FOREVER 2 - Changes
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.
"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation." - Robert F. Kennedy, Senator and U.S. Attorney General
The dim lights of the plane's cabin cast a soft neon blue glow down across the dark windows from some hidden recess in the ceiling above. I shifted my position on the luxurious beige leather couch ever so slightly so as to not disturb Sam. He was asleep with his handsome head in my lap, stretched out across the remaining space on the couch. Captain Ron had come back to chat after we reached cruising altitude, and Sam exhausted himself with a hundred questions about the plane and all its capabilities. He was seriously excited about the plane - finally there was something about my inheritance in which Sam could find personal pleasure.
JP was asleep as well, fully reclined in one of the leather passenger seats, softly snoring. Lying directly across from us, with his head turned towards me, his sleeping face looked peaceful in the subdued lights. I barely knew him, but I feared the look was deceiving - JP was a troubled young man, and as we climbed up and away from Hawaii a few hours earlier, he had been the simultaneous embodiment of relief and apprehension, with a barely hidden raw fear threatening to overflow at any minute. Whatever his personal demons causing the excessive drinking and now his DUI accident, our frantic departure from the Islands wasn't going to vanquish them. I could only hope the treatment center he was now headed towards could penetrate the blanket of fear and find real answers - and real freedom - for him.
Todd was working at a polished teak wood table with two leather seats on each side. An overhead work light illuminated his temporary flying office, currently filled with his laptop, an IPad, two cell phones, a short pile of assorted file folders in various colors, and two stacks of papers. We had been flying for nearly four hours, so it had to be after midnight his time, and I knew his day had started before 5 AM.
He had only stopped working long enough for the four of us to eat the delicious roast beef and provolone sandwiches Ron had warmed up for us in the galley two hours ago. We added ice cold lettuce and fresh tomato slices and our choice of mayo and three different kinds of mustards to the sandwiches, along with sour lemon bar cookies for dessert. Sam and JP insisted they were the best sandwiches they had ever tasted - I think it was the altitude and the first time private jet experience talking. Rolling his eyes at the two of them, Todd just looked at me and smiled, saying I should eat and get some rest as we had a lot of work to do later to prep for tomorrow's - now today's - upcoming meeting with the bank's Board of Directors.
Following dinner, Todd had cleared away the china dishes and glassware from our meal and Sam helped him in the galley with clean up, oohing and aahing over all the gadgets, contraptions and hidden compartments for cooking and storage. JP fidgeted non-stop in his seat and finally asked where the bathroom was located. Ron had pointed out earlier the plane had two - one forward near the entrance immediately before the galley, and another larger one aft. JP headed towards the back of the plane, and I followed him, opting for a seat on the couch across from a pair of passenger seats facing each other. In all it looked like the plane could easily seat 12 passengers, and I suspected the two leather couches morphed into flat, double-sized beds when necessary.
JP returned from the aft lavatory looking haggard and worried and parked his lanky frame in the seat across from me. His agitation concerned me so I decided to speak to him while we had a few minutes alone.
"You okay, JP?" I asked.
"What? Oh...yeah...no...I don't know, Jack," he answered, rubbing his trembling hands on his knees, his fidgeting increasing.
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No...but thanks. I mean, I can't...I...you're already doing so much. Why? Why are you doing this for me? I mean...I just met you like what...a week ago now? You don't even know me."
"JP, it's fine. I want to help. And Sam...well...Sam does know you, and he cares about you...a lot. So does Tommy, despite all his earlier upset with you. They...and me...we want to give you a chance to get the help you need."
"I know, and the guys are great. I mean, they're all the friends I've got right now. And Stubbs, too, of course. But Jack, you came out of nowhere and now you're paying for this program for me and flying me on a private jet and..."
"JP, this was all Sam's doing. I went along with it because I love him and we are a team now. And you're right, I hardly know you - yet. But I do care about you. I can see you need some help and I am glad to be able to do my part."
He went quiet and just looked at me with wild pleading eyes, trying to understand how a stranger would want to invest in him and his sobriety. Sam was right. Before me sat a really good guy who absolutely did not see himself as one. I was more than familiar with those feelings. JP was just like the old me.
I tried to keep my voice as soft and full of care as possible. "I know you're scared, JP. It's okay. I would be, too. I get it. I know what it's like to be always frightened someone would find out my secrets and know things about me - terrible things which would certainly make them hate me or at least not like me anymore. But then Sam showed up in my life, and somehow he helped me not be so frightened, and I was finally able to tell him my scary secrets and instead of hating me, he loves me."
"What terrible secrets could you possibly have had, Jack? I mean, you're like this perfect guy who has everything. Dude, you even have your own plane!"
"Until a month ago, I had nothing to my name. And you've spent as much time on this plane as I have. I didn't even know about it until this morning. But lack of money wasn't my problem - I could live with being poor. No, I definitely had a big secret - I was terrified if people knew I was gay they would hate me, or worse, they would hurt me. But the worst part of all was I hated myself for being gay, and I didn't even know I was doing it."
JP sucked in a deep breath and looked at me and pondered my revelation for a minute. I kept silent, fearing I had already said too much. Really, I'm no psychologist - which was why we were flying him 5,000 miles across the ocean to the best treatment center we could find.
Finally he spoke, his fidgeting subdued for the moment. "How...um...how did you...what did Sam do to make it...okay for you to talk about it? I mean, I know he's gay. He never hid it from us, it was never any big deal. We don't care, the guys I mean. I think it's so cool the two of you are together. So does Tommy. And Stubbs. We kept trying to set Sam up with gay guys we would meet here and there but he was having none of it. Tommy was kinda worried about him, until you came along. Sam's obviously gaga over you," he said, smiling for the first time.
"Yeah, he is, isn't he?" I was smiling now myself. "The thing is, JP, I didn't know Sam was gay when I finally told him I was. No, it was something else - he made me feel safe. As if I could tell him anything and it wouldn't matter, he would still be my friend. You see, all my life I've been alone with my secrets, never letting anyone get close enough for fear they would see the truth and either attack me or run away. I never believed anyone would stick around and be my friend. All I wanted when I talked to Sam was a friend. He turned out to be much more. And as great as he is, the best thing about revealing my secrets was I could stop running away from being myself."
"What do you mean, Jack?"
"I mean I didn't want to be me. I felt all the time like I was defective or broken or...bad. I could never do anything good in the world because I was gay, and nobody would want or expect anything good from me. I stopped expecting anything good from myself, too and I...well, I was living a kind of half life I suppose. I was going through the motions of living but not really living, if that makes any sense."
He nodded his head silently, and looked at me with the saddest eyes as the tears started to fall. This time he didn't try to pretend the hurt wasn't there. I received the honesty of his tears as the honor it was - he was starting to trust me. I said nothing more, just reached out my hand toward him and he looked at it, startled for a second, not sure what he should do. He hesitantly grabbed it and held it for a few seconds, then let go, but kept looking at me.
I suddenly remembered what my birth mother, Amanda, had written to me. It seemed like something JP needed to hear, too. I took a deep breath and said, "JP, where you're going, there has to be somebody who will make it safe for you, like Sam did for me. But no matter what happens...do it afraid. You'll feel the fear, but lean into it, and face the truth. Take the next step forward, don't run from it. Be who you are, JP, and never let anyone, including yourself, stand in your way. If someone doesn't like you...it's their loss. But you can't lose yourself because someone else is a fool. You're gonna be scared. I was actually shaking when I told Sam I was gay, and I thought I was going to puke right afterwards. But as I said, instead of running away, he held on even tighter. Literally. Someone will do the same for you, JP. I know it."
Just then Sam walked back to us, still giddy with wonder over the plane. "You guys okay back here?"
JP pasted a smile on his face and reverted back to his carefree persona. "Sure, Sam, we're all good. How 'bout you?" I had to giggle. Sam was obviously having a blast tonight.
"Oh, man, isn't this plane the coolest thing you've ever seen, JP? You should see all the tools and gizmos it's got in the galley. I mean, you can make gourmet meals out of a flying kitchen. Who knew?"
"So Todd showed you how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Ramen noodles in the galley, did he?" I teased.
He put his hand on his hips and pouted his lips. "Very funny, Jack. For your information, yes, I think I could boil water. See if I share any with you though, Mr. Smarty Pants." JP burst out laughing. I stood up and grabbed Sam and pulled him into a kiss. He put his big strong arms around me and smiled around my mouth, our lips still touching.
Forgetting where he was for a second, Sam looked with lust into my eyes and said suggestively, "You know, Jack, if you do that thing you do to me, I could be persuaded to share my soup with you. Maybe even half my sandwich." I blushed, the heat instantly covering my whole face and neck.
"Ewwww. TMI, dude," said JP in mock horror. "Nobody here wants to know what Jack does to you. Keep it in your pants, man. And you should make him his own sandwich. It's his plane, you know. You're lucky he let's you eat on here at all." We all laughed together, feeling the bonds of friendship.
"Speaking of eating, I'm gonna see if there are any more of those lemon bars. You guys want any?" asked Sam. I shook my head, as did JP. Sam shrugged and practically skipped back up the aisle to the galley in search of treats.
I turned to JP and his face was serious again. "Jack, thank you for sharing what you did. I think I understand about the 'doing it afraid' thing. I do have some stuff to work out. I know I have a drinking problem - I can face that. It's just...there's other things...I'm...not sure I can..." The tears started again. 50,000 feet in the air with armchair counselors was not the time or place for JP's healing, so I grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
"JP, it's okay, man. Baby steps. It'll take some time, but you'll get there, I know you will. The people at the clinic - they know what they're doing - and they care. It's why they do it. Find someone you can trust, and then go for it. And remember, you have people already who love you and care about you, JP. I promise you, Sam and I, and I'm sure Tommy as well - we'll be here for you no matter what. I mean it. We're not going anywhere. We're your friends, and true friends stick together forever."
He nodded and quickly dried his eyes, as we could hear Sam closing up cabinets and drawers in the galley, probably headed back our way. JP mouthed the words, "Thank you" in silence to me and I nodded back to him. I had done all I could for now. The rest was up to him and the good folks at Betty Ford.
It was a couple of hours later, JP and Sam were dreaming about who knows what, and Todd was slaving away in the wee hours making me millions. I was sitting in the semi-darkness soaring through the night on my very own private jet, contemplating my own next step with the man of my dreams, who at the moment was drooling a little on my bare knee. My khaki cargo shorts had ridden up my thigh a bit as Sam moved his sexy head around a little every now and then in his sleep, his short beard scraping my skin lightly. I didn't care.
Sam and I had shared several intimate moments in the past week as our love affair blossomed. JP was right, he was more than a little gaga over me, and the feeling was mutual. I still marvelled, and probably always would, how quickly we fell in love. Mostly I couldn't believe how safe and protected and impenetrable I felt in Sam's arms. He was my shield against all the hurt and hate and pain in the world. He claimed I empowered him to be more than he could be on his own. I certainly hoped it was true, because I had a feeling I was going to need all his power and protection in the days ahead.
I was excited he was coming with me to Denver. But I was also concerned he was leaping before he looked in the heady first days of love. Tommy insisted Sam did not act impulsively, but rather thought things through and then decided. As his best friend for years, Tommy ought to know, and I myself had certainly seen Sam make such decisions on a number of occasions recently. But this was a huge next step - both of us moving to a new city, a new home, and a new future together. But first, there was work to be done, and Todd was waving a finger at me to join him at the table.
I got up as quietly and smoothly as I could, sliding out from under Sam's head and laying him gently down on the sofa. He mumbled in his sleep but thankfully didn't wake up. I made my way up to the table and sat across from Todd, sighing as I looked at the piles of paper in front of me. How was I ever going to understand what my financial team actually did for me?
Todd picked up on my apprehension immediately. "Relax, Boss. This is my work. You have your own to do, and later today you're gonna get your chance to shine. How're you liking your little air taxi service?" he asked, smiling like the irreverent but lovable smart ass he was.
"I'm still getting used to the idea. It takes me a while to grasp the reality of all the changes, ya know? This is such a different world for me. I don't know how to act or react half the time."
"Of course. It has to be strange at first. But Sam sure seems to like it. You better be careful - he may decide to skip law school and become a pilot like Ron and Justin."
I chuckled. He might be right. "Hey, speaking of Justin. You and Ron keep mentioning him, and I assume he's not imaginary and is actually up in the cockpit. Are we going to get to meet him on this flight sometime?"
"Sure, if you want to. He works for you, so you can sort of demand it, I guess. As I understand it though, he's not the meet and greet kind of pilot. He's all professional and business-like with flying the plane. I've only been on this plane one other time, for a certification flight late last year. He never came out of the cockpit on that flight, either. Larry told me he's not unfriendly, just aloof for some reason."
"Okay, well, I don't want to disturb his concentration while we're up in the air. We're kinda dependent on them doing their job so we survive the trip, right?"
Todd laughed quietly. "Yeah, I guess that's true. Anyway, we have other things we need to discuss. First, let me have your cell phone for a minute." I shrugged and dug it out of my cargo shorts pocket. Todd changed some settings on it, waited for a quick minute as it updated something, then wasted no time prying open the back of the phone with a tiny knife he pulled out of his briefcase and removed the SIM card. He next grabbed a different cell phone sitting on the table and inserted my SIM card into the new phone and turned it on.
"If I did this right, this new phone should have all your new communications apps ready to go: voice, email, texting, calendar, and contacts. All whopping six of them. Seriously Jack, you need to get out more. Actually, you'll see I've added a few more to your list already. They're the members of your team at First Colorado. You'll meet them later today if all goes well."
My hands started shaking as the new fear of meeting my team and being expected to lead them washed over me. I grabbed the edge of the table to steady my hands and hide the trembling, but not before Todd noticed. "Steady on, Jack. You'll be fine. These guys are a great team, and they really know their stuff. Larry hand picked them just like he did me, and hey, I'm pretty damn good, so I think you can trust his judgment on such things." I had to smile with him. He wasn't being totally immodest. He had performed real miracles in the last 24 hours.
Hoping to change the subject, I looked at the stack of colored file folders and asked, "Todd, what's with the rainbow of folders? What are you working on?"
"Research? On what, investments?"
"Some. The team researches opportunities then writes up a discussion memo for Larry and me to review, then we add our questions and concerns to it and it goes back and forth until we reach a consensus on whether or not to proceed. This red one is for your eyes only, actually." He handed it to me and waited for me to open it. I couldn't imagine what input he thought I could have on an investment decision.
I opened the folder and it contained a single sheet of paper. At the top was written "Samuel Allan Wainwright" and his birthdate of July 25th. Below the heading was his current address in Hawaii and a list of other previously known addresses. I recognized a couple of Los Angeles addresses from his college days, and a Danbury, Connecticut address which must have been his parents'. Their names were listed next, along with his sister and her husband's, and two nephews who appeared to be the same age, 8. Sam had said he had twin nephews whom he adored, so the data matched what I already knew.
There was a synopsis of his financial credit report - almost four thousand dollars in a checking account, no late payments, and what I guessed was a decent credit score. He had one credit card with a $57.00 balance on it.
Just under the financials were references to his high school GPA - a 3.94 and his college GPA - a 3.89, as well as a notation acknowledging his scheduled start date of August 28th at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis as well as his scholarship award. The final entry was curious. It simply said "Eagle Scout - call Scout Master".
I wasn't sure whether or not I should be pleased or angry with Todd for doing such research on Sam. I understood he did it to protect me, and I should be grateful he was looking out for my interests. But it also felt like an intrusion into the life of the man I loved, and it wouldn't have mattered much what he uncovered at this point. Still, it was gratifying to know everything on Todd's sheet of paper matched what Sam had told me himself, not that I expected anything else.
"So did you call him?" I asked. My direct question was not what Todd was expecting.
"Um...you mean the Scout Master?" he asked.
"Uh...yeah...I did. He said Sam was one of the best outdoorsmen he'd ever had the pleasure of leading, and if he was ever lost in the woods, Sam was the guy he'd want by his side, as he was most likely to survive. He also said he always had Sam pegged to be a Forest Ranger or environmentalist or something like it, but all Sam ever talked about was becoming a lawyer like his father. He also said he couldn't be sure, but he thought Sam might possibly be gay. Nothing concrete, just a feeling. Of course you know he is already."
"Anything else not in this report?" I asked.
"Uh...well..." he started.
"Spill it, Todd."
"I did find one reference to a Jeremy Reynolds on an apartment lease near UCLA. Lasted two years, then nothing more. Probably someone he roomed with. There was a Jeremy Reynolds who graduated from UCLA in the same class, so it makes sense."
"Good. You can close this file then. Anything else you need to know, ask him directly. He's sleeping right over there." Todd nodded in agreement; I hoped he understood I wanted any investigation into Sam's background stopped. I already knew all I needed to know.
"You do understand why I did it, don't you, Jack?" asked Todd.
"Yes, I do. And I'm okay with it, to a point. But we've reached that point. Everything you found out matches exactly what I already know, including Jeremy Reynolds. Sam told me all about him on our first night out. He's on my side, Todd. I have no doubts about him. And you shouldn't either. Now, let's move on, okay."
"Sure thing, Boss. Here's our big headache of the day. This green one is for Arnold Turner, the VP of Corporate Investments, and the one we think is behind all the plans to consolidate and dissolve the Private Trust department into his." The folder was nearly a half inch thick with papers. I hoped Todd was ready to summarize his findings.
"You've got a lot of research in there, Todd. Is he really a bad guy?"
"No, not on the surface. He's just another 'banking giant' wanna-be. He graduated near the top of his class from Harvard, was groomed and brought up through the ranks, largely sponsored it appears by our current CEO, Davis Munroe. From what I can figure out, Arnold went to school with Davis's son Adam and he and Davis met at some alumni function there. Arnold, being the go-getter and overachiever he was destined to be, wasted no time networking his way into Davis's favor. I guess it worked, because in four short years Arnold is now the VP and head of the department, and doing okay for himself. No glaring mistakes, no bad investments, no conflicts with personnel to speak of."
"So why do you sound suspicious when you talk about him? He sounds like a pretty successful guy who worked hard and made his way up the ladder."
"Yeah, he did. What bothers me is what's missing. He's made no mistakes, but he's had no real successes either. No big wins, no risks that worked out, and usually there would be one or two of those to mark a fast track up the ladder. This guy has risen quickly, but I can't figure out what set him apart from any of the other similarly qualified guys. And he did it extraordinarily fast for a guy who's only worked in one bank his whole career. Usually someone has to have had a couple of lateral transfers in the industry to make it as far as Arnold has gone, and it usually takes ten years longer to do it. Also, I can't find anyone he's worked with who has any real problem with him, but then I also can't find anyone who really likes him either. No one sings his praises, no one touts his faults. It's almost like they don't want to know he exists. Several of the people I talked to seemed like they wished I had never brought up his name, but I couldn't get them to say anything more than name, rank and serial number for the guy."
"Wow. You're really digging. Why the hard push on Arnold?"
"Because it doesn't make any sense. Larry has been part of this bank for 29 years. No one has ever suggested merging the personal trust division with the corporate investment division. They don't even operate the same way. It's madness, to use Larry's term."
"What do you mean, 'they don't operate the same way'?"
"Well, the private trusts are just that - private. All the investments are self-contained and related to a specific trust. Even for individuals who might set up multiple trusts, each trust is invested separately from the others. We might put funds into the same investments from several trusts, but each investment is a discrete transaction from all the others. In other words, no one private trust has any knowledge or partnership with another trust. Do you follow?" he asked.
"So far. Go on," I answered.
"Corporate investment is entirely different. There are two parts to it: providing complicated capital funding for businesses, and institutional investing. The latter is Arnold's specialty. His team manages funds from a variety of investors, anything from corporations, pension funds, non-profits, even some individuals. All the funds are pooled together to make institutional investments for the group, usually much larger ones than any single entity could or would make on their own. For example, say you manage a pension fund which has funds you want to invest and you're looking for a minimum rate of return, but you don't have 40 million to invest. You purchase shares in a bank investment fund which is designed and managed to provide your desired return, with an expected level of risk. The bank has many of these funds to suit different investors' needs. Your money is not discretely invested into a stock, bond or fund you can track separately from all the other investments. Instead, you only buy shares and even partial shares of the bank fund. The bank then has total discretion on how to invest the monies they receive from the investors. So you have no say in what the actual investments are or how they are managed. As the individual investor, you give up control of those decisions in favor of the simplicity of investing in a fund managed by the bank."
"I think I'm following this. So...speaking for myself, why would I ever want to take the bank fund route instead of private investing?"
"That's the thing, Jack. You wouldn't. The only real advantage for institutional investing is you can get into a really large investment group with a small amount of money because you are pooling your resources with other people's. In your case, you have more than enough to make your own significant investments. And there is one further drawback to institutional investing if you have a lot of funds to invest. The minute your portion of the total investment fund exceeds 10 percent, we are required by law to reveal the entity's name in our SEC filings. In your case, Jack, we would most likely inadvertently end up having to reveal to the SEC who you are and what funds you are invested in. I can't imagine such a revelation would be okay with you."
I was shocked. It most certainly was not okay with me, and now I was definitely on board with stopping this consolidation if it resulted in full public disclosure. "I may not know much about investing, Todd, but the one thing I do know is I do not want anyone other than my team here to know what I am invested in or why. Does this Arnold Turner or Davis Munroe have specific knowledge of me or the Schaeffer Executive Trust investments?"
"Yes, they know there is a Schaeffer Trust and it is the largest single trust at the bank. No, they don't necessarily know much about you personally. And no, they have no direct knowledge of specific investments made on your behalf. They do know the results of those investments, gains or losses, as the bank's income from the trust is determined by those results and our salaries and bonuses are paid through the bank, not from your trust directly."
"Okay. So why would they want to change methods of investing? To make more money?"
"That's the weirdest part of all. The bank in all likelihood would make less money if the private trust monies were switched to institutional investing. Part of the attraction to institutional investors is the cheaper fees and simpler process to investing. Private trusts are generally willing to pay higher fees to maintain their privacy and have personal attention and total control over the investment process. It just makes no sense."
"Well, there has to be a reason both Turner and Munroe want to do this, but it sure seems like it's not the best deal for the bank. Why would the Board of Directors go ahead with it if it means losing money?"
"The Board of Directors is made up of a bunch of retired business guys, ex-bankers, and other so-called financial experts, most of whom were appointed by Davis Munroe over the years and rubber stamped by the sitting Board at the time. It's standard procedure in most banks. Unless the CEO does something heinously stupid, he or she can usually manipulate themselves into the top position for a long tenure. Unless another bank takes over, then they are often merged right out of their job, while usually receiving a sweet golden parachute and sliding into an extremely comfortable retirement as part of their obligatory contract payout. Davis Munroe for sure has such a clause in his, guaranteed."
"So how do you and Larry think I should play our hand today? I mean, if they start talking technical financial ratios and investment strategies I'm gonna look pretty foolish, and the other Board members aren't going to be exactly predisposed to rule in our favor as it is. If I look like a buffoon, it will strengthen the opposition's position."
"Spoken like a true team leader, Jack," said Sam from behind me, causing me to jump slightly in my seat.
"Sam! You scared the crap out of me. How long have you been standing there listening?"
"Long enough to know these guys - Munroe and Turner - are up to no good. If you ask me, there's something personal in this, something we don't know yet. If it makes no sense and doesn't benefit the bank in some real way, there has to be some irrational explanation. My dad always says the corporate miscreant operates primarily for personal gain, almost never for the benefit of the corporation, no matter how they spin it."
"Corporate miscreant? Big words for a pool boy, Sam," said Todd, chuckling.
"I picked up a few things over the years, Bean Counter," replied Sam, smiling.
"Ha! Bean counter, eh? It's my job to make it rain beans. Great big golden beans. I let others count them."
Sam laughed. "And from what I hear, you do a damn good job of it, too. Seriously, Todd, I haven't had a chance to thank you personally for everything you've done for us the past two days, especially for JP. It means a lot, man. I really appreciate it."
For once Todd didn't have a quick comeback. "Uh...thanks, Sam. It's what I do, I guess. Jack...or you...you guys call, I jump. And I'm glad to help out on something like this little adventure. It gets boring just making a shitload of money everyday." Sam and I both laughed. "I think it's pretty awesome to be helping these guys the way you are. Jack, before you took over the trust...I don't know...it's like all we did was pile up the money, but it just sat there, doin' nothin'. It feels good now to be a part of something which gives back. I love this job, man."
"We're a team, Todd. You, me, Sam, Larry, and the rest of the guys. This is what we're going to do together. But right now we have to figure out how to stop Turner and Munroe from moving ahead with this consolidation. Sam, got any ideas on how we figure out what's really goin' on with these guys?"
"Well, I think you have to look at how they benefit personally if this consolidation happens. Also, look at the timing of it. Why now? Why the big, secret push to make it happen? Maybe there is something or someone else outside the bank pushing this? I don't know how you would find out, but if you've looked inside the bank and found nothing, maybe the answer is outside."
Todd sat up, suddenly very excited. "Sam! You might have something there. Hold on a minute..." He started shuffling through the stack of papers, looking for something. When he didn't find it right away, he shifted to his laptop and started searching on there. Sam and I just watched him in silence with no idea what we were waiting for.
"Got it! Here it is. About 14 months ago, MileHigh Holdings proposed a friendly takeover of First Colorado, and at first the M&A committee was in favor." Sam and I both looked at him with puzzled expressions, as we were already lost in his explanation.
"Sorry. M&A is short for Mergers and Acquisitions. We have a committee made up of various department leaders who sit in on meetings and study the various proposals which pop up from time to time, whether we are proposing the merger, or someone else wants to merge with us. In this case, MileHile wanted to takeover our bank and absorb all of the assets into their operations. Larry sits on the M&A committee, and I seem to remember him saying something about the proposal had promise but there were issues which came up and squashed the deal. Something about unfavorable fee changes and moving from managed to unmanaged asset practices." Seeing we were still lost, he stopped.
"Look, I know I'm not making sense to you, but Sam, I think you're on to something here. Let me dig into this deal a little deeper and maybe I can find the connection. If I'm right, this merger may still be cooking on a back burner in secret, and the consolidation of investing services may be a part of it. I just need to connect to my network at the bank and access some files, make a few phone calls. By the time we get to Denver I hope to have some real answers."
"You can do that - connect to your network in Denver from up here in the plane?" asked Sam.
"Yeah. This baby has all the latest satellite capabilities for communications. You can even watch live TV, if you want to."
The plane's PA system suddenly came to life with Captain Ron's deep voice startling us all. "Gentlemen, we are beginning our descent into Palm Springs. If you don't mind, please put away any loose items and find a seat and strap in. We should be on the ground in about 15 minutes. Last call for the lavatories. See you on the tarmac."
Sam moved back to wake up JP while I helped Todd get all of his work papers and electronics stowed in his briefcase. Todd took one last look in the galley to make sure everything was locked down, then we all found seats and fastened our seatbelts. I was sitting by a window and could see a few city lights here and there in the vast darkness below. Sam was sitting next to JP, and was whispering words of encouragement to him. I wished I could make the journey he was about to start easier and less scary, but it was a road he had to walk on his own. We had done all we could at this point. The rest was up to him.
The landing was soft and easy, but when the pilots hit the reverse thrusters, my body was thrown against the seat belt with more force than I expected. For a small plane, it packed a lot of power in its engines. The roll out was quick, however, and soon we were taxiing towards a nearby hangar. When we came to a stop maybe three minutes later, the engine whine died down considerably and the lights came on full in the cabin.
Captain Ron exited the cockpit door very shortly thereafter and joined us in the main cabin as we were all standing up and stretching. "Guys, we'll be on the ground here for maybe 30 minutes to refuel. Feel free to get out and walk around, but steer clear of the areas where people are working on the plane, okay? I'll get the door open right away. Sam, can you help me with the bags?"
Sam moved to join Ron near the front exit, while Todd grabbed his phone and started dialing someone. I stood there feeling kind of useless with nothing to do. I turned to JP, who was also standing there, looking a little better than he had earlier. Perhaps the sleep did him some good.
"You ready, JP?" I asked.
"Yeah, I am. I need to do this. I know it'll be hard, but I can do hard. I'm not gonna lie - I'm scared, but I've been thinking a lot about what you said, Jack...about doing it afraid. I gotta do it. Besides, it has to be better than jail, and that's pretty much where I was headed if it weren't for you and Sam."
"Enough. Let it go. You're here now. Come on, I think Todd's got somebody coming to pick you up and get you to the clinic."
JP nodded and grabbed a small blue backpack he had with him, and I followed him to the now open door and down the short flight of steps. The night desert air was dry and cool, and I shivered a little in my t-shirt and shorts. A black sedan was parked near the plane and Todd was talking to someone I assumed was the driver, a young blond guy about my age wearing black slacks and a shiny gray dress shirt. I saw Todd hand the guy an envelope. As we approached the car, Sam caught up to us with JP's larger suitcase, setting it down next to him while we waited for Todd to notice we were all there. The driver nodded towards us and Todd turned around.
"Okay guys. This is Daniel, and he's going to drive JP to the Betty Ford clinic. It's about 20 minutes away." JP wasn't paying any attention to Todd. Instead he was looking at a very tall, thin man who had just stepped out of the back seat of the car on the opposite side from us. He turned toward us, and seeing JP, broke into a huge smile. This had to be JP's father. JP sucked in a loud breath in shock and dropped his backpack on the tarmac. He stumbled slightly as he tried to take a step towards the man, but he caught himself, regained his balance, and then took several quick long strides to match his father's and they embraced in silence, each holding the other tightly.
I looked at Todd, silently questioning who this guy was, and he said softly, "Michael Murphy, JP's father. I called him and asked if he wanted to be here to take JP to the clinic. He started crying on the phone when I said we would fly him out here. Hopefully it will help. I also took the liberty of telling him we would handle transportation and lodging for anyone in the family who wanted or needed to see JP when it was allowed later on."
"Perfect, Todd. Thanks," said Sam.
We let JP and his father have a moment in semi-privacy while we looked around. There wasn't much to see at 1:30 in the morning. I could barely make out some low mountains in the distance, their top edges faintly contrasting against the pitch black sky. Sam came up to me and hugged me from behind, instantly warming me up.
"I love you, Sam," I whispered, holding on to his muscular arms wrapped around me.
"Love you back, Jack," he replied. We stood there, letting the gentle breezes wash over us while two guys in blue, greasy overalls got out of a large aviation fuel truck and started attaching hoses to the plane, supervised by Ron and another guy I assumed must be the mysterious Justin, our aloof co-pilot. Todd was busy tapping messages into his phone. Who in the world could he be texting at this ungodly hour? I was just about to ask him when JP and his father walked up to us, Mr. Murphy's arm around JP's shoulders. It was hard to believe someone could be tall enough next to JP to accomplish such a feat. JP looked just like him.
"Dad, this is Sam, and this is Jack. They're the ones who are...helping me." JP got a little choked up, but swallowed and continued. "And the guy there on his phone is Todd." Todd looked up, smiled, and nodded, then went back to his texting.
"Sam, Jack...I can't thank you enough for what you're doing for my son. I don't...I couldn't...well, I...um...just, thank you on behalf of my wife and I both. JP's gonna get the help he needs and I really appreciate you making it possible for me to get here to be with him and see him before he goes in. It means a lot, guys."
Sam spoke up quickly. "Mr. Murphy, JP's a great guy and our friend. We're just happy we could help, honestly. And we'll be available if you or your wife need anything - transportation, a place to stay, whatever. The most important thing is JP gets the help he needs. Nothing else matters."
"You're right, Sam. Thank you again. JP, I'll wait for you in the car." He shook our hands, thanked Todd for his assistance in getting him there, and then turned to go back to the car. JP stood there wanting to say something to us, but I could tell he was struggling.
"JP, you don't have to say anything. All we can ask is you give it your best in the program and do what you need to do. Sam's right. Nothing else matters at all."
JP found his voice and said, "Thanks, Jack. I will. I'll do it afraid, just like you said." Then he turned to Sam. "Sam, you've always had my back. You're a great friend. I only hope I get the chance to someday be there for you the way you've been here for me. You're the best, man." He started to cry, and to my surprise so did Sam. They hugged each other for a few seconds and then JP stepped back, quickly drying his eyes with his palms. "Todd, thanks for putting everything together to get me here. I have a feeling these two are gonna run you ragged before they're through. Stay strong."
Todd smiled and nodded. "You're welcome, JP. You stay strong yourself. Take care."
"See ya in a few months, guys."
"See ya, JP," said Sam. JP turned and stepped back to the car, opened the door, threw his backpack in, and turned to wave at us. We waved back and he got in and closed the door. Daniel, who had been standing off a little to let us all have our moment, nodded to Todd and said he'd call him when the drop off was complete. We all stood there, Sam with his arms around me again, and watched the car drive off across the tarmac and out through a distant gate.
"I hope he goes through with it, Jack," said Sam. "He's got to, for his sake. And way to go, Todd, for getting his dad here. So cool. JP and his dad are pretty tight. Good thinkin'." Todd just nodded and smiled, then went back to doing something on his phone. I saw Ron and Justin walking over towards us as the car left.
"Everything okay, guys?" asked Ron.
"Yeah, he's off." I replied. Ron acknowledged it with a silent nod. Then he remembered the man standing next to him.
"Jack, this here is Justin Wilson, your other pilot. Justin, meet Jack Schaeffer, our new boss." Justin was a hunk and a half. Trim and athletic looking, with an olive complexion, heavy beard, and tight military style haircut. He looked like he just stepped out of the Navy Seals or something. I was guessing late 30's or early 40's. The only thing soft on this guy was his eyes. There was a peaceful kindness in them.
"Pleased to meet you, Jack. Hope your flight so far has been to your liking?"
"All good, Justin. Glad to finally meet you. I was starting to think they made you up." Justin laughed.
"Yeah, I'm not the get up and walk and talk kind of pilot. I leave all the cabin conversations to Ron here. Me, I'm all about talking to the airplane. But I can hold up my end of a conversation if I have to. At least Gary, my partner, thinks so." I suppose I shouldn't have been, but I was momentarily shocked to realize he was gay, and so open about it. In fact, it almost felt like he said it as a challenge, to see how I would react. His eyes crinkled in amusement at the corners. Ron had a concerned look on his face. Todd was barely containing a smile behind the phone in his hand. Smart ass. He could have told me.
I rapidly regrouped mentally and reached for Sam's hand, smiling. "Justin, this is Sam Wainwright. He's my partner. I look forward to meeting Gary sometime soon." It was Justin's turn to looked shocked, but thankfully his surprise turned into a big smile as he looked us both over with approval. He looked at Ron who was frowning at him and shrugged his shoulders sheepishly; Ron just rolled his eyes and groaned.
"Damn, Justin. You're too much. Always pushing the edges. Guess Jack's gotcha on this one though, eh? Looks like you and Gary aren't the only gay couple in the outfit now," said Ron. He grinned as he gently shoved Justin's shoulder. He and Justin were clearly good friends as well as co-workers. I was glad, as it made for less potential strife in the cockpit, which was always a good thing.
"Sam, nice to meet you," said Justin, reaching to shake his hand. "Ignore ol' Ronnie here. He's just jealous of us good lookin' studs."
"Hey, I may have a few years on you guys, but I still got it. Nancy's got no complaints." He turned to Sam and I. "Nancy's my wife. Retired United flight attendant. Flies with us on occasion. Hey, we should have you guys and Justin and Gary over soon for a barbeque or somethin'. You interested?"
All you had to do was mention food and Sam was gonna be all over it. "Sounds great, Ron. Jack and I would love to meet your partners and get to know one another. Just let us know when," said Sam.
Todd was smiling, taking in all the banter. "I hate to break up this sweet social club y'all got goin', but I need to get back home if at all possible before the sun comes up. My boss is gonna have my ass if I haven't put in a full 24 hour day by the time he gets to the office in the morning." I made a show of looking at Todd's ass with a raised eyebrow. "Hey, Jack...you keep away from my ass. I meant it rhetorically. My ass is already spoken for. Well...I mean...ugh! You know what I mean!" He was blushing and we all laughed in good fun with him.
Justin nodded to Ron, and turned to talk to the guys with the fuel truck as they disconnected their hoses from the plane. Sam was looking at me with his sparkling deep blue eyes full of love, and perhaps a little lust dancing just under the surface. He pulled me to him and kissed me lightly, then leaned back to look at me.
"Damn, Jack. I go from friend to boyfriend to partner in less than a week? You must really like me," teased Sam, grinning like a mad man.
"Not even a little bit, you jerk," I replied, laughing. Ron chuckled and Todd rolled his eyes.
"I can already tell you two are gonna be a real picnic," said Todd. "Well, Ron, think you can get this bucket of bolts airborne before the boss finds out we stole it from a terrorist organization and left his business card with an IOU for it?" He and Ron burst out laughing as they turned to walk back to the plane.
"Keep it up, Todd," I shouted after them. "The mailroom clerk's gonna get that corner office before you ever will." He turned, continuing to walk backward, and gave me a wicked grin and his middle finger. Sam nearly busted a gut laughing. Little boys. Sigh.
"Sam Wainwright, will you get control of yourself and get over here and kiss me, please? And make me believe you love me." He wasted no time pulling me into a fierce kiss, his tongue pushing its way through my lips, though I offered no real opposition. I liked his tongue in my mouth. Apparently my dick did, too. As did his, from the feel of it pressed against my thigh, fighting to get out of his cargo shorts.
I know we were standing out in public, but it was the wee hours of the morning, it was darkish in the shadows, and we were alone. At least I thought we were alone until the fuel truck guys drove by us and yelled out, "Get a room!" just as Sam was rubbing my hard cock with his left hand.
"Oh, fuck! Jack...I forgot about them. Shit! I'm sorry, man."
"Sam, I'm fine. Public displays of affection don't scare me...well, not as much as they used to anyway. Besides, I was givin' as good as I was gettin' there. Think we could find a way to lock Todd in a bathroom and I could do that thing you like me to do to you?" I asked lustfully.
"Oh fuck, Jack. Don't tease me...you know I'm on a short fuse already. Todd's probably got you scheduled out the rest of the day. Seriously, man. We need some time together before you have to do the boardroom shuffle thing. All I'll need is like two minutes, tops," he said with a smile.
"I could get there in one, big guy. I've got it bad, too. Come on, the sooner we get to Denver, the sooner we can maybe steal some time from the rest of the world. I love you so much. Forever, Sam."
We walked hand in hand to the plane and up the steps. Ron walked out of the front lavatory and immediately pulled in the stairs and locked the door.
"Grab a seat guys. I doubt we'll have a wait to takeoff at this hour." We did as he suggested, joining Todd who was already strapped in, his IPad now in hand. It was like he never stopped working on something. Relentless. I was glad he was on our team.
We were airborne in less than 10 minutes, and less than 5 minutes later Todd was seated at the table again with his computer and other electronics searching for answers. I, on the other hand, was in serious need of some sleep. Sam and I both couldn't stop yawning. Sam studied the sofa we were on before and figured out how to expand it into a bed, complete with a thin mattress. We had no sheets or blankets, but I didn't care. I just wanted Sam's arms around me. No sooner did we lay down next to each other, we were asleep with Sam spooning me from behind.
We awoke nearly two hours later to Todd gently shaking our shoulders. Sam's arm was tight around me the way I liked it, and we somehow had a thick blanket over us. Where did it come from?
"Hey guys. Sorry to wake you, but Ron says you have to be in a seat for landing. I let you go as long as I could. We should be on the ground in five minutes or so," said Todd. Sam and I slowly got to our feet, me folding up the blanket and Sam putting the bed back into a flying sofa.
"Where did this blanket come from," I asked, which I now had folded reasonably straight.
"You guys looked a little cold sleeping there, so I asked Ron where they were kept. He told me and I put it over you guys. Hope that was okay."
"Yeah, sure. Thanks. It's more than okay, I appreciate it, Todd. Now where should I put it?" Todd showed me the shelf in a closet near the galley where blankets, towels, pillows, and even sheets were stored. Cool. There was a larger space near the bottom of the stack of shelves labelled "Laundry". I assumed it was where used linens went, so I put the blanket we had used there. I doubt it was dirty, but I didn't know the proper protocol for such things. I'd have to ask Ron. So much to learn.
We took our seats and the landing went smoothly. This time our roll out was longer and the braking not as forced. Longer runway maybe? As soon as we came to a stop, I headed to the restroom in the rear of the plane to do what I needed to do while Sam gathered what few items we had brought into the cabin with us. When I came back out I helped Todd find all of his equipment and papers. Ron had the door open and stairs down, and it was freezing out there!
"Damn, it's cold! You didn't tell me I'd be freezing my nuts off in Denver, Jack," said Sam as we walked down the steps. We were in shorts and t-shirts, and it had to be in the 40s. It felt even colder coming from Hawaii. Todd of course was already standing by a waiting black limo, warm in the thick jacket he'd put on before he stepped out of the plane. Our bags were sitting on the ground near the rear of the car, the trunk open.
Todd started waving us over and shouting. "Come on guys, get a move on before you catch pneumonia or something." We started trotting towards the gleaming car, and just as we got near, a big black guy with long soft hair dressed in a solid black suit and huge white smile stepped out from behind the trunk lid and opened the rear door.
"Where to, Cute Stuff?" I dropped the bag I was carrying and ran to him, throwing my arms around his massive frame. He picked me up off my feet and spun me around once.
"Oh my god, Billy! What are you doing here? I didn't even know I was coming back until yesterday." He laughed at my enthusiastic greeting. Sam was watching from a short distance away, taking it all in.
"Todd called me and asked if I would come and pick you guys up. Mama called him after you guys had talked and suggested Todd use my company whenever you needed a driver. She also told me you're planning on moving to Denver?"
"Yep. And...I have a surprise for you." I turned to Sam and motioned for him to join us. I grabbed his left hand and held on tight. "Billy Adams, this is Sam Wainwright, my friend...and my forever love. He came back with me from Hawaii."
Sam stuck out his other hand, and Billy shook it with his white teeth gleaming in a signature Adams smile. Sam couldn't help but smile back. "Pleasure to meet you, Sam. I want to hear all about your romance with Jack, but let's get your gear stowed in the trunk and get you guys inside. It's gotta be cold for you in those shorts."
Together Billy, Sam and I got the trunk loaded and we piled into the limo, joining Todd who was already on the phone talking to someone. I guess 5:30 in the morning was not too early to call. Thankfully it was nice and toasty in the back seat of the limo. This one was not as long as the stretched version Billy had picked me up in from the airport the first time I met him. Still, Sam and I could sit up closer to the front and chat with Billy while Todd worked his phone.
Billy started driving, talking over his shoulder to us through the open privacy screen. "So Jack, you certainly wasted no time in finding Mr. Right. I thought you were gonna take your time."
"I didn't, Billy. It happened just like you said it would. He found me. I was literally asleep on a lounge chair and he just walked into my life." I proceeded to tell him the abridged version to get him up to speed on my relationship with Sam. Sam was watching me the whole time I was talking, his blue eyes twinkling and his mouth stretched into a self-satisfied grin. I think he liked me talking about him as the love of my life. Thankfully he didn't seem jealous of Billy, because although Billy was gay and my friend, he was permanently attached to Jerome, whom I still had yet to meet.
The sun was beginning to cast light on the landscape and mountain tops as we approached downtown Denver. "Billy, where are you taking us?" I hadn't even thought about what Todd had planned. He was still talking to people on his phone. He would hang up one call and switch to another.
"Todd has you guys set up at the Ritz, where you stayed the last time your were in town."
"Shit!" I exclaimed. Sam immediately zeroed in on my uncharacteristic cursing. Billy was watching me very closely in the rearview mirror, his smile replaced by a look of grave concern. I glanced towards his reflection hopefully imploring him to keep silent with my eyes.
"Jack! What's wrong? Tell me, now."
"Um...it's just...I hate that hotel, Sam. I don't want to go there - like ever again."
"What happened? Why don't you want to go there?"
"Can we talk about it later, please?" I asked, begging him to drop it. I wouldn't keep a secret from him, but Todd didn't need to know about the unfortunate incident from my past stay at the Shitz, which is how I thought of the hotel now.
Sam looked intensely into my eyes, studying me, like he was looking for the answer without me having to say anything. It only took a few seconds before he nodded once, and then Sam the protector kicked in and took charge. "Okay...for now. Billy, alternative hotels. What have ya got on short notice?"
"There's the Four Seasons. It's on par with the Ritz. Has a more contemporary feel to it. And they can probably accommodate you - no guarantees on what's available though for rooms." Sam nodded at me and turned to Todd who was dialing yet another number.
"Hey, Bean Counter. We need to move to the Four Seasons. Can you get us a room there instead of the Ritz?" asked Sam. He was smiling to try and keep it light.
"Why...Pool Boy?" asked Todd, also smiling. "I thought Jack liked the Ritz. Clyde said you loved it there," he said, looking at me. I started to reply but Sam put his hand on my arm gently, and smiled softly at me.
"Not my speed. I prefer the Four Seasons, and Jack doesn't really care one way or the other. So can you do it, or should I call? I know you're busy."
"No, Sam. I've got it. Gimme two minutes," he said, already dialing.
I mouthed a silent "thank you" to Sam, and he just smiled back at me. I couldn't believe he just stepped up and made the change in venue about him, covering me in the process. He protected me, and he trusted me without question, not yet knowing why I didn't want to be at the Ritz. I didn't have to justify it to him first. He just made it happen. God, I loved him.
We rode on in silence as we waited on the verdict from Todd. Finally he closed his phone and sighed. "Okay. Billy, the Four Seasons, please. Guys, you've got a premiere one-bedroom suite. I also took the liberty of ordering breakfast for you so it should get to you faster. Jack, I rerouted the tailor from the Ritz so hopefully he will be waiting for us in the Lobby. Billy, can you stand by to take me to the office while Jack and Sam freshen up. Then come back and get them and bring them to the bank?"
"Sure thing, Mr. Martin," said Billy, smiling again.
"What? Wait...what do you mean, tailor in the lobby? Why do I need a tailor?" I asked, thoroughly confused.
"Billy, please...call me Todd. My guess is you're going to become something of a fixture around us, and the boss likes things informal. I mean look at him. He's planning on crashing an executive board meeting in a pair of cargo shorts and flip flops, for cryin' out loud."
Oh crap! I had forgotten completely about the meeting, and I'd never even thought about what I would wear. My only dress pants and coat were a wrinkled mess by now in one of the suitcases in the trunk. I didn't exactly have any other options. Leave it to Todd not to forget. As usual he was five steps ahead of me, more of a personal assistant now than a financial advisor.
Billy and Sam were trying not to laugh. I shrugged my shoulders in defeat. What was I going to do but go along with whatever plan Todd had in mind. At least I had on clean underwear. I think.
Todd took another call and I leaned into a hug from Sam as we entered the downtown area and Billy made quick time through the early morning light traffic. We pulled into a covered lobby entrance underneath a very modern looking building tower. Billy was out of the car and opening our doors before the hotel bell boy could even get through the revolving door from his station inside the the entrance.
Todd was on the move, as well. "I'll check to see if the tailor is here. Billy, can you help them get to their room, please? They should be all checked in. I think this gentleman here has their room keys," he said, indicating the red-haired, freckled face standing now before us. He was eager and cute.
"Welcome to the Four Seasons, gentlemen. My name is Paddy. I see you have a few bags. I'll be right back with a luggage cart. Here are your room keys. You'll be staying in one of our best suites on the 15th floor." He left and returned half a minute later with a shining rolling luggage cart complete with gold metal supports and hanger bar. Billy and Sam loaded it and the four of us set off for the elevators.
Once in the room, Paddy started pulling off bags and carrying them to the bedroom walk-in closet. Billy excused himself to use the powder room, and I stepped into the dining room/living room and stood looking out at the mountains in the distance, now illuminated in the early morning sun. Breathtaking. Sam came up behind me and put his arms around me, holding me tightly.
"Is there always going to be this much chaos around us, Jack?" he whispered.
"I hope not, Sam. I don't like it either. But to be fair, I do have to do the meeting thing today, and Todd is working like a mad man to figure it all out. Hang with me for a little while longer, and I promise we'll have some us time later today, okay?"
I heard a knock on the room door, and Paddy answered it, then I heard Todd's voice directing someone to put it on the dining room table. Suddenly three men with rolling food carts entered the dining room and started transferring platters of food to the table. They stacked plates and bowls and utensils in neat piles at one end, and once the table was complete, departed just as quickly as they had entered. Breakfast, I presumed, served Todd style. Fast and plentiful, and it smelled wonderful. Sam didn't hesitate and started to fix a plate.
"Come on, Jack. Let's eat."
"Go ahead, Sam. I want to find Billy. Be right back." I went through the hall towards the bedroom and nearly ran into Billy standing in the foyer, looking lost and without purpose. I knew he was waiting for Todd, but my intrepid personal assistant was now standing in the middle of the bedroom with a dapper looking older gentlemen complete with a cloth measuring tape around his neck and pin cushion around his wrist. There was another luggage cart parked in the alcove in front of the massive closet, from which hung at least twenty suits in varying shades of blues and greys. On the credenza were three stacks of dress shirts, some white, some blue, and some a cream color. The tailor was now sorting through a pile of ties of various designs strewn across the bed. So much for having any play time with Sam before the meeting. Ugh!
"Looks like you're gettin' some new duds, Jack," said Billy, smiling at me.
"Yeah, I guess so. Can't very well do business in my shorts. Hey Billy, about the Ritz. I'll talk with Sam about what happened...you know...before. But I don't want Todd to know just yet. The whole thing was very embarrassing and I'd really just rather forget it. You cool with that?"
"Sure, Cute Stuff. Whatever you say. Guy was a prick, not worth rememberin'."
"Thanks, Billy. You're the best. How's Jerome, by the way? You guys doin' good?"
"Oh yeah. Me and Jerome are always good. He makes it easy. You and Sam gotta come by our place and hang out when you can. I'd love for you to meet him, and he'll cook up a feast for ya'. Speaking of good, you and Sam seem to be a perfect match. How'd you pull that off so fast? Last time we talked, you was still scared of your shadow."
"I know. It just happened, like I said. After talking with you about...things...gay things...I wasn't so scared. And I told your mom I was gay, which was huge, and she encouraged me, too. So when Sam and I were sitting eating pizza and he started asking about my life, I just didn't want to hide anymore. So I told him. And he was great, Billy. He held me and let me cry a little, and then he told me he was gay, too. We tried to take it slow, honestly. Neither one of us wanted too much too soon. But I fell in love with him. It took talking with Todd and your Mom for me to realize it for what it truly was. Turns out we were both crazy for each other. And I promise Billy, it all happened before I ever saw him naked."
"And how is that goin'? You all right with everything?" I loved how Billy talked about sex like it was the most natural and ordinary thing in the world, which it really was.
"Yeah. It's been wonderful. He's been so patient with me, seein' as how I had no idea what I was doing. He seems happy enough. I know I am," I said, slightly blushing.
"I'm so happy for you, Jack. You deserve Sam. He seems like a great guy, the kind of man you needed to help you come out of your shell. You ever have any questions - about anything - you call me, okay? You're not alone anymore, Jack." He put his massive arm around my shoulders and rested it there while we watched Todd finally hang up on what had to be his hundredth phone call since we got off the plane.
"Jack...good. We're ready to start. This is Mr. Heywood. He's doing us a huge favor in getting you suited up on such short notice, so be nice to him. Hopefully he's brought something with him which will work. I had no idea about Sam's height or size, so I don't know what he can do for him, but Mr. Heywood will try. I'm going to the office, I've just about nailed this thing down. Tell Sam he was right. Gotta run. Billy, let's go. I gotta clean up my messy office before the boss gets there and sees all the pizza boxes and beer bottles everywhere." They left, Billy winking at me on the way out.
Mr. Heywood was a master at his job. He had me down to my underwear and measured everything but my dick size in about five minutes, recording everything on a little pad with a pencil he kept sticking behind his ear. I stood there nearly naked while he selected three shirts - one in each color - and six pairs of dress socks.
"Put the white shirt and black socks on, please, while I find a jacket," he ordered. I did as commanded, but had trouble with the tight button holes on the sleeves. He pulled a navy blue jacket from the rack and after helping me button my shirt cuffs, he got me into the coat. It fit perfectly across the shoulders, chest and waist. The sleeves were a little long, and he marked those with a small piece of chalk. Then came the matching pants. This was obviously not a cheap department store suit. The pants and jacket were lined in silk and felt like nothing I had ever had on before. I thought the pants might be a little tight, especially in the crotch, but the tailor said all they needed was some hemming, which he quickly marked after having me stand on a short portable wooden platform in a pair of black shoes which appeared from a box on the bed and were magically my exact size. The shirt he deemed acceptable. Mr. Heywood was picking out a tie to complete my look when Sam walked in, carrying a plate of food, chewing and talking at the same time.
"Jack...I thought you were gonna eat some...oh wow! Fuck, Jack, you look like a million bucks. That suit is hot!" He nearly dropped his plate in his excitement. I could feel my mouth stretched into a wide grin. My man had the hots for me. Mr. Heywood's back was still to Sam, but I could see his face, and he looked at me and smiled.
"Okay, Mr. Schaeffer, let's go with the red and blue striped tie. Timeless, classic, and conservative. Perfect for meeting with a room full of stuffy bankers. Step down from there and I'll show how to tie this properly." I guess my ignorance about clothes was obvious to a professional, but I was grateful for the help, so I paid attention to what he was doing, as I would have to redo it shortly. I got undressed, with Sam watching my every move, hungry for more than his omelette, and handed the jacket and pants to Mr. Heywood, who hung them up carefully and put them in a leather garment bag.
"Well, Mr. Wainright, you're next. Please take off your clothes and step up on my box." Sam choked on a bite of potatoes he had just put in his mouth and I had to run to get him a glass of water to help calm him down. When he could finally breathe again he said, "But I don't need a suit. Jack's the only one going into the meeting, not me."
"Young man, your partner is about to enter a very important and vital meeting which will have lasting ramifications for countless others. Surely you are not going to send him off to the lions alone and unsupported by the man who has pledged to be by his side forever. At the very least, you certainly are not going to do it in those ghastly beige short pants you're wearing right now. Get them off!" Sam was stunned into silence, and looked at me for help. I shrugged my shoulders. I had no idea how he knew or what he knew, but Mr. Heywood meant serious business.
"Better do what he says, Sam," I said, noticing Mr. Heywood now trying very hard to not allow a grin to escape his thin-lipped pretend grimace. He was playing with Sam, so I decided to play along. Sam was now down to his underwear, his cock no longer showing any interest in the proceedings. He looked uncomfortable, but thankfully Mr. Heywood was professional and fast at the measuring process, so in no time Sam was dressed in a grey suit and pale blue shirt which looked stunning on him. Like mine, it needed few alterations. Mr. Heywood selected a tie with three shades of blue and some shiny silver threads for Sam's ensemble, and then proceeded to pack this additional suit into the original garment bag along with my blue one. We helped him gather all of his supplies and remaining garments, which surprisingly all fit on the luggage rack.
"I'll take it from here, boys. I'll get the alterations completed and see you at Mr. Martin's office by 9:30. Don't forget your socks, shoes, shirts and ties. And try not to get them wrinkled," he implored, as he turned and headed out the door.
And suddenly it was just the two of us again, standing there in our underwear and nothing else. We both started laughing at the absurdity of the scene which just transpired, then Sam pulled me to him and kissed me. My cock started straining against the underwear holding it in, as did Sam's. I pulled him backwards into the bedroom, never losing contact with his lips. Finally I sat down on the bed, and he looked down at me and smiled.
"Don't you want some breakfast, Jack?"
I shook my head slowly, a lustful grin giving away my desire. "I want me some Sam."
The next 30 minutes were filled with excitement, lust, passion, and a reconnecting of souls as well as bodies. We needed our time together, to re-establish who we were in the whirlwind swirling all around us. We were both on foreign soil in a way, entering a life neither of us was familiar with or frankly, prepared for. But we were also surrounded by people who could and would help us.
As I lay naked in Sam's arms, spent and finally relaxed after nearly 24 hours of non-stop tension and activities, I marvelled at the peace and calmness I always found being next to him. "Sam, thank you for trying on the suit. I know you hated all the fuss, but I need you there with me. Even if you don't come into the boardroom, I'll feel your strength through the walls if you're nearby. I don't want to do it alone."
"Of course I'll be there with you, Jack. No other place I'd rather be. Hopefully Todd has figured out exactly what their play is so you can thwart the plans. Are you sure he said I got it right?"
"Yep. That's what he said to tell you. Then he ran out with Billy."
"Speaking of Billy, he's going to be here in about 20 minutes, and you never ate anything. You need to grab something quick and then meet me in the shower. We're a mess."
We got up and I grabbed him and pulled his arms around me. "Never let me go, Sam. I need you."
"I'll always be here for you, Jack. Forever."
To be continued…
Author's Note: Jack and Sam begin a new life in a new city. Together they will face whatever life throws at them. Does Todd really know the secret behind the turmoil in the bank? Will Jack prevail at the board meeting? What will Sam do with himself while Jack is working with his team? And when will they see the Franklin house? Stay tuned...
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Special note: The Ritz hotel in Denver is a fine establishment, I'm sure, though I have never been there. The events in this story are fictitious and completely unrelated to any actual employees or activities at that location. Any reference to actual hotels or restaurants in this story is never intended to disparage or criticize the actual establishment or its employees.