Castle Roland

Forever 2 - Changes

by Jack Schaeffer

In Progress

Chapter 12

Published: 21 Sept 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

"I don't need my own office, Jack. I won't even be here after August," said Sam, pushing the decorating sample book away and throwing his hands up in the air.

"Sam, I know it's temporary. But the Director of Special Projects has to have an office in the new building, and right now, that's you. Besides, we talked about this. Even when you're in law school, you will still retain the title with the company, and if there is room in your class schedule, and you want to, you can work on projects for us from St. Louis," I said, smiling at him.

"I can't imagine what I could possibly do from nearly a thousand miles away, Jack. It's not like I can jump in the car and make a quick 12 hour trip back to Denver for a meeting."

I laughed. "Of course not. That's why Will is investigating state of the art telecommunications tools so you and I can 'be' in Denver with the team, even when we can't actually 'be' here."

Sam sighed, throwing his hands up again, this time in friendly surrender. "Fine. Have it your way. Pick whatever you want for the decor. But please, keep it simple and neutral, so somebody else can use the office when I'm not around. No sense in wasting the space." He pushed the decorator samples for carpet and paint across the conference table towards me, just as Todd came in with his third cup of coffee of the morning - or at least since we'd arrived around 9. It was nearly 11 now. I had no idea what time he'd actually rolled in. Sometimes I think he slept in his office.

"Great," I said to Sam. "I'll have Simon tell the interior decorator to keep it masculine and simple. I'll cancel the rainbow wallpaper and green shag carpet I had my heart set on," I said with a stupid grin.

"You are so full of crap, Jack. You hate that flamboyant shit as much as me, and you know it," said Sam. His deep blue eyes flashed with laughter. He looked super sexy in his suit and tie. Of course, he looked sexy in anything - and in absolutely nothing at all.

"What's great? Tell Simon what?" asked Todd as he dropped tablet, keys, and a stack of folders on the conference table and flopped into a leather chair with a deep sigh.

"Sam finally agreed to use his office in the new building."

"Cool. But that was a thing? Every financial services corporation needs a pool boy in the executive suite," said Todd. "All the best companies have them. Maybe you can even double as a plumber for the executive bathroom on the side, Pool Boy," he said, now grinning at Sam. I smiled, too, enjoying their playful banter back and forth.

"Ha ha. Very funny, Bean Counter," said Sam. "I just don't want to be on the payroll doing nothing. It's already ridiculous what you're paying me for the very little I'm doing now."

"Hardly," said Todd. "Sam, do you realize in the last week, our team has worked through over a dozen significant projects necessary to get this company off the ground, and you've had a hand in nearly all of them in one way or another. I'd say you are more than doing your fair share." Sam just shrugged. I, for one, was grateful he had agreed to join our team. And Todd was correct - Sam had been more than helpful on a number of major projects. The rest of the guys loved having him around, too. Probably because I was a nicer guy when he was nearby, if nothing else.

Todd turned to me. "I just got off the phone with Sully. He's anxious to know when the team is planning on leaving the bank permanently. So far he's kept our plans quiet with the rest of the Board, but at some point he's going to have to let them know what's going on. He's lost two VPs, so the Board's getting antsy. I think we need to expedite our departure from the bank, that we know what building we want to buy, we need to finalize all the buildout decisions for the new office - today, if possible. When you and Sam get back from lunch with the attorney, can you sit with Simon and me and go over all the final details for the purchase? Oh, and the interior decorator will be here at 2 this afternoon."

"Sure, I guess so. We should get moving, Sam. Clyde and Sharon will be waiting." We had an 11:45 reservation at a restaurant called The Kitchen in downtown Denver for a working lunch. I was anxious to finally introduce Sam to Sharon and Clyde. I'd insisted on Sharon joining us when I called last week to set up the meeting. She was thrilled I included her.

"Are you sure you don't want to join us for lunch, Todd?" I asked.

"I would love to, but I have a shitload of things to get done today. My boss is a slave driver, man," he said, smiling at me. I grinned back. Like I would ever have to "drive" Todd to do anything. Nobody was more personally motivated than Todd Martin.

"Before I forget...I'm taking a pile of reports over to Larry's house this evening so he can review the overall exit plan from the bank," he said. "Mason and Danny have put the final pieces together for untangling all the trust's investments from the bank's portfolio, but I really want Larry's perspective and stamp of approval before we execute. You in agreement?"

"Of course," I said, without hesitation. "I'm glad Larry's up to the task of helping us. How long has he been home? I thought he still had a week to go in rehab."

"Yeah, right. I think the rehab staff cornered his doctor and said they'd all quit if he didn't find a way to get Larry out of there faster. But he really has bounced back fairly well. I'll know more tonight after I see him. He's anxious to sink his teeth into real work again."

"Well...just be sure we don't overtax him. I couldn't live with the idea we gave him another heart attack." I saw Todd's eyes flair a little at the thought of his mentor and friend suffering another, possibly fatal, setback. Just the idea hurt. Note to self - keep it positive where Larry was concerned. I quickly added, "But I'm sure he will appreciate being a part of the team again. Tell him thank you from me, will you?"

Todd smiled. "Sure. Let me know how it goes with Clyde today. We really need him on board ASAP. The biggest thing is finalizing the incorporation of the company so we can execute the purchase of the building and finish the physical transition from the bank. Simon should have all the details for the closing from the realtor this afternoon. And he's lined up an architect for the changes we've discussed. Ugh! So many details!"

I put my hands up. "Easy man, we'll get it all done in due time. See you this afternoon."

"Later, boss," said Todd, as Sam grabbed my hand and we walked out of the conference room. We were alone in the elevator, and as soon as the doors closed I spun sideways and grabbed Sam's face with both hands and pulled him into a fierce kiss, my tongue showing no patience, demanding entrance. His own seemed eager to play. We kissed passionately, our hands just beginning to roam a little when the elevator dinged, announcing an interim stop on another floor. We quickly separated and tried in vain to appear like we were just two disinterested men riding down together.

The professionally dressed woman who got on with us was probably in her mid-30's, and she smiled politely and turned to face the closing elevators doors. I couldn't be sure but I think she might have guessed what we had been up to. As she exited two floors down, she turned and winked at me. I turned back toward Sam and he smiled at me, then pulled me into him for a more chaste kiss.

"That was embarrassing," I said sheepishly. "Sorry, Sam, I couldn't help myself. You look so sexy in your suit, and when you were sitting at the conference table pouting about your new office, I almost slid across the table into your lap." He chuckled.

"You look damn hot yourself, Jack." I stopped his talking with another kiss, this time with much more fire. He certainly didn't stop me. When we reached the lobby a few moments later, Sam was trying to rearrange the large bulge in his tight suit pants, his breathing a little labored. I smiled at him when he looked at me in exasperation.

"You did that on purpose, you little shit!" he said, his fiery blue eyes dancing merrily. "I can hardly walk straight now."

"Oh relax, you'll be fine. Besides, you're the one who insisted on walking to the restaurant instead of having Billy drive us over." As we crossed the ornate bank lobby underneath the enormous hanging colored glass sculptures toward the entrance, Ben, our faithful personal protection unit, approached from his position standing against a pillar. We had agreed on his hanging out in the bank lobby when I was on the premises. We didn't want to attract too much attention to our being there.

"You guys ready to move?" he asked as we approached.

"Yep. It's just us. Todd's not coming," I replied. Ben nodded and took up his usual position walking a few feet behind us, almost like he wasn't with us, but I knew without turning around the gap between us would never change. I'd tested his resolve and vigilance a couple of times with a challenging walk through a nearby park. Okay, so I'm a little childish on occasion - sue me. Ben laughed it off and asked me if I was satisfied. I was. He was very good at his job, which was to keep me safe. And alive.

"Are you ready to meet Sharon and Clyde?" I asked Sam as we crossed the first intersection on our 14 block walk to the restaurant. It was a glorious day, and Sam was right, it was relaxing to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. We had had some intense working days of late.

"Sure. Clyde will be easy. Sharon...I'm not so sure. She's obviously going to be protective of you."

"She'll love you, Sam. She's a quick judge of character. Besides, anybody looking at us can tell I'm crazy in love with you, so she'll be thrilled. I can't wait to see her again, myself." My pace quickened.

"You inviting her and Clyde to the party on Saturday?" asked Sam. By "party" he meant my birthday party out at the house. Sam's idea was to have an informal barbeque/pool party, kind of like an open house affair, as a way for our new friends to celebrate our arrival in Denver and my birthday at the same time. So far everyone we'd invited had responded with an enthusiastic yes.

"Clyde's bringing his wife, Shirley. And Sharon said she'd come if Billy and Jerome would agree to drive her, so I think she'll be there. She really wants to meet with Maggie again, too. They both knew Amanda, of course."

"So we have Todd and Margie, Ron and Nancy, Justin and Gary, Sharon, Billy and Jerome, Clyde and his wife. Larry's a yes...Todd told me this morning. What about Sully? Did he give you an answer yet?" asked Sam.

"Yes. They're coming."


"Yeah, he's bringing Mark, can you believe it? I guess the whole Arnold Turner fiasco really brought him out of hiding. Actually, he told me when he spoke to Mark about the party, Mark insisted they come - said it was the least they could do for the guys who made it possible to stop looking over their shoulders all the time. I think the idea of Sully's house being broken into shook them both up more than they realized. I know the feeling."

"Yeah, for sure. Okay, cool. So we get to meet Mark, too. What about the team?"

"Will is a definite. Mason said he'll stop by, but he's not sure when yet. Danny's got a date but he might scrap his earlier plans and bring her to the party. Simon's a yes, too. So we should plan on all of them coming. With us and Charles and Maggie, we're at like 23 or 24.'s suddenly a big deal, isn't it?" I said, feeling a little overwhelmed.

Sensing my sudden tension, Sam said, "'s your birthday party. And don't you worry for a second about preparations, either. The second I told her we wanted to throw a party, Maggie completely took over. She's totally in her glory, and has the whole thing planned out. She told me yesterday it's like old times again, back when I guess the Franklins would host Christmas parties for half the office out at the house. All we have to do is stay out of her way, and all will be taken care of."

"But Sam, it's a lot of work for her, and I don't need a big fuss for my birthday," I whined. Sam grabbed my hand, even though we were walking on a public street. I started to pull my hand away, but he held it tightly, and I tried to relax a little. One elderly lady with silver hair glanced over in our direction, but thankfully only smiled at me.

"Jack," he said. "These people love you and care about you. Think of the party as being for them, not you. It won't seem like a big deal then. You're the one who told me when you do good things for people, they're gonna wanna thank you for it. So...relax and enjoy it. Besides, I'm excited to host our first party together. It'll be fun."

Sam was much more social than I was. He had limitless self-confidence, a very sexy trait in a man. Me, not so much. I was more comfortable in smaller gatherings, not big crowds. I'd be meeting half the guests for the first time. What would they think of me? At least most of them already knew I was gay.

It was weird in a way. In a very short few weeks, I had gone from being scared of my own shadow, terrified anyone would find out my big secret, to hosting a party where a significant number of the guests were openly gay as well. At least I wouldn't feel like I had a spotlight on me the whole time. Other than it was my birthday. Ugh!

I wasn't keen on birthdays or birthday parties. Growing up, especially in my younger years, birthday parties meant cousins showing up and teasing me. Game time was the worst. My mother would blindfold me, spin me around a few times, and then tell me to pin the tail on the donkey poster on the wall. I'd usually end up trying to stick one of the party goers with the tail instead, and get punched in the arm or slapped upside the head for my troubles.

"What do you want for your birthday?" asked Sam, interrupting my morose reverie as we continued to stroll down the ever increasingly crowded avenue. More and more people were spilling out of various office buildings, the daily lunch hour now in full swing.

"I don't know. You mean like a gift? Nothing really," I replied.

"'s your birthday. We have to celebrate somehow. Do you want to go somewhere or do something special?" His hand was floating near my back as we maneuvered through the throngs of people walking around us in the warm sunshine.

I shrugged. Actually, there was something I wanted - very badly - but I wasn't ready to tell him just yet. I needed to talk to Billy first. Privately.

"Could you and I hang out together at the house, just the two of us? Maybe bake a pizza in the pizza oven and sit out on the deck and together. Time with you is all I really want, Sam."

"Sounds great to me. But I wonder if Maggie might need to be working at the house Friday night, getting things ready for the party on Saturday?" Friday was my actual birthday. The party was on Saturday at six in the evening.

"Oh...yeah...she probably will." I sighed heavily. I was starting to wish I had said no to the party.

"Tell you what, let me talk to her. We'll figure something out, okay?" said Sam, gently. He could tell I was a little disappointed. I just wanted a chance to be quiet, and unscheduled, with my man.

The walk to the restaurant took nearly 30 minutes, the last half in silence as we casually and comfortably strolled down the street. I wanted to hold Sam's hand again, but refrained. Occasionally people coming at us would walk between us, and we would be separated for a few seconds. If we could hold hands, they would know we were together and walk around us, like they did for other couples.

We finally arrived at The Kitchen about five minutes late. There was a line out the door, but Sam politely forged our way in, and a very gracious hostess led us to our waiting table. Thank goodness I'd made a reservation. Ben, following behind, found a seat at the long metal counter with its high stools. He'd picked a vantage point from which he could enjoy his lunch and still keep an eye on us.

The Kitchen was relatively new to Denver, according to Todd, who'd recommended it to me in the first place. Apparently they focused on sustainable sources for the food they served. There was a chalkboard titled The Kitchen Community Bistro on the wall behind the hostess station listing all the names of the local farmers and suppliers. Kinda cool. I hoped it all tasted good. I was hungry after our long walk.

We followed our hostess as she meandered through square wooden tables loaded with food which could be mistaken for works of art. Patrons sat on modern looking metal chairs. A wall of windows on the street side revealed the line outside of would-be diners getting longer. It was a visually interesting mix of natural elements with more industrial items, though the crystal chandeliers above the tables seemed a bit much.

Seeing us approach, Sharon stood up and held open her arms, and I swooped right in for a wonderful, warm hug. She kissed my cheek with a sparkle in her eyes. "Oh Jack, it's so good to see you again, baby. Look at you - you're beaming. And who is this handsome man next to you?"

I excitedly stepped aside, grabbed his hand and pushed him forward. "Sharon, Clyde. This is my partner, Sam Wainwright. Sam, Sharon Adams and Clyde Watson." Sam reached his hand out to shake Sharon's hand, but she just turned up the wattage on her smile and pulled him into a strong hug. He twisted his face to look at me and smiled. Clyde presented his hand to Sam and smiled knowingly. Sam shook it respectfully.

"Nice to meet you, Sam. Glad you could join us for lunch today," said Clyde. He looked very fit and trim in his dark gray suit with very faint lighter gray pin stripes. The light blue shirt and striped tie drew out the gray in his eyes. He seemed happier than I remembered him.

"Thank you, sir. I've been looking forward to meeting you both. Jack speaks very highly of you," said Sam.

We all sat down. Sharon looked like she was on pins and needles. "So Jack, tell us everything that's happened since you left Denver. And never mind any eye rolling from Clyde over there, don't leave out any of the details. I want to know everything."

"Well, let's see. I quit my job in Chicago. Sublet my apartment. Flew to Hawaii. Met this guy and fell in love with him. Dragged him back to Denver with me. Got threatened not once, but twice, by a psychopathic banker and accidentally killed him. We moved into the Franklin's house in Littleton and I'm starting my own business with my investment team from the bank. Oh...I almost forgot. I'm buying a 22 story office building in the Denver Tech Center. And Sam and I will be moving to St. Louis in August when he starts law school. Uh...yeah...that about covers it." I reached for my glass of water. Sam was trying very hard not to burst into laughter. I smiled at him and waited.

A shocked Clyde and Sharon were speechless, looking back and forth at each other, then to Sam, and then back to me. Finally Sharon took a deep breath and said, "Jack! Oh, baby, are you alright?" I nodded. "What happened? You killed a man? I don't understand."

"Wait...did it have something to do with the banker who died recently? The one Larry told me about?" asked Clyde. I'd forgotten he and Larry were good friends.

I sighed. "Probably. But listen, we're trying to keep it all quiet and let the story just fade away."

"But Jack! You could've been killed! Is that why there's a man sitting at the counter over there looking at us every few minutes?" asked Sharon. She missed very little.

"Yes. That's Ben. He's with us. And no, we are not in any real danger. He's more of a precaution than anything else. of the VP's at Larry's bank got a little crazy and somehow got it in his head I was a threat to him. At one point he tried to scare me and some other folks. In the process things got out of hand and I...well, he died. It was an accident. End of story."

"But you sure you're okay? I mean...all that in just a few short weeks?" Sharon reached out to pat the back of my hand.

"Well, what can I say? I've been busy. Aside from the whole creeper banker guy, the rest has been mostly fun. Sam, of course, is the very best thing to happen to me...ever." I reached out and grabbed his hand on the table and held it, not caring who saw me do it. He smiled wide, his deep blue eyes filled with sparkling little lights.

"Wait a minute," said Clyde, trying to catch up. I'd forgotten he didn't know I was gay. "You...and Sam? I don't understand. it serious between you two?" he asked.

"Yes, Clyde," said Sam, answering for us. "Jack and I are forever. I love him more than anything." Clyde looked skeptical at first but I didn't pay him any attention. I knew what was in my heart, whether anyone else believed it or not. After our overnight on Phillip's Mountain, Sam and I were closer than ever.

Sharon grabbed my other hand and squeezed it, her eyes dancing with happiness for us. "Sharon, you know how I feel about him. You're the one who helped me realize I was in love with Sam in the first place. And you were so right. I didn't have to do anything. He was suddenly just there."

"But Jack," said Clyde, clearly not sure how to handle this new revelation. "You've barely just met. How can you be so sure?"

"I don't know, Clyde. Sam and I both were surprised. We had an immediate connection we couldn't explain. We danced around it for a while, but thankfully Sam told me how he felt and then, at Sharon's urging...I spilled my guts we are. I know it's sudden to all of you, but to me...I don't already feels like he's always been a part of my life, and I can't imagine him not in it."

"I feel the same way," said Sam. "When I first met Jack he was sleeping on a lounge chair. I took one look at him and I instantly knew he was special. I don't know how I knew, but I did. After we figured out we were both gay, it was only a few days and we were head over heels in love. I can't explain it. It just happened. He makes me happy, Clyde, and I don't want anything else in life but him. That's all I can tell you."

Clyde suddenly choked on his water, nearly dropping his glass on the table. Sharon patted him on the back and handed him another napkin while I nervously waited to see if he'd be okay. His face turned quite red before his breathing finally returned to normal.

Wiping his mouth, he said, "I'm so sorry. You shocked me again, I'm afraid. late friend Phillip said almost those very same words to me when he met Jack's birth mother for the first time. Oh my. I didn't understand him, either...not at first. Then again...theirs was a love affair for the ages, so...I can only hope the two of you have half of what they shared together. Congratulations to you both," he said, finally smiling. I let out a sigh of relief. Sharon beamed happily, too.

"Oh, Jack...I just knew it, baby. I knew there was a man out there for you. You just needed to be patient and he would eventually find you. Billy said Sam was perfect for you. And he sounds just like my Big William, talking 'forever' like it's a cake walk."

She suddenly turned serious and leaned in to the table. "You both listen to me. I can see you love each other. Well and good. But forever is a very long time, and it takes work...hard make a relationship last. You both had better be prepared to make it more about the other as much as you possibly can. And whatever you do, respect one another always. Nothin's more important to a man than respect. Least that's what Big William always said. Billy, too."

"Yes, ma'am," said Sam. "I'll do my best. Jack's worth whatever sacrifice necessary." He squeezed my hand and let it go. I of course just wanted to cry happy tears, but I'd sworn off crying for a month at a bare minimum, so I changed the subject.

"So, Clyde, how's Shirley? You guys are coming to the party on Saturday, right?" He put down the piece of buttered bread he'd just taken a bite of and chewed quickly.

"Shirley's great. Never better. We're both looking forward to the party. It gives her an excuse to spend a whole day shopping to buy a new dress and shoes to match," he said with a sigh, but he was smiling, too, his eyes twinkling a little.

"Clyde...what aren't you telling me? Something's changed." Clyde's smile just got bigger, but he bit into his bread and said nothing more. I looked over at Sharon but she just shrugged her shoulders. Odd.

Our waiter, Paula, stepped up to take our order. We hadn't even looked at our menus yet, so she departed to get Clyde and me some iced tea and refill all of our water glasses while we made our choices for lunch. Sharon requested the Roasted Portobello Sandwich with hummus, grilled onions, gouda, greens and house cut fries. Clyde ordered a Curry Chicken Salad with organic greens, hazelnuts, raisins and apple chunks. Sam, my beef lover, went for Koberstein Ranch Beef on Weck with horseradish, pickles, and potato salad. I opted for the Crego Farm Lamb Burger with red pepper relish, greens, and fries. I was curious what Weck was. I'd never heard of it.

"So, Jack," said Clyde. "What was it you said about starting a business?"

"And buying a building?" asked Sharon at the same time.

"Well, aside from introducing you to Sam, that's why we're here. Clyde, I need your help. I would like for you to be the primary legal counsel for Schaffer & Associates, my new company. We need to get the company officially incorporated as quickly as possible so we can close the purchase on the building and then move my team from the bank into the new digs." Sam handed me a piece of bread he'd broken off the loaf and I added a little butter while Clyde digested my request.

"Does Larry know about all this?" he asked.

"Yep. It was his idea, actually. He thinks it's the best way forward for me and everyone on my team at the bank. They've all agreed to part ways with First Colorado and join the new company. They'll do much the same as they have so far - mainly investments and things like that. We just won't be doing it under the umbrella of the bank."

"But why do you need to buy a whole building, Jack? Can't you just find some nice office space somewhere?" asked Sharon, squeezing a fresh lemon wedge into her ice water.

"Jack had the idea of buying a building already loaded with tenants as an investment. The existing leases will more than cover the cost of the mortgage. His company gets free office space and the money invested keeps growing," said Sam. He was proud of me. I sat up a little straighter in my chair.

"My, my," said Sharon. "Jack Schaeffer, business tycoon." Clyde chuckled.

"It's not like I don't have great help. Really...if it wasn't for my team at the bank, I'd still be scared to death about the money. I don't want to screw it all up. Amanda Franklin gave me her estate to change the world. Together, Sam and I, along with my team, are going to do just that. And...I want both of you to be a part of the team, too," I said.

"Jack...I don't do things that change the world. I'm a lawyer. If you listen to most people, I'm one of the guys who screws up the world, not saves it," said Clyde.

"Oh, Clyde, don't be silly," said Sharon. "You've done plenty to help people. Not to mention Jack here, himself."

"Exactly," I replied. "Clyde, if it wasn't for you and Sharon, I would never have been able to handle all the changes thrown at me a few weeks ago. The thing is - I trust you guys. That's how I'm building my team. I'm putting together the collection of people I trust. And your best friend Phillip Franklin trusted you with his fortune and his family, Clyde, so I think I'm on pretty solid ground trusting you, too."

Clyde looked a little overwhelmed. I wasn't intending a hard sell. Sam jumped in to smooth things over.

"Clyde, think of it this way for now. Jack needs some legal services. You're the only lawyer he knows and trusts in town. And from what he's told me, you seem to have the circuit clerk's office wired. We're gonna need permits and real estate closings and who knows what else pushed through, and in very short order. So what do you say? Will you help us?"

"Of course he will," answered Sharon for him.

"I will?" asked Clyde with a smile, pretending now to play hard to get.

" will. You know why, old man? Cuz if you don't help my Jack, you won't be gettin' no more help from the likes of me. How 'bout them apples, Mr. Smarty Pants, high-falutin' attorney-at-law!" We all burst out laughing.

"Well, Jack. Sam. I guess you guys have got yourself a lawyer," said Clyde, smiling. Sharon beamed at him. I knew in her heart she respected him a lot. She was the kind of woman who would only work for someone she respected and admired. That she believed so strongly in me was still a wonder.

Our food arrived shortly thereafter, and I discovered Weck was the kind of bread roll Sam's sandwich was served on. It looked delicious, and judging from the way he inhaled it all, I'd say Sam enjoyed his meal very much. Mine was okay. I like lamb, but ground up as a burger, not so much. Oh well, my mind was on other things besides food anyway.

Our conversation continued on to more mundane things. Sam described our adventures in business real estate. We had eventually looked at five different candidate properties selected by Simon, and truthfully, any one of them would have worked. When Todd pressed me for my decision, I told him the high rise. Thankfully after Simon ran all the numbers, it was the best choice from a purely financial perspective as well. It was already 90% occupied. We would be taking the top two floors.

Sam later asked me privately why I chose the high rise and I told him my reason. He laughed, then kissed me hard to prove he intended to make my high rise point of view pay off. After all, he was the one who'd promised to give me a reason to lock my office door on occasion. I just figured high up we could leave the curtains open. What can I say? I like the sun. And sex with Sam.

"Sam, did I hear Jack correctly? You're going to law school in St. Louis in the fall?" asked Clyde.

"Yes. I have a scholarship to Washington University."

"Really? Small world. I received my law degree from Wash U more years ago than I care to admit," said Clyde, wiping his face with his napkin.

"Seriously?" I said. "You went to the same law school?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact I did. I grew up near St. Louis, in St. Charles, actually, on the other side of the Missouri river. Wash U was close enough so I could live at home and commute to class. I still have family in the St. Louis area. At least I think I do. An aunt and some cousins, unless they've all moved away. I'm not in contact with them anymore."

"This is so cool. So when Sam and I move in August, you could maybe help us check out the best places to live near the university?" I asked.

"I'll try. I haven't lived there in over 30 years, and I've only been back to visit a handful of times, so I'm not sure how much help I'll be. But I can tell you, Sam, Wash U is a fantastic law school. Congratulations on your scholarship, too. That's an accomplishment in and of itself, I'm sure. You'll do well. Have you thought about what type of law you want to focus on?"

"I'm thinking corporate law. It's what my father does, and he seems to like it. I've wanted to be a lawyer for a long time."

"And he's going to be a judge, too," I added. Sam looked embarrassed.

"A judge?" said Sharon. "My, two certainly don't lack for aspirations. Good luck in your studies, Sam. When are you boys moving?"

"I have to get the schedule and talk to admissions. But I would guess some time in August, right, Jack?"

"I think so," I replied.

"Wait. You're buying a building here in Denver, but you're moving to St. Louis?" asked Clyde.

"Yes. The business will be based here in Denver, since most of the team lives here. Sam and I will move to St. Louis, and I'll do my part from there. We can communicate through technology. I suppose I may have to travel back and forth a few times here and there, but we have the plane, and besides, I need to be with Sam, and he has to be there, so....yeah. That's the plan," I said.

Sharon sighed. " be young and full of such energy. It all sounds so exciting. But not to attract the attention of any crazy people in St. Louis, okay?" she said, teasing me. The only crazy people I knew in the St. Louis area were my relatives, and I wasn't planning on any reunions anytime soon.

Clyde and Sharon needed to get back to their office, and Sam and I had a long afternoon in front of us, as well. After declining dessert, I paid the bill. It felt weird not having Todd around to do it. Outside at the curb, Billy had his gleaming black sedan purring in wait, the rear door open. He stood there looking at all of us, his smile outshining the sun, his long hair blowing in the slight breeze. He gave his mama a quick kiss as she hugged him.

" was so nice to finally meet you. You and Jack make such a beautiful couple," said Sharon. "See that you take care of him now, you hear me? I'm partial to this boy."

"Yes ma'am, I will, I promise. See you at the party," said Sam, grinning. He'd obviously passed muster with her.

"Jack...have Larry or Todd or whoever send me the paperwork, and I'll get started right away on your incorporation and anything else that's pressing. I think I can still knock a few heads together downtown to keep the ball rolling," said Clyde.

"Thanks, Clyde. I really appreciate it. I'm looking forward to meeting Shirley on Saturday. You going shopping with her?" I asked. I was still curious about his apparent change of heart where his wife was concerned. Something was different. He was much more positive about her.

"Hmmm...maybe. You never know. Stranger things have happened," he said with a grin. Yep, something was definitely different in his world. The old Clyde wouldn't be caught dead in a shopping mall.

"Clyde, nice to meet you. We'll be in touch," said Sam.

"You, too, Sam. Sorry about my hesitation earlier...about you and Jack, I mean. I didn't understand at first. I still can't get over how much what you said reminded me of Phillip and Amanda, when they first met. Phillip was hooked after that night, for sure. Well...we're off. I've got an afternoon of meetings and you two have a whole world to change."

"Bye, Clyde," I said as he joined Sharon in the back seat of Billy's car. Billy closed the door and turned to us.

"I take it lunch went well," said Billy.

"Yes, your mother is amazing as always. I think she liked Sam," I said, looking at my partner with a big grin.

"What's not to like?" asked Billy. "He's perfect for you, Jack. You got the tough part now."

"Oh...what's that?"

"You gotta be perfect for him, too."

"He already is, Billy, he already is," said Sam, grabbing me and putting his arm around my shoulder. I sort of snuggled up under his arm as Billy smiled and turned to walk around the car. Sam and I both watched his amazing butt as he paused to let a car pass.

Just before he opened his door, Billy looked over the roof of the car toward us and said, "I could feel you both pervin' on my magnificent ass, you know." We all three burst out laughing, Billy loudest of all. "I'll see you guys on Saturday, if not before. Jerome can't wait to meet you. Later, Sam. Later, Cute Stuff." And they were off.

I sighed happily. "That went well, I think. How about you?"

"Yeah. I like Sharon, and she definitely cares about you, Jack. I better not screw up with you or I'm in trouble." I laughed.

"You won't, but I'm glad she's watching out for me. And Clyde may grouse a little here and there, but I've seen him in action. He'll get the job done. Come on, we need to get back to the bank."

"You guys walking back?" asked Ben out of nowhere, scaring the crap out of me. I forgot he was there. He was getting better and better at blending into the background. Sam took charge while I tried to breathe again.

"No...can we take a cab? My feet are a little sore from earlier. These shoes aren't the best for a long walk."

"Sure. Hang tight for a second," said Ben. We stood against the building to be out of the way of passers by while Ben flagged down a cab. Sam and I sat in back, Ben took the front passenger seat, and we were back at the bank in about five minutes. I spent the whole ride leaning up against Sam's shoulder with my eyes closed. Ben paid the driver and took up his post in the bank lobby as Sam and I ascended back up the elevator to the 10th floor.

"Good, you're back," said Todd, looking up from his laptop as we entered the conference room. It was starting to look like our permanent office. "How'd it go?"

"Great. Sharon loved Sam. And Clyde's definitely on board. He said to send him whatever paperwork we've got and he would get started right away."

"I'll have Will shoot him the preliminaries this afternoon. You still willing to run point on the legal front, Pool Boy?"

"Sure, whatever you need me to do," said Sam, collapsing in a chair. He took his shoes off and started rubbing his feet.

"You okay, Sam? What's wrong with your feet?" I asked.

"Nothing, just a little sore. I'm not used to wearing dress shoes everyday, I guess."

"Yeah, I hear you," I said, flopping in a leather conference chair myself. "My suit is practically wearing itself. We probably need to go shopping and get some more work clothes."

"Yippee. I just love shopping," said Sam sarcastically. I smiled at him.

Todd looked up from whatever he was doing. "I'll call Heywood. He can bring whatever you need to the office here. Or out to the house, whichever you prefer. He's already got your measurements."

I looked across at Sam. He was nodding his head rapidly up and down. He really did not like to shop. I didn't mind it - but it's not like I really had any fashion sense. So Heywood sounded good to me, too.

"Make the call, Todd. But let's make it happen out at the house some evening, if he's agreeable. I don't think we need to be putting on a fashion show here at the bank. Speaking of which, didn't you say we needed to set a date for the team to transition out of here?"

"Yes. But that'll depend on how quickly we can get the new place finished. Simon should be ready for us shortly."

"Cool. Hey, how come you're working in here, and not your office?" I asked.

"My office is full of carpet samples and decorator shit. We thought it best not to have all that crap laying around in here. Seriously, I will be very glad when we can move out into more space."

Simon poked his head into the conference room. "Hey guys. We're ready for you." Sam and I sighed at the same time. Todd just rolled his eyes at us like we were two total light weights. Which I guess we were, but we were trying.

An hour later we had met the real estate agents and finalized the details for the purchase of the building. The numbers were more than I could mentally deal with, but I trusted Simon and Todd to know what was best in such things. Next up was the architect who had been hired to create plans for changes to the office space on the two top floors.

"Guys, this is Christopher Walker," said Todd, introducing all of us to him. "Chris is the man in charge of the buildout. Once the deal closes, his team will expedite whatever alterations need to be completed before we can move in. Chris, what have you got for us so far?"

Chris was a stud. Standing a little over six feet tall, I guessed him to be in his mid-30s, and he was built like a tank. His biceps bulged, threatening to rupture the seams of his light blue polo shirt, emblazoned with the logo for his company, Walker Designs. His sandy hair was slightly messy, but it actually looked good with his square jaw and brown eyes. He stepped up to the conference room table and set a large tube on it.

"First, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to work on your project. The property you're buying is a great building. My team has done several buildouts for existing tenants, so we know it well. That being said, from what Simon has told me, you guys need to move in as soon as possible, correct?"

"Yes, provided we can get the bare minimum in place to function," said Todd. I nodded in agreement.

"Okay. We have two whole floors to work with. Here's what I'm proposing, based on the requirements I was given." Chris opened one end of the long tube, extracted some very large blueprints, and rolled them out across the table. One for the top floor of the new building, one for the floor below. I could understand the general layout, but not the little codes and symbols. Sam was studying them intently. I stepped back from the table and let my team take the lead.

Todd was the first to speak. "Uh...Chris...this looks great. I see you included plans for the larger conference room and more bathrooms on the top floor. can you possibly get all this done in just a couple of weeks?"

"A couple of...? I thought we were working with a couple of months. Is that not the case?" asked Chris. Todd looked at Simon, then looked at me. I shook my head. We didn't have a couple of months. I couldn't do that to Sully. He'd been very patient so far. I wasn't going to push it.

Sam spoke up. "I have a question. What if we concentrated on building out just the lower floor for now, and save the top floor for later, after we move in? If I'm reading these plans right, the lower floor already has a number of offices along two of the sides, and plenty of open space in the interior for cubicles or whatever. All it's missing is a kitchen and maybe a larger conference room."

Simon stepped up, looking at the plans for the lower floor more closely now. "You know what, Sam's right. If we can use this space right here," he said, pointing to a walled off room near the middle of the floor, "we can put the computer server room and all the electronics and communications gear in there. It's centrally located and easily secured, and when we get ready to do the top floor, we can go straight up from there without having to redo anything. I think it will work."

"Do we have enough bathrooms? Is there a place for a reception area off the elevators?" asked Todd.

"Looks like it," said Sam. "See. The main elevators come up the center of the building. There are both male and female bathrooms on either side of the elevator shafts. Chris, what if your guys build walls all around this central common area for security purposes, and maybe partition off this area over here as a reception/lounge area, maybe behind a glass wall or something off the elevators, wouldn't that work? It shouldn't take very long to make a few straight walls."

"That could work. You're not really changing the plans much for this floor. There's already a small kitchen space over in this corner. We were going to expand it to something larger, but we can wait. Other than the security walls, all my team will need to do is minor repairs here and there and make sure all the mechanicals are working to code. The building is only two years old, so I'm not worried."

"So if we do like Sam's suggesting, how long before we can move in?" asked Simon. Chris studied the plans a little longer, then smiled.

"I'll confirm it with my foreman later tonight, but I think we can get this done in two weeks - maybe even less, if you have the paint, carpet and other interior plans ready to go by the middle of next week."

"We'll have them to you by end of day Friday," said Simon.

"That'll work. When's the closing?" asked Chris.

"Assuming we get all the paperwork processed, the closing is set for Monday morning at 10. We'll get keys then. Is there a way for you to get permits beforehand so you can start on Monday?" asked Simon.

"I'll do my best. We can usually get what we need pretty quickly. this the plan? We start with the lower floor and get you in as quickly as we can, and then we tackle the upper floor later?"

Simon looked at Todd, Todd looked at me. I looked at Sam. He nodded once.

"Thank you, Chris. Yes, we have a plan. Can you get us new drawings for the lower floor so we can get a better idea of the final layout?" I asked.

"Sure thing. You'll have them Thursday at the latest," said Chris.

"Thanks, Chris," said Todd. "Let me know what you need from us as far as the permits go, and I'll make it happen."

"Great. Thanks, guys. I guess it's time to rock and roll on this one," he said with a grin. He shook all our hands. His grip was firm, but I could tell he was holding back. He could have crushed my hand easily. He and Simon walked out together.

Todd sat down with a long sigh. "That, Pool Boy, is why you are definitely staying on the payroll." I beamed across the table at Sam.

"What?" said Sam. "All I did was point out an option."

"And kept this whole transition on track in the process," said Todd. "Look, my guys are excellent at what they do. They know numbers, they know how to turn a little into a lot, and they are all some of the best in their fields. But when it comes to things like construction and engineering, they don't have it. You saw what we would never see. I was tryin' to figure out how to tell the boss we were gonna be campin' out in his basement again."

"Ha ha. Not gonna happen," I said. "So...are we really going to do this? Are we really buying that big building and setting up shop?" I could hear the nervousness in my voice. Suddenly, after looking at blueprints and talking to realtors, it was all getting very real, very fast.

"Jack, you can do this," said Sam, walking over to me and grabbing my hands. "You've got a great team. They won't let you down. It's time."

"Time for what, Sam?" I asked in a whisper.

"Time to stand up and do what you know you're called to do. Lead this team, build this business, and change the world."

"Oh...that," I said, slightly smiling. I squeezed his hands, feeling his strength and confidence infusing my own.

"You've got this, Jack," said Sam. Then he kissed me gently. I closed my eyes and went with it.

"Ahem...sorry, boss. I hate to interrupt your moment. But we've got an interior decorator waiting to show us her stuff," said Todd.

"Do we have to?" I whined, turning my head which was now resting on Sam's chest.

"No. We can have Simon do it. But I'm just letting you know, you're liable to end up with white or beige everything."

"Beige is nice," said Sam.

"Beige is boring," said Todd.

"It is not. It's beautiful. It's simple and easy and goes with everything," said Sam.

"It's boring!" said Todd more forcefully.

"Boys...let's not fight over the colors. You both can have your own box of crayons, okay," I said, smiling.

"He's wrong, Jack. There's nothing wrong with beige," said Sam, pretending to pout.

"What do you know about color and interior design, Pool Boy?" said Todd.

"More than you. All you know is the color of money, Bean Counter."

"Yes. Lots of green does make me happy," said Todd playfully, and Sam laughed.

"Gee, Jack. Todd and I can't seem to agree on a color. I guess you'll have to do it," said Sam.

"Fine. But don't think I don't know what you just did there, mister. Beige is beautiful...what a crock! And you," I said, turning to Todd. "If you ever do manage to get a corner office - which is looking like a real long shot today - it'll be pink and purple glitter paint for you."

"You wouldn't," said Todd in mock horror.

I smiled. "No...I wouldn't. I'm gay, not crazy. You'd lose your brilliant mind, and I need you making us millions. We have a whole world to change."

" had me scared for a second," said Todd, totally teasing me.

"Well, guys...let's go decorate!" I said, raising my fists in pretend excitement. Seriously, I might prefer watching paint dry than picking it out in the first place.

The interior decorator, Sheila Weinkopf, was a charming lady of about 50, very elegant and refined in her appearance and demeanor. She had a habit of running her left hand across her pearl necklace as she talked. She took us through a list of offices and workspaces from the plans Simon had given her, and we made selections from the myriad sample books previously littering Todd's office. Will and Mason rolled their eyes at me good naturedly when they were elected to bring them all into the conference room. I kind of thought Will might want to stay and help make the selections, but Todd shooed him out, reminding him we needed the legal work sent to Clyde as soon as he could.

By the time every paint color, carpet choice and fabric swatch had been discussed, analyzed, and voted on, I was exhausted and Sam's eyes were glazed over. Simon looked like he had a bad headache - he kept rubbing his temples. Todd looked like he could go for another four hours. The guy never seemed to get tired or need sleep. Something about his work just re-energized him. It was amazing to watch.

Finally it was over, and Sheila graciously made her exit, promising a "sample board" of what we had selected in two days. I didn't know why we needed such a thing, but Simon seemed to think it was necessary. He followed her out of the conference room, and Sam and I collapsed into chairs at the table.

"You guys done in for the day?" asked Todd.

"Yes," groaned Sam with his eyes shut.

"Is there something else you needed tonight, Todd?" I asked.

"No, I'm good. I just wanted to know if you were calling it a day. Margie's meeting me over at Larry's with pizza and beer. Whatever you do, don't tell his doctor. He'll flip out and keep Larry on lockdown."

"Is that a good idea, aiding and abetting the patient?" asked Sam with a smile, his eyes still closed.

"If that's what it takes to bribe the man to review these exit plans, works for me. Besides, I think I've earned a beer and a slice today. Just don't tell the boss. He might not like me drinkin' on the job," he said, grinning like I wasn't in the room.

"I couldn't care less, Todd. We all worked hard today. Enjoy yourself. Tell Margie I said hi. Come on, Sam. Let's collect Joe Friday downstairs and head for home," I said. I was weary, but pleased we had accomplished so much in one day. Sam slowly dragged himself up from the table and grabbed my hand as we walked out of the conference room.

On the way out, we stopped by the bullpen of cubicles occupied by my team. "Leaving so soon, boss?" asked Danny, smiling past the yellow pencil he was chewing on. I hadn't seen him much today.

"Soon? It's 6:30. I'm beat. My brain hurts," I replied. Sam groaned next to me.

"I hear ya," said Danny. "Is Todd getting Larry's imprimatur on our exit strategy tonight?"

"I hope so. You good with it?" I asked.

"Yes. We've managed to minimize the tax effects and make a clean break from the bank - that is, once we execute the orders and change the account profiles. Should only take a few days once we have the go ahead."

"We've got to get the final incorporation completed first," said Will, his cubicle next to Danny's. "I'm sending a bunch of files over to Mr. Watson by courier this evening, Jack. He should have everything he needs in there."

"Thank you, Will. Here's hoping he makes quick work of it. Do you think we need to send you and Sam over there to help out at all?"

"Hmmm...maybe. It might help if he hits a snag or has a question. Thing is, I've got meetings tomorrow all day with IT. I need to figure out what we need for systems and communications and what all is involved with setting it up in the new digs."

"Okay, stay on that. If Clyde needs help, I'll send Sam over. Have a good night, guys.""Night, boss," said Mason, hanging up his phone. He looked stressed and tired. I hoped he wasn't overdoing it. All of my team was pushing very hard to make the transition happen sooner rather than later. I made a mental note to give them all a bonus for their efforts.

"Guys, you should all call it a night. We've done enough for one day. Go home, do what you need to do to unwind and relax, and we'll pick it up again tomorrow," I said.

"Thanks, boss," said Danny and Will in unison.

Simon walked up after taking Sheila Weinkopf to the elevators. "Yeah, thanks, Jack, for all the hard work today. And Sam, way to pull a rabbit out of the hat on the buildout. We might pull this move off yet," he said.

"Hope so. See you guys tomorrow," said Sam, grabbing my hand and pulling me through the office to the elevators. Inside, I leaned against him and closed my eyes, his hand resting at the small of my back. My rock. My Sam.

Ben drove us home. I think Sam and I both fell asleep during the drive. I know we didn't really talk. Once inside the garage, Ben said he was headed up to his rooms - he was now abiding in the upstairs apartment over the garage. Sam and I headed for the kitchen. Something smelled wonderful.

"Hello, boys," said a cheery Maggie as we entered. "You hungry?"

"Famished," I replied. Sam took the lid off of a simmering pot of spaghetti sauce and inhaled the amazing aromas of garlic and Italian spices. My mouth started watering. We didn't even stop to change out of our suits. Sam grabbed plates, I got us a couple of water bottles, and Maggie served up two heaping platefuls of spaghetti with meat sauce. We sat at the table devouring the glorious food. My unfortunate lamb burger from lunch was permanently forgotten.

"While you guys eat, let me tell you my plans for the party on Saturday," said Maggie, placing a small plate of toasted garlic bread on the table. We skipped the salad. Comfort food was the order of the evening.

"Great, let's hear 'em," I said, my mouth full of pasta.

She was clearly excited about throwing a party. "The menu is set. Since the party starts at 6, and most people will come fashionably late, I think it's best to serve plenty of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres at the beginning. We'll serve some on passing trays and the rest I'll set up in here on the island, buffet style."

"Passing trays? Do Sam and I need to rent tuxedos and hang white napkins over our arms?" I asked.

"No, silly. Not you. The catering service will do it. It's your party, Jack. You just have to show up. You are going to show up, aren't you?" she said pointedly.

"Yes," I said with a sigh. Sam just smiled at me.

"Good. Now...I know you boys don't drink alcohol, but...some of your guests most likely do. So...unless you have any restrictions, I thought we could set up a portable bar in the living room."

"Sounds fine, Maggie. Do it. Will there be someone to mix drinks and serve? I don't know a thing about bartending," said Sam.

"Me either," I mumbled around my third piece of garlic bread. I was hungry.

"Charles usually tended bar when the Franklins threw a party. I'll have him do it. He usually likes to be the center of the action, as he calls it."

"What about cake and ice cream?" asked Sam. "It's a birthday party. We have to have cake and ice cream." I rolled my eyes at him and he threw a crust of bread at me across the table.

"Of course we'll have cake. And don't you dare do it, Jack," said Maggie sternly.

"Do what?"

"Throw that piece of bread at Sam."

"But...he started it!" I said. Sam stuck his tongue out at me, taunting me.

"Nevermind, be the bigger man. Now what's your favorite color?" asked Maggie.

"The blue in Sam's eyes," I replied without hesitation, totally serious. Sam snorted like I was being silly. Maggie just looked at me and smiled knowingly. She understood.

"Got it. I'll do my best to match the perfect shade of blue. Now, what flavors of ice cream shall we have?"

"Mint chocolate chip," said Sam.

"Coconut," I said.

"Coconut? Do they even make coconut ice cream?" asked Sam. "That sounds gross."

"Hey, don't knock it till you try it. It's decadent, especially with a little chocolate sauce over the top. Yum," I said.

"It's your birthday, Jack. Get him some coconut ice cream, Maggie," said Sam skeptically.

Maggie made a note on her written party agenda. "When it's time for cake, we'll set up the dessert bar here on the island. I'll have several different kinds of treats to celebrate the happy occasion. Jack, you want candles on the cake? 25, right?" she asked.

"I guess, if that many will fit. I don't have to blow 'em out and make a wish and all that, right?" I implored.

" do. And we're gonna sing Happy Birthday, too. It's tradition," said Sam.

"But my greatest wish already came true."

"Oh...and what was it?" asked Maggie, smiling.

I blushed. "Finding Sam," I said. My wish-come-true flashed his perfect blue eyes at me. "There's nothing more I could ever want."

" sweet," said Maggie.

"Oh my god, what's smells so fantastic in here?" asked Ben from the hallway door.

"My mother's spaghetti with meat sauce and some basic garlic bread. Here, come sit down and I'll fix you a plate," said Maggie, getting up with her list and making room for Ben to sit in her place at the table.

Ben had changed into jeans and a light blue t-shirt. The muscles in his chest stretched the material to the point his nipples were pronounced. I wasn't trying to look or anything - they were just there. "You guys are still in your suits? You must have been hungry," he said.

"Yeah...famished," said Sam, smiling at me. God I loved him so much, even when he was half making fun of me and the way I talked. I meant what I said - he was my every wish come true. Maggie put a plate of spaghetti in front of Ben and a couple pieces of garlic bread. I grabbed one of them and he tried to stab my hand with his fork.

"Missed me," I said, stuffing the bread into my mouth whole.

"Nice, Jack. Very grown up. Did you eat from a trough as a child?" asked Ben. Sam laughed.

"Boys! Do I need to separate you?" asked Maggie from the island.

"No," I said. "Ben was being stingy. I'm just helping him learn how to share. It's for his own good." Ben looked at me like I was crazy. I just smiled at him innocently. Sam laughed louder.

"You are such a pain in the ass, Schaeffer. Why do I put up with you?" said Ben as he shovelled another fork of spaghetti into his mouth, getting sauce on his cheek.

"Because you like me," I said, getting up from the table and carrying my plate to the sink. Maggie gave me a look like I wasn't supposed to do that, but my mother did teach me a few manners growing up. Sam was right behind me with his. She gave him the same look, but he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

"Dinner was perfect, Maggie. Thanks," I said.

"You're welcome, Jack. Glad you liked it. There'll be plenty leftover in the fridge for a few days. Help yourself. Ben, can I get you any more?" she said.

"No, ma'am. This is more than enough. Thank you," said Ben.

"Well, when you're finished, we can go over the guest list like you asked this morning," said Maggie. Ben nodded, his mouth full of garlic bread.

"Come on, Jack. Let's get changed. I'm beat," said Sam. He half-heartedly shoved me toward the hallway. I wondered what Ben needed with the guest list. We knew everyone who was coming. It seemed odd, but then I wasn't a personal protection officer. I was just a wanna-be business magnate.

I followed Sam to our bedroom and he turned and gently pushed me up against a wall the second the door was closed behind us. His tongue pushed into my mouth as I reached to pull him to me. He grabbed my hands and pushed my arms up and out against the wall. "Don't move," he whispered, his lust palpable. My cock was instantly hard. Nothing excited me more than when Sam took control of the situation.

He looked at me, taunting me with his smoldering eyes as he slowly pulled his tie from around his neck. He threw it over my head and used it to pull me forward into another hot kiss, my arms straining backwards to stay on the wall like he'd commanded. He continued to tease my lips with his, never fully kissing me but staying just out of reach as he released me from my tie as well. Frustrated, I started to reach for his face and he leaned back and looked at me hard. I put my arms back against the wall. My dick started leaking.

He took his time getting naked. I was forced to stand there, fully clothed, while he slowly stripped out of his suit. By the time he was down to just his blue boxer briefs, obscenely bulging in the front, my breathing was labored and I was starting to sweat a little. I could feel the heat of the body rush as my excitement mounted. Even from where I was plastered against the bedroom wall, I could see the stain on his underwear from earlier when I had teased him in the elevator. I was about to get my comeuppance.

He moved in closer to me, pushing my suit jacket back and slowly unbuttoning my shirt. He reached in and tweaked my nipples through my white undershirt. I involuntarily gasped and my knees nearly buckled. "Steady, Jack," he said. "We're just getting started." I nodded, willing myself to not move.

His hands moved up under my t-shirt and I could feel his fingers playing in the hair on my chest, then he grazed both nipples at the same time. More pre-cum leaked from my painfully hard dick. My underwear would undoubtedly be stained too when he was done with me.

His hands moved back down my abdomen, caressing and stroking and eliciting all kinds of electric tremors through my torso. The intensity and energy from his touch were overwhelming. He made quick work of unbuckling my belt, then pulled it slowly from the loops around me, almost like a caress of leather. He held it up to my nose.

"You smell that leather, Jack?" he asked. I nodded, afraid to speak. I didn't know if I even could speak. I know breathing was getting harder by the second. "Maybe for your birthday spanking we should use this belt, hmmmm?" he said with a devious smile. Birthday spanking? What was he talking about? Surely he didn't think...

I had no chance to finish that thought because his hands were now pressing on my cock, rubbing slowly through the fabric of my pants. I started moaning, my hips started gyrating, pressing up against his hand, and I felt my ass clench over and over again.

"You like this, Jack?" he asked, his voice deep and husky and intense. His eyes were on fire, staring deeply into my own. I could only nod my encouragement. I was so close already. He kept a slow and steady pace on my cock, up and down, up and down. It had to feel like concrete against his palm. Wet concrete.

He let go and stepped back only long enough to remove his own soaking underwear, his hard cock jutting straight out, throbbing with every heartbeat. I wanted to reach out and touch it so badly, but I didn't dare move. Sam, grinning at my torment, took his underwear and waved it under my nose. The smell of him caused me to salivate and my eyes to water with need. He knew it, too. He knew the smell of him made me crazy with lust.

He stuffed his underwear into the waistband of my pants. Then his left hand reached up underneath my shirt and grabbed a nipple, squeezing it hard. I yelped. He smiled and lightened up a little. As he continued twisting and softly teasing and torturing my nipple, his right hand increased its movement against my cock, pressing even harder. He looked into my eyes with more intensity than ever before. I didn't dare break the look, even though my orgasm was building from my toes.

" have to..."

"Have to what, Jack?" he asked, pressing even harder. My nipple felt like it was going to rip off my body any second.

"I'm gonna close. Oh fuck, Sam. Oh my god...Sam! I'm gonna cum in my pants," I pleaded, trying in vain to move my hips away from the hand still stroking my dick. He just smiled and quickly pulled his underwear out of my pants and stuffed them into my mouth. I was wild now. The smell of him was invading my nostrils in a constant wave of pheromones. My legs started trembling uncontrollably.

One hand was back on my abused nipple, the other pressing even harder still against my raging cock. He leaned into me. "Yes, Jack. You are going to cum in your pants," he whispered. "Because I want you to. And Jack...I want you to!" My whole body spasmed uncontrollably as I filled my underwear with ropes of cum. I'm sure he could feel every shot racing across his palm hard pressed against my pulsing dick. I squeezed my hands into fists but kept my arms against the wall as I screamed into his underwear in my mouth. My knees were so weak now I think the only thing holding me upright was Sam pressing my dick against the wall.

He held me steady, looking deep into my eyes, until my breathing slowed and I was reasonably sure I could still stand up. I could smell the unmistakable aroma of fresh cum wafting up between us, overpowering even the smell of Sam from the underwear still in my mouth.

Sam pulled his underwear gently from my mouth and tossed it aside, then reached up and put his hands firmly on either side of my head, holding me rigidly in place. "I love you, Jack Schaeffer. So much it hurts. You're my wish come true, too. Nothing else matters but you." My voice caught in my throat, so I just tried to nod, desperate not to cry. Then he kissed me. Deep and insistent.

The second we came up for air I let my knees collapse, dropping mouth level to his dripping cock. I didn't wait for permission - I swallowed him. I needed him in me. He shouted out something and grabbed the back of my head, pushing in even deeper. I grabbed onto his ass and held him tightly to my face, my nose buried in his pubic hair as I swallowed over and over against his long dick deep in my throat. Just when I thought I'd pass out from no air, his legs started shaking and his hips tried to pull away from my vice grip. I held on even tighter. Five seconds later his cock started pulsing against my tongue and I felt jet after jet of cum course through his dick straight into my stomach. Sam was cursing softly in between gasps.

I finally had to breathe, so I pulled back just enough so I could inhale through my nose, but I held his cock loosely in my mouth, savoring the lingering taste of him. When Sam stopped shaking and spasming, I slowly squeezed all the way up his cock with my mouth and tongue, then reluctantly released him. I fell back against the wall, exhausted.

Sam slowly sat down in front of me, looking at me with real concern in his beautiful blue eyes. "You okay?" he whispered. "I didn't hurt you, did I?" I shook my head, hopefully giving him a smile. I wasn't sure. I couldn't feel my lips at the moment. The love I felt leaping across the space between us was incomprehensible and total. Sam loved me. He really loved me. And I loved him back. Totally and completely. Forever.

Author's Notes: The romance between Jack and Sam is thriving again. Jack and the team are well underway building the new business, and everyone is running on all cylinders. Will the move happen on schedule? Will Jack and Sam's first party together be a success? What is it that Jack wants for his birthday? Why does he need to talk to Billy? And what's up with Clyde? Stay tuned...

I continue to be amazed at the skill and incredible eye each of my editors brings to this story. All four of them added insight and helpful suggestions to make this the best it can be. And they turned it around in record time. Thanks, guys.

Finally, to all my patient and faithful readers, thank you for hanging in there during the longer hiatus between chapters. I wish I could write faster and more often, but I won't sacrifice quality for quantity. I hope you all agree.

Please share your thoughts with me, on this chapter or any other part of this story. My biggest reward for this work is hearing from you, the readers. All comments are welcomed, and I try to answer each and every one as quickly as I can. Email me at:

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