself a coffee before joining you and we can get down to business.”
Jacob went off to the counter and Riley spent a pleasant moment imagining the reaction when the man got a look at his stained jeans. He knew he was being childish. They were supposed to be working together on this case, after a fashion, not annoying each other. Still, there was nothing wrong with a little fun. The results of his investigation came back to mind as he prepared Jacob’s copy, which brought the frown back to his face.
“Is something wrong?” Jacob looked a bit worried as he took his seat opposite.
“It depends, I suppose, but I’d have to say yes.”
They both waited until they were each holding a copy of the file before going on. “Okay, so tell me what you’ve found, and what you think is wrong.”
“I’ve followed the information Mr. Baxter gave on Mr. MacCready. There are one or two things I’m still waiting on, but what I do have leads me to only one conclusion.”
“And that is?”
“Your Mr. MacCready is a ghost.”
“I beg your pardon?” Jacob looked over at his companion with raised eyebrows, clearly surprised by the statement. “Are you telling me that Shane MacCready is dead?”
“No, I’m telling you that unless the two inquiries I’m waiting for are different than what I’ve already found, Shane MacCready doesn’t exist. Look at the address, imagine where it is and you’ll see part of what I mean. I didn’t catch it either until I did an actual search.”
It was clear when realization struck. The street in question was not residential. In fact, the small dead-end street only had four warehouses lining it, two on each side, and ended at a high fence separating it from the old train tracks. Not to make any assumptions, Riley drove out for a visit after conducting the search, just to be sure someone hadn’t converted one of the warehouses into living quarters.
He went on to point out the other discrepancies to the lawyer, who looked progressively more confused. The telephone number belonged to one of the town’s florists, who had never heard of anyone by the name of Shane MacCready. The place of employment existed and they were very helpful, but again, they had no record of anyone by that name ever working for them.
A search of the SSN database brought up information on Shane MacCready, but he was a seventy-year old man who lived in Fort Myers, Florida his entire life as a dentist and painter. That Mr. MacCready definitely couldn’t be Baxter’s old school chum, since he’d finished up with school long before Baxter was even born.
“So,” Jacob commented once they’d gone over all the information. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes to think things through a moment. “So, Baxter’s been lying to us.”
“Not necessarily, no, but it is one possibility. The other possibility is that the man he knows as Shane MacCready lied to him. It would be strange, however, for someone to have a false identity even in college where they’re supposed to have met. Not impossible, but unlikely.”
“You said you were waiting for answers from some other inquiries. Might I ask what they are?”
“I contacted the college here in Rutherford to request any information on a student named Shane MacCready for a span of 12 years, including the years Baxter attended. I also have a contact at the SSA, who will work with our elderly Mr. MacCready to see if someone else is using his SSN. That might help us out.” Riley gathered up his files and thought of something else. “Maybe you could get Baxter to describe MacCready to a sketch artist or something. I can then show the picture at the work address and florist shop, maybe get another name that way.”
Jacob nodded and made a note on the file. Riley caught the flickering kaçak casino looks from Jacob’s not-quite-brown eyes and knew the man wanted to ask about Sara. What was he going to say? He couldn’t admit that they never were together. That would make him look pathetic. If he didn’t, though, he probably had to pretend to be heartbroken. Not easy to do, especially since there was a good possibility that Jacob would see them together if they worked on this case for any length of time.
The only logical thing to do was to be truthful and look pathetic. God, he didn’t want that. He didn’t want to have to explain anything. It would give Jacob power over him, a kind of control he didn’t want to give up to anyone. Of course, nothing said Riley had to admit that the deception was only for Jacob. The truth was…the truth was…Riley sighed deeply and finally admitted the truth to himself. The truth was that he was attracted to Jacob and that scared him.
“I wonder if…um, is everything all right with you?” Jacob looked a little uncomfortable as he voiced the question Riley was waiting for. “I mean, after what happened on Friday and all.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Look, Sara isn’t my fiancée. We have an understanding to have people think she is my fiancée but the man you saw her with yesterday, Derek, is her real fiancé. He knows about our arrangement and doesn’t mind. I find it easier.”
“Then that whole thing about being straight now is just something you say?”
“I didn’t say that,” Riley disagreed. “I’m not interested in pursuing men for any kind of intimate relationship. I also meant what I said, about being happier with Sara. We share an apartment and share our lives, if not in the way I intimated.”
He saw the frown on the other man’s face and decided to leave anything else unsaid unless specifically asked. What he did with his life was nobody’s business but his own. The events of a year ago, not with Blue but with Hunter, meant he could not trust his judgment with men. He’d been so sure that Hunter wanted to get to know him and thought of him as an equal, only to be proven wrong. Dreadfully wrong.
A young woman on the other side of the coffee shop waved at him as his eyes travelled around. He considered for a moment before returning her wave with a small smile. She was pretty, and even if he had no interest in her, he felt it necessary to at least be polite. It surprised him to see a faint blush stain her cheeks as she returned her attention to the book in front of her. The knowledge struck that if he went over and asked her for a date, she would likely say yes. It startled him and he quickly found himself staring down at the papers in front of him.
Oh my God, Riley thought to himself, slightly horrified at the revelation that came to him in that moment. He now knew that he didn’t ever want to have to take the lead in a relationship. Asking someone out, doing the actual wooing – if people actually used that term anymore – was too scary a thought. Did that make him, in fact, a twink?
Jacob was watching him with concern, but Riley needed to concentrate on his train of thought and excused himself to go to the counter for a muffin and some coffee. Sara had berated him on believing an old stereotype, as bad as people who believed that all gay men simpered and lisped around, wishing they could dress up in fancy dresses. Yes, some were like that, but certainly not all. Being a twink did not mean a person wasn’t intelligent. It had to do mainly with body type than anything else.
He’d learned more about being gay from Sara, who had a gay brother and cousin, than he’d picked up on his own. Looks didn’t correspond to intelligence, as he’d always feared, or lack thereof. Personally, Riley believed that many did keep to the older stereotypes but didn’t say that to Sara for fear of incurring her wrath.
So, what would Sara say to him about this new revelation? That he was…that he was made to be submissive. Distaste swept over him. Yet, at the same time, there was a slight thrill beneath it. He knew he wasn’t submissive in an I’ll-go-find-a-leather-clad-Dom kind of way. He was a submissive who desired someone to take care of him. Yet even that didn’t completely fit, since he had taken the initiative with Hunter and pushed the issue of sex.
Resolved not to think about it anymore, he searched for something to talk about with Jacob. Only one thing came to mind that didn’t have to do with anything personal.
“Can you tell me more about this case you’re working on? Maybe some details will make things clearer while I’m involved in this search. I will understand if you can’t talk about it, though.”
“I don’t mind talking to you about it, as long as it isn’t here in public. Probably no one would listen in, but I’m not willing to take that chance. We could go to my place or my office. Your place or office would do as well.”
Jacob finished off his coffee and watched Riley through his lashes at the same time. Riley didn’t seem to know quite what to do, as he examined his fingers and chewed on his lip. “I guess we could go to your office, which is the closest, depending on where you live. At the same time, you can maybe have someone see about a sketch artist to visit Mr. Baxter.”
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