Chapter 14: Family
Author's Note: I was never happy with how this part of our story ended. I hope this little chapter helps button things up a bit for the tale. Thank you for reading.
'It's okay.' Bailey barely had time to sign before Harlan once again embraced him. The brown-haired man seemed to be at some limit, and now, as they stood beside the serene and babbling Smith River, all Bailey could do was hold him.
Finally, Harlan breathed, and he pushed back to look at Bailey. His face was streaked with tears, and he stared at Bailey with an expression of surrender. Harlan bit his lip, then he laughed and shook his head. "What do you want to know?" He shrugged. "I'll tell you. I'll tell you anything you want to know."
Bailey looked back at him. A dozen questions rolled through his mind, but he settled on one. 'Can you promise you won't leave?' Bailey smiled. 'That's all.'
Harlan blinked. "Really?" He wiped his face. "That's really all you want to know?"
Bailey could feel an iceberg of secrets under Harlan's surface, and he knew Harlan truly believed that he was protecting him. So, Bailey made a decision. 'Yes. I trust you.'
Harlan laughed, the sound tinged with disbelief. "I don't, I don't understand what I did." His eyes filled with wonder and he looked over Bailey's face. "I don't know what I did to get to have this time with you." He put a hand on the back of Bailey's neck. "But, yes. I promise. So long as you want me, I'll be here for you."
The men pulled close, and Bailey's mind lit up as they kissed. This time it was sweet, gentle, and it lingered, like the warmth of a sunbeam on skin.
They slowly pulled back, and Bailey smiled, his hand on the side of Harlan's stubbly face.
Harlan grinned at him, then he sighed. "I appreciate your trust, Bailey. But, before you decide you want to be with me, I need to have you meet someone."
Bailey frowned. 'Who?'
The next day found them in Idaho. The trip from the airport was almost two hours; luckily, a car had been sent, and the men got to relax in the backseat.
Harlan watched Bailey as they rode through the rural landscape. Once they arrived in town, the mute man sat up, taking notice of where they were and the surroundings. Harlan was impressed with Bailey; he didn't ask many questions. Instead Bailey displayed his trust, and he was content to wait until they arrived.
The car pulled up to a two story building in Hailey, Idaho. It was just around six p.m., local time. The air was cold and crisp, and as they got out of the car, Bailey blew out a breath simply to watch it swirl in a white plume in the air.
Harlan grinned at him, and he walked around the car. "Come on."
Bailey smiled and stepped over next to Harlan. Harlan's arm went around Bailey's waist, and the guys walked up to the door.
Harlan knocked, and it opened to reveal the man himself.
"My Don." Harlan dipped his head slightly to Corbin. Then he looked at Bailey. "This is Bailey." Harlan's eyes were bright as he stared at his lover. "And he is the one I have chosen." Harlan appeared a little nervous.
Corbin smiled broadly. "Good to see you again, Harlan." He turned his blue eyes on Bailey. "Hello, Bailey. It's so nice to meet you."
The men shook, and then Harlan translated as Bailey signed. "He said, 'it's good to meet you too.'"
Corbin nodded politely, then led them inside out of the cold air of the Idaho winter. "Are you hungry?" The smell of cheese, pasta, tomato and garlic permeated the large, open room of the restaurant.
The place was completely empty, save for a pair of well-dressed servers framing a doorway leading into the kitchen. Both, Harlan recognized. He inclined his head at the men. Paul and Jenoah returned the gesture, slight smiles on their faces.
Corbin motioned at a table already appointed with three place settings. "If so, I thought that we could discuss things over dinner."
Bailey's belly rumbled when he thought about food. He smirked and put a hand over his stomach. Corbin laughed. "I don't need a translator for that." He glanced at the servers. Jenoah, the dark-haired, brown-eyed young man of the pair nodded and disappeared through the doorway. "Please, sit. Rest."
Paul appeared tableside with a bottle of wine. Before they even sat the fellow had poured a measure for Bailey. As he took his seat, he smiled in thanks, and settled in. Harlan made a face as he looked around. "My Don, is the restaurant not open this evening?"
"Typically it would be, yes." Corbin smiled. "But, I closed it to all others tonight so that we could have our discussion."
Harlan blinked. It was a huge expense to simply close the building. He knew it was a display to show how important this conversation was to Corbin. The Don of the Reina already knew how to drive his points home without ever having to say them aloud. "Ah, I see." He cleared his throat. "Thank you."
"My pleasure, Harlan."
Corbin and Harlan both took their seats. He waited for their wine to be poured, then Corbin took a sip. He sighed in satisfaction and smiled up at the tall man with the wine. "Thank you, Paul."
The bearded fellow nodded. "Of course, my Don."
Corbin stretched, willing Paul to meet him. With a grin, Paul obliged and they kissed sweetly. "See you a bit later."
"Yes, you will my Don," Paul said, a tiny note of mirth in his voice. He left the room with the empty bottle.
"Now." Corbin interlaced his fingers on the tabletop. "Harlan has brought you to me for a reason."
Bailey thought he knew what was going on. 'I am to be judged? You are to judge me for suitability, because you are Harlan's true boss?' He hesitated, then continued to sign. 'Because, his work is dangerous, and it matters who he lets into his life?'
After Harlan translated, Corbin smiled. "Harlan's work is important, and sometimes, yes, it is also dangerous." He leaned forward a bit, his eyes locked on Bailey's. "But you are not here for me to judge you. If Harlan has chosen you, then I trust that he has made a choice I can abide."
Bailey's confusion showed. 'Then why am I here?'
Corbin motioned at Harlan. "I'll let him answer that."
Bailey turned to him and Harlan nervously wet his lips. "You're here because … well, because I can't ask you to be a part of my life without you knowing."
Bailey smiled. 'I trust you. I don't need to know everything.'
"I'm glad, but you do need to know - at least some." Harlan nodded slightly and reached for Bailey's hand. "You're not here to be judged, Bailey. You're here to judge me."
Dinner was exceptional. Bailey had eaten his fill, and he now sipped his third glass of wine.
"So, now you understand what Harlan is a part of." Corbin sat back in his chair, his gaze on Bailey. "It was important to Harlan that you know, and frankly, it's important to me as well. I know you're not legally bound to one another, or seeking such - yet. Before that could ever happen, Harlan had to do this, so that you know what it is you're getting into."
Bailey considered. 'You have undertaken no illegal activity since becoming…' Bailey wrinkled his nose as he tried to find a substitute for the word "Don". '...since becoming boss of the Family?'
"My Family has colored within the lines of the law," Corbin's eyes slid over to Harlan and the tiniest smirk crossed his lips, "mostly."
In his attempt to be as transparent as he could, Harlan had already told Bailey of his breaking and entering in order to help Rayne. Bailey grinned at Corbin's jab at Harlan.
"I don't have an interest in flouting the law. I don't see that changing unless justice deems it necessary. Because they are not always the same thing." Corbin spoke as honestly as he could.
Bailey drew in a deep breath. He looked at Harlan, who stared down at his hands. Harlan's thumb idly turned the silver ring of the Reina on his right hand, and a sheen of sweat had gathered on his brow.
Turning back to Corbin he began to sign. Harlan's eyes raised to watch so that he could translate. As he took in what Bailey signed, Harlan's face went slack, and his Adam's apple moved as he swallowed.
"He, ah." Harlan shook his head and chuckled.
"What?" Corbin leaned forward. "What'd he say?"
Harlan looked at Bailey and smiled. "He said, his ring size is nine."
Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link. Wayne Gray
And thank you for reading!
If you'd like to be on a list specifically for notification of updates to my stories onThe Story Lover's Home, email and let me know. I'll add you on. Click on the following link Update List.