Chapter 6 - Guarded

 Corbin held the strange little phone against his ear.  "Tell me what happened," Harris said calmly.

Paul sat back down on the couch and watched Corbin as he spoke on the phone.  The blonde man swallowed and rubbed his face. Paul could see the stress and the worry.  'I wish I could help you.' Paul thought. He didn't even know what was wrong, but helping people was what he did.  His whole life was built around it. And here was someone he liked, who obviously struggled with something.

Corbin took a breath.  "I told someone about Liam."  He grimaced. "And Stefano." He licked his lips.  "It … it was an accident. I wasn't thinking clearly."  He added quickly.

Harris was quiet a moment.  "Okay. Is this person someone you trust?"

His eyes focused sharply on Paul's handsome face.  The tall man sat and looked back at him - attentive, concerned, curious.  "Yes. He … saved my life today."

"Saved your life?  As in literally?" Harris' voice was very concerned at this.

"Yes."  Corbin quickly relayed what happened to Harris … minus the sexier bits.

"Well, that sounds like someone you can certainly trust Corbin."  He said gently. "I know you're afraid, but you can't avoid connections with other people.  If you do it makes you stand out MORE. We talked about this."

Paul continued to observe him.  The struggle on Corbin's face was plain.  He was still naked and stood a few feet away, one arm folded across his chest, and his shoulders slumped forward.  His belly and groin were both a little shiny and slick from their moment only a few minutes before.

Paul drank the younger man in with his eyes.  Corbin was pale, lean, and Paul could barely see the fine blonde hairs scattered on his skin.  His belly hair became a treasure trail that led to his slightly darker pubes. They looked like he used to trim them, but hadn't for a while.  He was circumcised and looked to be about 5" soft. Paul certainly knew it worked well. Physically there was nothing about Corbin he didn't find alluring.

"But …" he inhaled, "but Stefano said …" he shook his head, "No this isn't about me.  It's about Paul." Corbin looked at the firefighter when he said Paul's name. "I can't risk him."  His eyes now held something close to determination. "I can't risk Stefano hurting anyone else because of me."

Harris sighed.  "Stefano has no idea where you are Corbin."  He was quiet a moment, and Corbin knew he was thinking.  "'Paul' … I heard that tone in your voice when you said his name.  This isn't just a friend."

Corbin closed his eyes, sighed, and put his head back.  "He's my neighbor and a friend. But I had a weak moment."

"Good!"  Harris said.  "You have to stop trying to be an island.  I'm telling you, it calls attention, it makes people wonder."

He took a breath.  "I just don't want anyone to get hurt."  Corbin's voice was almost so quiet Paul didn't hear him.

"I know,"  Harris said, his voice patient.  "But your new friend is already involved.  I don't think you should feel badly about that.  And I'll tell you why."

Corbin glanced at Paul, and then went over to sit beside him on the couch as Harris spoke.  Paul smiled slightly at him. He didn't know exactly what was going on, but things were beginning to fall into place as he listened to Corbin's side of the conversation.

Harris continued.  "Stefano hurt you. But that was when you were in his arena.  He controlled the game. There was no way to stop what he did to Liam.  This is different. You have me looking out for you. That's my JOB. And Corbin, I'm not going to fail you.  What you've done for the country means the FBI is committed to your safety." His voice softened. "And the safety of anyone you pull into your sphere."  He was silent a moment. "You need to get on with your life. If you don't then Stefano has won, and you might as well be dead. Do you understand?"

Corbin leaned forward and propped his head in his hand as he sat.  Paul gazed at him, then reached and gently put his hand on Corbin's back.  The smaller man inhaled at the contact and tried to calm himself. He felt like a war was going on in his mind and his heart.  "I don't think …"

Harris interrupted him.  "What would Liam want you to do?"

Corbin frowned with emotion.  "Harris … that's … that's not fair."

"What's not fair is how you're slowly killing yourself.  Nothing is going to happen to you or your friend, so long as you're careful.  I know you. You're smart. You have good instincts. You're going to be fine.  And it's time." Harris paused and his voice softened. "It really is time. Okay?"

Corbin let out a big breath of air and then he took in and let out another.  He felt better … not great, but better. "Okay. So what's next."

"Well, you should probably talk to your friend.  If you feel he can be a confidante, then reveal what you feel you should.  The events that happened in the past are no longer privileged information because all prosecution has occurred - hell, most of it was even in the papers.  Well, with the exception of Stefano. But there's nothing you can reveal that will derail his prosecution once we find him."

Corbin nodded and glanced at Paul.  "Okay." He reached and wiped away a lonely tear that had escaped.  He actually smiled a little at the fireman. Paul rubbed his back. Till today Corbin hadn't been touched in an affectionate way by another person for two years.  His body craved it, and Paul's hand felt nice. "Thanks , arris."

"You're welcome.  Call if you need anything.  I'll let you know if there are any updates on Stefano."

"All right.  Goodbye." Corbin hung up.  He closed his eyes, and Paul continued to rub the bare skin on his back.

He kept at it, and he smiled slightly at Corbin.  "You gonna talk to me?" The tall man asked. His deep voice was curious but there was also a kindness in it.

"I guess I owe you that.  It's why I didn't go into the other room to talk to Harris.  I know I owe you that." Corbin said quietly. Paul continued to gently pet Corbin, and his skin rose in chill bumps at his touch.  "I'm just not sure how to start."

It didn't appear Paul was going to stop stroking his back.  "Well, with all the snow outside I'm not gonna be able to go anywhere for awhile.  So how about at the beginning?"

Corbin took a breath.  "Okay. The beginning."


"My name used to be Corbin Reina.  I had the fortune and misfortune to be born into an organized crime family, a major branch that was based out of New York City.  But, at first, I didn't even know anything illegal was going on. A lot of the Family's business was legitimate, and that business blended with the illicit deals near seamlessly.  So to me it all seemed pretty normal. At least, for a while.

My environment was multilingual.  This is important … because this is what springboarded me into my eventual role in the Family.  I grew up around English, Italian, Spanish, German, and French - all spoken almost daily. There were always strange people mixing with the Family, and some of them spoke other languages as well.

By the time I was 9 years old, I fluently spoke the five languages I mentioned."  Corbin shrugged. "I'm a polyglot. A combination of natural inclination and opportunity started me on my path.  And it became easier for me to pick up others. I studied Portuguese on my own. And then, at the insistence of my family, I began studies in Russian."  He frowned. "Russian was hard, but I learned it." He smiled. "I had the best teachers."

Corbin glanced at Paul's face and looked for his reaction.  Paul appeared a little surprised … but he was not overwhelmed.  Instead, he was engaged, and when their eyes met he nodded in encouragement.

Corbin continued.  "There were many multilingual Family, but none could speak more than 3 languages.  So at the age of 12, I began translating. It became my role, my job for the Family.  I sat in high-level meetings between the Family and other organizations and was privy to MANY things a boy should never hear.  I quickly learned to pretend it never bothered me."

He stared at the fire as it crackled in the hearth.  It was the only light in the room, and it was now dark outside.  The snow still fell, and the wind blew outside the door with a muted howl.  "I lived like a prince. I had everything I could want. But, I began to hate my life.  By the time I was 16 I was depressed. Knowing every dirty secret, everything the Family did … it tore at me."  Corbin's lips quirked into a smile. "But … then I met Liam.

Liam was the son of one of the women who married into the Family.  So he was a part of us, but not blood. It meant he was treated with respect and protected.  That is, so long as he never tried to harm the various machinations happening around him. He wasn't privy to much, and … honestly, I tried to downplay what I did so he wouldn't worry.  He wasn't dumb, at all. But he seemed to sense he was a part of something he shouldn't question. And he didn't. A lot of the reason he was willing to do that is because of us."

His expression turned wistful.  "He was … god … he was beautiful.  Red hair, freckles, pale, green eyes.  Small and slim. Not handsome … beautiful."  He bit his lip. "We quickly became a pair. The family knew.  They didn't care. It didn't affect my work which is all they cared about, and it welded Liam's loyalty closer to the Family."  He smiled. "Liam knew I loved languages. And he wanted to learn one with me. Why he did this, I have no idea, but he picked a strange constructed language called Esperanto."  Corbin shook his head. "It was easy to pick up. Even Liam, who didn't speak anything but English caught on to it quick. And we would use it as sort of a silly little code with each other.

Over the next few years, Liam and I became a serious thing."  His voice dropped. "I … I had planned to marry that man. He was all I wanted."  He sighed. "But, a little over two years ago the Family was involved with a big real estate deal.  One that required the demolition of an old apartment building. It was one of the very few mostly wooden structures of its size that remained in the city.  The place was filled with rent-controlled apartments, and some of the tenants chose to stay, refusing to move. Legally, the owner couldn't make them. It held up the entire plan.  The Family was ... displeased.

Enter the Russians.  I was the only one who could speak the language, so I was at the table.  And the deal was struck. The Russians would burn the place to the ground.  The owner would get a huge payout in insurance money, and the Family would buy the empty lot - which is all they wanted anyway."

Corbin stopped to collect himself.  Paul saw him struggle and put his arm around his shoulders.  He tried to hold back, but he felt the tears start. "That's when my fucking conscience got Liam killed."  He shook his head. "I couldn't let all those people die. I couldn't. I called the FBI. I volunteered to be an informant against the Family.  I was a dream come true for them. They had been after the Family for decades. And I was suddenly an extremely valuable asset. For that reason, I was assigned my own handler, a man named Charles Harris.

I did this with no real thought about how it could go wrong for anybody but me.  I mean, I knew I could be killed. But … I never thought Liam …" he choked on his emotion, shook his head then pushed the painful thought aside with a breath.  "I continued working in my role, and reporting to the FBI. Slowly evidence built against the highest echelons of the Family. And the day of the apartment building operation approached.  By the time the Russians moved on the building, multiple agencies awaited them. They were all arrested, and a few confessed, giving up members of the Family, and further collaborated the information I fed them.

At this point ,I knew my days as a well-off criminal were numbered.  I was paid well by the Family for my work. And I shifted money from our offshore accounts into a cryptocurrency called Bitcoin.  It's actually surprising how easy that was. I spent about $400,000 on the cryptocurrency. I worried about how this would look to the Family, but I shouldn't have.  Many others had the same idea. Later, once I left guarded custody I would cash out all but a few Bitcoins and I ended up with over $700,000. I don't know what happened to boost the value so much, but it worked out.

Back to the Russians.  It was assumed they had been caught through their own incompetence.  But suddenly there was now pressure because of the confessions. This had the effect of putting all of us still free under scrutiny by the remaining leaders of the Family.  I began to truly fear for my life. And I told Liam to be ready to run. He knew about the pressure on the Family and he wasn't involved in anything illegal, but he trusted me.  He prepared a bag, and we had cash on hand.

A few days later the very next meeting for an information drop, I was told that my position was compromised and that I couldn't return to my home - an apartment I shared with Liam.  It was one of the few times Harris wasn't with the team that met me, and I think I surprised them when I had to be taken by force. He was the only one I trusted, and they were keeping me from Liam.  I was taken into custody and I begged for Liam to be picked up. Finally, a couple of the agents went to get him."

His face screwed itself into a pained frown.  "They were too late." His voice cracked. "He was killed by a man named Stefano - one of the Family's operators."  He shook his head. "I could never have imagined Stefano would do such a thing. He knew both of us. He was loyal to the family, but I thought he liked Liam.  I just … I didn't see it coming." Paul squeezed him reassuringly.

"The agents returned with the news.  I was … I was devastated. Then a few days later I was shown a text message that had come through on my old phone which was confiscated by the FBI when they took me into custody.  It said only 'I will kill everyone you care about for what you did. And then I will kill you.' It was tracked back to a number that belonged to Stefano.

While the trial proceeded I was under guarded custody.  Harris was always there. He … he kept me sane. He helped me in ways I can't even explain.  He's like a father to me in many respects. We moved a lot, never in the same place for more than a few weeks.  But he was there. This went on for two years. I testified here and there as needed, then I was immediately sent away to another new location.  Harris was always sent with me.

Then, finally the last of the legal proceedings on the family in custody were done.  I was given a new name and a few choices of where I wanted to end up. Knowing Stefano was still out there … I picked a place as rural, as far away, and as unlike my past environment as I could."  He smiled slightly. "Here." He wet his lips. "Guarded custody ended. Harris was sent back to his office in New York, but he remains as my handler. And he will, at least until Stefano is caught."

He took a big breath and let it out.  "And now you know. You know all of it."


Paul stared at him, and his mind turned over all of the information Corbin had shared.  Then his first responder brain automatically began to triage the information into various priorities.

"So, you're hiding from this Stefano guy.  Someone who will likely kill you and anybody around you should he actually make it here."

Corbin nodded.

"And you've got this guy … Harris.  An FBI agent as sort of a protector?  Someone who looks out for you?"

"Yeah."  Corbin bit his lip.  "He keeps an eye out for any word on Stefano's location, and if it looks like I might be in danger he will come to me.  Or send local law enforcement if the danger is immediate. So that means there's a deal with the local law, and they have pictures of and information about Stefano on hand.  If anybody local matches that description they let Harris know directly. At that point, Harris would tell them where I am, and send them to me."

Paul sat back and thought.  "I know the guys on the force here.  For a small town, they're good at their work."  He looked at Corbin carefully. "This is why you didn't want to get involved.  You were afraid I'd be a target."

Corbin nodded and stared down at his hands.

Paul's face slid into a lopsided smile.  "You know, anybody in public service… we all get threats.  We all have to assess how likely it is a threat will end up as a real danger."  Paul reached and gently turned Corbin's head so he looked at him. "And this guy … this Stefano … he sounds like a desperate guy.  Trying not to get caught." Corbin watched as his smile grew. "And I'm not afraid of a man who's running scared. Definitely not if he's in my neck of the woods."  His deep voice wasn't boastful, but rather quietly confident.

"But, if anything happened …" Corbin began.

"Then I've been warned.  And I know the potential is there."  Paul lifted his jaw and looked at Corbin with a bit of a challenge on his face.  "There's one thing you can say that will run me off. And that is that you're really not interested.  Tell me that, and you'll get no more pressure from me. We'll only be friends and neighbors. And I will keep your secret.  No matter what you decide."

Corbin frowned.  He again found it impossible to lie to the bigger man and he gave up with a groan.  "Paul … it's selfish as hell of me, but you know I'm interested."

Paul grinned, reached down and rubbed the still wet spot on Corbin's groin, just above his penis.  "Yeah, I was pretty sure." Corbin laughed a little, and Paul smiled down at him. He left his hand where it was, and Corbin quickly began to react to him.

"Ah … so what does this mean?"  Corbin really had no idea what Paul expected from him.  His cock slid across the back of Paul's hand as it stiffened up.  Corbin licked his lips and noticed that Paul's member was also filling out.  'Jesus he's hung.'

"Well, it means I want you to be open to the possibility of you and me.  I want to spend time with you, get to know you. And ... " he turned his hand and gripped Corbin's now erect dick, "I want us to have fun together."  At this point, Paul's cock pointed straight out as he sat on the couch and moved slightly to his heartbeat. Corbin really wanted to touch it.

"That … that sounds good."  Corbin reached and wrapped his fingers around Paul.  He moved his hand up and then down, and the foreskin slid back to expose the purple head of Paul's cock.  The tall man sighed, and a drop of pre-come oozed out of him.

Corbin stood up and straddled Paul's lap.  Paul's heavy dick pressed against his belly, and his own rubbed against Paul's hairy stomach.  Paul's arms circled around him and the two men kissed.

This was so different for Corbin.  He had always been the bigger one. Liam was a tiny guy, and Corbin liked that about him.  But now the overall experience with Paul made him realize he liked feeling the larger man's powerful arms, hairy skin, and the smell of his hyper-masculine scent.  It did something different to his brain, and he suspected he would come to crave Paul in a way nothing else could fill.

Paul's wide, callused hands ran up and down Corbin's back.  Paul's skin tingled, and he put his face against Corbin's neck.  He inhaled, opened his mouth and rested his teeth against Corbin's skin.  The man on his hips gasped, and Paul gently scraped the tender area with his teeth by moving his jaw and licked him at the same time.

Corbin made an incoherent sound.  No one had ever bitten him before.  He had no idea such a raw and animal act could hold such appeal.  It seemed to spark a different sort of desire in his mind, and he reveled in the sensation.  He was still trying to puzzle out why he liked it when Paul surprised him by standing up. Corbin's legs tightened around Paul's waist, and Paul held Corbin up easily in his arms.  Then he turned and put Corbin on his back on the couch.

"Ahhh.  Wait." He was afraid of the weapon Paul called a cock, and he was in the position to get screwed.  He was acutely aware Paul was far stronger than he, and a moment of panic flashed through his mind.

The fireman smiled down at him.  "I'm not going to hurt you." Corbin looked up at him, and the open and easy expression on Paul's face calmed him.  Paul pulled Corbin's legs from around his waist and then positioned him so his hips angled up and rested against Paul's thighs.  Their cocks were now close together, and Paul took them both in hand in a firm grip.

He began to stroke both of them, and he also very slightly moved his hips up and down as he did.  At first, Corbin's hand was on Paul's wrist, unsure what he intended. But then he lay back and let it happen.  It felt amazing, and a part of him loved that Paul was taking charge, and just … handling him. That was new to him as well.

Both he and Paul leaked precome, and soon Paul's hand was slick with it.  Corbin's eyes rolled back into his head, and he could hear Paul's breathing pick up.  "Ah. I'm gonna come Corbin." Paul tensed, and Corbin felt Paul's cock spasm as it released its load.  He grunted as it happened. The semen flowed down over both of them, adding to the lubrication, and Corbin joined him with a moan.

Paul continued stroking and finished them off.  Corbin lay there breathing hard.

Paul leaned over and smiled down at his face.  "I like touching you."

Corbin couldn't help but feel a little strange … as if he were cheating on Liam.  But, he couldn't deny that he liked Paul, and what had happened. He smiled back … though it melted as he thought about Stefano.  His mind was a jumbled mess of emotion. But right now the dominant one was concern. "Are you sure about this? I mean … taking the risk with me?"

He rubbed Corbin's head.  "You do realize, someone that unhinged?  He's not gonna wonder if we're connected or not.  He's just going to try and kill us both." He shrugged.  "See? Makes no difference if we mess around or not."

Corbin frowned.  "That makes me feel SO much better!"

Paul laughed.  "Good."

The two men got up and they cleaned themselves in the shower.  Afterward, they put on their long underwear, t-shirts, and wool socks.  The hearth had died down to a normal fire from the inferno Paul had built to thaw out Corbin, and the cabin cooled a bit.

Paul also looked outside.  The wind was still going, but the snow had mostly stopped.  Still, it was pitch black, and there were 6 inches of snow on the ground.  Corbin decreed Paul was staying the night. And the tall man didn't argue.

Corbin felt as if he were starving, and now he was weak with hunger.  Paul knew he needed calories, thanks to his extra chilly dip in the stream.  He offered to cook up some pancakes and eggs - something warm, lots of calories, and fast to make.  "Well yeah. You wanna cook, knock yourself out." Corbin grinned at Paul. And watched as he dug around for everything he needed in the kitchen.  He looked so sexy. The black hair on his chest poked out of the top of his t-shirt, his unruly hair was mussed up, and his long underwear couldn't hide the bulge at his crotch.

Paul caught him looking, but this time Corbin didn't look away.  Instead, he smiled, which was returned by Paul. He noticed that Corbin looked pretty tired, but also thoughtful.

"Feelin' okay?"  Paul started frying the batter for the pancakes, and they sizzled with a satisfying sound.

Corbin slowly nodded.  "Yeah. Hungry. But, I don't know."  He tried to put it into words. "I've not talked with anybody but Harris about any of this stuff.  It feels nice to have someone know what's going on. Someone to talk to." He eyed Paul. "You sure you're not weirded out by all of this?"

Paul laughed, his deep voice was so welcome to Corbin's ears.  "Oh, it's weird! But honestly, this place sort of attracts people who are looking to get away from something.  If you weren't born here then you're usually running from something. Not always. You could also have been a rich kid who wanted to try his hand at being a country boy.  So, the day you arrived I came over to find out which you were."

Corbin smiled.  "Well, I'm glad I could fall outside of your criteria.  Though I definitely meet some of the rich kid points. I couldn't even start a fire when you met me."

Paul laughed goodnaturedly, then he served up the two pancakes with a pad of butter and handed the plate to Corbin.  The smaller man took it gratefully and put a lot of maple syrup on. Paul watched him as he started to eat. He knew he needed the food.  "Still want eggs? Over-medium?" Corbin nodded and kept wolfing down the pancakes. "Okay, coming up."

A few minutes later Paul slid the eggs from the seasoned cast iron skillet directly onto Corbin's plate just as he finished with the pancakes.  Corbin didn't even look up and started eating the eggs.

Paul sat at the table and watched him.  After only a couple of minutes, Corbin finished and put the fork down.  He swallowed and stared down at the table. He looked up, almost tentatively.  "I'm sorry Paul." He frowned. "I didn't want to put you at risk."

"I'm a big boy.  Let me decide what risks I want to take."  Paul smiled. "All right?"

Corbin looked at him, and he thought back to what Harris said.  Then he slowly nodded. He breathed. "Okay." He looked so tired to Paul's eye.

Paul stood up and walked around the table to him.  "Come on. Let's get you to bed."

Paul sent Corbin to bed and he cleaned up in the kitchen then banked the fire.  That only took a few minutes. Next, he went to the bedroom and crawled in with the smaller man.  Corbin must have fallen to sleep almost instantly and he breathed in a steady, slow rhythm. Paul knew he still had recovering to do, and he resolved to let Corbin sleep as long as he could tomorrow.

He wasn't sure what came next.  But at least now Paul knew what the reason was behind Corbin's reluctance.  Everything sort of dropped into place in his mind, finally as it concerned his strange little neighbor.  He knew, regardless of anything else that he would keep Corbin's secret. Though now that he knew what was going on he may have to start carrying his .357 around with him.

He scooted up close and pressed himself against Corbin.  Paul sighed - it had been a long time since he had slept this way with another man.  And he could admit that he missed it. He put his arm around the smaller man and pulled up tight.  Corbin slept on, deeply tired, and in real need of rest. Paul smiled.

The wind howled, snow blew, and the fire slowly went to embers in the hearth.

"Night neighbor."  He whispered against Corbin's neck.  And Paul dropped gently off to sleep as he held Corbin in his arms.

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

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