Authors: Meg Perry
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #Gay, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Gay Fiction
Scott made himself stand quietly in the middle of the kitchen and take a breath. He was flitting around like a hummingbird with ADHD and he needed to stop. He'd cooked dinner for dates before. No need to be so nervous about this one.
He decided to set the table. That ritual usually helped calm him. He was just placing the silverware when the concierge called. “There’s a Mr. Williams here to see you.”
“Thank you. Send him up.” Scott finished placing silverware then opened the front door. Ethan was just coming off the elevator. When he saw Scott, he grinned, and Scott had to remind himself not to drool. The guy was so gorgeous. He'd dressed up a little, in soft dark gray slacks and a gray and white striped shirt that looked great with his black hair and blue-gray eyes.
Scott was still gazing at those eyes when Ethan held out a bunch of flowers. Orchids. How had Ethan known?
“Oh, these are my favorites. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Ethan followed him into the condo and looked around appreciatively. “This is a great place.”
“Thank you. I like it. What can I get you to drink?”
“Sure.” Scott uncorked the Chase Cellars he had chilling and poured Ethan a glass, then himself. He held out his glass for a toast. “Here's to new friends.”
One corner of Ethan's mouth quirked up in a smile, but he clinked glasses with Scott. “To new friends.” He sipped. “Mm. What year is that?”
“2009. Are you familiar with Chase Cellars?”
“Oh yeah. I've been to the winery. I grew up in Marin County. My father knew about this wine.”
“That's great. I've never been there.”
“You've got to go.” Ethan took another sip. “Maybe we could drive up there sometime.”
“I’d like that.” Scott gazed at Ethan for a second then forced himself to look away. He indicated the bar stools. “Have a seat.”
“Can I help?”
“No, there's not much left to do, just crush the garlic and cook everything.”
“Okay. I'll enjoy watching you.”
Scott grinned and shook his head. So far, this was turning out well. He lit the flame under the wok and poured in the sesame oil. “I don't know much about Marin County.”
“You've never been there?”
“The orchestra has performed in San Francisco, but I've never done more than spend the night. I’ll be there the first week of July for a master class - you can give me restaurant recommendations.”
“Absolutely. Do you like it here?”
“Yeah, I do. The weather makes up for a truckload of other issues. And the Philharmonic gig is one of the best in the country.”
The food was ready, and Scott filled the plates. They ate, chatting about life in LA and other things. Conversation flowed easily. They put a dent in the bottle of wine. After dinner, they sat and talked for a while longer, then Ethan helped Scott clear the table. As Scott was loading the dishwasher, Ethan took his glass and wandered out into the living room. He waved his hand at the loft. “What's up there?”
“That's where I practice and keep all my music and books.”
“Can I see it?”
“Of course.” Scott closed the dishwasher door and started it, then turned down the lights in the kitchen and went to the stairs. “Come on up.”
He led the way upstairs, flipping on the light as they climbed. When they stopped at the top of the stairs Ethan took in a breath of surprise.
Scott tried to see it through Ethan’s eyes. His cello was in its case, in its corner. His seat and music stand, with the Britten on it, was in the left far corner. Along the left wall, the sofa. Along the right wall, the shelving with his books and scores. There was an Indian rug covering the floorboards and a throw across the back of the sofa.
It was comfortable but romantic. It expressed more of Scott’s personality than even his bedroom did.
Ethan looked around in approval. “This is great. Like your own private aerie.”
“Thanks. That's exactly what it feels like.”
“And your last boyfriend didn't appreciate this.”
“He never seemed to be able to connect my need for practice with the roof over his head and the food on his table.”
Ethan shook his head. “That's a shame. I guess he never played an instrument or a sport.”
“No. That should have been a sign to me. Of all my previous relationships, the only ones that were moderately successful were with musicians, except for one that had been an athlete.” He decided to get brave. “And you’re an athlete.”
Ethan grinned. “I’m both. I play piano in addition to the rowing.”
“Do you play well?”
Scott didn't ask,
well enough for what
. “I haven't even asked you. Where did you go to college?”
“Berkeley for undergrad. I got my master's degree at Oxford and my doctorate at Yale.”
“No kidding. The guy I dated who was an athlete went to Berkeley and Oxford.”
“Um -” Scott tried to think back. “He was two years younger than me, so he graduated high school in 1998. He would have been at Berkeley from then through 2002, and at Oxford immediately after that. He was a Rhodes scholar.”
Ethan's eyes narrowed a bit. “What sport did he play?”
The transformation in Ethan was remarkable. He went pale. “Was his name Jamie Brodie?”
Scott stared until he realized his mouth was hanging open. “You
Ethan rubbed his hand across his jaw. “I lived with Jamie for seven years.”
Scott dropped onto the sofa. This could
be happening. “You are
Ethan sat heavily in the armchair, dismay in his expression. “He told you about me?”
Scott’s chest felt tight. He wondered if this was how an asthma attack began and figured karma was about to take a chunk out of his ass. “All I knew was your first name and that you were his college boyfriend.”
“We broke up about three years ago. We'd been together for a little over a year.”
“Why did you break up?”
“I was a total ass. He was sick a lot that year with his asthma, and I was competing for a spot at a summer festival. He needed me, and I wasn't around. It got to the point where we were hardly seeing each other because he had to stay with his brother because he needed someone to take care of him.” Scott cringed. After this admission, he might never see Ethan again. “I broke up with him when he was in the hospital. I meant to break up with him over dinner that night, but he had an attack and had to go to the hospital - so I went ahead and told him there.”
Ethan shook his head. “You were an ass.”
“I told you.”
Ethan frowned into his wine glass. “I was too. I broke up with him because I didn't want to move back to California because I needed my father to pay for my doctorate and he wouldn't have if he'd found out I was gay.”
Ethan hadn’t been out to his family? Scott had always found that cowardly. He tried to keep the disapproval out of his voice. “That’s mercenary.”
Ethan still didn’t look at him. “Yeah.”
Ethan’s gaze was distant. Wistful. Scott studied him, trying to picture him with Jamie - and couldn’t. Ethan was moonlight - silver, cool, classic. The
in human form. Jamie was sunlight - golden, warm, cheerful. Katrina and the Waves’
Walking on Sunshine
Ethan was New York or Paris. Jamie was pure California.
Ethan tapped Scott on the knee. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m trying to imagine you and Jamie together, and I can’t. You’re so different.”
Ethan smiled wryly. “That’s true. But it was college, you know? We were less fully formed then.” He rubbed a finger around the rim of his wine glass. “Jamie was made for someone like Pete Ferguson. When I first saw them together, it confirmed my suspicion that Jamie and I wouldn’t have lasted.”
If Ethan had just moved to LA… “When have
seen them together?”
Ethan’s head jerked up. A flash of - something - flickered across his face, and Scott realized that Ethan hadn’t meant to divulge that bit of information. “I - um - brought my last boyfriend to California on vacation. While we were here, we asked Jamie to do some research at Oxford for us. For a paper we were writing.”
He was lying. Or, at least, that was less than half of the truth. Scott was trying to decide whether to pursue it when Ethan said, staring at his wine glass again, “He was too good for me.”
Scott didn’t know how to respond to that. He waited. Ethan’s next move would determine the course of the remainder of the evening.
Ethan was silent for a few minutes, then drained his wine and set the glass on the floor. He smiled at Scott, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “This has been a wonderful evening. Thank you.”
He was leaving.
. Scott said, “I hope we can do it again. Soon.”
“I’d like that.” Ethan stood and took Scott’s hand, pulling him to his feet. To Scott’s surprise he put his other hand on Scott’s shoulder, leaned in and kissed him.
Scott kissed back. It was a kiss that promised more. Maybe the night wasn’t over...
Ethan pulled back. “I’ll call you.”
Scott tried to keep his tone light. “Not if I call you first.”
Ethan chuckled. He led the way to the front door. Scott opened it for him, and Ethan turned. “I mean it. I’ve enjoyed this.”
Who was he trying to convince?
Scott said, “Me, too.”
One more quick kiss and he was gone.
Scott closed the door and leaned against it, letting his head fall back, closing his eyes.
What the fuck?
Sunday, June 21
Pete, Steve and I were still at the breakfast table when my phone beeped with a text. I checked the sender and groaned.
Need to talk to you.
Oh, fuck, no. I said,
I’m in New Mexico.
What the hell are you doing there?
Visiting Pete’s brother, not that it’s any of your business. What’s going on?
Never mind. I’ll catch you later.
Like hell. I said,
He didn’t respond to that.
Pete and Steve were both watching me. Steve said, “I’d hate to be the person on the other end of that conversation.”
I said, “I’m not thrilled to be on this end of it.” I handed my phone to Pete.
Pete scrolled through the texts. “For God’s sake. I thought he was going to leave you alone.”
“So did I. We may need a come to Jesus meeting.”
Pete handed my phone back. “I want in on that.”
Scott woke up the next morning with a headache. He’d drunk the rest of the Chase Cellars and gone to bed without even rinsing out the wine glasses. He lay in bed for a few minutes with the covers over his head, trying to wish away the headache without success. Finally he got up, took two aspirin with a bottle of Diet Pepsi and felt somewhat better.
He didn’t know what to think about Ethan. Scott’s track record with relationships wasn’t stellar; the longest he’d ever been with anyone was two years. He had dated a lot of different people; however, and he’d never been in a situation like this.
He’d simply have to play it by ear, as it were. Ethan would call later today, as he had nearly every day, and Scott would see where Ethan’s head was.
Until then, he had things to do.
An hour later, he was emptying the dishwasher when his phone rang. He picked it up, hoping to see Ethan’s name, but instead saw Kevin Brodie’s.
Scott sighed and answered. “Working on Sunday?”
“Yeah, to make up for taking Friday off. A couple of things. First, Jon said you did great Friday evening. Thank you.”
“Did Dr. Oliver’s score belong to UCLA?”
“It did. Donna returned it to them yesterday.”
“Do you think he knew it was stolen?”
“After talking to him yesterday, we’re convinced he had no idea. Whether this supposed Percival guy is our killer or not, we don’t know yet, so we need to see if we can draw him out.”
“I suppose that’s where I come back in.”
“Yes. Oliver told us that he didn’t meet his dealer on the site where you found him; he gave us the web address for the right one. We’d like to meet with you again tomorrow morning at Jamie’s office to set up an account for you on the new site and go over our plan from there. Oliver’s agreed to cooperate fully. He’ll contact Percival about acquiring the duet - you haven’t given that back yet, have you?”
“Good. Oliver will contact Percival and give him the money to buy the duet from you, then we’ll see if we can attract Percival’s attention.”
“And when you say we, you mean me.”
Scott could hear the grin in Kevin’s voice. “Well, yeah. Sorry.”
“At this point, I’m resigned to my fate.”
“With any luck this will be over soon, and we’ll get out of your life.”
“I’m going to be in San Francisco the first week of July. It needs to be over by then.”
“It will be. Thanks, Scott.”
Scott’s curiosity got the better of him. “Jon said you were at graduation on Friday. Graduation from what?”
“Oh.” Kevin sounded a bit embarrassed. “I got my paralegal certificate through UCLA Extension back in December, but they only hold one graduation per year. It was Friday evening.”
“You’re a paralegal now?”
“Yeah. If you remember Jamie’s friend Melanie Hayes, I do some work for her on the side. After I leave LAPD, I’ll do it full time.”
“I remember Mel. That’s a good plan.” Scott considered asking Kevin about Ethan, then decided not to push his luck. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, then.”
“Right. At nine in Jamie’s office.”
“Okay.” As Scott hung up, he thought,
If I get there early, I can talk to Jamie about Ethan