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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher. The Trouble with Angel TOP SHELF An imprint of Torquere Press Publishers PO Box 2545 Round Rock, TX 78680 Copyright 2011 JM Cartwright Cover illustration by Skylar Sinclair Published with permission ISBN: 978-1-61040-216-3 www.torquerepress.com All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law. For information address Torquere Press. Inc., PO Box 2545, Round Rock, TX 78680. First Torquere Press Printing: May 2011
The Trouble with Angel - 2
The Trouble With Angel
By JM Cartwright
Angel Vargas walked into his office on a Friday at eight a.m., his arms loaded with files, juggling his morning mocha. If he started a day without his extra hot espresso drink, he was not such a happy person. Dumping the files on his desk, he took a sip of his morning energy drink. Slurping a little, he sucked up the whipped cream on the top of the drink. "Mmmm." Man, it wasn't quite worth four-fifty, but still, it was good. He straightened his black silk tie, which today he'd paired with his favorite pinstriped Armani shirt. His trousers were also Armani; his shoes and belt were Dolce & Gabbana. He was a walking advertisement for the best in men's fashion. He peeked at the mirror he'd hung on the wall alongside his desk. His thick, black hair was combed back in an attempt to tame the slight wave; he kept it cut shorter on the sides to add to his professional appearance. His dark brown eyes, though, with their long, long lashes, had managed to successfully sway more than one temperamental Hill client. "Vargas! If you're done guzzling your drug of choice and admiring yourself in the mirror, do you mind getting your ass in here?" With his back to his boss' door, he safely rolled his eyes to the ceiling before swinging around with a smile on his face. "Sure thing, boss. I'll be right there." He picked up his venti cup, a pen and pad of paper, and headed over to the large office connected to his. Walking inside, he headed to the chairs facing the broad mahogany desk, where he dropped down into a
The Trouble with Angel - 3
comfortably stuffed club chair. Taking a sip, he looked over at his boss. Celeste Miller stared back at him. CeCe was a tough nut, though most days she disguised her shark persona by dressing like a soccer mom. Today, however, she must have scheduled a meeting with some bigwigs because she was dressed to kill -- or to sign a new client. "You know, I've always thought you should have been named Lucifer instead of Angel." CeCe used the pronunciation he preferred, the Anglo version. Smirking, Angel slouched down a little and crossed one leg over the other. "What are you talking about now?" "Roscoe Davis called me at six-thirty this morning. He was screaming in my ear about how we stole his client, Stephanie Winslow. It seems she told him she's switching representation -- and she named me as her new agent." Stephanie Winslow was the latest hottie to grace the Hollywood scene. "You mind telling me why she's switching to us? Not that I mind, of course, but I thought she was locked in over at Rydell." Angel shrugged, taking another sip of his mocha. "Mmmm. That is good." At CeCe's raised brow, he refocused. "She's a fag hag." "And?" "And I spotted her over at Lucille. She was with her agent, and he was reaming her out over something stupid. Apparently he was dumb enough to do it over contract negotiations." Another sip. "When she went to the bathroom, I followed her. Told her what a homophobic asshole Roscoe is -- which you know is true," he assured CeCe. He watched her nod in answer. "Anyway -- we hung out and I pitched us to her. It took a little talking -- and a few drinks -- but when I left her at eleven, she said she was going to call Roscoe and tell
The Trouble with Angel - 4
focusing on the view out CeCe's large window. "That would be tough..5 . "I was stupid enough to think that maybe. apparently she did." His lips twisted in a parody of a smile. Abruptly sobering." CeCe had hired Angel away from Rydell three years before." She pushed the LA newspaper across to him. "You mean that son of a bitch is gay? He's always mouthing off about homos-this and queers-that. "Remind me not to fuck you over like Roscoe did. In a big way. She was quiet for a few moments.." He pulled the paper toward himself." His boss shook her head with a moue of sympathy.and definitely better off without him. since he did it between the sheets." "Sweetie -. Angel looked away. a grin breaking across his face as he read. "Have you seen this?" He shook his head.him to shove it. bracing her elbows on the polished wood. "She did it -she got him to show his bigoted asshole self in front of the cameras!" Angel was all but crowing in his delight. "Uh-uh. "What an asshole. after he'd had an extreme parting of the ways with Roscoe. "Uh-huh. I got a couple of Google alerts on it. I was going to look at it when I sat at my desk. dropping his foot back to the floor so he could reach over. humorless laugh. "Well. He has to do it himself. stepping out for." Angel gave a short.you know you can never change a man. Angel looked over at his boss. too. I was worth." CeCe leaned forward. but I had to get my mocha first before I could process anything. You know you're better off here with me -. just maybe. He is so far in the closet he'll never see the light of day." The Trouble with Angel ." Aware he'd finally managed to shock his unshockable boss.
but he definitely did enjoy working with her and helping her manage and increase her customer base. CeCe nodded. raising it in a toast. way more than he ever thought he would. "Yes. the CEO of Hill Agency. He raised a fist into the air as he again skimmed the contents approving his bonus." He put his coffee cup on the edge of the desk and rubbed his hands together. "Yes!" That three-year deal Stephanie Winslow was going to sign had dollar signs flashing in front of his eyes. indeed. around three-thirty. Angel finished reading the email CeCe had forwarded from Charles Hill. "Yes. I do. He should be mighty happy with our name being all over the place today." *** That afternoon." He pushed up from his chair and grabbed his mocha.Despite his leftover hurt and anger. He still wasn't sure he wanted to move up and become an agent. Laughing. He might even have enough for a down payment on a place of his own. thanks to you. CeCe. "Oh. "A huge one. which ran the gamut from musicians and actors to athletes and writers. Even more since I know you're going to pay me a bonus for bringing Stephanie on board. Angel didn't know if he was cut out to be that much of a shark all the time. Let's see what we can squeeze out of the tightwad in the corner office. He'd come to Hill as executive assistant to CeCe. if she'd only agree. and he'd learned so much from her. he smiled back at her. The Trouble with Angel . yeah!" This bonus could enable him to finally reach his goal of getting his mom to leave the old neighborhood and let him buy her a house. Especially because I get to rub this one in his face.6 .
Though Angel had brought the actress into the fold. too. This is most definitely a buyer's market.While her sports and talent agents directly managed the majority of her client list. He knew CeCe had been very upfront with the boss about how the deal had come to pass." Motioning with her hand. she held up a delaying finger. It had to have taken real guts to walk away from it all. the former leader of the rock band Storm. Johnny was the man who'd shocked the world the previous year by leaving Storm at the absolute top his game. "I take it you like what you see?" CeCe's voice was amused but happy as she rested a hip on the corner of his desk. Several months later. Angel had nothing but very sincere admiration as well as liking for such a guy. This should put me over the top for my house account. Turning his head to look at his boss. Angel enjoyed working with several of her others almost as much. she kept a select few to personally represent. I need you to babysit another client. he had favorites among her group. though. She'd been riding the tide of rainmaker today. He had to fly to Sacramento for some problem at the main The Trouble with Angel . "Hey. the rocker had compounded the sensational news by announcing he was in love with another man. Of course. a big smile flashed on his face. he swiveled from side to side. he was content to stand behind CeCe as part of her team.. but he had a soft spot for Johnny. Before you go off and pick out new dishes.. Leaning back in his chair.7 . "My mom is going to like it. Then. Chief on his Yes List was Johnny Rayne. and had shone the spotlight where it was warranted." "Just don't go crazy -. I've got to get to Sherry's soccer game tonight or Garrett is going to kill me. to bare his soul like that.make sure you shop around for both of you.
I was thinking about getting fish. "That egotistical ape. Up-and-Coming. "You don't have any fish. Sometimes she sent him to babysit the biggest pricks in the client list." He snorted in disgust.plant. even though you played rainmaker last night. Why should I help you with him?" Brandon Halvorsen was definitely not on his favorites list. you still work for me?" CeCe raised her brows. Brandon said he needed me to go to a meeting with him. The baseball player was everything he detested in a guy -.straight. "Brandon Halvorsen." CeCe grabbed her bag and her jacket from the guest chair in his office. "Maybe because. He swore she did it to get back at him for being a way better dresser than she was." CeCe gave him a very dry look. The Trouble with Angel . just listen. "Remember?" "Whatever. straight. shrugging knowingly. He's in the penthouse. Here's his room number." Angel watched her walk away with a wave. "Now." She held up her hand again. "I've got to get going. "Who is it?" He looked at her skeptically. before you have a hissy fit. "Of course he is. good-looking. and she often sent her staffers to travel with her clients when she had obligations at home. you know." Angel knew she took her job as a mother very seriously. uptight. "Where am I going?" he asked resignedly. buried under his carefully crafted Mr.8 . straight. Almost every trace of East LA was long gone. conservative. full of his own self-worth." He could sound like he was born in the Valley any time he wanted. "I do have to go feed my fish." "Well." "You can think about what fish to get on your way over to the Beverly Wilshire." he muttered sourly. her hands held out palms up.
it's you. Brandon Halvorsen. blue-eyed." The Trouble with Angel . The hallway interiors were done to the nines -. in all his six foot four inch.*** Half an hour later. highly-paid athletic glory. stood in front of Angel with a frown on his face. "Oh. blond-haired. he looked around as he knocked on the hotel room door. I'll be staying here instead of knocking on the door. Some day.the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire was high class all the way. he thought.9 . The door was yanked open. straight-man.
It isn't catching. Brandon took a long drink." Letting the door swing shut. Raising it as if to say want one? he cocked a brow." Angel studied Brandon with a considering look. and Brandon stepped back a little. Brandon watched as Angel dropped down onto one of the luxurious sofas. "Your habit could get you fired. in an incredible penthouse suite with one of the most gorgeous men in LA. Brandon followed Angel into the main room of the penthouse. "What's not catching?" Looking puzzled. I was just surprised. Sigh. He had to concede that the view of downtown LA and the Hollywood Hills was awe-inspiring from up here." His shoulder brushed Brandon's chest as he walked past.Chapter 2 Brandon stood there a moment longer staring at Angel before motioning him inside. it's a habit. Brandon looked at him. "Being gay. "Don't worry. crossing his legs and setting his arms along the back. Angel looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows as he headed to the conversation area in front of the stone fireplace. "Sorry. and he couldn't make a move. When Angel shook his head silently. "You're being insulting." He scratched his head. I was expecting CeCe.10 . The late afternoon sun reflected off high-rise glass and spread over the slopes. "Yeah." Angel was sure that was why Brandon always seemed to stand a little apart when they were in the same room. Here he was. well. you ever The Trouble with Angel . trying not to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Brandon walked over to pick up the open bottle of club soda sitting there.
Angel spoke up again. yeah. right?" Bringing his arms down from his casual stance. muscular blond wore a pale blue. Probably. After waiting several minutes. "What's going on?" Something definitely was not The Trouble with Angel . He tried not to stare at the ultra-masculine. sorry. anyway. looking like he was trying to relax. He rolled his shoulders. "I'm. remember? You want to tell me what we're doing?" "Where is she?" Brandon's voice was a little low. "Are you going to tell me why I'm here. um. She sent me to make sure you got whatever you need. "You know we can take care of that. Tight lips and a clenched jaw belied Brandon's casual look. You know the team will want to keep you happy. uh. Angel mused. Angel was just realizing. showing off tanned skin. His host looked kind of uptight." He lifted one shoulder. "She. The tall. Angel sat forward on the sofa. why you needed somebody from Hill?" Brandon jerked his head around. "You wanted CeCe to go to a meeting with you. then spun around as if looking for something. during which time Brandon just stood looking out the window.think about that?" Angel watched as Brandon "The Great Dane" Halvorsen paced over to the huge picture window and stood. "Huh?" Weird and weirder. looking over his shoulder. your contract? It's up next year." Brandon really did look like something was wrong. had a family commitment she couldn't get out of. "Sounded like you just had a business meeting.11 . button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. You're a power lefty." Brandon paced back to the seating area again. What's it about." "Uh. staring out at the city below. brush-cut hair and a jawline that was just hinting at a five o'clock shadow.
"You sure about that?" Seeing that smirk.. "You are something else.of all CeCe's clients -. Husband." Brandon blew out a breath. It so wasn't fair.. Angel. He moved to stand across the coffee table from Angel. Remember?" So." The ballplayer shrugged.you don't think I can handle whatever it is? I can do anything a woman can do. pulling out his iPhone. he assured himself. "I.right in Brandon's world. A powerful. Have to go to. I guess. "Yes?" "Christ! I wanted CeCe because she's a woman. I wanted CeCe--" Angel sat up expectantly.12 . right?" "What?" Brandon sounded confused. Angel sat back slowly. "Married. "You better lose the attitude or." Taking another breath. another straight guy lusting after a married woman. that's all.so potently attractive was just a goddamned cosmic joke. Brandon smirked. "CeCe?" The Trouble with Angel .. his eyes unfocused. after all. maybe you will do. "Okay. kid. just about everything but lactate. What do you need?" At that." Angel made the rash statement before he thought. Angel's blood got fired up.. "You do know she's married. Brandon laughed." "What -. "When you put it that way. okay?" Brandon blurted. Turning back. "Well. shaking his head. "Really?" Relaxing slightly. "I just need a woman with me. married woman. Brandon looked over at Angel again." Angel's eyes were drawn helplessly to the taut stretching of fabric over that masculine bulge. Taken aback by the sudden aggression. Why the hell he found this guy -. "Look." He reached into his jeans pocket. he continued.
Is that okay?" Whoa. but I needed to run something by you. ". it was the truth. "Yeah..thank you. even with just his clothes for the office." Brandon nodded in response to something CeCe said. The Trouble with Angel . I appreciate that. He was surprised to learn that Brandon knew the names of her children and what her husband did for a living. "I can't believe it's been a month already. I need him. Wait. will you please have them bring the car around? I'll be down in two minutes.Angel's head jerked up when he heard his boss' name. thanks. then walked over to the house phone. He'd clearly missed a key part of the discussion while he'd been daydreaming. "Yeah. And the comment about Angel being dressed to the nines -.So. Sandy was a really good guy. Brandon smiled ruefully. I'm going to miss him. Great -." He looked over at Angel. What the fuck is going on? Apparently.. Brandon. I'm sorry to bother you. Angel said you had a family commitment. Dressed to the nines? Is he kidding? Angel listened to the one-sided conversation.well. he's definitely dressed to the nines. I'll tell him all about it on the way. "Hey." Nodding his head again. If only." Brandon's voice was subdued. What? Wait a minute." The way where? Brandon disconnected just then and stuck the phone back in his pocket. "Yeah. as usual. "Hey. He finished off his club soda. "Kevin. I need to keep him for a while." Angel stood up as Brandon turned back to face him. who was watching him somewhat cautiously. Brandon and CeCe were much closer than he had thought.13 . it's me." The ballplayer dropped down on the edge of the sofa.
Angel moved forward slowly. Sometimes he dreamed about those eyes. why we're going there. "Why would there be a problem? I don't know where we're going. still staring at the elevator doors. "Coming?" He heard what sounded like a chuckle that was turned into a cough when he stared at his blond nemesis. "Is there a problem?" Brandon asked politely. you know.14 . Typical fantasy: gay-boy turns straight-boy gay. Perfect timing. Is that Freudian? I don't even like him. It was so classic. He dreamed that the man behind them had that gorgeous blond head on the pillow next to him." The major leaguer swung around and headed for the door of the penthouse. The trouble was. I don't. I'll tell you on the way. "You're pretty good with that death-stare. or what we're going to do when we get there. Why would that be a problem?" The car arrived just at that moment. he whined to himself as he trudged out of the penthouse. Telling himself to wise up and quit bitching. He refused to look at Brandon as the man came up next to him. they were highly polished steel. those Paul Newman eyes were attached to the straightest guy around. Really. "Not at all. As if. You talk to my boss but you won't tell me. where he turned and looked back. and he could see Brandon staring at his reflection. he admitted to himself. "You coming?" Bewildered. Right. he moved faster over to the elevator and jabbed the call button. staring into the bluest eyes he'd ever seen. The Trouble with Angel . The trouble was. then held open the door graciously."You want to tell me what's going on? What were you talking to CeCe about?" "Let's go." Angel assured courteously. He moved forward into the cab and spun around on his heel.
heading toward the entry. the elevator arrived at the first floor. "Probably too many 'roids. right?" Brandon's voice was lowered and his head The Trouble with Angel . In fact. If people around here see you this close to me. "I'm not little. since nothing he said or did seemed to penetrate that tough exterior. Angel. his face very close. "Somebody's going to see us!" "And?" Brandon stared down at him.15 ." That had Brandon laughing once more. too bad it's not working. Angel was really confused now." There. "What are you doing? Let me go!" he whispered fiercely." He eyed Brandon. "I may have underestimated you. aren't you?" Brandon sounded almost. since he was five eleven. That wasn't too snotty. Looking askance at CeCe's client. He was pulled up short by Brandon's big hand on his upper arm. Those fingers squeezed warningly as Brandon pulled him over behind a large plant grouping. they're going to make assumptions that I bet you'd prefer not be made. and had Angel fuming. he appeared to be enjoying getting under Angel's skin. he stepped out. you know. Angel grunted. right?" As he spoke.Anybody ever told you that before?" Brandon didn't sound as if it bothered him one bit.. "You know taking steroids can make your junk really tiny. As soon as the doors opened. Angel spoke once again without thinking. his gaze skating quickly over the masculinity on display. to no avail. What the hell was going on? "And? What. You're a tough little guy. was it? He jerked his arm again. are you dumb? I'm not exactly in the closet. "Yeah? Well.. admiring? Resenting that. You're just big. he squirmed to get away. Yanking unsuccessfully.
and it's not tiny. Brandon took a quick look around. he pushed Angel back against the wall and leaned his weight forward. he rolled his hips into Angel's. "Just wanted you to know that my junk is all there -. The Trouble with Angel .16 . Seeming assured that where they were standing behind the giant palms was hidden from view.was bent attentively over Angel's." With that. their foreheads almost touching. he would have sworn that Brandon wanted to stand this close to him. If Angel hadn't known better.
confused.. Stumbling to the side. "Thanks. Angel watched as Brandon strolled to the main entry. "Sir. thanks. Halvorsen. Flushing. very. then shook his head. the limo is ready for you and Mr. When Brandon moved again. Angel nodded. his pace steady. He watched Brandon's eyes linger on his hair. The big man nodded to the doorman as he stepped outside. Angel nodded distractedly.17 ." The concierge's tone was completely professional. directing Angel forward. unable to speak. pulling out a twenty and passing it to the concierge. Did you know that?" Dumbfounded. "Those eyelashes of yours drive me crazy. The doorman held open the rear door of a stretch The Trouble with Angel . BIG cock against me. a bland look on the young man's face. he blinked slowly. Ohmygod! Brandon Halvorsen is grinding his very hard. darting a quick look at the other man. carefully not looking at the concierge again. Picking up speed. he headed for the revolving door. "Uh.. Kevin. A throat clearing nearby nearly launched Angel out of his shoes. Brandon walked past Angel casually. He jerked his arm forcefully and succeeded in freeing himself. he looked up to see the concierge standing about three feet away. his chest suddenly squeezed by the adrenaline flowing through his body. The air felt charged with energy all of a sudden. Angel looked away. holy shit! Gasping for breath.Chapter 3 Ohmygod." He moved slowly. Angel stared upward. Kevin continued to hold out an arm. straightening his already-straight tie and smoothing down his immaculate shirt.." Unable to believe what had just taken place.. despite what he'd just witnessed.
Brandon's lips quirked. "You're fucking with me. as part of his job. was the big pitcher a mind reader now? The Trouble with Angel .18 ." Seemingly unperturbed by the possibility. careful. of course. "I don't believe you. The ballplayer's contract had been renewed during that time.Lincoln. assisted CeCe in the negotiations with the club and the presentations to their client." Oops. "What are you drinking? 'Cause it sure as hell ain't water. Am I suddenly living in an alternate universe? Angel swiveled his head to make sure there weren't any of the Borg in the limo. Angel immediately slid to a side seat. man. A little bit of the old neighborhood slipped in there. and never had anything remotely like this taken place. why am I trying to help him? "You sound awfully concerned. he watched some of Beverly Hills role by. He'd known Brandon professionally for the three years he'd been at Hill. and Angel had. but never had he had even an inkling that Brandon swung his way. Stepping in. Christ. if we had more time. far enough away from Brandon so that he could breathe more freely. his expression provoking. Resolutely staring straight ahead. Angel could see Brandon already inside. "Well. actually." Uh. Brandon raised the bottle to his lips again. aren't you? You think it's funny to jerk the gay boy around?" He tried to stare Brandon down. sipping another bottle of what looked like club soda." He took another sip. that's exactly what we'd be doing. "You scared now?" Brandon's mouth was twisted in a wry grin. he's probably got TMZ on speed dial. his brows raised. They'd also worked with Brandon on some endorsements and commercials the athlete had done. And you know you can't trust the concierge.
"I asked you first. "What -.19 . too. I've got way bigger fish to fry right about now. Angel flopped back against the seat."Aren't you?" Brandon shrugged. Was that a smudge on his right shoe? "Yep. "True." Staring at Brandon.a Lutheran minister.you're going to confession? Now I've seen everything." Leaning his head back against the seat. Brandon leaned forward." Slapping the seat next to him. staring out the window. that is. Angel sputtered. This day keeps getting weirder. "That's it? That's all you've got to say?" Raising his hands in confusion.had The Trouble with Angel . I think you know very well that the league isn't really going to go for you being gay. And you're going to help me. looking out the window as the limo slowed. The driver pulled in to a church parking lot. Angel stood off to one side after Jim Maddox -. I'm here to pick up my new kids. Brandon closed his eyes and breathed out a huge sigh. "Um." *** Still flabbergasted fifteen minutes later. "What -. Angel dared the other man to contradict him. not a Roman Catholic priest as he'd first suspected -.are we in first grade now?" Frustrated. "Nope. Kevin's not that kind of guy. Angel. Besides. He frowned down at his feet. tossing the empty drink into the cup holder. Suddenly. he turned in his seat to face his provocative host. was quiet for the remainder of the twenty-minute ride. Watching him in confusion. swinging around near what looked like a rectory entrance. Angel sat up. If you're gay. kicking his legs out in front of him." Snorting in amusement." Brandon stopped talking.
Angel pounced. Sandy Reynolds -. his fingers lifting the strands and tugging on them..20 . my old college coach. last. a small grin appeared on the chiseled lips." Switching subjects. today. "Well. Angel shifted his weight from foot to foot. Brandon tipped his head down for a moment. uh." Brandon pressed his lips together. He ran both hands through his hair." With a humorless chuckle. his daughter and her husband were killed in a car crash about six weeks ago. Brandon eyed him.you know about him?" Angel nodded silently. they had named Sandy's wife and him as guardians.gone upstairs to get Brandon's children. CeCe had mentioned more than once that Sandy was someone very important in Brandon's life.. request of me. he died last month.. The Trouble with Angel . "Well. a couple of years ago. "Sandy. What is going on? And who are these kids that you've come to get?" Sobering completely. "Just goes to show that really shitty things can happen to good people. Now. in case something ever happened to them.like you've gone over the side. you know. "He. see. Brandon's children! Unfuckingbelievable! "Um. "I don't get it! I've known you for three years now." When he nodded again. Apparently. I just want to go over exactly what you mean by 'I'm going to help you..'" Suspicious. And Angel knew from his research on Brandon that Coach Sandy Reynolds had developed Brandon's talent to the point that the league scouts had come calling.. he had one. Despite the serious expression on the big blond's face. I've never seen you even crack a smile around me. Brandon continued slowly. "You look like you're going to puke. you're acting completely different -.. Brandon looked at the wall for a moment before bringing his burning gaze back to Angel.
. "But he was a good man. Sarah. Sandy.21 . they had an on-again. after Sarah and Grady were killed." The ballplayer shook his head." His body tautened and he frowned. Just go with me on this. off-again relationship. his daughter Sarah never knew. but the ballplayer had already turned away and plopped down on the bench along the nearest wall.. Angel's traitorous heart ached as he saw the sadness on Brandon's face.Life can change on a dime. at the time I thought it would be CeCe." Angel watched in grudging concern as Brandon seemed to wilt. and Sarah -. "Show time. And. "'Course. Brandon hissed at him to be quiet." Brandon looked up at Angel. watching as Pastor Jim started down the steps.she was always close to her mom. He -.. He'd been trying to rebuild his bridges with her since he dried out ten years ago. oh. I guess her husband didn't have any family left. assuring him. He reached out a hand to Brandon. and he stood up. as the only family he had left. I didn't know if the pastor might be concerned because I'm single." "What?" Angel squawked.he was an alcoholic. And the daughter never went back and changed her will after her mom died in March. speaking quickly and quietly. "Shhh! I had to. "Look. then. There were a few times it looked like it might work out. "I told the pastor I was bringing someone special with me to pick up the kids." The Trouble with Angel .. Sandy wouldn't let Bev tell anyone except me." He grunted. he named me to take guardianship of Marisa and Trey. "His daughter didn't know he was sick." Brandon's attention abruptly shifted from Angel to movement on the staircase. well. and Sandy hadn’t talked to her in about five months. So. when Sandy knew how sick he was." he said. "Listen. Sandy had a history with her.
The girl had lovely. The children had beautiful." Angel watched the boy stare suspiciously at Brandon and his hand. Some people. I'm Brandon. Brandon moved to meet the group. who came up to Brandon's middle. The only trouble was. The pastor's wife? Angel wondered dumbly." His voice was sullen. this is Mr.and that's Marisa Collins there with my wife. "Children." He looked beyond The Trouble with Angel . Brandon stepped forward. He looked over his shoulder. I guess we can talk about that another time. holding out his big hand. "Well. Trey. his features tense. looser curls were dark brown. Sheila. still in shock." He motioned to the little girl. The child's green eyes were striking in his brown face. call me Bran. Angel had no idea what Brandon wanted him to do." Brandon dropped to a crouch. "I don't have a grandpa. The couple each held a child by the hand as they came forward. Halvorsen and his friend. Angel. including your grandpa. He smiled at the woman who had followed behind Jim Maddox. The pastor had a young boy by his side. Breathing deeply. curly hair that was reddish-brown. clearly sending a message to Angel. looked up at the big leaguer. "This is Trey Collins -. Pastor Jim spoke quietly. and they were followed by a little girl keeping step with the woman. then dropped his hand and stood. while the boy's short. He watched in silence as the boy. medium-toned skin that was just a few shades darker than his own. "Hey there. He dropped Pastor Jim's hand but did not accept Brandon's offered hand.22 . Brandon stayed in that position for a few moments longer.Once again leaving Angel speechless. Angel noted.
"I'm sorry. Marisa. The Trouble with Angel ." He tilted his head to the side." Did he just make that sound like we're boyfriends? Angel moved forward enough to shake her offered hand. How are you. Angel spoke for the first time. haven't we. "Absolutely. we'll have to plan a party. She spoke for the first time. sweetheart?" The little girl shyly dipped her head and shuffled her feet. "Do you know what that means?" Marisa nodded her head. "Angel Vargas." he looked over his shoulder again with a funny smile. The pastor's wife stepped down from the final tread and moved the child forward. I'm Sheila Maddox. if there's a birthday coming soon. "Hi." Brandon seemed to realize he hadn't greeted Sheila Maddox. "Uh-huh. That means when I tell you something is true. She looked down at Marisa again. chest-length curls bobbing on her shoulders. "We've had some fun.23 . "Marisa is going to be six in one more month. "Well. as a matter of fact. Marisa?" The little girl nodded briefly. "Welcome. "Really?" He dropped to a crouch so that they were at eye level." Sheila looked as though she were trying to put a good face on their meeting. won't we?" At that. on Halloween. Marisa's head came up. it's like a promise. and this is my friend. "I'm Brandon Halvorsen." "Do you want to come with me so we can talk about it and start planning?" He held out a hand. her soft brown eyes searching his. Watching the tableau was painful. My word is my bond." He reached out a hand. addressing both Angel and Brandon with a gentle smile. Jim and I have enjoyed the opportunity to have the kids with us.the boy to the little girl. her eyes on her feet.
Maddox. whom Brandon knew to be nine years old.24 . Marisa accepted Angel's hand and followed him over to a bench near the front door.. Brandon's head jerked back around. Brandon?" With a small nod. Sheila smiled at him encouragingly. Trey?" The child. "Well. unsure. clearly asking what the pastor and his wife thought of that. they looked sweet together.." He screwed up his facial features into an angry scowl. Brandon. He's very good friends with Mr. for a start. clearly trying to fill the silence. At the snort he heard coming from the boy. *** God.. "I was thinking of taking the kids back to my hotel. and Pastor and Mrs. so warm and.. "Who's going to care about us?" Brandon paused. Angel was conscious of Brandon watching them both closely. Marisa setting herself apart by about a foot. Pastor Jim spoke again. boy. Brandon had never seen Angel looking so." Brandon paused again. well. then looked back up at Sheila.. The question in her eyes was clear. nice. rolled his eyes and attempted a sneer..Marisa looked at his outstretched fingers... "'Risa's too dumb to know that there ain't going to be no birthday party. speaking up The Trouble with Angel .. dear." He paused for a moment. You can go with Mr. Remember we told you you're going to be staying with Mr. "Something you want to say. "You're welcome to join us for dinner tonight -unless you had planned to head back right away?" "Uh. where we could eat and maybe talk. He was so out of his depth." He raised his hands a bit. Angel.. "Go ahead. The two of them sat down. and Angel. I guess that would be me. He raised his brows.
"I guess. clothes. "You know. I guess I did forget that. Let's do that. "I think that's a great idea. Brandon exhaled a sigh. I told Jim that today. "Oh. That's good. The Trouble with Angel . feeling sheepish. isn't he?" He nodded his head in Brandon's direction. Brandon stepped forward. books? Everything they own?" Marisa giggled.before the pastor could jump in.25 . "Okay." Taking that as an encouraging sign. "How about showing me where your bags are?" Sheila nodded. Angel stood up. "Aren't you forgetting something?" "Huh?" Brandon could see the knowing look that just wanted to come out on Angel's face. "He is pretty funny. Brandon smiled at both of them." He waved his hand in the direction of the front door." He turned back to the boy." Relieved. Rolling his eyes. That elicited even more girlish giggles." She stared over at her husband warningly. yeah. "The sooner you all get to know each other. "Are you ready to go? We've got a huge car out front you might like to ride in. maybe you and I can grab some of your stuff and bring it down? Will you help me?" The sullen boy shuffled his feet. "The kids' stuff is upstairs. We'll help. that's good. the better. his eyes down. and Angel responded with a smile. "Hey. Trey. toys." She waved her husband toward the stairs. toothbrush." He turned back to Trey.
and the guy would have to take the help Angel could provide.but then he lost his job. Brandon had brought Angel along on this adventure. He grunted and glared at the big pitcher. and assorted allergy meds. he smirked at his nemesis. How does that sound?" Brandon picked up Marisa's bag and tossed it to Angel. either. too bad. We'll worry about that maybe tomorrow." Trey's voice was matter-of-fact. "You kids have iPods? How about some books to read?" Out of the corner of his eye. who caught it before it could smack him in the face. Let's get whatever you want to take tonight down to the car. In the end. then looked around helplessly. Brandon wasn't much help. Hearing a muted giggle from the little girl. Okay. "Uh. She had the beginnings of a smile on her face. he was glad to see. he glanced down at her. "What else do you want to take tonight?" Brandon asked the children.26 ." Now Angel's voice was soft. they took one large suitcase with the kids' clothing and a small box filled with Trey's Nintendo DS. "My dad was going to get us each one -. Angel watched as the kids stared at each other." Marisa said softly. Well. The Trouble with Angel . "Oh. directing the children and the two men where to go and what to find. toothbrushes and more. he saw Brandon frown over at him.Chapter 4 Jim and Sheila helped sort everything. He raised his head to stare imploringly at Brandon. It was his turn to feel helpless. "He forgets I'm not on his team. "We don't have iPods. the moment of sadness had dissipated. Marisa's two little dolls." Turning.
I'm thinking we should have room service -. the drawl went away.y'all ever have room service?" The southern drawl was back. Angel noted with some disdain. Here. With a shrug and a reluctant grin. one eyebrow cocked. it had made a reappearance. "C'mon kids. That way." she whispered. "You and Brandon be patient with them." It appeared as though he wanted to say more but." After placing the paper in his unwilling hand. you can call us when you need us. he apparently thought better of it." Boys? "That means anytime. big as ever.and to Brandon -The Trouble with Angel . Shrugging to himself -. clearly asking what the delay was. Why is she giving them to me? "Store them in your phone and Brandon's." Sheila nodded. "It's going to take time. she closed his fingers around it and patted his hand. He'd most definitely picked up a slower cadence to his speech while living in the South. but. Angel had observed that when Brandon was under stress. who were watching the sideshow without comment." Angel opened his mouth to deny any kind of relationship other than professional with the ballplayer.27 . Anything we can do to help. But when he'd been jerking Angel around by the elevator. Brandon had grown up in Chicago. her eyes on the children walking ahead. he'd lived in Atlanta for sixteen years." She leaned close to him. "don't hesitate to call us if you need us." Pastor Jim said to both of them. before being traded to the northern California team. let's get going.Brandon's expression was cocky. Brandon picked up the other overnight bag. we'll be there. Angel. but Brandon turned around with an impatient expression. "Really? I thought we were playing for the same team. "I wrote our phone numbers down for you. with a glance at Jim and Sheila Maddox. "Boys.
They seem like a very nice couple. You'll be fine with Brandon and Angel.28 . Brandon?" Understanding what Angel had been getting at. I happen to know there's a television in there. "Thank you. he stood and took her hand. Mr. honey.Angel nodded at Sheila. saw an opening to perhaps make a connection. kid. Angel watched as the big man stared at it. And don't worry. Marisa darted back to Sheila to throw her arms around the pastor's wife in a tight hug." Sheila moved her hands over the little girl's head and shoulders. He started to tug her toward the car but suddenly felt a little resistance. he gave it to the driver who stood next to the car's open door. he smiled and waved an arm. "Well. Want to see it?" At her nod. Plucking the booster seat from the big hands. he followed the boy inside." With a smug look at Brandon. M. Seeing the confusion on the all-toogorgeous face. sweetheart." Angel poked his head out the car door at that. His The Trouble with Angel ." Angel. "Whoa. "Bye-bye. Angel blew out a breath and stepped next to Brandon. Mrs. *** Brandon felt a tug on his hand and looked down. You ever been in a car like this?" At Trey's headshake. "Yes. who was staring at him. Marisa had stepped up next to him. this is your lucky day. Marisa. "Hey. Trey pulled up short. there is. guessing the kid had probably never been in a stretch limo. We will. patting her. Sheila handed a booster seat to Brandon as the group walked outside. He didn't stop to ask himself why he was bothering. Brandon grinned and dropped to a crouch. "Is there really a television in there. "Bye." Downstairs.
Yeah." He paused. out of the kids' earshot." Eyebrows up. "Son. "Well. we don't judge folks based on what happens upstairs in the house.. "When you called us earlier today and told us you'd be coming over with a friend who'd help you take care of the kids. The Trouble with Angel . I don't know why he thought I'd be good at it but. I promised him I'd do anything for him. telling them before you could. "Pastor Jim. I was -. Maddox -. Good thing." Jesus.. "Cressie Lopez has two dads -. "I hope we didn't jump the gun. the fact that he trusted me -. they know what that is." She nodded knowledgeably to both Brandon and Angel. Uh." he assured Angel.mouth hung open as he stared at Sheila and Jim. and he avoided Brandon's eyes completely. the pastor was clearly trying to be discreet in front of the children. After handing her in and watching Angel help her get settled in the booster seat." Marisa's little voice piped up. Stepping back from the car. we wondered." Brandon stood there speechless for a moment before nodding slowly. Jim spoke again. he spoke again.I.no worries. well. then. Uh.. I'll do whatever it takes to get that job done. he was practically babbling.I can't thank you enough for taking care of Sandy's grandkids.. "I want you to know.29 .. Mrs. remembering why he was there.. Then when you and Angel showed up together." He took Marisa's hand again and directed her to the car once again. "Uh-huh.. he turned back to Sheila and Jim.well.. we told the kids before we came downstairs that they'd be living with two dads now. and his last request was that I raise these kids. When his lawyer showed me his will. He scratched his jaw as he stared from the kids to Angel and back again.and my friend Jimmy has two moms. I mean -.
. and I need to move my furniture up there. Angel's leg was visible through the open door. "Have you decided where you're going to live? I know you obviously travel with your team. Smiling despite the seriousness of the subject. Brandon noted that Angel had clenched one hand. and you're gone half the year." Brandon darted a peek at Angel again. "Yes.have you thought about what that kind of insecurity will do to kids who've lost their parents?" She was speaking delicately but clearly was concerned about the issue. "I have a place up in southern Oregon that I bought this summer. since I need to renovate the house. "These last six weeks have been hell on these kids. "Angel and I The Trouble with Angel . Brandon was nodding his head slowly." Satisfied. away from the press. "Us. and the land and community are really amazing. I mean. but we thank God that the children were not with them that night. "The accident that took Sarah and Grady was awful. It's fairly rough. it's a good solid house. son. but Trey has been able to continue in the church's school here. I've had nothing but time to think about this since Sandy's will was read three weeks ago.." He shook his head. doing whatever it takes means you need a stable home for them.30 ." He turned his head toward the limo. trying to see the kids through the tinted windows. but." The pastor's voice was mild but firm when he answered. noticing that the brat had slid closer to the door so he could eavesdrop. Brandon continued. ma'am. nodding her head. Have -. and he focused on that. Now most of his body was visible. It's the only place I can think of to take them where they'll be secure. up to his shoulder."Well. and where they'll have room to grieve and get used to me. and Marisa has been in the prekindergarten class." Sheila murmured an agreement.
"Did you hear everything? I could go over it if you missed any of what Jim and I said. The Trouble with Angel . and watched a shiver run over Angel. Maybe the kids will need to talk to you by then. We'll call you if we need you.. year and more of tough times. "Move over. At least for the moment. "That type of commitment is what's going to help get you through the next. "We meant it when we said you could call us anytime. Brandon sighed to himself. Pastor Jim was nodding. Getting in.and we won't hesitate if they need us again." He clapped Brandon on the shoulder." Brandon felt there were both a warning and a reassurance in that last statement. oh. He met Jim's eyes directly as they shook hands.. his grin immediately turned to a frown as he saw both kids had opened cans of Coke and were swigging them back while watching the television. sir. He turned his attention to Angel and leaned in close to his fashion-plate cohort and whispered. He was gratified to see Angel lunge to the other end of the rear bench seat. we didn't hesitate ." He blew a soft puff of air on the sweet little ear. I'm going to send someone probably tomorrow to pick up the rest of the kids' things. it did appear that limo's luxuries had helped to rid the hopeless expression from the faces of his new charges." Shaking hands next with Sheila Maddox. "Yes. son. Were they allowed to drink pop? Didn't that rot kids' teeth or something? Although. And we'll call you when we get to Oregon. holding out his hand for a shake.will work to make those kids feel like they have a home with us. When the children were brought to us for emergency housing." He made sure to say it loud enough to be heard by the Maddoxes. Oblivious to the little byplay.31 . Brandon turned and stepped over to the car. if that's okay. lover." Make that both hands.
Trey shrugged and went back to watching television.. The driver pulled out onto the road as they all watched each other. Brandon saw the kids staring at both adults. Angel's expression was somewhere between scared and fascinated. you -eavesdropping?" "Stop.32 ." Brandon's lips quirked before he touched them softly The Trouble with Angel . Brandon reached to tug Angel up tight. pulling his reluctant guest close. With one arm along the back of the seat. "What about you." She also took another sip of her Coke. Brandon chuckled and slid his arm around Angel. that the boy was watching them out of the corner of his eye. staring into the chocolaty eyes. "What are you doing?" he whispered urgently. "Are you two going to kiss?" Trey's question was loud suddenly as the nine-year-old muted the television with the remote. "Well? Are you?" Brandon laughed slightly. "Why? Do you want to see us kiss? Or not?" Brandon was honestly curious. eyes round. Trey took a slurping gulp of his Coke. sweetheart?" The little girl shrugged slightly but nodded her head. Brandon saw that Marisa was still looking at them. please. Angel gasped. "Um. He leaned his forehead down to touch Angel's. "Yes.. though. "I don't care. "You heard the little lady." Brandon smirked." "Stop what?" Smiling." He flicked the remote and the sound came back up."What are you talking about?" Angel edged away. he nuzzled the silky hair. jerking back from Brandon as he darted a look over at the children. His voice was carefully modulated. Brandon noted. "Don't.
"I'm sealing the deal.to Angel's. The Trouble with Angel ." His mouth then closed over Angel's.33 . taking control immediately.
"Honey. she smiled shyly." She released a loud belch suddenly. "Um. The ballplayer stared down at Angel. I think it was okay. The scent of the leather combined with Brandon's -. he kept his eyes open for a few moments until the thrill of Brandon (Brandon!) kissing him became overwhelming.Chapter 5 Angel felt a rush in his belly. turning his head more into the kiss. His eyes slid shut. Marisa?" The little girl tilted her head. horrified. then dropped back to Brandon's own thigh.and he breathed in deeply through his nose. That large hand slid down his chest. considering. Eyeing the two men for a little bit longer. When the boy noticed Angel watching.no man-fume." Angel couldn't help but chuckle. he jerked the can up and took another slug. The Trouble with Angel . how was that. before turning to look at Marisa. That tongue drove deep for just a second or two before Brandon eased back. "Well. Defiant." she whispered. breathing faster. Brandon's hand came up and cupped his chin. just clean male. bringing their lips together one final time before sitting up straight. and he squeezed his fingers in an attempt not to grab the hunk of man that was leaning into him. excited beyond belief. Trey was staring at them.34 . Coke does that to me every time. and he leaned back against the leather seat. he didn't like guys who drowned themselves in artificial scent. Brandon shouted with laughter. his hands falling to his sides. his can of Coke held suspended just below his lips. then clapped her hand over her mouth. Angel looked over at Trey to see what the boy thought about them kissing. "Sorry. thank you -.
Inside. the doorman opened the near door. "Aren't you hungry?" A shrug was his only answer. okay?" Nodding silently. Trey?" Angel watched as Trey set his pop can in the holder and fiddled with the remote.35 . A slight shrug was the only answer as the boy's eyes stayed trained on the LCD screen that was set in the roof of the car. looking ready to out-stubborn him." He turned around and held out a hand for Marisa." That got a response. Jack. We've got some bags in the trunk. Frowning. the ballplayer reluctantly giving him some breathing space. and you can follow behind the kids. We're going to go upstairs and have some dinner. catching her backpack as it banged against his legs. A few minutes later. "Welcome back. Angel considered. "You okay. The Trouble with Angel ." Good answer. who was cautiously poking her head out the car door. "Because why?" Trey appeared to settle back in his seat. putting an end to any further questioning. smiling at the doorman. Angel waited as Trey continued to stare at the television. the limo pulled to a stop under the hotel's portico." "Here.Angel pushed Brandon away a little with his arm. "It's okay. Angel wondered what the boy was thinking. "Hey. Brandon reached down and swung her up into his arms. "Why?" Trey looked up at him truculently. okay?" Brandon slid out. As the driver got out to walk around. the little girl placed her hand in his and stepped out of the car. Halvorsen. Mr. making no move to get out of the car. Let me get out first. "Because. sweetheart. you need to get out of the car. "Well.
Brandon shifted Marisa higher in his arms as he answered." It was a statement. that means you have to get out of the car now. you don't. I haven't known Trey long enough to know if he's a brat. "You. seemingly unperturbed. You don't get to call me that. Angel slid out of the car and gave Brandon a look. "What was that." He knew this guy was jerking him around. eyeing the troublesome nine-year-old." "So you can't tell me what to do. His blood heating up -. But. Brandon backed off immediately. Grinning now. "No. no." The driver's lips quirked as he stood upright again. not a question. "I can tell you that the driver will get fired if he doesn't move the limo out of the entry. inspiration striking." Angel snorted." The driver obligingly poked his head through the door and nodded solemnly. too. brat?" Offended. his fists clenching. How about you get the kid and we go eat some dinner. "Oh. I'm. "Please. spanky way -. That was a bit over the top. I think you can count on that. sugar." Angel continued.I have a wife and kids to feed. Brandon said. there. "Easy."You're not my dad. "I guess that's true.36 . okay?" Sighing in frustration at the way this day had turned absolutely crazy. Angel blurted." "Oh. "Are you talking to me or the boy?" Smiling. "The kid won't get out of the car!" The Trouble with Angel ...Angel stepped closer.and not in the good. sir -. I'm not. Angelbaby?" Marisa's feet kicked as she watched both men. Angel frowned again. I'm just helping Brandon out today." Uh-oh. So. of course. "What's the problem.
no less!" Angel's heated whisper sent warm breath over Brandon's ear as they stood on the penthouse terrace. The children couldn't make up their minds what to eat. Maybe you can get married?" Shaking his head.37 . the children were again parked in front of a television. watching the adults around him." "What's the difference?" "I have no idea. plucking the menus from their hands and ordering them both grilled cheese sandwiches with fries. He had a smirk on his face as he stood." *** "How could you do that? To a priest." Trey announced. and Marisa really couldn't read the menu very well. "Might as well make the most of this. grabbing Trey by the shoulder and pushing him ahead into the hotel. hip-shot. Angel sighed. enjoying Angel's continued frustration. Angel The Trouble with Angel . Brandon had ordered a Caesar salad. How could you lie to a min--minister?" They'd had dinner from room service. Brandon had ignored the comment. Make me look like the idiot. this time in the suite's media room. watching them. He'd watched in amusement as Angel had pointedly ordered the most expensive steak on the menu." his guest had declared dramatically. anyway! I think I have to feed my fish. He'd gotten out of the limo and was standing off to the side. "Sure. which had been a somewhat tedious process. "And I have to go home. Angel huffed in disgust. Angel had finally decided for them." "He wasn't a priest. he was a minister. Now. "Still."Hey! I'm right here. along with a one hundred seventy-five dollar bottle of wine.
Ignoring Angel's question. "Hey! You dragged me along on this adventure today. too. sugar... you probably need to start eating better. "What is really going on here? Are you on medication? Are you sick?" Brandon couldn't help but laugh at that. though. is a. "Did you know that?" Frowning once more." he said in a complete non sequitur. well into his third glass of the Chateauneuf du Pape. "What?" he squawked. and he'd wondered what would come out next. "What the fuck were you thinking today? How could you make those nice people think that we're together? Who'd even believe that anyway?" he continued." he finished triumphantly. looking the slender body over. "Relax. "You could probably use some.was pacing on the terrace. leaning against the stone wall and cocking his head. "You know how many guys want to get their hands on this body?" Brandon sighed. one hand smoothing his trousers. He'd watched Angel get all worked up. staring up at the night sky. Brandon gave one of his own. appearing too exercised to enjoy it. do you think you need another glass of that?" Brandon thought the question was perfectly reasonable.." He giggled a little. "This body is. he waved one hand. staring at his clothing. a finelytuned machine. "Listen. Angel. At least allow me to enjoy this part of it. I do take some vitamin supplements. "the lights on the terrace are reflecting in your little blue peepers. I'm not sick and I'm not on meds. I just meant that you The Trouble with Angel .." He frowned. okay?" Angel took another big sip.38 . making the color disappear." Angel slammed his wineglass down on a nearby table. He mumbled something in Spanish before he edged backward. In fact. "No. Angel. "Are you kidding me?" He looked down. "You know.
I think you need to lie down." He crouched.might want to think about eating more healthy. really!" Angel grabbed his wine glass again and took another swig.. "Whoa. Shrugging in disdain." Angel had spent most of the meal frowning at Brandon. not toss it back like it's a shot of Jack." He looked up with a silly smile on his face. At least five guys a week are hitting on me. I love mochas. "In the three years I've known The Trouble with Angel . "Me gusto. taking one hand. Angel raised the glass to his lips but started to sway a little. that's all. if only you were this easy all the time." Brandon cautioned in amusement. I had my mocha this morning.. He set the wineglass on the small table. si. "I heard he was taken." Brandon chuckled to himself.39 . "Look. leaning in as Brandon slid an arm around his waist." Brandon lunged forward. "Especially since you really didn't eat most of your dinner. "Mmmm. catching him around his shoulders and easing him down into a nearby chair. "You might want to sip that. and we'll get you comfortable?" "'Kay.. somebody saying he wants me. "Angel." "Yes." Angel obligingly got up with Brandon's help. Don't you?" "Uh-huh. then switching to look at the children with a concerned expression." "I'll tell you how many. "How about if you come with me. "God.." Angel professed passionately. "Even -. Can't imagine a world without them.even Johnny Rayne wanted me!" "Really?" Brandon pretended to be impressed. I can't go anywhere without. did you eat anything today?" The sleek black hair tumbled over his brow as Angel dipped his head down. I." He directed Angel back inside the penthouse and led him into the master bedroom.
be careful with that tie -. "And you'd be nice to me even when I was all business with you. will you?" Angel obediently toed off his Dolce shoes." Brandon slid his hands along the muscled biceps. "Raise your arms. Why do I get the hots for you?" At that. Let's get this T-shirt off you.I bought it new on eBay." He pulled his arms free of the shirt. Brandon stopped still." "Uh-huh.40 ." Brandon commented quietly as they stopped next to the bed." "Ohh-kay. Okay. Angel. you've always been a prickly bastard with me. How about that?" Brandon's voice was low. Like your mama trained you right or something. then you can sit down. "No. and it would just bug me. Take off your shoes. Always quiet. Hey. Angel. let's get your pants off first. Brandon slipping the buttons free one by one. "Can’t help it. "I need to sit down to take off my socks." "Um. Brandon slipped it from around his neck and tossed to the chair near the bed. You bother me. raising his gaze from where he'd been unbuckling Angel's belt. you'd come into the office all straight and stuff. it's a Ferragamo. Angel laid his head on Brandon's shoulder. urging Angel to turn around. Angel raised his chin out of the way as Brandon started to loosen his tie.you. "Stuffed shirt." The Armani shirt came next." "Yes. "See. Who does that?" Angel continued to mumble." he repeated. really. but still. Angel continued his monologue. he jerked the belt loose and unfastened the gabardine trousers. Es verdad. then slid his hand The Trouble with Angel . "No. His eyes locking on Angel's. really." "And you'd always be polite.
That's another thing! Why do I get hard when I see you?" The question was muttered into his shirt as Angel swayed into him. Brandon's voice was strained when he answered. "I don't know. "Mira. Angel -.inside.but I have to say I'm glad.41 ." The Trouble with Angel .
Brandon approached the boy. So. Trey's head came up and the child watched him in the glass. sitting on the bed next to the prickly bastard. The boy sounded awfully adult there for a moment. watching the volatile man snore softly into the pillow. "Don't you mean a little too much wine?" Brandon looked at him alertly. Brandon turned his head to look at the boy. Angel had tumbled into bed." "Oh." The kid snorted.42 . son. stopping a few feet behind. that's what I'm going to The Trouble with Angel . "Something you want to ask me?" Trey stayed silent for a long minute. but Brandon saw the tension in Trey's body language. then trudged over to the floor-to-ceiling windows. "No. he is. he just didn't eat anything today. poking his head into the huge walk-in closet. then leaned his head against the glass. Rising to his feet. He moved aimlessly. "Trey. your grandfather asked me to give you a home and to raise you right. He stared down at the lights of LA for a few moments. "What are you going to do with us?" He sounded as though he didn't care. and he shouldn't have had the wine on an empty stomach." Trey stepped into the bedroom. He had a little too much excitement today. He spoke into the window without turning his head. That's all. hands in his pockets and his sock-clad feet shuffling in the carpet. As soon as he'd finished undressing the fashion plate. Brandon had been staring at Angel. Your mom and dad asked him to make sure that happened.Chapter 6 "Is Angel sleeping?" Trey's quiet question came from the bedroom doorway. Now. "Yes.
well. drinking problem.. "Son. missed your mother." Trey nodded at him.. a long time ago. appearing wise beyond his years. He looked like he didn't know what to do with his hands for a few moments before shuffling back. their eyes meeting.." His eyebrows raised in surprise. "He talked about you. Sandy didn't live to fulfill your parents' request -. feeling the tension himself. "I. the boy nodded. very much. well. how come they didn't talk?" Brandon shrugged slightly. okay?" He nodded toward the sitting area of the master suite. a lot. and wrapping his arms around his knees.so he gave the job to me. Brandon dropped down onto the loveseat. so this might not mean anything to you. pulling his feet up. And he. "Uh-huh... "Look -let's sit down over there. "You did?" His lips twisting a bit.43 . Brandon continued.. It was like he had a hole in his heart." Trey stared up at him. My dad said....do. "I know you never knew your grandfather. he wanted my mom to call my grandfather. But I want you to know that he cared a lot about you and your sister. They were arguing. "Why." He rolled his own shoulders. Brandon watched the child squirm a The Trouble with Angel . Brandon looked at Trey with concern. unsure how much to tell the boy.. he stepped up to the window and looked down at the boy. not being able to see her very often. "I heard my mom and dad talking about it. Breathing deeply. while Trey perched on the edge of one of the upholstered chairs that flanked it. how about looking at me?" When Trey reluctantly raised his head.." Brandon's hand slid off the child's shoulder." Brandon tentatively set a hand on the boy's shoulder. Pity in his heart. he had a. for help after he lost his job. your grandfather -. his eyes searching..
did struggle this season. looking stubborn. I guess. Trey's head dropped down and his shoulders slumped. he huffed out a breath. He scanned the huge.or anything about me. "Christ." He rubbed his fingers over his face.... "What does your old man know about pitching?" At that.you're right. "Not much. he forced himself to walk out to the living room. knowing the kid was jerking his chain. dropping his head against the back of the loveseat. Brandon jumped up. Jolted. I know you don't know me -. A snore from the bed startled them both." That stung." Irritated. "I didn't get kicked out of rotation!" Brandon said hotly. open floor plan of the The Trouble with Angel . I would. "If I could kick my own ass. refusing to look up.. Brandon reached out a hand just as Trey jumped up from the chair. "Really? I guess that was easy for him to say.44 . face heating." Shrugging moodily." Struck dumb at his own thoughtlessness. 'Cause he didn't have to deal with a manager who was over-pitching him and a trainer who could easily get a job interrogating prisoners for the Egyptians. "My rotator cuff was." Pulling in a deep breath and hissing it out slowly. "I know that you got kicked out of rotation this year." That brought his head up.bit. The boy bolted from the room before Brandon could react. I." He sighed. "He said you were kind of a weenie." Trey stared back at him provokingly. "Are you kidding me?" he demanded." Trey eyed Brandon. "Okay -. "My dad said you should have been traded. pacing to the windows and back. Trey had curled even more tightly into the chair. Brandon stood there rigidly. "Hey.
Despite his frustration. Opening the door further and walking inside the room." he said quietly. sobbing into a pillow. "I'm The Trouble with Angel . The little boy pounded the mattress a few times while Brandon stood watching. the boy flipped to face him. he pulled back the covers and slid her underneath. He was surprised to find it unlocked. I would have locked it against me. sitting up and angrily dashing the tears away. At that. She rested. having fallen sideways on the leather sofa. so he guessed that Trey was in there. Trey was lying across the bed. time to go apologize for sticking your foot in your mouth. pushing the lever at the same time. Slowly opening the door. asshole. One door was shut tight. Brandon walked over to the media room. his gut clenching at what he saw. Walking back out of the room. wondering if he should take off any more of her clothes or just tuck her in fully dressed. not knowing what to do... He grabbed the remote from the coffee table and clicked it off. undisturbed. Brandon shrugged uncomfortably. Hiding. sorry. then bent down to swing her up into his arms. "I. Shrugging.. He removed her shoes. against his chest as he walked over to the two guest bedrooms. he peered around the edge.. want to say I'm." He stepped to the next room and knocked gently. he rubbed his face again. "Well. "What do you want?" The nine-year-old's tone was petulant." Clearing his throat. then stood there. he repeated. "You should be hitting me instead. He placed the little girl down on the bed in the other room. but there was no sign of Trey in the living room or kitchen. Marisa was asleep in front of the television.penthouse. dressed as she was. Following the television sounds.45 . he had to smile.
46 . he watched the late-night traffic move through the Hollywood Hills. then leaned on the balustrade with a sigh. hey.and has nothing to do with you. "Why don't you try getting some sleep? We can talk more in the morning. he pushed away from the balustrade. Sighing deeply once more. *** "Ohmygod. "Trey. Struggling to find answers to the questions his new life had thrust upon him. staring out into the night." It really didn't matter anymore. He stood there." Deciding he'd fucked up enough and that he should leave it at that. I was an idiot. His life in baseball was over anyway." Angel's shocked voice woke Brandon from the deep sleep he'd finally fallen into around three The Trouble with Angel .sorry." Brandon pulled the door softly shut and wandered out to the terrace. he'd let tomorrow take care of itself. And just what the hell did he plan to do with the beautiful man currently sleeping in his bed? That was the sixty-four thousand dollar question. and I want you to know that you can. I let myself get angry about something that. He didn't see how it was going to get better since he didn't have the first clue how to raise a child. he backed to the door. You need to be able to rely on me. What on God's green earth had made Sandy think that Brandon could make a home for these two kids? He'd been stumbling badly this whole day." He shrugged again. I'm the adult. The boy was staring at him suspiciously. I'm supposed to control myself. "Something that really doesn't matter anymore -. For now. Brandon couldn't tell what he was thinking. this time irritably. if you want... for quite a while.
eyes darting around. "Whoa. Kind of adorable. then rolled his head on the pillow. Brandon rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands." Brandon watched in open amusement as Angel's head popped up." Running one hand over his belly. ducking his head. I didn't expect to see this softer side of Angel Vargas. "Hey! I'm not--" Angel didn't seem to know where to go with his protest." Sighing." he said primly. He slid his hands behind his head. "Uh-huh. "Now. I'm in your bed. Yeah?" "So you would have given me an invitation? If you The Trouble with Angel . drunk. "You're in my bed. "Um. silky black hair all rumpled. "What?" he asked crankily. uh. "Wait. "You look like the kind of guy who sleeps in the buff. uh." Taking a deep breath.m. "Do you mean I should have waited for an invitation? Into my own bed?" Angel was so delicious like this. Brandon admitted shamelessly. too. "But I. Brandon watched Angel fidget with the sheet." He looked under the covers. flopping onto his back. Dude. you-.I think I was. that's adorable.47 . I usually expect guys to wait for an invitation before they take my clothes off. Snorting a laugh. you were. Irritated. Angel stared at him. too.a. Brandon pushed back from where he'd been spooned around Angel." He arched his brows." Angel actually blushed. Brandon turned on his side. "I." Sitting up. Naked.. propping his head in one hand." "Yes. "I have to say." Mouth open. "I do." Sliding his tongue over his teeth to hide another smile. too. Angel paused.. "Um. Angel took care not to meet Brandon's eyes. The early morning sun highlighted the redness across his cheekbones.
48 . you mean?" The Trouble with Angel .hadn't passed out from the wine.
Brandon crawled over Angel. claiming what he wanted.Chapter 7 Angel's head snapped up." Another hip bump. you feel good.49 . crossing one arm over Angel's hips and planting a hand there. What?" "So. shoving his tongue forward. "Mmmmm. Wait. He rested more of his weight on Angel. Deciding to ask forgiveness rather than permission. if I'd moved like this. Squinting as though he needed glasses and rubbing his forehead. "God.. smart mouth. "and I'd done this. "you'd have said. nudging them open. That's it. He put his elbows next to Angel's upper arms. That's better. "How does that feel?" He rocked his hips forward again. he took possession of that feisty. satisfied as the other man eased backward. chocolate brown eyes meeting his. moving his knee between the lightly-furred legs. "Uhhnnnhh." he licked his tongue across that full lower lip." he softly kissed the scrunched-up lips." Brandon nodded encouragingly. "okay?" He leaned back to see the effect he was having. He was gratified to feel Angel's legs slide up along his hips. "Uh. He settled down. wrapping around them under the sheet." Brandon rolled his weight forward. isn't that good?" Lowering his head. changing the angle to rub his cock against Angel's balls. feeling Angel's leanly muscled body accept his weight. Angel. then Angel's arms came around his shoulders and one hand slid over The Trouble with Angel . "Uh-huh. Um.. Angel stared at Brandon with confusion." He was rewarded with a whimper. as if he couldn't make up his mind what he wanted to say.. rubbing their cocks together.. Angel gasped as Brandon's cock bumped his own. His mouth opened and closed a couple of times.
yeah. And now? He just wanted to stuff his cock so deep inside this little prima donna that Angel would feel it for a week. He cursed as the shirt got caught on his head as he opened the door. He reached down and palmed the stiff prick that was rubbing against him. her hand still on the lever. when did Trey go downstairs?" Brandon The Trouble with Angel . and I'm hungry!" Jolting upright. he wrapped his fingers around the silky shaft and started jacking the other man." He watched as Angel arched.50 ." Shoving his feet into his Vans. then grabbed the jeans he'd tossed on the chair the night before and yanked them on. They both jerked as Marisa's voice shouted through the door. He was right where he had just discovered he'd wanted to be for almost three years. it didn't matter. "You! Stay here with Marisa. pulling his head closer and locking their lips together. "That's it. A second later. he grabbed a Tshirt from the dresser and bolted for the bedroom door. the import of the little girl's words registered. "Christ!" He ripped the sheet back and jumped out of bed.his scalp. Angel had been an irritating presence each time he'd visited with CeCe or called her office. that's right. Brandon stared at Angel in shock for just a moment. That's it. he ordered swiftly. Turning his wrist. Oh. "Brandon!" A loud thumping at the door startled him. Brandon! Trey went downstairs. hips thrusting forward. With a finger pointed at Angel. but just then. "Mr. "Sweetheart. catching Marisa as she tumbled forward. He hadn't known why the pugnacious assistant had gotten under his skin until yesterday. baby. He felt as much as heard Angel's moan. He was sure they both tasted a little musty. C'mon.
" Brandon swung Marisa into his arms and rose. "Stay here with Angel. I'd run in their bedroom if they forgot to lock the door. He was in way over his head." When she was little? "You're still little." "Are you naked?" Flushing. he thought sourly. did?" Plucking at the loose fabric of the duvet." What was the protocol for this? His contract with CeCe didn't cover this one. "Um. "Uh-huh. Angel.dropped to a crouch next to her. "They do? Um. It was probably sticking out every which way.51 . he fretted. he dumped her on top of the covers bunched down at the foot. okay." The Trouble with Angel . Angel ran a hand through his hair. Why do you want to know?" "My mommy and daddy go naked. He told me he was going to go back to our house. shoving the pillows back up behind himself." Frowning. his hand shaking a little. "Hi. Sometimes when I was little and scared. He ran a hand down her tumbled hair. Hi. what would he screw up next? The little girl tilted her head to the side. "He left right after we watched Jimmy Neutron. considering. Jesus. he eased upward a little." Oops. "Yes. Marisa hummed a little. "Um." The little girl's voice was sweet. I'm going to go find him and bring him back. Striding to the bed." *** Angel pulled the sheet up to his neck and stared at Marisa as though she were an alien who'd just landed in the bedroom. And he needed to go home. "I'm hungry.
Marisa looked at him. seeming to like that explanation. that was probably a good thing. I'm almost six now.. The elevator arrived as he pushed send." He held the sheet to his chest with one hand and pointed to the door with the other." *** Impatiently waiting for the elevator. The kid sounded like she was twenty-five. "Get going. "This is Brandon Halvorsen. "Well. pulling it shut behind herself." Jesus. "Oh.it.." "Why?" Trying to inject some authority in his voice. Okay." He stumbled a little in the face of her current parental situation. Marisa looked at him patiently. Give me fifteen seconds. it means -. Marisa headed out the door. don't you think? And I think you need to wait for me out in the living room. and you're not going to watch." Nodding agreeably.Shaking her head. mee-hah?" Uh-oh. He stepped in and jabbed the lobby button. Well. I need to get dressed. Marisa nodded. "What's. Brandon called down to the concierge desk. "Jesus." "I'll open the door as soon as I'm dressed. "Because." Halting in the act of sliding off the bed. "Uh... "Anyway." Enough was enough. I have a nine-year-old The Trouble with Angel . mi'ja. "Angel.52 . pulling up the stored number on his cell.. in Spanish. he stared at the unrepentant little wretch. Mommy and Daddy made me go back to my room when I found them naked. it's 'my little girl' or 'my daughter'. Her sweet little face was scrunched up in a questioning manner..
I'm Brandon Halvorsen. This way. putting his hands on his knees. Brandon took a deep breath. catching Killian's eye. Hotel security staff had spotted Trey wandering through the lobby and currently had the boy in the office. "Oh. sir?" Still shaken. and his heart was pounding. "May I help you. Can you tell me if anyone has seen him?" Relief rushing through him at the answer he heard. Adrenaline was coursing through his system. Halvorsen. She left him at a door marked Private. A tough-looking man who appeared to be in his fifties was on the phone.boy staying with me." He followed her down behind reception to a service corridor leading to the office suite.I have a little boy staying with me. "Where is the security office?" The concierge on duty came out from behind her desk. He's back with Mr.. yes. breathing hard. Relieved that Trey was indeed safe. and he's taken off. Brandon said a shaky thank-you and hung up. Brandon stepped into the office. he opened the door and found himself in an office area where a young man addressed him. The door stood open. Hurrying out of the elevator. The cell phone dangling from his fingers. Brandon headed for the concierge desk. "Right this way. he rubbed his tight chest with the heel of one hand. Straightening as the car slowed. staring at the boy who sat slouched across the desk from him.53 . He took off this morning. Mr. "Here you go. "Yes. please. My. Thank God. sir. Killian." Brandon was led to an office at the end of the short hallway.. and I'm told he's back here?" The young man stood up with a smile. he bent down... The man's brow The Trouble with Angel ." (How did he describe Trey?) "." Thanking her.
what were you thinking? You're only nine years old. He stood as Brandon approached.54 . How could you possibly get to Encino from here?" "I don't know. Looked like he wanted to steal something. Shrugging sullenly. Brandon could tell Trey wanted to dispute that statement." The boy shoved his Nike-clad foot against the metal desk a few times. "Mr. "This young man was scoping out the gift shop over by the elevators. the boy was silent.and it felt pretty damned high right then. Staring at both visitors. He crossed his arms around himself and slouched down even further in the chair." Brandon held out a hand." Brandon plopped down. Meeting Killian's eyes. His body language just screamed angry. How would he have found the boy if Trey had gotten out of the hotel? Trey's eyes had gone wide at the first sight of Brandon." Killian gestured to a guest chair. "I know who you are. Darting a peek at Brandon. "Trey. "Have a seat. "Didn't your parents talk to you about being careful? What if somebody had tried to grab you?" The nightmare of that possibility was keeping Brandon's blood pressure elevated -. his chair creaking in protest. Pleased to meet you. Killian? I'm Brandon Halvorsen. thoroughly unnerved at the near miss. the boy appeared to think better of it." The security chief leaned back.arched as he quickly ended his call. The Trouble with Angel . Brandon was still so relieved he couldn't focus on any accusation of attempted theft. Brandon grimaced for a moment. but he now had his gaze fixed on his shoes. Killian spoke again.
don't you?" Brandon stayed by the desk. Killian an apology for the trouble you've caused. he wondered? Ignoring him. then raised his eyes to Brandon. The Trouble with Angel . Flushing. "Well." Trey hesitated for a moment but got up as instructed. He hadn't gone at it blindly. the boy bit his lip." Getting to his feet. "Kid. he gestured with one hand. Killian got up from his chair and came around the side of the desk. Brandon sighed. "No. "I think you owe Mr. "I think we'd better go back upstairs and talk about this. Trey sent a scared glance toward the security chief. I apologize for the excitement this morning. The security chief's eyes twinkled as he met Brandon's gaze over the boy's head." The other man emphasized the last few words. "Haven't you forgotten something?" The boy looked at him blankly. waiting.Looking back at the security chief. There are lots of kids who run away who don't ever make it where they're going. Killian. you even know how to read a map?" Did they even teach map-reading anymore." Killian's voice was soft but firm. Do we owe anything to the store?" Shaking his head. Killian smiled slightly. He moved over to the door. I don't think Trey had the chance to commit his crime. "Mr. sir. "Hey! I wasn't going to do anything! I just needed a map!" Well. Trey. "Let's go.55 . but Brandon's voice stopped him. Trey looked away. Brandon was slightly mollified by that information. at least the kid had thought about his aborted escape attempt. Trey's head came up angrily. looks like you're pretty lucky this morning.
relaxing bit. Brandon spoke softly. the tough security chief grinned as he shook the boy's hand.. Watching him go. "I'm sorry. Killian in the eye and say it. "Can't hear you." Smiling briefly. "Don't tell your shoes you're sorry. Look Mr. "I hope you're right. He stared at Trey. I'm just glad it worked out for the best today. Halvorsen here. Then shake his hand. Mr. Putting a hand on the kid's shoulder. Trey scooted out the door." That was a bit clearer. I bet you both can work out whatever the trouble is." The boy bravely raised his hand to shake. boy. Killian. he quickly shook hands and took off after the boy. "Son. You go on upstairs with Mr. "I'm. sor-sorry. then Killian." Was he being too hard on the boy? Grudgingly raising his head. "What's that?" Brandon asked. The Trouble with Angel ..A mumble of words was heard." When Killian dropped his hand.56 . I hope you're right. man. Trey looked up at Brandon." He suppressed a smile when Trey glowered up at him.
bare feet curled around the stool rail. what happened to your parents absolutely sucks. There's no way I can understand all your pain. It was kind of delicious." He sighed. His fashionista was dressed in just a tank T-shirt and dress pants. He tried a friendly tack.or at least.no two ways about it. no way I can know exactly what you're going through.. Despite the seriousness of the morning's activities.57 .Chapter 8 Upstairs in the penthouse. gorgeous face watching him as he and Trey moved through the suite. Trey parked in a chair at the table. He'd never seen Angel looking rumpled. Brandon thought with a chuckle. "Trey. "Trey. refusing to look at Brandon. Brandon directed Trey out to the terrace. well.. can tell you that. Angel's lip was curled around the spoon. we're going to talk for a few minutes. I figure you and your sister got a rotten deal -. he swiftly followed Trey outside. But. "I. I lost my family when I was eighteen. he had to laugh at the snarly. "Sugar. bi. His parents had kicked him out of their lives when he'd told them he thought he was gay -. Brandon paused as Trey briefly raised sad eyes at that statement. It was the first time he'd admitted that aloud for quite a while. who were sitting together at the breakfast bar. 'kay?" Without giving the pretty-boy a chance to snipe at him. propping one foot on the other knee. then plunged. "Let's sit out here for a minute. The luscious black hair was tousled." It was technically true. munching on cereal. which was a trick..." He hesitated. Brandon pulled out the flanking chair and sat down. "It The Trouble with Angel . okay?" They walked by the wide-eyed Marisa and pouty Angel.
" Trey eyed him askance at that.happened. A non-answer. "Hey. I'm going to need your help. He wanted to know you. The two of them appeared to be discussing the latest Shrek movie. and. So. spotting Angel and Marisa almost nose-to-nose over the breakfast bar. and. Despite the seriousness of his situation out on the terrace. his hand grazing the short curls... the five-year-old looking for all the world like a schoolteacher chastising a student.. we're going to get to know each other." Here goes nothing. There's no going back. with Angel loving it and Marisa giving it a thumbs down. then focused on his own fingers. wishing he knew what the hell to say. it's just going to take some time. "See those two in there?" He jerked his head toward The Trouble with Angel . He shrugged. Brandon thought. and Brandon thought he heard a sniffle as well. "Legally. you and Marisa are supposed to live with me. Inspiration struck as he heard Angel arguing with Marisa in the kitchen. all of us. The boy's green eyes were suspiciously bright in the morning sunlight. I guess. Trey eyed Brandon." He rubbed his jaw. "Your grandpa and I were. Marisa was waving her spoon at his fashionista. "Here's the deal." Sighing again. We've got to all give ourselves some time.58 . he reached out to the little boy.. but he never got the chance. well. kid. nerves making his foot bounce. Angel was grabbing her cereal bowl and slapping it down on the counter next to the sink.. Trey. His chest tightened at the sound." He sighed again. "Look. family. That means that I'm going to provide a home for you both. which were rubbing the edge of the table. Brandon had to admit the little girl tickled his funny bone.." He looked over his shoulder. My lawyer has already gotten the court's approval. I'm his do-over.
the quarreling twosome. We're going to have to gang up on him. "You're always supposed to be honest. "Why?" He wiped his nose with the back of his hand." He should feel ashamed for manipulating this child. "Anyway -.he's still a little sensitive about anybody knowing about us. Angel's not going to want to stay with us. Brandon knew he'd hooked his interest. My mom said so. Angel was watching him suspiciously while Marisa grabbed one hand and began tugging Angel toward the computer in the living room. about who I. with me playing in the majors. who I am." The boy tilted his head. I The Trouble with Angel . Green eyes that looked as though they could see through him stared at him steadily. that's the look he gives me when he's going to tell me no. Brandon had seen that look way too many times in CeCe's office. "Anyway.59 . I haven't been able to be completely honest." It had been vital to his career to keep his private life quiet. "See. And he was." He shook his head. the thing is." He snuck another glance over his shoulder.." The boy held up his hands with a shrug. Knowing he needed Angel's help. and nervous. "How come?" "Well. Brandon was prepared to do or say whatever it took to get CeCe's gorgeous assistant locked into his plans. And. "Well.. I know." Trey looked at Brandon oddly. "You'd be surprised. A little." That was not a lie. and not going to want to help me. Angel's going to be afraid. "See that look?" Watching Trey nod.. "Those two are going to keep us busy. Trey.. on top of that. "What's he afraid of?" he scoffed. But it's not always that simple. "I know. We can't let him take off on us. curiosity beginning to replace the sadness.
"Thanks for the help. I refuse to accept any responsibility for that fashion disaster. and blue sneakers. like guys. "I like women. too. Brandon eyed the child with a sour look. I was. way up.that I.. He raised his The Trouble with Angel . She'd seemingly dressed herself in an eye-popping combination of pink tights." Angel looped a hesitant arm around the child to keep her from sliding sideways.. his foot dropping to the floor. his head bowed over the glass table. Marisa followed him. it's not that simple!" "He just told me that. too.. sugar.. he walked over to the table where they sat and plopped down in an empty chair. Angel was disconcerted.wasn't lying." he finished with a mumble. from the boy. Halvorsen. "I'm not gay!" At Angel's disbelieving look." "Don't push me..60 ." "That you're gay?" The question came from over his shoulder. "Apparently. Holding a stuffed bear that had seen better days. How come? Don't you like kids?" Trey's voice was low.. He jerked his head around. his mouth falling open slightly. just not telling everybody and his uncle. for chrissakes. uh... exactly." Angel's left brow was arched.. waving both hands in a clear message of nonresponsibility. boy.. "Well.. "Seems the ladies like you. Marisa was right behind him.. At Brandon's perplexed look. I. I do." He turned back to Angel. We argued for five minutes about that outfit. that I -." Trey's voice piped up softly. "Brandon says you're not going to want to stay with us.." That provoked a giggle. however small. "Don't look at me. and the tone was fairly snippy. Angel shook his head. "I just. he backtracked a little." Huffing in disgust. climbing onto his lap without fanfare.. red sweatshirt.
CeCe.head slightly as he asked the last question.. Silently cheering the little boy for putting Angel directly in the hot seat. He relaxed back into his chair. that reminds me of you. The Trouble with Angel . Look. Angel's brow furrowed as he stared at Brandon. "Hey. I have a job. it pays the rent. Brandon rubbed his hand over his mouth to hide his smile. and Angel jerked his head away.61 ." Raising a hand." he hissed at Brandon. "I. But. A resigned look came over his face as he rolled his eyes toward Trey. okay?" Marisa raised her hand. um. Angel allowed the little girl to pet his hair. "What?" Marisa chose that moment to lean her head against Angel. nuzzling into his chest. staring at Angel." "CeCe told me on the phone yesterday that you were mine for as long as I needed you. touching his hair. noticing the child's lower lip in action. "My boss. "Whatever. His arm moved up around her back. focusing on the boy once again." Brandon wasn't at all ashamed to use that angle. The little girl's lip pushed out in a big pout. I.. "Some people might not think it's as important as other jobs. Brandon rested one finger significantly on his smiling lower lip. clearly seeking assistance. hey. Angel looked over at him." He glanced over at Brandon. Leaning his head again toward Marisa." Brandon's tongue was definitely in cheek. Angel darted a glance at Marisa. "I have people depending on me. for one. Angel held up one finger. Angel. Mouth dropping open again. prepared to watch Angel squirm. Angel darted a look around the terrace. and his hand came to rest on her head.
"Great!" Angel slammed the phone shut and tossed it back at Brandon. Angel caught it one-handed. "What do you mean. no! Uh-uh! No way would CeCe just promise me like that. "You can't just give me to him!" Brandon noted Trey was watching the goings-on with curious eyes. She can't do that. Angel quickly dialed CeCe's cell number. "See what I mean? We've got our work cut out for us." Coughing in disbelief. that you are mine for the duration. With the other hand.What a picture they made. I'm using his phone. your boss told me that whatever I needed.62 . Brandon cocked an eyebrow at Trey. Angel shook his head vehemently. he kept Marisa's head protected. The boy was squinting. he tossed it to Angel." His heart sped up as he and the boy The Trouble with Angel . "That means. His free hand then waved back and forth as he talked to his boss. sugar." Arching a brow. Brandon thought Angel wasn't even aware he was doing it. The little girl stuck her thumb in her mouth as she quietly hummed to herself. Switching his gaze back and forth between the keypad and Brandon. She sounded pretty positive on the phone. "Mmmm. he stared meaningfully at Angel. "Oh. glaring." Brandon shrugged. He scrunched his lips as he waited for the call to be answered." Angel sighed heavily. shifting his gaze between the two adults. "Yeah. she'd make sure I got. I'm his?" Gleaming brown eyes shifted back to Brandon. rolling his eyes a bit. I don't know. Grabbing before it took out an eye. "CeCe? It's me." Pulling out his cell." He tucked the phone between his shoulder and ear. "Angel. You can call her and ask her.
shared a smile. "I'm supposed to stay with you, at least for now." Turning his head away, Angel looked out over the balustrade. "I don't know what that girl is thinking," he muttered, tossing his head. "Putting me with The Great Dane. I mean, come on. We are so not a match." "Sugar, you better get your shoes on. We need to get packed."
The Trouble with Angel - 63
Chapter 9 That evening, around nine-thirty p.m., Brandon turned the black Navigator down the long road leading to his Oregon home. He lowered the window, though the early October night was cool in the hills. A breeze came through the truck, carrying the scent of pine. Angel stared out the passenger window, still not quite believing where he was. The truck moved down the dirt road toward God knew what. He was tired; they all were. They'd come eight hundred miles north of Los Angeles to Cave Junction, Oregon in just a few hours. Apparently, the always-prepared Boy Scout Brandon had arranged for a flight before he'd even met the children. And he'd arranged to have the new SUV delivered to the airstrip in time for their arrival. After the phone call with CeCe, Brandon had moved swiftly. He'd called the concierge to confirm his charter to the closest airport, in Grants Pass. He'd called his attorney to arrange to have the children's belongings packed up and sent to the ranch. Angel had heard him talking to the lawyer about the kids' former home, too. Angel wasn't sure where that had ended up. They'd gone to Angel's apartment to get some of his clothes and personal belongings. Steaming by that time, angry with CeCe and afraid of what Brandon could make him feel, Angel had dithered, unable decide on which clothes and footgear to bring. On the periphery, he supposed he could have enjoyed making Brandon wait. The funny thing was, though, he really didn't know what to bring. He honestly didn't have the first idea of what to expect up in Nowhere-ville. He was a city boy, through and through. He'd never even heard of Cave Junction, Oregon before. Who wants to live in a cave? How would he find decent coffee up
The Trouble with Angel - 64
there? And Brandon hadn't even seemed to notice he'd been kept waiting. He'd spent the entire time sitting on Angel's prized leather chesterfield, talking on his phone and emailing, making arrangements for the children. Even the two kids sat quietly on the sofa with him, just staring around. Angel had been flummoxed at not being able to get a rise out of the guy. What did it take, for crying out loud? Plus, he was getting more scared by the minute. Brandon Halvorsen was just too damned attractive. "We're here." Brandon's low voice woke him from his reverie. Angel blinked, looking around. The truck had come to a stop in front of a white frame house, which was partially visible in the darkness thanks to the security light mounted high on a nearby pole. He noted that it was actually extremely dark, pretty much everywhere but the house area. There was still a faint glow in the western sky, and there were stars visible, but at ground level, it was hard to see. The truck's headlights lit up the deep front porch, which wrapped the structure on three sides. He could see another security light behind the house, but that one was fairly distant. Night sounds began to seep into the truck now that the engine had been shut off. Crickets and frogs were loud in the quiet. Nervous, he swiveled his head around, trying to see if any predators were near the truck. Didn't wolves and bears live up here in the wilderness? "Let's get the kids inside, okay? I'll run up and unlock the door, then we can carry them upstairs." He watched for a moment as the big ballplayer shoved the door open and stepped down from the rig. Sighing, Angel pushed his own door open, deciding to
The Trouble with Angel - 65
worry about everything later. He checked his cell phone for a signal. Sighing again, this time with relief, he blessed each and every engineer at AT&T. Thank God he had communication with the outside world. When Brandon returned, the house somewhat illuminated, the two men moved to the back seat. They opened up the rear doors, finding the kids sound asleep. Marisa was leaning over in her booster seat, her head on her brother's back. Trey had draped his upper body over the fold-down console and had his head pillowed on his crossed arms. For one brief moment, Angel and Brandon smiled at each other. When Brandon's eyes lingered, scanning his face, Angel felt himself blushing (again!), and he quickly ducked his head. He reached in to unbuckle Marisa's shoulder belt while Brandon took care of Trey. He followed Brandon inside, his eyes on the muscled back and ass. Well, he consoled himself, if he was going to be stuck up here in Nowhere-ville for a while, at least the scenery would be pretty. The man might drive him mad, but Angel would enjoy looking while he could. Brandon flipped on the light, Trey's weight settled over a brawny left shoulder. Angel followed, carrying Marisa against his chest. He looked quickly around as they moved through the front of the house. The entry opened into the living room, which was bare except for a small, ratty sofa. Brandon stopped at the sofa, gently easing Trey down in the corner. "Put her here for a minute, will you, Angel? I've got to get their sleeping bags from the truck." Obediently, Angel lowered his charge to the opposite corner of the sofa. While Brandon ran back out to the truck, he walked around. The dining room was accessed through the living room, visible through a set of French doors on the left side in the back of the room. It was a
The Trouble with Angel - 66
Angel followed. "C'mon. Angel could hear him walking above. A fireplace was behind him. at the moment. Don't worry about it. at the ceiling and floor and on the windows. there were three bedrooms. he could see the kitchen in the back through another French door. The carpeting was ancient and stained. carrying sleeping bags. "I am not sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag. and disappeared up the stairs. sugar. bending down to pick up the sleeping Trey. with black marks continuing up the plaster wall above the mantle. Just then." "What?" Brandon had come back down in time to hear him. He could see natural wood trim all around. Angel was no connoisseur of architecture. shit.67 ." Angel stood still a moment longer. The ballplayer cocked an eyebrow at him. will you?" Huffing out a huge sigh of relief." Brandon stopped dead for a moment. but Brandon directed him to follow into the one over the dining The Trouble with Angel . "Grab her. only a card table and two folding chairs were in the room. along with a set of stairs that went up from the back right corner of the dining room. It was in yucky condition.stretch to call it a dining room because. Upstairs. Brandon came back inside. though. There were soot stains on the masonry surrounding the firebox. From there. "Okay." Nodding his head toward the little girl. will you? Let's get these kids to bed. stubbornly eyeing Brandon. I got you covered. "Oh. he turned back upstairs. but the house looked pretty old to him. Get it in gear. the significance of the sleeping bags hit him. The walls were chipped and discolored.
Chastened. then strode to the back and began grabbing the bags that were back there. Angel stared at him for a minute. Angel looked around the bedroom. trying to be generous. grunting. isn't it? This old beauty was really let go. leaving her in her underwear. and they covered up the children. Angel had silently followed him outside. It was in much the same state as the downstairs. then turned on his heel and headed downstairs.room. He undressed the little girl. It's kind of a crime. was empty of furniture. Maybe it won't be as scary in a new place if they wake up together. At least the house appeared clean. He yanked open the driver's door on the Lincoln. sliding pillows under their heads. As usual. Brandon caught the look on his face. before carrying the The Trouble with Angel . He didn't know whether to be blunt or to be kind. I don't know what you were thinking. "I know. Brandon did the same for Trey. It. too. Angel staggered a little. he thought. His mouth engaged before his brain could temper his speech." He shook his head as he eyed the sorry state of the walls once more. then stalked past Angel on his way outside. absolutely stumped by that. and Brandon tossed a soft-sided suitcase to where Angel stood on the stairs. right? This place is in seriously bad shape. ratty carpet. "Hey! Watch what you say about this place. "You're kidding. with stains on the ceiling. You have no idea what you're talking about." Biting his lip.68 ." Brandon threw the insult." Angel set his burden down gently on the bag Brandon had set near the window. and cracked plaster. "Let's keep them together until we get furniture up here for them.
turning instead to scan the room. "But this is the only bed. Coming back in with the remaining bags. "Will you grab the last two down there?" Not waiting for Angel to agree. shoving his jeans down. but. saw an actual bed. I. Where am I supposed to sleep?" Ignoring him. He stepped to that doorway and." "You said that already. "Angel. it had to be new. This furniture actually looked good. "But. along with a pair of nightstands and a long dresser. opening off the dining room. the big ballplayer continued to undress. Coughing slightly. He couldn't imagine what Brandon had been thinking to buy the place. he dropped the kids' bags by the stairs and went into a room Angel hadn't noticed earlier.bag inside. looking for any kind of inspiration. he decided. Angel dropped them on the floor in the dining room. shoving T-shirts and boxer-briefs into the top drawer of the dresser. next to the stairs." Like magnet to steel.69 .. "Um.. boxer-briefs showing the tightly muscled ass and legs to advantage. "This is the only bed in this house!" "Uh-huh. carrying his own bag and the kids' backpacks. then kicked off his shoes and began unbuttoning his shirt.. breathing a sigh of relief. and then I'm The Trouble with Angel ." Brandon hung his jacket in one of the two closets that framed the doorway. Brandon came back in.. Angel averted his eyes. He's a little pissy. his eyes came back to the beautiful. sugar. His sigh of relief quickly changed to a squawk of disbelief when he realized something. strong body on display right in front of him. I'm going to wash up." Brandon continued unpacking his duffle. isn't he? This place IS a dump...
heading for the bathroom that had to be in the back of the house." He could hear a soft chuckle from Brandon. Five minutes later." Brandon flipped the switch. "Um. but it looked like there was a knowing smile on that chiseled mouth. watching Angel as he walked past. A lamp turned low was on the other side.hitting the sack. He decided it was too late to screw around. He reached out and shut off the lamp. Brandon disappeared into the dining room. Let me turn the light back on for you. Angel?" "Uh. Don't you think you should leave a light on for the kids. It's late. I'd advise you to do the same. It was indeed off the kitchen. We can figure it all out in the morning. Ignoring the taller man. and he dropped his bag at the foot of the bed." With that. "Oops. Brandon exited the small room and shut off the light just as Angel came through the kitchen. Stopping short. he saw that Brandon was already in bed -. then stepped back. Angel pulled back the sheet and cotton blanket and slid in. He quickly switched it back on again. A tremendous yawn caught Angel unaware. Angel couldn't be sure. he was back in the bedroom. especially since the ratty sofa in the living room couldn't have been more than five feet long. If he laughed. then grabbed his shaving kit and headed out to find the bathroom. in case they wake up during the night?" He was not going to admit he wanted a little bit of light in the ultra-darkness. which plunged the room into complete darkness. Brandon was silent a second.70 . Walking around. he lifted his chin and brushed past. Sorry. Angel The Trouble with Angel .on the same side of the bed that Angel preferred. He stripped down to his boxers. He refrained from saying anything just then. "Yes.
too. to his satisfaction." The Trouble with Angel . He buried his head in the pillow which he found." Pushing back the covers.was going to smack him. We might have to share that side. "Okay. and heard the ballplayer halt briefly at the doorway. "That's probably a good idea. Angel heard a light switch turn on and saw a glow from where the stairs came down to the dining room. then yanked the covers over his shoulder as he lay down on his right side. He heard Brandon come back in to the room. Taking advantage of Brandon's absence. he was gone for a few moments. "Hmmmph. It's my favorite. was down. Angel quickly slid to his favored side of the bed. sugar." The sound was amused.71 .
Brandon got back in bed. He twisted. He almost couldn't contain his grin. Angel groaned softly as he brought up his arms. Angel didn't even try to stop him.72 . "You're not going to argue with me?" Angel shook his head. Angel's head turned on the pillow with a jerk. He stared at the wall in front of him.Chapter 10 Now wide awake. "Finally. sighing as his head hit the pillow. holding the bigger man close.and the kids are asleep. His hands slid up the muscled back. This was what he'd wanted since he'd first met Brandon -. No slouch when reading signals. Angel's heart was starting to pound. relishing the heavy body covering his." Brandon brought his mouth down. and his breath shortened. and he parked his heels at the bottom of Brandon's ass. "And you're not going to pout about this tomorrow?" Shaking his head again. shoving his tongue forward. You're awake this time -. and they both panted heavily as they stared at one another. Brandon drove his tongue forward again as he rocked The Trouble with Angel . though. lying flat on his back and opening his legs in welcome. Angel listened to Brandon's every movement. Brandon broke off kissing him. An arm snaked around his middle as Brandon rolled to his side.even though he would have gone to his grave denying it. smiling. Brandon raised up on one elbow and moved in close. Angel tried not to pout too much. unseeing. following the sounds as Brandon moved around the room. Brandon rolled on top of him immediately.
We are doing exactly this. sugar. no. What if they hear?" Brandon shook his head firmly." Angel gasped.73 . and he lifted his arms. pinning The Trouble with Angel . "Jesus. "Easy. tugging and pulling on it in time with the suction. that felt good. throwing them above his head in abandon as that nibble was followed with a strong sucking. shoving back the covers and quickly stripping off his underwear.his hips into Angel's." With that. dragging them down. Angel arched his neck back." The words were interspersed with nibbles and licks at Angel's mouth. and he licked his lips in anticipation. moving down Angel's body like he was on a mission. Angel groaned instead when Brandon bit his left nipple. Brandon attacked Angel's silk boxers. and we're doing it right now. "God. "God! Get off me! We can't do this now. sugar -. having already forgotten about the kids upstairs. About to moan at the cavalier way his silky underthings were being treated. you don't. grinning. Angel was agog at his first real look at Brandon's seriously hard cock. "Oh. Brandon. working down to the muscle at the side." With that. He squeaked when Brandon's hand came up and tweaked his other tit. "It makes me crazy when you do that. he pushed himself away. Don't want to wake the kids.even these are designer?" Shaking his head. He roughly spread Angel's legs as he moved his shoulders between them. where the ballplayer latched on and nipped. and Brandon's lips moved there. Brandon raised his head. His head tipped backward. I'm doing it wrong. Brandon reapplied himself. Brandon tossed them over his shoulder. "Holy--!" God. What are you doing?" "If you can't tell.
"Oh! Oh. Looking up." Brandon pressed two fingers inside. then he sighed happily as Brandon grabbed the lube and squeezed out a dollop." Brandon whispered. You are so sweet. Angel whimpered. The Trouble with Angel . relaxing the tight muscle. circling gently. Angel. he rolled his head on the pillow as Brandon grabbed a condom and some lube. He listened as Brandon leaned over and ripped open the shaving kit on the nightstand. He licked his lips as he watched Brandon watching him. I've never seen a man who waxes. baby. Angel whimpered at both the praise and Brandon's agile tongue." Angel grimaced and grabbed a pillow. then grabbed his knees and pulled them up. sugar. We don't need Miss Marisa down here asking what we're doing." He sucked the one ball into his mouth. staring at Angel's prick admiringly. How's that feel?" At the additional pressure. allowing Brandon entrance into his body. He gasped as Brandon then licked a long swipe up his cock. "Mmmm. then retreating.74 . "That's it. "You better cover your mouth with a pillow. "God. Mmmm. watching as Brandon stared at Angel's crotch. oh. Impatient. He sighed again as Brandon fucked him with one finger. "This is a thing of beauty. pressing deep. that's nice. He spent a while loosening Angel's opening. yeah!" Angel's voice was breathy as he relaxed. When wet fingers touched him. Brandon grinned again. spreading his legs wide. and Angel moaned. sliding in and out. Just like I thought it would be. gently twisting and plunging. Pretty. then dumped them on the mattress." He grabbed a little more lube and added a third finger. his hole spasmed in excitement. Smooth. Angel raised his head for a moment. "Here.them with his forearms.
dropping forward and propping himself above Angel. forcing the head inside. and he mewled. Angel chased Brandon's dick with his hips. "You'd better hold on. spreading The Trouble with Angel . Brandon fucked him rapidly with those fingers. Then the ballplayer pushed forward. and quickly gloved up. loving the pressure as Brandon pressed forward aggressively. making room. God. he grunted each time he bottomed out."Oh. He heard Angel grunt in return. I have a feeling you're not going to be able to keep quiet. He balanced on one hand. aren't you?" Brandon kneeled back. he heard Brandon's warning." *** Angel answered him by pushing back on his cock. Thrusting hard. the big hands gripping his hips. then moan as he pulled back. his hole pulsing. Angel felt a solid cock bump against his opening.75 . Brandon barely held back a guttural cry of triumph. When Angel cried out at the next shove. waiting. He gritted his teeth and shoved all the way inside. tilting up. grabbed the condom. biting down to keep from admitting anything incriminating. pulling Angel's hips back with his other. "Uh. pulling him up." Angel offered his ass for the taking. then purred as Brandon stroked a hand down his spine and plunged two fingers back inside his hole. He spread his knees wider in reaction. Angel rolled as Brandon pushed him over on his belly. and a thrill ran through Angel. you might want to bury your head in that pillow. Angel did indeed bury his face in the pillow. you are a hot little piece. Angel grunted at the rough handling. Brandon spread his ankles. he'd been waiting three years for this! Catching himself.
trapping his wet hand. "Oh. with occasional squeals and purrs. Working swiftly. A soft grunt was his only answer as Angel's face remained buried in the edge of the pillow. Brandon arched his back and thrust deeply several more times before his own orgasm overtook him. feeling Angel squeeze him as he did so. back arching even more and the low cries becoming louder. he held onto the condom as he eased out. it was a chorus of grunts and groans." Brandon was ignored completely as Angel sighed hugely. Let me go. His channel clamped down on Brandon's cock. causing the headboard to bang against the plaster wall. Whambam-thank-you-man?" He shook his head as he slid out of bed. "I'll be right back. just in time to muffle his scream as he came. milking it and causing Brandon's rhythm to stutter. "Easy. barely keeping himself upright. He laughed hoarsely as Angel grabbed the pillow again and covered his head. Angel had collapsed under him. he tied off the condom and looked for a place to toss it. He grunted as his body shuddered. Between them. Brandon reached around and began jacking Angel. he swore softly. spurting semen into the condom.76 . Brandon responded by driving even harder. He rubbed his thumb just below the head. I don't think so. the spot he loved to hit on his own dick. Angel seemed to glory in the manhandling. sugar. sugar." he crooned softly. squeezing roughly. he cocked an unseen eyebrow at the prima donna. As the grip on his dick started to tighten. He eased it out as he arched over his lover. His lips quirking.his knees wide and pushing back with his hands on the headboard. Grabbing his cock at the base. "Hmmmph." His voice was low The Trouble with Angel . He'd have to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. Remembering he didn't have a trashcan.
as he left the room. "Tomorrow is sure enough going to be interesting. in exactly the same position. he left the light on low and slid back in next to Angel. The Trouble with Angel . sprawled on his belly with his arms under the pillow.77 ." Brandon punched his own pillow into shape." When he came back. "I so don't think so. The other man was sleeping already.
the perfect Mr. "What time is it?" Brandon's voice was hoarse and he coughed to clear his throat. "I'm hungry!" The Trouble with Angel . his own attitude had correspondingly improved. shifting his weight from foot to foot. At Brandon's cranky behavior. "So. "W-o-w. Brandon crankily rubbed his forehead without even opening his eyes. The more reserved Trey was standing next to the door.Chapter 11 Angel opened his eyes the next morning to find Marisa staring at him from six inches away. "Pssssssst!" Brandon opened one eye to stare at Angel. he set his hands behind his head. "What the hell was that for?" "Psssst!" Angel whispered in a good imitation of Parsel-tongue. He spotted Marisa. " At that. adjusting the covers around his chest. he jolted back and banged his head against Brandon's. His voice was filled with amusement. "Owww!" Rolling onto his back. who was kneeling next to Angel's side of the bed." Relaxing back with a grin.78 . both of Brandon's eyes opened and he raised his head. Halvorsen is not a morning person. and plumping his pillow behind his head." Angel sang softly. her chin resting on the mattress. "Who knew?" Brandon gave him a look. "What are you hissing about? Christ. Angel smacked him on his bicep with the back of one hand. Crying out hoarsely. looking around the room. Marisa stood and put a hand on the bed. can't a man sleep in peace?" Making a face. "Do you mind waking up? There are little people in this bedroom.
bring your stuff upstairs so it's all in one place." Angel hummed when Brandon's tongue slipped in. If you haven't already. the kids shuffled out of the room. "You don't look pissy." He wiggled upward. so we can get dressed. did we? You'll have to take us all out to breakfast. Brandon drew the covers over his head. And." He watched Trey's mouth twitch. When Brandon eased back. Angel pouted a little. He cupped the back of Brandon's head.79 . "'Risa tells me everything. "You guys naked again?" Trey grinned. Trey poked his head around the doorframe with a smirk. his eyes on the quiet Trey." the boy announced." "Just making sure we're okay. he stared into Angel's The Trouble with Angel . but I need to make sure. The kids laughed outright at that. Angel waved his hands. looking searchingly at Angel. you two. okay?" Obediently. "Shoo. Angel answered. "I want waffles. With a groan. "Close the door behind you!" he called when they left it standing open. since you rushed us up here to the middle of nowhere. fingers gently scraping the short hair as he returned the kiss with fervor." He shrugged and pulled the door shut. Brandon threw the covers back and turned his head on the pillow. we didn't go grocery shopping. Still smiling." Brandon moved closer. it's six-thirty. "I would guess it's time to get these kids some breakfast. reaching for the doorknob."What time is it?" Brandon asked again as he closed his eyes. "What? I wasn't doing anything. Glad to see humor on the faces of two children who'd lost everything. caressing. raising himself on one elbow. "Uh.
pulled on his pants. sugar. He stepped out on the front porch and looked around in the daylight. and he was definitely a happy camper this morning. and headed to the bathroom." Brandon leaned forward to deposit another quick kiss. He heard the shower turn off. Angel couldn't tell. breathing a huge sigh." Angel smiled a tiny smile in response. Angel got out of bed. Throwing his arms up on the pillow. "Let's go. What he was searching for. then grabbed his shaving kit." Amazed. feeling a little thrill go through him. About one hundred yards from the house and down a The Trouble with Angel . he swiveled his head from side to side. To say there were trees was an understatement. I love your little pouts. where he passed Brandon coming out. He might be able to put up with a couple of weeks in Nowhere-ville if he got fucked so nicely every night.80 . "Santa vaca. We've got a lot to do today. he dressed and headed toward the front of the house. Angel watched with an arched eyebrow as Brandon drew on jeans. Grinning to himself." Rubbing that smarting cheek. both coniferous and deciduous. "I'm going to grab a quick shower. He jumped back and slid out of bed. slapping Angel on the ass. Angel stared for a while at the ceiling. Brandon grinned back.brown eyes. "Good morning. When he finished showering. The giants were all around." At least he remembered to shut the door behind himself. "Mmmm. There was no one downstairs. His body felt well used. He was absolutely floored by what he saw. and he didn't hear any movement upstairs.
81 ." He turned to find Brandon perched on the top of the porch wall. Without knowing why. "Angel. he heard a screeching sound and spotted a big bird landing in one of the tall pines near the house." Angel looked at Brandon blankly. Birds were singing cheerfully. "The house itself is an historic treasure. Angel found himself drawn to Brandon. "It is. The tumbling water caught the morning sun. Brandon elaborated. coming to a stop a foot away. this is seriously good luck. and a gentle breeze moved through the autumn foliage. What? Hands gesturing as he got revved. The house is a kit home that was made by a company in Portland back in nineteen twenty-one. and what's even more fun is that the homes were mail order. I wrote a paper on the history of kit homes in America and their impact on the The Trouble with Angel .slight slope. "That's why I bought this place. with white-barked trees growing alongside. a stream about twenty feet wide flowed quietly." Brandon smiled faintly when Angel gave him a skeptical look. jumping over the occasional rock and ledge. when I was at UIC. "Well. The Fenner Manufacturing Company out of Portland built homes for just a few years. Old Betsy? How could he have believed him to be a stuffed shirt? "How do you know all this stuff?" He was honestly impressed at this other side of Brandon. What he thought might be a huge willow cast shade near the banks. He could see snow on some of the higher elevations. From high above. and they had a number of models. He moved close. Old Betsy here is a Hickory. from nineteen sixteen to nineteen twenty-eight. A quiet voice spoke from the corner of the porch. The land undulated to the mountains in the distance. Can you believe that?" Angel marveled at the passion he saw in the other man.
"What? You think the big-league pitcher ain't got no smarts?" His drawl was really exaggerated that time. This guy turned him on -. still chuckling. "Uh. staring at pointedly. don't you?" "That they have big tits and itty-bitty brains?" Shaking his head. "That's not what I meant. Brandon leaned closer. guffaws huge in the quiet of the morning." "You -. "Uh. Blonds have more fun. I got my undergrad degree in architecture there right before I was drafted. trying to get his foot out of his mouth. sugar. Blushing. "I didn't actually get licensed." God! A shiver ran down Angel's spine at that. Angel watched him.with a capital The Trouble with Angel . because I didn’t complete the internship hours required when I got called up. Brandon burst out laughing. "No. "Blond. No! I didn't mean to be insulting!" What the heck? Who is this guy? Cocking an eyebrow." Brandon's lips turned down a tiny bit at the corners. quality houses. "UIC?" Brandon cocked his head. and his belly clenched. that almost sounded insulting.82 . I guess I just thought you played ball and that was it. Calming down. a knowing look on his face." He paused to figure out exactly what he had meant. Brandon made a face. "University of Illinois at Chicago. Angel blustered. huh? You know what they say about blonds. Not too many pro athletes actually go to class in college.you're an architect?" "Sugar. And you have blond hair!" At that. Angel's mouth hung open for a moment.ability of more Americans to buy really wonderful. Brandon smirked." Angel realized Brandon was waiting for him to respond. no. arms crossed on his chest." Surprised again.
nipping the other man's lips." He stopped.what?" "Um. In response." Angel sighed. "That's because you didn't have your eyes open last night. rubbing. Brandon looked at him. So excited. "Mmmm. It just wasn't fair." he drawled the word.." "You were manhandling me. sugar. rubbing their cocks together. we have too many clothes on for this. "I know. he took the lead. in the three years I've known you. actually. This time. tugging until Angel rested between his thighs.." He brought his head close and covered the smiling lips with his own. Now it was Angel's turn to smirk as he leaned his weight into Brandon." Angel slid his arms up over Brandon's brawny shoulders. Brandon slid a hand over the curve of his ass. Brandon leaned toward him. "Um. "You really crank my engine. Somebody. He whimpered in dismay. I have to admit I did. teasing. Brandon's hands gripped his ass and pulled him in tightly. "You liked it. "What. "So fun. Angel? Am I too smart for you now?" "As if!" With a smile. Did I tell you that?" The Trouble with Angel . unsure of the appropriate adjective. I think I did a couple of times.O." Speaking softly. So passionate.83 ." "And I love your eyelashes. "You know." Brandon snorted. but I was facing the wall. "flipped me over and shoved me around." "Uh-huh. Angel stared at Brandon for several seconds." He quirked his lips. you know that?" Sobering. pushing his tongue into Brandon's mouth." He grasped Angel by the hips. I've never seen you so. "Angel. "So -.
he brought them close enough for a burning kiss. He tilted his head back. How's that?" His hand cupping the back of Angel's head. Brandon hauled him back close. Angel leaned his head on Brandon's shoulder. you are such a fashion-plate. pushing Angel back gently as he did so. Angel. When I see you all gussied up. "I think you did. Angel grinned. looking out toward the river. feeling arrogant. Bringing his head up quickly. sucking and nipping on Brandon's tongue. "No. "Let's go get them and get some breakfast. Pulling back and sighing in satisfaction. "Oh. "What?" Brandon ran a hand down the azure-blue cashmere pullover Angel was wearing over charcoal Brooks Brothers gabardine trousers. Just wait for tonight. He spotted the kids about fifty feet away from the water. I don't think they should be near the water without one of us there. "Uh-uh. Do they get you hot?" The answer was offered with flattering speed.Fluttering them madly. "Don't even think about it!" Laughing again. yeah." He stood. "Sugar. I want to tear all these clothes right back off you. "That's right. You know what else gets me hot?" Angel raised a brow. I told them not to get too close. glowering. Angel shivered and moaned quietly. do you?" Brandon snorted." Angel backed up abruptly. Brandon grinned down at him. "It's going to be a The Trouble with Angel ." Brandon whispered in his ear. "Hey. his tongue plunging deeply.84 . Angel gave way. I'll wait until tonight. huh?" Angel felt Brandon's large palm drift over the curves of his ass again as they walked down the porch steps. submitting willingly. as a matter of fact. the long fingers sliding inside the waistband and flirting with his crease. he pointed.
" The Trouble with Angel .good day.85 . sugar.
Angel jumped when Brandon slapped his ass. isn't it?" He looked around furtively. "City boy. "Angel. afraid a wrangler would overhear. They've got all kinds here. I think you're going to be surprised by Oregon. They weren't exactly a common occurrence in LA. finding a mom-and-pop restaurant that had homemade biscuits and the best hash browns Angel had had in quite a while.86 . "Okay." Somewhat impressed despite himself. But. The three Los Angelenos were agog watching the logging trucks coming down the road." They went inside." Brandon made a show of looking around. either. this is cowboy country. Trey was even somewhat animated as he commented on the many trucks pulling into and out of The Trouble with Angel . looking back at them impatiently. I'm not going to advertise. but I'm not going to hide. really. "Hey! You want to get us jumped? We're not exactly in Gay-Town. Even I've figured that out already. "Angel. is it?" Making a face in response. all I know is that this is my home now.Chapter 12 They were clearly in another world. Snorting. where they could watch the traffic on the main road. USA. Not exactly the BMW capital of the world. astonished at the size of the logs on the rigs. for chrissake. Angel arched his brows. Brandon wrapped an arm around his shoulders. They sat in a booth by the window. I buy that you don't want to have to hide. Brandon had laughed at Angel when he scrunched up his nose at the raucous sound of the many diesel pickups in the restaurant parking lot. The kids were at the door to the restaurant.
not sure whether to The Trouble with Angel .. "Pastor Jim told me the very same thing. we need to figure out about getting you into school here.. distracting them both. Angel felt a slight pang as he looked at the boy. "Yes. as if seeking something.87 ." He stopped for a moment to look over at Angel.. Brandon continued." Angel rolled his eyes at Brandon while the kids tittered. sir. "And if it's okay with Angel. Pastor Jim told me. his appetite apparently gone.. The ice broken a bit. Angel blew out a quiet breath. Trey spoke up. first with a nod and reassuring look to the boy and then a warning look at Angel. you probably don't want to hear this but." The boy nodded morosely and said." he said firmly. I think you should call me by my first name.. Trouble. "Trey. "I know you kids have been through a really rough time. "Trey. "Those are cool. and I want you to know that I don't plan to try to replace your mom and dad.the restaurant parking lot." he said hesitantly. Angel stared back anxiously. "Brandon." Over breakfast." He looked over at Angel. Brandon brought up what to call him. Marisa gazed up at Brandon. "Are you and Angel. but Brandon waved him down." Brandon said kindly. you and your sister are here to stay. not sure what he needed. He looked at Trey." Brandon nodded at her while Angel kept his own counsel." "And I want to tell you about your grandpa whenever you're ready to hear. Just Brandon is fine. "My mommy and daddy are in heaven. going to keep us?" Angel tried to speak up.." Trey looked down at his plate. you can call him by his first name. "Kids.
for Pete's sake. My boss may have assigned me here for a few days -however the fuck long that is -. but lowered his voice to a heated whisper. I just thought we might take turns so the kids could get some good food once in a while. He hadn't missed much so far.but I'm not doing anything I don't want to do. *** The day had started well. Angel jumped down his throat. with the two children wandering nearby. Brandon growled slightly." "Fine. Don't even think about it. anyway. They'd had a nice time at breakfast. "I am not cooking for you. An hour later. since it was the weekend. I suck at cooking.comment or not. they were in the only grocery store in town when the two men had their first argument. And keep your voice down!" Angel glared." Angel watched him suspiciously. "I'm not your slave. And he did not play house. Frowning. "I know it's not in your job description. He reminded himself of Roscoe Davis as he waited for Brandon to speak. He held his tongue as he watched Brandon and Trey.88 . After Brandon mentioned they could each take a hand at preparing meals. "How do I know The Trouble with Angel . For the moment. Not for anybody. And Angel did manage to check his email on the drive over. It's not in my job description. They were standing in the deli section. Just so we're clear. Brandon's reassurance appeared to satisfy the boy." He looked pointedly at Brandon. It wasn't too bad. This was all getting way too close to playing house. I'm sure that's your MO all the time anyway. Whatever.
" The little girl stared earnestly up at Angel. Angel. It sobered him quickly. These kids need some stability after what's happened -.89 . "I just want to know how long I have to stay here. shoving his hands in the pockets of his trousers. darting a look down at the floor before meeting Brandon's eyes again. his face closed up. who were whispering to each other by the drinks. That's all. Another thought occurred to him. "Why are you letting them think that we're together? Don't you think they'll be freaked out when I leave?" "Look. "I. who walked up to them holding a package of juice boxes. Brandon looked over at the two children.you're not just bullshitting me?" "Christ. I. now?" Slightly ashamed. Angel noticed that once again Trey hung back. Angel slouched. her curly hair bobbing on her shoulders as she jumped in place." Brandon looked less than completely confident. Did Brandon realize that? "Sugar.. He swallowed thickly. The incredible sex -.and the fact that it took more than a month for them to know somebody was going to take care of them. Angel! Do you think I'm a liar. They were interrupted by Marisa. observing silently. Why was she asking him? He looked to Brandon for help but the ballplayer stayed mute.and the fact that Brandon was becoming more than just a hottie to him -. "Can we get these? My mom gets them for me all the time." He sighed. "But what do you want from me?" Angel meant the question more than just professionally. reminding him of just how much the kids had lost and how minor The Trouble with Angel .were beginning to scare him.. He was already having a little bit too much fun here." He looked away. Stubborn asshole." With a grimace.
mi'ja?" He caught an odd expression crossing his lover's face before Brandon shrugged and nodded. "Okay. "Is this your favorite flavor." He shot a frustrated look upward. It all broke down at lunch. okay?" He motioned with his head for Trey to follow him as he lifted Marisa into the cart and pushed it toward the produce section. when they sat down to eat at a restaurant/pub with a view of the Rogue River. Whatever you say. *** An hour after that. they'd driven to Grants Pass to get a pair of Aerobeds." Turning back to Marisa..90 . I draw the line at cleaning the house." Taking Marisa by the hand. Brandon had stoically ignored him. which kind of aggravated him more. he started walking away. "Fine. "But that's it." he whispered abruptly to Brandon. The kids had kept quiet in the back seat. Angel stepped over to Brandon and got up in his grill. Angel took a sip of his iced tea. "Chica. "I'll do the cooking. that ballplayer." Card in hand. For now. you can have the juice boxes. he crouched down next to her. "Give me a credit card.. Why don't you figure out if you can buy beds for the kids in this one-horse town? I'm just going to get enough for today and tomorrow until we figure out a plan.the meal prep issue was. concerned because he thought he'd heard her The Trouble with Angel . then looked over at Marisa. Angel sighed at having to drive to another town just to find a store that carried them. At least he'd had a signal on his cell for the trip. They sat near the window of the main room and got their food orders placed. The rest could wait. He was so not playing house with that.
Brandon leaned close to her. He was shocked to see tears running down her face... "Marisa... then frowned at his lover. okay -. The other patrons were beginning to stare. Brandon sat back in his chair. The Trouble with Angel . to go.." Angel shrugged. Was Brandon thinking about hiding under the table? The little girl's answer was launched at Angel. my god. "Sweetheart. um. Leaning toward where she sat at a right angle to him in a booster chair.. to the.. relieved. I guess.. I can take you.well. mi'ja?" The little girl began crying openly and she stuttered out her explanation." he pronounced her name properly." Despite his fracturing nerves.91 . "I. "I have to go to the bathroom!" "Marisa. "What's wrong." she cried piteously.. what's wrong?" Her cries began to grow in volume and the two men looked around. have. he set his hand softly on her shoulder. with a Spanish accent." "No!" He was taken aback by her vehemence.. "Um. Angel considered popping Brandon on the side of the head. sugar. How the fuck did they fix this? "Mi'ja. you. "I need Mommy. bathroom. you did say you could do anything a woman could do. Is that all? His nerves were just about fried from the crying and screaming.. know that. "No! I can't go to the big boy's room!" Oh. He'd escorted his myriad nephews to the bathroom for years.sniffle." Angel shrugged helplessly. "I want my mommy!" Uh-oh. your mommy is in heaven.. right?" Marisa sobbed. "Well. I said I'd take you.
right? "Okay. She looked at him with her eyebrows arched as he pushed open the door. Biting his lip. clearly intending to go to the same place. Gazing at the little girl in his arms. Eww. he marched to the ladies' room.. "Okay! Okay! I'll take you to the big girl's room. She was so sad." He gently set her on her feet. She appeared so pathetic. You'll see. Let's get you up on the seat. chica. you and me. though. he blurted. Okay?" He crossed his fingers under the table. Marisa obligingly lifted the purple skirt she'd put on over lime green tights and worked her pants down. His eyes immediately zeroed in on the tampon machine near the sink area. Angel lifted her The Trouble with Angel . As he neared it. Okay?" Angel didn't care if it sounded like he was begging. Marisa nodded slowly. Please say yes. "C'mon. her breath stuttering and more fat tears squeezing out of her eyes. don't I? When he saw her get ready to scream again. a female patron approached. We'll go take care of business and then we'll fix your hair.92 .Marisa was crying louder now. Closing his eyes for a second. He stared back at her. even his snarly heart felt a tug. mi'ja? Let's go to the girl's room. Following him in.. rubbing her hand on her wet nose. Marisa stopped in mid-cry. he smiled reluctantly. You've got to be kidding. he ignored the urination sounds coming from the woman's stall and stepped into the large handicapped stall. He didn't have to admit it. absolutely daring her to say anything as he swept inside. "Venga. Guh. you're going to be fine." Finally quiet again. "Mi'ja. okay?" Picking her up in his arms. the woman darted into a stall without saying a word. I have to do this. Angel grabbed a paper napkin and began dabbing at her dripping nose as he pulled back her chair.
onto the toilet seat." Finishing. young lady. he looked into the sweet brown eyes looking back at him. "Mi'ja. "It's true. the little girl began pulling paper off the roll. Again nobly ignoring the sound of urine hitting the bowl. then nodded. Marisa. Desperate to distract himself from the fact that he was in a ladies' room with actual females in it at the same time.93 . he began talking. "We are absolutely going to have to do something about your dress style. She hiccupped a breath. then the sound of the toilet flushing. The Trouble with Angel . Angel. You simply cannot walk around with purple and lime green. there's no one who has better dress sense than me. It's a travesty." He heard a snort from the next stall. He sniffed in response. "Okay." He crouched down next to her to hold her steady. "You and I are going to work together to develop your style." He had to look away as she grabbed a wad of paper to wipe." He nodded to the little girl.
. you demanding bitch. letting the door close gently behind him." He pointed a finger at Brandon. this family thing. Brandon stepped outside. see if you can hang onto it this time. He loved CeCe dearly. It was Sunday.." Angel snorted in disdain. Now. Even when work was at its most insane. the dumb blond routine had me fooled. "Moi?" Angel walked up to him. I know how The Trouble with Angel . "There. He needed to get his laptop out and log in to get more documents. "You.94 . all the time you've been CeCe's client. Sighing. "You know. for God's sake! Was he the answer to everything? What would the world do without him. I thought you were arrogant. he paced on the front porch and typed into his iPhone." Mentally castigating his exhausting boss. he pushed send on the last email. I admit. Marisa was needy.Chapter 13 Angel was not used to this kind of pressure. Gorgeous. Trey was snotty. On top of that. and Brandon was demanding. "Problems at the office. but sometimes he just wanted to chuck it all and move to Tahiti and be waited on by gorgeous cabaña boys. for crying out loud? Muttering to himself. but I admit I thought you had just the image going. You're the reason my life is insane. CeCe had emailed him twice looking for a proposal he'd already sent her last week. forwarding a message containing the file. he shoved a hand through his hair. clad in a leather jacket he'd borrowed from Brandon's closet. dear?" Brandon's snarky voice floated out through the wooden screen door. "Until now. Angel turned to face his irksome host. he could handle it better than this.
his pants catching on a broken piece of siding.." "Angel. pendejo!" He used the Mexican slang too easily.and I can't believe I'm saying this -. And lots of times I have dinner with her on Sundays. just relax for a minute.devious. and scrunched. Shoving a hand through his hair. I need to call my mother!" Brandon tilted his head. "Shit. you make it sound like I'm Dr. he recalled colliding with Trey as the boy came running around the back corner of the old. manipulative.95 . Angel had pitched into the kitchen porch wall. Angel mumbled and cursed in Spanish as he paced. and his gabardine trousers had a slight tear in the knee. but damn. "Christ." Moving to the outer edge of the porch. Twisting to avoid bowling Trey over. how -. courtesy of Marisa. "I think I like it. will you? You're making yourself crazy." Brandon nodded his head slowly." His hands moved out expansively.how Machiavellian you are!" Spinning again." "She's going to want to know where I am.. "So? Give her a call. His cashmere sweater had food stains on it. "Hmmm. and pulled throughout the day. "I have to check on my mom every few days! The Trouble with Angel . Scowling again. he leaned against the wall. He slowly crossed his arms over his muscled chest as he watched Angel. one hip on the wooden top. he stared." "Hey. Evil. he tried to restore the stylish cut that he'd tugged. I forgot to call her yesterday. Scrunching his eyebrows together. sending repeated dark looks Brandon's way. Angel began muttering. thanks to Trey. was I wrong. Angel spit out another curse. I knew I was good. so I have to explain why I didn't do that today. The memory was enough to drive Angel over the side. dumpy house. "And on top of that." Raking his fingers through his hair again.
Make sure she's okay. He also felt the big cock prodding his back. feeling absurdly guilty now. The big hands came to rest on his shoulders." Brandon's understanding voice was a balm to Angel's stretched nerves. caressing. but Brandon wasn't pushing. if Angel was honest with himself. acting differently than he expected. Call your mama.96 . had Brandon reversed an impression Angel had had for three years? Maybe because his own insecurities around Brandon had helped him form that mistaken image? And. in just a few days. breath coming a little faster.You don't know the kind of neighborhood--" He was about to reveal way too much history. clearly giving him his privacy. He heard a deep chuckle. "It's dumbass. The guy had dragged him up here to the middle of nowhere. then slid down his arms and wrapped around his waist. since Angel was sure nothing would ever come of it. Now. time after time. He was pulled back into the big body." Angel mumbled. He pivoted on his heel. And I don't have the slightest idea what you just called me. with the promise of it every night -. watching as Brandon retreated. then the big hands slid over his belly. "Sugar. Then we'll talk about that. He turned his head. Angel almost couldn't The Trouble with Angel ." The hands slid away. How. taking him away from his job. Damn it! The man kept confusing him. his mother -. and Brandon stepped back inside. Angel couldn't figure out if his lover was deliberately trying to befuddle him.well. "Whoa. The attraction he'd always felt around Brandon had simmered under the surface. feeling the muscled strength surrounding him. call your mama. the sex had a lot to do with it.his life! -and then Brandon turned around and was so thoughtful. or if the man was actually just being nice.
have put his foot down with CeCe and said he wasn't going. Neither of them knew the answer. then brought his arms around himself. but this one had turned colder. They were still in the same room and did indeed seem to be comforted by being near each other. but he didn't feel like zipping the jacket. Rubbing his hands up and down his sleeves. They'd talked about kindergarten for Marisa. he walked over to the wall and stared toward the river. The Trouble with Angel . Tomorrow. Autumn had come to the Illinois River Valley. It demonstrated a strength of character he hadn't known existed underneath the studly. that he wanted to be with Brandon. What the hell was he thinking? He looked toward the house. The answer was. so they'd presumably get some ideas about that from the same principal. as long as he was being honest. at any time.97 . Brandon would be taking Trey to school to meet the principal and find out about transferring. Fretting yet again. The kids were upstairs on their new Aerobeds. athletic exterior. He was chilled. The night was again beautiful. What the hell was he doing up here? He could. any of whom could have helped Brandon. of course. seeing the mostly empty rooms in the front. And. he listened to the unfamiliar Oregon night sounds. about whether she was old enough. He wanted to be the one who helped the handsome ballplayer deal with all the new life issues. blond. but she did have three agent assistants. He crossed the two sides over in front. Monday. he had to admit that Brandon's commitment to taking care of the grandchildren of a departed friend was more than just admirable.make it compute. She might have argued with him. It was so different from the traffic and people noise of Los Angeles.
"Okay. Wasn't I the one crying today about not playing house? Brandon came into view. The two men gazed at each other for a full minute. okay?" Angel nodded. taking Angel by the hand. "How's about I work on that tomorrow. Angel leaned in to Brandon and slid his arms around the The Trouble with Angel . his back arching. and one large hand gently pushed open the door.Jesus. He shrugged Brandon's jacket off and slung it over the doorknob. "I do. "You need to get a satellite dish." "Why don't you come in here. He pushed the sweater and Tshirt up. walking up from the back of the house. Angel smiled slowly as he came through the door. his mouth following the trail of his hands. Brandon sat down on the side of the bed and drew Angel between his knees. walked him into the downstairs bedroom." It was inane but it was all he could think of. Brandon detoured from the fireplace and stepped over to the door. Angel broke the silence. tweaking the sensitive nipples. caressing Angel's skin.98 . Angel found himself drawn toward the man. huh?" He smiled slowly. Brandon's eyebrows went up. rubbing them with his thumbs. Closing that door as well. Brandon closed the inside door behind them. and. Catching sight of Angel. He slid his hands up under the cashmere sweater and the T-shirt beneath. Listen to me. Angel was glad to find it was warmer in the bedroom. Gasping and whimpering. stepping in front of the screen door and watching as his lover came through the french doors of the dining room. At least the old boiler down in the scary basement worked. the two men moved over to the bed. sugar?" Brandon's voice was inviting.
muscled shoulders.anything to keep the connection between them. heavy and hard. dropping down and taking the big cock into his throat in the same motion. too excited to be embarrassed by his clumsiness. He groaned when Brandon's teeth bit into one nipple and his fingers flexed. He started to drop to his knees to worship it and got tangled in his half-removed clothes. he tried again. gently pushing Angel back. licking. He nodded. Ripping off the rest of his clothes. biting. His cock. stretching his opening. fucking the air. his prick beginning to leak. and sucking. He fell forward. Brandon moved back and forth between both nipples while opening Angel's wool trousers. tugged on the earlobes -. He thrust his hips forward a few times. as Brandon nipped down his torso. moving around to cup the cheeks of his ass. He found himself running his fingers over Brandon's scalp.99 . digging into the broad back in reaction. stumbling. was dripping its own pre-come. okay?" Brandon stood. loving the crisp sound and feel of the short hair against his hands. then stripped rapidly. With his sweater off and tank shirt half over his head. Angel licked his lips as Brandon's prick was revealed. landing half on the bed and half off. then erotically pulling them apart. wrapping his fingers around its girth and squeezing. Angel felt those long fingers slide inside. "How about you get rid of your clothes. The Trouble with Angel . That clever mouth moved to his other nipple. He rimmed Brandon's ears with his fingertips. he reached out a hand to touch. he'd had this beautiful thing inside himself last night. gripping and caressing. He moaned loudly at that. "Angel! Are you all right?" Brandon's concerned voice warmed him as he was helped upright. God.
He tilted Angel's head back a little and pressed deeper. going a little deeper each time...*** Brandon froze. using his fingers to sift the strands and gently mold the back of his lover's head. his fingers parting the silky black hair... just wanted you to know.. play on the downlow with the League. He gripped a little harder for a moment to get Angel's attention. his mouth a big O with Brandon's cock still spreading his lips.I just. so. that's kind of virgin territory back there so. Angel sucking strongly. "Sugar. I always wanted to -. caressing and tugging them erotically." Chest lifting with a big breath. His breath started coming in pants as he thrust slowly into that willing mouth. then wet the index finger of one hand while continuing to suck. Brandon shrugged uncomfortably. will you?" Angel stopped sucking and stared up. surprised breath.. I just -.100 . that's. "Okay?" In answer. I trust you. He was welcomed. Angel cupped his balls. Embarrassed. go easy. gorgeous man made. His hands came around to cup Angel's head. Brandon dropped his head down so he could watch every move this vexing. Brandon's belly clenched as he watched Angel prepare to penetrate him. "It's all right... When Angel encouraged him by sucking strongly again. sucking in a huge. Grunting.. I. I just didn't do this too much with other guys. wanting instinctively to dominate." He spread his feet farther apart.well.. "You know I've had to. He thrust his hands through Angel's thick hair again. Brandon consciously tried to relax and recover the mood. Brandon began moving his hips once more. The Trouble with Angel .
Angel began sucking his dick once more. His slit was teased by Angel's talented tongue. one hand was locked in Angel's silky hair. and he was distracted as Angel pulled back to encircle just the head of his cock. The dual assault was almost too much for his brain to process. and Brandon grunted. Brandon desperately tried to loosen his sphincter muscle. that muscle pushing into the opening and prodding it as though trying to press inside. He definitely shouted that time. moving closer.101 . Brandon's heart began thudding as Angel carefully slicked up that index finger again. Brandon grunted again at the new pressure. soaking it with saliva. then moaned as Angel found his prostate and fingered it for a while. sending his semen down that beautiful throat. then pressed both inside. That finger moved around. sliding in and out a little. the stroking on his gland unbelievably good. and he barely got his fist to his mouth in time to stifle his shout. his cry turning to a guttural moan as he thrust forward. over and over. the strong suction distracting him from the slight pressure at his opening. his hips were jerking. as the suction on his dick increased once again. His belly was tight. massaged.giving permission to explore. surprised despite himself. His balls were boiling. Angel brought his hand to his mouth for a moment and got his middle finger wet. His gland was stroked. "God!" The Trouble with Angel . Angel chose that moment to push inside. He felt that throat close around his cockhead in a swallow. sending his dick deeper down Angel's throat. and suddenly he was coming harder than he had in a while. It felt strange and wonderful at the same time. nudged. The burn was so good he groaned. His pelvis jerked forward.
his taller body covering Angel..?" "Uh-uh. Their breathing was gradually slowing. Angel's hand slowly caressed Brandon's hair.until very recently -. After coming so hard. It appeared that Brandon hadn't done that very often. "You've never.?" "Uh-uh. He'd stared up at Angel fixedly as he'd licked and sucked. Brandon spread out. but he'd held it together long enough to rip back the covers and shove Angel down on the bed.. clearing his throat softly.. fingers sorting and sifting the short. he'd given Angel a somewhat inexpert but heartfelt blowjob.he'd perceived as an adversary. their hearts quieting. but his enthusiasm and his desire to please were very clear. blond hair. Never had Angel dared to dream that he'd find himself in such a position with this man." "And you've never. Looking down at the proud. The major leaguer's technique was hit or miss. his head resting on Angel's chest. He'd fumbled and mumbled.102 . his hands rubbing and clenching on Angel's rump. but then." "Why? Why now? Why me?" The Trouble with Angel . in return.. Now. if at all." "Not until now?" "Uh-huh.*** They were lying together. Angel delicately broached the subject. Angel almost couldn't comprehend that Brandon was on his knees giving head. rugged man who -. Brandon had been nearly incoherent with gratitude and lust.
. it means -. Brandon raised his head a bit and turned so he could look Angel in the eye. "It doesn't really mean anything.. uh. a woman if I. was floundering like a kid in front of the teacher. so Angel poked him in the shoulder.. he gave in.if I just fucked. "C'mon. "Um. Poking that muscled shoulder again. both literally and physically. "Amado?" Now Angel was the one feeling slightly uncomfortable.... he spoke softly." Brandon looked up again. talk to me. Angel quirked his lips. think that I. And? Why me?" Watching Brandon squirm. This big." Brandon's head was back on his chest. chin resting on Angel's chest.had always appeared to have his entire act together." He ran out of words..Chapter 14 There was silence as Brandon apparently debated how to answer. was just the teensiest bit gratifying.." The Trouble with Angel . He wasn't letting Brandon get away with pretending ignorance.103 . "If you were in the driver's seat?" Brandon's head moved on Angel's chest as he nodded.sweetheart. with a sigh. changed-life circumstances -.. it wasn't much -. professional athlete who -. "And?" Brandon didn't respond." Watching the smile that crossed Brandon's face. "Uh-huh. "I. "Huh?" Snorting softly.. "You heard me.it wasn't really different than. about to say the dog ate my homework.. tough. Finally.before these extraordinary. thought -.. amado. a guy. Angel felt his chest tighten a little bit.
Why now -. Brandon's head came up again. You used to be this.. "Uh.. uh. guy. "Serves you right. managing.why me? What's different?" "You are. you couldn't be bothered to deal with the little people like me." Angel smiled at Brandon." "Hey. as if afraid to commit to the idea he'd just broached. um.. you didn't finish.." He knew he sounded smug but. "Oww!" Rubbing his hair against the injured spot." Brandon dithered a little bit. "You want to know what's different?" Angel felt one calloused finger trace his eyebrows. authoritarian. This was too good." The words were pushed out of Brandon. Angel's eyebrows scrunched. "I am? Huh?" Brandon's chest heaved against Angel's belly. When I would see you back at Hill. you cocky bastard." Angel arched his brows. pushing gently for a moment." Did he sound as hurt as he'd felt at the time? "Okay. and his lips quivered when Brandon's finger slid over them. Enough. setting himself on his side and facing Angel. "Hey! I never said that!" "Nope. Brandon smirked. "Whatever. He couldn't decide if he was pissed at the labels or if he liked the fact that he'd apparently been too much for the bigger man.104 . papi.I think I like the fact that you couldn't quite handle me at CeCe's office. sugar." Brandon pushed up and moved over. um."Anyway. he couldn’t help it. Well. Don't talk to me about cocky. You didn't have to. The Trouble with Angel . You'd blow in and out of CeCe's office and barely talk to me. enjoying the feeling of superiority. banging Angel's sternum in the process." Brandon dropped his head. "Um. staring at the ceiling. "You know -.
. You're different. processing the outrageous statement he'd just heard. looking down at his finger as it wandered between the pectoral muscles on Angel's chest." Brandon shrugged. "You are." Angel stared at the empty wall next to the bed for at least ten seconds.105 ." He grinned up from under his eyelashes." he admitted quietly. even if you won't admit it... could tell her you're just up here working. Swallowing doesn't count. during which Angel held his breath. you've been so. For some dumb reason." There was a long. "Did you call your mama?" "No. nice to them. I haven't!" "You're right.The big blond continued. that you already care about them. "You could say that you've fallen madly in love with me and you're moving up here. His eyes moved back and forth as he attempted to figure out just what the hell he was supposed to say to that. "No.. And what was really scaring him was that Brandon might be right. despite the fact that he clearly had more experience than Brandon when it came to guy-on-guy action. Brandon's quiet voice came over his shoulder.. or. and you're helping me with them and I can tell. that embarrassed Angel.. Since these kids came into my life. "Why not?" "I don't know what to tell her. He shoved the pillow away and kept his head turned in the opposite direction." The turquoise gaze was deliberately provocative.. "You've even been nice to me maybe once since we got up here." "Well. you.. He snorted in disgust and flopped over on his belly. long pause. The Trouble with Angel .
Angel couldn't look away. Angel flopped back against the mattress. you hear?" With that blue.Being Angel. he came out swinging. "What the hell do you think you're doing? No me chingues! Not about this. he looked away again. Sometimes it was hard to read the ballplayer." Making a face. then moved his legs apart as that hand slid lower. blue gaze focused on him. tiger." Please! "Say it in Spanish. He didn't pursue his mad statement of moments earlier. He nodded slowly. "Uhhuh. but instead slid his hand down to rest on Angel's belly. I can see I'm going to have to brush up on my Spanish. Angel mumbled. He looked at their intertwined digits for a second before raising his eyes again." "Oh. though. don't fuck with me." Brandon had a devilish glint in his eyes. caressing and rolling. Slightly abashed. He bit his lip as Brandon cupped his balls." He cocked a brow at Angel. Brandon raised up a hand in appeasement. "Um. "Uh-huh. "You kinda bring out the East LA in me.106 . "Call her first thing in the morning." Jerking back. grabbing the flying arm. "Easy. The Trouble with Angel ." Brandon didn't push. Is that where your mama is? Where you're from?" Brandon didn't appear to be bothered by learning where Angel had been raised. flipping back over and almost knocking Brandon in the nose with his elbow as he did so. his fingers fiddling with Brandon's as his hand was held captive. "You want me to manhandle you some more?" The suggestive tone sent shivers of excitement down his spine.
Angel complied. "Tell me. He lowered his torso. bending his knees and putting his feet flat against the mattress. his hands at either side of Angel's biceps." he whispered.. dropping down The Trouble with Angel . bringing his arms up. "Muerdeme." That got him stroking on his hardening cock. He brought his hand up to Angel's mouth. He pinched and tugged and twisted. He bit the tip as he released it and heard Brandon exhale a shaky breath in response. "Touch me." The soft-spoken command hardened Angel's prick even more. He tugged his little bits again meaningfully. He rewarded Brandon with soft cries and grunts and spread his legs even wider." Brandon's voice was a whisper. Taking a deep breath." Opening his eyes. His own dick. He arched again at a tug on his balls. dropping down into the cradle of Angel's thighs. Brandon immediately complied. Touch my.That was easy. "Get it wet." Sighing. loving the sound of the words. hombre. bumped Angel's.107 . he translated. he began playing with his nipples. jerking it a little roughly now.. lingering on the palm and sucking the edge of the middle finger into his mouth for a second." "Bite me. and they both groaned. cock. "Unghh!" "Gimme more. all under Brandon's watchful eyes. rockhard and dripping. stroking. the tugs and pulls feeling so good." Angel whispered it. sugar. He dragged his tongue along the big hand. "Si. "Toca me. Por favor. En mi verga." Brandon did exactly that. sugar. Brandon moved to lie over Angel. Brandon used that wet hand to grip Angel's dick. "More. his eyes closing.
He hissed as Angel lunged up and bit down. I can certainly understand that language.. over and over." he crooned again as Angel cried out. "Tus dedos. "Your fingers." Finally grabbing the lube and condoms. 'I need some lube'?" He pushed back on one hand. he flipped open the lube and liberally coated two fingers. He rumbled deep in his throat as he did so. moving from nipple to nipple. covering one of Angel's little titties with his mouth.. right?" The Trouble with Angel . he tossed them down next to Angel's squirming body. He moved to whisper in Angel's ear. Holding Angel down again. He led Brandon's hand along his middle. the sound happy. "How do I say. then tried again. "Ponga tus dedos--!" Giving up at translation. Brandon leaned toward the kit. shoving the long fingers against his own hole..completely. feeling for Brandon's shaving kit.. yeah. then groaned loudly as Angel started sucking strongly. Laughing. "Oh. Angel was having none of it. "Pinche pendejo! Grab the goddamn lube and fuck me!" With that. yeah. stabbing inside. to his ass. sucking and biting and licking. then retreating. thrusting his fingers blindly. which had been twisting one of his nipples. smirking a little. "I do believe this is what you wanted. his nipple coming within range of Angel's teeth. never settling too long.108 . bumping his leaking dick. he threw one arm over toward the nightstand." Angel gasped and cried out at a sharp nip. One arm across Angel's chest. Tus dedos. driving Angel slowly crazy. "Oh." He gasped again at another sharp bite. Jackknifing backward. Brandon thrust his fingers inside. he grabbed Brandon's clever fingers. his tongue tracing over Angel's lips. Brandon moved up. he ripped open a packet with his teeth and swiftly rolled the glove on his cock. and dragged them down.
God. the head popping through and making him grunt. spreading the strong muscle. He cried out as Brandon's cock hit his gland. Brandon -. Brandon leaned down and nipped at Angel's bottom lip. their mouths eating each other." Brandon said with a husky laugh. slicking it up." He crooned the words as Brandon bottomed out. They stared at each other. Pulling back. Panting. He wrapped his arms around the strong back. and he shouted as his gland was once again bumped. Using a wet hand to lube up. then retreating. That got him a hard bang. panting. "Mmmmm. his hands spread on the big lats. wanting to mark the man who was claiming him so thoroughly. "Baby -The Trouble with Angel . "Metelo!" Angel's frustration was showing. "Kiss me!" When Brandon's tongue drove deep. and his lover obligingly kept banging that very spot. Angel could feel the talented fingers opening his tight ring for Brandon's cock. oh God. he nipped at it.Brandon's fingers slid in and out.109 . The two men kissed hungrily. not moving for a few seconds. you're really good at this part. Brandon nestled close. "Shhh. Brandon looked down at him. Angel raised his eyes from where their bodies were about to join and met the burning blue gaze that awaited. He pulled Brandon's head down again. Whimpering. pushing and pulling. going deep. shoving forward. alternating with licks. making room. prodding Angel with deliberate nudges. He arched his back and brought his heels up. twisting and turning. Brandon began thrusting. Angel gripped harder. digging into Brandon's tight ass and pulling his lover as close as could be. "Put it in! Now!" He gasped sharply when Brandon obliged. Angel caught Brandon's tongue and sucked on it.
"God!" He shuddered. hard movements. He took the pillow off his face long enough to say it aloud. He was thrusting faster." He threw off the pillow once again. Muffled once again. Angel thought The Trouble with Angel . pumping hard as Brandon reamed his ass. that felt so good. sugar.110 . That was enough to send Angel over the edge. He arched. which got him a repeat performance.so sweet. oh God. groaning for long moments before dropping down on top of Angel with a gusty sigh. The new angle had Angel mewling in pleasure and pumping faster. Brandon was heavy. hitting Brandon's abs and dripping down the meaty hand. "Oh God. God. continuing to thrust. He let loose with a really loud groan as Brandon pulled all the way out. shoving forward one last time. he grabbed his dick. His cock spurted. Come on. Brandon's thrusting continued. and Angel kept groaning as Brandon's efforts made it last a little longer. shoving a fist in his mouth as he howled with pleasure. spreading his knees wide. and shoved in again. but it felt so good to have the big body covering him. Angel grabbed the spare pillow and crammed it over his face. Brandon pushed up and sat back on his heels." Brandon's voice was hypnotic. You are -. come all over me. Angel vaguely heard Brandon grunt as his ass muscles clamped down. oh God. Angel. Watching him." Brandon rasped. grabbing Angel's dick and jerking roughly." Groaning. his breath coming with effort as he suddenly stiffened. He dropped forward once again and knocked Angel's hand out of the way. You.do not wake the kids up right now. hard. "That's it. "God. "Ooomph!" Jesus. short.
" When Brandon froze on top of him. "Christ." The Trouble with Angel .dreamily. holding his own breath. His mouth opened. Angel. Brandon. and he spoke before he thought. You're a pretty good cock jockey after all. you are one crazy guy. "God. He bit his lip. not releasing it until Brandon let out a bark of laughter.111 . Angel grimaced quickly at his own big mouth. not breathing.
112 ." Flipping off the sheet. Both men jumped a little. stretching his arms a bit. "Would you mind repeating that. It was pre-dawn. for that matter. with a faint glow coming into the bedroom. a slight smile on his face. "I'm no expert. He stared down at the torn knee as he fastened them. and his fingers were wandering through the crisp blond chest hair of his muscular lover. "Don't worry." He smacked a kiss on Angel's lips just as Marisa banged on the door. aren't you taking somebody to school today?" The two men were lying together." Angel considered that. "Smarty. sugar. I kind of wish that Trey could stay home for a few days while we all get to know each other. please?" Grinning in response. The sun had not yet risen. Brandon brought their heads together." "Maybe you're right. I'll buy you a new pair. just the sheet covering them. that girl has a set of lungs. he rolled to his side." Angel raised his head. "Yeah. mi'ja. "Just a minute. Since Brandon had no window treatments.Chapter 15 "Hey. I have to get dressed. Brandon sighed." Angel stood and dragged on his trousers from the day before. For both of them. "You'd better go up and make sure Trey is ready for this. the light was unfiltered. but maybe getting back into a routine as soon as possible will be good for him. I guess we have to do that today. "Angel!" "Jesus. Angel had his head on Brandon's chest. then sat up. He arched a brow. swinging his legs over the side of the bed." The Trouble with Angel ." Angel looked at Brandon wryly before calling out to Marisa.
When he pulled it open. There were two cars outside. You can take care of Trey. he came face to face with the determined little girl. madly typing an email." Amused. and he drilled Brandon with a look. Mr. pulling the door closed behind himself." Grabbing his jacket from the back of the sofa. Then I have to get out my laptop and get some work done. "What can I do for you?" He noticed the second car was still running and the driver stayed inside." Brandon smiled faintly.113 . Let me see who this is. he slipped it on as he walked outside. playing with one of the two dolls she'd brought in her bags. "Damn right you will. Angel set the laptop aside and got up." He rolled his eyes as he headed for the door. "Mr. cellular aircard in the slot supplying Internet access. "Angel! I'm hungry. Vargas. *** Just after lunch. Hearing a car pull up outside. Nodding slowly. The young man held out a set of car keys. Marisa was on the floor. mi'ja. He walked up the steps until he stood one tread below Angel. "These are for you. Vargas?" He gave a huge smile. He looked back at Marisa. "We're going to get breakfast ready. walking to the entry and looked through the full-light glass of the door.Angel's head came up. Angel swung her up into his arms and spoke to Brandon. A man got out of the first vehicle and walked up to the porch. Angel was sitting on the ratty sofa with his laptop. bringing two fingers to his brow in a mock salute. He frowned. Halvorsen sent us The Trouble with Angel . Mr. Angel moved to the top of the steps. "You wait here.
Then I can show you the features of the vehicle and you'll be all set.. Joe and I can be on our way. Sighing. What the hell had Brandon done? Beside him. I can't sign for this car." Dumbfounded. shaking his own head with a smile and refusing to accept it. he spoke again. his gaze swinging over to the vehicles. Angel read over the bill of lading and saw where his signature was required. Without thought. Mr. who was watching them curiously. For the first time.over with your new car. "What the heck is going on?" Grinning at him. he scanned the papers. He looked up." He angled his head at the other driver. he found the purchase documents written in his name. whose shirt had the name Henry embroidered on it. paced along. Angel began shaking his head. shuffling them in his hands.114 . Holy shit.. "Mr. The black SUV gleamed in the morning sunlight." He looked up in amazement at the deliveryman.the ML550 model. Vargas. he noticed that the car the young man had driven up in was actually a Mercedes -. Henry shrugged. "But. No way!" He couldn't just sign for a car. "Mr." He held out a clipboard with documents attached. he accepted the keys and began walking down the steps toward the car." The Trouble with Angel . Angel stared at the keys. His mouth dropping open." He looked at his watch. Behind it. "Joe and I need to get back to Medford." Nudging the clipboard. the young man. "If you'd just sign. Halvorsen was really clear that you needed to sign and that you could call him afterward. Henry insisted. Could he? He pushed the clipboard back at Henry. "Look. "I'll need you to sign for receipt. Halvorsen said to call him on his cell and he'd fill you in.
They were still parked right where Henry had left the car. He looked at Marisa. the radio. Easing off the brake. Mr. he checked his seat belt.. who was sitting in the passenger seat of the new car. That didn't stop them. though. The booster seat for Marisa was in the Navigator." Insane bastard. the GPS.. She buckled her shoulder belt with no trouble. when. "Okay. Angel dialed Brandon's cell number. Even if he couldn't keep the car. should we drive it around here?" At Marisa's enthusiastic nod. Grinning despite the dusty footprints she left on the leather. so Angel wasn't going anywhere. chica.115 . then accepted the paperwork that Henry shoved into his hand. Angel jerked his head toward the back. all right?" *** After Henry and Joe left. he swung the The Trouble with Angel . then slowly tugged the gearshift to Drive. Get in the back and buckle up. it was surely nice to sit and pretend for a while.." Obligingly. "What. while he read the manual and fiddled with all the other controls. the little girl climbed over the console and settled in the back. He let Marisa turn on the wipers. His lips tightened. The interior of the car was like Mission Control. "He's hiding and doesn't want to talk to me. how did he do this?" Angel was almost sputtering. Vargas! Let's go through the features.Medford? Another place he didn't know. from starting up the car and playing with everything. It rang once before going to voicemail. "Okay. Just in case. "Mi'ja.. He reluctantly signed his name where indicated.
eyeing his ballplayer suspiciously. blasting Miley Cyrus from the sound system. Angel cocked his head to the side. Marisa quickly told him which channel was Radio Disney. and he obligingly turned it on for her. They turned up the music on the satellite radio. "Angel!" She pouted. and she was laughing as they danced. moving the car down the driveway toward the outbuildings. The others were down the slight incline toward the river." Confused. crossing her arms over her chest. "What?" "She's acting just like you. He headed that way. another two hundred feet away. letting her slide down to the ground. okay?" Whining a little.wheel around. The Trouble with Angel . with the garage closest to the house at about fifty feet away. "You like the car?" Brandon's amused voice could be heard as the song died down. Angel clutched Marisa. He slowly untangled Marisa's hands and legs. Angel and Marisa were down by the barn. Angel decided he was actually having fun showing Marisa some of his favorite dance steps.and Angel drove around all of these as he slowly began to get a feel for the car. There were trees and garden beds scattered around -. She had her legs wrapped around him. taking advantage of the package already activated in the car. go turn the radio off.116 . his tongue going deep for a second. the engine off and windows open. then straightening to plant a liplock on Angel. that didn't take long. Whirling to face his exasperating. "Boy. The rear of the house faced a big barn. along with a multi-room equipment shed and a large garage. Marisa protested." Brandon walked up to them both. crazy lover. bending down to peck the pouting little girl's lips. A half hour later. "Mi'ja. The new SUV sat parked in the sun. The buildings were spread out a bit.
"I knew it was the perfect match for you. Brandon raised his hands in surrender. He settled her on his hip. Christ!" Despite himself.117 . Angel snorted. go ahead and turn the radio off. "You're welcome. and you just bought me a car!" "Yeah." Brandon grinned and spoke to the little girl." He waved a wild hand at the Mercedes. That color goes great with your hair. excuse me!" Both of them paused in their conversation. little girl. "Whoa. "Uh." Brandon said without apology. tilting his head to look at her. turning to look at him inquiringly." He lifted his shoulders in a rolling shrug as he admitted. Angel stepped up to Brandon. Angel's mouth watered as he looked at the leather and blue-jean-clad hunk of man standing next to him. you've been gone for hours.Shoving himself backward. He tore his gaze away from Brandon's crotch and forced himself to refocus when Brandon spoke again. Angel watched as Brandon chatted with the girl. hearing all about what she thought about the new car. "We're going to go get your brother pretty soon. then leaned down to swing Marisa into his arms. getting right up in his face. "Sweetheart. okay?" He set her down on her feet. what have you and Angel been up to?" In disbelief. anyway. The Trouble with Angel ." "Guh!" Angel didn't know whether to laugh or yell. I think I see steam coming out of your ears. I know. "Don't even!" Chuckling. "Where the hell have you been? You were supposed to just drop Trey off and come back." While Marisa clambered into the car. sugar. Not only did you not do that. "Especially not one that costs sixty-two thousand dollars. "So. "Brandon! You bought me a car! You can't do that.
and you stuck me in voicemail!" Looking guilty. You need to have a car up here. he smiled unwillingly." He grimaced.A small grin on his mouth." He waved at Marisa as she sat in the driver's seat playing with the steering wheel.. Angel looked at Brandon for a long second. you're helping me. His cheeks were burning -. he had no clue.." Clinging to Brandon. I'm sorry! I was talking to my attorney on the other line. with the kids. don't worry about it! I can afford it. just in case." Brandon's voice was impressed. sucking on the tongue that kept stabbing into his mouth. I want you to have it and -. Leaning away for a second. Marisa's hand movements caught the corner of his eye as she fiddled with the keys." He stepped close to Angel." He leaned down to kiss Angel again.118 . he blurted.. I've been watching you around the kids. "I knew you were going to be pissy about the car. Then. slipping his arms around Angel's back and tugging forward. "Angel... well. baby. "I didn't want to get into it with you right then. "You The Trouble with Angel . and I didn't want to have that fight with other people around. I know. the leather jacket he wore creaking a bit. "See? Your instincts are good. struggling for a second. and you always seem to know what to do. "I tried calling you. and uh. remembering what had pissed him off earlier. and I was sitting in the waiting room at the school. um. "you. Brandon crossed his arms over his chest.why. "I'm sorry.." here he paused just a bit. "I've got. "I figured it wouldn't take you long to look that up." he admitted quietly.. He stepped over and removed them from the ignition. And. They didn't need Marisa getting too excited and starting the car." Lower lip caught between his teeth.. with other folks around. Angel breathed quickly.. "Yeah. I. Brandon nodded slightly. slowly.anyway.. lots of cousins.
chica?" Angel asked. both men smiled. "Can we go for a real ride now -." He pulled Brandon back down by the ears. "Hey!" Looking down at her.are getting to know me.out on the road?" The Trouble with Angel . They were interrupted by Marisa grabbing them each by the leg. "Yes. pulling on their pants.119 .
and Trey ambled alongside. Estoy tan confundido. but I think I'm falling in love with him. toting his book bag on one shoulder.. And -. and I should have come see you for dinner on Sunday. I.120 . he drives me crazy..you are so The Trouble with Angel . Mama. Brandon. he. "I don't even know where to start. bending down to kiss him in full view of the moms who were picking up their kids. he'd quickly dialed her number. "Mama. I know I've said it before but -. He'd put off calling his mother long enough and now. Marisa had gone in with the other man. skipping alongside. it was good to hear her voice. You won't believe what I got today.." Brandon had Marisa on his shoulders." He stopped to take a deep breath. "What. "Oh.. I know. then stepped right up to where Angel leaned against the Navigator. God. he confessed to the woman who knew him best. "Mmmm.. "I know.he bought me a car!" He threw up his hand in the air as he told her about that. Mama.. you won't believe where I am. Sighing. You should see him." He could hardly believe it himself.." His voice trailed off as he spotted Brandon coming out of the small school building with both kids. I was supposed to call you on Friday. The big man talked to both kids as they crossed the street.. you.Chapter 16 "Mama. His mother chattered to him in Spanish as he watched Brandon approach. I." He mumbled his confusion to his mother. Mama?" Her voice in his ear brought him back to the present. "That's why I'm calling you. um. He'd had to admit to himself that it was a precious picture to see them together. the story of the last few days spilling out. waiting for Brandon to find Trey at school and bring him out to the car.
you'll remember your mom and dad. Following Angel's gaze." He looked sad for a moment. My mom and dad used to do that all the time. you help your sister there.121 . Trey. if we do that in front of the other kids and their moms?" The boy lifted one shoulder. okay?" Angel was startled to hear his mother's voice in his ear again. ducking his head as he smiled slightly. You tell us about them. And we'll keep their memories alive. then slung his book bag into the back seat. hauling himself up. pulled open the The Trouble with Angel . Angel's heart melted a little as he watched the interaction. a considering look on his face. waving at the birds who sang in the trees near the truck. Angel looked quickly at Trey to see what he thought of the public kiss. Brandon handed Marisa up into the truck. Trey nodded. okay? That way. "Does that bother you." Brandon's voice was husky as he stepped back. "Nah." Looking grateful." He couldn't believe it but he'd just confirmed once again to his mother that he loved Brandon.sweet. He'd completely forgotten he was holding the phone to his ear and that the connection was still open. Shit! "Si. and we'll get to know them through you. Es el hombre que amo. "Son. "it's good to remember the really good things. and she chattered happily from her place on top." Brandon told him softly. Brandon spoke to the boy. The boy was watching both of them. He busied himself buckling his shoulder belt. watching him closely. Brandon. "Trey. telling her to buckle up. She'd been able to hear most everything that had just been said. Mama. Marisa's feet swung on Brandon's shoulders.
Grinning again. Angel jerked his head around to look at Trey. surprising Angel. walking around the truck. The Trouble with Angel .122 ." His belly fluttering at the attention Brandon was paying him. Mama.passenger door for him. Huffing in embarrassment. "Don't listen to him. Angel's yell was ignored as Brandon put the phone to his ear. "No. and Angel turned around to give them a frustrated glare. Mrs. Mama. "Si. "Hey. The two kids were laughing in the back seat. then came around. Angel spoke into the phone. Trey chimed in from the back seat." He gasped when Brandon's hand slid over his ass as the ballplayer helped him up into the truck. "No-nothing. Hop up. Mama. don't you Angel? You kiss him a lot. laughing." Trey's voice was loud. he likes to be bad sometimes." His mother chortled in his ear. waving him forward. Angel told all of them to shush. That made them laugh all the more." he answered his mother. sometimes truculent boy. he nodded distractedly while his mother chattered in his ear again. He's only teasing. Brandon paused near the back for a few moments. "But you like it when he is. Brandon was just being bad." The boy had an unrepentant grin on his face." He frowned down at his lover as Brandon stood in the truck doorway. he's not. Brandon grabbed the phone as he shut the door. "Uh-huh. Gaping at the observant contribution from the usually silent. "What did you say?" "You kiss him all the time. He listened anxiously as Brandon got in the Navigator. Vargas. pulling open the driver's door." Brandon pulled the phone toward himself for a second. sugar. Uh-huh.
"What did you find out about school for Marisa?" The Trouble with Angel . He likes it up here. Ohmygod. holding there for a minute. but. there. Mrs." Brandon's voice was amused. "Okay. sliding down a little. as they all enjoyed Angel's homemade spaghetti and garlic bread -. your son wants to talk to you again.and cringing at what his mother must be thinking -." Brandon eyed Angel provokingly as he stuck the key in the ignition. he wasn't trying not to tell them anything." He pulled up to a stop sign. He leaned his head against the seat. Brandon kept his eyes on the road as he jerked his head away. He held the phone to his left ear as he pulled down the gearshift. Vargas. "Easy. he slowly pulled away from the curb. "He's pretty high maintenance.Angel slapped his hand over his eyes and moaned. ma'am. buckle up. But I can afford it. "Sugar. He just won't admit it. You think about coming up here. as far as Angel could tell.they talked a little about Trey's new school." Floored by that statement -. "Give me that phone!" Laughing. Oh. "Oh. Checking his mirrors." Angel lunged across the console. you bet. *** At dinner that night. yeah. No doubt about that. Vargas."Uh-huh.123 . The boy wasn't terribly forthcoming.which had been accomplished despite the fact that he'd had the use of one cheap stock pot and a smaller sauce pan -. Brandon handed the phone back to a nowsilent Angel. Mrs. you hear?" With that bomb dropped. now.
that is. Chuckling. Or at least as close to camping as he was ever going to get. Brandon explained. Then Brandon announced that furniture would be coming the following day. I put a rush on it so you would have all your things. "Mmmm. really fast. There's plenty of room in the barn and the equipment shed to store the stuff we can't use now." he The Trouble with Angel ." Brandon forked up another bite of spaghetti. How was he supposed to resist that? Brandon continued slowly. wearing an uncertain look himself." He turned to Marisa. and we could put some of your mom and dad's things around the house. and Marisa can start any time." he assured the boy. They had almost no supplies in the house. "Would you like that. "I was thinking that we could sort through all your stuff this weekend. You get to pick what you want to keep from your old house." Brandon really was sweet. sweetheart?" At the little girl's enthusiastic nod." He nodded to both children. both men smiled." Angel sighed heavily. the sooner the better.Brandon took a drink of milk from one of the plastic cups he'd picked up in town. everything should be arriving tomorrow." He shrugged a little uncertainly. this is good. The stuff from your house. "That would be okay?" "Boy. it's the same school as Trey's. "If you wanted to. "Well. "I contracted with movers a week after I learned about you kids. Trey was watching him.124 . sugar. Angel fretted. "Thank god. "My condo in San Francisco was all packed up a couple of days ago. it seems." he looked straight at Trey. he figured. Eating on Chinette plates at the card table had gotten really old. this is your home now. "should be here by the end of the week. it had been like going camping.
I'm going to go get some work done. you finish up. The kids giggled as Brandon shushed him. Not again. "She?" Oh. "It's only about three hours from here to Eugene. carried his plate to the kitchen The Trouble with Angel . believe me -." The kids giggled even more and he made a face at them. "was finding an architect I can work with who'll stamp my drawings for the house. "Yeah. "Now. But he'd put his own touches to it.the architect I spoke to today surely did." Angel was surprised. Angel focused on the children with a forced smile. um. "You mean you're actually going to renovate this. Not again." He turned back to the kids." Angel admitted. Even if you heathens don't understand. I called my old prof back at UIC -. "We're going to add on and make some more room for all of us.what did I tell you about this place? It's special. no.125 . He looked around. Angel -. She can't wait to see it. "I'm serious." Brandon looked at Angel with a grin. "Thank you. Brandon couldn't be another Roscoe Davis. talking around the mouthful." His appetite gone.. his brows arching up." With that. he stood up. he bit into a chunk of bread. He was so not going to play that game. Lorna Reznick. Brandon. My boss has been driving me crazy. he made a face. "Kids." "One of the other things I was doing today while I was out. He couldn't help himself. "It's my mother's recipe. She's going to come down in the next few days. house?" he caught himself.and he referred me to this group in Eugene near the University of Oregon. trying to picture it being brought into the twenty-first century. uh.can't believe he's still there -. Right? Brandon nodded in enthusiasm.complimented with a wink." The pronoun caught his attention at once.." Smiling. Oh.
so I'll make sure they unpack the television first thing. we're going to take a walk down to the river. it was quieter. Angel heard Brandon reassuring him. he thought moodily. yeah -. Grabbing it and his bag. And he was damn sure taking his new car with him. he began diligently checking his email. okay? By the time you get home from school. Oh. didn't you? Trey was complaining about not having a television. I've got work to do. why don't you and Marisa grab those books you brought up?" Angel could hear the boy murmur in response. and he could get the hell out. not so enthusiastic. "Sugar. Oh." He kept his gaze on the screen. His laptop reconnected. If his heart died a little when he thought about that. The electronic babysitter would be here tomorrow. The tenor of his lover's voice had changed. you'll have the Cartoon Network fired up. Maybe because he hadn't meant to mention Lorna? Oh.and dumped it in the trash. He listened with half an ear as Brandon and the kids continued to chat. he went into the bedroom with just a wave to the children. The Trouble with Angel . I have to. Brandon came to the bedroom.126 . he just ignored it. In the meantime. Angel told himself. The moving truck will be here early. Fuck it! Even though he'd yet to even really drive it. You want to join us?" Angel didn't look up from his spot where he sat against the headboard. "The satellite company is coming out tomorrow. then walked back to the living room for his laptop. leaning against the doorframe. Good. Thirty minutes later. He ignored the soft talk and occasional laughter that came from the living room.you let that little bit of info slip. I have to be able to resist him now. "No.
I want to catch the sunset by the river. zipping his jacket as he walked. he's not. Clicking his tongue in exasperation. "Isn't Angel coming with us?" Angel heard Marisa's voice. then slung it on as he walked out of the bedroom. sweetheart. "Uh-huh. "Is he mad at us?" That was Trey. He grabbed his Ralph Lauren suede jacket. "What? I can change my mind.127 . Angel cringed. "Y'all better get used to that. then left the room without another word. "Let's go.not the kids! "Uh-uh. right?" Angel heard the kids agree. The group was just walking out the front door." The Trouble with Angel . You'll see." Brandon huffed out a small laugh. He shrugged at the surprised looks he got as he came up. He was pissed at Brandon -. He's got a bee in his bonnet about me. We'll be outside if you change your mind." He pushed off the doorframe and stepped inside.it'll be fine. "No." Brandon was matter-offact.There was silence as Brandon processed the short explanation." He grabbed his leather jacket from where it rested at the foot of the bed and shrugged it on. he shoved the laptop to the side and hopped up. "C'mon. "Okay." Brandon was trying. Angel would give him that. can't I?" He avoided looking at Brandon as he slid a hand behind each child's back. kids -. not you.
and half of it was still visible in the western sky. have you?" Halting in his tracks and spinning around.128 . He wished he knew the names of these trees. too. I'd wrestle with my buddies. Brandon ambled along behind them. Angel looked at him skeptically." Brandon shrugged. who wasn't able to duck before Brandon swiped a finger down his wrinkled nose. "You want me to rake leaves?" he asked delicately. "Then my dad would get ticked at us for The Trouble with Angel . When I was a kid. He. despite the hurt he was feeling. not at all like the dry Los Angeles landscape." Trey commented. Brandon snorted in amusement. He picked up a small rock and tossed it toward the river. Marisa taking one of his hands. purples. we might need to start raking up some of these leaves. then strolled up next to Angel. we used to pile the leaves up and dive into them. or the run-down streets of his old neighborhood. The sun was just thinking about setting. and. "Yes. sugar. "Anyway. Y'all have probably never smelled burning leaves. It's something we can all do together. The fall foliage on them was gorgeous. "Hey. I just thought it might be fun. "Nice toss.Chapter 17 Angel led the two children down to the riverbank. He heard Brandon's quiet voice from behind. he looked at Brandon from under his brows. Angel had to admit that staring at the beauty around him was better than staring unseeingly at his laptop screen. and reds of the sky were just beginning. and we'd throw the leaves at each other. looked skeptical." "We don't know how to rake leaves. Pointing a finger at himself. The faint pinks." He smiled.
" He waved a hand to Marisa. mi'ja. "Don't worry. "Oh. what about you? You want to learn how to fish?" The little girl nodded rapidly." Angel tried to harden his heart." Snorting once again with amusement. Here at this section. followed by a giggle from Trey as the two of them whispered together. Brandon looked him over. "Let them figure out who's going to rake leaves." he cautioned. pequeña? Let's look. Marisa nodded as he stepped in front of her. because I'm not.wrecking the piles." Brandon stopped next to them. the river was a couple of feet below the lip of the bank." He heard a snort of amusement from Brandon. With Marisa in tow. you'd probably need a new outfit for The Trouble with Angel ." He wrapped an arm around her middle. Angel slipped on a loose rock. They reached the grassy bank. I know that's not your thing.129 . and we'd have to start all over again. "Maybe we'll do some fishing up here. and he squatted down next to her. sugar. Angel ignored them both as he walked over to the riverbank. you are so cleaning the fish. that was sure. but slightly more interested than he was about raking leaves. Let's see if we can see any fish before it gets too dark. mi'ja. and at one point. he turned around and started walking toward the river again. but he just couldn't. "C'mon." Angel forgot that he wasn't planning to be there longer than tomorrow. "Marisa. he ducked under some branches as they approached. "Besides. Who could resist Brandon like this? Not Angel. "Can you see any fish. holding her steady as the two of them leaned over the edge to look into the water. Trey. To fortify himself. Trey again looked skeptical. "Be careful.
he licked his lips. You're pissed at him. "Uh-uh. he met the burning intensity of the turquoise gaze. Brandon was just as hungry. Brandon was the one." That made Trey laugh out loud." Time to distract. "Easy. The Trouble with Angel . remember? "Oh. One thing I know you can do is shop. Stop it! Stop being provocative. "Only one thing?" He couldn't stop himself." Brandon's voice was very dry as he waved a hand at Angel's designer duds. who remembered there were children present. "You know. Trey. It's a little too cold this time of year. Unconsciously. How easily he could forget his hurt when it came to sex with this man. Angel turned his head. especially when the boy caught the look that Angel aimed at Brandon. God." Brandon cautioned in a low voice. losing her balance. that voice and that dick made him hungry.fishing. he could see the taut front of Brandon's jeans. Jerking his eyes up. "Look. So hungry he was almost ready to jump that bone. though. and when Angel snuck a look. Thankfully. Angel!" He grabbed her as she reached down. but I can't talk about that in front of the kids. the kids were oblivious to the undercurrents and were calling out to each other about the bigger fish they'd spotted. Marisa was pointing at minnows in the water. sugar. he remembered that he was leaving tomorrow. "That's a good idea. stretched over a growing cock. no." Too late.130 . pequeña. sugar. we should go shopping tomorrow and get some winter clothes for you. hiding a pained smile. too." Now that voice was gravelly. Shit and damn. just as ready. Let's not go swimming yet.
131 . okay? You're really making me nervous. You telling me you haven't tried a DQ Blizzard?" Being laughed at was the last straw. you too. That's all. Rolling his eyes. his hand coming up with a come on direction. All I'm saying is that you haven't lived until you've tried a Blizzard. "Tried it? I don't like snow." He stood up and tugged her back. She whined a little as she walked backwards. Angel blew out a big breath. He spotted the fish the kids were yelling about and hung on to Marisa tightly as she tried to lean down to touch it. You are so big city. Brandon said. "Kids. he blew out a big breath. Angel. "Sugar. "And I was quite happy to keep it that way -. "Trey. trying to focus.Shaking his head to clear it." he instructed. Take a breath and calm down. Angel looked at them all. the kids were seated in the gazebo The Trouble with Angel . jumping up and down. let's step back from the water a bit. remember? What had he just let happen? He looked down at the water again. wondering what the fuss was about. pointing a hand at the water." Hurt again." "Whoa. Brandon nonetheless obeyed. He jerked his head at Brandon. "Mi'ja. "What's so exciting about Dairy Queen?" Shaking his head and smiling. What was wrong with him? He's bringing somebody else here. Trey chimed in with a hurray and a pumped fist." *** A half hour later.until you came back into my life. away from the bank. how about we go in to town to the Dairy Queen?" Marisa started screaming in excitement.
Brandon shoved his Reese's Pieces Blizzard to one side. Marisa looked up and waved at them." Ignoring him completely. happily eating their Blizzards. uh. the adults could see the kids clearly. Sighing. Trey had gotten M&Ms. "Sugar. move on to -. then looked back at the restaurant. "Hey! I'm not the one who thinks it's okay to. "You want to at least try a bite of this? It might improve your mood.. Brandon was staring at him like a third eye had just appeared in his forehead. then nudged her brother. "What? What in the hell are you talking about? And keep your voice down. The two adults sat nearby.uh. fed up." Christ -. and Marisa had put Oreo cookies in hers. Angel sipped his coffee and stared at the kids. greener pastures while the other -. Angel glanced at him..132 . he had to finish. in the picnic table area." Slapping his hand on the table. Even though the summer season was gone.." Lips tightening. but once he'd started. "You going to tell me what's got your panties in a twist? You've been moody since dinner. some of the tables were still set up in the grass next to the parking lot..uh. who stopped slurping up his Blizzard long enough to raise his hand in a quick hello. The idea of you and caffeine at this hour scares me. Brandon looked over at Angel." Angel turned back to face his tormentor.where the fuck did he come up with that? It was an absolutely ridiculous metaphor. Smiling.on the Dairy Queen lawn. who was hunched against the fifty-five degree evening. I hope that's decaf. his jacket zipped and a cup of steaming coffee in his hand. bull is still here. um. he stopped himself The Trouble with Angel . From where they sat. the other.
. remember?" He didn't even care how stupid it sounded now." he said slowly. could you? You're bringing her down here. "I knew it..133 . "Whatever her name was. And stop calling me dumbass. You just said she's coming The Trouble with Angel . "And I'm moving on to. another pasture?" Brandon asked. "You know what I'm talking about! Pendejo!" He sent a guilty look toward Trey and Marisa.." He scratched the back of his neck. Angel stabbed a finger in Brandon's face." Angel tapped his fingers on the table. "So. "I've found somebody else?" Swinging his leg over the bench seat. like it's no big deal!" "You're leaving tomorrow? Why?" "Duh! Because you're bringing that.. "Angel. Finally! "So.. Brandon attempted some deductive reasoning." Brandon tried again. "What bull? What pasture?" "Me!" "You?" "Don't play dumb! It's me. "you're a bull. I do not know what you're talking about. And you have the nerve to tell me in front of the kids.from shouting with an effort. I'm the bull! Living in your pasture." He'd lost his drawl again and was speaking with the clarity of his Midwestern boyhood. You'll have to be very clear. Angel nodded his head sharply. Brandon's mouth hung open for a moment or two. who appeared not to have heard him.. "I don't know!" Angel wailed in pained frustration. Looking honestly blank. I knew it! You couldn't even wait until I left tomorrow. In my pasture. that woman down here!" "What woman?" Brandon's voice was blank with incomprehension.
" He reached out with both hands. He slouched down. Their eyes met. his face crinkled up into a grin..down to look at that stupid. turning his head away. then grew to a rolling belly laugh. Usually Brandon's strength excited him. "Don't scare the kids.but she's bringing her thirty-year-old son with her. I am not laughing at you. heavily-muscled legs over Angel's when Angel tried to get away.134 . and her son. Angel held himself as stiffly as he could. okay?" Still on fire." Affronted. and saw the two kids eyeing The Trouble with Angel . and her husband are all partners in their architectural firm. "What?" "You heard me. but right now it was just pissing him off. They're going to look at the house -. He rested his forehead against Angel's. Listen up.." Angel glanced around. Lorna Reznick is coming down here all right -." Brandon said with a grin." he soothed. and he was itching for a fight to release some of his hurt feelings. and Angel was pulled unwillingly onto his lap. back against the edge of the table in his merriment. easy. "I am just so relieved that you are absolutely crazy that I. A huge grin. Lorna. And just what the fuck was so funny? "Cabron! Stop laughing at me!" "Sugar. Chuckles started deep in his chest. Brandon grabbed his chin with one hand and brought his face around. feelings bruised. dumpy house." Angel was trying to understand what the other man had just said.and we're going to talk about me possibly working with them. He really had a head of steam built up. Angel sniffed. baby." Belated comprehension lit Brandon's face and. Angel eyes widened in shock. "Angel. unbelievably. Brandon slid one of his long. "I have to let it out somehow. "Easy.
135 . I'm going to kick his. so I can kick his ass. Just then. "Listen." "Hey. a voice came from behind them. pendejo! I'm from East LA. swallowing it as he watched them. His hair! He dimly heard the The Trouble with Angel . asshole." Angel would take a fight with this guy since he couldn't get one with Brandon. We might be queer. and the hold on his wrists tightened." Brandon caught him as he tried to lunge upright. But relief was coursing through his system. tossing his plastic dish. finding a large man in overalls standing about five feet away. okay?" He heard what sounded suspiciously like snorts coming from his lover. if you wasn't stuck on his lap right now. I can do it. He began muttering in Spanish. son. "There's kids over there. He succeeded in sliding free for a moment but was hauled back by a hand in his hair. then back at Brandon. "You two boys queer?" They both jerked their heads around. and he bit his lip. "After I kick your ass. "Don't you think you ought to take it inside?" The man poked his spoon into his soft-serve and brought a mouthful up. He jerked his head first at the stranger. then wiping his hands on a paper napkin.them. "You have no idea. a dish of soft-serve in his hand. trying to figure out how to get out of the mess he'd created." The man finished his soft-serve and took a step to the trashcan. "Let me go. but I can still kick your ass. ain't he?" The man arched a brow at Brandon. Angel heard Brandon grunt an agreement. you know. Brandon." "He's a scrappy little fucker. twisting and turning. To his extreme displeasure. "I might be more inclined to believe you. okay?" That was directed at the visitor.
Yeah. "Don't start that again. I'm not little! I'm big enough to keep you in line." Angel was slid to the side. "Do you mind? We're trying to have a conversation." He frowned. his hip bumping on the bench." "I thought I did. son?" Angel faced the irritating stranger once more. "Yes. but it was enough pressure on his diaphragm to shut off his Spanish outburst. The stranger rustled in his pockets. and turned enough to look at Brandon. Can I have your autograph?" "Sure." Starting to feel calmer." The arm around his waist tightened quickly and released. "Do you have something I should write on?" "Oh. "Don't I know you. "Uh-huh! You're Brandon Halvorsen. he looked straight at Brandon.136 . Struggling." He snapped his fingers. I run the Ridgecrest Winery just outside of town. boy. "Depends." They were interrupted by the newcomer. The Great Dane. who gaze was directed at Brandon. "You could have told me. "I'm Cliff Danielson. Angel stopped trying to get up. "Hot dog! My wife won't believe me when I tell her I met you. and stood up. nelly. "You run a winery?" He looked Cliff The Trouble with Angel ." Hearing that. he is a feisty little guy." "Is that what that was?" Was that a smirk on Overalls Man's face? Brandon kept one hand on Angel as he spoke at the same time. You follow baseball?" The farmer grunted in surprise. sir. Let me look. as Brandon quickly got up." Hearing that. Angel stopped rubbing the side of his butt. Angel managed a deep breath as Brandon spoke. "And those kids.stranger speak again. You got yourself a live one there. "Whoa. by the way.
"For a queer fella. ain'tcha?" The Trouble with Angel . the older man stared back at him.137 ." No way.up and down. "You. and the total lack of a refined hairstyle. you're pretty judgmental. viewing the overalls. Lips twitching. and flannel shirt.
"Does Angel get a time out. My mommy said so. Huffing in disgust. Ohmygod. skipping and hopping. Brandon?" The nine-yearold looked as though he enjoyed asking the question. He'd been awful to Brandon. just awful. "That's mean. He sent a daggered look to Brandon as he did it. The little girl jumped up on Brandon." He was still conscience-stricken at his misinterpretation of Lorna Reznick's pending visit to Cave Junction. "Trey and me was watching you all the time. "Oooff!" "Serves you right. Trey lagged behind a few steps." She turned to look at Angel. "Did you have to pull my hair?" Did it look all right? God. Angel. He was mortified The Trouble with Angel . he needed a mirror! Brandon tossed up his hands with a shrug. still feeling guilty. Was you two fighting again? We saw Angel try to smack you. Brandon? Can you?" Marisa ran toward them. He couldn't deny it.138 . excited and happy. making Angel want to crack him. and exasperation was fast overtaking Angel's previous ire. her excitement evident.Chapter 18 Brandon's laughter boomed at that. "Angel! We saw you on Brandon's lap! Can you pick me up. Honestly. squirming in Brandon's hold." Trey spoke for the first time. Marisa piped up again. Brandon. Angel deliberately ran his fingers through his hair to straighten it. he was going to have to apologize. His lover was overcome with hilarity. snorting and laughing. taking a running leap while her brother maintained a dignified stance a few feet away. Angel blushed. a sly smile on his face.
Trey. Angel jerked his head. A target for his frustration. which he did. Finally.at being admonished by children." Looking uncomfortable." "Holiday dinners must be interesting at your house. shake hands with Mr. gently catching one of her kicking feet with a hand. You must be mighty proud of your dad. Trey stuck out his hand and mumbled a greeting. That's a mighty fine idea. "Cliff Danielson. "How's about you introduce me to these kids of yours. "Well. sugar? We could put you in lockdown for an hour or so." he warned the vintner. meet the LA kids. "Trey. Holding up his hands and backing away a step. huh?" Cliff's amused voice broke in." Brandon sent a toothy grin Angel's way. Angel looked quickly at Brandon." Shuffling forward. "He's not my dad. smiling down at the children. Brandon softly reminded him to look up.and that's Trey. Cliff shook the boy's hand. "Don't you think so. Danielson and introduce yourself. "A pleasure to meet you.who's apparently on a sugar rush -. Cliff swung his gaze back to the two men. I just told Brandon that I recognized him from somewhere." He waved Trey closer with his free hand. son. The Trouble with Angel . which provoked chuckles on the older man's part. now." Brandon slid a hand over Marisa's curly hair. aiming a glare. clearly seeking guidance.139 . Maybe teach you to control that temper of yours. "You stay out of this. Brandon?" Struck by the phrase. Cliff laughed openly. okay? Be sure to look him in the eye." Trey immediately recoiled. Trey. "This here is Marisa -. Angel could see that Brandon swallowed thickly before answering.
He raised a hand toward Angel." Brandon chuckled.Brandon nodded slowly. The boy was looking down at the ground. "Yes.140 . "Mi cariño. "No worries." He cleared his throat slightly." Marisa giggled and bobbled around on top of Brandon. Angel woke from his stupor and focused his gaze on the older man. let me The Trouble with Angel . "That's right. Still befuddled. His fingers were caught in a strong grip as Brandon pulled him closer. I'm their legal guardian now. his fingers waving him to step over. Cliff. When a nudge from Brandon was accompanied by a head jerk. he gripped the callused hand and shook it. sweetheart. "I could use a scrapper like you on my team." Cliff made a face as he lifted his hands. Shocked." Angel was brought up short at the gleam in Brandon's blue eyes. son? I kind of got a kick out of you. "Easy. "No hard feelin's. I'm not the kids' father. little lady. I don't think you officially met Angel Vargas. Trey and I are working it out. his eyes on Trey. if you want to know the truth. stubbing his shoe into the grass." "Whew. aren't we." Brandon's voice was husky. Angel stared at Brandon. "Sorry about that. "A pleasure to meet you." Cliff reached over to shake Marisa's tiny hand. The Spanish term for darling seemed to flow off Brandon's tongue. sir. "The kids just came to live with me. Trey?" The boy seemed to be regretting his outburst because he nodded his head quickly and muttered. We just moved into the old Hayes house over by Old Stage Road. No way you could have known." Brandon waved him off. "And with all the hullaballoo going on here. so we're all still getting used to this." Cliff held out his hand.
"Cold? Son. "Mi'ja. "Say goodnight to Mr. I meant what I said. you call me. even Trey laughed at that. still embarrassed. Angel went to follow them to the truck but was stopped by Cliff. "Aren't you cold with just that flannel shirt on?" Pulling the zip on his jacket all the way to his chin. Brandon hissed a laughing admonishment. "Really? You like having somebody work for you who threatens to kick your ass?" "Angel! You said a swear!" Marisa said. y'hear?" His brow wrinkling." That sounded lame. He did. "Kids. "You swear a lot. He looked over at Cliff. glad he could change the subject. I think we'll give him his time-out when we get home. you should try living over in eastern Oregon in January." Angel watched as the kids and Brandon said their goodbyes to the grape farmer. Then you'll know what cold is." Surprisingly." He included Trey in his apologetic look. Angel looked The Trouble with Angel . Yeah. sorry. son. "Son. You interested in a job. What the hell was he supposed to say? Cliff snickered. looking at Marisa. gruff man." Angel shivered as the wind abruptly picked up. I was bad for saying that. At the same time. His mother would be ashamed of him. let's head home so we can get Angel warmed up.tell ya. I'm sorry. the way he'd acted tonight. Danielson. "It's not a good habit." Brandon stood." Cliff eyed Angel with an assessing look. "Uh. bringing Marisa with him. The boy stared at him. the sound surprising coming from the big. he avoided looking at his lover.141 ." he commented. "Angel! Oops. He grimaced and tried again. I know.
so good. Brandon nodded as he stayed crouched in front of the fire." Jesus. blue eyes zeroing in on him. "I bet you'll be glad to have all your stuff up here. Brandon turned his head.but so far. Angel recalled watching Brandon collect kindling from the grounds surrounding the house that morning. and a burning kiss that still made his belly flutter more than twelve hours later. Since I'm getting this to help keep you warm. "Uh-uh." Huh." It was a peace offering.142 ." That had earned him a smile as Brandon tugged him off the porch." *** The kids were in bed. "Hey." The gruff voice carried as Angel walked away. That went nowhere. it was time to face the music. He'd grinned. I like watching you. the blue. how about pitching in?" Brandon had called up to where Angel stood on the porch." At that. and Brandon had a fire going. It was like pulling teeth. though? Now. "You got something you want to say?" The Trouble with Angel . liking the way the worn jeans lovingly cupped Brandon's ass as his lover bent down to grab some broken branches. "Uh. "Um. "Uh. We'll see -." He cleared his throat. He decided to try being nice." "Yeah. Now. son. He sat watching as Brandon adjusted the wood on the fire with a tire iron taken from the Navigator. You might be surprised. Trey seemed to like his new school.up at the man as he started to walk past. "You might be surprised. It crackled gently behind the screen. Like I'd want to stay in this backwater. "I will. "Yeah.
" He looked up at Brandon from under his lashes. turning to look at Angel. "Okay. since we're just kind of. "I'm sorry.. Angel turned on the sofa. Heaving an exasperated sigh. Angel picked at the wool of the second pair of gabardine trousers that he'd brought to Oregon. "Jeez! I can't even work you now." The drawl was back in spades. "Aren't we?" Brandon quirked a tiny smile. all right. I guess. you could. I'm a jerk. sugar. Brandon didn't respond for a few moments. Whatever. "You know those lashes make me crazy. tucking one foot under his thigh. which had been turned to face the fire. Angel didn't know if that was good or bad." The Trouble with Angel .. There was a speculative look on his face. I jumped to all sorts of conclusions about what's her name." He shook his head in irritation. you're going to have to say it plain. Your architect friend is apparently not some piece you're bringing down to replace me. Brandon stood slowly and walked over to the ratty sofa. "Although. "Okay!" "Okay?" "Okay! I know I was an asshole.. okay. I. Dropping down next to Angel.143 . fuck buddies. Uh... Well."You know I do!" Oops.. Angel was surprised." "If you want to ask me something. "I. "For what?" Still looking at his knee. He decided to spit it out. you said. That's why you're doing that. isn't it?" Caught. his eyes trained on his crooked knee.. Brandon rolled his head where it rested on the sofa back.. With an arched brow." he started." His voice was small. he stretched out his legs and rested his clasped hands on his belly. then peeved. then stumbled to a stop.
He reached up and carefully adjusted a stray lock... That's quite an admission coming from you. Angel gave a sheepish grunt. he continued. Chuckling softly." Looking straight at Angel. "I'm not going to let you go. gravelly voice was ever and always his undoing..144 . "You and I. "Okay. you and I have rubbed sparks off each other. straight as an arrow when.. Angel scowled." That soft. I had to act.but it apparently is because our chemistry is super-charged. "Um. Angel's belly fluttered. his fingers trailing through Angel's hair. I had to hang on to you somehow. "I wasn't going to let you go. When Brandon didn't answer right away. he rolled his shoulders to loosen them. "Sorry.." At the look on Brandon's face.. You're making me nervous!" "Whoa. under my skin and.you made me come up here.." He said that last part in a rush.." he added slowly. the silence -. for three years you've been." The Trouble with Angel .Sniffing. "I had to be careful in the league. Angel bit his lip. baby -." Brandon reached out a long arm." Brandon sat up and turned to lean back in his corner of the sofa. Well.. I could have said no. uh. I was around you.at least I for sure didn't know it -. for three years. Brandon relaxed again." Brandon was quiet for a few seconds.but you were just being so bad. "It probably wasn't helped by the fact that.and Brandon's watchful gaze -played on Angel's nerves. His face was pensive. Remembering the painful tug on his hair earlier at the Dairy Queen. "Quit doing that. It got to him like no other man's voice.." He shrugged... I just -. taking his time rearranging himself. I guess we didn't know it -.. well. "Angel.I just want to know if this is a short-term gig or what. well -.
Angel just watched Brandon." Angel smiled unwillingly at that. his breath starting to get short. "I.. won't run out if it gets rough. maybe. "But we need time.Afraid to breathe.145 .. Brandon tugged until Angel was draped across his lap as he leaned back in the corner. Brandon grasped Angel's arms with both hands and yanked. Time to get to know each other. "Build something here.." The Trouble with Angel ... His heart was beating faster. "I kind of have this feeling that we could.." He lifted Angel's chin with two fingers. Time to see if we won't kill each other if we're together longer than a week." Brandon hesitated. watched every move he made. Angel went willingly as he was pulled between the strong thighs. afraid to read too much into that... need to know you.
Brandon ran a comforting hand down his back." He sent an arch look toward Angel. "You and I both know I wasn't one of the best this year. "Don't you think it's time you figured out if you're going to let yourself trust somebody?" Feeling entirely too cynical.Chapter 19 Well. "Oh. his lips twisted with disgust. "Oh. Why did that matter? "I'm thirty-two. He liked to pretend he was straight." Grimacing. Brandon shook his head. How old are you?" Angel sniffed. "Sometimes more than women. Angel shook his head again. leaning against the cushion again. too. "No. and at life. I was kind of a pussy. one knee tucked underneath." "You were not!" Angel immediately defended Brandon. sitting on his own again. No way. That was plain-spoken enough. one guy in particular is really ringing my bell. I did trust somebody once." He turned a little to stare straight at Brandon." Sighing. Angel gave a tiny shake of his head." Still not trusting what he was hearing. "You know that was because of the league. It didn't work out so well. yeah.146 .stay? He nibbled on the inside of his cheek as he weighed it." he admitted reluctantly. "Angel. And what about your sponsors?" He shuttled back. holding up a hand. Brandon looked at the fire. In fact. "You'd be crucified. Would he -. At himself. "You had a problem with your rotator cuff!" The Trouble with Angel ." He smirked at himself. But I'm done hiding the fact that I like men just as much as I like women. The majors will not accept one of their best pitchers suddenly announcing he's bi -let alone gay. Angel drew his head back as he thought about that.could he -. "Like Trey's dad said.
Now I know how to shut you up.He was fired up by the thought that somebody would consider Brandon a pussy." Brandon shook his head slightly." "Huh?" "I'm done. jaw tightening for a moment.. Or worse." At Angel's questioning look. believe me. "Sugar.. Just like that. "Because I'm done. he elaborated. like a lot of guys do." "You'll come back strong next year. Angel didn't know what to say. "I don't have to dink around about choosing the right time. I'm almost forty years old. The Trouble with Angel . they try to come back after retirement." Angel had no doubt. My sponsors weren't too happy. He'd seen Brandon's strength of mind and body time and again over the last three years. "I've been thinking for a couple of weeks that this might actually turn out to be a very good thing. I was retired the very moment Sandy's attorney told me about the kids." Then Brandon made a face. "Ha." he rolled his head toward Angel. This way. it really isn't going to matter. They stay too long at the fair.147 . I don't have to debate about the right time to walk away. Brandon ran his eyes over the ceiling. Then they don't know when it's time to go. I'm retired." He couldn't believe it. I. "I know what I have to do. "Thanks. "But I did have performance issues this year." Angel's mind abruptly focused. My time in the majors was coming to an end anyway. "Are you serious? You're going to walk away. sugar." Leaning his head back again. Brandon again reached out and ran his fingers through Angel's hair. coming from you. Laughing slightly. Brandon took a deep breath. That means a lot." Honestly shocked. "Well. Just say I'm retired.
" He stood up. She resisted. hesitant. Brandon reached down. casting a faint glow over the child.I promised Sandy I would do whatever he needed me to do.148 .. It's okay. They looked at each other helplessly. the sound jarring. then Brandon bolted. A particularly loud cry had him grimacing and backing up." She cried louder." He slapped his hands on his thighs and straightened. Angel stared at that hand." With that. Marisa screamed upstairs. Twisting to look at the boy. trying to soothe.. trying to gather Marisa up in a hug. afraid to touch her. Somehow he knew it was more than that. The men looked at each other for a split second. Trey was lying in his sleeping bag. Fuck. her eyes open. Angel reached out a hand. "And you need to figure out what you need. What those kids need. "What do you mean? This has happened before?" The Trouble with Angel . taking the steps two at a time. twisting and crying. mi'ja. "Easy." Trey's quiet. What was he supposed to do? At that moment. he held out his hand. Brandon spoke softly. spinning around and racing for the stairs. Her little body shook with her sobs. her hands clenching and unclenching as she sobbed. sleepy voice came from behind them. tears running down her cheeks. stroking the curly hair. Well. blinking his eyes. "She gets like that sometimes. We're here. "Marisa? Sweetheart?" The girl continued crying. Angel asked. It wasn't just an invitation to get up and go to bed. not looking at them. They found Marisa sitting up. Angel was right behind him. "This is what he needed. They knelt on either side of the little girl. The light from the hall spread to where her sleeping bag lay. easy.
While you're dreaming. While I'm sleeping. though.. folded his knees. He didn't know what the heck to say to that. "We're here for you. knuckling his eyes. "Any time." Brandon motioned back and forth between Angel and himself. sitting lotus-style. and he felt a distinct pang in his middle. I don't think she's a ghost -. "What about you." His voice was low... son? You have any bad dreams?" Trey looked down." He shot a help-me look over at Angel." After Marisa let out another heart-rending sob. She continued to cry. leaning back against the wall.sometimes I.but she might be just watching over you. The little girl was quieting down slowly. day or night. the boy looked down again. you know." With a little shrug. Angel shrugged.. and he The Trouble with Angel .Sitting up." Angel's eyes met his lover's as they nodded together. "Since -. her breathing becoming steadier. don't you? You can always come down and get me or Angel. "Do you think she's a ghost?" His brows arching. "Sometimes -. crooning to her and cuddling her close. "Sometimes. "Well. sitting back on his butt as he. Brandon's mouth flattened. Trey nodded. He waved his hand. encouraging Brandon to keep talking. "Really?" "Really." Brandon nodded again at the boy. His Armani shirt was wet. then snuggled Marisa closer to his chest. one side of his face creased from the pillow.since my mom and dad. Whatever way you need." His voice lowered to a mumble. too. Angel lifted her onto his lap. Perplexed. Brandon crawled over to the young boy.149 . his fingers fiddling with folds in the sleeping bag. think I see my mom. He bent his knees. "You know we're right downstairs.
Angel turned and headed for the bath. He thought they were almost just talking to hear themselves and each other. he yawned as he shuffled toward the bedroom. he peered blearily at Brandon. He listened with half an ear as Brandon and Trey talked. Angel passed a boxerclad Brandon. Coming out of the bathroom." Brandon's voice had a smile in it. He gently lifted the little girl away from Angel. Brandon looked back at him and smiled tenderly. "How long have I been out?" "Oh. "C'mon. "Huh?" "You fell asleep with sweet Marisa. the sound muted.150 . sugar. Maybe a half hour? You got Marisa to sleep no problem -. "Angel.sighed in resignation. She was sound asleep again and didn't move as Brandon set her back in her sleeping bag." He watched as Brandon straightened the sleeping bags for both kids. Sleepy. As he walked. The Trouble with Angel . Maybe they were comforted by the opportunity to talk." Brandon's low voice whispered in his ear. adjusting their pillows and pulling up zippers. I don't know." He obediently followed his lover downstairs. which had stiffened from bending over Marisa.and then you must have followed her. Angel saw that Trey was once again asleep. Why don't you go brush your teeth and get ready for bed?" Nodding absently. here. Tilting his head around Brandon. He found himself comforted by the action of rocking the little girl. "You look beat. then stood in the bedroom doorway. Lifting his head. he rubbed his neck. too. Wake up.
The faint glow from the security light outside cast dappled light and shadow on Brandon's rugged face." Huffing in disbelief. easing a little closer. "Tell me how you learned to say that. forcing Brandon to back up a bit." Brandon's voice was soft." Brandon's breath brushed over Angel's ear as he whispered it." He heard the grin in Brandon's voice as the ballplayer answered him. He was suddenly wide awake. "Cariño mio. "Antonio Diaz." The Trouble with Angel . "Say it again.pulling on Brandon's ears. "Say what again?" "What you called me earlier." Angel whispered in the darkness." He refused to believe the biggest lady's man on the team would have offered that information." Angel rolled over in absolute surprise." The one-syllable word was drawled slowly. It took Brandon a second to respond." "No way. "Get out of here! You called Diaz to ask him that?" Brandon had called the shortstop for his team? Mr. then a heavy arm crossed his middle. The light went off as Brandon slid in behind him. Angel brought Brandon's face close by using his favorite method -." "Oh. "You cannot tell me that Diaz likes dick. not a woman?" "Nope. Brandon sighed heavily. "Didn't he want to know why you wanted it for a guy. He continued to face the wall as he spoke. Angel was indeed snugly on the left side of the bed. Machismo himself? Unbelievable! "Yep. Now how was he supposed to resist a man like that? When Brandon returned.151 ."Go ahead and lie down on your favorite side of the bed. Angel shivered in response.
which had been hardening nicely. but I think I like it. Quick on the uptake. I'm not sure what you just said. Angel grabbed Brandon's hand and pulled it up from his cock to his lips. licking. "Okay. Kissing the calloused fingers and biting the ends." Acting on his desire. Brandon's cock. then again. "I want you to make love to me. nipping. he was surprised when Brandon whispered cariño again.152 ." The Trouble with Angel ." Still processing that. and he reached down to bring Brandon's hand to his cock. His dick hardened immediately." Angel whispered his desire. I won't tell you. he spoke between nibbles. "Quiero que me hagas el amor. He brought his lips to Angel's throat. Brandon began stroking and tugging.He watched as Brandon suppressed a grin. "Mmmmm. was suddenly poking him determinedly. and kissing everywhere he could reach.
"Hey. The line where Brandon's thigh met torso was sucked and licked until Angel had Brandon groaning for mercy. stroking. The backs of Brandon's knees were explored and teased. I'm going to take care of you. sucked on." Panting." Brandon drew his arm down from where it was covering his eyes and raised his head enough to look The Trouble with Angel . he covered the head with his lips. bitten until he was ready to scream. Angel's tender little titties were nibbled." Brandon had said that he was new to this -. you. he slowly tugged upward. self-satisfaction pouring through him when Brandon writhed and moaned. then went back for more. Shoving his hair back. "Hold them there.and Angel wanted it to be perfect for him. He licked and sucked the hefty balls.153 . Angel saw the discomfited look on Brandon's face. they romped and played. tugging and rubbing. Once he had his hands under them. his navel poked by Brandon's tongue. then slowly dragged them off. on top and in control for the moment. sucking strongly. gently rolling and tugging. Angel looked up with a sassy grin. enough to make Brandon cry out hoarsely. Angel spread Brandon's thighs widely. he lay down between those spread legs and buried his face in Brandon's crotch.Chapter 20 That night. That brought forth another sound and a spurt of pre-come. He played with Brandon's cock and balls for a bit. then pushed his knees up. At one point. he swallowed down the salty taste. Brandon struggled to get hold of his knees. Running his tongue up Brandon's dick. His belly was licked and kissed. amado. They took their time with each other. "Easy. drawing out their caresses and kisses.
feeling it tighten and loosen against his tongue. mi amor. triumphantly. then groaned low and long. "make you crazy. determined to get Brandon to submit to this deeply intense act of male sex. God. "My eyelashes make you crazy.." He pretended to think. and he redoubled his efforts.. His legs jerked and then tried to shut. I.. it was making him so horny watching and listening to Brandon react to what had to be an unfamiliar feeling of submission. his own belly clenching when he got a muffled cry in answer." He giggled. "Sugar. He slowly drew his tongue down to the opening that he'd wanted to claim for three long years. He licked and pushed against Brandon's perineum. accessible. "What else is making you crazy?" Mouth working soundlessly for a few seconds. One hand kept the pillow clutched close and the other hand grasped at the sheet." Angel laughed softly. Brandon had tensed." he comically scrunched up his lips. my pouts. vulnerable. dragging his tongue down below the furry balls. He gently pressed and poked. You're going to wake the kids.154 . His cock quivered and pulsed." He gasped as Angel's The Trouble with Angel . "Let's see. I -. Brandon did indeed grab a pillow. But you're the one who better grab that pillow and cover up.. "You're making me crazy. Brandon rolled his eyes before his head flopped back down on the pillow and he threw his arm back across his face. Angel reapplied himself." Laughing and groaning at the same time. "Ungh! You!" "That's the idea. pushing out a fresh spurt of pre-ejaculate. The musky flavor drew him in.Angel in the eye. I believe you said. but Angel's arms kept him open.. fingers digging into the bedding.I don't know if.. At the first touch of Angel's tongue to his anus.
"That's it. "Believe me. Angel flipped the top of the tube. He got a little farther each time as Brandon relaxed. Angel continued to explore. part protest and part excitement.to be balls deep inside Brandon.. amado. using it like a little dick. "Easy..?" Angel grinned big. "Easy. you are going to love this. "Oh. His mouth came down over Brandon's wilting cock. "Oh. baby.?" "Uh-huh. God!" "Oh. coaxing it back to fullness with sucks. yeah. Angel suddenly jackknifed upward. sticking his tongue in a bit more each time.. Thrilled and exulting in his sexual prowess.hot tongue poked him again." Angel paused to reassure Brandon. God is right." Angel lubed up one finger." With that. and tiny nibbles. he pushed all the way inside. He finally had Brandon at his mercy. licks. and slowly pressed against Brandon's tightly-clenched opening.155 . "Are you going to.. We're going to take this slowly while I get you ready. forging into previously undiscovered territory. turning his head slightly to follow the reach of Angel's arm. Shoving his hair back again. and there was no way he was going to let up until he got what he wanted -." Angel couldn't help how cocky he sounded." The tip of his finger popped inside. reaching over to the nightstand and rummaging madly. He knew he got it when Brandon's body jerked again and his cock leaped back to life. "Let me just--" He twisted his finger. The Trouble with Angel ." he crooned. Brandon bit his lip. Brandon slid the pillow off his face. amado." "So I'm going to. trying to find Brandon's prostate. "Angel!" The faint cry was high-pitched. looking for lube and glove.
"How's that?" Angel kept up the small talk as he played. stretching and retracting. pressing it. love." "Now?" "Oh. "Angel. a beatific smile on his face as he kept his eyes closed. But you're going to be. loving the wet. sugar." With that. He got more The Trouble with Angel .. hot feel of his lover's channel." Angel squeezed a little more lube on his fingers and pressed a third inside. "Full. He grunted as Angel nailed his prostate again -." Brandon sighed again. "Or. "Ohh. "Uh-huh. keep it up. relaxing a bit. determinedly pushing on the walnut-sized gland." Angel pushed upward. yeah."God!" That hoarse cry prompted him to grab the pillow that Brandon had dropped and toss it back up to his struggling lover. but Angel could see a smile come and go across the rugged features. 'S full. causing Brandon to issue another. wanting to keep Brandon focused on the pleasure and not on the scary part of having something up his ass. remember?" He frowned.156 ." "Not yet. Keep it down. He gently spread his fingers. deeper grunt.then grunted once more as Angel pushed another finger inside. making Brandon's cock jerk and leak some more." Brandon sighed. stroking it. "Hey.. Brandon's eyes were scrunched closed..?" The answer was immediate. "Okay. on second thought. kneeling for a second as he grabbed a condom and quickly suited up. he took another strong suck on Brandon's dick. "Doesn't this feel good?" He eased deeper. baby?" Angel asked. amado.. "Will you.
" he admitted as he thrust again. "It's good." Frowning for second. his fists clenched and his eyes tightly closed. you know.157 . 'kay?" Nodding.lube on his fingers to slick up his cock." He swiveled his hips a bit. then muttered fiercely. which moved his pelvis deeper into the cradle of Brandon's thighs. Relax and let me in. "Se siente rico. "You make me crazy. okay!" He sucked Brandon's earlobe in and bit down slightly. guapo." he rasped. You're doing just fine. love. Angel leaned down again and kissed the closed eyelids." He groaned as the head pushed inside. Angel tried to remember what he'd said. "Okay. He pushed forward an inch as he struggled to recall. He began crooning in Spanish. "Um. and he moaned as he shifted side-to-side. "Angel!" Brandon's deep cry brought him dropping low again. whispering in his lover's ear." he murmured in between nips and licks. Brandon took a deep breath. he got his cock buried deeper. "this time in English. his lips pressed to his lover's ear. He was rewarded as his ballplayer's hips tilted up just enough to send him another half-inch deeper. "but crazy." With minute movements of his hips. "Okay. beautiful. He paid attention to every movement of Brandon's face and body as he pushed against the tight muscle of Brandon's anus. Estoy loco por ti. "Tell me again. "Easy. Brandon cracked open one eye. A good crazy. He brought his mouth to Brandon's. "Esta bien. then pointed toward home. one by one. and Angel could feel the muscles around him easing a bit. Easy." He lifted upward. his lips pressing and his tongue coming out to swipe a wet path. and Brandon cried out The Trouble with Angel . It's good." Brandon was now panting heavily. His dick went in another inch.
God. "Fuck! Oh. He rubbed with his whole body. "Please. over and over. trying to find the right angle. "Amado. and from one moment to the next. Brandon's ass clamped down on him and the gorgeous cock began spurting semen. "Se siente rico. the fluid lubing his hand nicely. thrusting against Brandon's hotspot. He tried to keep thrusting through the tight grip on his cock. Angel knew he'd hit it. he sank slowly in again to the accompaniment of Brandon's fractured breaths and whimpers. He continued to thrust slowly.." Pulling back almost all the way." Pants accompanied the low mutterings. sugar!" Nodding even though Brandon had his eyes closed and couldn't see him. God. "Uhgnnnnh." That grunting moan made him smile with clenched teeth.158 . baby? Doesn't that feel good?" Losing his ability to translate when he bottomed out in Brandon's ass. shooting into the condom. He was pushing hard. He reached with one hand to start jacking the thick cock. just to extend Brandon's pleasure -. Angel kept jacking. He The Trouble with Angel . his chest pressing against Brandon's. "God!" He shuddered for long moments as his spunk gushed up from his balls.again. oh. producing another grunt. determined to make Brandon feel everything. Wrung dry. beginning to push harder. Angel picked up the pace. he dropped his weight down onto Brandon.but the muscled grip on his dick was driving him crazy. He rammed home two more times before coming himself. He kept at that spot. he brought his weight down onto his forearms.. huh. and was rewarded as Brandon began cursing and begging. When Brandon's body curved upward into a bow.
to say. He leaned over the edge of the mattress to toss the spent condom into the new trashcan. amado." Huffing a tiny chuckle. Angel rubbed his cheek into Brandon's chest. "You don't have to say anything. "Angel.. his head rubbing against the big chest muscles of his lover..159 . His dick softened." He yawned hugely. Brandon's quiet voice drifted down to him. Brandon raised a hand to caress Angel's hair. then lay back down on top of his man.. his lashes catching on the crisp hair. and he sighed hugely as he circled his cock to grab the condom." The Trouble with Angel ." Smiling..stayed there for a few minutes as his lungs heaved with his breathing. After several minutes. "Something else. Your body said it for you. I -. "You are something else.I don't even know what. sugar.
the equipment shed building. livestock. and. They called in a cleaning service from Grants Pass to once again go over the house from top to bottom. "Hey. so they were all moving things around repeatedly as they cleaned. Brandon went back outside to what was apparently going to be one of his projects here in Oregon -. Angel watched his lover walk away. of course. though he protested daily at some of the tasks that Brandon asked of him. This was. "Pequeña. Brandon dealt with his objections by kissing him until he stopped talking. and sorted. Brandon tugged him into the bathroom and gave him another novice blowjob. Angel found himself working with Brandon to get the house set up. after the first load of furniture came. He turned to Marisa." Angel would bet Brandon had his tongue in his cheek.Chapter 21 Over the next week." With that. and he'd already started laying out the space by removing an interior wall and beginning to clean it out. whenever a man tells you you're good at something. he's The Trouble with Angel . Huffing in exasperation. who had been watching the byplay. and decided where things would go. you're the designer -. though. Angel was skeptical when Brandon relied on him to determine where it should all be placed. His squawking was so easily overcome that he was almost embarrassed. The large structure looked like it had been used to store equipment. Brandon was planning to build an office back there. and amused despite himself.160 . in one crazy instance while Marisa slept. Brandon surprised Angel by getting him to laugh about that by the end of that day. at some point. farm rigs and. I'm just a lowly ballplayer.you're good at putting things together. "You can figure it out.
probably just trying to get you to do the work. Remember that." While she giggled in response, he grinned, took her hand, and led her to the kitchen, where they worked companionably together to put away Brandon's dishes. In between, he directed the movers who'd brought the furnishings from Brandon's condo in San Francisco. Brandon and the school principal had determined that Marisa could start school the following week, to allow her a little time to acclimate since she was so young. Personally, Angel thought Marisa could adapt to just about anything, but he was finding he did like her company. He chattered to her throughout their mornings together. They talked about her dolls, argued about movies, and discussed what to eat for dinner. He found that she was a surprisingly good movie critic for being so young, and he had to wonder if he was dealing with a budding genius, the way she was able to converse with him. He'd also been tossing around in his head the email campaign CeCe was working on him. Brandon had established internet service through the satellite company, and Angel had been able to get a faster connection on his laptop. Each day she asked him what was going on with Brandon. If he hadn't known better, he would have sworn she had planned this. He was convinced, though, that if CeCe had known Brandon was going to become guardian for Sandy's kids, she would have been there to help meet the children. So far, Angel had been able to work long distance, with a combination of phone, video conference, and FedEx. Since he wasn't an agent, he didn't usually work directly with the clients in the negotiation process; he performed more of the supportive, behind-the-scenes work that went into generating the obscenely large
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contracts CeCe seemed expert at producing. He had talked to her on the phone over the last several days, and they'd emailed regularly. He'd had to join a long conference call earlier in the day, one that resulted in him getting aggravated at one of CeCe's agents, a vain peacock he normally ignored as much as possible. Reporting the conversation now to Marisa, he looked in the rear view mirror. "Mi'ja, just listen and learn from me. People like that twit Justin enjoy telling other folks how great they are. But they need us -- the workers -- to make things happen." He loved listening to her sweet giggle, and he continued to talk to her just to hear it. With Trey in school and seemingly beginning to adjust, Brandon was focusing on making the house into a home for the kids. Via phone and email with the Reznicks, he plotted the renovation of the historic structure, while at the same time, began working on the outbuildings. He seemed to respect Angel's contributions, asking his opinion on everything from child-rearing discussions to future work opportunities. At night, Brandon concentrated solely on Angel. And, since the time he'd let Angel fuck him, Brandon had taken back control, asserting himself and fucking Angel into the mattress each night. During the day, however, he was all business -- house business. That left Angel to watch the kids and work on organizing their belongings. They were going to have to talk about how they were sharing some of this stuff. Angel was starting to feel comfortable here in Oregon -- and that was causing him to worry. What if he started to get really attached here? He and Marisa were now on their way to pick up Trey at school. It was past time to have a shopping day as therapy -- and Brandon was going to pay big time with his gold card. Trey's school was letting the kids out
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before noon today, due to some teacher institute. What the heck was that, anyway? But, it did give him the opportunity to pick up Trey at eleven-thirty and head up to the outlet mall over in Medford. There was no way he was going to find what he wanted at the local Emporium, so he didn't mind the ninety-minute drive to real shopping. He still couldn't get over the fact that the store was actually called Emporium. What -- are we in eighteen-sixty? Driving his new car -- his new car! -- over US 199, he thrilled at the handling of the Mercedes on the twists and turns of the Illinois River Valley highway. It handled like every automotive dream he'd ever had. The day was beautiful, with the sky a shade of blue he hadn't seen in Los Angeles in... maybe, ever. The kids had plenty of room in the back seat, and he had the entire cargo area to fill with shopping booty. He managed to locate the factory outlet mall thanks to his GPS, and he found a place to park away from the other cars. Trey questioned him as he made a production of parking his new baby near the back of the lot. "Why are we so far from the store?" "Be-cause, I don't want anyone touching this car." "But we're going to have to walk forever to get inside." Trey was already whining. "Yes, we are -- so we might as well get started." He hardened himself against guilt since the car was, after all, brand new. It had barely one hundred fifty miles on it. "Besides, we're going to cover a lot of ground today, so I hope you've got good shoes on." With that, he grabbed each child by the hand and set out for the outdoor gear store he saw ahead. ***
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That evening, Angel pulled to a stop at the side of the house in their newly designated parking area. He saw Brandon walking up from the shed as he turned off the ignition. A smile breaking out on his face, Angel got out of the Mercedes and skipped over to Brandon, throwing himself at his man from three feet away. Brandon caught him -- barely -- with a surprised grunt. Angel wrapped his legs around that lean waist and grabbed those beloved ears. He tugged Brandon's face in close and planted a lusty kiss on the parted lips. His tongue dived deep several times before he pulled back and smacked both cheeks with more kisses. "Mmmm!" Staring in happy confusion, Brandon looked first at Angel, then at the kids who'd gotten out of the car a bit more slowly, before returning his gaze to Angel. "Sugar -- what has gotten into you?" Angel leaned forward to whisper. "You, I hope -- and soon." Blushing bright red, Brandon jerked his head away. "Angel! The kids are right here!" Adoring the flustered look he'd managed to produce, Angel laughed in delight. He was joined by the two kids, who were clearly enjoying the show. "Ha!" he whispered fiercely. "Finally, you get to be embarrassed instead of me." He chuckled again, grinning widely. "Anyway, I just want to say thank you for my beautiful, wonderful, fantastic car." He kissed Brandon quickly before his lover could pull back, then hopped down and ran back to the car. Using his key fob, he opened the cargo door as he went. "Kids, come get your stuff." Brandon, still a bit flummoxed, follow slowly. He came to an abrupt halt as he caught sight of the bags. He
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Angel lifted one hand. Brandon glared at him mulishly before stepping forward. I brought the receipts for you. Trey had four fingers to his lips. At Angel's raised brow and warning look. "Um. A second whistle caused them both to wince. They're here somewhere. "Where in the heck did you learn to do that?" Angel was sure Trey would have used that before now if he'd known how to do it. and they turned as one to face their tormentor. He kissed his man slowly.165 . Angel hid a grin as he began digging the bags out. His fingers skated over the crisp brush-cut before cupping the back and pulling Brandon in close. An ear-piercing whistle cut through their lust and they broke apart. while Brandon was sputtering. sliding it behind that stubborn blond head. ready to whistle again." "Vargas!" Brandon barked. Angel crooked his index finger in a come-hither motion. It took a moment or two before Brandon relented and began kissing him back. The Trouble with Angel . "Holy shit! How much money did you spend?" "Brandon! You said a swear!" That was Marisa. staring at each other with goofy smiles. In the midst of it all. He pretended disinterest. I don't know. Once Brandon was within reach.turned an appalled look on Angel. steam about to vent from his ears. The kids were jumping around trying to reach their bags. a huge scowl darkening the rugged face. "You get your Latin ass over here right now and tell me how much money you spent!" Angel burst out laughing and spun around to rest his Latin ass on the tailgate of the Mercedes. he slowly drew the fingers away from his mouth. using lots of tongue.
Long arms slid around his middle as Brandon pushed him against the car. "Here." Brandon's voice was a little tight as he discreetly adjusted himself. Marisa took her bag and began dragging it inside. spreading over his back and flattening him forward." Brandon leaned down and nipped his earlobe. biting down. Trey grabbed a couple of bags and trotted inside the house. He was rewarded with a grunt from Brandon as he leaned in and grabbed a big pink bag. his hips rolling as he tried to fuck into Brandon's hand.166 . "Baby." "I don't know whether to be happy you're making friends. then dragged his tongue over the tendon in Angel's neck. making sure to push his ass against his lover. Angel turned back to the cargo area. his hands splayed inside the car. Just then the wooden screen door slammed and Trey's The Trouble with Angel . did you bankrupt me today?" Angel reached in to the rear of the cargo space. Take this inside.Scuffing his sneakered toe into the gravel of the drive. here's your princess stuff. I do love it when you get lippy with me. Angel cried out hoarsely. Trey looked down a moment before his head came up and he smirked. Shrugging. A large hand slid down to cover the front of his trousers. and he helplessly ground himself against it as he held himself up on his elbows. "From Steven Chang at school. mi'ja. okay?" Mumbling happily. "Oh. Unnnhh!" He gasped as Brandon pushed him further. Brandon's big cock was poking him. "I don't think somebody who bought this car without even blinking an eye needs to worry about what I spent today. or if I should go strangle that kid for teaching you that.
"Um. then the clothes he'd found for school. don't you?" *** After dinner. "Better get used to it.voice could be heard yelling. Brandon groaned and laughed at the same time. tumbling him down onto his lap. then raised his head to smile as Trey began groaning." Brandon answered unapologetically. Angel blushed a little as he hemmed and hawed. They began a fashion show for Brandon. He'd also found some great dressy things for the kids. showing him what they'd bought. I. they heard a car pull into the drive. the adults and kids settled in the living room. "I think the kids are settling in. sugar? What'd you find?" Brandon eyed him knowingly. Angel had the kids try on their winter gear. did manage to find a couple of things. Brandon grabbed him as he stepped by the sofa. "I've no doubt you managed to do that very thing. which consisted of the pizza that Angel and the kids had picked up at the grocery on the way home. immediately getting distracted. um." He kissed Angel again." He kissed Angel again. "You guys kiss a lot!" "Uh-huh. Just then. a gleam in his turquoise eyes and a soft smile on his chiseled lips. enjoying the fact that there was now furniture spread around. Trey pulled out a Kings hockey jersey. "What about you. The men looked at each other questioningly before Brandon got The Trouble with Angel . "When are we eating? I'm starved!" Dropping his head to Angel's back. and he had them show those off for Brandon as well.167 ." Laughing aloud. Groaning again.
almost afraid of what he might find. sort all your stuff and then we're going to take it upstairs. Her curly hair tumbled over the shoulders of the jacket and she had her tongue stuck between her teeth as she attempted to zip it. Slowly coming forward. will ya?" "Okay!" he called. God. Who knew that Ralph Lauren had a line for kids? Or that Columbia had such great jackets for both adults and kids? "Mi'ja. "Pequeña." Turning to Trey. He stopped short when he saw Cliff Danielson standing on the other side. she was adorable.up." He muttered a greeting in return. Angel. smiling at their excitement and happy all over again at the extraordinary bargains he'd been able to find. The Trouble with Angel ." Angel looked at the kids. Angel leaned over hesitantly. He couldn't help himself. His lip curled the tiniest bit. "What are you grinning at?" Shrugging. Brandon just grinned some more and pointed to a box at his feet. his head canted to the side. "I'll go see who it is. who had the silliest grin on his face. He was greeted with a tiny grin and a quick salute. digging her pink parka out of the bag and dragging it on. too. "Why. hello. This man had seen him at his worst. then looked at his lover. "Put your jacket on.168 . he instructed. Angel sighed. "Sugar? C'mon over here. okay?" He got up from Brandon's cream leather sofa and walked over to the door. "Kids. I want to see again how it fits. I love that!" Marisa immediately complied." Brandon's voice called from the doorway. show me your pink jacket again. let me help.
looking up at him. sighing as he gazed at the adorable babies. knowing look. "They sure enough are cute. Angel. They were cuddled together on a ratty old blanket. who just beamed at him and shrugged.headfirst. Head tilted back. Angel raised his head to stare at Cliff. His brows lowered. I brought them over for you. They're German shepherd pups. His orneriness melted away as he waited for the answer." Eyes wide." With that permission. Lizzie -.and I've been socializing 'em quite a bit. Crooning." he sighed again. and he scowled as he tried to figure out what the two of them were up to. Cliff distracted him by nodding and slowly crouching down next to him. Angel slowly slid his hands down and lifted one precious pup to his chest.Chapter 22 "Ohh!" Angel gasped automatically as he spotted the two puppies in the box. young fella. He fell in love immediately -. The Trouble with Angel . "What's her name?" Cliff grabbed a hand from Brandon to stand up again. "Go ahead.my wife -. "Ohh. The puppy moved her head and slowly opened her little eyes. and these are the last two. you can pet 'em. he drew his fingers over the delicate little head. Angel.. He used a hand on Angel's shoulder to balance himself. feeling the whiskers. "That's up to you.. girls -.169 . then at Cliff.about nine weeks old." "Can I touch them?" Angel was dying to feel the silky fur. "Ohh!" he said again. My girl Marta had a litter of six. "What kind of puppies are they?" He looked first at Brandon. He immediately stepped through the door and dropped to his knees. Cliff looked delighted at Angel's reaction. he watched Brandon and Cliff exchanged a happy.
Angel shushed them. "Angel. can we keep them? Can we?" The Trouble with Angel . bringing the box along with them. and murmured to the puppies." Brandon and Cliff followed Angel inside." Squeals of excitement issued from the two children. niños. Brandon did as he was asked. gently bringing her up to his chest and cuddling them together. thinking the babies would appreciate the warmth. your highness. bebe. crooned. He was secretly thrilled at their conniving. "Yes. "Never mind them. Angel tried to hear what they were saying. Marisa piped up with the key question."Oh. They were so precious. "Will you open that. "Come and look.170 . "I told you. Easy. while Brandon and Cliff watched approvingly." He reached for the second pup. This is the way to Angel's heart. my God. but he kept getting his attention diverted back to the squiggling babies in his arms. then indicated the door with a slight jerk of his head. please?" Chuckling." Scowling once more. The two men stood to the side. "Easy. chatting quietly. Angel sniffed disdainfully before turning his attention back to the baby in his arms. Angel and the children touched. He gave his lover an arch look as he stood. Take it slowly. holding the door open theatrically. petted. waving his arm and bowing. Really?" Brandon slapped Cliff on the back. who came at a run. reaching out to touch." He knelt down on the rug near the fire. Angel called out softly to the kids. Don't scare them. kids. because clearly his lover had been conspiring with the vintner. Marisa and Trey hovered closely.
but my mom always said no. Watching them." "Well. Clearing his throat. Uh-uh. niños. Angel knew he would not have been able to say no to them about this. please. The Trouble with Angel . "I believe we'll need some newspaper. darn it -. while Cliff busily dug for a handkerchief." He wrinkled his nose a little bit. Angel looked at the kids. "No.and smiled. and we'll see what we need to do to make a home for them.. immediately jumping up and down in their joy. Thank you." he finished with a smile. Trey and Marisa screamed excitedly. bring the box here. and puppy chow. right? Oh. he mouthed to them both.Even Trey was looking longingly at him. She was allergic or something." He again had to shush the children as they began crying out." He and the children set the puppies back in the box. his chest tightening a bit. and milk. let's get these little girls back in their bed. get their blanket all nice and cozy for them. Neither of them were unaffected by the children's hopeful exuberance. It was such a little thing to do to bring happiness back into their lives. his hand on one of the babies. I know. Me and 'Risa wanted one. um. "Okay. "Have you had a dog before?" Trey shook his head quickly. Cliff said he brought them over for me.and his lover's clever friend. Trey. As Brandon looked at them.. I think that they should belong to all of us." Angel stopped when Marisa's smile turned upside down. "Um. Marisa. it was clear. but. "Gentlemen.171 . "I know." he said politely. he unashamedly wiped away a tear. He looked up at his clever lover -. Okay. Angel looked over at the two conspirators. and I guess we can use the french door in the kitchen to keep them honest. I guess.
I ran over to the Shop Smart. *** "God. "You're going to pay for that. While you were on your marathon trip to buy enough clothes for the Octo-Mom and her kids. He'd checked on his iPhone." He gathered up the puppy box. he slung his legs up over the side. sugar. He was bundled up in his new Columbia parka. but they're not. he stalked over to the resin wicker chairs that had shown up with Brandon's furniture." Brandon and Cliff once again exchanged knowing grins. "Mama. Brandon blew him a sassy kiss.172 ." He listened to her soothing voice and words of The Trouble with Angel . Jeez! It was just the first week of October." Angel instructed the two kids with a smirk. Mama. perdoname. "Mamacita. Cliff. he's got me wrapped around his finger. walked to the kitchen. then Brandon pointed to himself. niños."Not that we'd be able to tell with this carpet if they did anything on it. and with the kids trailing behind. I just hope he doesn't know it. with the hood pulled up and his sleeves pulled down over his hands." Snorting. and that wasn't fair. "It just so happens I have the supplies back in the pantry. he got me puppies!" he wailed to his mother." Sighing loudly. I'm being a jerk. "I know that! Do you think I don't know that he's staying one step ahead of me?" He was taking his frustration out on his mother. Come on. and the temperature was hovering at fifty-one degrees. Later. leaning his head against the back. Dropping onto the cushioned seat and turning his body. and he'd ducked outside to call. "They think they're in charge. The kids and puppies were in bed." "Ignore them.
Mama. In fact. mama. I wasn't listening. I just wanted to hear your voice and let you know the latest." Blowing her a kiss and sending his love. so no. the man now sprawled out on the carpet in The Trouble with Angel ." They laughed together at that one.173 . "Okay. which fashion designers are you going to name your new babies after?" Angel stopped short for a second.wisdom with half an ear. he might even have to admit it tasted better than Starbucks. "Uh-huh. I was listening." He sighed as he remembered the lusty moment when he was unpacking the car earlier. In his heart. It was his head that was holding things up. I'd better go inside.." He crossed his fingers as he told that white lie. he was a goner. He was afraid to give in completely and risk it all. "So.. but Angel wasn't going to tell the stubborn blond inside the house about that. "Ha. "Si. he is hot. The flames had died to a very low point. "Huh?" He'd missed what his mother had been saying. And he hadn't even gotten to a Starbucks once since he'd gotten here! Well. pulling it tight to prevent sparks from jumping. ha. oh... how can I resist him? Between these children and the puppies and. It hadn't turned out so well when he'd trusted once before." How could he? His mind was twirling in circles as he tried to figure out what to do about Brandon and these children. then grunted when his mother called him on it. It's getting colder. he had found a little place in town that actually made really great espresso. and Brandon had pushed apart the remaining pieces so they'd burn out quicker. "Listen." He eyed his lover. how he makes me feel. He found Brandon closing the screen on the fireplace. he disconnected the call and headed back inside. Mama. "Mama.
he set it near Brandon's head and lowered himself on his back. Brandon looked so relaxed. Pulling away to breathe. "I do not.174 ." Dope." Brandon's brows rose in question. "You did that deliberately. "C'mon down here. you. Brandon agreed. but he tried. so gorgeous down there." It was hard to be offended by what was obviously the truth.front of the fireplace. Angel grabbed a pillow cushion from one of the two dark green. Lips quirking." He held his breath. longing for more. Kneeling down. It does. velvetcovered chairs that flanked the cream leather couch. "Christ. sucking strongly. You usually have an opinion on everything else. he stared at Brandon. His tempting lover held up a hand. "You and Cliff brought those puppies here to make me want to stay up here. "Did you really need an excuse?" God. He caught Brandon's tongue with his lips. doesn't it? Makes me think that maybe this is working out the way it was supposed to. He looked over at Brandon." The blue. The Trouble with Angel . With you. What a stupid thing to say. his head resting on the pillow. Chuckling gently. His arms slid around the strong back. "Yup. there was no bullshitting with Brandon. scowling. Keep me company. and he flattened his hands along those tough deltoid muscles. blue eyes captivated him. sugar. "Your furniture looks good here." Laughing in delight. Brandon brought his arm up and rested his head on the flat of his hand. Brandon grabbed the back of his head and brought him up close and personal for a deep kiss. What do you think?" "Me?" "Yeah.
you'd eat me alive." Pushing out his lower lip. Who. He became more of a father to me than the guy who knocked up my mother.but inside. that was the day I had no more family. needed me at the end and I." He took a shuddering breath. he was elated. Brandon shook his head a little. "That's really sad.175 ." Wow... "Not really. "You never talk about your family -. My parents. "didn't mess with my scholarship because they wanted me gone. "Are they as bad as that. How come?" "Was I getting too close. but Angel could see the remnants of anger in the turquoise eyes.you don't let me get away with anything. "I have the feeling if I did. The last time I talked to them was the day I left for college." Angel winced at the awful way that was phrased. Sandy was the one who cared about me.. who loved me. "So.was -. He changed the subject.. Until I met Sandy at UIC.. Brandon?" Brandon turned his head a bit to stare down at Angel. died. "I almost didn't make it back to Chicago before he. when I was eighteen. It meant Brandon took him very seriously. The two people who raised me didn't think that I measured up as a son the day I told them I liked guys as well as girls. do you?" Smiling faintly. Brandon gave him a knowing look. was too busy for the last couple months he was alive. Angel couldn't imagine not having his mother in his life. Brandon continued. he trailed his fingers over Angel's face.. sugar?" Without waiting for an answer." It was said without emotion." He should probably be offended by that -.only Sandy.my family." "It seems really rotten that he never got to know his The Trouble with Angel . one finger coming up to tease Angel's lips." Shrugging. "Sandy is -. "Uh-huh." the word was said with complete derision. "Sandy was my coach.
"You can help them to know him. right?" At Brandon's nod. You were very close. Nodding." As a proponent of tightly-knit families.." He smiled slowly.grandchildren. And now. "You're good for me. Sarah's position since she had to deal with Sandy when he was drinking. "Yeah." "You know. Brandon agreed.it was just too late for Sarah. still had issues when I met him. "Even if you do deserve a spanking for making fun of Old Betsy again.. I was just concentrating on somehow linking Sandy and the kids. he continued. I guess I really didn't think about it in such simple terms." The Trouble with Angel .176 . Sandy." Angel commented quietly. It's hard to argue with his daughter. those kids will never know him. but he ended up getting it together and saving his marriage. and some of his things. he couldn't not do something to make a difference. "Show them pictures. "Then talk to them about him. It was -. You know that?" He rolled over on top of Angel. Let them learn about him.I knew the man he became. but -." Angel considered that for a moment.
at seven a. My god. let's put some newspaper down first. he stared down at Trey. he moved over to stand by the puppy box. since Brandon went straight to the coffee pot and grabbed a cup from the cabinet above. was that too freaky or what? He wasn't quite reassured by Brandon's offputting behavior. The blond stayed facing the cabinet.. Looking up from where he crouched next to one of the pups. stirring his cup of coffee. when Brandon had been merciless in making Angel submit. His lover had been gone when Angel had awakened. "Huh?" The nine-year-old eyed him askance.Chapter 23 The next morning. so this was the first time he'd seen the ballplayer since they'd torn up the sheets. who was looking up at him impatiently..177 . sipping the The Trouble with Angel .. "Can we take the puppies out of the box? Can we?" "May we. God." he corrected. Angel got the feeling Trey had called his name more than once..m. Friday. Angel had been astounded. His mind was filled with images of the night before. "Angel!" Shaking his head to clear it. "Okay. Angel watched for Brandon's mood. Angel was standing at the kitchen counter. His heart melted as he looked at the babies. that man was too much.and when Brandon had pulled that big plug out of the drawer. looking impatient. Brandon hadn't struck him as the type to play with toys. what we did together last night. Putting down his untouched coffee. Do we have any more?" He was organizing kids and puppies when Brandon came in the back door. The sex had been amazing -..
"Brandon. Brandon bobbled his coffee cup and barely kept from dropping it. after several seconds of staring.. Cursing. he stepped up behind Brandon.steaming brew." A quick shake of Brandon's head accompanied the denial. Angel zeroed in on the red face and sheepish look on his lover's face. Uh-oh. "Oh. "Uh-uh. God. "Angel!" The blue eyes finally met his. It's inappropriate. "My God. Shocked -. What the hell was going on? Slowly straightening.." Pursing his lips.and absolutely amused at the absurdity of it -." Now a quick nodding of the stubborn blond head. you're not supposed to say shut up. pulling him around. hugely relieved that Brandon wasn't dissing him. my. "Something bothering you?" He decided to go on the offensive. I thought I was the only freaky one. The Trouble with Angel . "Oh... I don't know. You didn't look at me when you came in. "Angel! Shut up! The kids are here!" On cue. Angel grabbed one muscled arm and yanked." The adult word sounded adorable coming from her. and you won't look at me now. "What the hell is going on?" "What are you talking about?" That was pure Midwestern twang. it suddenly hit him. are you embarrassed about last night?" Brandon's blush deepened. Determined to find out just what was bothering The Great Dane. Angel pondered the oddity as he watched Brandon fidget. Then.178 ." He began laughing. "Really. and he dropped his head to look at the floor. Marisa piped up.Angel huffed out a short laugh.
Who?" "Johnny." Still laughing. his cell phone rang.Brandon leaned in close to his ear." Humming in agreement. happy and amazed. "Johnny Rayne? Seriously?" Ohmygod. But I've gotten him a meeting with the studio heads and the director to The Trouble with Angel . It was CeCe. Just then. he started typing a response to an email he was reading.179 . Angel got Marisa set up with toys and books. He quickly logged into his work connection." It took a second before that registered. She must have psychic radar. CeCe affirmed. Angel shoved his laptop away. They could talk about their kinky sex life tonight. the puppies asleep beside her. "God!" There must have been fifty unread emails sitting there. Figured. "I thought he didn't like leaving the mountains anymore. "Angel!" *** After Brandon left to take Trey to school. not with the kids to worry about. guess who's coming out to see me?" Shrugging to himself. Angel shrugged good-naturedly. young man?" CeCe snorted. then sat down at his laptop. I just sat down at my laptop. He picked it up and rolled his eyes. "I do not want to talk about this now. What's up?" "We-e-e-ll. He could deal with anything now. He leaned back toward Brandon and whispered that very thing. "I don't know. "He doesn't really. Gasping. He sighed. "What are you doing?" "I was planning on working. "Yeah. boss?" "Is that any way to talk to me.
" "Uh-huh. who was contentedly talking to her dolls." God. Idly. He. he smiled helplessly. Looking back at Marisa. "God! Did you know how complicated this would get when you sent me to help The Trouble with Angel . "I can leave any time I want.180 . "You know. "Uh-huh. she was a pain when she saw right through him. I get it." Now what? His gut clenched. "I. you know that?" He propped his feet on the coffee table. he stared down at his Mark Nason Braybrook boots. I always thought I saw something between the two of you. when are you coming back down? Johnny will be here on Tuesday. He did love those boots. You are amazing.." He sighed again. Angel was impressed. CeCe." "Well? How much longer is Brandon going to need you? I would have thought you'd be chomping at the bit to finish up. He heard a distinct musical hum at the other end of the call. "I said." "Uh. so I dismissed it. did it? "You don't want to leave. "Wow." He didn't really know how to answer." Joe Hankin was the hottest Hollywood blockbuster director around." He jumped up. "Huh?" He'd missed something. away from Marisa. but you never did anything about it. "Nothing to say?" He sighed." He could picture her leaning back in her chair as he stayed quiet." "What? You're crazy.. "Ohh." "What?" That didn't sound too defensive. At least twenty seconds passed. do you? I knew it. "Hold on. loudly. "Angel? Did you hear me?" He cleared his throat." He quickly walked into the dining room.talk about the score for the new Hankin movie. Shit.
" He turned and leaned against the wall.Brandon? Did you?" "Honestly? I wasn't sure what team he was playing for.at least I thought he was checking you out. It's like the last three years were the lead-up to this. "I." Her chair made noise again. "I know you sent me up here just as a job. That was unintentional.you know. "Hmmm.uh. even though CeCe couldn't see it. that we've been attracted to each other all this time and it just took us being together like this to -. "That pisses me off.." He grunted. I gave some advice to your friend. see if we can. Johnny -.." She sniffed in disgust. "Sorry.” Angel groaned at that pun.it's become." He could hear the smile in her voice. I -. I thought I was misreading him. "Am I overthinking this?" She finally spoke.almost the very same thing. I don't know.181 . even Brandon thinks.. make it all happen." He shook his head. "Well. I'd occasionally catch him checking you out -. but -. way more than that. only you know what's right for you. and he didn't do anything. I -. make this work. Angel considered her words.I think." When she paused again. "I can't even believe how quickly this has happened. does this mean you're not coming down Tuesday?" Angel thought hard for several moments. um. If in your heart you believe you and The Trouble with Angel . I just can't. when you didn't hit on him or say anything. "Angel. "Several months back.. rolling his head up and staring at the ceiling. CeCe. you have to decide what's right for you. You can't make your decision based on what I think -. "Is that crazy or what?' CeCe didn't say anything. But then. I've got to stay and. I've got to get my gaydar checked. "So.or what anybody else thinks." CeCe hummed.
he heard the Navigator pull up outside. The Trouble with Angel . We'll work that out." Just then. If you're seriously going to consider staying up there. Vargas. Brandon just got back. I do have vacation time saved up. He had to move the phone away from his ear as her shouts of hilarity blasted his eardrum." Her manner turned serious. God!" At that." There it was." He disconnected on her laughter. huh?" "Bite me. CeCe burst out laughing." She laughed.182 ." The tone of her voice altered as she changed the subject. I haven't really wanted to sit down and figure that out yet. God. CeCe made a rude noise. I know. nodding to himself. we'll have to talk about how we go forward." "It is. Acting offended. "Hey. "What's your mother say about this. you dope. I gotta go." "Uh. "By the way. though." "Yeah." He coughed to disguise his own reluctant chuckle. then you need to think about what it will take to keep that. "Yeah. I'm surprised she hasn't bought all his trading cards and joined his online fan club. by the way?" "Don't think I don't know you're laughing your ass off right now." He pondered that. wait a sec. "Well. "I can do that if it's about work. "Should I take her out to dinner and quiz her?" "No!" Absolutely not. so far we're handling you working remotely. The lord and master is home. I was hoping you'd tell me what to do. yeah. what a clusterfuck that would be. if that's how you feel about it." "Ohh. We're not done. "I'm sure you'll be surprised to hear that my mama loves him and she hasn't even met him.Brandon might have something special. we are. but I guess I'm going to have to." "Yes. "Yeah.
183 . Angel smiled back. he thrust his tongue in Angel's mouth. curious. Slugger. Laughing and sighing at the same time. Brandon rasped. sugar. Is it okay if I call you that?" Nodding. "Said it was because I was one of the few pitchers that could actually hit the ball. Brandon stopped inches from him. okay? We don't want them to get stepped on." He turned to the little girl. We could have been doing this all along. Angel felt a thrill as his lips were spread by that muscle stabbing deep. Marisa pushed her way free The Trouble with Angel . Oh yeah. baby. "I came in to tell you the movers are here with the kids' stuff. hands sliding down. "Sandy called me that. "Hey. "God." Head lowering.Brandon came in the kitchen door. shaking off the dampness from the morning rain. still breathing a little deeply. Brandon pulled away. Okay." Brandon's voice was husky. "Mi'ja. "Kiss me! Kiss me!" Marisa danced around their feet. Looking back at Angel. Brandon gathered Angel close. The puppies were tumbling along after her. tripping over their own toes." Brandon halted. He looked up into the turquoise eyes. making her laugh. tossing his jacket on a dining room chair. staring at him. "What? What is it?" Coming toward Angel slowly. He swung Marisa up into his arms and bussed her cheek noisily." Angel was glad to see Brandon was back to normal." He brought his head down again. I don't know why we waited three years. let's get Dolly and Gabby back in their box. "Hey. Coming up for air. "Oh." Nodding importantly." "Oh. he said. "Oh yeah." Nodding. Angel.
Dolce and Gabbana." Brandon's eyebrow quirked up. Angel picked up the other puppy. At the questioning look on the beautiful.from an accommodating Brandon. he turned back and faced his lover. He spoke over his shoulder as he walked. "Dolly and Gabby? That was quick work on the names. rugged face. "I named them after my favorite designers. he grinned." The Trouble with Angel . "I decided to take your advice. She picked up one puppy and marched it over to the box near the fireplace." Depositing the little pup in the box.184 . Smirking back at him.
He was glad to have the excuse to vacate the house. Angel conveniently took Marisa and went shopping. "Oh! I forgot!" Angel looked down at Marisa as they walked through the Costco in Medford. After having lost both parents so tragically. as un-modern as the Fenner home was.Chapter 24 They stored everything from the Collins home in the empty barn. The two of them giggled over the different colors available and how they could be paired with the best outfits. they had just about everything else a twenty-first century kid could need." He held on tightly to the little girl as she skipped toward the display. In addition to that. So he strapped Marisa in to the Mercedes and off they went. round O. she was practically vibrating where she stood. While Brandon was scheduled to meet with Lorna Reznick and her son. Angel had to admit that. afraid she might just dance away in her excitement." He didn't care if others would think he was spoiling the children. Now that the televisions had been set up and the satellite installed.185 . He was still embarrassed at how overthe-top he'd been about Lorna's visit. her mouth open in a big. "Yes. They picked blue for Trey and The Trouble with Angel . "Didn't we talk about getting iPods for you kids?" Marisa stared up at him. it was his opinion that the kids could use some spoiling. planning to sort it out the following weekend. it might just all come together. really. "Really? Really-really?" Her tone was so hopeful and so excited. he decided that he needed to get a Wii for the kids. it did have charm now that it was furnished. "Let's go pick out a Nano for each of you. By the time they added things the kids wanted to have around them.
Then they grabbed the Wii and got several game packages. CeCe was there. His mother was there. after all." The Trouble with Angel .186 . "Hi. He was home. Watching her. Brandon's voice came on after the second ring. As he did so. Marisa smiled sweetly up at him from her seat in the shopping cart. Angel's belly tightened a little when he heard the deep voice. At the self-checkout lane. Now what? Just what exactly did he think he was doing? He was far from home. mostly acquaintances. hit by a very basic realization. Angel stared at the little girl. "Angel? Can we set up the Wii when we get home?" Struck by the obvious with that simple request. He stopped still. *** As he headed back toward Cave Junction. This was where he needed to be. if he stepped on it. He couldn't not. listening as it rang over the speakers. Where he wanted to be. But Brandon was here. he glanced at the Tiffany analog clock in the Mercedes. He dialed his phone through the car sync. God. as well as Guitar Hero and other accessories. pendejo. I love this car! He might just be able to make it in time to pick up Trey at school. sugar. Well. he ran their items through the scanner.purple for Miss Marisa. He had a real job back in Los Angeles. then pulled out his credit card. You're playing house. Where he was meant to be. he smiled helplessly. but he did have a few good friends. He had friends there.
The car finally shuddered to a halt on the left shoulder. holding tightly to the wheel." He unbuckled his shoulder belt and turned in his seat. "Um. They were heading out of Medford on I-5. "I was thinking I might be able to pick up Trey." He ignored the laughter from the speaker as he looked in the mirror and changed lanes quickly." Grunting. "Uh-huh. then shoved the gearshift into park. feeling the Mercedes fighting for traction on the concrete.187 . Just get your ass home." He had to clear his throat for some reason. trying to get around a tractor-trailer in the right lane. Angel huffed out a breath. "Whatever. clearly having no idea or caring about the accident they'd almost caused. but now I'm thinking we won't get there in time. it's safe to come home now. aren't The Trouble with Angel . He slammed on his brakes." He watched as an SUV driver ducked into the lane ahead of him. "I'm okay. we're heading back now. He breathed deeply. He watched blankly as the trucker and the SUV continued on up the interstate." "What? What do you mean?" He could do innocent with the best of them. She's gone. but his heart was pounding and Marisa was screaming in the back seat. We're okay. Another snort. "Angel!" Brandon's urgent voice came over the speaker again. He could dimly hear Brandon's voice shouting over the speakers. "Yeah. "We're okay. "What do you want to do for dinner? And will you pick up Trey?" He cursed suddenly as the trucker in front of him suddenly veered into the passing lane. sending the tractor-trailer sliding dangerously near the SUV that had cut in front of it and giving Angel almost no room to maneuver."Hey." He heard a snort.
staring up at him. 'kay?" Voice a little husky. he crooned softly in her ear. Pastor Jim told us. Cuddling her. He buckled himself in again and locked the The Trouble with Angel . It's all right. he lifted her back into her booster seat and carefully strapped her in." Heartbroken at the sadness and fear in her voice. Unbuckling Marisa. his own fear slow to recede. he wanted to go home. The little girl was crying big." Between sobs. he moved to the driver's seat.we. get buckled up and come home now. pequeña. Wishing he had Kleenex in the car. 'kay?" It took a moment or two. pequeña. Angel whimpered a little himself. Come home and we'll sit by the fire and we'll roast marshmallows. "Marisa? Angel?" It took a couple tries before he processed that Brandon was talking to them. fat tears. hang on a sec. "Angel? Marisa? Come on home now. Good girl. "Good girl. he hauled her into his lap. Yes. With one last kiss." Home. Brandon coaxed them. who was crying. unbuckle your belt and come up here." Angel whispered as he held the little girl to his chest. God. "My mommy and daddy went away in a car crash." Giving her a kiss. She pushed up a little bit. mi'ja?" He reached back to the little girl. okay?" He could see that Marisa was too scared to comprehend. but she nodded her head.188 . then sat back on his lap." He shoved open his door and quickly got into the back seat. "C'mon. her curly hair rubbing against his jacket. he used his thumbs to push away the tears still tracking down. okay? Brandon and Trey will be waiting for us. "It's all right. her chest heaving with her cries. "Brandon. "Marisa. "let's go home. We'll go slowly. she told him. I'm going to unbuckle our baby girl. "C'mon.
smiling indulgently as Trey rolled his eyes. He squeezed the little boy. baby. "Hey!" With a nine-year-old's lack of sensitivity. tough lover yanked open his door and pulled him out of the Mercedes. Let's get inside. meanwhile." He gently ruffled the boy's hair. making her laugh. "You too. Angel's big. He could smell Brandon's familiar scent and that.doors. I'm okay." Brandon. The Trouble with Angel . It's just good to see you. "God. gang." Angel tugged Trey along by the hand. since the stubborn blond refused to hang up. amado. his face smashed against Brandon's T-shirt. "Sorry. needing the connection for a second. then hauled him into strong arms. had Marisa in his arms and was spinning her around. When he pulled into the yard area forty minutes later. Trey pushed back. "C'mon. heading south to Cave Junction. "You're squishing me!" With a slightly shaky laugh. reassured him he was safe and home. don't ever scare me like that again!" He was crushed against the muscular body. Slinging one arm around Angel. Brandon kept Marisa on his hip as he headed toward the house." Angel squeezed him back. Angel released him. Trey wandering behind. Angel drove up I5 and got on US 199. like nothing else." He turned to hug Trey as Brandon opened the rear door. "I'm okay. "Let's get our girl out of the back. young man.189 . niño. It was really good to hear her laughter again. *** Brandon's voice kept them company the entire way home. While his lover went to pick up Trey. Brandon ran out to meet them.
" Blowing out a quiet breath. "Here. Trey unboxed his baseball memorabilia.Chapter 25 Over the next weekend. making a production of setting it on her dresser. They discovered some of the items the two had most missed. you can start wearing her stuff." Musing that hopefully the pastor was correct. "I think it means they don't need to talk to me right now." Angel tried to maintain a neutral expression. Angel spotted a poster of Brandon among the boy's belongings. say about fourteen or so. much to Trey's pleasure. Angel talked with her for ten minutes before she agreed to let it be used in the kitchen to make actual tea. letting them know the kids were fine and were settling in. They moved the kids into separate rooms. Angel listened as Brandon chatted with Jim and Sheila for a few more minutes before signing off. pequeña. which Jim took in stride. Catching Brandon following Trey's movements as the boy quickly rolled it up and shoved it back in the box. Angel ceremonially carried Sarah's jewelry box to the little girl's room. they worked with the kids to settle in some more. "Um. The kids declined to speak to the Maddoxes. not that they don't want to talk to me.190 . Marisa found a china teapot that she determined she had to have in her room. I guess that's okay. hauling it out with a cry of triumph. How about if we keep your mama's jewelry box in your room? When you're older. They set up the master bedroom with furniture from Brandon's condo and moved the The Trouble with Angel . Angel smiled to himself. They also made a call to Pastor Jim and Sheila Maddox. Marisa had a thoughtful look on her little face.
picking through the belongings of dead people. the puppies asleep at his feet." "That actually makes some sense. Huh. he walked over to Brandon and whispered." Ignoring him. "Isn't this kind of sad." Angel admitted. "Oh. like establishing routine. Brandon looked at Angel and smiled. Angel finished smoothing the duvet they'd found in the Collins' belongings. *** Sunday afternoon. They'll need to hold onto that for probably a while. and now I'm Einstein?" He chuckled. I don't know. "Baby. Angel tossed his head and went back to digging through the boxes. deliberately. Then. even though the very idea gave him a thrill. "You're good for my ego. so he'd been boning up on puppy parenting. and ignoring the way Brandon rolled his The Trouble with Angel . "Your mama can use this room. Brandon shrugged philosophically. "Who knew you'd be so smart?" he teased softly. sugar. the kids were playing Frisbee on the Wii. Exasperated. At one point." Brandon murmured in his ear. I think. and had been surprised to find some human crossovers. These kids need parts of their past. Brandon announced that Cliff and Lizzie Danielson would be coming over for dinner. He hadn't had a puppy in about fifteen years. amado?" He actually thought it was a little ghoulish." Snorting. until they get their sea legs under them. Angel. to use as a guest room. "before I was Machiavelli. and Angel was on his MacBook. shrugging.191 . and giving praise.downstairs bedroom set to the third upstairs bedroom.
sugar. let's not forget that it's Cliff Goddamn Danielson you're talking about. I thought you might appreciate the opportunity to get gussied up a little bit and entertain. though. while very The Trouble with Angel .192 ." He wasn't that easy." One little part of him was secretly proud of that epithet." He now looked as though he were trying to hold back laughter. He paced to the back door. he knew it was his own embarrassment that made him feel that way. Angel shook his head.a pinot blanc and a pinot noir. then pivoted. muttering in Spanish. "How about that? Oh. I think you're overreacting. But he had to keep up appearances. "It's like unwrapping a present when I get to take your dressy clothes off. "I can't believe you said that." Despite the gift of the puppies. The chairs they lounged in." "Are you serious? He called me a scrappy little fucker. "And Cliff said he's bringing a case of his best wine to tempt you.eyes." Brandon spoke out of the side of his mouth. "Get it all out. which was a glass and steel monstrosity from Brandon's condo. "Angel." "As if I could be tempted by that. Angel still hadn't forgiven Cliff for catching him at his worst. look." Raising his hands. don't you? Cliff didn't mean any harm that first night we met him. Still. "What kind of wine?" *** Cliff and Lizzie brought two types -. What's your problem?" "You know he rubs me the wrong way. "Sugar. Intellectually. They were seated after dinner at the dining room table. Angel followed him into the kitchen." He walked the length of the counter.
even though it wasn't truly a Mexican dish -. but." He raised his glass to the cook. he'd been informed with a sheepish look that Brandon had paid a designer to outfit his condo. When he mentioned that. Angel put together the Sunday dinner he'd already planned. were extremely modern black leather and chrome. "You know.comfortable. he made carne asada with rice.193 . "That's what some of the other guys on the team did. the day they'd moved the furniture in. The Trouble with Angel . he'd located one near Grants Pass. Brandon commented during the meal. Walking through the supermercado. He'd certainly cooked his share of meals since he'd been on his own." It was actually superb. but it had still felt a little strange to do this. Angel smiled at him and took a sip of the really good pinot noir. Angel. For dinner that night. then Brandon did all the cleanup. The two men had made a deal the day they'd argued about cooking. it had actually been working fairly well thus far. He'd had difficulty finding a Mexican grocery in the area. given his love for the historic beast they were living in. Maybe it was the family setting in which he now found himself. Angel had been surprised that Brandon had chosen them.empanadas tres quesos as a starter. and. and seemed to be an equal split on the labor. I have to say that this pinot is great. Blushing slightly. "it very nicely complements the steak." he looked over at Angel. "It is good wine. thanks to the Internet. If Angel prepared. he'd wished his mama was with him to share in his enjoyment as he discovered all kinds of things to buy. Surprisingly. Angel was making it a practice to follow in his mother's footsteps now that he had three other people to feed. homemade guacamole and -." Despite his grumbling.
Cliff and Lizzie smiled and nodded, murmuring their thanks. They'd clearly enjoyed the Mexican dinner and the company of the two men and the children. Now, after dinner, the adults were relaxing with coffee. The children were playing with the puppies in the kitchen. The glass door between the dining room and the kitchen was closed to keep the pups in, but they could occasionally glance over and check on the kids. "The Ridgecrest varietals are on the cusp of becoming known," Lizzie confided to Angel and Brandon. Following up on Lizzie's comment, Cliff chimed in. "Yep. We just can't seem to break through. We've been growing here since nineteen eighty-eight. That's when we planted our first twenty acres." He looked down at the glass tabletop for a moment. "Our winemaker thinks we need somebody really strong to market for us." Wide-eyed, Angel wondered why Cliff was now staring directly at him. He'd been very pleasantly surprised to find how much he'd been enjoying the evening. Lizzie was absolutely delightful, and Cliff was actually a very nice guy. And the talk of the winemaking business was intriguing. "Hmmm," Brandon murmured. He looked at Cliff. "Somebody really strong, huh?" "Yes," Cliff answered. He and Lizzie shared a smile. "We want someone who will be dedicated to us. Not a consultant who has ten other wineries as clients." Lizzie sighed a little, leaning back in her chair. "We're thinking that we'll need to create a position at the winery. That's probably going to be the best way to do it." Brandon nodded his head as he thought. "I wonder how you're going to find the right person?" He turned to look directly at Angel, a faint smile on his rugged face.
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Lizzie sat back, her eyes thoughtful. Feeling cornered, Angel sat back in his chair. "What?" Shrugging, Brandon assumed an innocent expression. "Nothing, sugar. Just thinking it might be an opportunity for a certain Latin firecracker, that's all. Maybe somebody who's helped negotiate with the big boys, promoting CeCe's clients, someone who's street-smart and business smart? God knows you showed me your all-business side often enough." Cliff coughed at that, and even Lizzie chuckled. "And," Brandon stressed, "someone who just happens to have an unused MBA, who said he wanted more than babysitting clients?" Scared, Angel answered quickly. "I have a job!" "That's true. It just happens to be eight hundred miles away." That was the plain, unvarnished truth. Angel's life, up until a couple of weeks ago, had been centered in Los Angeles. It had been completely turned around and updumped at the same time. He had the most exciting man in the world as his lover. He had two children looking to him for -- he couldn't believe this -- parenting. That was, maybe, the biggest shocker. And now? It was obvious he couldn't keep going along, playing house, and not acknowledging that three other people were coming to depend upon him. And he couldn't not acknowledge that he was coming to need them just as much. He already knew he was in over his head with Brandon. And the kids had sunk their claws into his heart, that was for sure. Lizzie Danielson stepped in, thank God. "Cliff. Leave the boy alone. If he's interested, he'll call you. Right, Angel?" She looked at him with brows raised. She was an elegant-looking woman, with beautiful, long, silver
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hair, and she was dressed smartly in a long skirt and short tweed jacket. Completely the opposite of Cliff, who once again wore denim, this time jeans, not overalls, with a plaid shirt that sported pearl buttons. Hmmph. Did that mean something -- that two clear opposites appeared to be very happy together? Was he just looking for signs to tell him what he should do? Before Angel could answer Lizzie, Brandon spoke again. "Sure, Lizzie." He pushed back from the table. "How about some cheesecake? We found a great little bakery in town yesterday." With that, the subject was dropped. Angel sighed to himself. For now. "By the way, Angel. Did I tell you what Oregonians call people who move up here from California?" He shook his head, almost afraid to hear this. With a slight grin -- and a nod to his frowning wife -Cliff looked at Angel expectantly. "We call 'em Californicators."
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Chapter 26 Another week went by. The kids settled in even more and began to develop their own routines. Trey began using the bus for school, at his own request, which they saw as a good sign. Each day, Angel took Marisa to kindergarten class and Brandon picked her up. Angel continued to work remotely, even though he arranged to use his fifteen days of accrued vacation, beginning with the current week. He had three long calls with CeCe to go over deals in progress and follow up on the contracts he'd been assigned. He did the research where he'd gotten a little behind; he also managed to put CeCe off again when she asked what he was going to do. The puppies now had free rein in the kitchen. The glass swing door came in handy for keeping them from getting into trouble -- and enabled him to keep an eye on them from the living room. Brandon began the process of creating his office. He was doing most of the work himself, including the electrical. Angel was so impressed by that he almost didn't know what to say. God, his man was something else. His stubborn blond did intend, however, to use a plumber for the underground work and an electrician to bring additional power to the shed building. Brandon had already begun the demo work as he worked on finalizing his drawings and applying for a permit. "What are you going to do in this office?" Angel was honestly puzzled. He broached the question on Friday morning. "What kind of work do you want to do now? How are you going to make a living?" Brandon looked over to where Angel stood in the
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. And they seem to be open to having a conversation about it. It's a requirement for licensing. I'm hoping to get some type of long-distance internship with the Reznicks.main doorway of the shed. Ever so true. He shivered suddenly.. The overnight chill had not yet burned off. Are you actually wearing. "You like my hot Latin ass just the way it is. Angel looked around then down at himself. Brandon stood up. His appearance was very important to him. Angel eyed him. "Wow. I'm constantly cleaning up after Dolly and Gabby -. and it was about forty-five degrees. "Sugar. Your hot Latin ass is going to freeze if you don't toughen up. sugar." Angel was most definitely impressed. he cocked his head to one side." The Trouble with Angel . jeans?" Now Angel could hear the amusement in his lover's deep voice. If that doesn't work out.. "Well.not to mention Marisa and Trey. "You look a little bit country. I'm thinking I might go back to school for my master's in architecture. "That's ever so true." Sniffing in disdain." Brandon appeared at ease with his decision. tumbling over each other in their play. and he checked them as well. He frowned at the sound of Brandon's chuckle. "Ha. He'd been on his knees checking an electrical receptacle in the wall he'd exposed. "What? What's wrong?" The puppies gamboled at his feet. you look. "What?" "We gotta get you used to this weather. I have to up here. and he always looked his best.. The tension in his shoulders released. Alarmed." Frowning." Grinning. Angel had grumbled when he'd had to don his new winter ski jacket to drive Marisa to kindergarten. ha." "What? What?" Angel's voice was strained.198 .
With the help of his mother. he'd successfully avoided the gangs.. Angel shrugged. "I know." Brandon's face showed concern. I know you like a clean house. "And the kids need to clean up after themselves." Brandon slung an arm around Angel's shoulders. and he'd managed to shelter some of his cousins along the way." Brandon said slowly. amado. sliding his hand up and down Angel's biceps. It just seems like I shouldn't. when he got old enough. I don't know anything about raising kids." "You know. I do." Brandon's voice was now soothing. "I talked to Sheila about this. but he still felt like he had to cut the Collins kids more slack because of the death of their parents." Musing about that. "I guess that The Trouble with Angel . he became one of the go-to babysitters. "but I'm having a problem making these two kids toe the line. But they've." "When did you talk to her?" The pastor's wife had been very sympathetic and supportive thus far. hassle them about silly things. They're not going to be waited on in this house.. The experiences he'd had were now serving him well. "Sheila says that kids need structure and they need discipline. "Yeah.199 . "While you were driving Marisa the other day."Angel." Sighing." he admitted. Angel nodded. She says that tells them that we care enough to set rules and expectations.. I know.. But you can relax. fighting. Angel had spent many an hour playing. lost so much. "I wanted to make sure we were heading down the right road. I do have experience with my thousand cousins. and. At least you have experience with your big family." He did have quite a variety of cousins and children of cousins. too. and growing up with them.
asshole!" Angel whirled and nearly tripped over Dolly and Gabby as he tried to get away.. taking several steps toward the house. try. he tried again.. Well. You this bad on the job? What's CeCe been keeping you on the payroll for?" "Bite me.. the momentum throwing him against the rear passenger The Trouble with Angel . Angel opened his mouth but nothing came out. The long fingers slid through his hair. you know. He was brought to an abrupt stop as his body was shoved toward his car. we. He had no choice but to stare back at the determined turquoise gaze. They paused in the warm sunlight halfway to the house. He successfully got away again. jerking him back. He felt Brandon's hand come up to cup the back of his head.makes sense. Brandon spoke softly. I'll. "Angel. Brandon looked deeply into Angel's eyes. tipping his face up. He wasn't sure he was ready for Brandon's questions. "Um.. tugging gently. Brandon caught him with a hand on his jacket.. With a little shush directed at them. Angel tensed. Clearing his throat.200 . The puppies had followed them and were whimpering for attention. And he would have been happy to continue to avoid it for at least a little longer." Brandon stopped walking. Quirking a smile. "Your lashes still make me crazy." Angel couldn't control the quiver that ran through him at that. I guess." Just what in the hell was he going to say? "Jesus. don't you think it's time we talked about us? About how we're going to make this work?" Put on the spot.. He'd successfully avoided a real discussion for two weeks. I. bringing Angel around to face him.
to say the least. Not anymore. I just. scares me. "You're not going anywhere until we get this settled. "What if it doesn't work?" His eyes were fixed on the metal doorframe as he spoke. God. He shook his head rapidly. too. sugar. ready to shove back." He heaved a sigh. this man made him hot -. "Not today. He watched as Brandon's face moved into view.and made him tense in fear. his dick started to get hard.door with a thud. This thing between us comes at an inconvenient time. and he tensed his muscles.201 . Brandon moved slightly." The determination in Brandon's voice made him shiver.. Angel?" The question was asked quietly. grinding him into the metal of the car. He blurted it out. Even while he was pissed about it." He heard a big sigh. his weight keeping Angel tight to the unforgiving metal of the car frame. "I have this.. Angel's back started to get up. thing for you and it kinda.. "Christ!" Angel couldn't believe the way Brandon was manhandling him. His arms came up on either side." He leaned his head against the glass and watched peripherally as his breath fogged the glass..made him crazy with love -. the shadowed reflection indistinct." At that. You like to avoid things you don't want to talk about.. planning to dislodge the insensitive clod behind him. still facing the window. "It scares me. "No! I know it doesn't work that way. and he caught the movement in the door glass. Brandon's chest moving against his back. The Trouble with Angel . A big hand came up to stroke Angel's hair." Brandon pressed behind him. "Easy.. no derision in the voice. hands flat against the roof. "Do you want a guarantee. That pissed him off even more.
remember?" Angel heard the derision in Brandon's voice." A humorless snort came from behind. "You don't always have to get so pissy so fast. almost looking at his lover. a slight note of humor in his voice.. my God. "Oh yes I was. "It would be better if we had time to concentrate only on us -. if you'd asked." Angel's whisper was filled with awe. The big blond was watching him with a half smile. "I didn't mean it the way you think. don't I?" "Sugar. His hand came up to trace the strong jaw. a bit of worry in the turquoise eyes. baby -.but I was too busy being The Great Dane.cock jockeys. his fingers loving the suede-like feel of Brandon's shaved skin. reverent. "I couldn't play around outside the small circle of guys I knew who were -. But. my God." He leaned down to nuzzle Angel's hair. We have Trey and Marisa to worry about.but we don't."Ah-ah-ah. "Oh. the kids are the reason we're together. in a way. too. "You weren't interested. "Oh. his lips drifting down to nibble on one earlobe.." It was barely a whisper." Angel stood frozen for several seconds before he worked himself around." Angel dropped his head against the glass. smiling despite himself." He took another quick bite. "You love me?" Brandon nodded without speaking." "I would have.what did you call me? -. then raised his head." The Trouble with Angel . it's one of the things I love best about you. "I do have a big mouth sometimes. Angel turned his head slightly to the side." Brandon cautioned.202 . "Do you mean it?" Angel's voice was quiet. since I don't know if you would have given me the time of day without their interference in my life.
Angel cocked his head to the side.Chuckling. Brandon shouted with laughter. "Is that all you can say. his tension visually disappearing with that inquiry. "The man wears overalls!" The Trouble with Angel . "What if I say yes? Would it be so bad?" Angel's lower lip pushed out.203 . Angel? Isn't there anything else you could say right now?" Screwing up his face in thought. Brandon arched a brow. "Are you going to want me to ask Cliff Danielson for a job?" He frowned. relaxing a little bit. He brought his other hand up to run over the strong nose and broad cheekbones of his stubborn lover.
Chapter 27 When Trey got off the bus that afternoon, he came wandering up the lane dragging his book bag, wondering at the noises he heard. He headed for the area between the barn and the river, where he soon spotted his sister and the puppies at play. Marisa was sitting in a pile of oak leaves, tossing the crisp remnants at Dolly and Gabby, who were digging their noses into the pile around her. She suddenly screamed as Angel popped out of the big pile next to her, yelling 'boo.' Then Angel screamed along with her when Brandon came around a tree and scared them both. Trey laughed to himself for a moment, then sobered. Standing there, watching his new family together, he felt a twinge of sadness and guilt as he remembered his mom and dad and the last time they'd all played together. Brandon spotted him standing there. His guardian raised a hand, motioning him over. "C'mon, Trey! I need some help over here!" Trey hesitated a moment. Watching him, Brandon tilted his head to the side. Shrugging his thin shoulders, Trey let the memory go. His nine-year-old mind wasn't ready to choose between the two. Dropping his book bag in the dirt, he ran over and jumped on Angel. "Pile on!" Shouting in surprise, Angel wiggled out from under him and, startling Trey with his agile strength, picked him up and tossed him to the side, directly into a deeper pile of leaves. Trey giggled madly, loving the feel and smell of the leaves around him.
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"Hey, young man, you are definitely going to help me get that pile back together." Brandon had a smile on his face. "We just spent an hour getting this section done." Trey sat up with a grin, looking around. "Huh? Don't look like you did much to me." Marisa piped up, pulling scattered leaves out of her curly hair. "Me, and Angel, and Brandon raked under this tree already, Trey." Importantly, she pointed to the big oak above her head. Angel, too, raised his head, sighing at all the leaves that were still on the big tree. "How many times do we have to do this, amado?" His heart thumping at the endearment, Brandon dropped to his knees and kissed Angel, long and hard. "Cariño mio, if this is anything like where I grew up, we'll probably be back here a couple more times this fall." While Angel moaned, Trey groaned. "You guys are kissing again!" He grabbed a handful of leaves and tossed it at the two men. Marisa joined in the fun, and any semblance of organized piles disappeared. "You know," Brandon whispered to Angel, "I bought a leaf blower, but that would take all the fun out of this, wouldn't it?" His prima donna glared at him. "You have a leaf blower? And I was out here raking for an hour and a half?" Biting his lip, Brandon tried to look innocent. "I thought you'd like it, sugar." Scrunching his lips, Angel stared hard at Brandon for a few seconds. His gaze slid to Trey, who was watching them closely. Angel jerked his head at Brandon, then
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suddenly lunged forward. "Get him, Trey!" he yelled. Brandon laughed as Angel's lean strength pressed down. He grinned, watching Angel's delight as Trey dumped handfuls of leaves on both of them. "Yippee-ki-yay, Brandon!" Angel's catcall was joined by the two kids, who were screaming with laughter and throwing leaves all over the place. The puppies, who'd been ignored long enough, jumped into the game by leaping on Brandon's head. Sputtering with laughter, he gently caught the two babies and lifted them off. Catching sight of his watch, Brandon sat up. "Hey, gang, I found this place I want to take y'all to for dinner. Let's get cleaned up. I want to take off in half an hour." Angel sat up, too, brushing leaves out of his hair. "But it's barely quarter to four, Brandon." Levering himself up, Brandon reached a hand down to his beautiful lover. "I know, sugar, but the place is in Medford, and I don't want to get there too late." He yanked Angel to his feet, then slid a hand down over that delectable ass. Angel flashed a look at him. "The kids are right here!" "I know, but you had a leaf there." "Uh-huh." Angel nodded, obviously not believing him for a second. His prima donna sniffed, making him grin. Looking down at the children, Angel instructed them, "Let's go get cleaned up and put the babies in the kitchen, okay, kids?" Head canted to the side, he smirked a little. "See you later, Slugger." Angel took Marisa by the hand, and with a motion to Trey, began sauntering away, adding a sexy little sway to his walk. Brandon adjusted himself, grinning again. Angel was
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getting too good at handling him. *** An hour and a half later, Brandon directed the Navigator down I-5 and got off at the Central Point exit. "Where is this place? Is it by the airport?" Angel had noticed the signs for Rogue Valley International. "How did you find it?" Eyes on the road, Brandon shrugged slightly. "Cliff told me about it." Angel snorted almost in reflex. He was like Pavlov's dog when it came to Cliff Danielson, he admitted to himself. Actually, he was now finding it fun to play up a reaction to Cliff's name. Brandon sent a quick look across to Angel. "But I'm actually picking up something for Cliff at the airport. It'll just take a sec, okay, cariño?" Trying to control the shiver he felt every time he heard the Spanish word, Angel smiled softly, forgetting all about Cliff. His eyes drifted over his big lover. "Mmm-hmmm," he agreed dreamily. He didn't even mind the grin that flashed across Brandon's face. Brandon slowed the truck for the turn onto Airport Road. A few minutes later, he pulled up at the arrivals terminal. He neatly tucked the big truck into a spot at the curb, then threw the gearshift in park. "Just a second, baby, okay?" He turned in his seat. "Be right back, kids!" Jumping out of the truck, Brandon ran inside. Shrugging, Angel turned around to talk to the kids. "You two hungry? It's still a little early, I think. I guess by the time we find the restaurant and order, it'll be okay." He was clearly talking to himself because both kids had their new iPods on and earbuds in. Frowning, he waved his hand to get their attention. "Hey, niños,
The Trouble with Angel - 207
Brandon. "made all the arrangements. he yanked at the belt while stabbing the release button. no. Your man. Cursing in Spanish. May I sit in the back?" Jolting forward. dressed in hip LA style. We can talk on the way. she smoothed down his hair. Angel. would you like to sit up here?" Oh. "Mi'jo. Brandon just snorted behind his hand. Maybe it was a mistake after all to get the iPods for the two little music fans. "Oh. "Mama!" His beautiful mother stood next to his grinning lover. let's get your mama in the truck and we'll go to dinner. He stared at them with a jaundiced eye. He was startled when his door was yanked open. he stopped in shock. mi'jo. he got caught in the seat belt he forgot was around his shoulder and almost hung himself trying to get free. "C'mon. Finally free. his drawl was a little thick. Angel thought with a frown. Trying to leap out of his seat. "Mama! What are you doing here? How did you get here?" He shook his head at his own obvious question.how about turning down the volume?" Hmmm. Angel lunged out of the truck. he looked down at her. Brandon moved close." his mother said with a laugh. having forgotten the kids in his The Trouble with Angel . "Maria." He pulled the front door open more. I want to meet the children." she eyed Brandon with a smile. Embracing his mother. not in front of the children. What in the hell was he up to? "No. She wore a short black cashmere jacket and cream silk crewneck over black leather pants. I've missed you. here. Chuckling." A hand sliding down his back.208 . Whipping around to curse at Brandon. She stood on the sidewalk.
"Trey." The Trouble with Angel . "Here. then reached out to touch Marisa's curly hair. you can call me Abuela.209 . "What's that mean?" "It means grandmother in Spanish. Angel leaned in across her. He and his mother shared a smile. come and meet the kids. he continued. "You don't look old. "If it's easier. sliding next to his sister. "Kids. frowning. Trey. my. Trey complied. Exclaiming over the kids. "Mama. this is Trey and that's Marisa. Trey spoke up. Looking back at the children. curved around in his seat and looking backward." He shoved the door shut. this is my mother. Maria buckled up. she ran a hand down Trey's cheek.shock." Angel. asked a question." She addressed the children directly. Helping his mother up." He waved a hand inside. they're beautiful. "Oh. Mama. then hopped in the front. Angel yanked open the rear door." The children were watching her curiously. Senora Maria Vargas. mi'jo." While Brandon got back in and headed the truck out of the airport. couldn't help but swallow hard. will you please move over to the middle so my mama can sit back there with you?" Staring at the adults like they were animals in a zoo.
"She doesn't. Maria looked toward Brandon." Maria sounded duly impressed." She held out her hand. Angel admonished both Trey and Brandon. when my son makes a promise. Angel promised.Chapter 28 Angel's shocked "Trey!" was drowned out by the laughter of the other two adults." She cocked her head." "Ohh. "She is Abuela or Senora." he gestured awkwardly. "you look way too young to be this firecracker's mama. Laughing again.. then reached over to Marisa." His brows lowered. she doesn't look old. Are you having a party?" The little girl nodded importantly." She looked back at Trey. "Hola. She's beautiful.. Angel spotted Brandon and Maria sharing a grin through the rear view mirror. He frowned at them before he got busy glaring at the unrepentant nine-year-old. he keeps it. "Well. With what you're wearing and your hair. "Nobody would know you're old enough to be Angel's mom. "I'm very happy to meet you." "That's true. Their eyes met again as she spoke. Maria shook her head. mi'ja. that's what I'm The Trouble with Angel . "I'm going to be six soon. "Angel calls me that.210 . "And thank you. "Uh-huh. I take it as a compliment. Trey. she doesn't. "Don't worry. too." Marisa touched Maria's hand with her fingers. Maria." "That's what I'm counting on. And. of course. young man. Angel. mi'ja." He twisted in his seat to look back at his mama." She shook the slowly offered hand. "Congratulations. That's very kind of you to say. "What?" The boy shrugged." Raising her brows." Brandon shook his head.
211 .counting on. The kids The Trouble with Angel ." Brandon's deep voice rolled over Angel's nerves. "I thought we'd try the River's Edge. It's way too chilly to sit outside. They enjoyed a great dinner. and he felt his belly flutter." His laugh was a little forced. Honestly. Apparently he'd recovered his equanimity about their bedroom antics. "Maybe I'm going to have to reconsider that spanking. having shot off his mouth before he thought about the fact that his mother was now in the car. Angel looked askance at his troublemaking lover." Slightly huffy." Maria laughed in the back seat. especially for our spoiled babies from Southern California. "Um. and Angel gasped. we're getting too serious. God! He squirmed in his seat. "Hey. There's supposed to be a great view through the windows. Angel slapped his arm. His mother had heard that! "Shut up!" "Angel!" the kids chorused. Hissing at Brandon. and Maria and the kids exclaimed over it as they walked to the round table. where's the restaurant?" He ignored the knowing look that Brandon sent over. *** The restaurant did indeed sport large windows facing the Rogue River. The view was incredible. Angel's face burned. the adults talking companionably about the beauty of southern Oregon and what they'd gotten done thus far in the house. I told you before. "You should be happy to keep this body warm." Brandon whispered. Angel was busy rubbing the ass that his lover had just pinched.
He'd certainly seen her with enough of his relatives over the last thirty years. "Her hair was kind of red and kind of brown. unable to keep from smiling. the puppies. he reflected. that was not exactly the norm. "Like mine. she'd been shocked but had never wavered in her love for him. how lucky he was to have her. her mouth full of French fries. but Marisa answered. "What? Sorry. as he'd done many. When he'd confessed his homosexuality to her at age seventeen. "Can you tell me about your mother and father?" Trey looked a little unsure. Brandon nudged him and he realized Maria had spoken to him. He marveled. and they began to speak about their parents and the life they'd lived until very recently." "Mi'jo. His mother had always had a way with children. And in the Latino community. for one moment. "What color was your mother's hair?" Trey was silent." She tossed her head a little. At one point. What else can you tell me?" Slowly but surely. it's so good to see you happy. and the leaf fight. expressing her sorrow. that's great to know. She spoke gently to the children about their late parents. While some of his aunts and uncles had disowned him. she drew the children out. Latin machismo was a stereotype for a reason. now." "Well. The Trouble with Angel . his mother had never. Angel watched his mother interact with the kids. Maria tilted her head to the side encouragingly. many times. Angel noticed his mother watching all of them. he thought wryly. Mama. she rubbed the smudge of lipstick away and turned back to the children." Kissing him on the cheek.chimed in with reports on school. a smile on her face.212 .
Brandon spoke directly to Maria. very good. tell me now how the two of you got together to arrange this.213 . he's a good man. Mama? He likes to shove me around?" Fighting a smile. Maria looked at both of them. "Did he tell you that." Looking back across the table. so you'd stop being such a mule-headed fool and admit how you feel. "I believe Brandon mentioned that he had to get tough with you a time or two so you'd.." Snorting. "how did he put it?" Chuckling. Some of his thoughts must have been visible on his face. I wasn't sure you were going to admit how you felt. she eyed Angel. yes. "Maria. you mean?" He looked at his mother. "Wednesday morning. I guess I got lucky today when I was pushing you around. Angel made a face. "You're lucky to have her. grabbing Marisa's drink glass from the edge before she could knock it over. Angel interrupted. The Trouble with Angel . "I see you've come to know him well. sugar. I called CeCe while you were in the shower. Brandon shrugged. "I needed to bring in the big guns." Astonished at his absolutely shameless lover. "when you threw me into my new car.." He turned his inquisitive gaze to his lover." she cocked her head. sugar.. Maria stared at him for a second or two." "Oh. "So." Embarrassed and wanting to turn the attention away from himself.left him in any doubt about how much she loved him." Angel remembered derisively. You've raised an amazing son. guapo. I have to compliment you." Her brows raised. and even though he's a temperamental brat sometimes. "Oh. yes. he stared at the co-conspirators.. leaned down to kiss him. Brandon. That's good. who was sitting next to him at the round table.
"Uh-huh. sit here and relax. huh? Okay. "Brush your teeth first!" Angel reminded them. then headed downstairs. "Maria. Whining a little. "for a little while. Marisa tugged on his pant leg. "Mmm. "Can't we stay up a little longer? Abuela said she wanted to play Wii with us. then propped his feet on the glass coffee table. He toed off the Hugo Boss Centauros he'd found at the outlet mall the week before. he's lucky I love him. "C'mon. he looked down at the adorable little girl. Is that Cliff's pinot noir?" It really was damned good wine. baby. His lover leaned toward him and offered him a sip of red." Brandon arched a devilish brow. otherwise I'd crack him a good one. Brandon patted the leather beside him. too. Brandon did like to turn his crank about Cliff. We're making progress!" *** Brandon showed off the antique home to Maria while Angel sorted out the kids and puppies and got them all ready for bed." he nodded. Your mama likes it." Chuckling. grabbing him around the neck. There he found his mother and Brandon settled in front of the fire." Brandon laughed triumphantly. "Abuela. each with a glass of wine. Mama.214 . They heard the tromping of the kids coming down the The Trouble with Angel . Angel made a playful face." Trey and Marisa yipped and jumped up and down."Well. he actually admitted it out loud." Angel plopped down with a sigh.
Ignoring the interruption. She slid out of her black suede ankle-boots as she stood. I've seen women's shoes before. he indicated the gorgeous boots Maria had pushed to the side. "What did those set you back?" "Four ninety-five." He rolled his eyes at Brandon. "You're telling me. Maria nodded. then the detour to the kitchen to grab the pups. "What do you mean?" "I mean. "I don't want any accidents on the carpet -." He felt Brandon's fingers caress his face and he smiled." Snorting softly. niños." "I'm sure you have. where the sixtyinch flat screen hung on the wall. Laughing. "Bring their box." Maria told them. "that even though I'm a dumb jock. "Plus tax. "How in the world can you possibly be shocked after The Trouble with Angel .215 . You've told me so. drawing out the words. "Abuela! Come and play Wii with us!" Marisa's highpitched voice came from behind them.even though it's fifty years old." Angel called to the children. "Okay. "Why do I get the feeling that either your mother rubbed off on you or you rubbed off on her?" With a jerk of his head." "Five hundred dollars? For shoes?" Brandon's voice almost squeaked. Angel didn't even rise to the bait. his lover nodded. With a conspiratorial grin aimed at his mother.stairs. Angel affected innocence to Brandon." Closing his eyes. Brandon continued. bitching at me to pick up my stuff." Angel said without apology. Brandon nudged Angel. "You like a clean house." his ballplayer said. He makes me crazy sometimes. Brandon." That was said with a bite. "Angel has always been meticulous about a clean house. his eyes still closed.
are you happy?" She dropped a hand to pat Marisa's head. He heard Brandon release a shuddering sigh. as the little girl tugged at her pant leg. "So. "Yeah? Well. "Angel. his uncertainty plainly visible to Angel." Chuckling." Grunting. She likes to wear them at the bank where she works." He sat up straight and moved to plop onto Brandon's lap." "And?" Brandon eyed her. "Besides. Mi madre won't let me buy her a house. The Trouble with Angel . and stuff. looking as though she knew how to use it.216 . "But you remember our agreement was I'd consider it only if I believed that Angel was truly happy. Not having a clue what to say. Brandon grimaced." he aimed a semi-glare at his parent. Maria. Brandon grinned. he relented. She lets me do that. As Brandon continued to stare. that's my cue to go play with the kids. you spent sixtytwo thousand dollars on me without batting an eye. "I've been saving and trying for five years. and shoes." his mother said as she walked over to the loveseat facing the television." He shrugged. Angel nodded. "I remember. but remember. Slugger. "Look. Maria turned to face the men. Angel was content to be a bystander for the moment. even though.you picked up the phone and bought a car in half an hour?" Angel demanded. after breakfast tomorrow. Brandon. Picking up the Wii remote." His head swiveled between his mother and Brandon. Maria walked around the table." Looking over the back of the sofa. "Okay. "Boys. "What?" This was the first he'd heard about Maria thinking about coming to live in Oregon. we're going to check out the barn to see about turning it into an apartment for you. I buy her clothes. I plan to take every dollar out of your hide.
"Though I'm not quite sure about living in one. he nodded again." Brandon's voice was husky. "Then I guess we'll be looking at that barn in the morning. "I'll take care of you. Taking a deep breath." With a comical face. "No worries." The Trouble with Angel ."Do you plan to stay here and make a life with this man?" Gently taking Marisa's hand." Angel hugged Brandon tightly as he heard his lover answer. she added.217 . Mama. relaxing. He felt Brandon's hand slide up and down his back in a tender caress. his mama shushed the little girl while she waited for Angel to answer.
with a huge. That time had been doubly well spent since it The Trouble with Angel . adorable lover pacing alongside the planting bed they'd added in front of the remodeled building. The late summer foliage was lush. Brandon stepped off the elliptical machine and grabbed a towel. they'd done an outstanding job on the creation of the garden spaces that now surrounded their home. rubbing the towel around his sweaty neck and chest. and he'd spent many hours learning and laboring over plants and gardening bed ideas. however. and the flowers were a striking contrast to the multiple shades of green. and the room was spacious.218 . Angel. often coming in to keep the adults company. Now. The workout room he'd built in the shed could rival the one he'd had access to while still playing in the majors. He found his crazy.Epilogue "Brandon Lee Halvorsen!" Angel's outraged voice carried through the window of the big shed building. didn't look like he was going to stop and smell the roses. of course. He'd worked with a landscape architect from the University of Oregon that Lorna Reznick had referred him to. watching movies and playing on the climbing wall Brandon had set up. "Get your ass out here right now!" With a long-suffering sigh and a snort of amusement. So to speak. Brandon walked to the entry. in the ten months since they'd come to Oregon. Even the kids liked the room. Brandon felt some pride in the knowledge that. The main wall had huge windows showcasing the view to the river. flat-screen television on one wall and multiple cardio and strengthtraining machines spread around. and he and Angel liked to watch the water move as they worked out. The machines were state of the art.
"Well. If she needs a man. "What's the matter.and he'd found that the weekly drive to Eugene for classes and work assignments actually wasn't too bad. and the front held the fitness room. "Did you tell Cliff's winemaker that he could date my mother?" Uh-oh. kind of.had pointed him toward a future he could really enjoy. "You said you wanted your mom to find a nice guy. His new bosses had agreed that he could apprentice with them while he attended the University of Oregon in its master's program in landscape architecture -." He walked up to Angel with a smile.219 . "Duh. Danny's a nice guy. Brandon had indeed gotten the internship with the Reznicks and was working as a project draftsman for the partnership. He shivered from the breeze. he scratched his chest." "Well. since his T-shirt and trackies were sweaty. sugar?" Sometimes playing dumb was fun with Angel. The back of the fifteen hundred square foot building housed the office and a small kitchen and bath suite." Brandon tried to look innocent. Brandon came outside. Pushing open the wooden screen door. Looking at his Latin firebrand. The large shed building had been totally remodeled into usable space. I'll find her a man!" The Trouble with Angel . "I don't believe you. yeah. "What's up. His initial project with them had been the remodeling of the old shed and the barn and the building of a new equipment shed farther from the house. Brandon was the primary user since he was pursuing a future as an architect. cariño mio?" He received a disdainful sniff in response. I didn't really mean it!" "Huh?" Angel gestured.
"I am not spoiled! And don't use Mexican slang on me!" "You sure about that. Brandon crossed his arms over his chest. Angel relaxed. baby?" Stepping up close. leaning his head against Brandon's broad shoulder. I couldn't take it anymore. He's got to keep it on the down low. I had to step in. though? It just takes meeting the right guy. huh." Shrugging again. Smirking at him." Coughing out a laugh. Brandon slid his hands down Angel's lean back. "I really did. too. "Did you really tell Danny he should ask my mom out?" Rubbing his cheek in the silky black hair. poking a finger in Brandon's chest. mi fresa. Neither one of them was going to make the first move. he wrapped his arms around his man. Brandon grinned widely." Nuzzling. He needs to get his own boyfriend. "Nice culo. He and your mom have been making calf eyes at each other for four months. "Looks like she found her own man. mamey?" The term for sexually attractive male was designed to soothe the savage beast. Brandon smiled. It was like eighth grade all over again. "I had to tell Maria that Danny liked her." "Uh. "You are too much. "I don't know. amado. that's what I'm afraid of!" Back to being The Trouble with Angel ." He rolled his eyes." Angel advanced on him. He says he wants to play for another year or two. and I had to tell Danny that Maria liked him. by the way.220 . as Angel paused and bit his lip. Brandon made a face.Sometimes his high-maintenance lover just needed a little tightening on the reins. reaching to cup the sleek behind. You'd swear they were teenagers. "You know. "Who knows. papi. It seemed to work." Sputtering with laughter. you and Antonio Diaz are spending way too much time on the phone together.
She came up here every three or four weeks for months. Rubbing his thumbs over those delectable.and men. I know." He chuckled again. I was kidding. Angel smacked Brandon on his bicep. but--" Blowing out a breath of frustration. his thumbs lifting the stubborn chin. "She's my mama. My own mother!" *** Angel was still aggravated that Maria had ignored his efforts to assist her transition. "Angel. he poked at his lover.just relax. but Brandon held on tightly. since she had you." he whined quietly. she knows a little bit about sex -. "I know. Angel tried to shove Brandon away. Angel met Brandon's gaze. "I can't believe she went to work at a rival winery. baby. You have to let her live her own life. Brandon hid his smile by burying his face in Angel's hair again.221 . you weren't!" The voice was muffled but Brandon understood the words. "Easy. pouting lips. "She's a grown woman. "You dope. "When she found a job without your help. sweetheart -. Getting her to commit to move here was a big deal for her -." Grinning again." Squawking." "No. When she had decided to The Trouble with Angel . "Okay.aggravated. I assume. huh?" "Pahhh!" Angel's sound of disgust made him laugh. But at least she's up here. living in the barn. Brandon. What if he tries to put the moves on my mother?" Raising his eyes heavenward. I wasn't. that must have frosted you. Brandon smiled.but she did it." He cupped his hands around Angel's head. "Don't you think you should just step back and let her have some fun? How long's it been since your dad died?" "I know you're right.
and he'd been putting his college studies and work experience to good use almost since day one. And. The successful businessman apparently liked to hide his light under a bushel -.222 . Recalling now the day he'd told Brandon about the job he and Lizzie had agreed on. After a long.. The winery was a small but impressive operation. It appeared that Cliff did indeed know what he was doing. But her decision to accept a job at the Riley Rogue winery was still a thorn in his side. Angel's first day on the job. Cliff had introduced him around to the winery staff. since she ran the business side of the winery. He'd been working closely with Lizzie." Snorting. "And on top of that -. he'd indeed gone to work for Cliff Danielson. long conversation with CeCe.though he still took the occasional phone call from CeCe when she desperately needed his opinion.you were surprised I had an MBA!" Brandon shook his head. looking down in bemusement.er. Angel had formally separated from the Hill Agency -. she'd made it clear she would do it on her own terms.. He wanted some TLC -.move to Oregon. "Huh? Sometimes I cannot follow the way your mind jumps. anyway. Angel tossed his head a little. he looked at Brandon with his brows scrunched. which had proven to be quite an experience.but he was sharp as a tack. Well. calling him "The Scrappy Little Fucker." He'd been both mortified and extremely proud that he'd made such an impression on Cliff." "Remember? When we were talking about the future -. The Trouble with Angel . that was back when you thought I was just a pretty face.yours and mine. his overalls -.and he knew how to get it. The winery employees had been amused but still welcoming.
223 . Clueless. How was I to know?" The big guy sounded a little worried.. Angel thought. well." "You mean just because I asked him to fix the design in the entry four times?" "Uh. aren't you?" "Well."Sugar. Brandon snorted. He had to work to conceal a smile as Brandon automatically backed up. Angel grabbed Brandon around the neck and kissed him. no. holding tightly for a few seconds. he prodded his lover a bit. you know that when you tried to help me with the apartment in the barn that. blundering lover. um. "Uh. wasn't I?" His only excuse had been that his mother was moving up the weekend the porcelain tile was supposed to be finished. "Aren't you the one they call The Great Dane?" Frowning suspiciously. I mean because you asked him to change it four times -..." Biting his lip. you never told me in the three years I knew you at Hill. Angel pulled a piece of paper from the rear pocket of his Ralph Lauren cargo shorts. well. "I was awful... and he wanted it done perfectly. hiding a grin. His hands cupped The Trouble with Angel . "Whoa. let's just say that it cost me an extra ten grand when the flooring guy refused to come back to work in the barn while you were there. looking up at his confused lover.in the same week. well. He leaned back." Slyly. Rolling his eyes. I did want to talk to you about the renovation plans for the house. "Brandon. "You're jerking me around again. "What do you mean?" Brandon shoved his hands in his track pants pockets. I expect you to figure things out." "What?" He could act innocent when necessary.." Finally no longer able to hide his laughter. Brandon watched him. You know your ideas aren't always.
" Opening the door to the kitchen. "Now?" "Uh-huh.224 ." Laughing again when Brandon couldn't contain his huge sigh of relief. I suppose that sounds fair. "You don't really care about that right now. Uh-uh. how about if I handle the house renovation. Angel dashed toward the bedroom. "Uh-huh." Laughing out loud. Angel crooked his finger. "Uh-uh. Angel stepped inside. sugar. Brandon grinned down. Brandon immediately began following. "They're going to turn into Guitar Hero. So. Angel watched Brandon out of the corner of his eye. They're playing Guitar Hero." The children had continued settling in fairly well.and loads of mistakes and fumbles -the family was slowly coming together. He turned to face his lover. "How about we discuss it up at the house? In bed?" He swore Brandon's ears perked up like Dolly's did when the treat bag was opened. though they did act out from time to time. and you take care of building up the wine cellar?" Pretending to consider." He began walking toward the house. The Trouble with Angel .Angel's ass. do you?" Pushing forward and shoving Angel fully into the house. Especially your mother. "Mmm. baby. Through counseling for the kids and parenting classes for the two men -. "Where are the kids?" "Mama has them upstairs in the barn.
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