CHAPTER FOUR Lucas Fairborne: *Sitting at his desk as he waited for his next appointment, he glanced at his watch

restlessly. They were late as always. Standing, he walked around the desk towards his bookshelf, where a single picture frame sat. Steve's smiling face looking back at him from the deserts of Afghanistan.* Lucas Fairbourne: *He let his finger trace the photo, a sad smile forming on his face as he remembered. Guilt filled him as he thought about the kiss he had shared with the near-stranger last night. It was the first time he had allowed himself to touch another man since Steve had gone. He struggled with the emotions this brought to him. Not only had he kissed another, he had kissed someone he hardly knew. Someone he most likely would never see again. Turning away from the photo, he wandered back towards his desk, thinking about the dark man who had come into his life in such an odd way. Kieran, Kieran Teague. What was it about him that had forced Lucas to drop his defenses and give in to emotions he had not allowed himself to feel in such a long time. Sitting back down in his chair, he pinched the bridge of his nose. He could not see him again, could not allow himself to lose control like that again. He glanced up at the photo across the room from him one last time as the knock came at his door. His patient had finally arrived.*

Kieran Teague: *In the mood for something a little different, Kieran put in the soundtrack for Lord of the Rings before heading into his library. His fingers trailed over the spines of the books, but he didn't really see the titles. He was lost in thought. Lucas had not called him, yet.* Kieran Teague: *Kieran had spent two more nights watching Lucas. Two nights since he'd kissed the man. Closing his eyes at the wave of butterflies that whipped through him at the memory, Kieran gave up looking for a book to read. He couldn't sleep. Wandering into his kitchen, he pulled out a countertop full of ingredients and spent the next hour-and-a-half throwing together a batch of almond biscotti. For some insane reason, he thought he could make up some excuse to take half the crunchy cookies to Lucas...until he remembered that he wasn't supposed to know where he lived. ::UGH:: Picking up one of the warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven bars, Kieran paced from the kitchen, back to the library, into the living room. The heavy opaque drapes kept out the light, but he wished it was night so he could get out of the confines of his home and back to Lucas's penthouse, where he could at least see the human.* Kieran Teague: *::That kiss:: God, Kieran had never felt anything like this. He'd been mated centuries ago – well, he'd had a wife. He’d never considered her a mate. Never had he felt such feelings for her as he did for Lucas. He'd never wanted to kiss her like he wanted to kiss Lucas. In all the countless trysts he'd had...all the males and females he'd taken...none had captivated his mind and heart like this. Kieran felt drugged...completely enraptured. Lucas was like opium. Kieran remembered opium from his time in China a few centuries ago. An addictive drug, Kieran had indulged and enjoyed before kicking the habit a short time later. Somehow, Kieran didn't think Lucas was a habit he'd want to kick anytime soon.* Kieran Teague: *Eating the last bite of the biscotti, Kieran decided one more time to get some sleep and hit the stairs to his basement bedroom. Entering the museum worthy room of antiques, he changed into blackwatch, flannel pajama pants before taking off his shirt. He caught his reflection in the mirror and stopped. The swirls and patterns of ink were easy for him to read. His eyes picked out the warnings: ::betrayer; violent; contemptuous; be warned, herein lies the heart of one who is unfaithful, seeped in violence, who respects no other but his selfishness. He is banished from the clan of Mother Ireland for crimes committed against his fellows, his mate, and his leader. Befriend at your own peril:: That was the

loose translation of the markings tattooed all over his chest, stomach, shoulders, arms, and back. He swallowed the lump that formed in his throat. How would Lucas be able to accept someone like him, marked as he was with such vile words and warnings? Pulling his shirt back on to cover the patterns of ink, he didn't care how warm it was. He couldn't stomach seeing the tattoos...couldn't bear having them revealed, even if no one was here to see them. Pulling back the covers, Kieran slid into bed, tucking his face into his pillow. ::I will not cry. I will not let this hurt me.:: It was a mantra he repeated often after slipping and seeing his reflection. And, as always, it failed as a lone tear slipped from his eye.*

THAT NIGHT: Lucas Fairbourne: *He stared at the clock as he fought for sleep. His mind was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. He could not get the memory of the kiss with Kieran out of his mind. He licked his lips as if he could still taste the man on them. Tossing his pillow over, he rolled to his stomach trying to force sleep to come.*

THE FOLLOWING DAY: Lucas Fairbourne: *His last appointment for the day had just called to cancel, meaning he had one more patient to see and he could cut out early. His fingers caressed over his phone as he thought about Kieran. He had seemed genuinely interested in hitting the gym with him. * Lucas Fairbourne: *Staring at the number that Kieran had entered into his phone he debated whether he should call or not. Did he want to see him again, explore the emotions the man brought forth in him? He glanced across the office once more to the picture of Steve that stared back at him. Was he ready to move on? He could almost hear Steve telling him to call. Laughing at himself, he hit the call button on his phone and listened to the ring as he fought back the nervousness and waited to see if Kieran would answer.* Kieran Teague: *The electronic chiming of his phone awoke Kieran. Few had his number, and those who did had a purpose to call him, so he immediately sat up, half-alert, and grabbed it off the small square table that served as his night stand. He didn't recognize the number off-hand, but that didn't make a difference. Whoever was calling had HIS number. Rubbing his palm over his face, he thumbed the answer icon on the phone's screen and brought it to his ear.* Kieran. *His deep voice held sleepy gravel and he cleared his throat and coughed.* Lucas Fairbourne: *The simple sound of Kieran's voice had his pulse racing. The dark raspy voice sounded as if he had just woken and he frowned as he glanced at the clock seeing it was almost four in the afternoon.* Kieran, it's Lucas, Lucas Fairbourne. We met the other night when you were jogging. *He pushed out of his chair and started to pace across the floor nervously.* Kieran Teague: *Kieran had been in the process of snagging his watch off the little table to check the time when Lucas started speaking. Eyes shooting open, fully awake, Kieran's heart skipped a beat.* Lucas. Hi. Yeah...yeah, I remember. *How could he forget? Standing, he started upstairs where he could get better reception, slipping on his watch as he looked and saw it was just before four o'clock.* How

are you? Is everything all right? *It was his first reaction to ask about his welfare. He didn't know why, though, because it was too early for Searcy to be able to get to him.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Going to the window, he looked out over the street two stories below.* I am well. *He cleared his throat, trying to hide the nervousness he felt.* I am sorry to bother you but, well you mentioned you might like to hit the gym with me sometime, perhaps do a few rounds in the ring and, well, I was wondering if you would like to meet tonight? If you have no other plans, of course. *He closed his eyes at the sound of his voice. It had been a long time since he had asked anyone out, even if it was just to the gym.* Kieran Teague: *Smiling while he started the water for his tea, Kieran looked at the platter of biscotti he'd made earlier that morning.* You're not bothering me at all, Lucas. I'm glad you called. *Grabbing his tin of loose tea leaves out of the cabinet, he popped the top.* What time should I be there? *He already knew the gym's location, but suddenly remembered he wasn't SUPPOSED to know.* Oh, and uh...where? Which gym? *God help him, but his body responded just at the sound of the man's voice, his skin warming, his heart beating faster...his nether regions growing tight.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Leaning against the window, he shoved one hand in his pocket, fidgeting with the change nervously.* I have one more appointment here and then a meeting I must attend. *He calculated the time the meeting would take.* I should be at the gym by seven and will be there for a couple hours. *He rattled off the address just down the street from his penthouse.* I understand if you can't make it on short notice. *Hoping that he could make it but already making plans to ask him to dinner another night if he could not.* Kieran Teague: *The sun wouldn't be set by 7:00, but he might be able to make it there by 8:30, especially if it was a cloudy night and the clouds obscured the last rays of sun at twilight.* I'm there. I might be a little closer to 8:30, but I'll swing by. *Grabbing a mug out of the cupboard, he stood by the stove, waiting for the water to boil, trying hard to contain his enthusiasm.* You're not gonna kick my ass, are you? *Kieran couldn't help himself. The flirting came easily with Lucas.* Lucas Fairbourne: *A smile played across his face as he remembered the force that Kieran had knocked him down with.* I will do my best to try. You will not catch me off guard as you did the other night. No Chinese to spill this time. Will be a fair fight. *Boxing was one of the things he knew, was comfortable with and knew he stood a good chance of holding his own.* You don’t think I can? Kieran Teague: *Arching an eyebrow at the male's question, Kieran chuckled - a dark, throaty sound.* Maybe I'll let you beat me, Lucas. Force you to feel guilty enough to buy me dinner. *The smile that spread over his face touched his voice as he leaned back comfortably against the counter, an ease washing over him. A sense of serenity that had evaded him early. Whereas he'd been restless and tense hours before, he was now relaxed. Just the sound of Lucas's voice had done that to him.* Lucas Fairbourne: *His pulse skipped at the thought of another dinner with him.* I would enjoy that. *He wondered if Kieran would be willing to get something to eat with him after the gym, even debated inviting him back to his place for leftover stew but figured it would be rude to feed him leftovers on a first date. Date. His mind hesitated on the word, but that was what this was, wasn't it? Or was it just two friends meeting at the gym. That damn kiss had him questioning everything.* Maybe we could grab something after the gym if you feel like it?

Kieran Teague: *The smile widened as he crossed his arm over his torso, just under his chest.* Are you asking me out, Lucas? *His voice was teasing, flirty, deep and sexy. Kieran had no control over it. He found himself easily and playfully sliding down the slope toward Lucas, momentarily forgetting that he was supposed to be guarding Lucas, not dating him...not kissing him...not, well, doing anything else that might happen with him. Then again, wouldn't it be easier to guard Lucas if he was around him...by him...WITH him?* Lucas Fairbourne: *Feeling the blush work up his neck, he rubbed his palm over the back of his neck and smiled.* I guess I am. I enjoyed our dinner the other night, the conversation. I would enjoy getting to know you better. We both have to eat right? I know it will be late by the time we leave the gym, if you would rather wait for another night to go out to eat that would be fine. *He bit his lip to stop his rambling. God what he must sound like? Shaking his head at how nervous he sounded to himself.* Kieran Teague: *Kieran thought Lucas sounded sexy being all nervous and rambling on like he was. He could almost see the man biting his lip or running his hand through that close-cropped hair of his. Deep down, Kieran knew he was walking a dangerous line. Get too involved with Lucas, and he could risk the man's life by losing touch with his reason for knowing him in the first place: to protect him from Searcy. But, on the other hand, to not get involved with Lucas seemed to go against his very nature. Something inside him demanded to know Lucas better. Kieran swore to himself he could maintain the balance between duty and desire.* No, tonight would be fine. It won't be too late for me to eat if it's not too late for you. I'm sort of a night person, anyway. Lucas Fairbourne: *The relief that flowed through him caught him off guard, enough that it made him once more question if he was doing the right thing in pursuing Kieran. He glanced once more at the photo of Steve on the bookcase and swallowed the lump that formed in his throat.* Then dinner it is. Okay, I need to meet my next patient but I will look forward to seeing you at the gym, I will be by the boxing ring somewhere when you arrive. *Fighting back the excitement that he felt at seeing him again.* Thanks Kieran. Kieran Teague: I can't wait. Thanks for inviting me. See you then, Lucas. *He disconnected and stood, looking wistfully at a whole lot of empty space, but by the way he was grinning like a kid at Christmas, you'd have thought Lucas was right in front of him. Suddenly, he realized his water was boiling away. Starting, he jumped up and set his phone on the counter, grabbing the pan and pouring the water into his teapot, nestling the tea ball through the opening so the tea could steep. No way he was going back to sleep now. He was much too excited. Grabbing a sliver of biscotti, he loaded the tea, his cup, the biscotti, and the dogs' breakfast on a tray and carried it back downstairs. After feeding Zeus and Apollo, he took a quick shower before returning to his room to sit, a towel around his waist, and drink his tea and eat, flipping through yesterday's paper while he did. Not like he could concentrate. Was it fucking 8:30, yet?* Lucas Fairbourne: *He tossed his phone in the top drawer of his desk after muting it and tried to turn his attention to the file on his desk, a young female who had been having signs of multiple personality. As he read over the notes he had made from the previous meetings, his mind kept focusing back to Kieran. He knew so little of the male, wanted to learn everything about him. He wondered where he lived, what foods he enjoyed, what he looked like naked. *He laughed out loud at the last thought. He really needed to focus, get his mind off Kieran and back on work. As the knock of his patient’s arrival came on his door he glanced once more at the picture of Steve across the room and whispered softly.* I hope I know what I am doing.

LATER Kieran Teague: *Kieran didn't own boxing shoes, so he hoped cross-trainers would suffice. Hitting his wardrobe, he pulled out a red, long-sleeved T-shirt and slipped it over his head, pulling it down over his arms and torso to hide his tattoos. He only wore high-collar shirts because his tattoos came up to his collar bones. He needed the high collars to cover them. Putting on a pair of black, nylon shorts, he grabbed his gym bag, which held a pair of khaki cargo pants and combat boots, and his blade, as well as a sweatshirt. Clothes to change into for his nightly balcony watch, which was becoming less annoying now that he was growing closer to Lucas. Checking his watch - 8:20 - he bade the dogs a cheerful farewell... * See you guys in the morning. Be good. *...he headed out. Just the faintest bit of sunlight tried to break through the overcast skies. He squinted against the light which wouldn't have even caused a human to take notice, then slipped on his sunglasses. His skin prickled, but he knew it was late enough that he'd be okay. He was an ancient...a bit more tolerant to the late day and early morning sunlight than younger vampires of his line. Hitting the shadows, then the rooftops, he ventured into the city before jumping to the pavement of the alley near the gym.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Sweat dripped down his back as he went another round with one of the old-timers he had met several years back when he started coming here to box. The older man had talent and he knew if he was not careful he would be planted on his butt in the middle of the ring. He dodged a jab and let go with a left and then a right as he tried to hold his own. His body hummed with adrenaline. He had completely forgotten about watching for Kieran as he danced around the ring, his focus on the fight. He lived for this. Loved the rush boxing brought him, not to mention the workout he got from it. Taking a punch to the side, he stepped back and then went back in for another attack.* Kieran Teague: *Entering the gym, Kieran took off his sunglasses and paid a visitor's fee and got a special pass from the clerk, then headed in, following Lucas's scent. He'd been able to pick it out easily from all the rest as soon as he'd entered. Toward the back, he saw Lucas in a mock boxing ring, working it up with an older gentleman. Heading back, he felt his body go dark with desire at the sheen of sweat coating Lucas's skin...at the thick muscles of his arms as he jabbed at his opponent. Dropping his gym bag by the ring, he hoisted himself up in the corner behind Lucas, unsure if he should speak up or just enjoy the show.* Lucas Fairbourne: *His fist made contact, he had learned a long time ago not to hold back just because his sparring partner was older. He had his ass kicked more than once by trying to go easy on an older boxer. He gave all he had to every fight now. His feet shuffled and he threw another jab before taking another hit in the side. He circled the man as he looked for an opening, keeping his gloves up and ready for anything. He was about to throw another punch when he caught sight of Kieran out of the corner of his eyes. That was all the distraction his partner needed to throw a solid punch and get him in the side of the jaw. Flying back into the ropes, he cursed himself for losing his focus.* Kieran Teague: *Kieran leapt over the wires, shaking his head at Lucas.* Am I gonna have to teach you not to get distracted during a fight, Lucas? *He nodded at the older gentleman, who grinned and nodded back, taking it as his cue that he was dismissed. After throwing a nod at Lucas, the older man gave an "I'll be seeing you, youngster" and headed out of the ring. As Kieran knelt beside Lucas, the sight of blood on his lips made his stomach clench. The old man's punch had split Lucas's lip...not much, just a small fissure. Before he could stop himself, Kieran bent down and licked the wound, sealing it while getting a taste of what he'd been longing for. Suddenly realizing what he'd done, he pulled back.*

Oh...um...sorry. *He swiped his hand haphazardly over his mouth, hoping none of the man's blood had gotten on him. God, that would have looked bad. Real bad.* Lucas Fairbourne: *His body froze, as he felt Kieran's tongue run over his lip. Not a kiss but a soft swipe of his tongue over his lips. He had never experienced such a thing, and he liked it. He liked that it was sudden and unexpected. He fought the urge to reach up and pull his mouth back against his own. Trying to focus from the high that the lick had left he smiled.* Hey, glad you could make it. *He brought his hand to his lip, gently touching it as he looked to see if it was bleeding. He could have sworn he had felt his lip tear but there was no sign of injury other than the soreness. He took the hand that Kieran offered and let himself be pulled from the mat.* I promise I am a better boxer than that. Takes something important to distract me that way. *He gave a pointed stare at Kieran.* Kieran Teague: *The way Lucas looked at him then...and the words he used...warmed Kieran's heart. No one had ever referred to him as "important." A scoundrel, a philanderer, a disrespectful cuss. Now, those were words that had been used to describe him, but never "important."* Well, since you put it that way...I'm glad I distracted you. *Smiling, he finally let go of Lucas's hand.* Okay, so...I guess I should tape up my hands, huh? *He saw the tape sitting by the ring.* And I'm assuming they've got boxing gloves somewhere that I can use? I'm a little worried because I can tell those are your own gloves.* Kieran nodded to the ones Lucas was wearing. They didn't look like the kind of equipment on loan from the gym...and, well, they smelled like Lucas and no one else. The only hands that had been in those gloves had been his. Which meant they belong to him.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Nodding to the equipment over by the wall.* You can use the gloves over there, I have an extra pair but I don't think they will fit your hand. *He took off one of his gloves and held up his hand against Kieran's much larger one. His mind suddenly flashing back to the handprint on his window for some reason. Pushing the thought back, he stepped from the ring.* Do you need help taping up? *He watched as Kieran's long legs stepped through the ropes.* Oh and you might want to take off the long-sleeved shirt, gets pretty hot in here. Kieran Teague: *Stiffening, Kieran refused to meet Lucas's eyes as he half-glanced back over his shoulder. There was no way he was taking off his shirt. No fucking way. The very thought made his stomach lurch.* Uh...no...I, uh...I was burned when I was younger. I've got scars... *he sort of gestured at his torso and arms* ...I'll be fine. I'm used to it by now. *God, he hated lying...but, in a way, he wasn't. The ink had burned into his skin like a branding iron, leaving black patterns behind over his skin. Looking back at Lucas and seeing compassion in his eyes, he changed the subject.* But yeah, I could use a hand wrapping my hands. Sure. *He sat down and grabbed a roll of tape.* Lucas Fairbourne: *He felt his stomach tighten at the thought that he was scarred, and scarred enough that the otherwise secure man would not remove his shirt. He wanted to ask what had happened but could tell that Kieran was uncomfortable discussing it. Reaching out he took the tape from Kieran's hand, letting his fingers linger over Kieran's a few moments longer than he should have. Lifting his leg up onto the bench he used it to support Kieran's arm as he started to tape his hand.* So, did you have a good day? You sounded like I might have awakened you when I called. Kieran Teague: *Kieran was grateful that Lucas let the matter about his...uh...scars die.* I work mostly at night so I sleep during the day. So, yeah, I was sleeping, but I needed to get up, anyway. *He remembered the bag of biscotti he'd packed in his gym bag.* Oh, and I've got a little something for you. Had trouble sleeping today so I whipped up a batch of almond biscotti. I hope you like almonds, because

I brought you some of it. *He watched Lucas finish with one hand and go to work taping up the other.* It'd make a nice treat later. Lucas Fairbourne: *His mouth watered at the thought.* Biscotti? I have not had that in so long. *His admiration for the man before him was growing by the minute.* I would love to try some. *He debated on asking him back to his place and going with the leftover stew, even if it was not proper to do for a first official date.* I love almonds. *He worked his fingers and tape over his hand without even having to think about it. Once done, still holding his hand in his,* So that is what you do when you cannot sleep? Bake? *His eyes held a teasing gleam.* Kieran Teague: *Throwing his head back in laughter, his long, dark hair fell off his face. Laughter. When was the last time he'd truly laughed like this? Bringing his face back to look at Lucas, he didn't even try to take his hand away. It felt good under Lucas's. Still chuckling, he nodded his head to the side.* Among other things, yes, I bake. I cook. *he sighed, almost with embarrassment* I also listen to classical music today it was the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. And I read, but couldn't find anything in my library today that interested me. I also pace a lot. Pacing works. *He grinned* Drives the dogs nuts, but it helps me. But, yeah, today it was baking. Am I a Nancy now? *He shrugged helplessly.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Laughing.* No, I would not call you a Nancy, at least not right before I step in the ring with you. *He finally let go of his hand after a soft trace of his fingers over his.* Dogs hmm? What kind and how many? *He turned and pulled his gloves back on.* I had a dog growing up but have not had time for one since I work so much here. I miss having one around. *He leaned against the ring as he watched Kieran find a pair of gloves that would fit.* Good to know you’re a dog lover, says a lot about your personality. Kieran Teague: I've always had dogs. Love 'em *He slipped on a pair of gloves that fit him, then got back in the ring.* Right now I've got two. Boxers... *he gestured to the ring* ...fittingly enough. A brother and sister. I named them Zeus and Apollo. And, yeah, yeah, I know that Apollo's not a female name, but it's the one she liked, so...my lady's named Apollo. *Clapping his gloves together, he got all serious.* Okay, old man. Let's see what you've got. *He chuckled at calling him an old man. As if he was one to talk.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Pushing off from the ropes he stepped to the center of the ring. He was always careful with a new partner, not knowing what level of fighter they were. He could tell right away that Kieran knew what he was doing, though. They danced around each other, both with playful smiles on their faces.* You said you had not boxed before but… *ducks a jab.* I can tell that you know what you are doing. *He threw a left, missing and then a quick right, making contact but barely.* Kieran Teague: *Okay, so Kieran was taking it easy on Lucas...letting the guy get a few hits. It wouldn't have taken much for Kieran to wipe the floor with the human, but this was way more fun.* Well, maybe I've never boxed, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last night. *Lucas stopped and frowned at him quizzically* Oh, come on! Haven't you seen those commercials on TV? Shit, I don't even watch that much TV and I've even seen them. You've seen them, right? *Kieran fell out of stance and stood up, lowering his gloves.* The guy who walks into the middle of a surgery and starts rattling off medical procedures and the nurse says 'Gosh, you saved him, are you a doctor?' and the guy says, 'No, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last night.' *Kieran stood waiting for some bit of recognition on Lucas's face, but...nothing. He got nothing.* Fuck me. You haven't seen those commercials, have you? *He just stood there, arms down, exasperated expression on his face.*

Lucas Fairbourne: *He had seen the commercial's he just could not believe that Kieran was trying to use the line on him. He fought to keep the corners of his mouth from raising up and failed as laughter erupted from him and he stepped forward, throwing a punch, hitting Kieran right in the jaw.* We here to compare soap opera stories or fight? *He started dancing around throwing a few softer jabs at Kieran.* I can't believe you would use that line from some corny commercial. *Shaking his head.* Next you will be telling you love the I-can't-believe-it's-not-butter commercials because you’re a closet Fabio fan. Kieran Teague: Oh, HELL no! *Kieran rubbed at his jaw and easily batted away Lucas's soft jabs* I don't like those commercials for Fabio...I like 'em for that lady dancing around like she's on Broadway. Or is that a different brand of butter? *Kieran didn't wait for an answer and let loose with a cross-jab combo that packed a bit more punch than he'd intended, sending Lucas backward.* Oops, looks like someone didn't eat his Wheaties. *Kieran shrugged playfully, shuffling to the side.* Or, rather, maybe someone did and you're lookin' at him. Lucas Fairbourne: *His eyes flashed up to meet Kieran's and he took a deep breath before jumping back to the center of the ring and bringing all he had. He thrust and jabbed and punched as he dodged and ducked all he could. He took more hits than misses but... his blood raced with excitement at a true fight. This was not someone he had to be gentle with, not one of the new kids to the gym or one of the old timers. He gave full strength blows and Kieran took them like they were nothing. Sweat dripped, his breathing came fast, and his feet moved even faster as he worked to keep up with the much larger and stronger man he was fighting.* Kieran Teague: *Kieran thrived on the physical exertion, enjoyed the way Lucas's eyes seemed to come alive. Kieran wondered how often he got to go up against someone who could give back as well as take a few punches. A small crowd gathered nearby, watching. He in his red, long sleeves and black shorts, Lucas shirtless. Strength emanated from them both, and a couple of women nearby giggled. ::Not interested, I've got what I want right here:: The thought entered his mind out of nowhere as he blocked one of Lucas's punches before dealing the human a body blow against his ribs. ::Shit! That might've been too hard:: He sensed Lucas's pain, but like a trooper, the human didn't let up. Another exchange of punches, and Kieran landed another body blow - same place as before. Lucas winced, shielded his ribs with his arms.* You okay? Too hard? *Kieran pulled up briefly, eyeing Lucas.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Kieran was a hell of a lot stronger than he looked. The force behind his punches was hard and he could tell that he was still holding back. He tried to focus on what kind of career and training he had to have to be so strong and fight so well.* No. *His words came out in pants.* It's good. *He threw another punch while Kieran was more relaxed, catching him under the chin. While the male’s head flew back from the force, he shrugged it off as if it was a slap. Lucas got in a few punches before Kieran was right back on him. His ribs ached and he knew there would be a deep bruise over the spot that he had taken the hits but the pain was worth the fight. This was what he loved, and he was not about to back down.* Kieran Teague: *Hell, Lucas was a tough fucker. And the sparring was heavy-duty. The human was no lightweight. He knew what he was doing. After a short recess -- as if between rounds in a fight --- they got back to it. Fists flew, jabs, upper cuts, ducks and dodges. Kieran was having so much fun that he didn't fully realize the moment that he let loose with his strength. His punches became harder, faster, more fluid. Throwing out another body blow, Lucas visibly cringed.* Oh God! *Kieran rushed forward as Lucas clutched his side and crumpled forward into a crouch, his face pained, although he was trying to

hide it.* Are you okay? Lucas? Shit! *He'd let himself get a little too relaxed...had gotten carried away. Throwing off the gloves, he placed his hand over Lucas's ribs, feeling the heat of pain. He hoped he hadn't broken a rib.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Pain pierced his body and it was all he could do to breath. Each gasp of air sent a new wave of pain through his body.* Feeling Kieran's body beside him he looked up and through gritted teeth he tried to give a weak smile.* It will be okay. *His arm pressed against his ribs as if holding them together. Hell maybe he was. He easily could have a broken rib from the pain that he was feeling. *Gripping Kieran's arm he used it to pull himself up, hissing in pain as he moved the wrong way.* But if you don't mind, I say we call it a night as far as the boxing goes. *He looked around and saw a few staring up at them and he waved them off, as if to tell them he was fine.* I don't think I can take another blow tonight. *He could see the look of worry in Kieran's eyes as he tore off his gloves. Reaching over he placed his hand on Kieran's shoulder as the other arm still cupped his ribs.* It felt good to fight. I would like to do more soon. This is nothing, will heal just fine in a few days. Kieran Teague: *Kieran felt awful. He'd hurt Lucas. It didn't feel broken, but it was badly bruised.* Yeah, I'd say that's a wrap on the boxing. *He tossed the gloves to the side and tore the tape from his hands, then helped Lucas up.* Shit, I keep hurting you. First I run into you, now I practically break your ribs. You sure it's safe to have dinner with me? I mean, I might spill boiling hot soup on you or something. *He tried to make light of the situation, offering a weak smile as he too-tenderly stroked the backs of his fingers over Lucas's cheek. Catching himself, he quickly pulled his hand away.* Lucas Fairbourne: *He wanted to lean into his touch, almost grabbing his hand to return it to his cheek before he forced his hands into fists to keep from doing so.* Not once did you mean to and I was not injured the other day. You were. *He used his teeth to start pulling the tape from his hands and then unwrapped them. Grabbing his gloves he walked with Kieran back into the locker room.* I still would love to have dinner with you, but if you don't mind could we forgo going out and just head back to my place? I have some Irish stew we could heat up and you have dessert right? *he nodded to the bag.* I am not up to really going out right now. *He admitted shamefully.* Kieran Teague: *This had turned out better than he could have imagined. Not that he'd intentionally hurt Lucas to get inside his apartment, but...well...Kieran would take it.* I love Irish stew. I used to make it all the time. *He set his bag down on a bench, suddenly aware that Lucas intended on taking a shower before leaving. Looking around nervously, he didn't want to seem like a prude, but...well, he was NOT going to take his shirt off publicly. Especially not in front of Lucas.* Um... *he pointed toward the back of the locker rooms where the showers were* ...are there private showers? *He looked down at his body, hoping Lucas understood* ...you know...my scars and shit. Lucas Fairbourne: *He shook his head.* No, not private. If you would be more comfortable we can head back to my place and take turns with the shower there? *He wondered how bad the scars must be for him to be so insecure about even a five minute shower at the gym. He could see the pain in Kieran's eyes as he looked towards the showers, followed by relief as Lucas made the offer to let him use his shower.* You can shower while I warm up the stew and then I will catch one after. *He figured it might be best, the thought of trying to get his shirt on and off several times was not one he was looking forward too with the way his ribs felt.* Kieran Teague: *That was better than nothing. Coz no way would he be able to handle showering here.* Okay. That works. *It would still feel awkward, but at least Lucas wouldn't see him.* If you're sure that's

okay. *He followed Lucas out of the locker room, looking forward to sampling some of that stew he'd watched Lucas make the other night...eager to be inside his apartment.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Nodding.* Not a problem at all. *Probably best if I get home and check out my ribs anyway. I don't think they are broken but still need to wrap them I think. *He waved at several of the others as they left the gym and hit the night air.* Where did you learn to fight like that? You were amazing. *He fell into step with him, feeling like he had known Kieran for years, not just a handful of days. He was comfortable enough with him to bring him back to his home and that said a lot.* Kieran Teague: *Not wanting to bring up that whole ex-military thing that had stirred up old memories for Lucas about his deceased boyfriend the other night, Kieran shrugged.* It's my job, remember. *He threw him a crooked smile and a flirty glance.* ...But sometimes I forget that not everyone has the kind of training I've had... *he glanced down at Lucas's side, still pained that he'd hurt him. He wasn't supposed to hurt Lucas. His instincts flared to life with the knowledge that he was supposed to go to great lengths to prevent Lucas from harm, at his hands or another's. But he couldn't figure out why. They walked along easily for a time, and the cool night air felt good.* Tell me about your work, Lucas. I know you work in psychology, and that you obviously enjoy it - I could tell that much from the way you talked about it the other night. What's it like? Getting into people's heads? *Kieran wondered how easily Lucas would be able to work if he could actually get into their minds like Kieran could?* Lucas Fairbourne: I love what I do most the time. *He thought over the patients and work he had done for the last few years.* Some are more troublesome than others. The rape cases or the cases where people have severe issues and think they need to go out and kill others. *He glanced down wishing he had the guts to take Kieran's hand in his as they walked but knew it was way too soon for something like that.* There are times when it is my job to decide if people should be locked up for their own protection. That is a heavy weight on my shoulders. To end someone's freedom is a big deal but if it keeps others safe, maybe even saves lives, then it's for the greater good. Kieran Teague: That's a heavy burden, Lucas. *Kieran's admiration grew as he listened to Lucas describe his work, what he faced day in and day out.* Does it ever follow you home? Your work, I mean. I mean, I've heard stories about how some people can't leave work at the office, but it sounds like your job is one that needs to be left there; otherwise, it would tear you apart. *He could only imagine having to carry all that emotional outpouring around with him all the time. He had enough problems shouldering his own baggage, let alone others'. Lucas's mind had to be powerful and resilient to deal with that all day and still maintain his sense of self...as well as his sanity.* Lucas Fairbourne: For the most part. *He scuffed his feet on the pavement as they walked, thinking about it.* There are those cases that are harder than others. I have one now, a young boy. I bring his case home a lot with me. All the poor kid needs is some attention but they bring him to me instead of taking him to the park to play a game of ball. You know, not every issue comes from your own thoughts, is not programed in how you will be. Especially with the young. Parents are the ones who need to see me before sending the innocent kid in. *He grabbed his key out of his pocket as he hit in the code to enter the building. Once inside he led Kieran to the elevator.* Kieran Teague: *The lobby of the building was nicer than it looked from the outside. Lots of bling, shiny and sparkly. He wondered if someone came through and polished every day. Entering the elevator with Lucas, he caught their reflection in the mirrored door. Kieran stood about four or five inches taller than Lucas, and his long, dark hair contrasted almost perfectly against Lucas's neatly trimmed, lighter hair. He

actually had darker hair than it looked, but the light had a way of catching it so that it looked fairer than it was. He caught Lucas's eye in the reflection.* You're pretty remarkable, *he said out of the blue* Lucas Fairbourne: Me? *He kept his stare forward meeting his eyes in the mirror then turned to look him head on.* What do you mean? *Kieran turned as well, looking down at him as the elevator moved slowly up to the 43rd floor.* I am just another man, trying to do a job and make it in life. Nothing special about me. *He gripped the hand rail with his hand to keep from reaching out and touching Kieran, very aware of how alone they were in the elevator.* Kieran Teague: *If Lucas was holding back to keep from touching him, Kieran wasn't as disciplined. He'd promised that he would keep their relationship less personal, had vowed to keep his mind on the task of guarding him. He'd tried to convince himself that he could be friends with Lucas without needing it to be more than that. But...alone with him in the elevator...he began to wonder whose head he'd been in when he'd made all those promises. Because damn if he didn't want to kiss Lucas right now. The pull was magnetic. Lifting his hand to Lucas's face, he cupped his cheek, slowly caressing his skin with the pad of his thumb.* Nothing special? *Kieran shook his head gently* You're wrong about that, Lucas. Dead wrong. *He lowered his mouth to Lucas's, letting it hover there momentarily as he whispered,* I think you're very special *And then he couldn't stop himself. His mouth found Lucas's in the softest of caresses. A whisper of skin against skin, tentative in a searching kind of way.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Reaching up he wrapped one arm around Kieran, holding him close, not wanting him to pull back from the kiss. His lips were soft and firm and as he started to move his own lips against his he moaned silently at the way his body instantly reacted to his touch. Letting his tongue lick across the seam of his lips he asked for entry, wanting once more to taste the spicy male flavor of him against his own tongue. As Kieran opened to him, he stepped closer so his body was pressed flush against his. Not caring if he could feel his growing hardness against him.* Kieran Teague: *It was obvious Lucas's body was reacting to their kiss. And so was Kieran's. Opening his mouth, he let the tip of his tongue meet Lucas's, barely moving, barely breathing. The subtle moans coming from Lucas were erotic as hell and Kieran dropped his bag so he could slide both arms loosely around him, being careful with the bruised side of Lucas's body as he caressed softly up and down. Their heads tilted, shifting the kiss into something deeper as Kieran's hands worked around to his back and up his spine. He'd never wanted to kiss someone so badly, to feel them pressed against his body like this.* Lucas Fairbourne: *He was about to slide his hand under hem of Kieran's shirt when the sound of the elevator dinging brought him back to reality of where they were. Quickly pulling apart, a bit breathless and very aroused, he met Kieran's face in the mirror... as it slid open, both of them flushed and looking a bit out of sorts as they recovered from the kiss. Reaching his hand over he linked his free hand with Kieran as they both bent to pick up their bags and step from the elevator. Key still in hand he quickly led him down the hall and unlocked his door. Stepping aside he let Kieran go in and then shut the door behind him. Kicking off his shoes he smiled.* Welcome to my home. *He dropped the gym bag by the wall and walked into the living room. He wanted to turn and pull Kieran back into his arms but he resisted the urge.* Would you like a drink or shower first? --------------------------Kieran Teague: *Looking around, Kieran tried to focus on the room, the apartment, the surroundings, but all he could see was Lucas. His eyes kept moving back to him like he was north to Kieran's compass.*

Huh? Oh...drink or shower...um... *shower.......with Lucas...that would be perfect...but so wasn't going to happen. No way could Kieran take his shirt off in front of Lucas. How was this going to work? And wasn't that the monumental question of the century? Kieran had crossed the line on so many levels and in so many ways. Drifting ever closer to Lucas...being pulled toward him by an unseen force...Kieran tried to clear his head, his chest pumping for air in his heated, agitated state. The moment before he would have wrapped his arm around Lucas to pull him in for another kiss, he closed his eyes and shook his head.* Um...yeah...maybe a shower first would be good. *A cold one, at that.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Letting out a long breath of disappointment as Kieran neared him and then suddenly stopped. God, how he hated this questioning tension that was between them. With a mental shake to get himself to focus on something other than the strong male that stood less than a foot before him he finally stepped around him and started leading him to the bedroom.* I have a shower in the guest bathroom but it is quite small, I think with your size you would be more comfortable using the one in my room. *He walked into his room, making sure that Kieran was following. Watching him step into his bedroom had his mind taking him places he should not be going. He glanced at him and then to the large bed that filled most the room.* Um, there are fresh towels in there. If you need anything let me know. *He hoped Kieran would ask him to help wash his back and bit his lip to keep from smiling at the thought.* Kieran Teague: *Looking around the room Kieran was already so familiar with, his gaze lingered on the bed where he'd watched Lucas a few nights before. Naked and glorious and frustrated at his inability to find release in the shadow of his former lover's untimely demise. Kieran felt a sudden urge to sweep Lucas up, place him on the bed, and give him the release he'd been unable to give himself. Instead, he glanced to where Lucas indicated.* Gotcha. Towels. *He peaked into the bathroom. Nice. Just as blingy as the building's lobby, all sparkly and shiny. Kieran briefly wondered if Lucas had someone who came in and cleaned for him or if he did his own cleaning.* Okay...so... *He bit his lip...actually bit his lip with nervous longing. If not for his tattoos, he'd have invited Lucas in to shower with him...see where it would end up.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Nervously shifting from one foot to the other.* Right, well I will be in the kitchen and start heating up the stew, if that still sounds good to you. Yell if you need anything. Feel free to use whatever you need. Make yourself at home.*Running his fingers through his hair he gave him a smile and turned and headed out of the room, giving him his privacy. Once in the kitchen he braced his hands on the counter and bowed his head, taking several deep breaths to steady his mind. He felt like a seventeen-year-old on his first-ever date, nervous and awkward. Not that he had dated a ton over the years, but he had been around enough that he should not be feeling and behaving like a nervous teen. Hearing the shower finally kick on, he turned to the fridge and pulled out the bowl he had stored the Irish Stew in. Pouring it into a pot he turned on the stove to heat it, as he tried not to think about the naked man in his shower, just a couple rooms away.* Kieran Teague: *It took Kieran a minute, but he finally stripped off his shirt, trying hard not to look at his reflection in the huge mirror as he stepped into the shower. His breath came in short bursts, his hands shook. Just being outside his own home with his tattoos exposed like this was enough to send him into fits of panic. What if Lucas walked in? What if he'd forgotten to shut the door and Lucas saw him? He peaked out of the shower to make sure the door was latched and locked. Yes, locked. God, Kieran would lose his mind over this for sure. He quickly washed his hair and soaped up his body before rinsing, shutting off the water and toweling himself off in record speed. The first thing he did before being fully dry was yank his sweatshirt out of his bag, heart racing, panting in desperation, face flushed...and then

he pulled it haphazardly over his head, having to shift and twist the sweatshirt several times before getting it right and pulling it down over his marred arms and body. Only then did he breathe a sigh of relief, calming. Pulling on his boxers and cargo pants, he sat down on the toilet seat to pull on his socks and combat boots. Using Lucas's brush, he brushed his hair before taking another steadying breath and leaving the bathroom.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Standing over the stove, he stirred the stew as it started to simmer, drinking his wine with the other. He had to keep from gulping the fluid from the glass. He wanted to do anything he could to calm his nerves. He had heard the shower turn off several minutes ago, and he could not help but to keep glancing up to see if Kieran was coming down the short hallway. The smell of the stew was starting to fill the room and he inhaled deeply, hungry from the long day he’d had. His ribs still burned and he had to watch how he turned or bent or the pain was enough to stop him dead in his tracks. As painful as it was, though, he loved sparring with Kieran, it was the first real workout he'd had in a long time. He hoped that Kieran would be up for more. He was not too proud to admit that he could learn a lot from him. Finishing off his wine he set the cup aside and went back to stirring.* Kieran Teague: *Coming down the hall, as soon as he saw Lucas, he stopped. Lucas had his back to him in the kitchen. And there was that unbelievable pull again. It was like Lucas was a fishing rod and Kieran had bit down on the hook and was being reeled in. His feet just sort of moved on their own toward him. Setting his bag down quietly, he fought for oxygen as he quietly stepped up behind Lucas, wrapped his arms around his waist, and dipped his nose down against the back of Lucas's neck as Lucas gave a little start. Pressing his lips gently against the skin as Lucas tried to turn around, he murmured,* Shower's all yours. *His brain told him to pull away...told him to run...but his heart dealt his brain a knockout punch, telling it to shut the fuck up. Inhaling the delicious scent of the stew,* Mmmmm, that smells better than mine. Lucas Fairbourne: *He shivered as he felt Kieran's lips on the back of his neck, ready to turn around and face him until he felt the arms encase him tighter. Leaning back against his chest, he laid his head against his shoulder.* Thank you, it was my mother’s recipe. *Turning his head to the side he softly kissed Kieran's chin and then his mouth. His body was on fire at the feel of being in his embrace. He closed his eyes as he once again placed a kiss on Kieran's lips.* Did you find everything you needed? *He went to stretch on arm up to grasp the back of Kieran's neck to draw him down closer for a deeper kiss but flinched as his ribs caught and resisted the movement.* Kieran Teague: *Kieran's mind was on protest duty, picketing and waving signs that the end of the world was near, but none of it seemed to be getting through. His body and his heart had other plans. So, while his brain kept trying to drop-kick him back to reality, Kieran just kept sinking deeper into the call of his body. And his body was deeply drawn to Lucas...didn't want to let go of him. It was as if Lucas was the glass of water to quench his parched throat...his parched soul, no less.* Yes, I found everything I needed. *As his mouth found Lucas's again in a drunken kiss, the thought hit him that, well no...not EVERYTHING. One thing had been missing from his shower: Lucas. Suddenly, Lucas flinched as he tried to turn further around. ::His ribs:: Kieran pulled back. Where his brain hadn't been able to get through, Lucas's pain had.* Sorry... *he shook his head as if breaking up the fog* ...you probably want to take a shower now, huh? *He cleared his throat, glancing away with a deep breath.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Slowly lowering his arm and once more wrapping his hand around his chest to put pressure on his ribs.* Yeah, I guess I should. *he watched how Kieran looked away and sighed. Was he regretting what was happening between them or was he feeling guilty about his ribs. Reaching out he

cupped his palm over Kieran's cheek, meeting his eyes for a moment he smiled.* I am glad you’re here. *Pulling his hand back he handed to Kieran the spoon he had been using to stir the stew.* I trust that this will be safe in your hands? *He nodded to the bottle of wine on the counter.* There is wine, or the bar in the living room is stocked with pretty much anything you could want. *Going up on his toes he kissed him again.* Kieran Teague: *Unable to fight his body's urgings, he dipped his head into Lucas's palm as he touched his face. Kieran nodded, meeting Lucas's eyes, agreeing with him, unable to find the words to tell him he was glad he was here, too. A gentle kiss...Lucas handed him the spoon; mentioned a bottle of wine and a bar...once more Kieran found himself nodding, but this time he was able to speak.* Got it. *He held up the spoon.* Your stew's in good hand. *His eyes closed as Lucas leaned up to kiss him, the soft lips tempting him, his body drifting forward as Lucas pulled away. Opening his eyes, he watched Lucas disappear down the hall, then closed his eyes and dropped his head back, sighing.* What am I doing? *He murmured it softly, then grabbed a glass out of the cupboard - he already knew which cabinet they were in - and poured a glass of wine. He'd need it to calm his ass down.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Closing the bathroom door he looked at his reflection in the mirror, his face was flushed and hair messed from the day. Reaching down he slowly started to lift his shirt from his body, easing his arm slowly out of the sore side before lifting it the rest of the way off. His side hurt, there was no denying that Kieran's hits had taken a toll on him. Black and bluish bruises were showing down his side. He gently touched at the warm skin and hissed as pain exploded through him. Easing out of his pants he kicked them to the side before pulling off his socks. Standing naked, he turned on the water as he smiled at the faint scent of Kieran's shower before him. His cock stirred as he thought about the man in his shower and how wonderful it would have been to join him. Stepping into the hot spray he tried to reason with himself that this was crazy. That jumping into a relationship like this was not in his best interest, but the more he thought about the reasons not too, the more his body responded and wanted exactly that, a relationship. Closing his eyes, he tried to rush through his shower while telling himself to stop over-thinking things.* Kieran Teague: *After stirring the stew, Kieran lifting his glass and prowled around the kitchen. It had been one thing to be on the outside looking in, but now, here he was, inside looking out. He wandered through the apartment, sipping his wine, his face turning toward the bedroom regularly as he sniffed Lucas's scent, dissecting it from the aroma of the stew and shower soap. Meandering toward the windows that overlooked the balcony, his gaze suddenly caught on a handprint. ::Oh, God:: It was HIS handprint. He remembered touching the glass the other night. Setting down his glass of wine, he quickly stepped outside and wiped his sweatshirt over the print, erasing it with nervous adrenaline pumping through his veins. Stepping back inside, he grabbed his wine and returned to the kitchen, then stirred the stew again.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Slipping into a pair of comfortable sweats he eased a plain white t-shirt over his head, careful of his ribs as he slid his arms through the sleeves. Running his fingers through his hair, he picked up his dirty clothes and tossed them in the laundry before heading back into the kitchen. The stew smelled wonderful and he was more than ready to eat. As he came around the corner, he saw Kieran at the stove and smiled. For as masculine as he was, the large man still looked perfectly comfortable in front of the stove. Stepping into the room he grinned at Kieran.* Hope you’re as hungry as I am. *He grabbed two bowls from the cupboard and then spoons setting them at the counter bar.* Sorry I don't have more to offer you, I am not much of a shopper, even if it’s just groceries. I tend to put it off until I am desperate.

Kieran Teague: *Nodding, he ladled out two bowls full of stew.* Famished. *The food would help curb his need for blood, and that was a good thing, because right now, he wanted Lucas's blood.* Pouring another glass of wine for them both, he settled in at the bar with Lucas, feeling a bit more sobered, although he still felt a powerful pull toward Lucas. He couldn't understand where this feeling was coming from, but at least his brain was making a comeback and vying for equal time. And, truth be told, Kieran felt a little guilty. Lucas was still mourning the loss of his lover, and here he was, moving in on him...putting moves on him he had no right to make.* So...yeah... *He glanced at Lucas, inhaling his scent, intoxicated by it, then smiled and looked back at his stew, trying to figure out what to say. Kieran was so socially awkward. He suddenly laughed at himself.* Seems I'm not good at small-talk, *he said self-consciously, taking a bite.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Taking a sip of wine and unfolding the paper napkin that he had grabbed from the small holder that was sitting on the counter.* Well, why don't you tell me more about your work? *He glanced up at him as he bent his head to take a bite of stew. He could sense Kieran's nervousness and almost hesitation at times to being around him. He wondered if he was questioning the kiss they had shared, or um…kisses. No matter how much he wanted to question them, there was no fighting the way they felt. It felt right to kiss him, be in his arms and even as they sat eating it was all that he could do not to reach over and place his hand on his knee or touch him in some small way.* Kieran Teague: Well... *Kieran looked down into his bowl of stew as if sea monkeys were swimming around in it, stirring and fidgeting. It was clear that if he was going to make something out of...whatever this was between he and Lucas, at some point he'd have to come clean. Or maybe he could just hide it from him forever. He mentally rolled his eyes, ::yeah, how do you hide that you’re a vampire who's over a thousand years old from someone you're in a relationship with?:: Taking a bite of stew, enjoying its rich flavor, he tried for evasion, avoiding the subject of his work altogether.* ...wow, this is good. You're a good cook, you know that? *He glanced over at Lucas, who looked like he was smart enough to see through his avoidance tactics. Looking away sheepishly, Kieran dabbed his napkin at his mouth and gave Lucas an earnest look, then sighed.* It's hard for me to talk about my work. Unlike you, it tends to go home with me. Maybe another night? We can talk about my work another night, how's that? Because right now, I... *what? What did he want? To feel normal? To feel like he had a chance with Lucas? Like a vampire and a human could actually have a relationship?* ...I just want to enjoy my time with you. Lucas Fairbourne: *He held back his frown. In his years of dealing with people he had learned that when they tried to divert the conversation off a certain topic it was because they had secrets to hide. He wanted to believe that Kieran was one of the rare cases that was being honest and just did not feel like discussing it but his gut said different.* Taking another bite of food and swallowing,* Okay, no work. *He smiled as he sat back, turning to face towards Kieran. He stared at the male, taking in his features, looking into his eyes, trying to find the line of trust and temptation. What was it about him that attracted him so strongly. Why after months of swearing of men had he suddenly, literally ran into Kieran and start this roller-coaster of emotion? Taking another sip of his wine he pushed his bowl back, suddenly not hungry.* What about your name? Kieran, is it Irish? It’s not a name I’ve heard before. Kieran Teague: Yes, my name is Irish. It's an ancient family name, actually. My family was very traditional. *His mind drifted back to his time in Ireland before being cast out of his clan* We were close, but...um... *and here he felt he needed to be honest with Lucas, as if giving him a snippet of truth would make up for all the little white lies he was telling him...all the secrets he was keeping from him.* ...I was...a bit...unruly in my youth. *Kieran shook his head, flopping his spoon around in his bowl* It's

why they don't talk to me, anymore. I was not the most honorable of individuals. *He gave a short, contemptuous laugh* Or the most respectful. My family was right to disown me. And in a way, I'm glad they did; otherwise, I never would have grown up. And when I say "grown up" I don't mean physically. I mean... *he tapped his head, indicating mentally.* I have much to atone for, Lucas. I wasn't the most decent of people when I was younger, but I'd like to think that I'm a better person now for it. *He took a bite of stew, glancing at Lucas's shoved-aside bowl* Not hungry? Lucas Fairbourne: *He folded his arms over his chest as he watched Kieran.* We all have things in our past that we regret but that also are the cornerstones of helping us grow. Most of who we are now is from the experiences of our youth. *He closed his eyes... for a moment, remembering his youth.* I would not go back for anything. I feel I am finally at an age where I can accept myself for who I am and quit worrying about letting others’ opinions of me bother me. The main thing is that we learn from our mistakes and it sounds like to me that you have. *Taking another sip of his wine he tilted his head as he looked at Kieran curiously.* How old are you? Kieran Teague: *It was a question he was prepared to answer. He'd been asked his age many times over the centuries, and he always gave the same answer* Thirty-three. *Then he held up his hand as he saw Lucas's protest forming.* I know, I know...I look young for my age. I get that a lot. *Yeah, he looked REALLY young for his age. Usually, someone who was 1,200 years old looked a lot worse for the wear.* How old are you? If you don't mind my asking. *Kieran took another bite of stew, then sipped his wine, actually quite enjoying the conversation, despite the awkward subject matter.* Lucas Fairbourne: *His eyes traveled over Kieran's face, trying to judge the 33. He looked older, yet then on second glance he could pass for that age.* You have one of those faces that is hard to judge, at times I would have guessed younger, at other times older.*He fisted his hand at his side to keep from reaching out and touching his face.* I am 38, so I guess you were right calling me “old man” back at the gym. I do have a few years on you. *He slipped from his chair and nodded to the bowls.* Would you like more? Kieran Teague: *Fighting back a laugh at Lucas's comment about having a few years on him, Kieran grinned.* You look good for 38. *He shook his head as Lucas asked if he wanted more.* I'm good. That was fabulous, though. Brought back memories of home.... *He gave his stomach a pat as he watched Lucas take the bowls to the sink.* Going back to what you said earlier, about learning from mistakes. I feel that I have. *He gave a thoughtful glance into his half-empty glass of wine, thinking about the very permanent reminder of his past transgressions that still branded his body* But, you know, a piece of that pain will always be with me. As much as I've learned from the shit I once did, I'll never fully be able to rid myself of its effect. *His voice was almost sad, introspective.* Lucas Fairbourne: *He wondered at his words, almost asked him to expand on the explanation, but the sadness that suddenly fogged his eyes made him hold back. If they continued to get to know each other, explore what this was between them, it would hopefully come out in time.* Would you like to move to the living room? A bit more comfortable.*He grabbed the wine bottle and his glass and led them from the kitchen to the couch. Setting the bottle and glass on the coffee table, he looked up and gasped. The handprint that he knew he had seen when they entered was now gone. Walking over to the window he placed his hand against the glass feeling like he was losing his mind.* Kieran Teague: What? What's wrong? *Kieran suddenly realized that Lucas had already seen the handprint on the glass. He hadn't even thought of that possibility. Why hadn't he thought of that? ::Because you were too busy falling in love, moron; told you to run:: his brain said. His heart answered,

::shut the fuck up:: His heart and soul pulled toward Lucas, that much was certain, but Kieran needed to start giving his brain more air time. Because now Kieran had to decide how he was going to deal with this? Should he admit to seeing the handprint and cleaning it for Lucas? And how much would that freak Lucas out, that Kieran was already coming into his home and cleaning? Or should he just play dumb? Playing dumb sounded like a good idea at the moment.* Lucas? You okay? Lucas Fairbourne: *Shaking his head as he continued to stare at the window.* I...I don't know. *He turned and met Kieran's eyes.* This is going to sound so crazy, but the other morning I woke up and there was a single handprint on the outside of my window. ...I do not know how it got there, it was much larger than my hand. More like your size. I called the manager and he swore no one had been in my place or on my balcony. *He looked back at the window.* I know it was there when we came in tonight but now... *He shook his head.* I know it was there. *Running his hand through his hair.* I am losing my mind. *He gave Kieran a lopsided grin.* Kieran Teague: *Kieran wanted so badly to tell Lucas the truth...that it was his handprint...that he'd wiped it off...either or both would do, but his tongue remained firmly plastered against the roof of his mouth behind clenched teeth, especially when Lucas said the handprint was more the size of Kieran's hands. He swallowed and watched Lucas for a minute, his brain yelling at him to tell Lucas the truth. But Kieran hadn't learned his lesson, yet.* Well, if you're losing your mind, I'll help you find it. *He flashed his most charming smile -- or at least tried to against the tantrum his brain was throwing. Thinking to change the subject, Kieran drifted toward the extensive collection of music in the tidy media center. He'd been eager to get his hands on Lucas's CDs since that first night watching him. Kieran saw a lot of familiar titles and artists.* Andrea Bocelli? *Kieran pulled out the CD of his favorite male opera singer, flipping it over and reading the back* Don't you think his voice is just magnificent? Lucas Fairbourne: *Pushing the handprint from his mind for the time being.* Very much so. *He nodded at the player.* Go ahead, put it in if you like. *He moved back to the couch, giving the window a last glance, shaking his head.* I spend most my nights just like this. I turn on the music, sip a glass of wine, and get lost in one of my books. *He tucked his bare feet up under him and watched as Kieran pushed play on the stereo.* I do have to admit that it is nice to have company for a change. *He thought about Steve and how they used to spend the nights together, talking and laughing for hours. He did not realize until now just how much he missed it. * Kieran Teague: You never have company? So, should I feel honored that you invited me up? *He couldn't help throwing a coy smile at Lucas, setting the jewel case down. Carrying his glass of wine over to the couch, he sat down and did his typical sprawl.* Mind if I take off my boots? *He wished he'd left them off after taking his shower, but he hadn't been thinking and had put them on out of habit. Bocelli's resonant voice filled the room and Kieran felt the stress ooze away.* Lucas Fairbourne: No, please, make yourself at home. *He smiled sheepishly.* I kick mine off the moment I come home and don't put them on again until I leave. *Leaning over to set his wine on the table.* I don't have too much company, I am more of a recluse. Not that I mind others but for the most part I find seclusion relaxing. I deal with enough of others’ problems during the day without wanting to hear them complain after hours, as well. Kieran Teague: You ,too, huh? *Kieran bent down and took off his boots, setting them aside and squishing his socked feet into the plush carpet.* I'm pretty reclusive, too. Started when my family kicked me out. At first I was pretty lonely, but then I got used to it. And now it's just me and the dogs. And I like

that. *He looked at Lucas* But occasionally I meet someone who makes me rethink just how much I enjoy my reclusive lifestyle. *He sipped his wine, not taking his eyes from Lucas's, smiling warmly as he swallowed.* Lucas Fairbourne: *He smiled back and nodded.* I fully understand. I have not had anyone over since..... Well it's been a long time. I have done the polite drop in on company get together and such but for the most part I have been content here with my music and my books. *He shrugged.* I guess it is just what you get used too.* Reaching for his wine, fingers about to close around the stem of the glass when he hissed in pain, grabbing his side.* Kieran Teague: *Shooting forward and setting his glass down, Kieran put his arm around Lucas, steadying him with his other hand on Lucas's arm.* You okay? *Kieran knew it was the bruised ribs.* Damn, I'm so sorry about hurting you. Come here, sit back. Just take it easy. Lucas Fairbourne: *Easing back against the couch his arm pressed hard into his side.* Thanks. *He half groaned as he took advantage of Kieran's extra support and rested his head back against his shoulder as he took a breath, trying to wait out the pain.* It was not your fault. Having a worthy partner was worth it, I have not had that much fun in a long time. *He kept his hand against his ribs, tilting his head to the side to look up at Kieran as he cradled him against his body.* I won't lie, it hurts like hell but was worth it. *He inhaled deeply the dark musky scent of Kieran as he rested his head back once more, more comfortable than he should have been, being held in his arms.* Kieran Teague: *Shaking his head, he kissed Lucas's nose, caressing his face gently* Your idea of fun sure is peculiar. Lying here... *he kissed Lucas's eyebrow* ...in pain... *he lowered and kissed Lucas's neck* ...and you tell me it was the most fun you've had... *He softly stroked his hand over the bruised ribs* ...in a long time. That it was worth it. *Kieran's instincts were taking over again, and he followed along blindly, not caring that this was technically a first date. Shifting on the couch, he bent down, lifting Lucas's arm, kissing the bruised area of Lucas's body through his shirt.* I don't care that you had fun, Lucas... *his hands modestly lifted Lucas's shirt just far enough that Kieran could inspect the bruises already forming over his ribs* ...I should never have hurt you. *Kieran's lips dotted tender kisses over the tender flesh, and he could taste the essence of the blood that had burst through the vessels to form the bruises.* ...so sorry. Lucas Fairbourne: *The pain was quickly forgotten, replaced by the burning desire that rushed through his body at the tender kisses Kieran spread over his skin. His body shivered as he lifted his shirt and kissed the bruises that he had seen as he showered. Closing his eyes, he brought his hand up and combed his fingers through the long hair that hung down Kieran's back. Playing with the still damp strands as he held his head to him, not wanting the touch to end. He could almost swear he felt Kieran's tongue lick over his skin several times, and his body reacted. Shifting his hips as his growing arousal pressed against his sweats.* Kieran. *The name came out a faint whisper.* Kieran Teague: *Hearing his name whispered softly, Kieran murmured an unintelligible acknowledgement as he continued kissing and licking at the discolored skin.* I don't understand this effect you have on me, Lucas. *Kieran's voice was muffled as he spoke against Lucas's body, admitting the truth of his feelings.* Forgive me, but... *his mouth drew a line over Lucas's ribbed torso as he lifted the shirt a little higher* ...I know I just met you, and that I should stop... *their bodies settled back on the couch, Kieran overpowering Lucas, crawling up and over his body* ...but I don't want to stop. Do you

want me to stop? Tell me if you do. *Kieran's lips caressed over the swells of Lucas's pecs, his breath warm, his breathing quickened.* Lucas Fairbourne: No...*There was no questioning himself. The feel of Kieran's body against his own, his wet mouth moving over his body had him feeling things that made his head spin. He let his legs fall apart and felt Kieran's large body settle between them.* Don't stop. He bent his head up to watch as Kieran kissed over his chest for a moment before grasping a handful of hair and pulling gently, drawing Kieran's mouth to his own. Moaning at the taste as they met open-mouthed, ready to explore. Kieran's hardness pressed against his thigh, and he arched his hips off the couch to rub against it. Sucking his lip into his mouth he let his hand caress down over the back of his shirt.* Kieran Teague: What are you doing to me? *Kieran murmured between kisses, not letting his lips leave Lucas's for long before binding them together once more, bodies moving together in a seductive rhythm as Bocelli's voice rang out with passion.* You're some kind of witch or something, aren't you? *His deep voice teased as his lips continued to massage Lucas's with expert care.* You've cast some kind of spell on me, haven't you? *He chuckled low as he worked his hips against Lucas, feeling his erection make contact, the friction stirring his blood even further. His body was burning with need. A need he'd never felt. Sex had always been just sex for Kieran. His body awakened, took its pleasure and was done. But this...THIS was not just sex. His body was not just awake, but ALIVE. Fully roused. Every sense was heightened. Heat poured through him, out of him into Lucas, pulling from Lucas into him. A perfect exchange; a mutual back-and-forth of desire that ran deeper than simple lust.* God, what's happening to me...? *Kieran's voice was bewildered, amazed, confounded, dazed...and fully engaged.* Lucas Fairbourne: *He was too consumed to respond, letting his body speak for him. His hips rocked against Kieran's and he could not hide the moans of pleasure as their cocks pressed hard against each other through the thin material of their pants. His fingers moved over his back, pressing into his skin through his shirt, almost clawing at times. His mind raced with the power this one man had over him. He wanted more, wanted to feel his naked body against his own, taste every inch of his skin as he licked and sucked over his body. He had never thought the night would go this way but he had not a single complaint that it had. He was so hard and aroused his body shook with need, or maybe it was Kieran's touch, his taste that made him shake. Either way, he was close to losing control. Moving his hands farther down his back, needing to feel his flesh, he eased his hands under the seam of Kieran's shirt and started to lift.* Kieran Teague: *Lucas's hands on his bare skin...the feeling that his shirt was being lifted to reveal... ::OH GOD:: ...Kieran pulled away and jumped back, making sure his shirt covered him.* NO! *Shrinking back against the other side of the couch, he ...shook...he actually trembled* I don't want you to see me. *The panic rose like bile, his breathing erratic, his body painfully aware of the separation between he and Lucas, protesting the loss of all that heat and fire.* I'm sorry...I shouldn't have...shit...I'm sorry...but...I should be going...not... *he almost said he wasn't good enough for Lucas, all because of those God-forsaken tattoos that blemished his body like rust on a BMW. Lurching forward, he fumbled for his boots, shoving his feet in. What sucked was that when he left the apartment, he'd have to go park it on Lucas's balcony and watch him. Watch the very man he couldn't stand the thought of walking away from right now, but couldn't stomach allowing to see his wretched body.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Sitting up too fast, he clutched his side again, but did not stop until he was standing. He felt horrible. Kieran was having a full panic attack, his hands shaking, eyes filled with fear and a lot of sadness. By the time he was up and standing, Kieran had his boots on and was slowly moving towards

the door.* Kieran? It's okay, I am sorry. I did not know. *He took a step closer but Kieran held up a hand to hold him off, shaking his head. Biting his lip, he tried to think fast. For being a psychologist he was sure failing to come up with a way to ease the situation.* Please, Kieran. We can talk. *The man's hands gripped the bottom of his shirt as if it would lift on its own.* Kieran? Kieran Teague *His mouth dry, he swallowed...swallowed again, nothing but dead air going down. His fists gripped the bottom of his sweatshirt, tugging on it, ever worried that it wasn't covering him and the warning tattoos were on full display.* I'm sorry...no...God...need to go. *Kieran couldn't look in Lucas's eyes, too ashamed of his reaction and of the way his body would forever serve as a neon sign that he was a throwaway, a cheater and an overall fucking bastard. Turning for the door, he started to walk away, grabbing for his bag, knowing that after he calmed down, he would need to talk to Lucas about this...IF the man would let him. IF he would hear him out.* Lucas Fairbourne: *He fought the urge to run to him, knowing that begging was not what was needed right now, but it was sure what he wanted to do. Taking another step towards him he tried once more.* Kieran, please! We can talk through this. You don't have to go. *He could not help but wonder what would cause such scarring on his body that he would have such a fear. There was no sign of scars anywhere else on his body that he could see. Not even a single blemish on his face or hands.* Kieran? *Watching as his hand turned the doorknob and he shook his head again, giving him a look that was goodbye.* Kieran Teague: *For what felt like the hundredth time, Kieran apologized, then stopped, suddenly remembering the biscotti. Reaching into his bag, he quickly pulled out the Ziploc of crunchy cookies, tossed them on the table, then scurried out the door like he was fleeing from a fire. And in a way, he was. Being near Lucas made him burn. Burn in the most wonderful, exciting, pleasurable way. And that was bad because it meant that if things kept going like they were... God, he didn't even want to think about taking his shirt off. Couldn't fathom such an idea. Not having the patience to wait on the elevator, he hit the stairs, leaping from landing to landing like a giant panther before hitting the lobby, then the door, then darting around the building, his body still shaking. Looking up the side of the building, he knew he had to go back, but would he be able to remain on the balcony after that? Every instinct in Kieran hungered to be back with Lucas...to feel him and hold him and, yes, be held BY him. Scaling the building, shrouded in shadow, he had to get back to his...mate.*

Lucas Fairbourne: *The door slammed shut and Kieran was gone. Still trying to work through what had just happened he just stared at the door as if he expected it to open up and Kieran to come walking right back in. Taking a deep breath, he slowly walked over to the table and picked up the small baggie. Inside was the biscotti. He smiled as he eyed the sweet treat and slowly brought the bag to his chest. Turning back to the living room he slowly moved to the couch, memories of what the two of them had been doing just minutes before still fresh in his mind. Sitting down, he opened the bag and took one of the bars out, and brought it to his mouth. It was delicious and he wished that Kieran was still there so he could tell him so. Laying back on the couch, he let the music lull him into a comfortable place as he wondered if he would ever see him again.* Kieran Teague: *Reaching Lucas's balcony, it was with a sense of desperation that Kieran searched through the windows, dropping his bag and hurrying around until he found Lucas laying back on the couch, his feet up, holding the baggie of biscotti in one hand, and one of the crunchy bars in the other. A sense of calm spread through him as he drifted forward toward the window, looking in, watching Lucas

eat what he'd made with his own hands and had offered with his heart. Reaching up, he touched the glass with both hands, leaning forward, wishing he was back inside. But how could he get over his hangup with his body? All that black ink?* Lucas Fairbourne: *Keeping his eyes closed he savored the biscotti as he thought over everything that had happened. There was no doubt the attraction was there, the desire. He tried once more to think about what could cause such scars. He had mentioned the military, had he been injured? If so why would he be so self-conscious of them. Did he come across so cold and not understanding that Kieran thought the scars would matter to him? That it would change the way he felt? Resting his hand over his eyes, he wondered about that. Exactly how DID he feel? Was it all sexual? A raw need that needed to be filled or was it something more? There was no denying that he enjoyed their time together, sure they were still getting to know on another, but that would come in time. It always did. He thought about Steve, how much he missed him, but knew if he searched deep enough that Steve would want him to move on, find someone new. The ache from losing Steve was still raw, still new, even months later, but he could not help the way he was feeling now. Sighing, he wondered if it even mattered now? There was no guarantee that they would see each other again, and that thought caused more pain through his body than his bruised ribs ever could.* Kieran Teague: *Wondering what Lucas was thinking, he couldn't help but reach out mentally and touch his mind. Closing his eyes, he opened that intimate channel into Lucas's thoughts and saw...Steve. With a jolt, Kieran released Lucas's mind and felt the air escape on a gasp. The hurt was...agony. Cringing against it, he bent over, fighting the ache as he leaned his hands harder against the window. THE WINDOW! Hand prints! What was Kieran thinking? That's right, he wasn't. With the sounds of Bocellli still playing through the air, Kieran wiped his hand prints off the glass before sinking back into the shadows. Steve. Lucas had been thinking about Steve, not him. Kieran had to get it back into his head that he was Lucas's protector. His PROTECTOR! Not his boyfriend, not his lover. He was there to protect Lucas from Searcy, and once Searcy was dead, Kieran’s need here would be gone.* Lucas Fairbourne: *Easing himself off the couch, he glanced in the kitchen at the pot of stew sitting on the stove. Leaving it there to throw out tomorrow, he shut off the stereo and the lights, and padded across the carpet to his room. Turning on the lamp beside his bed, he slowly eased off his shirt once more, catching the reflection of his bruised ribs in the mirror, smiling at the memory of the two of them in the ring, not having to hold back and able to fight with all he had. It felt good and he sent a silent prayer that it would not be the last time the two of them boxed. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he glanced out the large glass window, wondering where Kieran had gone. Wishing the night had ended differently and the two of them were still here together. Falling onto his pillow with a hiss from the pain, he reached over, turning off the light, and tried to make the pain, both physical and mental, go away.* Kieran Teague: *All Kieran could do was watch. And remember. Remember what that body felt like under his on the couch, hard and demanding and full of desire. But had it all been for Steve and not him. Had Kieran just been the car Lucas had driven down Memory Lane to thoughts of Steve? Slumped in the darkness, his blade in his hand, he tried to get a handle on where he stood as the light in Lucas's bedroom went off. Standing, Kieran straightened his shoulders and held his head high. If he couldn't be the male in Lucas's thoughts and fantasies, it didn't mean he didn't have a duty to protect him. And protect him, he would. He'd lay down his life for Lucas. And that should have been his first sign that he was in deep shit.* COPYRIGHT PENDING 2011

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