Castle Roland

On The Web

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 16

Published: 8 Apr 14

Dave And Mike's Cookout

by Jack Scribe

Saturday morning- Santa Monica

Dave stirred slightly as he awakened from a satisfying deep sleep and discovered he was still lying on his side, spooned up against Mike's familiar backside. The reflections of the early morning May sun from the pool cast a cool, shimmering light that spilled into the bedroom, bounced off the ceiling and onto the large king-size bed that the two men had shared for years - first in San Diego and now here. Dave opened his eyes wider, pulled closer and slid his hand down Mike's treasure trail until he came into contact with his partner's morning woodie. He zeroed in on the tip of this very familiar appendage - appropriately hard - and gently massaged Mike's 'G' spot with his fingers. 'I shouldn't get too carried away because he'll want to whiz when he wakes up,' Dave considered as he ran his fingers down Mike's thick, veiny shaft.

In an unconscious reaction, Mike pushed his backside into Dave's touching body - they were connected, like a second skin - then he squirmed a little to better accommodate Dave's erect cock parked between his buns and let out a muffled sigh. This was a semi-conscious morning ritual that the lovers had perfected over the past 13 years. These thirty-somethings - Dave was soon turning 31, and Mike was already 35 - were in good shape and their mature, muscled male forms still turned heads in the gym locker room. Dave's hair was now browner than blond and the small smile lines in the corners of his eyes served to give him an air of friendly authority. Mike was starting to show a hint of thinning and graying at the temples but his strong chin line was still intact. His flirtations with the female guests at the restaurant was sought after by the ladies and tolerated by the men - Mike had been out from day one at TJ's and he didn't pose a threat to the hetero regular couples who entertained at his famous eatery. It was all part of playing 'the game' in Beverly Hills...and Mike, along with Dave, played it very well.

Their personal routines still blended a mixture of balanced diet and exercise; they readily admitted that vanity, business and health were factors in maintaining this lifestyle. Both avidly swam several laps daily in their home pool and each separately - because of different work schedules - visited the Sports Club/LA on Sepulveda Boulevard a couple of days during the week. On Sundays, the guys would push each other through a late-morning workout at this luxurious fitness temple, go to lunch at one of their favorite Westside restaurants and end up at the Century City mall for shopping or a movie. This was their one quality day together each week.

Also, what had not changed for either man was their active physical appetite for each other. While they agreed that their sexual pinnacles dated back to their randy courtship years in Memphis, both appreciated the current, more deliberate measured approach to satisfying each other's needs. Because of Mike's evening work schedule at TJ's, and his coming home mentally wound up and physically spent, the two men had adjusted to the comfort of snuggling at night and then initiating lots of morning sex. Dave seldom arrived at his law office, or outside appointments, prior to 10:00 a.m. - except for the partner meetings - and worked until 7:00 p.m. But his partners didn't complain about his unorthodox schedule because Dave was always amongst those who produced the highest billable hours, and his secretary was very happy because she didn't have to commute during prime rush hour traffic.

His co-workers often remarked how sunny and upbeat Dave's demeanor was at work - he was tempted to tell them that a good morning fuck, swim, shower and breakfast were fantastic elixirs for an energetic outlook on life. 'Maybe I should share this secret with Dr. Laura sometime,' he thought with a grin and silent chuckle, as his fingers landed in his lover's trimmed anatomical area that the self-appointed hip metrosexuals now referred to as a 'manscape'. 'If those straight dudes only knew what they were missing,' Dave thought, 'by not having another guy groom your equipment and surrounding area.' The guys would occasionally add clipping and ball shaving as a preamble to foreplay. More important, however, was that the sex was accompanied by an unwavering, lasting love. Mike and he were lovers, companions, partners and best friends. They amused each other and always considered what impact individual actions might have on the other. Random disagreements and arguments - part of being with a life partner - seldom carried over for more than a day and both always looked forward to their make-up sex.

As inviting as it was to continue in snuggle-mode, Dave needed to get up for a morning pee and to start the final preparations for the day's cookout. It was just after seven and the first guests would be arriving at 1:00 p.m. He separated himself from Mike and quietly got out of bed. He looked down at his resting lover and saw Mike slowly run his tongue around his lips in his sleep. 'Wonder where his dreams have taken him,' Dave thought as he padded across the carpet to the bathroom. After finishing business, including a splash of water on his face and brushing his teeth, Dave returned to the bedroom and put on shorts, a tee and flip-flops. Mike was still sleeping off a busy Friday night; by earlier agreement, Dave would get organized and awaken Mike at 9:00 a.m.

While waiting for the coffee to brew, Dave considered the composition of that afternoon's 40 or so guests. In addition to the usual suspects - Brent, Doug, Tom Feldman, and Mark Connelly: the original San Diego crew - the other invitees were close friends, some actor clients of Jim Weiss, plus a few enlightened lawyers from Dave's firm. One of his partners, Giorgio Como, had requested a last minute addition to the list: Oleg Petrov from AOI. The normally staid and correct divorce lawyer was effusive and bubbly when he described meeting Oleg in Palm Springs. Without prying, Dave concluded that there seemed to be a budding romance between the two guys. This cookout seemed to be perfect timing - Brent had also suggested that Oleg be invited and Mike had concurred. However, before Dave had a chance to extend an invitation, Giorgio had spoken up.

While not yet in the close friend orbit, Oleg was well known and liked by everyone. 'It'll be fun to be with Oleg in a social setting,' Dave decided, 'when he's not in his investigator mode.' Oleg had always been somewhat of a mystery, in that the man was very senior in the AOI organization, yet didn't display the usual M.O. of a director and partner of the company.

The P.I.'s stellar performance in helping get Thad Brooks out of that jam the previous weekend had impressed everyone. Thad, of course, was the young man on Doug DiMarco's staff who had been innocently snared in those nasty events that included a murder and now a killer at large. 'Jeez,' Dave thought with a snorting snicker, 'his experiences with that porn star would make for a terrific novel or hot movie. Maybe I should option his story for a treatment that Jim Weiss could package.' He paused for a moment and decided that this was actually a good idea to pursue next week with Brad.

And in less-than-six-degrees of separation, their honorary nephew, Bryan DiMarco, was bringing Thad to the cookout. Dave had enjoyed meeting Thad at TJ's earlier in the week and approved of Bryan's choice for a new friend. The relationship between Bryan and Thad - the boyfriend du jour - had mostly been pulled together via long distance, and Dave wondered how long this fling would last. Bryan had steadily moved from one guy to another during his undergraduate college days and he'd continued that trait while attending law school at Stanford. Bryan possessed a winning combination of good looks, a charming personality, an intellectual curiosity and a dean's list level of academic achievements. However - except for a teen romance with Justin, Dave and Mike's adopted son, Bryan shied away from commitments. Mike and he had concluded that Bryan's rape by his biological father at the age of 15 might be the root cause for their nephew's reluctance.

Justin - officially Justin Swenson Cole - was more of a nester. He found time to juggle the final year of UCLA medical school, be half of a solid three-year partnership with another med student and help maintain an apartment in West Hollywood. Around his heavy schedule, Justin always found time to join Mike and Dave for lunch or dinner each week. Today his partner would be absent because of a work conflict, but Justin planned on spending a couple of hours at the cookout as part of the hosting team. He had jokingly told Dave that it was, "just plain scary, for an almost-doctor, to be in the presence of so many ambulance chasers."

Over the next hour and a half, Dave organized the pool area by arranging a generous stack of large towels, putting out an armada of pool toys and setting up extra tables with umbrellas. At the grill, he assured himself that there were plenty of charcoal briquettes, tongs and other tools for the catering cook. The cook - along with a bartender and two servers - were handpicked staff from TJ's catering division - Yummyz. Handpicked because the three staff needed to fit into medium-sized orange, square-cut, snug AussieBum swimsuits. Flip-flops and a sculpted six-pack finished off a look that always made Mike and Dave's parties very popular. Although it wasn't written anywhere in Mike's company regulations, several of the staff were hired specifically to provide eye candy for certain clientele...and they usually earned generous bonuses.

'Having a partner who owns a catering company does have its advantages,' Dave thought as he went through his checklist, and after giving the house a fast dusting and vacuuming. The staff would bring all of the food, dishes, silverware rollups, and pool-safe glasses. Satisfied that he had gotten enough of a start on prepping the house to take a break, Dave returned to the bedroom. A flushing noise clued him in to the whereabouts of his partner before he looked at the empty bed. While Mike was washing his hands and gargling - from the sounds - Dave quickly stepped out of his flops, got out of his clothes and eased onto the bed. He smiled and closed his eyes when he saw Mike.

"Who's in my bed?" Mike asked with dramatic emphasis on the first word.

"Well, it sure ain't grandma," Dave replied in a mock deep voice.

"But you might be the wolf." Mike walked next to the bed and added, "If I had known I'd have company, I'd have dressed in Little Red Riding Hood drag."

"And spoil that hot, hunky image? Since you're without a stitch of clothing, why not hop into the sack for a little while? I'm sure we'll find something we can do." Dave snickered as he scooted over a little and looked down at his penis that was plumping and springing into action without much of a prompt.

"Man, can't I ever get any peace?" Mike asked as he got back into bed, winked at Dave and gently kissed his partner's nipple.

"Yeah, you can...a piece of ass, that is." Dave wiggled his eyebrows and added, "And before you ask, I've got everything pulled together. So I figure that gives us about a half-hour for play time before we need to get up for the day." He took Mike's head between his hands and rose up slightly for a serious morning kiss. He could taste the Scope's flavor on his partner's tongue as they swapped spit.

"A man with a good idea - 'mornin' babe'," Mike whispered as he adjusted his body so that he straddled Dave's waist.

"Morning." Dave reached from behind a pillow and retrieved the bottle of Wet. He gave the bottle to Mike and said, "Since you're already on top, why don't you do the honors?"

"With pleasure." Mike grinned as he uncapped the bottle.

It was going to be another one of those mornings - the boys would be in a great mood by the time the catering staff arrived.

Thad had already changed shirts three times - from an ordinary orange Henley, to a more stylish blue AX polo, and finally a new black Elie Tahari tee that he had snapped up recently at a Bloomie's sale - for the right look with his khaki shorts. He fretted as he turned to his roommate, who had just walked into the bedroom, and said, "I must be crazy to be all 'verklempt' about my date with Bryan and being with that 'A' list crowd."

"Thank God you've got only another hour to select something before ya gotta leave," Benny Siegel replied with a smirk as he sat down on his bed.

"Easy for you to say." Thad let out a long sigh, shrugged and stared at his shirts.

"Just think of it as a friendly, homo-family affair. You've only met the guy once and what...three long distance telephone calls? Your boss and the rest of that crew are neat guys...not a pissy queen in the group. So cool it and go with the flow."

"I know, I's just that all the shit that's gone down this past week has left me a little fucked up. I'm walking a narrow line between sanity and an out-of-body experience. It was only a week ago that I was in a hospital room being interviewed by the police, meeting Brad and then questioned by that private investigator dude, Oleg."

"You've already met Mike Cole and his life partner, Dave, at the restaurant...and I'm told they throw 'faaabulous' parties. My boss will be there with Billy, and they're looking forward to meeting you." Benny's boss at CAM - Jim Weiss - and popular, young character actor, Billy Forrest, had been a couple for several years now. "So you know several of the people already."

"I suppose you're right." Thad surveyed the different shirts lying on his bed and continued, "But I want to make a good impression on everyone...especially Bryan. He's a cool guy and I think he expects me to stay overnight. He mentioned that he'd like me to be with him for the family Sunday brunch...and added not to worry about bringing a toothbrush."

"Then that settles it," Benny said with a snicker. He rolled his eyes and added, "Wear the orange today and bring the blue polo with you for tomorrow morning. Oh, and a clean pair of briefs might be a good idea, too."

"Does it sound kinda slutty if I accept? I mean Bryan and I hardly know each other." Thad grinned and exaggerated batting his eyelashes.

"Slutty?" Benny asked with a raised brow. "A hottie like Bryan asks you to come home with him; there's a distinct possibility that you two will get your rocks off and you're worried about propriety? There are only about 10,000 queers in West Hollywood who would kill to be in your shoes. As long as you're safe, what part of being horny don't you understand?"

"Yeah, yeah, I hear what you're saying...and my right hand is getting worn out," Thad said with a laugh. "Seriously, Bryan lives at home with Doug and Brad, and I feel a little funny going home with a guy when I know that his parents - or big brothers - are under the same roof."

"Relax - it's not like you're two horny teens."

"We're adults but 'horny' is the operative word," Thad replied.

"From what I've heard, their condo takes up an entire floor of the Remington on Wilshire. Bryan probably has a small suite of his own, so it's not like his headboard will be banging into the wall separating his bedroom from theirs."

"Good point."

"Although I do wonder whose head will be banging on the headboard."

"That little detail is open for negotiation, asshole," Thad replied with an exaggerated tilt of his head. "The other thing - and I know I shouldn't read too much into our date - is that he'll be back in L.A. for good as soon as he finishes his final exams. I wonder if maybe there might be something know..."

"I do know," Benny quickly said, "and I think you should get laid first before you start shopping for a Vera Wang wedding dress. My advice is to move slowly - you've just started a great new job and Bryan will be busy studying for the bar. Timing's everything." Benny walked up to Thad, threw his arms around him and gave him a hug.

"Thanks for putting up with my whining," Thad said after the two held each other for a moment. "I wish you were coming."

"Not to feed on your uneasiness, but that group is way beyond my pay grade."

"Mine, too."

"But the cool thing is that this isn't a name-dropping crowd - these are the guys whose names are usually being dropped - and you'll fit in quite well. Already do, I suspect. That dinner at TJ's was probably a little bit of a test and you passed. At the very least, you're developing a closer relationship with Doug DiMarco and that's great for your career. The other guys are the young gay mafia movers and shakers around town, and if Bryan is just a friendly fuck for the night...I don't see a problem. Word is that Bryan does get around - albeit safely - but he's usually friends, later, with his conquests."

"Conquests?" Thad spurted out. "You think that's all I am to easy lay?" He frowned for a moment and then shrugged.

"Well...duh, and vice versa." Benny winked, picked up the orange Henley and handed it to Thad. "We're all a pretty randy lot...that's just part of being in our 20's. Don't confuse the physicality of the moment with being more than it is."


"You know the drill - go with the flow. Have fun at the cookout, do some networking, get to know all the guys and screw each other's brains out if the opportunity presents itself. If Bryan is 'BF' material, it'll click. Just don't get overwhelmed and read the tea leaves to suit yourself."

"Thanks, buddy," Thad replied, "I needed that."

"Have fun."

The roommates bumped knuckles and Benny left the bedroom. Thad put on the orange shirt and smiled as he smoothed down the front. 'I am going to have fun,' he thought as he slipped into his deck shoes, 'and just let what happens, happen.' He had been told to bring or wear a swimsuit - Thad decided to wear a Speedo under his khaki shorts - because the pool was a well-used, fun centerpiece at their parties.

He left the apartment at 12:45 p.m. and figured that he'd get to Mike and Dave's house in Santa Monica about a half-hour later. 'Semi-fashionable time,' Thad decided while driving his rental car through Westwood before angling onto San Vicente Boulevard.

In fact, it was 1:05 p.m. when he found his turnoff. From the landmarks he recognized, Thad figured he was about five or six blocks from the ocean. Ermont Place was a short, quiet street - lined by shady carob trees - with ranch homes that announced 'well to do' without being ostentatious. Too quiet. There were no other cars on the street and he wondered if he had the right address. However, standing curbside a little further up, were two young guys in red polos, white shorts and runner's shoes. 'They must be valet parkers,' he thought as he slowly moved forward, 'in fact it looks like the same uniform the valet crew was wearing at TJ's the other evening.' This was another first for Thad: he'd never been to a person's home where they provided valet parking.

"Good afternoon, sir," the valet said, as he approached the driver's door, "you're here for the cookout?"

"Correct. Am I the first?"

"One of the first...but I'm told that this is usually an early-to-arrive crowd."

"I was worried when I didn't see any other cars parked on the street," Thad replied.

"When they have parties, Mike and Dave always have us handle the traffic to keep peace with their neighbors. We run the cars over to a nearby parking lot that's secure and safe."

"Awesome." Thad smiled, turned off the engine and allowed the valet to open his door. He tried not to drool at the sight of the guy's trim torso covered by his tight shirt. 'These parking dudes are right off the cover of Men's Fitness,' he thought, 'and he's probably wearing one size too small on purpose - another wannabe actor trying to get noticed.' Thad left the keys in the ignition and got out.

As the valet handed him a ticket, Thad noticed a beige Ford Escape pulling up behind his car. The other valet trotted over to the small SUV and opened the driver's door. A dark, handsome forty-ish man emerged while talking and laughing with whoever was still inside. The identity of the passenger was resolved when Oleg Petrov's face appeared. He stood, grinned and waved when he recognized Thad. Thad waved back, moved towards the new arrivals and out of the valet's way.

"Hi, Mr. Petrov," Thad said as he extended his hand, "I'm happily surprised to see you again." He thought the colorful Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts gave Oleg a much more casual, fun appearance than the last time they had met. "I'm joining Bryan DiMarco."

"Hey, buddy." Oleg took Thad's hand, squeezed it and brought him into a warm hug. "If you promise not to use the 'mister' title, I'll introduce you to the reason I'm at the party."

"Okay...Oleg. By the way, I haven't even had time to write a thank you note for everything you did for me."

"Not to worry. Maybe, once you're settled in your job, we can get caught up over a margarita and nachos at Marix. In the meantime, say 'hello' to Giorgio Como. He works with Dave and Brad in the same law firm."

"Thad...Brooks, right?" Giorgio asked as he took Thad's hand, "I admit that I've been following the strange turn of events with this Rory character over the past week. You're very fortunate to have come out of this mess relatively unscathed." He put his hand on Thad's shoulder as they all started walking up the driveway.

"Thanks to Oleg, it worked out okay." Thad admired Giorgio's restrained casual but stylish dress. A simple ivory linen shirt, length cream colored shorts and leather sandals.

"And it worked out for me, too," Oleg said. "Rory's caper uncovered some other misdeeds that helped me on another case. So, it was a win-win situation."

"As a lawyer," Giorgio added, "I should advise you to find someone who can file a civil action on your behalf. I doubt if Rory has much to go after, but the Harvey Fine estate is ripe to be in play. What you went through - the aggravation, reputation damage, and financial loss - can be directly tied to Mr. Fine, the employer, because of improper workplace behavior, conditions, et cetera."

"Giorgio," Oleg said with a laugh as they stopped at the front door, "turn off the meter...your specialty is divorce, anyway. But I must admit that the idea has merit." He winked at Giorgio and rang the doorbell.

"Gee, I hadn't even thought about legal options." Thad frowned and added, "I don't even have a lawyer."

"This afternoon you're going to meet several of us legal beagle-types," Giorgio replied with a grin. "In addition to Mike and Dave's closest pals, several associates from our law firm will be present. And Bryan might have some ideas to explore...he's fresh out of the shark incubator up North."

The door opened and Dave, wearing a ribbed tee, cargo shorts and flip-flops, stepped aside for them to enter. "Come on in...good to see y'all." He shook hands as each man entered. "Thad, I just got off the phone with Doug. He, Brent and Bryan will be here in about 15 minutes. In the meantime, the bar and some of the guests are out by the pool. Why don't you all go out there, get something to drink and take it from there?"

"The magic word is 'bar'," Giorgio said, "and I'll lead the way."

"I'm right behind you." Oleg gave a thumbs-up and followed Giorgio.

Dave turned to Thad and said, "Since you haven't been here before, let me give you a fast tour of the house so you'll know where the head is."


"As in toilet," Dave replied with a laugh, "Navy jargon that Mike and I still use. Follow me."

Thad immediately felt at ease with his handsome host - a replay of their first meeting at TJ's - as he entered the main part of the house. Understated. Elegant. Masculine. Comfortable. It was difficult to use only one adjective to describe this home. He decided to drink in the beautiful furnishings and art rather than gush. 'One thing's for sure,' he thought as they walked past the living room and the dining area to the kitchen, 'the paintings on the walls are the real thing.'

"My mom collected most of what you see many years ago," Dave volunteered when they reached the large kitchen, "and surrounded by the art, I feel her spirit every day."

"Now I understand better why the Klee is in the restaurant." Thad had been told about Dave's parents' demise years ago and decided not to comment on their deaths. "The paintings are beautiful."

"As I told you previously, we added the entertainment center when we moved here and the plasma TV took the place of the Klee," Dave replied as they walked into the room, dominated by a large TV screen. "Mike's a happy camper...he got a terrific picture for the restaurant and a place here to watch football and basketball." Dave pointed to a small hallway and added, "There's the door to the restroom that's easily accessible from the pool. Speaking of which, let's go outside."

"Thanks for the tour," Thad said as they went outside.

"And you're also welcome to use the bathroom in our bedroom if things get jammed up. It's on the other side of the house, facing the pool. We're only having about 40 guys over this afternoon...but this crowd is a thirsty lot." Dave laughed and added, "There's a few guys over at the bar you might want to meet and we'll talk later. I've got to get back to the door and do my duty."

Thad went over to the bar and was literally speechless when he saw the Lycra-clad studs who were bartending. Each guest he encountered was very friendly and genuinely seemed interested in meeting him. Several were aware that he was working for Doug DiMarco and no one remarked on his recent notoriety. Within the next 20 minutes, the patio area filled with the rest of the guests - and finally, the Doug/Bryan/Brad threesome arrived. Doug and Brad stopped to talk with Mike, and Bryan immediately walked over to Thad.

"Sorry for being tardy," Bryan said as he squeezed Thad's shoulder, "But Doug had to take an emergency meeting with one of the producers on some sort of budget thing. It's great to see you...forgive me?" He wrinkled his brow and kissed Thad on the cheek.

"No problem. I've had a great time meeting some new faces and getting to know others a little better." Thad felt his face warm to a blush temperature but loved the gesture of the little peck. 'This guy's smooth...without any B.S.' He smiled when he noticed Bryan's shirt of choice - a white Henley - that worked well with his madras shorts.

"Looks like your cup is empty. Whatcha drinking? I'll make a bar run."

"Right...just so you can check out the bartenders," Thad replied with a smile. "I'm drinking white wine with lots of soda water."

"I always check out the bartenders at Uncle Mike's and Dave's parties...they've got good taste. I'll get our drinks and be right back." Bryan waved at a few of the other guests as he strode over to the bar.

Others had also worn swimsuits - apparent when two of the guests got out of their shorts. He watched the men carry their clothes and walk momentarily behind a freestanding glass block wall. When they reappeared, their hands were free and they jumped into the pool. 'Ah,' Thad thought, 'that must be the changing area.' His suspicions were confirmed when Benny's boss - Jim Weiss - did a quick change behind the wall.

"Here ya go," Bryan said as he handed Thad a full glass. "I decided to have a beer. Let's grab a table over there." He pointed to a vacant umbrella table near a corner of the pool.

"Good idea. I'm ready to get out of the sun for a while." Thad was happy that he'd have a chance to speak with Bryan without interruption for a time. He followed Bryan to the table and eased into a chair.

"I really do apologize," Bryan said after taking a sip of beer, "for not being here when you arrived."

"Dave was great at making me feel at home; Jim Weiss is my roommate's boss at CAM and Oleg Petrov helped me out of that mess. Oleg's friend, Giorgio, couldn't have been nicer...and now you're here." Thad had to restrain himself from adding that he looked forward to later...back at Bryan's place.

"Giorgio Como is one of the best divorce attorneys in L.A. I plan on asking for a block of time this summer to be a gofer for him."

"You plan on specializing in divorce?"

"Don't know. I think criminal law is where I'm headed...but working for Giorgio is a great opportunity. Since Dave specializes in tax law and Brent does entertainment, it probably would be good not to be too close to the same area of expertise as those guys - who are as close as blood relatives. Plus, I've been told I have good potential as a defense attorney. We'll see. Dave also wants me to consider corporate acquisitions."

"Hmmm, that's interesting," Thad replied. He took a sip of the wine spritzer and continued, "Giorgio seems to think that I have cause to sue Rory and the dead guy's estate. He suggested that you might have some good ideas in that matter."

'Well, well, Mr. Brooks. Seems like we've already figured out a way to get together again." Bryan grinned and rolled his eyes. "But let's not talk business this afternoon or tonight. Oh, I was serious about not having to bring a toothbrush. You will accept my invitation to stay over?"

"Is this okay with Doug and Brad...or, I should say, Brent?"

"Brent or Brad. He's fine with either name. As far as you being my 'house guest', I mentioned it to Doug. He's fine with the idea - just so we play safe and don't make babies. For the record, he's very happy that you're working with him on his film."

" more for the record: I plan on having a good time today and tonight. If you and I become good friends in the process, I'll consider our meeting a success." Thad was proud that he got his feelings out on the table. 'Now he knows I don't have high expectations or hopes.'

"I couldn't have said it better. Did you bring a swimsuit? That pool is looking awfully inviting."

"Wearing it. I didn't think this would be a skinny-dipping crowd."

"No one's very shy behind the wall in the shower and changing area, but you're right: skinny-dipping is not in the cards with these guys."

The party was winding down and Oleg was sitting on a chaise lounge, watching a few of the guys playing horse in the water. Giorgio had gone into the house to freshen himself after a brief swim. Mike had declared it official break time for the Speedo-attired staff and the young hunks were in the pool. Apparently, the bartender and one of the servers were partners and they had teamed together. However, the other server - a hot piece of eye candy with dark hair, piercing blue eyes and a treasure trail leading to a very prominent bulge under his swimsuit - was on the shoulders of one of the younger associates from the law firm. He had a feeling that a private party would continue at the lawyer's apartment after the server had finished his duties.

A little earlier, he received a text message from AOI's headquarters operations center that read, "COLT W/ STLN." This meant that the Colt - Chad, had kept his date with the Stallion - Senator Kirk. With a warrant issued for the FBI to record the activities in Suite 1120 because of an identified underage male prostitute, there would be enough evidence to nail the legislator. The FBI had been very careful not to identify a specific client in the room - if the warrant had specified the Senator, the Bureau would be open to criticism of operating a political witch-hunt.

'Probably the esteemed Senator from Utah is being frog-walked out of the hotel at this moment,' Oleg thought with satisfaction, 'and if the stud muffin is smart, he'll cooperate with authorities to nail his employer and get out of the business. All in all, a good week...even if that Rory dude has vanished. But he's not my concern, unless he comes knocking at my door.'

Oleg had to dig deep into his past to remember when he'd had a better time. Maybe it was the culmination of a very intense period and he needed to decompress. Whatever the case, he considered this 'well-earned' down time: he was with guys he knew well enough to relax, didn't have to worry about covering his back and was enjoying himself. 'Smell the roses - or Calla Lilies,' he thought as he recalled the successful dinner with Giorgio earlier in the week. In fact, Dave had told him that he would be invited to their annual Christmas party and, "be sure and bring whomever you want." He had been signaled to come with Giorgio...if things were still tight in December...but not to feel obligated.

It was as if the unspoken veil that delineated the boundaries of a professional relationship had disappeared and he had silently been accepted into the inner circle of this group of enterprising men. He could also feel it with Brad and Doug. There had been a moment earlier in the week when he had passed some sort of test. Today, in return, each man seemed to silently communicate that they wanted to pass Oleg's test. As far as he was concerned, perfect scores were in order.

The highest score, however, he saved for Mr. Como. Charming, handsome, humorous, intelligent Giorgio. Their relationship was forging ahead with measured but deliberate speed. Driving out to Palm Springs a little later would allow Oleg to bring up the next phase of becoming a couple: exclusive dating. This was part of his roadmap to a commitment - something that Oleg didn't take lightly. 'Can he get used to my unorthodox work hours and assignments?' he wondered as he noticed Giorgio walking across the deck. His friend had changed back into his earlier clothing ensemble. He smiled and stood up.

Giorgio walked up to Oleg and they indulged in a brief 'hello' kiss. "Mmmm, yum. A little taste of coconut."

"Must be a remainder of the sun block I used," Oleg replied with a grin. He grabbed a towel and wiped his face. "You ready to start our 'goodbyes' so we can move on? It's about 4:30."

"Probably a good idea. I figure we can gracefully ease out of here, retrieve the car and be on the road by five."

"And get to Palm Springs - barring any traffic problems - before eight. I look forward to some quality time...just the two of us." Oleg was looking forward to some moonlit skinny-dipping in his pool and the warmth of the desert evening.

"Just the two of us...sounds like a plan."

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