Chapter 17 - Guarded

Corbin waved at Karen as he left the coffee shop, and she rewarded him with a vigorous wave of her own. It was only 1 PM on Monday afternoon, and he felt bad about leaving early. But Paul called him early in the day. Shortly after Paul got off work Chad contacted him and asked if we could all get together tonight, up at Paul's.

Paul could sense something was up. It wasn't like Chad to do anything without planning it. He said as much to Corbin when they spoke this morning, and now the blonde man was curious too.

Corbin thought perhaps Chad was accepted to the Boise Police Department. That would be step one on the ladder to his dream of detective. Corbin didn't voice his suspicion to Paul, but he did wonder.

He got into his truck and smiled. It was a beautiful day. The sun shined, and the temperature was a bit over 60 F. People were out and about, finishing up their lunches and hurrying back to work. He looked at the scene, content and happy.

The smell of smoke from last week's fire was gone. A well-timed rainstorm moved through the area and quenched what had become an 8,000-acre fire. Corbin was thankful Paul didn't have to go back into that inferno. And even better news, the two injured men were going to pull through. Both would need surgery and recovery, but they would be okay.

He started the truck and he made the short drive to Albertsons. He was in charge of getting something for an early dinner. Chad and Mia were due over at 3 PM, and they were going to eat sometime after that. Which is why Corbin needed to leave early today.

He decided on baked chicken thighs, with roasted vegetables and brown rice. Along with the food he bought a couple of bottles of white wine. And while he stood in the checkout line he snagged four dark chocolate bars.

He paid for his items, then was back in the truck. He was to head straight up to Paul's. The firefighter already had Zampa with him, and the chickens were fine in their coop and run. So Corbin had no responsibilities waiting for him at home.

He drove out of town and soon pulled up in front of Paul's home. He got out, and Paul came outside. The fireman wore a smile and Zampa trailed close behind him, right on his heels. "Hey, Corbin." He moved to help with the groceries. "Here, I'll take one."

"Hey, Paul." As Paul leaned to take a bag Corbin stretched and kissed the bigger man. He smiled at Paul. "Did you and Zampa have a good day?"

"Oh yeah." They walked to the house. "Though we were a little lazy. We didn't get up till 8. It's easy to stay in bed when you've got a little furry heater snuggled up with you."

They entered and Corbin unbagged all the food in the kitchen. "Sounds like a nice way to start the day to me." Corbin glanced down at Zampa. She stared up at Paul with an attentive expression on her face. Corbin pursed his lips. "You know, I think she believes you're her mom."

Paul looked down at Zampa. "You think?" His voice went up an octave. "Am I your mommy, Zampa?" He bent and scooped her up. "Oh, she's getting bigger!" He put her up in her normal place, over his shoulder with her front paws hanging down his back. Sure enough, she did look bigger. She was now the size of an average housecat. But judging by her paws, she had quite a bit of growing left to do.

Corbin eyed Paul and his ward. "So, how's Zampa gonna go over with Chad?"

Paul sighed. "I'm gonna come clean about her." He scratched the lynx's head and her eyes squeezed closed under his hand. "At this point, she's attached to us. And she will be until it's time for her to go find a territory."

Corbin looked thoughtfully at the very happy cat. "She might decide this," Corbin waved his hand over the room, "is her territory."

Paul smiled hopefully. "Maybe."

While Paul played with Zampa Corbin put their future dinner together. He placed chunks of carrots, large pieces of sweet potato, turnip, and something he loved - peeled sunchokes on the bottom of the roasting dish. He tossed it all in olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Then the leftover marinade went into the bag with the chicken thighs. He put the meat aside to sit, and he started a timer. He'd get the oven started in 50 minutes, and the baking would begin when it was up to temp.

He washed and dried his hands, then looked into the living room. Paul sat on his couch, and he gently stroked Zampa. She lay, sleepy and content. Corbin watched as her eyes slid shut. And now that he had stopped making noise he could actually hear her purring from the kitchen.

"Wow." He shook his head. "She has got a crazy motor." He walked into the living room and looked down at the two of them.

Paul grinned. "I know." He patted her gently and he stood. She lifted her head, and blinked lazily at him, then she settled back for a nap on the couch.

Corbin licked his lips. "You know," he put his hands on Paul's hips and pulled the tall man in against his own, "it looks like the baby's asleep for a while. And we won't have company for almost an hour." He grinned. "Maybe we could get some time to ourselves?"

Paul laughed softly and he rubbed his crotch back and forth against Corbin's. He could feel Corbin's penis as it hardened up through his jeans, and his did the same. "Mmmm … that sounds nice."

Corbin led him by the hand into the bedroom, and he pulled Paul down into a kiss. It started slow, gentle, and each of them smiled at the other between kisses. But as their clothes came off, they became more insistent. Both of their expressions changed, as lust took over.

Paul pulled away, and his eyes sparked with desire. He lay back on the bed and Corbin climbed on top of him. They were cock to cock, Corbin ground his hips and the men kissed.

Corbin breathed heavily. His hips had a mind of their own, and he continued to writhe against the furry body of Paul under him. He rubbed his face against Paul's neck. "If you ever want me to screw you, all you have to do is say the word." He pulled on Paul a little, bending the tall man's leg which forced one hip up off the bed.

Paul frowned. And then he sat up, which forced Corbin to roll off of him. "I … I'm sorry." He shook his head. Corbin watched his face, and there was an obvious discomfort, and pain there. Paul glanced at his eyes, then looked back down. "I don't know if I'll … I don't know if I can do that."

Corbin sensed a painful moment, that till now, lay buried. "It's okay." His voice was understanding, and he rubbed Paul's head, which was down. "Paul." He moved his neck so he could see Paul's face. "It's okay."

Paul frowned. "Sorry." He exhaled. Then he gave a rueful smile. "I don't mean to be a wreck. Not what you signed up for."

Corbin knew there was a story here. And he hoped with time and trust Paul would reveal what bothered him.

Instead of pressure, Corbin smiled back at him, then pushed Paul so he lay on his back. "I signed up for Paul." He climbed back on top of him and his voice dropped to a whisper. "All of him." Corbin's hips began to move again, and the blonde man's face went back against Paul's neck. "If I ever feel the need to screw, then you'll just have to let me do this instead." He ground his pelvis into Paul's, and soon they were both slippery with their own natural lube.

Paul's eyes closed, and he breathed through his open mouth. His arms circled around Corbin, and his callused hands rubbed up and down the smaller man's back. "Deal." His voice was deep and strained. He felt Corbin's teeth tentatively scrape his neck, and Paul began to pant.

The fireman squirmed, and his arms tightened around Corbin. "Ah, god. Keep going." Corbin slightly increased the speed of his hips, and he bit down on Paul's neck. Paul groaned and his jaw worked. Then he let out a long, deep moan and Corbin felt his release as it smeared between them. Corbin kept going, and Paul breathed in staccato gasps as he got off.

Once Paul stopped moving Corbin sat up on his hips, and took his own cock in hand. He stared down at Paul's face, as he lay in an orgasm-fueled stupor, and Corbin stroked himself with a firm grip. It didn't take long. He grunted, and a rope of semen landed on Paul's belly, and then another couple in his pubic hair.

Corbin finished with a shudder and he sighed contentedly. Paul stared up at him, and a smile touched his lips. The fireman reached up and put his hand on Corbin's face. "You look so hot when you're getting off."

Corbin grinned. "Well, you do too." He leaned over so his nose was only a few inches from Paul's. "And you also twitch like you're having a seizure." He grinned.

Paul laughed. "That only happens when it's really intense." He smiled broadly at Corbin. "It was definitely intense this time. I love those teeth!"

Corbin kissed him quickly, straightened, and threw his leg over the side of the bed. "I noticed!" He looked over his shoulder at Paul as he got up. "I'll remember that for next time." He winked. Paul smirked and waggled his eyebrows.

They showered and dressed. Shortly after that Corbin's alarm sounded, and he started the oven so it would pre-heat. Only a couple of minutes later they heard the sound of Chad's truck as they pulled up into Paul's gravel parking area in front of his house.

"Hey, guys!" Paul greeted them at the door, and he cast a glance over his shoulder at Zampa. The bobcat slept on the back of his couch, and the company was not important enough for her to rouse herself.

Chad appeared at the door and he smiled at Paul. "Hey, homo." He grinned and he hugged Paul. The fireman quickly slid his hand down Chad's back to rest just above his ass, and the smaller man immediately yelped and tried to escape.

Paul released him and laughed while Mia shook her head. "You were asking for it." She smirked at Chad who glared at Paul.

Mia hugged Paul, and he stood aside so they could both enter the house.

"Hi Cor … oh, my god!" She put a hand over her mouth and pointed at Zampa. The bobcat came slightly awake at the excited voice, then turned her face down and put a paw over her eyes. "Is that a lynx?!"

Chad stood in the living room a few feet from the couch. He looked at Zampa, then he slowly shook his head. "Paul … what the fuck?"

Paul smiled, a painful, all teeth expression.

Corbin walked around into the living room and held up his hands, as if in surrender. "It's my fault." He proceeded to tell them the story of how he found Zampa, and what they had done so far to raise her.

When he finished Chad shook his head again. "Wow. Okay." He rubbed his face and eyed the bobcat. She slept through his scrutiny. He started to say something, decided not to, and gave another shake of his head. "You know, I'm just … I'm just gonna pretend she's a big housecat." He nodded to himself. "Yup. Big housecat. And I don't know any better."

Paul grinned at him. "Thanks, Chad." He patted his friend on the back. "She's actually pretty sweet."

Corbin snorted. "She's sweet to YOU. She tolerates me."

"That's a cat for you." Mia laughed.

The oven chimed and Corbin went back to the kitchen while the three in the living room caught up a little. He put the marinated chicken on top of the veggies in the roasting dish, and he slid the whole thing into the oven. Then he closed up and set the timer for an hour.

He joined Paul, Mia, and Chad, and they all took seats. Zampa woke, stretched, and she climbed down Paul's front to curl up in his lap. He stroked her, and then he looked expectantly at his friends. "So … what's up, guys?"

Chad looked over at Mia, and his face cracked into a smile. She laughed at him. "Go on. Tell them."

He took a breath and he turned back to the men. "Mia's pregnant." He beamed. "I'm gonna be a dad."

Paul was on his feet instantly, and Zampa woke with a start as she jumped off. "Oh my god! Congratulations!" He pulled Chad to his feet and crushed the small man in a hug. Then he repeated the treatment on Mia. They all laughed, and Corbin smiled along with them.

"Congratulations, both of you!" Corbin gave them each a hug. He grinned. "You're gonna be great parents."

Mia took a deep breath. "Man, I hope so. It's just a crazy thing to even think about." She looked over and grabbed Chad's hand. "But we're as ready as we're going to be." Chad nodded at her. It was obvious they had planned this. "I'm only 3 weeks along. And we found out over the weekend." Mia looked conspiratorially at Paul and Corbin. "We wanted you guys to be the first people we told."

Paul's expression was happy and emotional. "Thanks for sharing with us." His voice was rough, and he cleared his throat. "It means a lot to me."

Mia pulled him into a hug and patted his back. "You mean a lot to us." She closed her eyes and smiled while Chad rolled his eyes behind Mia's back. Paul guffawed at him. Mia turned and glared at Chad, and he danced out of reach.

They settled back down and Zampa again ended up on Paul's lap. She even let Mia pet her. Corbin eyed the little beast with a frown. The friends talked for the next hour while their dinner cooked. After the oven chimed Corbin plated their food, and they sat down to a simple but great meal.

As he watched them interact over dinner, Corbin couldn't help but smile. He was now a part of this little group. He belonged.

'I've done it.' He blinked, and with a startled moment of happiness, he let the realization settle into his mind. 'I have a life again.'
A few days later, and it was Friday, early in the evening. A set of dark eyes peered through a pair of binoculars. In the light of the setting sun, he could see the two men from his vantage point, a ridge over. He saw them pack a blue pick-up, and after a few trips, the men climbed inside.

He watched as they drove away, and headed west on the highway. He picked up his phone. 'Marks are on the way to you. Inform when they arrive.'

The text returned quickly. 'Will do.'

He nodded to himself, then leaned against his black jeep and continued his language lessons on his phone. If his estimate was right it'd be about 80-85 minutes before they arrived so he settled in. That actually suited him fine. He was behind in his lessons, and that Esperanto wouldn't learn itself.
Corbin got out of the truck and stretched. They made the drive to Trinity Hot Springs in a little less than an hour and a half. There was still daylight, and he looked around the grounds. As he did a trim, 30-something brown-haired man approached them with a smile.

"Hello, gents. I'm Harlan, and I'd like to welcome you to Trinity Hot Springs." He looked back and forth between them, his brown eyes curious. "I trust you have reservations?"

Corbin nodded. "Yes." He dug into his travel bag and handed over the proof of reservation for both he and Paul. "I'm Corbin, this is Paul. We'll be here till Sunday morning."

Harlan examined his papers. "Perfect." He looked up again, and he seemed to register that the two of them were together. Corbin saw him process this information.

Harlan continued smoothly with only the barest of pauses. "Okay. Your cabin is ready, and I'll show you there." He walked them past a clear, steaming pool of water to a group of cabins, and he stopped at the one in the middle of a group of three. "You've got the best of the lot." He smiled and opened the door. Then he handed over a couple of keys. "Here is a key for each of you."

Corbin and Paul entered the room and Harlan lingered at the door. The man seemed to carefully observe them. Corbin looked around the cabin and couldn't help but smile. The inside of the space was furnished with wooden furniture, rugs on a wooden floor, and there was a gas fireplace with a thick, plush rug right in front of it. He could see a bedroom down a short hall, and a kitchenette adjoined the living space. Paul walked around and nodded to himself with a smile. Corbin turned and nodded at Harlan. "Thank you. This is going to be great."

The man nodded. "Good. If you gentlemen need anything, let me know. I'm personally responsible for this group of cabins and their occupants. So, by all means, utilize me during your stay. Also, the hot spring just outside is GREAT right now. Perfect temperature." He smiled, and if Corbin didn't know better there may have been a little lewdness in it. "As you noticed when you came in, it's also currently empty." He inclined his head. "Have a good night."

Harlan left and closed the door gently behind him.

Corbin turned to Paul. "Well. We're here on forced vacation. Might as well relax."

Paul shook his head and smiled. "I wanna take this thing off." He pulled his .357 out of its holster under his jacket. "Sounds like we're going to be in the hot spring at some point. Wanna trade gun duty? You take yours along, and we'll leave it in a pile of our clothes, and I'll do the same next time?"

Corbin nodded. "Yep. Sounds good." He grinned. "Okay, let's get changed into some trunks and go check that spring!"

The men left the cabin and made their way the short distance to the pool of slowly steaming water close by.

Harlan stood in the shadow of one of the buildings and watched them as they exited the middle cabin. They eased into the water and he pulled out his phone. 'They're here and settled. Commence.'
His phone buzzed and he looked at the message. Jenoah smiled. The young man got into the Jeep and he drove down the dirt road that led to this vantage point above the valley below. He got to the highway, drove east a bit, then turned down Corbin's road.

He pulled up to the cabin and he went to the door. Jenoah tried the key he had been given. Sure enough, the lock clicked open and he smiled. Corbin hadn't changed the locks and the copy the realtor made of the key still worked. That meant he wouldn't have to use his picks. At least not here. He entered, and got to work.

A half-hour later he was done. He closed up the cabin, then he drove back to the road. Up the ridge to Paul's house he went.

This one was harder. He had to work carefully to avoid scratching the metal of the doorknob around the keyhole. But he was very well trained in this task, and he had the best tools. After about 5 minutes the lock surrendered and he opened the door.

Another thirty minutes of work and he was done at Paul's. After he ensured all in the house was as it should be, he locked up and drove back into Hailey.

As he drove Jenoah had a smile on his face. Afterall, he had a date with Bruce.
Stefano was DEFINITELY tired of busses. He got as close to Twin Falls as he could using the bus system, then he rented a car and drove the rest of the way there. He used one of his aliases, and he was very careful to avoid direct camera shots of his face. Still, the process left him nervous. If the FBI cast a wide net on video surveillance around Hailey then it was possible they would review footage of him.

Still, it couldn't be helped. And he was so close. He also had a spot to land in Hailey. But it wasn't quite time to move into the town yet. Almost. But not quite. So it was another motel room and another assumed name.

Stefano immediately set up his computer and MiFi card. It was 7 PM on Friday night, and if he wasn't mistaken, the job should be done. That is, barring any sort of problem.

He sighed and tapped his foot as his computer booted up. He was impatient. Soon the computer had started and he logged in. On his own secure wireless, he started the iSpy program.

The screen went through a few versions of black and gray as machines came to life, then the monitor lit up into four different views from four cameras. Two showed a rustic cabin. One view was from the back wall of the kitchen and looked into the living room space. The other was from a high corner in the living room and looked down toward a bar counter that split the rooms. He looked at the other pair of views and saw a similar set up in what must have been Corbin's friend's home.

Stefano tweaked a few settings and soon the cameras were set to turn themselves on whenever there was sound in the rooms. Their video files would dump into a thumb drive attached to each individual camera. He could view the active feed through the cell signal enabled cameras, but it drained the batteries quickly. So he would have to cut the cell transmission after his test.

He nodded, happy. He picked up his phone. He debated if he should risk contact. He tried to remain analytical about his decision, but emotion and the need to communicate directly with his son overrode his caution. It had been two years. And that was too long.

He tapped out a message, 'My son. I've missed you. And soon, this nightmare will be over. Thank you for your help this evening. All is working, and all is well.' Before he could change his mind he hit send.
Jenoah sat in Bruce's small apartment, and the two men laughed as Bruce stumbled through his Italian lessons. The two of them had just finished with a quick, late dinner, and Jenoah had designs on having some Bruce for dessert.

Jenoah frowned as he felt his phone vibrate and he pulled the machine from his pocket. His eyes widened, and he immediately felt an overpowering emotion as he read the text from his father.

"What's wrong?" Bruce looked at Jenoah, obvious concern on his face.

The young Italian breathed, caught off-guard. He scrambled to save himself. "Ah, family from old country. A cousin died."

As Bruce offered his condolences Jenoah quickly texted back. 'Much love father. I will do whatever I must to assist you.' He blinked and tears streaked down his face. He hit send and slipped the phone back into his pocket. As Bruce embraced him, Jenoah's resolve hardened into a diamond. He knew the enemy. And he would go to war for his father.
Timothy sighed as he stripped for bed. He had spent a good … no, a FANTASTIC evening with Karen. After his day at the Forestry office he just … hung out at Hailey Coffee Shop with her until she closed up. It was a little weird because she was babysitting a bobcat which was super unhappy and in a crate in her office.

But even with the cranky cat, she was so … well, happy.

"And beautiful." He whispered.

He shook his head and grimaced. He knew he needed to step back from the emotional attachment he was starting to form with her. But it was so EASY to like her. The way she looked, and smelled, and acted. Everything about her was amazing.

He frowned down at his crotch. His cock stuck up through the waistband of his boxer briefs. "And attractive. Obviously."

He lay down. They had not done anything physical other than kiss. But wow … that set off fireworks in his brain. And it seemed to do the same for her. She thought he was being a gentleman, by keeping things as chaste as they had been. But in reality, Timothy didn't know if he could keep his distance if they did much more.

"Okay, think about somebody else." He reached down and his hand slipped past his waistband to grip his dick.

He stroked, and invariably his mind landed repeatedly on Karen. He would refocus, only to find her face in his mind.

He neared his finish. A few moments later he got off and he moaned, half in frustration and half in release.

He lay there, hand down his shorts and sighed to himself. "You're in fucking trouble, idiot." He stripped his wet boxers, threw them on the floor and rolled over.

Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts on the chapter at the following email address link.   Wayne Gray

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