DISCLAIMER: QAF and its characters are the sole property of Cowlip Productions and Showtime. No copyright infringement is intended.
8:30 a.m. - Friday, February 14
A particularly loud emergency siren out on the street below finally managed to do what my insidiously-beeping alarm clock hadn't been able to do: rouse me from a fitful sleep. I opened one bleary eye to peek over at the clock that I had somehow managed to silence earlier while still asleep to confirm what I was dreading: I had, indeed, overslept, and now I would have to practically run the two blocks to the subway after hurrying through a lukewarm shower in order to get to the gallery on time.
"Shit!" I muttered as I pulled back the covers and immediately felt the cold rush of air that always greeted my bare torso each morning, courtesy of the drafty, wooden, casement windows that adorned the north side of my efficiency apartment. I had long ago figured out that in order not to freeze to death, at the very least I needed to always go to bed with sweats on and remain cocooned in the down comforter that my mother had ordered and had delivered to me as a present last Christmas when I couldn't come home. Ever since then, the two of us had been like Linus and his security blanket whenever I needed to get warm, which was pretty much all the time in the winter.
Efficiency. I snorted as I rose from the bed and shivered at the first contact my feet had with the scruffy, hardwood floor. What a joke. Efficiency made my apartment sound almost well-organized and cozy; reality was far from the truth. What had initially sounded like a good prospect for a roommate in Chelsea when I had first moved here several months ago had quickly turned into a bad idea as Daphne's friend had wound up being an uptight, nerdy, by-the-books type of gal. She ate only health food, rose at 5 each day to jog around the block, was in bed by 9:30 each night, and had her nose stuck in a book most every evening. Not exactly the best conversationalist and certainly not compatible with my lifestyle, so after a few weeks of giving it a go, I managed to find my current rat hole of an apartment a few blocks away from the gallery where I was granted studio work space in exchange for part-time employment there. It wasn't the best arrangement - and my current living quarters was actually a step down from my last apartment in the Pitts - but at least it was in a relatively safe area and I was free to do what I wanted, when I wanted, unrestricted by the disproving glares of my temporary, former roommate.
Ten minutes later, my hair still damp from the shower, I slammed the front door downstairs to make sure it was locked before I scurried toward the subway entrance, my art portfolio slung across my shoulders slowing me down slightly. At precisely 9:05, I swung the heavy, glass door to the Innovations Art Gallery and rushed inside.
"Good Afternoon," came the expected, dry response from Margo Teller, the gallery's owner as she looked up from her laptop on her desk situated several feet away, her half-glasses perched at the end of her nose. "Did your meeting with Streicher run longer than you expected?"
I snorted. Adam Streicher was one of the most innovative, creative impressionist artists alive today; everyone in NYC had been dying to host a showing of his most important works for years, but he was more elusive than Bigfoot. "I wish," I muttered as I dropped my art portfolio down next to one of the gallery's leather chairs. "I'm sorry," I apologized as she stared over at me quietly. "I didn't sleep well last night and wound up oversleeping."
She nodded. "Well, don't let it become a habit," she warned me as I nodded in relief. Margo, an elegantly-appointed lady in her 50's, had owned Innovations for over fifteen years now, which was a feat in and of itself in the competitive art world that enveloped NYC. The fact that she had taken a fancy to some of my works when I had shown them to her six months ago - and had offered me part-time employment along with some much-coveted studio space to use in my spare time - was something I would forever be grateful to her for. I certainly didn't want to disappoint her or take a chance that this rare opportunity would be taken away from me, then. Margo could be stern at times, but she was also fair.
"I won't," I promised her as I took off my coat and scarf to hang it up on a wooden rack located a few feet away.
She nodded again, apparently satisfied with my response as she turned her attention back to her computer. "By the way," she said without looking over at me, "a courier dropped off something for you a few minutes ago. It's over by the cash register."
I frowned. "A courier?" That sounded almost important; all sorts of questions ran through my mind, but Margo didn't say anything further in explanation as I walked over to the opposite wall and picked up an overnight, cardboard delivery envelope that was lying on the sales desk. I picked it up, noticing an official-looking, typed shipping label peeking out from the clear, plastic mailing sleeve. It had my name listed in care of the studio, but only a PO Box in NYC as the return address. Furrowing my brow in confusion, I pulled the top tab to open it, discovering a plain, cream-colored envelope inside with my first name written on it. My heart skipped a beat as I looked at it; I knew that handwriting instantly. What in the world was he up to?
Unable to avoid smiling a little as I thought about my partner, I didn't bother to try and locate the letter opener inside the top desk drawer before I hurriedly slid my index finger under the flap and tore it open. A simple, cream-colored card with Kinnetik's name and address at the top was nestled inside containing a cryptic message:
Come Find Me. B.
I frowned, perplexed. What did THAT mean? Come find him WHERE? Did it mean that Brian was here, in New York City? Or was he asking me to come home to see him? He and I were constantly vying for who earned the most frequent flyer miles since I had landed in New York; between the two of us flying back and forth to see each other, we had quickly racked up thousands of miles. It helped to ease the loneliness of not being with Brian all the time, and did wonders to reassure me that Brian did, indeed, love me as much as I loved him, but it still didn't quite fill the hole in my heart whenever we were apart. Brian had always been, and would always be, my greatest inspiration when it came to my work, and when we weren't together I just didn't have the same drive and passion that I normally did. Even Margo had commented on the difference in my works whenever Brian was with me and when he wasn't.
"What in the..." I murmured aloud as Margo finally turned her attention back to me.
"Is there a problem?" she asked me curiously, no doubt wondering what I had received.
I looked over at her a little sheepishly; Margo had certainly met Brian before and had been courteous to him, but I didn't dwell on our relationship to her. I felt that when I was here at the gallery, the least I could do was concentrate on her business instead of my partner, although I certainly did my share of daydreaming about him, especially when I was trying to craft a new piece. "No," I finally told her. "I'm just wondering what this means."
She lifted one perfectly-curved eyebrow. "What WHAT means?" she asked me.
"This letter; well, actually, it's just a card." I paused, deciding I needed to at least try to explain. "It's from Brian."
She nodded as she gazed over at me expectantly. "Why would he send you an overnight document instead of just calling you?" she asked me.
I shrugged; that was a good question. "I'm not sure," I admitted as I held it in my right hand and re-read the cryptic message.
"Well, what does it say?" she asked me.
I looked over at her a little embarrassed. "It says...Come find me."
I thought I saw just a flicker of amusement pass across her face as her eyebrows lifted. "Come find me?"
I nodded as I gazed down once more at the card; something made me flip it over, and it was then that I noticed there was more writing on the back:
Taxi's waiting; get moving; they're fucking expensive!
I had to laugh softly at that other part before I remembered that Margo was still peering over at me. "Uh...there's a little more on the back," I told her, struggling with what to do. After all, I had just gotten here and now Brian wanted me to leave? But how could I say no? But I couldn't lose my job, either; I loved working around art all day long and having a studio to paint in. Shit, damn and fuck.
"Yeah...It says there's a taxi waiting for me outside." I glanced behind me, and sure enough, one of those iconic, yellow NYC taxis was idling at the curb, right in front of the gallery. I could see the driver leaning toward the passenger side expectantly as he tried to look inside the windows. For a second, I ridiculously wondered whether I could even afford the taxi, but I figured knowing Brian he had already made some sort of arrangement to pay for it.
I sighed; I knew what I had to do, even though I was taking a big chance. But if you couldn't take a big chance on love as Brian once pointed out to me, then what could you take a chance on? I took a deep breath before I asked, "Margo, is there any way I could take the day off? I promise I'll make it up to you by working extra hours next week." I silently hoped I didn't have to explain; surely even she had to have been in love once, although she frequently talked about how all the men she had known in her life were 'no good weasels.'
To my enormous relief, her piercing, brown eyes bored into mine as she studied me for a moment before finally replying, "You'd better. I have that big exhibition of Crenshaw's works next weekend, remember? I'm counting on you to help me position and hang up all the paintings." She adjusted her glasses a little higher on the bridge of her nose as I stood there a moment longer, wondering what to do with my portfolio.
"Uh, can I leave my portfolio here?" I asked, not wanting to stretch my luck, but not especially keen on toting it around with me, either.
Margo rolled her eyes a little impatiently. "Yes, yes," she told me a little abruptly. "Put it in the studio and lock the door; no one will be in there until you return."
I nodded gratefully, momentarily frozen to my spot until I heard her growl, "Well, go on then if you're going!" as she waved her ring-adorned hand in dismissal.
I didn't wait around any longer, almost afraid she would change her mind as I blurted out a "thanks!" and, stopping just long enough to secure my portfolio in the studio, I grabbed my coat and scarf and flung the heavy, glass door open to rush out, not bothering to look back. If I had, I would have seen an amused grin and an actual gleam appear in Margo's eyes as she watched me go.
"You Justin Taylor?" a wiry, dark-haired man with a thick sort of undistinguishable accent asked me as I opened the door and slid into the backseat of the taxi.
"Yeah," I told him, glad to be in the relative warmth of the vehicle; I reached down to turn up the backseat heater as he nodded and began to slowly thread his way back out into traffic. I noticed that the meter already read $20.15, even though I had just gotten in. In NYC, however, as soon as you set your foot inside the cab, normally there was already a $5.00 charge invoked, so I was thankful it wasn't any higher.
"Uh...Do you know where to go?" I asked after several seconds, unable to stand the suspense any longer. I sure hoped he did, because if he didn't, this was going to be a very short ride and I would look like an idiot. Most people who hailed a taxi told the driver where to take them, not the other way around. I was actually half-expecting Brian to be waiting in the cab for me, but from the wording on the card I suppose I wasn't too surprised that he wasn't. Something about the idea of finding him, though, perhaps hot and ready for me lying naked on some fancy hotel bed somewhere, did have an enormous appeal to it, and it also began to make me extremely horny as hell merely at the thought. I forced myself, however, to concentrate instead on the bustling activity of the big city as the driver weaved in and out of the heavy traffic and I wondered how long it would take to 'find' my partner.
The driver nodded. "Yes, I know," he assured me as I nodded, wondering if the driver thought the whole situation was odd. Well, it WAS odd, but he didn't seem too affected by it. Maybe I had been watching too many movies where the passenger frantically hailed a taxi, slid into the backseat before it came to a complete stop, and yelled, "Follow that car!" But he seemed amazingly nonplussed about the whole thing to me.
I gazed out the window, all the time wondering where I was being taken; apparently the driver was either instructed not to tell me by Brian, or he was just normally non-communicative as he slowed down in the middle of a massive traffic jam near the Broadway district before finally gaining some speed as he drove toward mid-Manhattan. Finally, he pulled up to a curb in front of a building that had a sign in the window that said, of all things, Liberty Travel, and I couldn't help grinning at the 'not-so-concidental' coincidence.
Anxious to find Brian and discover what was going on, I hurriedly started to open the door, only to have the driver turn around and clearly utter as he stuck his hand out toward me, "$32.75."
My mouth hung open. "You mean...You haven't been paid already?" I sputtered out in disbelief as the man shook his head. I huffed, incredulous, as I hastily dug into my pockets and managed somehow to come up with a grand total of $34.00. I sheepishly handed the man the amount and scurried out of the cab before he came running after me for a larger tip, sighing in relief as I heard him drive away before lifting my head to peer over at the large sign advertising the travel agency. Maybe Brian was inside and planning on taking me away for the weekend! I smiled in delight at the thought as I walked over and pulled the door open to enter.
The inside of the travel agency was rather small - it consisted of four, messy desks with flat-screen, desktop computers, a phone, and various papers scattered on top of them. Only one other customer was inside at the moment, sitting facing one of the employees as they presumably helped him book a trip. I was disappointed as I looked around and didn't notice my partner anywhere inside, but my attention was soon captured when I heard my name being said out loud.
"You Justin Taylor?" a young, blonde-haired woman who appeared to be in her mid-twenties called out to me from a nearby desk; I assumed she was a receptionist of some kind. I nodded as she pulled open a narrow desk drawer in the center of her desk and handed me another business-sized, cream-colored envelope with my first name written on the front. "This is for you," she told me as I took it from her hand. I turned around and, with slightly shaking hands opened up the flap. Another card like the first one was tucked inside, along with a different handwritten message:
Good boy. 1331 W. 36th Street. And don't try to call me; my phone's turned off. B
I harrumphed softly. What was I, a dog that just passed obedience class? At least this time the address was within walking distance, and I didn't have to drag my art portfolio all over Manhattan. I briefly wondered, though, if I was crazy to go along with Brian's scheme, but what choice did I have? Brian or Margo? Margo or Brian? Obviously, there WAS no choice.
A few seconds later, I was out the door, walking briskly toward 36th Street. The wind in this part of town was quite strong, and I pulled the collar of my jacket tighter against my neck, glad that I had thought to bring both my gloves and my cashmere scarf when I had left this morning. I still obstinately refused to wear a hat, though; I hated the way it made my scalp sweaty and my hair stick to my head. I could just hear Brian saying, though, as my ears began to turn red from not wearing one, "Well, at least your balls aren't turning blue, Sunshine."
Well, not yet, anyway, I thought as I tried hard not to focus on Brian lying naked somewhere warm on top of a luxurious, king-sized bed, his long, tanned legs crossed at the ankles as he reclined in all his glory, waiting for the mouse to decipher his maze so it could reach him. "Maybe next time you'll use a better type of cheese," I muttered as I hurried toward the next address.
Ten minutes later, I was smack dab right in the middle of the garment district; racks of clothing were standing on the sidewalks, and both sides of the street were advertising all kinds of clothing, yarn, or fabrics in their large, picture windows. I imagined someone from one of those famous, fashion reality shows stepping outside any second as I tried hard to find a street address. Doesn't any put their damn address on a building anymore? That was always one of the major problems of being in New York City, though; while you couldn't miss the street signs at every intersection, when it came to actually finding a street number, forget it.
I was about to give up when I lifted my head and my eyes met a silver, metal plaque attached to an office building a few feet away; one look at the sign and I knew even without knowing the address that I had found my destination, because it read:
Managed by Justin. (212) 555-8872.
I grinned; this had to be the place. Walking up to a heavy, oak door with a brass handle, I squeezed down on the apparatus to open the door as it swung inside. I found myself entering a lobby with a polished, ivory-colored granite floor and a curved, onyx-colored, gleaming concierge desk in the far left corner. I looked up to see a spiral staircase that seemed to go on and on above me before I heard someone clear their throat politely from behind the desk. "May I help you?" an African-American man in a dark blue uniform and cap asked me curiously.
I admit in my casual outfit of blue pea coat, blue-and-gray scarf, and blue jeans I looked decidedly out of place among such luxurious surroundings as I shuffled up to him in my worn but well-loved sneakers. "Uh, yeah," I responded rather dumbly. "This might be an odd question, but my..."
"You Justin Taylor?" the man immediately replied as I rolled my eyes. Was that my new name now? You Justin Taylor?
Sighing in weariness, I nodded as the distinguished-looking man reached underneath the desk and, instead of the customary, cream-colored envelope, handed me a small, white, unadorned box instead. "I was told to give you this."
I nodded as I turned my back to him to open the lid, still feeling his eyes on me as I did so. As I lifted the top, however, I couldn't help smiling at the two, valentine-shaped doughnuts staring up at me.
Turning to nod at the other man, who was, indeed, watching me curiously, I walked over to the door and reemerged outside, finding a nearby bench to sit on. Placing the box down beside me, I reached for the envelope tucked underneath the waxed paper and slid the flap open to pull out the card as I picked up the chocolate treat and bit down into the jelly-filled center. "Mmm," I couldn't moaning in appreciation as the tantalizing melding of chocolate and raspberry hit my mouth and I licked some chocolate icing off my lips.
I glanced down now at the card, and, sure enough, there was another address. This card, though, had something scrawled before the address which made my pulse quicken. It was still quite rare when Brian actually said or wrote anything even remotely romantic, so this one definitely got my attention:
You make my heart soar. 350 5th Avenue. B
My heart skipped a beat at the tender statement. Smiling wistfully and realizing just how much I was missing him, I quickly polished off the first doughnut before slipping the card into my jacket pocket along with the other ones and discarding the box in a nearby trash can, but not before removing the other outrageously high-carb treat and placing it inside a sheet of the waxed paper. After all, all this walking was starting to take a lot out of me.
I was glad that the next address was also close by, since the fare to the taxi driver had pretty much emptied me out. Biting into the pink, round, sugar doughnut, I quickly got my bearings before taking off for the next destination, wondering how many more of these 'excursions' I would have to engage in before I finally came face to face with my partner.
As I got closer to the address and quickly dispatched the second doughnut, it was becoming apparent from Brian's note where I was about to wind up: at the Empire State Building. Funny how in all this time of being here, I had never taken the opportunity to play tourist and check it out, but as I neared the front of the building, I was happy to know that I might be about to get the chance now.
Sure enough, as soon as I stepped up to the information/security desk located just inside the lobby to the left and walked up to the uniformed man sitting there, I had no sooner opened my mouth to begin to speak when the man inquired, "You Justin Taylor?"
I had half a mind to retort back, "No, I'm Justin Timberlake," but I figured that might be counterproductive, so, instead, I merely nodded as he handed me Envelope #5. Walking a few steps away to stay out of the main crowd congregating nearby to board the elevators to go upstairs, I slid the card out of the envelope and read the next message:
Go for the top, then go to 727 5th Avenue. You make me feel blue. B
I furrowed my brow. What the hell? That didn't sound very romantic to me. Did it mean that he was feeling blue without me, or that the thought of being with me made him feel blue? Nah, surely it wasn't that. I grinned as I preferred to think that it meant that someone had blue BALLS - or in Brian's case - a BALL - from being horny while he waited for me to show up. Served him right, I couldn't help thinking. In any case, I noticed a ticket tucked inside the envelope for a ride up to the highest level of the Empire State Building, so I figured I might as well take advantage of it.
Approximately ten minutes later, my breath was taken away by the unbelievable view I was greeted with at the observation tower. It was incredible; almost like riding an airplane at low altitude and being able to look down upon all the skyscrapers and the Hudson River from the ideal window seat.
I hurriedly dug into my pocket and located my camera to take several panoramic shots before I joined the rest of the crowd descending back down to the first floor so I could hurry off to the next address.
Being so close by, it only took me five minutes to come to my next appointed location, and as I approached the address, my face broke out into realization regarding Brian's comment: I was standing directly in front of the New York City Tiffany's store.
My heart beating erratically in my chest, I swung the glass door open and my mouth gaped in wonderment. Everywhere you looked there was chrome and glass; even glass chandeliers hung from the two-story building. It almost looked futuristic in a way, and my artistic side had to pause momentarily to take it all in. The architecture was modernistic and sleek, clean and bright.
I finally closed my mouth, thinking how embarrassing it was to look like a kid in a candy store, before I tried to figure out whom to approach for my next envelope.
Finally, I decided to walk up to the closest jewelry salesperson and just hope for the best. I quietly approached a young man who appeared to be about the same age as I was with curly, dark hair and a pair of rimless eyeglasses who was meticulously wiping down one of the glass jewelry counters. He must have sensed my presence, though, because he looked up politely when I walked up to him.
"May I help you find something?" he asked with a polite smile. I noticed he had a gold-tone badge with the Tiffany's logo on it and the name "Robert" inscribed in script letters as I nodded. "Yes, this may sound a little weird, but my name is..."
"You Justin Taylor?" he immediately interjected as I rolled my eyes a little. What? Was that some sort of secret spy phrase all of a sudden or something? How did Brian do that? Was my name and photo plastered at every subway station and in every public restroom across Manhattan? I could see it now: If you see this man, please hand him an envelope. Shit.
"Yeah, yeah, that's me," I told him just a little brusquely. He nodded, apparently taught that the customer was right no matter HOW surly they were, before he walked over to a cash register and opened it up to produce a small, pale, blue box tied with a matching ribbon and another envelope. My eyes widened as he walked over and handed both to me. "These are for you," he told me unnecessarily as I nodded, unable to keep a slight smile off my face as I turned around for a little privacy and sought the relative shelter of an angled alcove nearby. Sitting down in a plush, oversized white loveseat, I placed the envelope in my lap as I pulled the ribbon loose and carefully placed it down beside me, not wanting to lose one piece of this infuriating but intriguing puzzle of my partner's.
My hand trembling slightly in anticipation, I lifted the box and discovered a silver and black bracelet lying inside. It was unlike any other bracelet I had ever seen before, and the small tag that was nestled inside the box stated that it had been created by a very famous artist out of stainless steel and titanium. I held it up to the light briefly, admiring the way it reflected off the lights above, before sliding the smooth, cold metal over my hand to settle around my wrist as if it had always belonged there. My eyes watered over the outright romantic gesture as I sighed in longing. Brian, where are you? I'm tired of searching for you. I need you.
Feeling melancholy despite the wonderful gift, I slid the latest card out from the envelope, hoping it would finally reveal just where Brian was located. I was disappointed, though, to find yet another address with no indication that I would find what I really wanted there:
For my artiste, the pièce de résistance. 99 Margaret Corbin Drive. B
Huffing in irritation over wanting this to be over with so I could finally be with Brian, nonetheless I had to smile because for once I knew exactly where he was taking me. After all, no respectable artist would come to New York City and not visit the Museum of Metropolitan Art. At least I would get to spend some time at one of my favorite locations in the entire Big Apple, then; I could get lost in there for days if I had the opportunity.
Glancing down to admire the shiny, sleek but masculine bracelet now adorning my left wrist, I hurriedly exited out of the store and started walking toward my next destination. This took a bit longer, since it was located clear over near Central Park, but at last I found myself standing in front of the steps leading into my favorite museum in the entire city.
As I entered the main entrance doors, I again wondered just who to approach for my next instructions. Deciding the information desk would be the most likely location, I walked over to the circular desk set up near the front of the building that resembled a hotel lobby counter and waited for the uniformed, middle-aged woman to notice me.
She smiled politely as she lifted her gaze after a few seconds to observe me standing there. "Yes, you need some information?" she asked me, one eyebrow quirked up expectantly. "Oh, wait!" she added suddenly, her eyes widening as her hand flew up to her mouth. "You Justin Taylor?"
I bristled. "What, do I have a name badge glued to my ass or something?"
"Excuse me?" was the stunned response, her eyes practically bulging out of their sockets over my rude tone of voice.
"I'm sorry," I told her sheepishly, instantly apologetic; it wasn't her fault that my partner was choosing to be a frustrating asshole when it came to his subterfuge. "Yes, that's me," I replied more softly this time. "You have something to give me?" I held out my hand, expecting another envelope, but she shook her head.
"No. Just a minute, though." She craned her neck toward the inner doors leading into the museum proper as she called out, "Ethan!"
My heart threatened to stop beating as I held my breath in shock; it didn't start beating again until a blond, green-eyed man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties and wearing a suit with a name badge that said 'Ethan" came walking up to me. "Mr. Taylor?" he asked with a slight smile.
It took me a few seconds to regain my voice before I replied a little shakily, "Yes."
He nodded. "If you'll come with me," he said as he held out his right hand for me to follow him toward a bank of elevators. Nodding back at him, I followed him over to the farthest elevator on the right, where he slid a security card down a reader machine and the doors slid open for us to enter. I noticed him punching the number to the fourth floor as the two of us stood there rather awkwardly facing each other.
I had never actually been to the fourth floor, so I was inordinately curious as to what was up there. Was it a private art collection of some type? Unfortunately I didn't quite get the chance to engage the man in polite conversation about it before the elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open. I was a little surprised to notice that 'Ethan' didn't move as he told me, "To your right and down the hallway. It'll be on your left."
I turned around to ask him WHAT was on the left, but the doors closed before I had a chance to say anything. Letting out a deep breath, I looked around, noticing several pieces of sculpture on beige-colored pedestals and various works of art hung on either side of a long, carpeted hallway. I couldn't help stopping to admire several of the works which slowed me up considerately until I finally reached the end of the hallway. As I neared the end, I could see a set of double, glass doors on the far left with the words "Members Dining Room" etched across them, along with the hours of operation.
Hoping that I was about to be fed some much anticipated lunch, I was a little surprised when a white-gloved man wearing a dark blue suit opened the left door just as I arrived, almost as if he had been waiting for me; perhaps he had been. "Mr. Taylor?" he asked me.
Well, at least he didn't greet by my 'normal name,' I noticed as I nodded, looking around the elegantly appointed room that appeared totally empty.
"This way, please," the man said as he led me deeper into the room and turned toward the left. As we passed a couple of tall, live palm trees, my heart lurched as we rounded a corner and I saw Brian sitting by himself at a table flanked by a large wall of angled windows, nursing a glass of wine in his left hand. I didn't even notice the spectacular view that the windows presented, however; I was much too busy looking at the other spectacular view who rose to greet me with a sexy sort of smile as I approached. His eyes bored into mine so intently that I flushed over the attention as I walked closer.
Brian was wearing a casually elegant outfit of a black blazer, dark red, partially unbuttoned, satin shirt, and matching black linen slacks; as usual, he was gorgeous looking as he slowly walked around the round table to meet me halfway, sweeping me into his arms and nuzzling my neck with his soft, warm lips as I sighed in contentment. "Brian," I whispered in pleasure as my own arms slid around his waist and I pulled him close, trying to confirm that he was, indeed, here in New York with me.
Brian held me for a few more seconds before he pulled back just enough to gaze into my eyes. "Hey, Sunshine," he whispered. He leaned down, then, to meet his lips with mine, neither of us mindful of whether we were being watched or not. Frankly, we didn't care as we kissed each other passionately before we finally broke apart regretfully. Brian's arms remained around my waist as he remarked with a twinkle in his eye, "Did you enjoy your little tour today?"
I snorted. "Oh, totally," I reply sarcastically. "And by the way, did you know that my new name now is You Justin Taylor?"
He laughed then, that sort of amused chortle that always made my heart flutter, and the sound had the same effect just then as it always did as I smiled back ruefully at him.
"How did they know who I was, by the way? Did you post my name and photo near all the bathroom urinals?"
Brian grinned. "You know my secret advertising trick now. And, by the way, I fucked everybody that showed up to piss, too, just for good measure."
I smirked, knowing full well that was a bold-faced lie; at least, it'd better be since we were now doing it bareback. "Were any of them any good?" I asked, playing along.
He shrugged. "Only passable. I decided to save my strength for later."
I grinned with a nod. "Good answer," I told him as he rolled his tongue into his cheek playfully. "Oh, and by the way, Mr. Kinney; I barely managed to pay for my taxi. Is there a reason why you decided not to extend your extravagance toward the charming taxi driver? You do realize now that I have about $2.00 in my pocket."
"That fucker!" Brian growled. "I paid that asshole $50!"
I feigned mock insult as I told him, "Well, I should have been worth at least a hundred."
I received just the reaction I had hoped as he pulled his lips under to reply, "You have quite a high opinion of yourself, Mr. Taylor."
"That's You Justin Taylor to you," I quipped before I sobered to tell him, "I'm sorry he stiffed you, Brian."
"Well, you can help 'unstiff' me later," he told me slyly as I flushed at the delicious thought. I frowned, though, as he told me unexpectedly, "Anyway, now that you've found me, it's time to get going."
I furrowed my brow as I looked around and realized there was no one else dining. "You mean the restaurant isn't open right now? But they served you something to drink." Maybe they were just being polite and playing along with Brian's game, though. After all, I thought I HAD seen where the restaurant was closed between lunch and dinner and it was now mid-afternoon. I couldn't help feeling just a tad disappointed, though; I could almost smell something wonderful coming out of the kitchen, but that must have been wishful thinking. I decided I wanted to be with Brian more than I wanted to eat, however, even as my stomach promptly growled right on cue.
Brian laughed at the look on my face. "You twat. Of course we're going to eat," he told me as he let me go. "Sit down before your stomach decides to walk into the kitchen on its own to eat. Besides, I'm not fucking someone who sounds like he has a tiger growling inside him."
"But where are all the other diners?" I asked as I walked around and sat down in one of the plush, velour chairs next to where Brian had been sitting. I couldn't help glancing outside the windows at the amazing view of Central Park it provided as Brian joined me.
To my astonishment, he informed me with a tender smile, "It's just you and me," as he reached to grasp my hand lying on the white tablecloth table. "And here comes the first course now."
My mouth hung open as a waiter wearing a formal, black uniform and white gloves walked out with a tray holding two silver-domed plates and placed it down next to our table on a fold-out food tray. I watched as he took off both lids and presented Brian and me with some sort of intriguing-looking salad.
"Apple, Endive, and Watercress Salad with Dates and Walnut Vinaigrette," he announced politely as he placed each china plate down in front of us. "Would the gentleman care for some wine?" he asked me as I nodded, a little unaccustomed to such fancy service. The man nodded before picking up the chilled bottle of wine and pouring some into the empty wine glass in front of me. "I'll have your entrees out soon," he told us as he quietly walked away, leaving us alone.
I watched, entranced, as Brian lifted his glass and I automatically lifted mine to clink against his. He stared into my eyes briefly before he softly provided a toast. "To...," he seemed to pause momentarily before he figured out what to say. "To the person that puts up with my bullshit, pulls no punches, and keeps me sane."
I smiled; it wasn't quite an overt, romantic declaration of love, but for me it was more than good enough. "I'll drink to that," I murmured as we both took a sip from our glasses before placing them down.
An hour later over some more hand holding, eye-fucking, and a meal of New Bedford Sea Scallops and a Triple Chocolate Truffle Torte with Raspberry Prosecco Sorbet and Chocolate Caramel Sauce, I was sated and happy as Brian drank the remainder of his glass of wine and I just drank in the sight of him. Actually, I would have been happy anywhere, as long as it was with Brian, but I had to admit this business of reserving a restaurant for just the two of us that had such a wondrous view of Central Park below was an incredible experience - as well as outrageously romantic. But I wasn't going to tell Brian that; I didn't want anything to spoil this incredible moment.
I watched as Brian quickly drained his glass as he looked down at our intertwined hands, noticing how the silver and black from the bracelet gleamed under the subdued lighting from above. "It looks good on you," he murmured as I flushed over the compliment. His eyes lifted to meet mine, and my pulse began to race as he slowly rubbed his thumb over the tender flesh under my wrist.
"It's beautiful," I told him sincerely. "I admit I didn't know what you meant when you were feeling blue, but I soon figured it out."
Brian nodded as he whispered, "You're beautiful," as I promptly fell even more deeply in love. "Ready to get out of here now, You Justin Taylor?"
I laughed, slightly overcome with emotion as we pushed back from our chairs of one accord and Brian protectively placed his hand on my lower back as we walked toward the exit. A few minutes later, we were in a cab heading toward yet another unknown destination. Knowing Brian, however, I figured it would be someplace quite appointed and luxurious as I placed my head on his shoulder and his head fell to rest upon mine. "Thank you," I whispered.
"For what?" he softly asked as I closed my eyes and just enjoyed the feel of his body against mine.
"For all this. For the presents. For dinner. Most of all, for being here with me today. I know how you feel about holidays..." Especially the dreaded 'V-Day,' I thought silently. The fact that he had showed up on Valentine's Day of all days to spend time with me meant more to me than he would ever know.
"You don't have to thank me," I heard him say as he wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me close, my body tingling. "But you can show me your appreciation a little later if you want," he said, his voice husky, low and barely audible. "In bed."
I smiled as I snuggled into his side, not caring whether the taxicab driver was getting an eyeful or not. Chances are, the guy had heard and seen it all before, anyway. "Gladly," I whispered back as the car came to a stop. I opened my eyes to note that, sure enough, we had pulled up in front of a swanky-looking hotel that I had never seen before.
As we emerged from either side of the car, I had a good look at the façade. I stood there in awe as the cab pulled away, until a few seconds later I felt Brian's hands slide around to link together at my waist as he stood behind me. "Like it?" he whispered, his warm breath washing over my ear as he gave me a kiss on the side of my neck.
I shivered at his touch as I nodded. "It's beautiful. You've been here before?" I asked, feeling just a twinge of the green-eyed monster emerging at the thought of him perhaps having brought someone else here previously. To my delight as well as relief, however, he whispered back, "No, first time. A client of mine who's based here suggested it." He paused briefly. "Said it was very romantic, but I decided to give it try anyway."
I grinned as he turned me in his arms to face me. "I've already checked us in; come on." He pulled at my left wrist toward the front door as we walked up the steps and entered. The hotel was as exquisite on the inside as it had looked on the outside; all glass, modern architecture, and edgy artwork, just my kind of environment. I couldn't help gawking a little at our surroundings as Brian laughed softly beside me.
"Come on, Picasso; you can play tourist later. I've got some other plans for us tonight."
Five minutes later, we arrived at Brian's fifth-floor hotel suite as he slid the key card into the slot and pushed the door to open it. As I entered before him, my eyes lit up at the black and white color scheme; the room contained a separate living and sleeping area, and I could see an elegant bathroom with a large, glass, walk-in shower at the far end of the suite.
I stood near the bed, my heart hammering in my chest at the thought of spending some quality time with the man I loved. I turned to face him as I whispered, "It's wonderful, Brian."
He pulled me into his arms and we met for a kiss that quickly deepened as we became reacquainted with each other's feel, our taste, our love. My hands reached to push Brian's jacket from his shoulders to fall by his feet as I began to unbutton his dress shirt while we continued to kiss, our ragged breaths the only sound that could be heard in the opulent space. Brian's hands slid down to unsnap the top of my jeans as I quickly took care of my own task, sliding my hands inside my lover's shirt to slowly slide my hands, palm down, over the smooth, muscled flesh. I used my thumbs to glide over Brian's nipples, feeling them harden under my touch before I slid my hands up to curl my fingers over his shoulder blades and Brian dropped his hands to allow me to push the shirt from his torso. Our eyes met as he smiled down at me; a tender, loving smile that made me ache to feel him inside me. "I want you so much," I confessed huskily as he reached down to tug at the hem of my long-sleeved tee shirt, my hands lifting to quickly allow him to dispatch the intrusive garment and let it, too, fall to the ground beside us.
He caught my hands in his as they came back down and he began to slowly push me toward the luxurious, king-sized bed. We soon stood there by the side of the mattress as I broke free to reach down and unbutton and unzip his dress pants, sliding my left hand inside to curl around his hard shaft. It felt so silky, so hot and throbbing, so familiar under my touch. Nothing ever felt like Brian did, and nothing ever would. It was home to me.
I heard him sigh in response, a satisfied, pleasurable sigh as I gave the hardened flesh an appreciative squeeze.
"Justin," he breathed out my name as he pushed me closer to the bed and reached to tug my pants and briefs down to my thighs before I dropped to sit on the side of the mattress. I watched, eyes dark with lust, as he pulled his pants down further before removing his shoes and socks to shrug out of them, his desire for me so evident as he finally stood there naked while his eyes bored into mine. I lifted my legs so he could pull my sneakers, socks, and the rest of my clothing off as well as it fell in a heap beside the bed, and we openly ogled each other. As long as I live, I will never grow tired of drinking in the sight of my lover; to me he always had been and always would be the most incredible man I had ever laid eyes on, and by the intense look he was giving me, I was confident that he felt the same.
I reached out my arms to him as he leaned in to kiss me soundly but briefly as I whispered, "God, make love to me, Brian. I need you inside me." I could tell by the look in Brian's eyes as he nodded at me that this time - at least the first time tonight - was going to be languorous and leisurely, sensual and slow, not the occasional hurried, frenzied fucks that sometimes possessed us. That was fine with me at the moment, however; I knew we had all night. I didn't stop to question how long he could stay as he gently pushed me down onto the bed and covered my body with his and began to kiss me slowly, his tongue lightly sweeping across my mouth as I moaned in surrender and parted my lips to grant him access.
His long legs tangling with mine, his hands came up to frame my face as he turned my head to deepen the kiss, my own hands beginning to explore the familiar contours of his back and upper arm as my left hand traveled down to the crease of his spine until it reached his left buttock. I lightly trailed my finger pads in a feathery touch over the curve of his ass as he growled low in his throat at the gesture, breaking off our kiss as his lips began to travel from the side of my neck and down my sternum to arrive at my left nipple. I gasped as his wet tongue began to lave my nub generously with his saliva until he playfully gave it a nip and then another lick to soothe the slight sting. My left hand traveled up to grab at some of the soft, auburn hair at the top of his head as he moved onto my right nipple to repeat the same ravishment. I sighed in pleasure at the sensation of his lips tormenting me as he chuckled against my skin, the vibration making my cock twitch in anticipation. "Brian, please," I entreated as he resumed his journey downward, pausing for several seconds to swirl the tip of his tongue around my sensitive belly button several times before his cheek came to rest against my pubic hair. When he unexpectedly blew on it with his slightly-parted lips, my hips bucked off the bed in reaction, but they were restrained by his hands holding me down as he slowly traveled down toward my cock.
"Brian, not like this," I practically begged, the need to feel him surrounding me, filling me so intense.
He lifted his head to stare into my darkened, dilated pupils as he smiled that incredibly lazy smile of his and shook his head. "I need to taste my Sunshine," he murmured sexily as I licked my lips in reaction. I closed my eyes, almost overcome, as a few seconds later I felt his hot, wet lips encircling my dick. Both hands fisted in his hair as he slowly slid his lips up and down my shaft like some tasty popsicle as his tongue did some sort of crazy swirling motion underneath. My heart began to beat impossibly fast as Brian took his left hand and lightly cradled my balls as he continued to suck me off. He appeared to be in no hurry to finish the job, either, purposely sliding leisurely up and down my shaft with his tongue and lips as I slowly went out of my mind with desire. I came close to tearing out patches of his hair as I tightly held onto his head until I felt my body clench with uncontrollable desire, and with a loud cry that would have surely awakened the dead my seed exploded into his waiting mouth.
Flopping back into a boneless heap of exhaustion several seconds later, my sweaty chest heaved up and down as Brian slowly crawled back up my body, his still-neglected cock hard and hot against my skin and leaking wetness as he finally lay nose to nose to stare into my eyes and flushed face.
"Fuck, that was...," I tried to breath out the words but I was having trouble getting enough oxygen to vocalize my emotions. "Every time...Every time I think it can't get better," I panted out. "It does."
He grinned rather smugly at me, I thought, but not without good reason as he whispered back, "Well, now that the tension is off, we can take our time now."
His eyes bored into mine as we began to kiss again, my taste still lingering in his mouth as we became lost in our desire once more. We spent what seemed like forever kissing, nipping, sucking, and licking until finally I couldn't take it anymore. "Brian, come on! I want you inside me."
He smiled and nodded as he finally rose to sit up on his knees and reached over to open the narrow, bedside table drawer to retrieve a small tube of lube. I watched, my heart thumping, as he squirted some of the clear gel onto his palm, and rubbing it with his other hand, warmed it up briefly before he generously applied it to his dick. The tip of my tongue snaked out to wet my dry, swollen lips as he squirted a little more on the tips of his fingers. A few seconds later, I felt the slight coldness penetrating my hole as first one finger, then two, and finally three were inserted. I squirmed at the initial tightness and burn as I forced myself to relax; finally feeling the distinct infusion of pleasure replacing the pain as Brian slowly worked his fingers inside me. I cried out as he hit my prostate with exact precision, knowing by now exactly how to help me reach my peak of desire. "Now," I begged as I writhed against the pressure. I momentarily hissed as he withdrew his fingers, only to moan as Brian's cock promptly slid inside to replace them.
No matter how many times we did it like this, I thought I would never get used to the feeling of my lover's thick, long cock driving inside me. Everything was so much more heightened - the sensation of hot, bare skin as he moved in and out of me, the smooth flesh, the touch of his tip penetrating my most private place, a place that only Brian could be. I could feel every centimeter of his cock as he pushed deeper inside and I arched off the bed to heighten the penetration.
"Oh, fuck," he hissed out as he pushed in harder and I rose to meet him. "So incredible, Justin; so fucking incredible," he breathed out in appreciation as he slid back out slightly, only to ram back in as he held my upper arms so tightly I knew they would leave slight marks in the morning, but I didn't care. No one could ever make me feel the way that Brian did as he began to plunge in and out of me in a fluid motion, my hips snapping off the bed to meet his thrusts.
The sweat began to pour off my forehead as Brian's eyes bored into mine while he slowly drove in and out of my body, working me like a finely-tuned machine. I could feel him slowly getting close as the throbbing in his dick increased and his face clenched in the telltale sign of pending climax. As if reading my mind, he reached down to slowly begin stroking my cock in time with his thrusts, my arousal now matching his in intensity as he grunted with every downward thrust.
"Feels so good, so damn good," I managed to breathlessly whisper out as he leaned down to kiss my ravaged lips. "God, I love you so fucking much," I whispered to him in a choked voice against his mouth several seconds later as we finally broke apart. Whether that was the final impetus he needed or not, soon afterward Brian cried out my name and his body stiffened as I felt his hot seed explode inside of me, my own come spurting out soon afterward to coat both of us in the sticky, milky substance. He fell on top of me, his cock still firmly embedded inside me as I lazily ran my hands along the slickness of his sweaty back, relishing in the feel of being imprisoned by the warmth of Brian's larger body covering mine. At that moment, I felt so loved, so protected. It was as if nothing could ever harm me or affect me.
We lay there that way for several minutes, Brian's head nestled in the crook of my neck as he stayed atop me; it was one of my most cherished moments, lying with Brian's bare cock still embedded inside me, until at last with a twinge of regret I felt him slide out of me. I always hated that moment when we parted. Often, I would fall asleep with him still inside me. I had always loved that, but now that there were no longer any barriers between us, the feeling was even more incredible and intimate.
He slowly turned us so we were facing each other as we lay on our sides. Reaching his hand up to gently wipe away some of my plastered hair from my sweaty forehead, he smiled at me tenderly, making my heart skip a beat. "I'll be right back," he promised as he kissed me before turning over to slide off the bed and walk into the bathroom. I lay there, my head pillowed on my hand, as I heard water running for several seconds before Brian returned with a medium-sized towel. Pushing me gently to lie down onto my back, my heart melted as he lovingly wiped me clean before doing the same thing to himself, tossing the wet cloth into the small hotel trashcan beside the bed before twisting back around to gather me into his arms, my head lying against his chest as I snuggled into him. Our legs twisted together as he reached down to pull the comforter up over us, our body heat and the downy material quickly infusing us with warmth.
"Get some rest, Sunshine," I heard him murmur as my heavy-lidded eyes refused to cooperate and I slowly succumbed to my exhaustion, content in the feeling of being held in Brian's arms. "I'm not going anywhere." As I fell asleep, I didn't hear the rest of what he said: "Now or ever."
A/N: Thanks to my beta, Boriqua522, for her assistance and constant support.:) I'm proud to call you my friend.:)