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P.S. I Love You

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Notes: Obviously I didn’t write the song P.S. I Love You. This version was written by Johnny Mercer and Gordon Jenkins in 1934.


Acknowledgements: This has been a long time coming, and it wouldn’t have gotten here without the help of four wonderful people: FD for all things DC, Tim Mead, Tracy Nagurski, and Gail Morse. Ladies, gentlemen, thank you more than I can say!


P.S. I Love You



Wills had finally gotten in touch with his maternal grandparents. “I’m getting married, Grandma, and I want to introduce you. Is it all right if we come down?” 

He’d already told me he wanted to inform them face to face that he was gay, so I wasn’t bent out of shape at how ambiguous he was.

When he got off the phone, he was smiling and there was a relieved expression in his eyes. “I told Grandma we’d be there for Mother’s Day.” For the last few years, things had been strained between them, although Wills was certain it was because his Uncle Tony intercepted his phone calls. “Is that okay?”

 “It’s a little late to ask, don’t you think?”

 “Ah, shit, Theo—”

 “That’s okay, I was just teasing you. Although we could stop in Tarpon Springs before we come home…”

 “Sure. Whatever you want.” He worried his lower lip, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I actually found myself leaning toward him to take it between my own teeth. But then he said, “Uncle Tony still blames Dad for the accident that killed my Mom.” 

“He’s an asshole.” And not just because thoughts of him interrupted a chance for me to kiss my lover. “If he wants to hold onto a grudge, fine, but you were five freaking years old! You didn’t have anything to do with it.” 

He shrugged. “This will work out well. He’s going to be at the nursing home seeing patients on the day before, so that will give us a few hours to have Grandma and Grandpa to ourselves.”

 “And when he gets home?” I knew Tony Sabatini had moved his practice down to Florida after his marriage had broken up, and he’d had been living with his parents, supposedly because they were getting frail. 

Wills shrugged again. “I hope he won’t pitch a fit when he sees me there.” 

“Take your gun with you and shoot him.” 

That made him laugh. “I don’t think Mr. Vincent would approve.” 

I would. I’d dealt with being tossed aside because I was gay, and I envied my lover his very accepting family. I hadn’t met them all, but even his paternal grandparents had welcomed me. How would his mother’s parents react to the knowledge that Wills was gay?  

I’d trained myself not to miss my family; I’d had more than thirteen years to get used to living without them. Although I’d written to Ma and Acacia from time to time. 

It hadn’t occurred to Wills that as a Greek, I’d have a metric ton of relatives. He never questioned why, when I brought him to meet the family, it was just Ma and Poppa and Casey. Even Casey’s boyfriend hadn’t been there. 

I knew Ma hadn’t been pleased with Poppa, but even she wasn’t going to get all the aunts and uncles and cousins together and announce her firstborn was involved with another man. Especially since the reason Poppa had given everyone for my disappearance from Tarpon Springs was that I’d gotten heavily into the drug scene. And I really didn’t want Wills to find out about that, because I wouldn’t have put it past him going after my father with his gun.

 But I had the boys—all the former rent boys who’d become my family, and they had promised to be there to see me and Wills exchange vows. 

And I had Wills. 

“It will work out fine,” I told him. “Now why don’t you see what flights are available? I’ll get dinner ready.” 


It seemed like everyone was traveling for that Mother’s Day weekend. Wills was able to book us a through flight from Baltimore—I didn’t ask how he’d managed that—but the only seats he could get were across the aisle from each other.  

I put our carry-on in the overhead bin and tucked the duffel beneath the seat in front of me, while Wills somehow managed to fasten his seatbelt without dropping the bouquet of lilacs he was bringing to his grandmother. 

“That’s the one thing she’s missed most about living in Florida,” he’d murmured as he handed them to me and got behind the wheel for the drive to the airport.

 Didn’t she miss her grandson at all? 


 The pilot announced we were about to land. Wills smiled at me from across the aisle, but I could see he was nervous. I reached across, caught his hand, and gave it a squeeze. “It’ll be fine.” 

“Yeah, I know.”

 Once we had disembarked and picked up our rental, Wills drove us down I-75 to the exit that would take us to his grandparents’ house.

 “It should only take about twenty minutes to get there.”

 “Okay.” This part of Florida was different from Tarpon Springs, and I looked out the window and enjoyed the view.

 He turned the radio to a local easy listening station, and concentrated on driving.

 “It’ll be okay, baby.”

 “I know. It’s just…”

 I reached across and squeezed his thigh. Yeah, I knew.

 “I want to stop at a Publix and get some tiramisu. Grandpa likes it a lot.”

 So we stopped at the supermarket and paid a visit to their bakery. And I suddenly wondered if Wills was looking for ways to delay arriving at his grandparents’ home. Was he ashamed to introduce me to them?

 Finally he turned down a road lined with live oaks and pulled to the curb.

 The house was an old-fashioned Florida home, with a tin roof and Bahama shutters in case of a hurricane. To the right was the requisite sunroom, and to the left was the carport. A couple of Royal palms flanked the drive, while coral and yellow hibiscus plants framed the front porch.

 “All set?”

 “Uh… let’s leave the luggage in the trunk for now.”


 “Will you take the tiramisu?”

 I took the small white box, unbuckled my seatbelt, and got out of the car. “Wills?” He was still in the car.

 “Just making sure everything is turned off.”

 “And is it?”

 “Yes.” He got out, closed the door and pressed the button on the key that locked the doors, then met my eyes and smiled.

 I hoped to God I would never see a smile like that on his face again.

 “Okay then.” He nodded and marched up the walk, and for the first time in the year we’d been together he was unaware of my presence. He pressed the doorbell and waited, first rubbing his palm against his thigh, and then running his fingers through his hair.

The door opened, and a small, plump woman gave a shriek and pulled Wills into her arms. “William!”

 The tension faded from his body and he folded his arms around her, the bouquet of lilacs almost whacking him in the head.

 I breathed a sigh of relief. It was going to be okay.

 A man of average height stood in the doorway. “William. It’s good to see you.”

 “Grandpa.” Wills hugged him, but I could tell he was being cautious. The man did look frail.

 “Oh, lilacs!” His grandmother took them. “Come in.”

 “We brought tiramisu.”

 I nudged Wills in the back.

 “Oh, and this is Theo Bascopolis.”

 They both gave me confused smiles. “Where’s your young lady? Couldn’t she join you? But you said….”

 “There is no young lady.”

 “You’re not getting married? Oh, William, this was not well done of you! Your grandmother was so pleased—”

 “I am getting married. I’m marrying Theo. You’ll come—”


 I knew it. The old man’s face turned red, and the old woman looked green. Great combination if this was Christmas.

 Wills took my hand. “Theo and I are—”

 “NO! I will not permit such vile practices—”

 “Grandpa, Theo and I love each other. What we feel for each other isn’t vile.”

 “It’s vile and disgusting, and you’re going straight to hell! You and this abomination beside you!” the old man spewed venomously.

 “Grandpa, no! Theo is the best thing—”

 “Anthony was right about you! You’re no better than your father! I curse the day I ever agreed to let my daughter see him. If she’d just married Junior….”


 His grandfather scowled at him. “I just thank God she isn’t alive to see what a disgrace you’ve become! Get out of my house!”

 “But Grandpa—”

 “Go! I no longer have a grandson!”

 For a second it felt as if time had rolled back thirteen years and my father was telling me more or less the same thing. God, I wished Wills didn’t have to face this.

The loss and bewilderment on my lover’s face was devastating. He turned and walked blindly to the car.

 “So it wasn’t all his uncle’s doing.”

 “I don’t even want to know what you’re talking about. You corrupted our grandson!”

 “And you’ve broken his heart. Listen to me. Wills is gay, whether you like it or not. This wasn’t a choice: that’s just the way he is. We’re getting married whether you like it or not. He would appreciate it if you came to celebrate this occasion with us, but if you can’t see beyond your bigoted beliefs, then he’s better off without you. I just have one question for you. How did you manage to raise a daughter as wonderful as his mother?”

 I didn’t wait for an answer. I strode down the walk. The box of tiramisu was still in my hand, and I tossed it aside.  

“I want to go home.” Wills was behind the wheel, but I could see him shivering.


 “Your parents—”

 “Don’t worry about them. I’ll call and cancel.”

 “They’re going to hate me.”

 “No, because I’m going to tell them something at your grandparents’ house disagreed with you and I need to get you home.” They liked Wills, but if I told them his grandparents had rejected him for being gay, I knew how they—or at least Poppa—would react. In spite of the fact that things were better between us, he’d say that was what happened when you chose this lifestyle.

 I didn’t think he’d ever accept it wasn’t a choice.

 “I’m sorry,” Wills choked out. “It’s going to cost a fortune to change our tickets.” We were supposed to stay for a week. Wills had been so excited. He’d planned on taking me to the zoo, to the Everglades, to the beach.

 “I’ve got a fortune to spend. Don’t worry about it.”

 “If I drive, I’m going to crash the car.”

 “Then I’ll drive, babe.” I got him into the passenger seat. His skin was pale and felt clammy, and his hands were shaking so hard I had to buckle him up.

 I knew what he was required to do for his job at the WBIS—when he troubleshot, there were times people actually got shot—but to be repudiated by family, who were supposed to love him….

 I glanced back at the house. The bouquet of lilacs was scattered across the porch. If he’d had his gun on him, I’d have taken it, gone back, and shot those poor excuses for grandparents.

 Once I was behind the wheel and had the engine running, I turned on the heater.

 “My Mom used to make these things for me; they were just flour and water, and she’d fry them. When they were done, she’d sprinkle them with salt or sugar.” Wills squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Grandma taught her how. She called them crispelettes. I haven’t thought of them in ages.”

 “I’ll make them for you, babe.” But I didn’t think he heard me.

 “The year I was nine, Grandpa said he was going to teach me how to make wine.”

 “Excuse me?”

 “I told you I’d stay with them for a few weeks every summer. That year, Dad put me on a jet, and when Grandpa picked me up at the airport, he told me it was time I learned how to make wine. The next day we drove up to this vineyard in Clermont. The owner was Italian, and Grandpa said he knew him from the old neighborhood. We stayed overnight, and when we drove back to Naples, the trunk was filled with crates of Muscadine grapes.”

 I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I followed the signs to the Interstate, kept my mouth shut, and let him talk.

 It was obvious the memory was one he cherished, but how was he going to reconcile the grandfather who had so loved him with this version, who wanted nothing more to do with him?

 “Babe….” I reached across the seat and rested my hand on his thigh.

 “Theo. Pull over.”


Pull over!”

 I barely got the car to the side of the road before he opened the door, leaned out, and threw up.

And that was just the first time.


Chapter 1



I was in the bathroom wondering how long my stomach was going to try to climb out through my throat—I’d been throwing up on and off since we’d left my grandparents’ house in Naples, and Jesus, shouldn’t my stomach be empty by now?—when the buzzer sounded, signaling someone was at the front door of the house where I lived with Theo.


He’d been holding my head, and now he dropped a kiss on my hair. “I’ll get rid of them, babe.”


I nodded but couldn’t say anything as dry heaves replaced the vomiting. It was emotional. I knew that, but I was devastated. I hadn’t been able to stop throwing up since my grandparents had rejected me.


We were supposed to drive up to Tarpon Springs to visit Theo’s family after we’d spent the weekend with Grandma and Grandpa, but I was such a wreck, I just couldn’t. Theo called and canceled, and his mother had been really sweet about it.


Finally I caught my breath, staggered to my feet and flushed the toilet, then turned to the sink and ran some cool water to splash on my face.


Why wasn’t my lover back? Had Jehovah’s Witnesses lured him to the front door? Goddammit!


I dried my face off and made my way into the foyer. “Theo?”


“We’ve got company, Wills.”


“Oh, God.” I felt like shit, and the last thing I wanted to do was entertain. “Is it Mr. Vincent?”


“No. It’s your dad.”


“What? What’s he—what’s wrong? Jill? The baby?”


“Take it easy. He wouldn’t have flown down to DC if there was a problem with Peter.”


The newest addition to this branch of the Matheson family hadn’t been born yet, but as we’d all expected, the ultrasound Jill had gone for a few days after Easter had confirmed it would be a boy.


“No, I guess not, but why is he here?”


The doorbell rang. “What do you say we answer the door and find out?”




Dad didn’t look happy. He hugged me, hugged Theo, and then studied my face. “You haven’t been well.”


He could always tell, not that I was sick that often. “Something disagreed with me.”


“More like some two.” Theo snorted and shut the door.


Dad gave him a look, and then turned back to me. “You’re all right now?”


I hunched a shoulder. “What are you doing here, Dad? Not that I have any objection to you coming to visit, but it’s a long way, and it’s Mother’s Day.”


“Jill has most of her children with her—” Even though she wasn’t my biological mother, she’d always treated me as if she were.


And when I thought of that, I was ashamed of how I’d let my grandparents’ reaction to the knowledge I was gay get to me.


“How are they?”


“They’re fine.”


“Is Alice back in New York?”


“Where else? Ginny insisted Alice needed to be there to have her grandchildren celebrate the day with her. And never mind about that! I’m going to kill your uncle.”


“Which one?”


 “Pete, to begin with. When were you going to tell me?”


“Uh… tell you what, Dad?”


“That you were capable of taking on a pair of undercover cops and beating the shit out of them.”


“I don’t—”


“If you’re going to tell me you don’t understand what I’m talking about then you’re right, you don’t!”


“I was going to say I don’t know how you found out.”


“I happened to overhear your brother and Patrick discussing how you got a DC cop flat on the floor with your foot on his spine.”


I was going to kick their butts. “He was undercover.”


“What difference does that make?”


“Well, I did get the jump on him.”


“Hah. Pete taught you that, didn’t he?”


“Let me take your jacket, Dad. Theo, would you make a pot of coffee?”


“Sure thing, babe. I’ll put out some baklava also. But all you’re getting is flat soda and pretzels.” He left the foyer, and Dad stared after him.


“Flat soda and pretzels?”


“My stomach’s been upset.” I’d been afraid I’d become so dehydrated that I’d have to ask Theo to drive me to the emergency department of George Washington Hospital.


“Are you all right now?”


“Yeah, I’m pretty good. Theo takes good care of me.” I hung up Dad’s jacket.


“He knows, doesn’t he?”


Shit. We were back to that. “Yes, but he only found out a few weeks ago. You really didn’t have to come down here, Dad.”


“Didn’t I? And you didn’t answer me. When were you going to tell me?”


“That I’d taken some martial arts classes? It’s no big deal, Dad.” I led the way to the dining room and set out three placemats.


“That’s all it was?”


“Yes.” I hated lying to him, but there was no way I was going to tell him the truth. “I started in order to stay in shape, and then I found I liked it. I was even toying with the idea of competing on the amateur level. Y’know, I’m sorry you came down here for nothing, but I am glad to see you. How long can you stay?”


“Until tomorrow. I was in such a rush to get down here I didn’t even bother packing.”


“Damn, I’m sorry, Dad.”


“That doesn’t matter. Your uncle is going to meet me here in a few minutes.”


Oh, shit. I took out another placemat. “Dad….”


“I want to call Jill and let her know everything is okay down here.”




He talked to Jill for a few minutes. It sounded like she’d been as bent out of shape as Dad.


I touched his arm. “Please tell Jill I’m sorry. And ask her to tell everyone I said hi.”


“You can do that yourself.” and then handed me his phone.


“Wills? We didn’t mean….” It was JR.


“It’s fine.” I’d have to get him on the side and make him swear not to mention the gun I’d pulled. “Listen, how’s Deety doing?”


“Not too good. I think….” There was a hitch in his voice. “I think we’ll have to have her put to sleep soon. Maybe… maybe as soon as Dad comes home.”


“Ah, Jar, I’m so sorry.” She’d been diagnosed with osteosarcoma last year and had had her leg amputated. That she’d survived this long was a small miracle.


“I know.” We talked for a bit about the black Lab that was his dog just as Twoey had been mine, and then he put Pat on the phone.


“I’m sorry too, Wills. I promise—”


“How’s your arm?” His father had broken it, and the last time we’d seen him, it was still in a cast.


“It’s better, thanks. Dr. Jim says he should be able to take the cast off next week. I’ve got my fingers crossed; it’s a real hassle. Marti wants to talk to you.”


“Just a second, Pat. Make sure you’re there for Jar when Deety is euthanized.”


“I will. It’s the least I can do…. I will.”


“Okay, put Marti on.”


“Wills! Guess what!”


“What, munchkin?”


“I’m almost finished with that portrait of those ladies!” She was that talented. For my last birthday she’d done an oil of Jill’s American Bobtails, Princess Kimba and Jad-bal-Ja. It had looked so professional that once the ladies downstairs had seen it, they’d asked for the artist’s name, wanting a portrait of the three of them to hang in the reception area on the first floor. When I explained my ten-year-old sister had done it, they’d dropped the subject. They were good people, in spite of what they did for a living, and Theo had taken a few pictures of them; he’d said he was snapping photos of the apartment for insurance purposes, but he made sure they were in each frame. I’d sent the packet up to Cambridge and asked Marti to do what she could to make the portrait seem as if they’d posed for it.


“That’s awesome! They’re going to love it.”


“Who are they, Wills?”


“Just some friends.”


“They’re very pretty.” For a change there wasn’t an exclamation at the end of a sentence. As a matter of fact, she sounded subdued.




“You’re not gonna leave Theo for one of them, are you?”


I started choking. “I won’t.”


“Not even for the redhead?”


“Not even for Gus.”


Marti giggled but didn’t say that was an odd name for a girl. “And guess what else!” She was back to her ebullient self. “Mom and Alice took me to buy a dress for the wedding! It’s gorgeous! And it’s pink!” It wouldn’t be any other color.


“Well, Theo and I are looking forward to seeing you wear it.”


“Oh, Mom wants to talk to you! Bye, Wills!”


“Bye, munchkin.” But she’d already given the phone to Jill.


“Wills, you know you gave your father a real scare.”


“I’m sorry, Jill. But I’m a big boy, and I do know how to take care of myself. Happy Mother’s Day, by the way.”


“Oh… thank you. But don’t think you can distract me! That car accident….”


I hadn’t been in a car, and it hadn’t been an accident, but that was the last thing I could tell my family. “Geez,” I groused, keeping my tone light. “One accident in almost twenty-eight years and they never let you live it down!”


“All right, but your father really was worried.”


“I’m sorry, Jill,” I repeated. I hurried to change the subject. “How are you? How’s the baby?”


“I’m fine, and so is Peter. Although I swear he’s going to be a football player, the way he’s kicking my ribs.”


“Well, make sure you take care of yourself and my baby brother. Dad wants to talk to you.” I handed the phone back to him and breathed a sigh of relief. That could have gone a lot worse.


“I think I’ll stay for a few days, if that’s okay, Jilly? All right. I love you too.” He disconnected the call and smiled at me ruefully. “I hope you don’t mind that I’ve invited myself for an extended visit?”


“I don’t mind, Dad.” I hugged him. “I don’t mind at all.”


He ran his hand through my hair, and then we cleared our throats and stepped back from each other.


The buzzer sounded, and Theo came into the dining room, looking puzzled. “That was Pete.”


“Yeah. Dad wanted to talk to him.”


“Uh… okay. He should be up here any second.”  


“Dad will be staying for a few days.”


“That’s awesome, Jack! You can have the same bedroom as last time.”


“I’m afraid I don’t have any clothes.”


“You can borrow some of mine until I can take you shopping. I’ve been dying to outfit you! And afterwards I’ll take you around DC while Wills is at work.”


“Thanks.” Dad looked dazed. “Uh…. How are you, Theo?”


“I’m good, Jack. I wish I could say the same for Wills.”


“What? Does this have to do with that cop?”


“No.” Theo shot me a glance, and then turned to Dad. “He didn’t tell you? We went down to see those miserable pieces of shit in Naples.”




“Grandma Josie and Grandpa Greg, Dad.”


“Oh, God. What happened?”


“They threw him out. He brought that witch lilacs, and she threw them onto the porch. I know they were your Mom’s folks, Wills, but I’m never going to forgive them for what they did to you!”


Dad sighed. “I take it they didn’t react well to the knowledge that their first grandson is gay.”  


“No. And I don’t think it’s likely they’ll be coming to the wedding.”


“That’s a given,” Theo snarled. “Apparently he’s not their grandson anymore.”


“They said that to you? Do you have their phone number?” Dad pulled out his cell phone again.


“Here.” I offered him my phone. Later, when Theo and I were in bed, I was going to give him the world’s best blowjob for turning my father’s attention to something other than what I’d done to that cop.


Dad found the number and dialed it from his own phone. “I wouldn’t put it past them to not pick up if they thought it was from you.”


There was a knock on the door. “Who…? Oh, Uncle Pete. I’ll go get it.” I went to let him in. “Hi, Uncle Pete.”


“Hello, Wills.” He pulled me into a hug, and for a second I held my breath, but my stomach didn’t revolt. Maybe it was over?




“Dave?” It was my uncle’s partner. “I wasn’t expecting you.” I covered my face with my palm. “That didn’t come out the way I intended.”


He closed his hand over my shoulder and gave a slight shake. “I know what you meant. Pete wanted me to come with him.”


“He hasn’t seen you in ages,” Uncle Pete said. “And uh… frankly, from your Dad’s tone of voice, I thought I might need some backup. So, what’d you do, sport?”


I shook my head. “Let me take your jackets.” How could I tell him I’d faced down two of DC’s finest with moves he hadn’t taught me?


Dad’s voice suddenly became audible. “You’re a goddamned son of a bitch, Tony! You have the nerve to—well, fuck you and the horse you operated on this morning!”


“Whoa! What was that about?”


“I went to see Grandma Josie and Grandpa Greg, and when they realized I was marrying Theo, they told me I’m not their grandson anymore. Well, Grandpa did.”


“Jack was too easy on that shit. But Wills, he didn’t want to see me about that, did he?”


“No. He found out I know a few judo moves.”


“You’re in for it now, Pete,” Dave said, sotto voce.


“Hey, you showed him how to do that thing with the flat of his hand. Jack’s going to tear a strip off both of us for teaching you, Wills.” He lowered his voice. “Does he know about the knife?”


I shook my head. And none of them knew about the Glock. Thank God Jar and Patrick hadn’t been discussing that.


Both Pete and Dave blew out a relieved breath.


“Pete, I want to talk to you.” Dad came stalking into the foyer. “Oh, Dave. Nice to see you again.”


“Same here, Jack.”


“Jack, every man needs to know how to defend himself.”


“What? Oh, sure. Never mind about that.” He waved away the reason for his flying down to DC, and again I could have kissed my lover. “Apparently I overreacted. I’ll have to have a talk with Patrick. I thought he’d gotten over that exaggeration phase. Can you believe the gall of that son of a bitch?”




Dad frowned at him. “Tony. All those years of friendship, and they’re down the toilet.”


“I hate to be the one to break it to you, Jack, but that friendship went down the toilet when—”

  Abruptly he changed his words. “Years ago.”


“You don’t have to sugarcoat it for me, Pete. When Sophe died.” Dad scrubbed a hand over his face. “Yes. It’s… it’s just—”


I understood how he felt. I’d felt the same way when Michael had started distancing himself from me our junior year in college.


“Everybody into the dining room!” Theo called. “Coffee’s ready!”


Dad led the way, talking intently with Uncle Pete and Dave, but it was about Dad’s disappointment in his one-time brother-in-law—they’d been best friends when they were boys, but after my mother died in that car accident, Uncle Tony never stopped blaming Dad for it, and when Dad wasn’t around, blaming me—and not what he’d overheard Jar and Pat talking about.


For once my mother’s brother did something that helped my father’s side of the family, although Tony wouldn’t have been happy to learn about that.




The weekend was over, and Dad, Uncle Pete, and Dave would be here for a few more days. Thankfully, just then they were still asleep.


“That could have gone a lot worse,” Theo whispered as he brought the plate of fried eggs, hash browns, and toast to the breakfast bar. That was for him. I was making due with tea and dry toast. My stomach was better, but I didn’t want to press my luck.  


“Yeah. I’m sorry I have to go to work and leave you with everyone.”


“I don’t mind. I haven’t had family in so long….” He looked around the kitchen and went back to the stove. “Y’know, I’m really tired of this.”


I felt myself turn cold. We’d been together for more than a year. He’d been my first male lover, but as a rentboy, he’d had wide experience. Was he bored with me? Was he about to tell me the wedding was off?




“Yeah.” He met my eyes. He didn’t look like he was about to break my heart. “I’ve been looking through my Elegant Homes and Architectural Digest magazines, and I think I’d like to open up the kitchen into the dining room.”




“Mmm. It’s called open concept. What do you think?”


I left my breakfast and went to him. “Whatever you want, babe.” I hugged him so tight he actually squeaked.


“My ribs!” But he laughed and hugged me back. “I don’t want you doing anything, though. I mean I know you can, but you’ve got work, and you shouldn’t have to do this as well.”


“Morning, boys.” Dad walked into the kitchen, and I retreated to the breakfast bar. He was okay with me and Theo, with the fact that we’d be having a wedding ceremony even though same sex marriage wasn’t legal, but he didn’t need to see me with a hard-on.


Since he hadn’t brought a suitcase, he wore a pair of sleep pants he’d borrowed from Theo. If he’d worn a pair of mine, his ankles would have gotten drafty.


It never failed to tick me off that even at five foot ten, I was the shortest male in the family.


“Morning, Dad.”


“Morning, Jack.”


“Have to do what?” Dad gave his hair a vigorous rub. There was a lot of gray in it, which I hadn’t noticed when we’d been to Cambridge at Easter. I hoped his worry about me hadn’t put it there.


“Remodel the kitchen.”


“It shouldn’t be that much work, unless you’re talking about rerunning water lines and the electricity.”


“No, I was thinking more along the lines of opening the kitchen into the dining room, changing the cabinets, a new sink, maybe new appliances. What would you like for breakfast, Jack?”


Dad looked wistfully at the eggs and bacon that Theo was frying up, and then sighed and shook his head. “Do you have oatmeal?”




“My cholesterol is a little high.”


Theo and I exchanged glances. “Sure, Jack. Would you like it topped with cinnamon and brown sugar?”


“Thanks, Theo. That sounds…” he gave a weak smile. “… good.”


Theo took a pot down from the rack above the island, and I got the box of oatmeal from the pantry.


“So, is there anything else you want for your kitchen?”


“I’ll have to think about it. But the pot rack stays.”


I’d built that for him.


“Okay. Why don’t I draw up some plans for you? Think about the dining room also.”


“I appreciate it, Jack.”


Dad waved away his gratitude. “You’re taking me shopping for clothes. Don’t worry about it.”


Theo put the oatmeal in front of him. “Can you have coffee?”


“Yes.” Dad sighed again.


Pete and Dave came wandering in. “God, it’s too fucking early!”


“This from the jarheads?”


“Hah ha. What can we do to help?”


“Get yourselves a cup of coffee and sit down,” Theo told them. “The cups are in that cabinet. How do you like your eggs?”


“Over easy,” they said in unison, and then Pete asked, “So what’s on the agenda for today?”


“I thought I’d draw up some plans for Theo’s new kitchen. If he likes them, we can come up with a budget and go to the Expo to pick out whatever is necessary.” Dad tapped the floor with his foot. “This isn’t bad, but I think you should consider new flooring. And since you both seem to favor going around barefoot, maybe consider having it heated?”


“Heated? When we first had this renovated, we had to stick to a strict budget.” Theo looked dazzled.


“Well, this time you can get whatever you want, babe.” I glanced up at the clock on the wall above the sink. Shit! “I’m sorry.” I shoved the last bite of toast into my mouth. “I’ve got to get ready for work!”


“Go ahead, Wills.”


And I walked—barefoot—to our bedroom.




When I got home that night it was to learn that Theo and Dad hadn’t gotten to the Expo at all. Dad had called Uncle Jake, and they’d spent hours talking about the plans for the kitchen. Uncle Pete and Dave would leave the next morning—they were great when it came to protecting our country, but not so good when construction work was involved—and Uncle Jake, my cousin Harry, and one of their work crews were going to drive down to DC the next day to start work on the renovation.


I loved the apartment Theo and I shared, and I had no problem doing construction work, but just then I was glad I had a reason to be away from it, especially when it turned out the wall Theo wanted removed was a load-bearing wall.



Chapter 2



My intercom buzzed. “Yes?”


“Mr. Vincent is on line 1,” my secretary said


“Thank you, Ms. DiNois.” I picked up the phone and hit 1. “Yes, sir?”


“I seem to remember you had a George Washington U sweatshirt.”


“Yes, sir.” Although it was buried in the back of the closet; the last time I’d worn it had been last year, when I’d tailed Diane Coyne throughout the Union Station Mall. She’d been an intern on Senator Franklin’s staff, dating the wrong person. Darin Curtin was the second person I’d cancelled under Mr. Vincent’s orders. Oh, I hadn’t shot him, as I had the geek who screwed with Huntingdon computer programs, but I’d handed Curtin the doctored inhaler, and that had killed him just as dead.  


“Good. Shut down for the day. You’re going to a lecture at Lisner Auditorium—make sure you look like a college student.”


“Not a problem, sir.” Theo had a bottle of L.A. Looks styling gel; I’d spike my hair. I also had a pair of black 511 Levis that Theo liked almost as much as the 501s he called the lick me, suck me, fuck me jeans. I couldn’t help grinning as I remembered the first time he’d seen me in those jeans. I’d been helping out, ’rocking some of the walls in the apartment Mr. Vincent would eventually move back into. Theo had taken one look, and in spite of the fact that I was sweaty and covered in plaster dust, he’d fucked me stupid.


“Park in the Academic Center Garage, and meet me at the Au Bon Pain on Pennsylvania Avenue. We’ll grab a bite before the lecture starts and I’ll fill you in on the details.”


“May I ask who’ll be speaking, sir?”


“Edward Holmes.”


I was familiar with the name. Anyone who read The Post was. He’d been DCI of Threat Analysis at the CIA until he’d retired in January. There had been a huge scandal late last fall regarding a Midwestern senator and a high-ranking director of counterintelligence who’d been doing favors for him. When it was leaked to the press that it was Holmes, and exactly how egregious those favors had been, he’d had no choice but to leave the Company.


I wondered what kind of speech Holmes would be giving. How to trample the Constitutional rights of the everyday citizen?


“Oh, and Matheson?”




“I understand you’re pretty good with a knife. What kind?”


“Switchblade, sir.”


“Good.” I could hear the satisfaction in his voice. “Bring it with you.”


“Yes, sir.” We hung up and I logged out of my computer. I rose, pulled my jacket from the back of my chair, and headed for the door. “Ms. DiNois, I’ll be out for the rest of the day. If anything comes up—”


“I’ll let Winchester know. Very good, sir.”


“Thanks.” Winchester was turning out to be a pretty good agent. He had grown into his position and wasn’t as hyper as he’d been only a year ago.


Theo was out when I got home, which was probably a good thing. He knew what I did, and he was accepting of it, but I didn’t want to rub his nose in it.


I expected to hear the sound of Miss Su’s claws on the hardwood floor, but it seemed the American Bobtail I’d given him the previous Christmas wasn’t home either. A glance around the apartment showed me why. The flooring had been stripped off—last night at dinner all Dad and Uncle Jake had talked about was how pleased they were with the condition of the sub-floor—a load-bearing beam had been put into place, and the load-bearing wall was gone. Plaster dust, chunks of sheetrock and furring strips, and nails were all over the dining room floor, while the kitchen was a shell of its former self.


Miss Su must be with the ladies downstairs. They were fond of her and would keep her until the reno was done and it was safe for her to return home.


I left a brief note for Theo. Working late. I’ll grab some dinner out. Love you.


It was a good thing the apartment was empty. If Mr. Vincent was going to tell me I had to erase someone, I needed to get into that frame of mind.




When I arrived at Au Bon Pain, Mr. Vincent was already there. I was startled to see all the gray in his hair. He also sported a darker mustache that bracketed his mouth and covered his chin in a neat goatee.


“I’m… uh....” I shook myself out of it. This was his disguise, just as being a student was mine. “Sorry, sir. I got here as soon as—”


“Don’t worry about it.” He looked me over. “I approve.”


“That’s disgusting!”


I blinked and turned my head to stare at the couple at the table behind us. “Excuse me?”


“That man is old enough to be your father!”


“What man?” I looked around, but Mr. Vincent was the only one there. According to the records, he was only about ten years older than me. Jesus, did I look like I was seventeen? Or was it that he’d made himself look so much older?


Mr. Vincent was grinning; I was tempted to duck under the table.


He rose and came around to my side of the table. Danger emanated from him… and something else. For a second I thought he was going to kiss me to show his disregard for these people, and my knees threatened to buckle. Theo was the only man I’d ever kissed, and I wanted to keep it that way.


But how could I refuse Mr. Vincent without blowing my cover?


He gave the couple at the other table one of the coldest looks I’d ever seen. Without even glancing at me he said, “Sit down.”


I sat down, relieved that expression wasn’t sent in my direction.


“I suggest you eat your dinner and mind your own goddamn business!”


The couple shied back, finally aware of the hornet’s nest they’d stirred up. “I… we… how….” They fidgeted for a minute, and then picked up their plates and bowls and scurried to another table at the other end of the restaurant, complaining, but making sure Mr. Vincent wouldn’t be able to hear their words.


He nodded in satisfaction, returned to his own chair, and pushed a platter toward me. “I ordered for both of us.”


They were Black Angus roast beef sandwiches, mine on a baguette and his on a ciabatta.


“Thank you, sir.” I pulled out my wallet. “How much do I owe you?”


“Forget about it. I put it on my business account.” He brought his ciabatta to his mouth and took a healthy bite, chewing and swallowing and waiting until the area around us was free of other diners. “All right, here’s the skinny,” he said as he brought a napkin to his lips. “Your target is Preston Marks.”


“Marks? I’m sorry, sir. The name doesn’t ring a bell.” My stomach rumbled, reminding me I hadn’t eaten since lunch, and I took a healthy bite of my own. This sandwich was topped with herb cheese, and I was tempted to close my eyes in bliss. I washed it down with the root beer Mr. Vincent had provided for me. Whatever he wanted me to do, I’d need a clear head.


“Wherever Holmes goes, Marks is right behind him. At one time he was Holmes’s personal private executive administrative assistant.”


“The CIA has that position on their roster?”


“Holmes did.” His lips curled in disdain. And it didn’t really matter whether it was toward the man himself or the fact he needed a personal private executive administrative assistant. None of the directors in the WBIS, not even that bastard in PR would request someone to fill such an outlandish position. “And when Holmes left the CIA, Marks went with him.” He paused for a moment to sip his own soda. “You remember the video tape I asked Theo to find for me last fall?”


I was a little startled by the abrupt change of subject, but I met his eyes. “I remember.”


I’d never watched it, but I knew what is showed—a high- priced female escort and a couple of rent boys servicing a john. Theo had been in the crawlspace filming the entire episode, not for any prurient reason, but because the woman, Delilah Carson, had been spooked. I hadn’t even known Theo then, but I was still unhappy about that, because she’d been murdered a week or so after. All I’d been able to think was what if. What if Theo had been in her condo with her when her boyfriend went on that rampage? What if Theo had been killed as well? I’d never have had the opportunity to meet him.


My mouth became so dry I had to finish my soda.


“Did Theo tell you who’d hired them?” Mr. Vincent sat back in his seat, watching me, and I got myself under control.


“No. To my knowledge, he didn’t know who it was. I didn’t think it was necessary for me to know.”


“You’re right. At that time it wasn’t.”


“Is it….” I opened my sandwich, removed a lettuce leaf, and began tearing it to pieces. “It is now?”


“Yeah. Holmes was the john.”


Oh, shit. I scrapped my chair back, ready to rise. “Is Theo in any danger?


“No. They never knew he was there, but I’ve already called someone I know on the West coast to keep an eye out for Spike and Paul.”


“Thank you, sir. They were Theo’s family for the longest time.”


“I know.”


Of course he knew. He’d known Theo for more than ten years. “Theo liked Ms. Carson very much.”


“Yeah. He never came to me about it. Well, everyone believed it was her boyfriend who’d taken one hit too many from the crack pipe and lost his mind.” And I knew Mr. Vincent was a big believer in leaving well enough alone. “As I said, Holmes and Marks are thick as thieves.”


“They were involved with Ms. Carson’s death?”


“Marks was. Right now I don’t know what Holmes knows.”


“You’re going to find out?”


“Yeah. Marks sticks to Holmes like a leech. I want you to do whatever you have to in order to get him away from Holmes.”


“All right, sir.” I couldn’t read the expression in his eyes, but that was nothing new; I rarely could. I kept my voice low. “But as you know, I’m a one-man man. If you don’t want me to kill him for getting grabby, I hope you’ll step in to do something.”


“That’s why I told you to bring your knife. I don’t want you to kill him just for getting grabby.” He grinned, cold and unfriendly.


No, I guessed he wanted me to kill him for what happened to Delilah Carson. Funny; I’d known he liked Theo. I just hadn’t realized how much.  In spite of myself I found myself wondering if he’d ever been a client of Theo’s. For twelve years, Theo’d been a rentboy. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to deal with it if my boss was one of the men he’d had to sell it to. I forced my thoughts to what he was saying now.


“If you decide to stick it in him, just make sure there’s no one around to see you.”


It? I felt heat rise in my cheeks. Oh, my knife. I’d lost my appetite, so I wrapped what was left of my sandwich in a napkin and stuffed it into my soda cup. “Yes, sir.”


He glanced at his wristwatch, and then reached into the inner pocket of his suit jacket. “Here’s your ticket. You’re center front. I’ll be in the section to your right. Neither Holmes nor Marks should recognize me like this, so it shouldn’t matter if they spot me. Once Holmes is done speaking, he usually signs autographs. Marks likes to keep a bottle of water with him. This one’s gonna leave him with a desperate need to use the john. Do whatever you need to do to delay him. I’ll debrief you in the morning.” Which meant that I wasn’t to acknowledge him if I should cross paths with him.


“I’ll see you in the morning, then, sir.” I put the ticket in my wallet, got out of my seat and tossed my trash, and left.




I arrived early and took the opportunity to scope out the auditorium. On the stage was a podium with a pitcher of water and a glass. To the right was a chair. A bottle of water was beside it, and I had no doubt Mr. Vincent had somehow managed to take care of it.


It looked like there was going to be a full house. The seats were filling up fast.


As Mr. Vincent had said, my seat was in center front. I took it, made myself comfortable, and listened to the people who sat around me. They sounded thrilled to be seeing Edward Holmes in the flesh, especially since he’d made the rounds of all the late night talk shows and had appeared on Saturday Night Live. Theo had wanted to see what the man looked like without a red wig and pink lingerie, but because it was being aired when we planned to be in Cambridge for Easter, he’d set up the VCR to tape it.


“Such a distinguished-looking man,” a female voice behind me gushed, which was true. In the past few months his hair had turned silver, and he had dark, piercing eyes that were an interesting contrast; if he’d gone into politics, I had no doubt people like the women behind me would have voted for him. “I don’t believe a word about him and Senator Wexler!”


“It was probably just jealousy!”


“Of course! The president wouldn’t have given him that award otherwise!”


I almost choked.


Two older gentlemen made their way across the row toward me. The one in the lead murmured, “It looks like we’ll be separated, Tony.” There was an empty seat on either side of me, but other than that, there was nothing else.


“Then I guess we’ll be separated, little brother.”


“No need.” I slid over into the seat on my right so they’d be able to sit together.


The man who’d been addressed as Tony nodded. “Thank you, young man.”


“You’re welcome, sir.”


“This was last minute, I’m afraid, and these were the only tickets our nephew could get for us.”


That didn’t say much for their nephew’s taste, but then again, maybe his uncles were Republicans.


The scattering of applause that started quickly escalated to thunderous as Holmes strode out onto the stage. He smiled broadly and nodded to each section, probably picking out the people he’d make eye contact with during his speech. I’d taken a Public Speaking class my sophomore year in college, and that was one of the points the professor had made.


Another man followed him. He was younger, about Holmes’ height, and his hair was a lighter brown than mine. He wore a pair of tinted glasses though, and I couldn’t tell the color of his eyes from where I sat. His cheekbones reminded me of Spike, the youngest of the rentboys who’d been with Theo before he gave it up, and if I didn’t have Theo and didn’t know Marks had been CIA, I might have given him a second look. He took the chair to the right of the podium, reached for the bottle of water, and unscrewed the cap to take a sip before studying the sea of faces before him. His eyes seemed to linger on a spot to my left. Did he know those men?


Holmes gazed out over his audience and smiled once more. “Ladies and gentlemen, good evening, and thank you for joining me on this lovely May evening.” And he launched into his speech.


He was a desk jockey; he’d never been out in the field, but apparently his audience was unaware of that. When he spoke of his time in the CIA, it sounded like one episode after another of Mission: Impossible, and judging by the enthralled silence and occasional admiring gasps, every word was taken as god’s honest truth. 


He should be the consultant for CIA,” the gentlemen to my left confided to his brother. “God knows he’s spinning a big enough fairy tale for television right now!”


Ah. He must be talking about the TV show that rumor had it was being renewed for its third season. I’d watched a couple of episodes, but then I’d grown bored. It wasn’t the way things were done in the WBIS. As Mr. Vincent was known to say, we did it right the first time.


It was interesting, though, to know that here was someone who didn’t let surface images interfere with his ability to see the truth.


Shhh!” The woman behind us sounded like a tea kettle about to start whistling.


“Perhaps we should go up to him afterward and ask if his taste in lingerie has changed.”


“Will you please be quiet?! The man is a patriot!”


“Madame, have you worked with Edward Holmes?”


“No, of course not!”


“We have, and trust me when I tell you that Holmes wouldn’t know patriotism if it came up and bit him on the ass!”


“Well, I never!”


“Obviously. However, we apologize for disturbing you.”




“Yes, Bryan?”


“Is that….” He leaned closer to his brother, and I couldn’t resist leaning toward him myself, interested in hearing what he was going to say. “Mark Vincent?”


Oh, shit. How could these men know Mr. Vincent, especially when he was in disguise? Were they CIA? Even if they had no use for Holmes, they wouldn’t stand by when Mr. Vincent went to talk to him.


“I do believe you’re right, little brother.”


I listened harder, holding my breath, and waited to hear what they planned to do.


“What’s he up to?”


“You’re asking me?”


“You know, Tony, I was going to suggest we leave, but now I think I’d like to see what he has up his sleeve. After all, why should we let him have all the fun?”


I couldn’t tell them I didn’t think that would be a good idea; it was never a good idea to cross Mr. Vincent. I had to contact him and let him know about this. Calling him on my cell phone would get the both of us tossed out, but I could text him.


I was halfway through the message when it occurred to me that he might not be able to decipher what I was keying into my phone. I deleted what I’d written and started again.


The two men seated next to me know your name, and they know you have something in mind for Holmes. Their exact words: why should you have all the fun? How do you want me to handle them?


He glanced casually in my direction, and within a matter of minutes I got his response. Keep an eye on them, but don’t worry. They like Holmes as much as I do.


Which was to say not at all. I put my phone away and settled in to listen to the remainder of Holmes’ speech.




Holmes was lingering to chat and sign autographs. Marks, his eyes still shielded by his tinted lenses, had been shifting in obvious discomfort for the past fifteen minutes, and he touched his arm. “We have to go.”


“Oh, please, just let this young man take a picture of us with you!” It was the two women who’d sat behind me, and they shoved the camera into my hands.


“Certainly, ladies.” Holmes flashed his teeth at them in a smile that was so broad it looked like he was advertising toothpaste. “Preston, a short while longer.”


“All right.” Marks frowned and turned away. “I have to use the john.”


I sent a look toward Mr. Vincent, who was waiting patiently for his turn with Holmes. He gave a slight nod.


“I’m sorry, so do I,” I said, pressing my hand into my stomach. “Something I ate….”


“Oh, but….”


“I’ll be more than happy to help you lovely ladies.” Mr. Vincent smiled at them, and they actually giggled. The man was a wonder. He’d never had a reputation for being charming, but maybe that was what being Director was all about.


I handed off the camera to him and hurried after Marks.


Fortunately the men’s room was empty except for the man I was looking for—he was at the urinal, and he glanced over his shoulder as I entered. He turned back to continue pissing. Whatever Mr. Vincent had put in his water was doing an amazing job.


A quick look under the stalls assured me we were alone, and I stepped up to the urinal and unzipped my jeans.


Finally he shook off his dick, tucked it away, and went to the sinks.


I put my dick away and joined him. “You’re with Mr. Holmes,” I murmured. Having to address the former spook as “Mr.” left a sour taste in my mouth.


“That’s right.” He studied me more carefully now. “Are you interested in joining the CIA, young man?”


“I might be.” God, could he be any more condescending? “I’ve heard a lot about it. It sounds pretty exciting.”


“It can be. You’re too young, but give it a few more years….” He dried off his hands.


Shit, did I really look like I was seventeen? “I’ve… I’ve also heard about the Washington Bureau of Intelligence and Security.”


“How did you—never mind.” He scowled. “You don’t want to work for them. They’re a bunch of psychopath wet boys!”


“Are they? I never heard of them killing an innocent woman, though.”


“What? What are you talking about?”


“About a year and a half ago, a woman named Delilah Carson?”


“I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but she was a whore. There was no way in hell that she was innocent!”


“She didn’t deserve to die in that fashion. Why did you kill her?”


He turned sheet white. “How did you…. You’re insane. I had nothing to do with her death!”


“No? Then I guess it must have been your boss. What happened? Did he think she wouldn’t be able to keep quiet about the fact that he liked to wear long red wigs and women’s lingerie?”


“Edward had nothing to do with… where are you getting your information?” he demanded again. “No one was supposed to—” He got himself under control and smirked. “She was just a whore! Why does a boy your age even care?”


“I’ll tell you why, Mr. Marks.” His smirk vanished. The fact that I knew his name obviously shook him up. “Delilah Carson had friends. They aren’t happy she’s dead, and when I tell them you’re the one who stabbed her multiple times and left her to bleed out on her pink carpet, they’ll be even less happy.”


“I didn’t… that was her…. How are you getting this information? Who the fuck are you? You’re not a kid!”


“No, I’m not. As for who I am, that doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t know my name.”


“Are you wearing a wire? This is entrapment!” He was breathing heavily. “I’ve got nothing to fucking say to you!”


I reached for my switchblade. I had to end this before someone decided he needed to use the restroom and joined us.


And as if I’d jinxed myself, the door opened and the two men who’d been seated beside me walked in.


Shit! I left my knife where it was.


“Marks,” the one called Bryan said. The expression on his face was mild, but that one word, in that tone of voice, made it clear he wasn’t a fan.


“Sebring! You have to help me!”


“We do?” the other brother looked bored. “Why would that be?”


“This maniac wants to kill me!” Marks kept his eyes on me.


“And why would that be our concern?”


“You were CIA!”


“You’re thinking of Bryan. I was NSA.”


“I’m telling you—”


“Yes, yes, he’s trying to kill you.”


“I didn’t say try. I said he wants to!”


“In either case,” Bryan observed, “we don’t see a weapon. Unless he’s planning on doing the deed with a dirty look? Holmes is looking for you.” He turned his head to smile at me, and his tone warmed. “Hello again, young man.”


“Hello. I hope you enjoyed—dammit!” Marks had taken that opportunity to bolt out of the door.


 “Yes, indeed. It’s always a pleasure to visit—”


“Excuse me, please.” I couldn’t chat with him. Mr. Vincent was going to be pissed with me for letting Marks get away.


Well, he wouldn’t really get away unless he made a complete break with Holmes, and I didn’t think that was likely. The problem was now he had some idea of what I looked like. We’d just have to send someone else after him. Ahrens, maybe. Or Johnson.


But maybe I could catch up with Marks.


The auditorium was empty, and I raced up the aisle, through the lobby, and out onto 21st Street.


I could hear shouts and curses to my left, and a glance in that direction showed me someone racing away toward Pennsylvania Avenue, knocking against and shoving into anyone in his way. I didn’t have my Glock, although even if I had, the likelihood of collateral damage was too high for me to take the chance of firing it. I tore off after him, saving my breath for running, because son of a bitch, for a former spook, he was a real sprinter.


By the time I reached Pennsylvania Avenue fate had taken a hand, though, and it was all over. Traffic had come to a halt, and I knew it would only be a matter of minutes before we’d hear the scream of sirens approaching.


“If he’d just walked away, he wouldn’t be heading for the morgue as soon as the meat wagon arrives.” Mr. Vincent’s breath was warm in my ear, and I barely kept myself from jumping. “Nice job, Matheson.”


I was too busy trying to catch my breath to protest I hadn’t done anything. We could see what had happened—Marks had dashed out into traffic, which wasn’t the smartest thing at that intersection, and had gotten creamed by the Westbound 36 bus.  


“Is he…?”


“Oh, yeah. Deader than a doornail.” He took out his cell phone and pressed a number. “Go on home. You’re done here for the night.”


“What about Holmes?”


“He decided to take a long, long vacation.” There was that look in his eyes….


If Mr. Vincent had looked at me like that, I’d have decided to take a long, long vacation too.


“Yes, sir.”


He turned away. “Max, it’s Vincent. Is Smitty there?”


Well, as he said, I was done for the night. I headed for the Academic Center Garage, where I’d parked.




Theo was waiting for me when I let myself into our apartment. “Hi, babe.” I dropped my keys onto the console table by the door. “Sorry I missed dinner.”


“You didn’t miss much. Your Dad and his crew decided they wanted to try Raphael’s and then take in a movie.”


“You didn’t want to go with them?”


“Not without you. Anyway, since the kitchen’s such a disaster area, I wound up going to that little deli a few blocks over and got a roast beef sandwich.”


“Hey, me too! Only I had mine at Au Bon Pain.”


“You did? How come?”


“I had to go to a lecture.”


“A lecture? I don’t remember Vince ever sending you to one of those before.”


“Enrichment.” That was what they’d called it when I worked for Huntingdon.


“Huh? Uh... okay.”


It would be a good idea to change the subject. “I missed you. Let me just take a shower and we can go to bed.”


“I’m sorry, Wills. I didn’t remember the last reno being so….” He gestured to the mess that had taken over the kitchen and dining room.


I couldn’t help laughing. “I know what you mean. I’m a little surprised Dad and Uncle Jake didn’t have the guys clean up.”


“They did!”


“You mean it was even worse than this? Jesus, Theo, what did they do?”


He shrugged and waved his hand. “Construction stuff. Still, I’m gonna love the new kitchen and dining room. Everyone’s staying at the Madison Arms, by the way.”


“Even Dad?”


“Yep.  And us too.” He pointed toward the suitcase that was beside the console table near the door. “I know you’ve got work, so I packed your gun and a couple of suits. And I can come back during the day to make sure Miss Su doesn’t think we’ve abandoned her.”


“Works for me, but…. Theo I’ve got something to tell you.”


For a second I thought he was going to say something teasing, and I just wasn’t in the mood for that. Maybe he realized that, because what he said was, “This sounds serious.”


“It is.”


“Maybe you better tell me now before I think you’ve got a boyfriend.”


“You’re the only boyfriend I’ve got.” I ran my hand through my hair and grimaced at the gel that transferred to my palm. “We found out who killed Delilah Carson.”


The amused expression left his face. “It wasn’t that bastard she was living with?”


“No. But the bastard who did it is dead.”


“Did you—I’m sorry, I shouldn’t ask.”


I shook my head. “I would have, but he ran into the street and got hit by a bus.”


“Oh, my god, that’s such a—”


“Cliché? I know.”


“I’m glad he’s dead, but I don’t understand. Why did he kill her?”


“That john you filmed, the one who hired her and Paul and Spike? The one she was worried about? It looks like she had every reason to be worried.”




I held up a hand. “I felt you needed to know she was avenged, but please don’t ask me anything more about it.”


“Why not?”


“It could be dangerous.”


“Oh, shit! Paul and Spike!”


“No, they’re okay. Mr. Vincent’s already got someone keeping watch over them.”


“I want to talk to them.”


“Okay, babe. Why don’t you give them a call while I shower this gunk out of my hair?”




There was a small obit in the late edition of the next day’s Post. Curiously, it didn’t give much information about him.


Preston Marks, age 38, suddenly. Mr. Marks was a Washington, DC native who worked for the CIA from the time of his graduation from George Washington University in 1987 until he left to pursue his options in the private sector in 2002 He was predeceased by his parents, Elizabeth and Bernard Marks, and is survived by his brothers Andrew (Samantha) and Bernard, Jr. (Christine), his sisters Beatrix (John) Merrill and Isabelle (Forest) Pollard, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. Funeral arrangements are pending. Services will be held privately for the family.


It left out a couple of things: that he’d been Edward Holmes’ brown-nosing flunky and that acting on orders, whether Holmes’ or someone else’s, he’d killed Delilah Carson.


Well, as I’d told Theo, she’d been avenged, and hopefully she could rest in whatever afterlife she’d believed in.



Chapter 3



It was a gorgeous Sunday in June. Theo and I had found this little restaurant within walking distance from where we lived. Charmaine featured outdoor dining, and we were sitting at one of those bistro tables, having brunch there.


“I’m still sending him a Father’s Day card.” I picked at a sticky bun and braced myself for Theo’s objections. He’d gone all these years without his family, and he’d whispered in my ear one night that he’d go through it again if it meant I wouldn’t have to, but that didn’t mean he’d ever forgive my grandparents enough to agree with me sending them cards for the various holidays.


“All right. But you know the odds are he’ll probably throw it out without even opening it.”


“Yes, I know.”


“How long will you keep it up?”


I hunched a shoulder. “They’ll always be my grandparents.”


“Ah, babe.” His expression was sad. He reached across the table and twined his fingers in mine.


Chris, our waiter, chose that moment to bring out our order, sausage and brie casserole for me and the mango and avocado salad with spiced candied pecans for Theo. He studied the table. “Do you want more sticky buns?”


“No, we’re good for now.”


“I’ll just bring the coffee out and refill your cup.”


“And Theo’s too. Thanks, Chris,” I said.


“Yes, thanks, Chris.” Theo brought my left hand to his mouth and brushed a kiss across my knuckles.


Chris frowned at him, but then turned a thousand watt smile on me. “Anything for you, brown eyes.” He fluttered his lashes and sauntered back into the restaurant, an extra wiggle to his ass.


“One of these days, I swear I’m going to—”


“You know you don’t have to.”


“Wills, he makes a play for you every fucking time we come here!”


“Would you rather we didn’t?”

“No, I like this place, and I’ll be damned if I let him chase us away.”


“You know, I think he does it just to get under your skin.”


“Well, he’s succeeding.”


I stroked the fingertips of my free hand over the hand that held mine. “I’ll never leave you. I promise. Now, let’s eat. I’m starved.”




I was putting some of my casserole onto Theo’s plate for him to sample when I heard, “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the love birds.”


“Chuckles. How come you’re out in the sunlight?”


Charles, Theodore.” One-time Le Roi of the rentboys, he scowled at my lover. “I’m on my way home.”


“And you just happened to pass by Charmaine? Lucky us.” Theo glanced at his watch. “It’s been a long night for you.”


“I was well paid.” He slid his gaze over me. “Why are you still with him? I know a dozen boys who’d kill for the chance to show you what they can do.”


“Including you?” Theo was so tense I rested a hand on his forearm. I knew Charles had to be Theo’s age, but he looked much younger, no doubt due to plastic surgery. I was glad Theo’s genes were good enough that he’d never needed to resort to that.


“I don’t need anyone to show me what they can do,” I said. “I’m with Theo because I love him. As a matter of fact, we’re getting married.”


As I’d expected, his lip curled in disdain. “It won’t be legal.”


“Why does everyone feel the need to tell me this?” I complained mildly. “I’m aware, but I’ll do whatever I have to in order to keep Theo at my side.”


“Do I get an invitation?”


“No!” Theo snapped.


“I didn’t think so.”


“Why would you even want to come?” Theo’s attitude was aggressive, but I knew my lover, and I could hear the distress in his voice. The possibility that anyone should learn what he’d had to do for so many years….


“I don’t,” Charles said dismissively. “And I wouldn’t have been free anyway.”


“You don’t know when it will be!”


“I still won’t be free.”


“Would you like a cup of coffee, Charles?” I asked. Theo looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.


“No, thanks. To have Sweets scowling at me the entire time would give me acid reflux….”


“I told you before not to call him that. Do it again and you’ll regret it.”


He stared at me, surprised by the tone of my voice. “Sorry.” He cleared his throat. “Old habits.”


“It will be healthy if you break them.”


“Yes.” The color left his cheeks. Why did people… well, it was just as well people didn’t realize what I could do.


“How are you, Charles?” I asked, deciding to change the subject.


“I’m well enough.”


“Are you still with… what was that angel’s name? Michael?” Theo snarked.


Charlemagne flinched, suddenly looking like a little boy lost.


During the Halloween ball, someone dressed as the archangel Michael had attracted Charlemagne’s attention. He’d shown up again on New Year’s Eve, apparently unexpectedly. That was Charlemagne’s last official function as 2002’s Le Roi, and I’d wondered what might become of the pair.


I guessed not everyone was as lucky as Theo and I. “I’m sorry.”


All expression smoothed from Charles’ face. “Don’t be. I dumped him. I was getting bored with him anyway.”


“The way you would have gotten bored with me?” Theo asked.




“I’m not a fool, Charles. I knew it would only be a matter of time before you tossed me aside. That happened once in my life. I wasn’t going to let it happen again.”


Charles’ complexion was gray. “You’re saying you’d have stayed with me otherwise?”


“If it hadn’t been for your reputation? Probably.”


I stared from Theo to Charles. I’d had a feeling there was more to their enmity than simply rentboys from rival stables, but this…. If they’d been in a committed relationship, there was no way I’d have had a chance with him. In a world where they were together, Paul might never have wound up in the hospital, and Theo and I might not have even met.


“Babe?” Theo suddenly looked scared. Because of what he’d revealed? Did he think I’d begrudge him a little warmth in the years he’d had to sell his body?


I was sorry for Charles, that he felt he needed to protect himself like that, but I was glad Theo had walked away from him. I caught Theo’s hand and tightened my grip on his fingers.


“Charles, why don’t you find him and retire?”


His grin was lopsided. “He won’t want me. You know how good I am at breaking off an affair. I’ll leave you to your brunch. It was… interesting seeing you again.” And he was gone in the Sunday morning crowd.


Theo stared after him.




“I am so fucking lucky I found you!” He turned to meet my eyes. “That you wanted me.”


“I was thinking the same thing. Now, try the casserole and let me know what you think of it.”




Chris had refilled our coffee cups and removed the plates, and I was about to ask for the check when a shadow fell over our table.




I looked up and then grinned and jumped up. “Cathy!” That side of my family had never picked up on the nickname Jill had given me when I was ten and she’d come back into our lives. With so much else that was going on, I didn’t see any reason to make a big deal about it


“I thought that was you! Hello, cuz.” She hugged me—well, both sides of my family were pretty big into hugging. “It’s good to see you again.”


“It’s good to see you too! This is Theo, my fiancé. Theo, my cousin, Cathy.”


“It’s nice to meet you.” Theo had risen, and now he took her hand. “I won’t even hold it against you that your father is an… a jerk.”


“You don’t have to mince words with me, although I appreciate the intention. My father is what he is.” Her smile was crooked. “But let’s not talk about him. I have someone I want you to meet.” She drew a petite redhead forward. “This is Alexis Cavanaugh.” She blushed prettily. “Lexi’s my girlfriend.”


“Hello, Lexi.” I didn’t know how she felt about being hugged by someone she’d just met, so I simply offered her my hand. “Do you need to be anywhere, Cath? We’ve finished brunch, but if you’d care to join us, we could go for another cup of coffee and more of the sticky buns this place offers.”


“Coffee would be good.”


“Awesome. Sit, please!” I looked around for our waiter. “Chris! Two more place settings! What kind of coffee would you like?”


“Nothing fancy.” Cathy smiled at Chris. “Just two regulars, please. Although those sticky buns sound yummy.”


“Two coffees and more buns coming right up.” He sauntered off, giving an extra wiggle to his ass again, and Theo glowered after him.


“It’s all right, babe,” I said, resting my hand on his arm.




But it was Theo who answered my cousin. “That… gym bunny… makes a pass at Wills every time we come here!”


“Why keep coming?”


“I like the buns.” Both women burst into giggles, and Theo turned a disgruntled expression on them. “Not those buns, and it’s not funny. I was sitting right here! The only reason why I didn’t punch his lights out is because he isn’t a redhead.”


“Oh?” Cathy looked interested. “That’s right, I remember Uncle Jack saying you always had a thing for redheads.” She turned her head to smile at Lexi. “It must run in the family.”


“Yeah.” But I was looking at Theo, and he smiled reluctantly. “So, Cath. What are you doing in DC?”


“Lex and I are applying for positions on the Ambassador to Italy’s staff. Although I’m not sure if we’ll get them.”


“Why shouldn’t we, Cat? You’re fluent not only in the language but in quite a few dialects, and I’ve got that master’s in psychology.”


“But we’re also lesbians. How are you going to manage it, Will?”


“Marrying Theo?”


“You know it won’t be legal?”


I felt like rolling my eyes. “I know. My company doesn’t have any policies against sexual orientation. As a matter of fact, Theo will go on my insurance policy and get health benefits.”


Both their jaws dropped.


“By the way, we hope you’ll be able to come to our wedding.”


“I was going to ask if you minded if I brought Lexi with me.”


“The more the merrier. You were at some of my birthday parties before we moved to Cambridge, Cath.”


“Oh, yes, and boy, did we have fun!”


I grinned at her. Having all the cousins together for any occasion was the best. I missed seeing my family more frequently.


“Your coffee, ladies, and sticky buns as requested.”


“Thank you, Chris. These look great!”


“Enjoy.” He turned his head toward me, winked, and pursed his lips in a silent kiss. Fortunately, Theo couldn’t see.


I shook my head and turned back to my cousin. “So. How’s everyone on your side of the family?”


“Mom’s good. She’s actually seeing someone.”


“Wait, did she finally divorce Uncle Tony?”




“That’s been a long time coming. How did Grandma and Grandpa take that?” No one in either family had ever gotten a divorce.


“How do you think? By the way, I heard what they did.”


“What?” The sudden change of topic confused me.


“Disown you. Dad had the nerve to call and tell us we weren’t supposed to consider you family anymore.”


“It doesn’t make any difference.” I shrugged. “They’re still family.”


“Yeah, well, that doesn’t make them any the less jerks about it. So I called and left a message on their machine.” She gave a slight grin. “I figured they might as well get it all in one shot: I told them I’m a lesbian. Mom told them she’s seeing a former priest.”


“Holy smoke! I wonder which they thought was the worst!”


“Well, we haven’t heard back from them, so your guess is as good as mine. On the one hand, they think all homosexuals are heading straight for hell. On the other, people who leave the clergy will probably be right behind us.”


“My Dad told me Grandma always helped out at the rectory.”


“She did. She used to drag me and Merry along with her. The funny thing is that when my father was still up on Long Island, he never went to church.”


“Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”


“Yeah. Well, at least Mom’s parents are okay with it. I wonder if it’s because that side of the family has been in America since the Civil War.”


“That’s right. Didn’t I hear one of your greats fought with Custer?”


“Yes! In the Battle of the Wilderness. I always thought that was so fantastic.”


“Which it is.” Lexi reached for her hand.


“Well, Grandma and Grandpa are only second generation.” I put one of the buns on my plate and tore off a piece. “Theo?” He shook his head, so I took a bite, and then said, “My Dad’s folks are good with it too, but I figured that was because of Uncle Pete.”


“How about you, Theo?”


“Oh, my parents are better about it now, but when they first found out… it wasn’t a pretty picture.” No, it hadn’t been. He’d been thrown out and forced into prostitution to survive. I took his hand, and he squeezed my fingers again. They were going to be crushed.


I didn’t care.


“And you, Lexi?”


“No,” she said. “My family has no idea.”


“Oh?” I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, but was she hiding her relationship with my cousin?


“I haven’t been home for the past eight years. I was in the closet all through high school, and I wasn’t going to live like that again. I knew how they’d react, so once I left for college I just never went home.” She saw my horrified expression and hurried on. “Oh, they know I’m okay; I call and send them Christmas and birthday cards.”


“And they never questioned why you haven’t been back?”


She shrugged. “They think I’m wrapped up in my career. I’d rather keep it that way. I can always pre- I mean, tell myself I can go home one day.”


“Ah, Lexi.” Cath reached for her hand. “Maybe one day….”


“No. They’re very conservative. As a matter of fact, your grandparents are the epitome of liberal acceptance compared to them.”


“Families can be really fucked up.”


“That’s the truth! The last time Dad came up to Long Island was for Merry’s wedding.”


“That was three years ago!” I’d flown up to Long Island for it. “Wait a second!” I turned to Lexi and studied her features. “Weren’t you there? Only… as a blonde?”


“Guilty as charged.”


I stared from her to my cousin. “And I had to go stag.”


“I was a little surprised Michael wasn’t with you.”


“He was busy.”


“Jesus, Wills! You’d have taken him with you?” Theo looked unhappy, and I squeezed his shoulder.


“He’d been part of my life for a long time. It’s… it’s hard to cut ties that strong.” I leaned closer and whispered, “But you know there was nothing more between us than friendship.” Even though we’d blown each other a number of times. Well, I’d gone down on him more often than he’d gone down on me.


“How could he let you go?”


I took my hand from his shoulder and shrugged. I wasn’t going to tell him about the video tape that had arrived in my office more than a year after Michael’s death, the one where he’d confessed to loving me. It didn’t escape my notice that he’d had to be dying before he could do that. He’d been too firmly entrenched in the closet to ever act on what he felt, no matter what he might have thought.


“I wish I’d known you then, babe.”


Theo grabbed my hand.  “Would I have been your date?”


“To the wedding? You’d better believe it! And you’d have had a blast!”


Cathy linked her fingers with Lexi’s. “Not to sound prejudiced, but our families have the most amazing weddings.”


“This is true. We had the absolute best time!”


 “Yes, we did,” Cath agreed. “That DJ was amazing.”


“Maybe we can use him for our wedding, babe! What was his name again, Cath?”


“Lou something. I’ll have to ask Merry.”


“Thanks! And speaking of Merry, how are she and Alan?”


“They’re expecting!”


“No kidding? When?”


“In December. They’re hoping for a Christmas baby.”


“Ah, that’s sweet.” I couldn’t help grinning. “Babies are in the air.”


“It seems so,” Cathy said. “I heard your dad and Jill are expecting, too.”


“Yes, in September.”


 “What’s she having this time?”

“Oh, it’s a boy. That’s all we Mathesons seem to get.”


“What about Marti?”


“I know.” I couldn’t help chuckling. My little sister’s arrival had thrown everyone for a loop.


“You know Grandma and Grandpa don’t think she’s Uncle Jack’s.”


All my enjoyment in the conversation vanished. “No, I didn’t know that.” I felt coldly furious.


“Dammit! Me and my big mouth! I’m sorry, Will.”


“I can’t believe they’d….” I ran a hand through my hair. “When Marti was born, she was the spitting image of Dad at the same age, just more feminine. We never questioned…. Cath, who else knows they think that way?”


“Just Mom and Dad. I heard them arguing about it one night. They didn’t realize anyone else was in the house. They still don’t know I was there.”


“Can you keep it that way? I don’t want Marti to ever find out about that.”


“Don’t worry, Will. My lips are sealed.”




Theo’s arm came around my shoulders. “I’m so sorry, babe.”


“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about me sending those cards.” They could say whatever they chose about me, but Marti was a little girl, and she’d done nothing to deserve their spite.


“May I ask you a question, Will?” Lexi had been listening to the entire conversation. Was she regretting getting involved with someone who had such whacked-out grandparents?


“Shoot.” If I didn’t want to answer it, I wouldn’t.


“How do you feel about this baby?”


“Excuse me?”


“You’re old enough to be his father.”


“Yes, but I’m his brother. It’s going to be strange for him to have a nephew who’s only a couple of years younger—”


“Or niece, Wills.”


“Or niece,” I agreed. “After we’re married, Theo and I want to adopt.”


Theo reached over to take my hand. “Wills is going to make the best dad. You should have seen him with Harry’s kids last year.”


“I’m right here, you know.” I could feel myself blushing. Although I did like the fact that Theo was so supportive.


“I saw him with Marti at Harry and Brynn’s wedding.” Cathy tipped her head and stared at me thoughtfully. “What about the surrogacy route?”


“Yes, we intend to explore that option as well.” I didn’t tell her that I wanted to give my father a grandson who would have my mother’s brown hair and eyes.


“Will, I know we’re first cousins, but… would you consider me for a surrogate?”


“Cath, I appreciate the offer, really I do, but aren’t you here to apply for a position that will take you to Italy?”


She patted my cheek. “Oh, ye of little faith. If we actually get the jobs, I could donate my eggs.”


“I have no idea how we’d go about this.”


“I do.” Lexi exchanged glances with my cousin. “In vitro. I have contacts.”




“That’s not important. What is important is that I can make an appointment for you and Cat to see a genetic counselor, and if everything is okay—”


“Which it should be,” Cathy grinned, “since both sides of the family are disgustingly healthy!”


“There you go, Will. If you want to go this route, you and Cat can make a baby.” Theo cleared his throat, and Lexi gave him this innocent look. “Using strictly scientific methods.”


The idea took my breath away, and I was lost in the images of cradling my son in my arms, singing him lullabies, letting him hold my fingers as he learned to walk.


“Why would you do this, Cathy?” Theo asked.


“Will was always my favorite cousin. I hate what our grandparents have done to him.”


“So you want to make it up to him?”


“You could say that.”


“This baby would be part yours. What would happen if you came back from Italy and decided you wanted him?”


“I won’t do that, Theo. I promise. But if it would make you more comfortable, I’d be willing to sign a document relinquishing all rights to the baby.”


I trusted my cousin not to screw me over, but if Theo wanted reassurances, I wasn’t going to deny him that. I no longer trusted my grandparents, however, and Uncle Tony would technically be the baby’s grandfather. If they challenged us…. Frankly, I could see any judge taking our child away from us simply because we were gay.


“All right.” Theo nodded. “How much is this going to cost?”


“Generally it can run from anywhere between $60,000 and $80,000, but I’ll see you get the family discount.” The corner of Lexi’s mouth curved up in a grin.


“The cost can still range from $35,000 to $55,000.”


“Theo?” He was the accountant. And that was a lot of money. Maybe too much? Had he changed his mind?


He met my eyes. “Wills, I just spent that amount on the reno to the kitchen and dining room.”


“I can tap into my 401K.” With the option before me, I realized how much I wanted to be a dad.


“No! What I was going to say is that if I could spend that much on the apartment, then using it to get a baby is a no-brainer. What do we have to do?”




We met with the genetic counselor, we had blood drawn, and then we settled in to wait.


When Cathy and Lexi got those positions with the Ambassador, Cathy made sure she left behind a supply of viable ova. Lexi left us the contact information for a surrogate who would carry the baby.


Of course, that was after the wedding....



Chapter 4



Well, here it was, the absolute best birthday present I’d ever been given: in less than an hour, Theo would be making an honest man of me. I stood before the mirror in the bathroom of our hotel suite on the northern shore of Long Island and fastened my bowtie.


Or tried to fasten it. I suddenly seemed to have become all thumbs.


“Here, son. Let me give you a hand with that.”


“Thanks, Dad. I don’t know why I’ve become such a wreck.”


“It’s a big step.”


“Yeah, but I’ve been living with Theo for over a year.” I couldn’t tell Dad it was almost from the day I’d met him. “Were you nauseous when you married Jill?”


“No.” He smiled and gave the ends of the tie a final tug. “But I can’t say the same when I married your mother. Of course I was a good deal younger then.”


“Do you… do you think she’d approve?”


“Oh, yes.” He tipped my chin up until our eyes met. “All she wanted was your happiness, and she’d have loved Theo.”


“Grandpa Greg and Grandma Josie don’t.” They hadn’t even given him a chance. “If Uncle Tony had been there, I’d have punched him, Dad.” And the damage that single punch would have done him….


“I know, son. I also know you’d never hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it. You’re a good man.”


I looked down and pretended to fiddle with my cufflinks. I’d been able to tap dance my way around what I’d done to that undercover cop this past spring when Jar and Patrick had turned up unexpectedly in DC, but would Dad still think so if he knew I’d actually killed men? He accepted that his brother Pete had had to fire a gun in defense of our country, but I wasn’t a Marine, and sometimes… sometimes I knew the line I walked was a very fine one.


“Damn Tony!” Dad misunderstood my silence. He put his arms around me and hugged me.


“Dad, did you ever think that maybe he loved you?”


“When we were boys, yes, I have no doubt of that. Once I went away to college, though, he became wrapped up in his own life. And then of course I started dating your Mom.”


“No, I mean that he was in love with you.”


“Tony? In love with me? He was one of the most macho…” The words petered out and his eyes widened. “I… I never thought… That would explain so much!”


“I’m sorry, Dad.”

“It’s not your fault, Wills. None of this was your fault.” He tightened his hold. “His poor wife.”


“Do you think she knew?”


“If I didn’t –”


“Wills, it’s almost time. We’ve got to –” Theo walked in, followed by Paul, who was his best man, and Harry, who was mine. “What’s going on, babe?  You’re not… you’re not having second thoughts, are you?”


“Ass. I’ve finally got you where I want you. Do you think I’m about to let you go?” And just like that, the vultures that had taken up residence in my stomach were gone.


“I’d better go down and check on Jill,” Dad said. Her due date was in a couple of weeks, so they’d had to drive down to Uncle Jake’s house in Port Jefferson rather than fly. Dad had rented a van because everyone, including Alice, was coming.


Jill, being Jill, had insisted that unless she was actually in the hospital giving birth, she was going to be at our wedding.


 “I’ll see you in a few.” Dad gave a last tug to my bowtie. “Harry, I’m trusting you and Paul to make sure they show up on time.”


“No problem, Uncle Jack.”


“Will do, Mr. M.”


Dad pulled me into a hug, squeezed Theo’s shoulder, and left.


“Paul, do me a favor and wait outside. Harry, you too.”


He grinned at us. “You’ve got five minutes. And try not to muss each other, okay?”


As soon as he closed the door, Theo turned to me. “What’s wrong?”


If I told him it was premarital jitters, he’d get all insecure on me, so I told him a portion of the truth. “My grandparents… I’m sorry, it’s selfish of me. So many of my family are here, and you just have your mom and dad and Acacia, but -”


“But you’ve always had them. Even after your mother died, they stayed in your life.” He touched my cheek. “I know how much it hurts.”


“Yes. You had to live with it for thirteen years. Where do I get off pissing and moaning about it?”


“It’s their loss, Wills.”


“You’re right.” I leaned into him and nuzzled the patch of skin below his ear. “And Paul and Harry are going to think we’re molesting each other in here. Come on. Let’s go get married.”






Pat was hitting his glass with a spoon. Again. He kept saying he needed it as therapy for his broken arm.


“It’s not broken any more,” I’d growled at him the fiftieth time he’d done that. He’d actually had the cast removed about two months ago.


“Okay, then just consider it a good excuse for you to kiss Theo.”


As if I needed an excuse.


Amused groans filled the dining room, and Jar threw a roll at his friend. “They’re gonna get chapped lips!”


“Hey, you know they want to make out! I’m just giving them an excuse!”


Theo leaned toward me, pausing when his lips were just a breath away. “He really is the antichrist, isn’t he?” For the longest time Pat had gone by the nickname Damien, after the kid from The Omen.  Theo brought my hand to his mouth and brushed his lips over the wedding ring he’d placed on my finger. “Come on. Dance with me.”


Not for the first time that night, the trio was playing Isn’t It Romantic.


“You talked me into it.”


“I thought I could.”




Waiters were setting up the tables for the dessert course, but first the wedding cake. I’d selected the five-tiered cake that would be brought out, chocolate whipped cream frosting on sponge cake flavored with orange zest, but on the top was a bride and groom dressed in the style of the ‘30s; it wasn’t our wedding cake. 


The M.C. looked my way, and when I gave him the nod, he tapped the microphone and then leaned forward to speak into it.


“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to ask Mr. and Mrs. Matheson to step onto the dance floor.” About thirty-five couples began to stand, and he laughed. “Mr. William Matheson, and his lovely wife, Elaine.”


Grandpa and Grandma exchanged puzzled looks, but he took her hand and led her into the center of the room.


I crossed the floor and took the microphone from the M.C.


“Gram, Gramps, last month you celebrated your sixty-ninth wedding anniversary, and God bless you both. We couldn’t be together then, but we’re here now. This is for you, from all of us, with love.” 


“You sure you want to do this?” the M.C. asked, surprising me.


“Why wouldn’t I be?


“Okay, it’s your funeral.” He shrugged. “Knock yourself out.”


Ah. I got it. He hadn’t been around when I’d rehearsed with the small band, and now he thought I’d be making a fool of myself. I swallowed a smile and turned to the men behind me. “Whenever you’re ready, gentlemen.”


The keyboardist began the first notes, the drummer began to dust the cymbals, and then the bassist and I joined in.


“Dear, I thought I’d drop a line, the weather’s cool, the folks are fine, I’m in bed each night at nine, P. S. I love you…”

For a second I thought not Grandma but Grandpa was going to cry. This was their song. He squeezed the bridge of his nose, smiled mistily, and took Grandma in his arms.


In spite of their age, they moved gracefully across the floor.


“Write to the Browns just as soon as you’re able. They came around to call.”


Theo’s gaze met mine across the room and he smiled and sauntered over to the bandstand.


I burned a hole in the dining room table. And let me see, I guess that’s all.”


I reached a hand down to him. Lacing his fingers through mine, he brought my hand to his mouth and once again brushed his lips against it.


Nothing else for me to say, and so I’ll close, but by the way, everybody’s thinking of you.” I looked into his eyes. “P.S. I love you.”


“Come dance with me?”


I glanced behind me at the bassist, and he grinned. “I got it covered, man.”


“Thanks.” I handed the microphone to the M.C., stepped down, and pulled Theo into my arms. “Just for this dance,” I whispered in his ear, “I’m going to lead.”




After Gram and Gramps had made the first slice into their cake, Theo and I took a couple of plates and made ourselves comfortable at their table.


“So where are you going on your honeymoon?”


“We know a little place in Key West,” Theo said. We’d gone there on my vacation last August, and we’d had a blast.


“Are you two going anywhere?”


“Home to bed,” Gramps teased, and he offered a forkful of cake to Gram.


“You saucy devil.” She blushed and let him feed it to her.


I leaned close to Theo and whispered, “You and me, babe, in seventy years.”


“I’ll be ninety-eight, babe.”


“Well, you’ve seen my Gramps. We Mathesons are very long-lived.”


“But I’m not a Matheson.”


“Let me put it this way. No matter how long you live, I intend to live one day less, so I never have to live without you.”


“Is that Winnie the Pooh?”


“Kind of.”


“You’re going to be the best dad!” He turned to my grandparents. “Bill, Elaine, if you’ll excuse us a minute?”


I looked at him in surprise, and then grinned as he closed his hands on my shoulders, pulled me to my feet, and kissed me.


“Hey!” Patrick yelled. “No one tapped a glass!


Theo raised his head. “I thought that was your job.”


“Um… yes?”


“Then get busy!”




Our cake came out, a six-foot tiered beauty with two grooms on the top. I hadn’t been sure the baker would agree to that, but he’d been surprisingly cooperative. The shortcake was covered with whipped cream, and the filling was strawberries. I took the knife, Theo covered my hand with his, and we made the first cut and then fed each other.


Taking our plates, we began to make the rounds, pausing at each table to thank relatives and friends for joining us. Mr. Vincent and his plus one were at the same table we’d put Paul and Spike, and I studiously avoided looking in Mr. Mann’s direction. At Raphael’s on New Year’s Eve, Mr. Vincent had indicated he was playing some kind of deep game with the CIA spook. It wasn’t my business that they still seemed to be involved, and judging by the way Mr. Mann had his arm draped over the back of Mr. Vincent’s chair, a proprietary aspect had at some point entered their involvement.


Okay, Matheson, not your business!


I nodded at him and Mr. Vincent and went around the table to where Paul and Spike sat. I grinned at Spike.


“So when do the Oscar nominations come out?”

“Ah, Wills.” He blushed. He’d had a small part as ‘first teen to be killed’ in the teen slasher flick, In the Dark of the Night. I’d seen my share of those movies when I’d been in high school—they made a perfect excuse to slip my arm around my date’s shoulders. Cindy might not like to kiss me, but she appreciated being able to huddle against me.


Everything old was new again, and that genre seemed to be making another comeback.


“But you know what?” Paul asked. “You’re not far off! They liked his work so much he’d going to be in the sequel!”


“Won’t the audience recognize him? Oh, wait! He’s going to play his twin brother!”


“Did you see the script?” Spike demanded suspiciously, and I burst into laughter.


“They really are? That was a joke, like Ripley coming back as a clone in the fourth Alien movie!” Only she really did, and it seemed Spike would too. “Well, congratulations!”


“Thanks, Wills.” Spike seemed to have gained more confidence over the course of the year he and Paul had lived in L.A. He also let his hair grow out to its natural color—auburn—and I was kind of surprised Theo hadn’t gotten upset by it. Maybe he was just so used to Spike as a part of the family that he didn’t notice.


Or maybe he finally realized I had no intention of leaving him for anyone—blond, brunet, redhead—ever


“Wills, is your Mom all right?” Paul asked.


“Hmm?” I didn’t bother to correct him that she was actually my stepmom. It didn’t make that much of a difference.


I followed his glance to where Dad had his arm around her and was leading her back to their table from the dance floor. Her hand was on the small of her back, and I could see she looked uncomfortable.


“She’s not due for another two weeks.”


“Do you mind if I go talk to her?”


I frowned at him. “Why would I mind?”


He flushed. “You know what I used to be.”


“Yeah, so?”


“It doesn’t bother you?”


“Don’t be such an asshole. Have you met my parents? Come on, I’ll introduce you, and you can ask subtle questions. She loves to dance, but for the last hour or so…. Do you think she could be in labor?”


“Two weeks before, two weeks after.”


“Uh… okay. Excuse me, please,” I addressed the rest of the table.


“Wills?” Theo looked mildly curious.


“I’m going to introduce Paul to my Dad and Jill.”


He raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything, turning back to quiz Mr. Mann. “So, how did you and Vince meet?”


I didn’t know if I should drag Theo out of there, but Mr. Vincent’s grin wasn’t the expression that made people want to run for cover, so I decided to keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.


Paul followed me to my family’s table, which was empty except for Dad and Jill. Marti was dancing with Pat, and JR was twirling around the floor with Acacia, Theo’s sister. He looked enraptured. His first older woman.


“Dad, Jill, this is Paul, who used to be Theo’s roommate.”


“It’s so nice to meet you, Paul….”


He nodded but stared intently at Jill. “Mrs. Matheson, please forgive me for asking, but are you feeling all right?”


“He’s in labor and delivery,” I explained.


“Are you really? Well, that’s very good to know.” She smiled at him, although there was a little tension around her mouth. “My water just broke, and I believe this baby is going to be born very soon.”


What?” Dad turned green.


I pulled out my cell phone and dialed 9-1-1. “I have a woman who’s about to deliver at the Terryville Inn in Port Jeff. No, I have no idea how far apart the pains are. Paul?”


His hand was on Jill’s abdomen, and he had his eyes on his watch. “Oh, sh—they aren’t going to have time to get here.”


“Have them get here as soon as they can,” I told the dispatcher.


“Is there any place here where we can take your Mom?”


“The ladies lounge has a seating area. There’s a couch…” she bit her lip to stifle a moan.


“Right.” Dad scooped her up and glared around the hall, frazzled. “Where the fuck is it?”


In spite of her discomfort, Jill laughed softly. “That way, darling Jack.” And she pointed him in the right direction.


“Wills, let the catering manager know what’s going on. We’ll need whatever cloths they have—tablecloths, napkins.”


“Got it. And I’ll tell the chef to boil water.” Now why did that make him start laughing?




The paramedics arrived just after Jill delivered Peter William. Fortunately the birth wasn’t complicated. Paul cut the umbilical cord with the manager’s scissors, which had been sterilized in the boiling water, and then wrapped the baby in one of the smaller tablecloths.


“Mr. Matheson, you can ride up front with me,” one of the paramedics said to my Dad. “We’ll be going to John T. Mather.”


“I’m sorry to have disrupted your wedding, sweetie,” Jill said. Her gorgeous hairstyle was down in sweaty tangles.


“Don’t worry about it. It gives me and Theo the perfect excuse to leave early. We’ll see you in the hospital as soon as they’ll let us.”


“I’m getting a vasectomy.” Dad was looking shell-shocked. “I can’t do this again.”


I hugged him. “Go on, Dad. We’ll follow you as soon as we let everyone know what’s happened.”


Surprisingly, no one had realized what was going on in the ladies lounge.


Theo grinned up at me from where he sat at Mr. Vincent’s table. “Where were you, babe?” He noticed the smear of red on my shirt, and his eyes narrowed. I’d shed my tux jacket and rolled up my sleeves, prepared to help Paul in any way I could. Dad was so concerned about Jill that I held Peter William while Paul cut the umbilical cord, which was how I got the blood on my shirt. “Is everything okay?”


“Everything is fine. Congratulations. You’re a brother-in-law.”


“What?” Theo bounced out of his chair and came to me.


“Jill just had the baby.”


His jaw dropped, but then a slow grin curled his lips. “Do you know what that means?”


“Yeah, what I said.”


“What time is it?”


I looked at my watch. “It’s almost eleven.”


He bumped my shoulder and began singing, “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. His birthday is your birthday too.


It was my turn for my jaw to drop. “You’re right!”  


Mr. Vincent gave a huff of laughter. “This party is becoming too exciting for me. I’m going to say goodnight.”


“Goodnight, Mr. Vincent. Thank you so much for being part of our day. And… uh… thank you too, Mr. Mann.”


“I enjoyed it very much. Thank you for allowing me to attend,” Mr. Mann said. Okay, maybe I could understand why Mr. Vincent kept him around. That voice….


But I still breathed a sigh of relief as they left. “Where are Jar and Marti?” I asked Theo. “I have to tell them.”


“Marti’s dancing with one of the cousins, I think…” There were so many I wasn’t surprised he couldn’t tell them apart. “… and JR is still dancing with my sister.”


“It’s too bad her boyfriend changed his mind about coming.”


“Yeah, well, after pulling a stunt like that at the last minute, I have a feeling he won’t be her boyfriend for much longer.”


“Your father likes him.”


“It doesn’t matter.” He looked around. “Pat’s dancing with Spike.”


“Should we worry?”


“I don’t think so. If Spike can deal with Hollywood, he can deal with Pat. Come on.”


We crossed the floor to Marti, and as she danced with the older of Harry and Brynn’s twins, I leaned down and whispered, “Mom had the baby. They’re fine, but as soon as I let Jar and Pat know, and everyone else, we’ll be leaving for the hospital.”


She gave a squeak of excitement. “Can I tell too?”




“Come on, Davy! Let’s find Gram and Gramps! Then we’ll tell your mom and dad!” She took off, dragging her cousin along with her.


We found JR and Acacia. “What was that about?” he asked, nodding toward his sister.


“Mom had the baby. They’re both fine,” I repeated, “and we’ll go to the hospital soon.”


“I’ll tell Pat!”


“Thanks. I’m going to make a general announcement now.”


He squeezed my arm. “I’m not the younger brother anymore!”


“No, I guess you’re not.”


“I missed so much.” Theo watched as JR darted away into the crowd, leaving Acacia standing there with a bemused look on her face. He patted her shoulder. “Would you like to come too, Casey?”


“I’d… I think Momma and Poppa will want to go to our hotel.”


“Okay. We’ll see you tomorrow before you leave.”


We went to the M.C., and I gestured for him to lean down. “I need to make an announcement.”


“That you’re leaving?” He grinned at me. “You’re supposed to slip out without telling anyone.”


“Things are always done a little differently in my family.”


He raised an eyebrow, but handed me the mic and signaled the band to stop playing and then for the drummer to play a flourish.


“Ladies and gentlemen. Dear family and friends. Theo and I are leaving.”


There were hoots and catcalls.


“JR, Marti, and Pat are going with us.”


That brought even more raucous responses.


“God, you people are sick!”


“But you love us anyway!” Harry shouted.


“Yes, I do. But no, we’re not taking my siblings to Key West. We’re going to John T. Mather.”


“The hospital?” Harry was suddenly tense. Brynn slid her arm around him.


“Yes. Jill’s been taken there. A little while ago she had her baby.” I found my Uncle Pete and gave him a thumbs up. He’d been thrilled to learn this little boy was going to be named after him. “They’re fine,” I said for the third time. “We’re going to see them. The hall has been rented until midnight, so Theo and I would like you all to stay and enjoy the music and the coffee bar.”


I could have held my breath. The hall emptied out as everyone went for their cars.


“Is this what we can expect with our son, Wills?”


“You bet! It’ll be an adventure, babe.”


He slid his arm around me, and we just stood there for a moment. And then he smiled into my eyes and said, “Yes, I guess it will be.”






It had been a stressful autumn; not only was Wills in and out of DC on the job, but each month that went by with no pregnancy made us feel the pressure more and more. Cathy was out of the country by now, and the supply of ova she’d left us was running low.


“Don’t worry about it, babe,” Wills said. “We’ll just have your baby first.”


But he’d wanted that baby so badly, as a reminder of his mother both for himself and his father, and I couldn’t blame him. Jack Matheson was a good man.




2004 was a busy year for us. We learned in the middle of January that Samantha Nelson, the woman Lexi had found to be our surrogate, was finally pregnant.


Every evening after dinner, Wills would work on the baby’s room. I’d help as much as I could, but mostly I leaned against the doorframe and watched as he laid a new bamboo floor and painted the moon and stars on the ceiling.


I’d always known that Wills wearing a tool belt rang my chimes, but it was a little disconcerting to discover that the sight of paint splatters in his dark brown hair was a turn on. I had those lick me, suck me, fuck me jeans down around his knees and him up against the wall before he realized what I intended.


By this point I knew well enough that if he didn’t want any of this, he could physically take me apart. I loved that he let me manhandle him.


God, I loved kissing him, and while I fed off his mouth, I curled the fingers of one hand around his hip and worked our cocks with my other hand.


So sue me; I just happened to have lube in my pocket.




We’d prepared one of the spare bedrooms for Sam, and she moved in. She never really became part of the family, but maybe that was as it should be, given the situation. However, she didn’t turn her nose up at the ladies downstairs, and they liked her for what she was doing for us. Even Miss Su got along with her.


We joined Sam at every appointment with Dr. Hung, her obstetrician. There was no way I was going to say a word about that name, especially since Dr. Hung was a petite woman of Chinese extraction.


And when Sam went for her first sonogram, we had the tech print out extra images so we each had one to carry in our wallets as well as mailing them to the families.


Ma and Poppa were ambivalent about the coming baby, but Acacia was thrilled to be an aunt.




“I want to name our son Teodore William,” Wills said one night when we were in bed.


“But I thought the first son was named after both grandparents.”


“Eryx John? Sorry, babe. I don’t think so.”


“What about John Eryx?”


“There are a lot of Johns in my family. They’d wind up calling him Wills’-and-Theo’s-John.”


“That is a mouthful.”


“I knew you’d agree. We’ll just start our own tradition.”


“So Teodore William it is?”


“You bet!”


I was so grateful he’d even consider adding my name to our son’s that right then I’d have given him anything he wanted, and I told him that.


“I have everything I want, babe. I’ve got you.”


After hearing that, what could I do? I pulled him under me, and I fucked him through the mattress.




For our first wedding anniversary, Wills surprised me with a trip to Cambridge. Massachusetts had recognized same-sex marriages that past May. With the help of the company he worked for, we were able to be legally married.




At four in the morning on October 11, Sam knocked on our bedroom door. “It’s time, guys.”


How could Wills be so calm? He drove his Dodge with his usual competent care and with just the amount of speed that he caught every green light.


They hustled Sam away and escorted Wills to a room where he could change, but they stopped me.


“But….” They weren’t going to let me in the delivery room with Wills and Sam? I stood there in the corridor at a loss.


“What’s going on, Theo?” Wills asked as he came back out. He was dressed in scrubs with those paper booties on his feet and a shower cap on his head.


“Only family is allowed.” One of the nurses curled her lip at me.


“You don’t understand,” Wills said as Sam was wheeled into the room. “Theo is family. He’s this baby’s other father.”


“That’s disgusting,” she sneered.


“Is it.” And Wills wasn’t asking a question. He was challenging her. He got a stone cold look on his face and made a phone call. Ten minutes later the nurse, her mouth in a pinched line, ushered me into a room where I could change into blue scrubs. “Sterilize yourself,” she snapped.


“Excuse me?”


She nodded toward a sink. “Use the disinfectant soap and scrub your hands for five minutes.”


The witch. Couldn’t she have said that to begin with?


When I was finally ready, another nurse led me in. After a single, horrified glance at Sam, with her legs in the stirrups, I swallowed and wondered if this had been a good idea.


“Where would you like to stand, Mr. Bascopolis?” At least she knew my name.


“Um… I think next to Sam’s head?” She was going to need support.


“Certainly. You can help her when she needs to push.”


Okay, I could do that. We’d gone to the natural childbirth classes, and Sam and I had practiced during the day while Wills was at work.


Wills was at the foot of the bed, filming.


I realized something at that moment. My lover, my husband—the man I intended to spend the rest of my life with—was out of his fucking mind! Who would want to watch that?”


I pushed that thought from my mind, took Sam’s hand, and patted it. “Soon now, Sam.”


“You know something I don’t?” she snarled.


This was also something they’d told us about in those classes. I didn’t take it personally. Much.


“All right, Sam.” Dr. Hung peered over the sheet that covered the bulge of Sam’s belly. “You can start pushing now.”


“Thank fucking god!” Sam’s nails dug into my hand as she reared up, tucked her chin to her chest, and began to push.


Either Dr. Hung was a liar or Teodore William was in no rush to enter this world. It was another hour before Dr. Hung had Wills catch him and put him on Sam’s abdomen.


“It’s a boy. No surprise there.” Dr. Hung looked up and smiled. “We’ll give it a minute or so to stop pulsing, but would you like to cut the cord, Mr. Bascopolis?”


I looked from the scissors to our son to the pulsing cord. My head was nodding while my brain was screaming, Are you out of your fucking mind? My feet weren’t listening to my brain either. They took a step toward the bottom of the bed. My stupid hand reached for the scissors.


And that was the last thing I remembered.