Authors: Nicole Kimberling
Tags: #LGBT Suspense
Peter sighed. Maybe he was just the sort of person who was perpetually unsatisfied with his environment. He cleared off a space on the sofa and sat down in it. Shortly after that Evangeline appeared with a slice of pumpkin bread wrapped in a paper towel. She handed it to him, cleared off an armchair, and sat down. “So why are you driving the
“Shawn had to skip town. I theorize that he owed his dealer money.”
Evangeline shook her head sadly. Shawn was her younger cousin. She’d gotten him the job at the
in the hopes that it would provide some stability in his life. “I saw him about a week ago. He is really taking the wrong drugs. I don’t know which ones they are, but they are definitely not right for him.”
Mitch jumped up on the armchair next to her and looked hopefully at her snack. Like the seasoned pet owner that she was, Evangeline ignored him.
Peter resisted the urge to ask whether any drugs could really be said to be right for someone. It felt fairly hypocritical to make that remark, being the great connoisseur of martinis that he was. Instead, he said, “You don’t happen to know who his dealer was?”
Evangeline rolled her eyes. “Even if I did I wouldn’t tell you, Mr. Nosy. You’d try to find them to find out about Shawn to satisfy your curiosity, write an article, and go for another award. I don’t want to be in trouble with Nick.”
“Why would you be in trouble with Nick?” Peter scowled. That was the problem with best friends. Too perceptive.
“Because you’d go out there by yourself, in the dark, and end up getting sacrificed to Satan, and it would be my fault. That’s why I’d be in trouble with Nick.”
Peter paused, midchew, regarding Evangeline. “So you do know who the dealer is.”
“I didn’t say that.” Evangeline’s expression became aloof, almost prim, but Peter wasn’t fooled. She’d never been a good liar, nor even a good omitter of information.
Pondering the note in his pocket, he said, “Why would you bring up something so bizarre and specific as getting sacrificed to Satan unless you knew something about Shawn’s dealer?”
“You know what I know? I know you’ve got something much more important to think about than Shawn’s creepy dealer. I’m sure the cops are already worrying about him for you. Who is going to find the asshole who hurt your cat? Nobody but you.”
“She’s not my cat. I’m just keeping her until we can find a home.” Peter finished off his pumpkin bread. “And I’ve already talked to the police. They’re taking it really seriously.”
“But you’re really good at snooping around,” Evangeline said. “And you have more time than they do.”
“Has it occurred to you that it might actually be more dangerous to go poking around the property of an animal mutilator than a cracked-out Satanist?”
“Why? You’re not a cat.”
“Because cruelty to animals is one of the hallmarks of a budding serial killer.”
“A budding serial killer hasn’t killed yet, right? So he can’t be that good at it. That’s way safer than provoking a Satanist on crack. If you’re going to do one or the other, the serial killer seems safer. And you only have a ten percent chance that he’s gay, so you have a ninety percent chance that he wouldn’t want to kill you anyway.”
Peter sighed. “Your strange logic is inescapable.”
Evangeline smiled. “I know. I’ll go get the cat carrier.”
Peter left the carrier on this desk at the
, traded in the pickup for his bike, and started his commute home.
* * *
Chuckanut Drive wound south from Bellingham along the coastal cliffs where cedar-covered limestone plunged straight into the emerald sea. The blacktop was narrow, dark, and sometimes shoulderless, but the cars whizzing by didn’t trouble him like they had when he’d first moved in with Nick.
He arrived home around six that evening, bicycling up the hill just as the sun was setting over the Salish Sea.
The ride from Bellingham wasn’t long for a seasoned cyclist such as himself, but he’d already had a long day.
He dropped his bike in the garage and went through the kitchen door. He thought he’d take a shower, maybe do some Internet research on Satanism or cat care, and go to bed.
He hadn’t expected Nick to be home when he arrived, but there he was, standing in the open kitchen among the slabs of granite and rough wooden beams chopping lettuce. A beer sat next to his cutting board. On the adjacent counter, Peter spied two steaks sitting in a shallow dish of marinade.
Nick glanced up at him, said hello, and went back to chopping.
Peter seated himself at the massive yet utilitarian dining room table and said, “Have you got a date?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t asked yet. I was hoping to lure him with meat and raspberry cheesecake.”
“You bought cheesecake?”
“And vermouth. Noilly Prat. Want a martini?”
“I’ve never been known to resist the Noilly Prat.” Peter watched in wonderment as Nick wiped his hands, fetched a shaker, and began to build a martini. Finally, as Nick was dropping a fat, round Castelvetrano olive into the glass, Peter had to ask, “What did I do to deserve this?”
Nick shook his head as if to imply that there was no reason at all, handed him the martini, and went back to work. After consigning a tomato to the salad netherworld, he said, “I’m sorry I was insensitive about you wanting to take care of the kitten.”
“It’s okay.” Peter spoke automatically. “I know having an animal around is an inconvenience.”
“It’s not that big of one, really. And the vet’s right. Taking care of her is a really nice thing to do,” Nick said. “But I was already feeling, as you said,
bent out of shape
about responsibility when you came over.”
“Stephano, from the university, called me again just before you got to the studio this afternoon. They’re just about to give up on finding the sculpture.”
“What will happen if they do?”
“They’ll file an insurance claim and get reimbursed for their loss. Probably they’ll use the money to commission a new work for the garden. I’m fairly certain Stephano expects to sell them one of his own pieces.” Nick held a hand over his cast-iron skillet and, after chucking a handful of rock salt into it, laid two steaks inside. Hissing smoke rose immediately from the hot iron. The air filled with the aroma of grade-A grass-fed beef.
Peter sighed. “I’m close to finding it. I know I am.”
“Maybe it’s best if we both just let it go.” Nick fetched a bottle of olive oil, a jar of Dijon mustard, and a cruet of vinegar, and he set about making vinaigrette.
“Good newshounds never let go,” Peter intoned, taking a sip of the martini. Excellent, as usual. “Besides, I like that sculpture.”
“Yeah, you would. The trouble is, I really don’t.”
“You don’t?” Peter raised an eyebrow. “How could you not like it?”
“It was one of the last sculptures Walter did, and…I just never liked it, that’s all. And maybe it’s better if another piece of art can be commissioned from an actual living artist instead of enshrining the work of a dead man.”
“A paycheck for an artist is never bad.” Peter swirled his martini, watching how the liquor distorted the light. “But I still want to find
if I can—if only to arrest the vandalizing assholes who swiped it in the first place. There should be repercussions for stealing from a sculpture garden. No matter how you look at it, it’s a dick move.”
Nick smirked at the double entendre and allowed a small laugh to escape as he flipped the steaks. “You’ve sure got a way with words.”
“That’s what they pay me for.” Peter got out plates and silverware and bread from the bread box.
He should have known that a matter less trivial than petsitting was at the root of Nick’s unease. And considering that, he had to admit that he too had something on his mind.
“While I was doing Shawn’s route today, some girl put a note on the
Nick raised a brow. “Do I have competition?”
“The note was for Shawn.”
“Well, I suppose that there must be some contingent of the opposite sex who are into bad dreads.”
“It wasn’t a love note.” Peter related the single sentence, eliciting a low whistle from his lover.
“Either somebody’s caught the spirit of the ghosting season, or Shawn really has worn out his welcome.”
“Doug thinks he skipped town to avoid his dealer.”
“I thought Shawn
“I’m guessing the guy in the truck is a little higher up the food chain,” Peter said.
Nick moved the steaks to the plates. “I suppose this means you’re going to have to keep doing the distro until Doug gets around to hiring someone else.”
“God, I hope not.”
Rather than sitting at the massive dinner table, like some cartoon rich family, they sat at the counter. Dinner entertainment consisted of watching streaming video of
Lois & Clark
on Peter’s laptop. It was cozy.
Neither of them mentioned Shawn, or Walter’s art, or the kitten again.
Peter offered a second episode, but Nick declined, suggesting instead a shower. For both of them.
Never one to say no to an offer of a mutual shower, particularly when fueled by a martini and
Lois & Clark
, Peter agreed. Three minutes later he stood in the Castle’s amazing four-head shower, soaping Nick’s broad, muscular back.
Peter took his time, because Nick required time. Time and love. Simply dropping to his knees and sucking would not do with this man. Peter suspected that he’d had enough of lurid, faceless encounters in the army and now wanted it to feel personal. So Peter made it personal, slowly soaping him, treating him right. Admiring him.
And there was a lot of him to admire. His heavy thighs, his bulky calves, his soft brown hair.
Nick returned his affection, stroking, murmuring about Peter’s beauty, his dark hair, his blue eyes.
Peter finished his ministrations, toweled Nick off, and led him to the bedroom.
This one room, in all the Castle, Peter had managed to make theirs. Gone were the gray sheets, the austere bedside lamps. He’d spent a month’s pay to transform the dull, almost clinical room into cool blue oasis. Nick looked good against the sheets. The color accented his pale irises, his tan skin.
Peter had a choice to make—whether to make it dirty or sweet. Normally he chose to go slightly dirty, being a general fan of putting an edge of exhibitionistic glamour into their sex life. But today Nick seemed… Not fragile, but certainly not having sex for the sake of it. He wanted to be with Peter to have a connection with him.
So Peter pulled up the sheets and curled his arms around Nick. He kissed slowly, taking his time, tasting Nick’s mouth, showing he cared. He moved slowly downward, finally taking Nick into his mouth, sucking slowly, then hard, tasting him, making it last.
Nick moaned, arched into his mouth. Peter took him deeply, intent on making it last as long as he could, hard himself from the taste of flesh. He loved sucking cock in general and sucking Nick in particular. He reveled in the way that at some point Nick’s gentleness and restraint would break and he would push hard into Peter’s mouth and shoot. He loved how Nick would pull him up beside him after that, his strong hand palming Peter’s ass as Peter thrust his swollen prick against Nick’s thigh.
And he loved how Nick’s fingers would rest against his opening, claiming that intimacy so naturally and casually that it took Peter’s breath away.
So he worked Nick with his tongue, knowing the inevitable series of events that ended, as he had predicted, with Nick’s fingers deep in his ass as he rocked and moaned his way to a blinding climax.
Afterward, Peter lay panting on Nick’s arm. Suddenly feeling the chill of the October night on his sweat-drenched skin, he shivered. Automatically, Nick pulled the duvet over him, murmuring, “Cold as a woman.”
Then, just like that, Nick was asleep.
During their morning toast and eggs, Peter finally asked Nick to explain why the call from Stephano, an art professor at the university, had bothered him so much. At first Nick just shook his head, focusing on his plate, using his toast and fork in tandem to subdue his egg over easy. Peter preferred his egg over hard and folded in one piece of light toast. A one-handed affair that he could not only eat while riding a bike, but which required no plate or silverware. When Nick was gone, he ate standing over the sink. This morning he sat alongside Nick at the counter. Determined not to be discouraged in his line of questioning, Peter tried again. “I know talking about it won’t help you feel better, but it would make me feel better to know why you’re so moody, so why not have some mercy on me?”
Nick sighed and gave him a resigned, sidelong glance. “Since I’m the executor of Walter’s artistic estate, they want me to sign some paperwork stating that it was an original. I told them I’d go down there this morning.”
Peter did not immediately know why this should cause Nick any great distress, but clearly it did.
“I still don’t understand why that would upset you, though.” Peter was trying to augment his understanding of his lover without prying, but it was hard. Prying was what he did; it was his art form, even.
“It’s just bringing up a lot of memories for me; that’s all. Walter completed that piece about six months before he died. It was a hard time for me.”
Peter nodded. Obviously it would have been a hard time for anyone, but especially for a guy like Nick, who didn’t talk much but thought a lot. From his expression, Peter could tell he was thinking right this second. Deep, brooding thoughts churned through the mind of Nick Olson, sending flickering microexpressions across his furrowed brow, his heavy-lidded eyes.
It killed Peter to see him this way—made so unhappy by a phone call and a hunk of rock that had been fashioned to look like his penis. Finally inspiration struck. “Do you want me to come with you to the university?”
“Nah.” Nick mopped up flecks of yellow yolk with intense precision, as if he were manipulating paint.
“Can I come anyway? I need to write a piece on the theft, and it would give some closure.”