Castle Roland

Forever 2 - Changes

by Jack Schaeffer

In Progress

Chapter 4

Published: 30 Apr 15

FOREVER 2 - Changes
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

"Why does he want to talk with me?" I asked Todd.

"Don't know. He woke up, and the nurse came out and said he was asking for someone named Jack. I assume he means you." Todd seemed irritated Larry didn't ask for him first, which I could totally understand. I wasn't exactly excited to be the first one to talk to him after undergoing many hours of surgery.

Sam and I, along with Todd and Margie, were all huddled in the hallway outside Larry's current room in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. The door was pulled almost closed as nurses and at least one doctor were in there doing who knows what to Larry to keep him alive. Sam had his hand on my back, and I leaned back on it for support. I was craving physical contact with him. I could feel my emotions threatening to unravel again as fatigue set in.

We had excused ourselves from Davis Munroe down in the cafeteria, pledging to reconnect in a few days after we had time to loop Todd in on the problem. We had made our way back up to the CICU, only to find Todd pacing again, with Margie keeping a watchful eye on her man from a chair in the hallway. She looked much more concerned about Todd than when we had met earlier. When Sam and I approached, she stood up with a look of relief and came over to stand with us. Todd stopped pacing and stepped over to her side, putting his arm around her shoulders. After my query to Todd, no one said anything else, we just waited. And waited some more.

Margie finally broke the silence. "Did you guys get something to eat?"

"Yeah," said Sam. "And we met up with Davis Munroe. He had a very interesting story to tell. We'll need to get into it after we find out what's happening with Larry." Todd raised an eyebrow in Sam's direction but didn't ask any questions. He and Sam were learning each other's ways, and I was slightly amused to watch Todd nod to himself once, the way I had seen Sam do it countless times. Apparently Todd had decided to hold whatever questions he had until Sam was willing to talk about it. I, for one, hoped it wasn't anytime soon. I'd had my fill of blackmail and intrigue.

An older, heavy-set, gray-haired doctor in a long white coat with a stethoscope hanging from around his neck stepped through the doorway from Larry's room, dictating medical orders to a middle-aged female nurse walking beside him carrying a chart. He saw us and smiled kindly, then turned to walk down the hallway toward the nurses' station, his scribe in tow, leaving the four of us still standing there wondering what was going on.

Another nurse suddenly poked her head out of Larry's room. "Is there somebody named Jack out here?" she asked, sounding perkier than seemed appropriate for the occasion.

All eyes looked to me. "Yes, I'm Jack," I said tentatively.

"He's asking for you. You can come in - but only for a few minutes. Everyone else should wait here for now, okay?" She was sweet, but I think Todd had a different opinion. He did not look happy.

I turned to look at Sam, hoping he could instill some courage into me. He leaned down and kissed me - I no longer cared who saw us - and I did stand a little straighter as I pushed opened the door to the dimly lit room. Inside, the bed was surrounded with countless machines, all making soft swooshing sounds as they measured vitals and pushed medicines into Larry. He lay there, eyes closed, looking like death on a cracker. His color was so gray and lifeless, I had to swallow hard and force myself to approach the bed. He startled me when he spoke.

"Hey, Jack." His voice was barely above a whisper, which was understandable given what he just went through. "Thanks for coming."

"Sure thing, Larry. What can I do for you?" I asked.

"Not for me. For Todd." He stopped to catch his breath. Talking was clearly difficult. I waited for him to continue.

"I need you to take care of Todd for me. He…they won't promote him to my spot…too young. Please…take him…let him work for you…the team, too." He stopped again, struggling to catch his breath. It was agony watching him strain to speak, but clearly this was important.

"Larry, it's okay. We stopped the plan. Davis told us it's over." Larry opened his eyes, looked at me, and nodded once. Now he was doing it. I smiled to myself.

"Good news. But…Todd needs more…he can't stay at the bank…no future…for him. Or the others. He'll know what to do. Trust him, Jack. He'll do…good for you…I promise." He was clearly exhausted. We needed to end this.

"I will, Larry. I'll talk to Todd about it tomorrow. You need to rest and get better, okay?"

He sighed, and his eyes closed again. I couldn't tell if he'd just died or fallen asleep. Thankfully the little jagged line on the heart monitor was still moving in a steady rhythm across the screen above his head. I turned to leave and he scared the crap out of me when he spoke again, this time a little louder.

"I need Todd. Someone get me Todd." Worked for me. I moved quickly back out into the hallway.

"Todd, he's asking for you. He's very tired and weak, but I think you should talk to him. He's…worried about you." Todd looked surprised, but at the same time relieved he could see his mentor for himself. Those two had a tighter bond than maybe even they realized. Todd hugged Margie then slipped into the room.

Sam took one look at me and immediately grabbed me into a hug and held me tightly to his chest. I fought the tears as best I could, and thankfully avoided any significant water works. After a minute or so, I leaned back and looked up at my man, beyond grateful for his arms around me. "Thank you, Sam, for being here. You have no idea what you mean to me." He just smiled at me and nodded.

Margie was staring at the door to Larry's room. "Oh man…he's hanging by a thread, guys," said Margie.

"Who, Larry or Todd?" I asked.


"Really? He's seems okay," said Sam.

"Nope. He's tough…no doubt. But Larry is like a father to him now. He's torn up inside, I can tell. If something bad happens to Larry, Todd's gonna be a mess. I don't know what he'll do." She was clearly more than a little upset herself.

"Margie…Larry wanted to see me because of Todd. He wants me to hire Todd away from the bank, as well as the rest of the team, and have them work for me, with Todd in charge. Do you think…will he do it?" I asked.

She looked at me with a mixture of worry and wonder on her face, her eyes beginning to glisten as the tears formed.

"You would do that? To help Todd?"

"Of course…yes. Todd is…he's been my right hand…without me even realizing it. My life right now only works because Todd is mostly running the show. I can't lose him. And Larry…he practically begged me to do it. He really cares about Todd…he wants the best for him. He said Todd has no future at the bank. Do you think Todd will go for it?"

Margie shocked me by walking over and putting her arms around me and hugging me tightly. I reflexively put my arms around her, feeling my shirt get wet as her tears fell. I looked over her shoulder at Sam, and he was beaming at me, his own deep blue eyes brimming with tears. Why was everyone crying all of a sudden?

Margie sniffled once, then stepped back, pulling out a tissue from her handbag and drying her eyes. Sam wiped his eyes with the palms of his hands. I just stood there confused. Sam pulled me to him and looked into my eyes with obvious affection.

"You don't get it, do you?" asked Sam softly. I shook my head. "It's because you care, Jack. You fucking care. I know it, Larry knows it. Hell, now Margie knows it, and she just met you. You don't even have to think about it. You just do it. You take care of people. Your people. And I love you for it. You're an amazing man, Jack Schaeffer."

"Sam…I just…I'm not trying…"

"Nope. Don't even say it, Jack. You are what you are, and don't you dare try and fight it. Look at how you responded to Davis - your heart is miles wide and oceans deep. You care, man, and it's a wonderful thing. Mostly cuz you care about me, too." He was grinning.

"Not even a little bit, you jerk," I said softly, smiling at him. Of course I cared about him. He was my life, my hope, my everything.

"Jack?" I turned to Margie, who was reasonably composed again. "What Sam said. He's right, you know. You are an amazing man. Todd has told me a little about you. He's…well, I'll let him tell you. But to answer your question, yes, I think he would be honored to work for you. And if he says no, I'll tell him no sex until he gives in. Should take less than an hour to convince him, between the two of us." She was grinning herself now. Sam chuckled.

"Yikes! You play hardball," I said, smiling.

"When I have to," she said. "But seriously, I'm sure he'll go for it. He's been wanting something different for a while. Larry's a smart guy. He knows what Todd needs and what he can do, and if he's telling you this is what's best for Todd, I say go for it."

I found a chair and collapsed into it, rubbing my hands through my hair, which was getting long again. Another detail to figure out in my new hometown - where to get a haircut. No St. Nick out here. Sam sat down next to me, reaching out for my hand. I wasn't the only one craving physical attention. We needed to call it a night, but I wanted to wait to see if Todd was alright.

"Sam, we'll leave as soon as Todd comes out, okay?"

"Sure…of course. No problem." Margie sat in the empty seat next to me and sighed heavily. We all three waited in silence for Todd to emerge. Thankfully the wait wasn't long.

He stepped out of Larry's room, quietly pulling the door closed behind him. His eyes were red rimmed - he'd obviously been crying. Margie stood up and pulled him straight into her arms, and Todd lost it. She just held on to him as he sobbed. Sam and I waited quietly from a distance. My heart hurt for Todd. His mentor and friend was suffering, and I could imagine how worried he was, having seen Larry myself. Sam kept squeezing my hand off and on, his own emotions in silent turmoil.

Sensing our presence, Todd pulled himself together quickly, frantically wiping at his eyes with his hands. "Sorry guys, didn't mean to do that." He acted embarrassed for breaking down. Sam was having none of it.

"Listen up, Beancounter. Your friend is in there, hanging on to life after open heart surgery. Don't you dare worry about crying in front of us. I'd be worried about you if you didn't shed a few. We've all been out here doing the same thing. It's cool, man. Don't give it another thought." Todd looked at him surprised, but with respect, too.

"Yeah, Todd. We're all in this together. How's he doin' in there?" I asked.

"He's asleep, I think. Oh, man, he looks bad. Much worse than before. He could hardly talk - kept goin' on about me leavin' the bank and crap like that. I couldn't really understand what he was sayin'. Maybe he'll be more lucid tomorrow." Margie and I exchanged a look, but I shook my head slightly to let her know we'd table the discussion of Todd's departure from the bank for another time. He had enough on his mind for tonight.

"You gonna stay a while?" I asked him.

"Yeah, for a little while. Until they kick us out, which I suspect won't be much longer. Hopefully he'll sleep well. I'll come back in the morning to see him. Oh crap! I completely forgot…shit…I'm sorry Jack. We were supposed to go out to your house this afternoon. Where are you guys gonna stay tonight?"

Sam spoke up. "Got it covered, Todd. Jack and I are headed back to the hotel tonight. I called a few hours ago and extended our stay. Our bags are still there. We'll find you later tomorrow morning. Why don't you text Jack after you've seen Larry and do whatever it is beancounters do with themselves." Todd smiled in relief that Sam had our sleeping arrangements under control.

"Thanks, Sam. Maybe the Four Seasons will let you clean their pool, if you've got nothin' better to do tomorrow." Sam laughed.

"I just might do that, smart guy. Probably show them a trick or two."

"Okay, you two. Enough. I'm tired. Sam, put me in a bed somewhere. Todd, we'll see you tomorrow sometime. And Margie, very nice meeting you. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of each other soon. Have a good night you guys."

"You too, Jack. And Sam. Thanks for being here for Todd today. And Jack, thanks for calling me…I appreciate it. Get some rest."

We finished our goodbyes and headed for the elevators, Sam's hand comfortably hovering near the small of my back. It's good to be able to count on some things, and the simple, consistent way he stayed connected to me was priceless.

Instead of calling Billy, Sam decided we'd give him the night off and just take a cab. I didn't argue. A cab could probably get to the hospital faster and Sam was anxious to get me to himself, I could tell. He'd been so patient all day, what with all the chaos and upheaval. The kind elderly lady at the information desk called a cab for us, and soon we were riding back to the Four Seasons.

Once in our hotel suite, Sam turned out all but one light, leaving us in a dim glow. After the constant fluorescent lights of the hospital all day, it was a relief to my eyes, though not as much as the sight of Sam slowly taking off all of his clothes, until he was totally naked and obviously wanting me. He moved in close, slowly pressing me backwards until my back was against the bedroom wall. Then he kissed me.

When I know Sam is wanting me badly, our kissing becomes a full body experience. I felt it all the way to my toes, my knees beginning to buckle under the intensity of him. If he didn't have me almost pinned to the wall, I might have collapsed on the floor. He was naked, hard, and dripping. I was still fully clothed, something Sam rectified in slow, agonizing steps, teasing my every nerve with his sensuous, light touches on every square inch of my skin as he exposed it. He took his time, knowing he was driving me crazy. And I let him, needing him. Needing this.

He wouldn't let me touch him, but kept pushing my arms up and against the wall. At one point he looked at me, holding my arms straight out from the shoulders, and with his intense stare alone and no words, he somehow commanded me, "Don't move." I don't know how I knew, I just obeyed. And he definitely made it my pleasure - our little tryst in Todd's office was nothing compared to this overwhelming moment.

When he finally had me naked, and trembling from head to toe, he pulled me gently toward the bed, kissing me the whole way. He turned me so my back was to the bed, then pushed me rather hard backwards and I flopped down on my back. I laughed. It somehow struck me as funny. Then he started laughing, and instantly we were both cracking up uncontrollably, rolling around on the bed, our naked bodies intertwined.

After the laughter died down, our lovemaking continued in a slow, languorous fashion, neither one of us wanting to hurry anything. I have no idea when I finally fell asleep, or even what we had been doing when I did. I just know when I woke up with Sam's arms around me and his furry warm chest up against my back, I was in heaven. I didn't care we weren't yet in our own house. Home was in Sam's arms, wherever we were.

I lay there quietly, not wanting to disturb Sam, thinking about what Larry had proposed. If I did what he asked, I would definitely become an employer - with a payroll to meet. I smiled to myself, wondering if Todd would be in agreement with the three week rule: if there's no cash in the till for at least three weeks payroll, we shut the company down. I figured I could cover 5 or 6 employees for a while.

Of course I had no idea how to start a company, or incorporate or whatever it was you were supposed to do. But Todd would. I wondered if the rest of the team would follow Todd and leave the bank to join us. It had to be their decision - I didn't want anyone pressured to jump ship. And the biggest question of all - what would my new business actually do?

My bladder preempted any further ruminations. Sam started stirring as I tiptoed to the bathroom. When I returned he was smiling at me, watching me walk back to the bed, shivering in the cold room.

"Hmmm. There he is," he said. "I missed you."

"Hold me some more, will you?" I asked.

"Come here," he said, holding open the covers for me to slip under as I snuggled up against his warm body. He wrapped me up in his arms, his face resting under my chin, his warm breath adding to the heat between us. I instantly relaxed and melted into him. We stayed like that for nearly an hour, holding one another, saying very little, just being together.

Our stomachs started rumbling about the same time, so Sam called for room service and I headed for a shower. Sam joined me just as I was shampooing my hair, and we finished washing each other and then we were distracted with other things that came up, which is why he was dripping wet with only a towel wrapped around his waist when he answered the door for room service. He quickly signed the check and told the steward he would take care of setting up breakfast.

We ate in our towels, enjoying the warm sun shining through the windows in the living/dining area. It looked like a glorious day ahead. Sam kept smiling at me as he devoured his omelette and toast. I was torn between looking at him and the distant mountains - both were majestic images.

My cell phone rang, breaking the sun's spell over us. I scrambled to find it, dropping my towel in the process. Sam was laughing hysterically at me when I tripped over my shoes trying to grab the phone in time. Laying on the floor, naked and nursing my wounded pride, I answered Todd's call.

"Yeah, Todd. What can I do for you?" I sounded much more irritated than I really was.

"Well, good morning to you too, sunshine. Fall out of bed on the wrong side, did we?"

"Fell is the right word. I just tripped getting to the phone. Sorry. I'm good. What's goin' on? How's Larry?"

"Holding his own. He looked a little better. Getting cranky with the nurses, which is a good sign, I guess. We talked some more. He said you and I needed to talk about something important, but he wouldn't say what. He wanted it to come from you. What's that all about?" No avoiding it now. Thanks, Larry.

"Let's talk when I see you, okay. You at the bank? Should we come there?"

"Yeah, I just got here. Give me an hour to get the guys updated and put a game plan together for the day, then we can head for the house and you guys can check it out. I'll call the Smyths and tell ‘em the boss is coming for a visit."

"Cool. I'll call Billy and see if he can drive us around today."

"Already called him. He's on his way. So get your ass in gear, Boss. The day's a wastin'." I smiled. I couldn't help it - Todd was back to his normal irreverent self.

"See you in a few."

"Later, Jack." He hung up. A still naked Sam came up behind me and wrapped me up in his huge, strong arms. I leaned back into him, tilting my head back and to the side for a kiss. I felt Sam's dick harden against my ass.

"Everything good with Larry?" he asked.

"Yep. So far he's holdin' his own according to Todd. Billy's on his way. But I think before we get dressed, I need to do something with that stick pressing into my backside."

"You gonna do that thing you do…the one I like so much?" he said, teasing me. I spun around and did exactly that.

Sam's smile nearly matched Billy's when he let him into the room a little while later. Once we had everything packed up, the three of us headed down. In the elevator, Billy kept stealing glances at Sam, and then at me.

"What?" I asked.

"I don't know…I could be wrong. But it sure looks to me like you boys had a very good time last night at the Four Seasons." He broke out in a huge, megawatt Billy smile, and Sam just chuckled. I blushed, grabbed Sam's hand, and rested my head on his shoulder.

"Can't help it, Billy. I'm in love with the big guy," I said.

"I can see that, Jack. And it's a beautiful thing, too. Happy for you, man."

"Thanks, Billy."

"Maybe now you'll stop pervin' on my magnificent ass."

Sam burst out laughing and I buried my red face in his chest, mortified. Billy high-fived Sam and mercifully the elevator dinged, announcing our arrival at the lobby. We followed Billy across the lobby with all our bags and out to his gleaming black sedan.

When he dropped us off at the bank, I asked Billy to come back in about an hour to take us out to the house. "I'm all yours today, Jack. Whatever you need. Just text me. I'll be five minutes away." I nodded once - now I was doing it - and Sam and I rode the elevator up to the Private Trust offices.

We found Todd in his office, cell phone attached to his ear. We stood there and waited while he wrapped up his call. "Hey, guys. Glad you're here. I've got to run down the hall for two minutes and then I'll be right back. Try to control yourselves while I'm gone, please."

"No worries, Todd. Jack wore me out last night. And this morning."

Todd laughed. "Cool. Glad somebody got some." I turned to face the wall, looking for a place to die of embarrassment. Between Billy and Sam, it was a wonder I had a shred of dignity left. After Todd walked out, I turned back to Sam.

"Before you say anything, Jack, I'm sorry. I was out of line, and I apologize. I didn't mean to embarrass you. It won't happen again." He smiled at me with his lost puppy dog look.

"Sam…I don't mean to be so sensitive. This is all so new to me. Part of me loves the banter and sex talk. Really. I guess I still have some fear of what other people will think of me, especially if I'm…I don't know…a sexual being?"

"I get it. You hid from it for so long, you're still getting comfortable with the idea. I remember feeling the same way at first. I'll be more careful, Jack. I love you…forever."

"Forever, Sam." He was still holding me against his chest when Todd came back. He closed his office door behind him, and instead of walking around to sit at his desk, he leaned in to whisper to us.

"Alright. I have everyone up to speed on Larry's condition. But I'm hearing Arnold Turner is on the war path. Apparently he's been through this office twice since yesterday's board meeting trying to figure out who sabotaged his plans. And he's not being very subtle about it. We need to talk, but not here."

I grabbed Sam's hand, tensing up. He squeezed my hand back. "Easy, Jack. Don't worry. We've got you covered. Besides, we have a plan with Davis, remember? It's all gonna be okay," said Sam.

"What plan?" asked Todd.

"Let me call Billy to come get us," I said. "We can talk in the car." Todd and Sam both nodded once in unison. Todd grabbed his briefcase and cell phone and we followed him to the elevators. Billy pulled up to the entrance two minutes later, and with Sam in the front seat and Todd and I in the back, we were all set.

"Where to, Jack?" asked Billy. I looked at Todd, not knowing where the house was located.

"Oh…right. Hold on a minute." Todd fiddled with his phone and gave Billy an address on South Deer Creek Canyon Road in Littleton. Billy put it into his GPS and announced it would be about a 40 minute drive. Not exactly close to downtown. Billy pulled out into late morning traffic.

Sitting back, Todd looked at me with a puzzled expression. "What?" I asked.

"You and Larry, yesterday. What did you guys talk about?" he asked. Man, he certainly wasted no time.

"Well, he's concerned about you. He suggested…no, insisted is more like it…that I hire you to work for me exclusively, as the head of my…company."

"What company?" asked Todd.

"The one he says you'll know how to start. He said you're ready. You're too good to stay at the bank, and you have no future there. He also said we should try and bring the entire team with us."

Todd went silent, turning to look out the window. From the side, I couldn't see his face, but his body language told me he was struggling to keep his emotions in check. Poor guy! So much happening in such a short time. I just waited. Sam looked at me in the rearview mirror and mouthed the words "I love you." I smiled back at him.

After a few minutes, Todd sighed deeply and turned to me once again. "Okay…just so I'm clear on this. Larry asked you to start a new company and hire me and all the guys who work on your account away from the bank?"

"Yes," I replied.

"And I'm supposed to get the company established and you want me to run it?"

"Well…I suppose I'm the head of it, but yeah, you would be running the day-to-day operations. I have no clue how to do what you guys do."

"Are you thinking we do what we already do for you, just independent of the bank?"

"I think so…to start. But we can do other things as well, if they make sense. We can figure it out as we go, can't we?"

"Yeah, I guess. Wow…this is a huge step for me, Jack. I didn't see this coming. When Larry started babbling last night about me leaving the bank, I just thought it was the meds talkin'. But he was serious."

Sam turned around in the front seat. "He's looking out for you, Todd. And from what I've seen you do in just the last few days, I'd say Jack's new company is in very capable hands." Todd stared at him, unable to respond. He finally just nodded, accepting the praise he very much deserved.

"So…whadda ya say, Todd? Will you do it?" I asked.

He swallowed and looked at me with a very serious expression. "Yes…with two conditions."

"Okay…what are they?"

"One, I can use Larry as an advisor when I need him. He won't be working full-time anymore, but I know him, and he's gonna want to do something."

I thought about his request for a minute. He was right - Larry had only done one thing his whole life. He wouldn't be able to just walk away from it, but he needed to not have every day responsibilities. He needed a semi-retirement type setup. Then it came to me.

"How about this. Every company needs a board of directors, right? Let's ask him to be one of the directors of our new company. It won't be too taxing and he'll be available to you whenever you need him."

"Perfect! Thanks, Jack. I hope he goes for it." Condition one met.

"And the second condition?" I asked.

"Okay, this is a big one. Will you trust me to build the team around me? Hire the right people for the right jobs?"

"Yes, but with one caveat of my own. Depending on the level of responsibility, I have final authority. Otherwise, I'll expect you to build and manage a winning team at your discretion. I'll try to stay out of it. But there is one abiding rule: we are a team. And everyone must be a team player. Anyone has a problem with that, they're gone. Agreed?"

"Agreed. Can I ask for one more thing?"

I smiled. "Okay, I'm feeling generous today. One more thing."

"Can I get an assistant? You guys are a pain in the ass to take care of." Sam burst out laughing and Billy was smiling big, chuckling to himself.

"Yes, Todd, you can have an assistant. You can have two if you need them. But now for my one demand." He looked startled.

"What is it, Jack?" he asked tentatively.

"You're MY assistant…my right hand. I'm going to lean on you and depend on you more than ever. I need you available to me - and to Sam - whenever one of us needs something. We will try not to abuse the privilege, I promise. I know I'm asking for the moon, but you've already proven you can handle it. Bottom line…I trust you, Todd. And in a very real way, I'm trusting you with my life." I looked at Sam. "And my family's, too."

At the mention of "my family", Sam immediately twisted in his seat to look at me, his beautiful blue eyes glistening in the sun. His expression conveyed his love and gratitude without words - I hoped mine was saying the same thing. He was my family now. He nodded his head once, then whispered softly, "Forever." I reached out my hand for him and he reached back, holding on for a few seconds, while Todd mentally processed my one demand.

Letting go and turning back to Todd, I said, "So, you up to the challenge?"

He looked at me, then at Sam, and back to me again. "Yes…yes, I am. It would be…well, I would love it, actually. I told Larry over the weekend, when you asked for my help with JP and his…issues…I finally felt like I was making a difference, not just making money. He humored me - he loves making money. I do, too, don't get me wrong. But…working with you two, I have a feeling we're going to be making a difference in many people's lives, and I want to be a part of that in a big way."

"Well, alright then. Welcome to the team!" said Sam, as he and Todd high-fived across the seat.

I held out my hand to Todd, and we exchanged a traditional handshake, making our new working arrangement official in my mind. Although I knew even then the relationship would be based on much more than mutual work responsibilities. Todd was now part of my family, too, whether he realized it yet or not. Margie, too.

I looked into the rearview mirror and saw Billy watching me. He winked at me, giving me his signature smile. I couldn't help but blush and smile back at him. Billy could touch someplace tender and innocent in my soul with his smile. I hoped we never lost that connection - it was special to me. He was fast becoming my family, as well. And I couldn't wait to see Sharon again. I had so much to tell her. And I wanted her to meet Sam, too.

"Jack," said Sam. "Speaking of making a difference, we need to bring Todd up to speed on what Davis told us yesterday."

"Ugh! I know. It's all so ugly. You tell him, Sam." He nodded and proceeded to fill Todd in on Arnold Turner's blackmail scheme and how Davis Munroe's son Andrew was innocently sucked into the whole sordid mess. I just listened, watching Todd's face as he processed what he was hearing, his nostrils flaring in anger at times, his eyes moistening at others. Todd had a heart to go with his world class brain, and I was doubly glad he was part of our team.

"That son of a bitch!" said Todd, seething after Sam finished. "We have to stop him, guys. Shit! Larry was right. He kept telling me, ‘Something's not right with Davis. This isn't him'. Does Larry know?"

"No. I didn't want to chance upsetting him after his surgery. And I think we need to leave him out of this for now, unless we think he can help in some tangible way." I replied.

Sam answered, "Keep in mind, Davis is going to try and buy us some time with Arnold. Hopefully he can calm Arnold down today and make him think the consolidation plan is still in play. What we really need to focus on, I think, is getting Andrew Munroe out of the line of fire."

"Sam's right," said Todd. "Jack, you've certainly got the funds to keep Andrew's medical practice operational if he somehow loses his support. We can even set up a charitable organization to run the funds through, if you want to keep your involvement private."

"The money is the easy part. Todd, you should get the ball rolling on a charitable foundation which we fund, for sure. But I have a feeling money is not going to solve all of Andrew's problems."

"Why, Jack?" asked Sam.

"Because of the whole ‘gay' thing, Sam. We won't know for sure until we talk to him personally, and I really want to do it privately and face-to-face so he knows who we are, but my fear is the organizations which fund him now might also have influence over the communities where he serves. If they discover he's gay and take issue with it, they could still impact his work. I want to find a way to insulate him from any negative or disapproving attitudes."

"How will you do that?" asked Todd.

"I don't know right now. We need to meet with Andrew and convince him we are on his side and see how he wants to handle the situation. If I'm right, and he knows nothing about what has been happening behind his back, this is going to blindside him in the worst way. I mean, his father has been covering for him for years, at great personal expense. That alone will be difficult to hear. I'm afraid in helping him we're gonna have to first ‘hurt' him a little, and I want to strangle Arnold fucking Turner for putting an innocent man in such a tough position. It pisses me off!"

"Calm down, Jack," said Sam gently. "We're gonna stop him, I promise. But we have to be patient. We win the game one play at a time, and we win with superior character, right?" I nodded with a deep sigh.

"I'll get started on setting up a charitable foundation right away. Does Davis know you're telling me all this?" asked Todd.

"Yes, we told him we would include you, and he was cool with it. Obviously we need to keep him and his family out of this mess publicly as long as we can. Davis is prepared to lose his job if need be to get Arnold out of the bank, but I'd like to avoid it if we can. Sam, what about Sully? Do you think he might be willing to help us? We need somebody on the board to help Davis control Arnold until we can set a trap or something, right?"

"Great idea. He might go for it. Todd, could you reach out to Sully and see if he's open to having lunch or dinner with Jack and me as soon as possible?"

"Yep. And I'll get Andrew's contact info from Davis and start setting up a trip to meet with him. Will you want me to go with you guys?" asked Todd.

"I think unless we decide otherwise, wherever Sam and I go, you come with us, Todd. At least for now."

"Got it."

"Hey guys," said Billy. "Sorry to interrupt, but I think we're here…"

To be continued….

Author's Notes:

Big changes for Larry and Todd, and plans are developing to rescue Davis and Andrew Munroe from Arnold Turner's evil machinations. How will Jack react to being in his birth mother's house for the first time? Will Sam be willing to live there? What if the Smyths object to serving two gay guys? Stay tuned…

As always, I am most thankful for the faithful readers of Forever. Our journey together is not over, by far. There is much more to come. Thank you all for enjoying the ride with me. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts about the story:

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