Chapter 12 - Guarded

It was 7 AM on Saturday morning, and Paul was a free man.  The relief crew for the firefighters on duty arrived, and he left the fire station after the turnover.  They actually got to sleep through the night, so he was refreshed and he felt great.

He got into his truck and invariably his thoughts turned to Corbin.  He smiled and started the engine. Then he sat there and he texted his new boyfriend.  'Hey. Need anything from the store before I leave town?'

A minute later he got a response.  'Nope. Just you. Come see me.'

Paul grinned and felt a giddy sensation in his gut and chest.  'Okay. If you insist.' He put the machine in gear and made the drive to Corbin's road in good time.

As he pulled up into the roundabout he saw Corbin out near the south-west corner of his property beside the stream.  Paul's stress response kicked in and he immediately felt a tightening sensation over his heart. The last time he saw Corbin out there, he was trapped in the stream and had nearly frozen to death.

He parked, got out of the truck, and walked quickly over to the smaller man.  Corbin looked like he was busy, and he carefully checked the depth of the stream with a long pole.  He turned when Paul drew close to him.

"Hey!"  He smiled broadly at Paul, then his expression fell away as he noticed the tall man's face.  "What? What is it?"

Paul swallowed, reached out, and pulled him away from the edge of the water.  "I don't like seeing you here." He frowned. "Last time you were over here, it wasn't good."

Corbin laughed a little and he smiled at Paul.  "But, I have to work on my property." He could see the fireman wasn't happy about it.  "Look, there's no snow. No ice. AND …" he showed off the new hatchet on his belt, "I'm equipped for chopping little leg trapping tree limbs!"  He tried to make the tall man smile.

Paul set his jaw.  He knew Corbin was right.  He knew Corbin needed to be able to work on his land.  He took a breath and was still unhappy. "Fine."

Corbin put his arms around him.  "Hey." He looked up into Paul's eyes and squeezed Paul reassuringly.  "I'm fine. Really. But thanks for worrying about me."

Paul smiled a little.  "Well … it's my job now, boyfriend."  He bent and kissed Corbin, and forgot a bit of his earlier fear.  Paul pulled back and looked at the stream. "You about done over here?  If not I'll wait for you to finish."

Corbin shook his head and laughed.  "Really not gonna leave me unsupervised, are you?"

Paul folded his arms over his chest.  "Nope."

Corbin chuckled.  "Okay. I'm done then.  Let's go inside." He wrote down his measurements and the two men entered his cabin.

He had a nice fire going.  It was now early May, but the mornings were still cold, and it stayed chilly for some time.  Corbin closed the door and smiled at Paul. "You eaten breakfast? You hungry?"

Paul made a sad face and rubbed his flannel-covered belly.  "Not eaten. Very hungry."

Corbin laughed.  "We can fix that."  He walked into the kitchen.  "Pancakes, bacon and eggs?"

Paul grinned.  "Yeah!" He sat on the couch and began the task of removing his boots.  "Need me to help?"

"Nah.  I've got it."  He began making Paul's breakfast.  After he removed his boots Paul wandered into the kitchen.  He stood behind Corbin and put his hands on the smaller man's slim waist.  Paul pressed himself against Corbin and sighed.

They both reacted to the contact.  Corbin cleared his throat. "You feel nice back there."  He concentrated on the pancakes in the skillet and tried not to burn them.

Paul didn't answer.  He only rubbed his bearded face against the back of Corbin's neck.  Chill bumps rose on Corbin's skin. He shivered. "Dear God, you need to stop."  The smaller man laughed and adjusted himself. "You're distracting me!"

Paul grinned and kissed the back of his neck.  "All right. I'll just stand here." Paul shifted his hands, and they slid into Corbin's pockets.

The blonde man inhaled when Paul's fingertips rubbed up his stiff shaft from inside his pocket.

"Paul …"  He managed to get the pancakes onto a plate.  "You are NOT just standing there."

"I can't help it."  He groaned. "I've been thinking about you for DAYS now."  His hands moved again, and this time Corbin's belt and pants were undone.  "Now that I'm here with you, I just … I need you." The blonde man had the presence of mind to turn off the stove.  Paul moved him to the counter beside the appliance and turned him around.

The men kissed.  Paul held the back of Corbin's head in his strong grip.  Their tongues slid over one another's in steadily increasing passion.

Corbin pulled back.  "Your breakfast can wait.  We need to be naked. Come on."

Corbin led him into the living room and the two of them stripped.  "Stay here." He kissed Paul, then disappeared into his bedroom. He returned, an open sleeping bag and a bottle of lube in hand.

Paul grinned and helped him lay the sleeping bag down on the floor in front of the fireplace.  Corbin looked at him, his gaze lustful. "Lay on your back."

Paul lay down, and Corbin straddled his hips.  The smaller man leaned over and kissed him. His rear slid against Paul's groin, and the tall man moaned around Corbin's mouth.  The fire crackled in the background and threw a comfortable, welcome heat over them both.

Paul's hands ran up Corbin's back, then back down and settled at his waist.  Both men worked themselves into a breathy desire, and Paul pushed up with his hips to force his cock against Corbin's backside.

"You've broken me."  Corbin breathed, his forehead against Paul's.  "I've thought about you screwing me for two days."  He sat up, took Paul's dick in his hand, and rubbed a generous amount of lube on him.  Then he did the same to his ass.

"I've thought about screwing you for two days too."  Paul moved his hips around, and Corbin helped him get into position.  Once there Corbin looked down at him and nodded.

That now-familiar pressure began, and Corbin concentrated on relaxing.  This time, it went in with a little less force and a little less pain. Paul watched his face and rubbed his body with his hands.  "You're so sexy. You know that?"

Corbin smiled down at him.  "I don't. But, thanks for saying so."  The blonde man had no idea what Paul saw in him, but he wasn't going to question it.  His body relaxed enough, and he let himself slide down a little more. Paul swallowed and fought the urge to buck his hips up into Corbin.  Instead, his hands continued to roam over his lover's tight stomach, chest, and up his ribs.

Over time Corbin was able to settle completely on Paul's hips.  He grinned at Paul. "Okay. Easy at first." Paul nodded. His hands circled Corbin's slim middle and he pushed up.  Paul groaned and Corbin's eyes rolled back. "Guh. Oh, fuck." His cock began to leak and dribbled fluid down his shaft.

"Tell me if I hurt you,"  Paul said, and he repeated the motion.  Both men moaned. Corbin began to stroke himself, and Paul started a slow rhythm.

Paul's hands moved up and all over Corbin.  The blonde man marveled at how gentle Paul's rough hands could be.  They lingered on his chest, and Corbin drew in a sharp breath when Paul flicked his nipples with his thumbs.  Paul grinned up at him.

Corbin let his head loll back and his mouth hung open.  He had to stop stroking himself. He was going to get off with very little stimulation from his hand.  Paul stared up at him, and his hips continued to move.

Paul licked his lips, and frowned.  The firefighter stopped moving as he tried to stave off his orgasm, then he made a desperate noise. "Shit.  I'm gonna come." His grip tightened on Corbin's hips, and he pushed hard, up and into the smaller man. His release began with a flood of sensation, and he grunted as his orgasm wracked his body and mind.

Corbin stroked twice and semen shot from him to land in a streak across Paul's neck, below his beard.  The rest landed on his chest, and stomach, matting itself into Paul's body hair. Corbin's head was still back, mouth still open, and his eyes rolled in his skull.

They both finished.  Cobin looked down, then got a head rush and wobbled.  "Whoa." He blinked, his head was down. He pressed on Paul's chest to steady himself.  "I almost passed out." He continued to blink and laughed at himself.

Paul laughed.  "Almost? Damn.  I would have loved to be able to claim I knocked you out from screwing you."  He joked, but he also reached to hold on to Corbin.

'I've got you.'  Paul thought and looked up at Corbin.  He looked down at Paul, a half-smile on his face as he rode out his vertigo.  'God, you're beautiful.'

Corbin recovered and he stared back.  He sat there on Paul's hips, and those blue eyes seemed to bore into Paul's soul.  "I like being with you."

Paul pushed back on a groundswell of emotion.  'No no no. You can't lose your shit. Not allowed man.'  He conquered it and nodded. "Me too." Somehow his deep voice was steady.

Corbin smiled, and the two of them separated.  They cleaned up and took a shower, then both threw on their underwear and a t-shirt.

They made their way back out to the kitchen, and Corbin continued his appointed task of breakfast for Paul.  They chatted, and Paul watched him from the kitchen table.

As Corbin prepped his plate Paul licked his lips.  'It's way too early for this.' He thought as Corbin turned with the plate.

"I heated the syrup since we let the pancakes get cold."  The blonde man smiled, and Paul forced himself to return the expression.

"Thanks."  Paul looked up at him as he brought the plate over to the table.

Corbin slid the plate in front of Paul, and Paul continued to stare up at him.  His expression was almost one of a man who was lost and couldn't quite find his way.

Corbin looked and then smiled down at him.  He leaned down, put a hand on Paul's black mane, and very gently kissed him.  As they kissed the fireman struggled.

'What do I call this?  It's too soon for the only word I have.  What do I call this?'

The kiss ended, and he had no new answers.


Shortly after he finished breakfast Paul went to his place.  His goal was to clean up and to prep the hot tub for their little party.  It would take hours for it to warm up, so he was going to start the fire around 9 AM.  By the time of the party, the water should be nice and toasty. He was also in charge of a simple green salad.  He wasn't a big salad guy but even he could manage to get that done.

He was eager to see Mia's reaction to the tub.  Mia was one of the most interesting and fun people he knew.  And he was thrilled when Chad dated, and then married her. She was an RN at St. Luke's Family Medicine Clinic, and Paul enjoyed her company greatly.  Chad and Mia were perfect for each other.

Paul hoped things would go smoothly between Corbin and his friends.  He was a little worried about Chad. The man had a natural curiosity that Corbin might find to be a little much.  He mentally prepared himself to be watchful, and ready to run interference if he had to.

But he was optimistic.  Every one of them was a good person.  And his view was good people will ultimately get along.  There may be bumps in the road, but they'll get to a good place eventually.

He picked up his place a bit, and he started a small fire in his wood stove to warm his little home.  Though his house was small it was well designed. And he could host up to six folks easily. Eight if they didn't mind dancing around one another.

He smiled as he went about his chores, and he kept an eye on the clock.  Though it was early it would be time before he knew it.

His smile grew into a grin, 'I can't wait!'

At 11 AM Corbin scrubbed, washed, and wrapped 8 big potatoes in aluminum foil.  In with each potato, he put a generous dose of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  And he stabbed the skin of all the potatoes many times with a fork to avoid a build-up of pressure under the skins.

Into the oven they went.  He DESPISED underdone potatoes.  So he turned the heat to 400F and they baked for an hour and a half.  Conventional wisdom said they'd be done in an hour, but in his experience that wasn't always true.  So the extra ½ hour made him feel better.

Once they finished he removed them, let them cool a bit, then put them into a wicker picnic basket he found at the thrift store.  He covered them with an old clean dishcloth and set them aside. Next, he prepped all his various toppings. There was a pile of them because he loved choices.  He had meaty chili, sour cream, two sticks of butter he cut into pads, a small jar of capers, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped onion and chives. Lastly he chopped up some cooked bacon.

He took all his toppings and put them into ceramic ramekins.  Then plastic wrap went over the top to seal them in.

He looked over his assembled food.  "Okay. I think that'll do it." Paul was in charge the salad, while Chad and Mia were to bring a couple of bottles of wine.  He checked the time, and it was just after 1 PM.

He checked his baby chicks in the second bedroom.  Their temperature was good, and they had food and water.  They lay sleeping all over one another and eating. The ones awake turned their heads to look up at him.  He nodded, happy with their situation. Then he loaded up everything, and he drove up the ridge to Paul's place.

Paul heard the engine, and he went out to the porch.  His grin was visible to Corbin as he crested the hill and drove up.  The tall man walked over as Corbin parked and got out. "Hey, I'll grab the basket.  You got the rest?" Paul asked and grabbed the wicker basket.

Corbin picked up the box he packed all the ramekins into.  "Yep. Need any help with anything here?"

"Nope.  We're ready to go."  The men carried the food and went inside.

Corbin took the potatoes and put them all in the oven.  He turned the oven on the lowest setting, at 180F, just to keep them warm.  It was now about 1:15, and as he straightened from the oven he felt a little trepidation.  'God, I hope they like me.'

Paul caught the look that flashed across his face.  He came into the kitchen and put his arms around Corbin's waist.  "You okay?" Paul looked down at the smaller man. Corbin only smiled and leaned against him - his head on Paul's chest.

"I'm fine."  He laughed a little.  "I just want them to like me."

Paul squeezed him.  "They will." He rubbed Corbin's back as he held him.  "Chad is sort of protective of me … but he'll see you're a good guy."  Paul sighed. "I would never say anything, but I wish I could tell him about how you risked your life to save a bunch of people you didn't know.  When you went to the FBI about your family."

Corbin smiled against his chest.  "I know you won't say anything. And I know that's hard since he's your best friend.  So, thanks for being someone I can trust." He swallowed. "I don't have many people I can trust, Paul."

"Well, you can trust me."  Paul murmured and kissed his head.  "WIth anything. Okay?"

Corbin nodded.  The two men kissed, quick but sweet, then they pulled apart.  Corbin couldn't help but feel a little guilt. Paul had no idea about the local Outfit and Luca.  'Am I putting Paul at risk? Should I tell him?'

"Hey, can you help me move the bench by the tub before they get here?"  Paul asked, and saved Corbin from making a decision.

"Yeah.  No problem."

The two of them spent the next half hour or so doing little chores.

"I hear his truck!"  Paul said, a note of excitement in his voice.  The tall man dashed out to the front of the house, and Corbin followed.  Corbin smiled at him. He loved that Paul was so happy to see his friends.  Soon the white truck pulled up and parked beside Corbin's.

Chad opened his door and threw his hands in the air.  "Paul! When did you get your road fixed? WOW!" He motioned at the gravel he had just driven on.  "I didn't even need to put it into four wheel drive!"

Paul laughed and glanced at Corbin.  "Ah, it was done last week." The two of them hadn't talked about what to say concerning the road.  But his glance told Paul that Corbin didn't want to be mentioned. Paul refocused on Chad. "It was about time."

A curvy, well-conditioned blonde woman smiled and walked around the side of the truck.  She held a bag with two bottles of wine. "Hello, Paul." She turned her green eyes to Corbin.  "And hello. You must be Corbin. I'm Mia, and this is my husband, Chad. It's great to meet you."  She smiled and held out a hand.

Corbin smiled back and took it in his own.  "Hello, Mia. Great to meet you both too. And yep, that's me."

Chad stepped over and also shook Corbin's hand.  "Good to meet you, Corbin." He jerked his head down the ridge toward the cabin.  "You settling in at your new place?"

"Yeah."  Corbin looked over at Paul and smiled.  "Paul has been a good neighbor."

Paul wasn't sure what Corbin wanted to present in front of them, but Corbin saved him the worry.  The smaller man stepped up to him, smiled, and gave him a quick kiss. "And he's been a great boyfriend too."

Chad arched an eyebrow and Mia grinned.  "What? Really?" She turned to Chad. "Hey, did you already know this?"  Her voice was suspicious.

Chad threw up his hands.  "I can honestly say I had no idea they were dating."  He looked at Paul with an amused expression. Paul grinned sheepishly back in response.

"Well, congratulations guys."  Mia held up the wine, and her green eyes sparkled.  "We've got something here we can use to celebrate!"

They all entered the house, and the smell of potatoes cooked with garlic filled the small space.  Corbin went over to the oven and looked at the group. "Are we hungry? Want to eat now or later?"

The consensus was to eat now.  Paul assisted Corbin, and the two of them got everything assembled onto the table.  Mia opened a bottle of wine, and Chad looked over all the selections of toppings.

"Uh, damn."  Chad scratched his head.  "I've never seen so many choices for a baked potato!"  He grinned at Corbin. "Thanks for getting it together for us."

The blonde man smiled.  "Sure. Hope you both like it."

Mia laughed.  "No danger we won't.  It's a great idea. Everyone gets what they want."  She nodded, impressed by the simplicity of the meal.  "Let's eat!"

They all dressed up their potatoes to their heart's desire.  And they were soon seated around Paul's small table in the kitchen.  It barely worked for all of them, but their spirits were all high. Wine flowed, and each of them began to loosen up a bit.

Mia finished her potato and wiped her mouth with a paper towel.  "All right. Show me this hot tub, Paul. I need to know it works before I risk life and limb getting into the thing!"  He laughed, and the two of them went out back.

Corbin stood and gathered plates and dishes.  "You done, Chad?"

The man turned his brown eyes on Corbin and stood with his plate.  "Yeah." He handed it over. "Thanks, Corbin."

He followed the blonde man a few steps into the kitchen, and Corbin could sense something on his mind.  Chad didn't keep him in suspense long. "So, things going well? Heard you were working the coffee shop with Karen?"

"Oh, yeah."  He started running water for the dishes.  "She could use the help, and I could use the money."  He shrugged. "So, you know, it worked out."

"Huh."  Chad folded his arms and looked carefully at Corbin from the side while he soaped up the plates.  "You need the money? Word's out that you bought your place, free and clear."

Corbin laughed.  This guy was not gonna beat around the bush.  "I definitely need the money! My trust fund is only so big.  And right now I'm looking at about 2 years if I don't work to supplement it."  He sighed and glanced at the brown-haired man. "You probably don't have a very good opinion of trust fund kids."  He shrugged. "I don't tell many about it, for that very reason." This lie was well rehearsed, and a part of his cover.

Chad's fingers tapped on his arm.  "Hrmmm … yeah, but why Hailey?" He cocked his head a little to the side.  "Why come out here in what most consider the middle of nowhere?"

Corbin sighed.  "I wanted to start over.  COMPLETELY over." At least this was true.  "Hailey has the right amount of solitude. And when I saw the listing for the place down the ridge … I had to take the leap."  He shrugged. "A lot of it was chance. But when I got here, I knew this was it."

Chad looked thoughtfully at Corbin.  He couldn't poke any holes in anything.  Though he knew that much was left unsaid.  But, 'Paul likes him.' He sighed. "Well, welcome to Hailey."  Corbin was about to thank him when Chad took another step. He was now nearly in Corbin's personal bubble.  Corbin turned to look at him. "Look, Paul's my best friend." He stared intently at Corbin. "And from what I've seen he likes you.  A lot." He swallowed and worry crossed his face. "Just … don't hurt my friend. Okay?"

Corbin was taken aback by the very honest approach from Chad.  And he was suddenly aware how much Chad loved Paul. He put down the dishcloth.  "That's the last thing I want to do." He looked the man in the eye. "It really is."

Chad stared back a moment, then he took a breath and nodded.  "Okay. I believe that." He smiled and slapped Corbin on the shoulder.  "Then it really is good to meet you."

Corbin laughed, and Chad smiled at him.

A short time later the four of them changed into trunks and a bathing suit.  And in turn, they eased into the steaming water of their wood-fired hot tub.

Mia lay back in the warm water and shook her head.  "Wow. I can't believe this thing works."

Chad rolled his eyes and scooted over next to her.  "Thanks for the vote of confidence!" He grinned and leaned in.  They kissed, and both grinned at one another. They acted like little kids around each other, and Corbin couldn't help but smile at them.

They still sipped their wine and had started on that second bottle.  It was chilled white wine, and Paul offered to put Mia and Chad up on his couch which pulled out into a futon.

"Well, it's either that or sober up."  Chad frowned. "Can't have that. Not tonight."  He sighed.

Paul frowned at him.  "Rough week?"

Chad nodded and took another sip from the glass.  He held it above the steaming water, and he reached to set it on the bench the guys had pulled up close to the tub.  "Yeah. Something has Travis stirred up. He's stressed and bitchy." He shrugged. "Won't tell the rest of us what's going on, but he was talking to the ISP (Idaho State Patrol) about some joint project coming up.  I overheard a little, but then he closed his door."

"Weird."  Paul's face bunched in a frown.  "Well, I'm sure he'll let you guys in on it when he needs to."

Mia laughed.  "He'll have to.  They're the ones who do all the work!"  She kissed him again, and he smiled at her.

They all relaxed.  And as the afternoon turned to evening, Corbin and Paul began to spend more time in contact with each other.  Paul put his arm around Corbin, and the blonde leaned over and put his head on Paul's chest. He sighed deeply - content, warm, and safe.

Chad and Mia looked at each other, then they both smiled at them.

"What?"  Paul asked, his voice a little defensive.

"Nothing."  Chad picked up his glass.  "It's good to see you guys paired up.  I mean it." He held his glass up in a toast.  "To beginnings."

They all smiled, and they too held up their drinks.

"To beginnings!"  And the last of the wine disappeared down their throats.


The service hired by Carol arrived at Harris' apartment building.  The pale, nondescript, brown-haired man exited the company vehicle.  He whistled as he pushed through the double doors to the building. He pressed the button to call the elevator, and the doors slid open in a gentle hiss of well-maintained hydraulics.

He entered, and pressed the button for the 11th floor.  This particular service was used and trusted by the wealthy and by many agencies in New York City.  They were known for their professionalism, speed, and accountability. Besides regular cleaning services, their purpose was to maintain the environment of homes and apartments vacated by travelers.  They would feed fish, water plants, clean, gather mail, toss expired food, and other sundry tasks.

The man rode the elevator up and exited.  This floor had a total of 6 apartments, and he headed to 11C.  He used the key he was given for the job, and he let himself in.  The alarm panel on the wall began to chirp and he disarmed it with the temporary code given by his dispatcher.

He closed the door, then he looked around the room.  His face slowly broke into a smile, and he pulled out his phone.  'Accessed space. Beginning job. Will send additional messages when complete.'  He put the phone back into his pocket and moved into the room.

He began a thorough search of the entire apartment.  He found what he was looking for in the back of Harris' bedroom closet.  A very well made home safe sat on the floor. It was very heavy, and it looked to be impossible to force open.  The man grinned when he saw it.


He'd worked with the service for a little over a year.  And if he were extremely careful he could continue to do so.  The ability to access wealthy and highly placed individuals' homes was extremely valuable to the Family.  His purpose was not to steal items. Rather, he was used only to gather information, and do so in a way that would not be noticed.

He knew very few things about this job.  His directions were only to find and photograph anything locked or hidden away.  Particularly documents which Harris sought to protect. He also knew that it was risky and that the job would elevate his standing considerably within the Family.  That is, should he pull it off without a hitch. He also knew his particular talent was needed for the task. In fact, his particular talent was the reason he was chosen by the Family to work for this service.

He put on his gloves, and he knelt next to the safe.  '51.' He mentally noted the number the dial was on before he started.  He held his breath and tested the dial. As he spun it, he grinned. 'Mechanical, type-2 safe.  I got this.' He closed his eyes, and slowly began to turn the dial.

His sensitive fingers soon felt the first tiny imperfection in the relatively smooth rotation of the dial.  He opened his eyes and noted the first number in the combination. Then he closed them again. He rotated the other direction and felt another imperfection.  He noted the second number. He repeated this one final time, then he tried the handle. The safe unlocked, and he carefully opened it.

Within were various documents, newspaper clippings and … a strange, colorful, misshapen ceramic mug.  He frowned, then shook his head. He took a picture with his phone of how it was all arranged. Next he carefully withdrew the items and placed them in the order removed next to him.

He then took pictures of everything. There was the mug, the newspaper clippings, what appeared to be a police report, copious handwritten notes, and obituaries.  Once it was done, all the items went back into the safe. He checked his reference picture against how it now looked. He adjusted a few things, rechecked his picture, and then he nodded, satisfied.

He closed up the safe, turned the dial back to 51, and he started the job he was actually legally there to do.  He cleaned and straightened up the apartment, re-armed the alarm, and then he exited.

Once outside and in the safety of the company car he began a series of messages.  He sent each picture he took upstairs through the connection. Then he texted, 'Complete'.  After the final text went through he smoothly pulled away from the front of the building and entered NYC traffic.

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! 

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