Legalities of Love - J. L. Blackstone
A finger punched the silver intercom button. "Mags, call the courthouse and find out what position the Cleveland case is on today's docket."
"Sure. Remember you have a new client coming in this afternoon, a John Lindsey."
His long red-brown curls shook slightly as he gave an absentminded nod to the disembodied voice. "I remember. I'm just going to run out and file this brief, as soon as I finish it, that is..." Blair's voice trailed off as his eyes focused on the wording of the full disclosure request for Ellison Enterprises. If he didn't get access to the company's files, his case was going to be dead in the water.
He rubbed his eyes tiredly; it had been a long night. Blue eyes scrutinized the request for the seventh time. It seemed pretty tight. No vague loopholes which that schmuck Brackett could take advantage of to bury him in paperwork. The head attorney for Ellison was a real dick. Brackett took pride in taking any and all delaying tactics, be they unethical or not, just to wear him down until he had no choice to drop the class action altogether.
Blair's face tensed at the very thought of giving up. He would never hang his clients out to dry. For some, he was their last hope of getting some kind of help for the disabling injuries they had sustained. Blair popped his neck as he stood up to relieve some of the pressure he was feeling before he strode to the door.
"Cleveland is seventeenth on the docket," Margaret said as she heard the door behind her open. "I've already called the Nathaniels and told them to be at the courthouse tomorrow morning."
"Great. Type this up for me, Mags," he softly requested as he stood behind the middle-aged redhead.
Green eyes flicked up to the tired young face hanging over her. "You look like death warmed over," she commented as she accepted the piece of paper.
Blair ran a tired hand through his long hair, "Yeah, it's been a long couple of days." He gave a tired smile as he blearily looked around his assistant's office.
Blair felt like he was just coming up for air, which wasn't far from the truth since he had spent the last couple of days researching precedents in the basement. Any other time, he would have allowed his intern to do it, but this case was special. No slip-ups, no matter how small were tolerable. The stakes were too high.
"I'll go shave, and make myself more presentable."
"I think that will be most advisable, sir," Mags said in a dry tone, extremely pleased when Blair laughed out loud before going back into his office.
Margaret raised her eyebrows at her boss' quick return only ten minutes later. Now it was her turn to laugh. She shook her head in bemusement at the blue jeans and the brightly covered vest as she handed him the folder containing the request for full disclosure. She should be used to it after working with him for two years.
"I promise I'll change clothes before the new client arrives," Blair vowed with a bright smile before turning to leave.
"Oh, by the way," Mags sang to the retreating back, "There's a new clerk at the courthouse..."
"Oh, there is?" Blair casually inquired as he froze in the doorway.
"Her name is Vanessa."
A flash of a broad smile was briefly seen before the door closed.
Jim Ellison stared balefully at the stack of papers sitting in front of him. He sighed as he started going through the pile from legal. Concern soon wrinkled his forehead as he read the succinct but damning accusations made by one Blair Sandburg, attorney at law, on behalf of the 231 complainants against Ellison Enterprises in the case of the fatally defective Sentinel motorcycles produced from 1991-93.
Furious fingers punched the extension for the legal department. "Get Brackett in my office, now!" he barked, slamming the receiver down.
He was agitatedly pacing in front of the full length windows when the head attorney arrived.
"What is this class-action lawsuit about, Brackett?" He demanded with a wave of the papers he still held.
"Sandburg's just some kid who thinks he can make a couple of bucks," Lee dismissed in a condescending tone.
Jim's eyes narrowed at the man's arrogance. "There's no merit to the allegations?"
Brackett's silence was answer enough. "Damn it! I want all technical specs for the Guardian model from that time period. Analyses, tests, everything, got it Brackett?" Jim snapped as he stepped closer, violating the other man's personal space.
Lee's face was expressionless as he met the steel-eyed glare and only gave a slight nod of acknowledgement before turning on his heel.
Jim threw himself down onto the leather couch, totally deflated. He didn't think it would be this bad. It had only been three years. How could his father have done it? Jim snorted slightly to himself. He knew how. William Ellison only cared about the bottom line. But his father knew how important the motorcycle division was to him. It was his baby. Hell, he had designed the first model. If only Carolyn hadn't gotten sick...
He slowly got to his feet, shaking off the rest of that particular thought. Worry flared in the light blue eyes as he considered what else his father and Steven had done in his absence. Jim spent the rest of the morning reviewing the company's other divisions, immensely grateful to discover that one of the junior executive vice president's had enough backbone to keep the rest of the businesses on target without sacrificing morality in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
Simon Banks had even managed to improve the lower performing steel division. According to projections, it would even make a profit this year. He would have to meet this intelligent man. He needed someone he could trust as his Senior Vice President. Steven wasn't up to the job. This lawsuit was proof of that.
When the three boxes from legal arrived mid-morning, Jim was resigned to finding out just how bad the situation was. It didn't take longer than an hour for all his suspicions to be confirmed.
In July of 1992, Sentinel Motorcycles had changed suppliers. Cyclops had used substandard materials to construct the fuel line in the Guardian models which resulted in potential fuel leaks within several months of normal usage. Fifteen hundred motorcycles were made and sold before the defect was discovered.
Jim went stone cold as he read the sterile memo from the motorcycle division's Vice President, stating that it was not worth the money to order a recall.
"Cynthia, get Garrett Kincaid to my office," he requested into the phone's receiver.
"Right away, Mr. Ellison."
"Also, get me Blair Sandburg on the phone." Jim wanted to get this class-action business settled today.
"Come in," he said in response to the light knock.
"Garret Kincaid to see you, Mr. Ellison," the pretty young secretary introduced in a bright tone.
"Thank you, Cynthia," Jim said without even looking up from the paper he was reading. He waited until the door softly closed before speaking again. "Mr. Kincaid, you're fired. Your severance package will be honored. Clean out your office and leave."
"But, you have no reason to fire me, Mr. Ellison," Garret angrily said to Jim's head since the other man's attention was still on the paper in front of him.
Jim picked up the phone, "Cynthia, please escort Mr. Kincaid out."
Garret stood dumbfounded as the door opened and the pretty blonde motioned for him to leave. He stumbled only slightly as he walked out the door.
"Mr. Sandburg is at the courthouse, Mr. Ellison. He won't be back in the office until two," Cynthia informed him as she slowly drew the door closed.
His forehead was wrinkled in consternation when Jim looked up. "He's in court?"
"No, sir. He's filing some papers with the county clerk."
"Get me his office on the phone."
Jim picked up the phone.
"Blair Sandburg's office. May I help you?" a woman greeted in a professional tone.
"This is James Ellison. I want to speak with Mr. Sandburg."
"He's at the courthouse at the moment. If it is urgent, I'm sure you will have no trouble finding him there," she suggested.
Jim ran a frustrated hand through his hair; he really wanted this matter taken care of today. "What does he look like?"
"He's got a medium build and long brown hair--the security guard should be able to direct you. I'm sure you'll have no problem spotting him."
"Thank you," Jim said frowning at the woman's amused tone.
Jim briskly walked into the office the security guard indicated. His steel blue eyes narrowed in irritation. Sandburg wasn't here. The only person in the office was some hippie college kid flirting with the clerk. He strode over to the couple.
"Vanessa, isn't it better for you to form your own judgment. Don't rely on the opinions of others..."
"Excuse me," Jim cut in, silencing the rest of whatever Romeo had been about to say. "Would you be able to tell me where I can find Blair Sandburg?"
A confused expression crossed the pretty brunette's face as she gestured to her left. Jim looked down into a pair of blue eyes brimming with mischief.
"Blair Sandburg. What can I do for you?" the young man asked with a laughing smile.
Shock held Jim's tongue still for a few seconds as he took in the long reddish curls framing a very striking face. "You're an attorney?" he asked, surprise coloring his voice more than he intended.
The young man only laughed, "Yes, for three years. Now what can I do for you, Mr...?"
The smile vanished from Blair's face. He quickly straightened up and gestured Mr. Ellison away from the counter. "And, what would you like to talk to me about today, Mr. Ellison?" Blair asked.
Jim tensed at the sarcasm coloring the rich vibrant voice. The deep blue eyes no longer held the cheerful mischief either. He found that he missed the sparkle in the young man's eyes. Jim gave himself a mental shake. Now was neither the time or place for that sort of thinking. "I've come to settle the lawsuit you have pending against us."
"Propose a settlement, you mean?" Blair corrected him as he crossed his arms over his chest. Blair couldn't wait to hear what sort of offer the tall good-looking man was about to make his clients.
"No, settle. Ellison Enterprises is prepared to do whatever it takes to rectify the situation; to compensate for any injuries that resulted from the faulty fuel line of my motorcycles."
Blair's eyes filled with suspicion. "Forgive me for my disbelief, but what the hell are you trying to pull?!"
A small smile ghosted across Jim's face at the man's passionate response. "Maybe this will help, Mr. Sandburg." Jim pulled out the affidavit he had legal draw up before coming to the courthouse. It was, after all, the only thing lawyers seemed to trust.
Blair's eyes narrowed as he read the incredible words. A dumbfounded expression covered the handsome face. "Anything my clients want?"
"Yes, within reason, of course. Although, I don't know how one can make up for the loss of a loved one." A shadow haunted the pale blue eyes. "But we'll try our best. That is another thing. I want to personally talk to each of your clients. I'm sure you can arrange that?"
Blair gave his head a small shake, "Of course, that can be arranged but it will take several days..."
Jim dismissed the young man's concerns with a wave of his hand. "Apologies need to be made in person. Here's my card. I've had my legal department begin drawing up the forms which each complainant will have to sign after we reach each respective agreement."
"This is very unusual, Mr. Ellison. I'm not sure if some of my clients..."
"I understand. Those that do not want to meet me can negotiate their settlement through you. Call me when the arrangements have been made."
And with a slight nod Ellison left, leaving behind a completely shell-shocked attorney.
How Blair made it back to his office he never remembered. He collapsed into the first chair he saw with his mind still a mass of confusion.
"What's the matter with you?" Margaret asked with a smile on her attractive face as she walked in from the copy room. "You look like you got knocked upside your head."
"He settled," Blair said in disbelief with an undercurrent of outrage in his voice.
"James Ellison? You're kidding?!"
Blair shook his head, "No, here!"
Margaret walked over and took the paper he held out. She ascertained the relevance of the document after reading only a few sentences.
"Ellison Enterprises intends to make full reparations to any individuals injured or inconvenienced by the defective fuel line in the Guardian model manufactured by Sentinel motorcycles during the years 1991-3. Signed by James J. Ellison, CEO," she read aloud in an incredulous tone.
"Well, it's a very good thing he found you." She added in a light tone.
Blair laughed out loud, dispersing the tension he had been feeling ever since he had looked up into a pair of intense blue eyes and heard the name James Ellison. He shot to his feet. "Call the troops, starting with Becky. Ellison wants to meet with each of them in person, if it's possible, to negotiate their settlement. Here's his card, I'm sure you and his secretary can work out the details," he rattled off, his mind moving at the speed of light.
He rushed into his office, trying to figure out how he was going to free his schedule for the next couple of days. Trial tomorrow...
"Huh, what is it Mags?" Blair said with a distracted glance up at the woman standing in his doorway.
Margaret just sighed and walked over to pick up the suit lying haphazardly across the couch.
"Oh yes, of course. New client at two. I'll change my clothes, don't worry about it."
Margaret just shook her head sadly in response, but a bright smile covered her face as she closed the door behind her.
Although Ellison said he wanted to meet with each of his clients personally, Blair didn't put much stock in it which is why he was shocked to find the CEO of Ellison Enterprises waiting for him in his office two days later. He was sure that Ellison would send Brackett to perform the legalities.
Jim caught the surprised blue eyes and smiled. "Good morning, Mr. Sandburg."
"Blair, please, Mr. Ellison," he corrected, quickly covering his shock. Damn it! He seemed to be always off his game with this man. "I should be used to it by now," Blair muttered under his breath as he walked around his desk with his back towards Ellison.
"Used to what? And call me Jim."
Blair turned startled. "Oh, nothing important...Jim."
This time Jim hid the smile the other man inspired. His eyes skimmed down the face noting the sapphire stud in the left ear. The wild curls were tightly confined in a ponytail this morning with a navy-blue Brooks Brothers suit completing the picture. I guess this is his 'conservative' look, Jim mused. He didn't have the heart to tell Sandburg--Blair that it had just the opposite effect.
With the loss of the distracting wild curls, the blue eyes and distinct features became the main focus. Not to mention the full lips, which hinted at a passionate nature. The suit only magnified the constrained energy that seemed to exude from the trim muscular body.
Jim gave himself a small mental shake at the turn his thoughts were once again taking. "Shall we get started? First up is a Ms. Reynolds, I believe."
"Yes, Becky...she's a bit sensitive," Blair began. He was very concerned about the possible effects these 'interviews' might have on some of his clients, such as Becky. Just one thoughtless remark about the scars on her face from the imposing man could destroy the fragile balance that Becky had created since the accident. However, the penetrating look Ellison gave him silenced anything further he was about to say. He would just play it by ear.
"Mags, please send in Becky," he requested into the intercom.
Both men stood as the door opened to reveal a young woman wearing large sunglasses and a scarf over her head. "Good morning, Becky." Blair walked around his desk to hold the pale slightly trembling hands within his own. "This is Mr. Ellison," he introduced with a slight nod to Jim who came up on his left.
"Ms. Reynolds, please have a seat," Jim gently requested, holding his left hand out with the palm upwards. Becky hesitated for a millisecond but after a glance at Blair, placed her hand in Ellison's and allowed him to help her sit.
Blair watched in astonishment as Ellison immediately pulled the other seat over to face hers so he could talk to her in a more intimate fashion.
"Ms. Reynolds, I want to apologize for the needless suffering that I've caused you and your family. I know that I can never make up for your losses but I'd like to try to help you in any way possible. Tell me what I can do to make your life better."
Silent tears slid down the face hidden behind the sunglasses. She took a deep breath and slowly reached up and took off the sunglasses to reveal the pit marks on the right side of her face where pieces of burning metal and gasoline had struck her on that horrible day three years ago.
Jim didn't flinch from the sight but only continued to look steadily into the light brown eyes. It was with distinct grace that she pulled off the scarf and shook out what remained of the hair she had left on her head due to the burns.
"Can you give me back my face?!"
"We can try," Jim simply replied and squeezed the hand he still held in his.
Blair watched, stunned, as the man proceeded to inform Becky what inquiries he had made on her behalf with some of the finest plastic surgeons in the world. He even managed to make Becky laugh, something which Blair had never heard her do in the year since she had brought him her--this case.
That wasn't the only shock of the day. He watched in fascination as Ellison charmed everyone, including old Rick Patterson who had lost his right arm, into a satisfied settlement that would leave it unnecessary for him to ever have to worry about money in his and his children's lifetimes. It seemed his suspicions about Ellison's intentions were completely wrong.
SEVERAL HOURS LATER
"Thank you, Carl, for agreeing to see me," Jim said as he shook the man's hand.
Carl nodded. "Blair, thanks for everything."
"See you later, Carl."
"That's it for today," Blair said as he walked back towards his desk after seeing the man out.
Jim just nodded as he continued to look out the window at the view of the mountains in the distance. All that needless pain and death. He shook his head sadly. Well, he could only try to make it up to each of them.
Blair joined the other man at the window, thrusting his hands in his pockets casually.
Ellison nodded, his eyes glanced briefly down at the shorter man beside him. "Yeah." He turned to face the other man. "Thank you, Mr. Sandburg for all your help today."
Blair held up his hands in protest, "Hey man, all I did was set up the appointments. Everything that happened today, YOU did, I was just along for the ride."
Jim stared silently down into the blue eyes for a couple of minutes before turning to pick up his coat. "I guess I should be leaving."
Blair bit his tongue to keep from asking him to stay. Something inside him didn't like the idea of Jim spending the evening alone. Huh? Where the hell did that thought come from? Blair silently groaned. Ellison's straight, you numbskull!
Jim had revealed during one of the interviews that he too had lost a wife and understood the depth of loss. 'There's no future in these sort of thoughts, you idiot!' Blair silently chastised himself as he followed Ellison to the door.
"See you tomorrow, 9:00 am," Ellison casually said as he strode through the door. "Till tomorrow. Ms. Childers," Jim said, bidding farewell to the woman, who was putting on her coat as he passed through the outer office.
Blair stopped by Mags' desk but continued to watch the proud head and broad shoulders until they were lost to sight.
Mag's low whistle startled the man standing motionless beside her.
Blair turned to her with his eyebrows raised questioningly.
"That is one good-looking man!"
"Really? I hadn't noticed," Blair said as he turned away and walked back into his office. "Night, Mags."
Blair stood looking out at the bay wondering when he had become such a masochist. The sound of the laptop booting up behind him echoed loudly in the still apartment. He turned with a sigh and ignored the little voice inside his head that was saying this was a mistake.
He pulled up the Cascade Times and opened a search query for "Ellison, James J."
"Why are you doing this? The man is the epitome of everything you despise, from his classic Armani suits to his Rolex. Everything you swore you wouldn't get involved with again," he argued silently with himself as he watched the tiny hourglass on the screen.
He clicked on the first link the search brought up. A picture of a funeral service with a solitary attendee immediately filled the 15-inch screen. Although the man was in silhouette with the sun setting behind him, Blair instantly knew that it was Jim. He quickly shut off the monitor. His eyes blinked with the afterimage of the man looking down at the casket, grief radiating from the stiff stance and down turned head.
Carolyn Plummer-Ellison. She had only been thirty-five at the time of her death.
Blair stepped, dripping, out of the shower just in time to hear his answering machine pick up.
"Mr. Sandburg, I've postponed the Cleveland case until March 15...."
He grabbed the receiver, "But excuse me your honor, another month? There've already been two continuances!" Blair argued.
"That is my decision. If you have a grievance, file the proper motions. Edwards requested a continuance this morning in my chambers which I granted," Judge Sinclair said in a warning tone.
"Of course, your honor. Thank you for calling," Blair said through gritted teeth and hung up. "Damn it!" He threw the towel he'd been using to dry his hair across the room. Of course the man had granted the continuance. It didn't escape his notice that Sinclair had failed to tell him on what grounds he had granted it. It was well within his purview but it sure as hell didn't help that Edwards worked for Windhom, Jaurez and Price.
He glanced at the clock. "Great, just great," he muttered, "I'm probably going to be late."
Blair wasn't late but was still in a foul mood when he arrived. "David, where's Mags?" he instantly asked the intern who was sitting behind his assistant's desk.
"She's in the board room helping them set up."
He nodded at the news. Ellison had arranged for a catering service to provide refreshments and meals. Everything possibly needed for the days he was to meet the clients, all at his own expense, of course. It was nothing for the billionaire in terms of cost but it had just been the first indication that he was a thoughtful man with a truly generous nature. A fact which had been fully revealed throughout yesterday's events.
"Fine. I need you to call the Nathaniels. Tell them that Judge Sinclair has granted a continuance of their case until March 15. Thanks."
Blair walked slowly into his office, not at all surprised to find Ellison there drinking a cup of coffee.
"Morning," Jim greeted taking in the haggard looking face. He had tensed when he heard the irritated voice minutes before in the outer office and wondered what had gotten the young attorney's ire up. "Long night?"
"I had some work to do," Blair said as he opened his briefcase and took out the laptop.
"You know what they say about all work and no play..." Jim teased unthinkingly.
Blair gave the other man a sharp look. The tone sounded almost like flirting. He shook his head slightly. 'Yeah right, Sandburg. If that isn't wishful thinking I don't know what is' he silently chided. "Shall we get started?"
Jim nodded and sat down across from the other man.
"John Wood is next..."
Blair sighed as he rubbed his neck tiredly. His eyes focused in on the other man who was getting slowly to his feet. It seemed like he wasn't the only one feeling the long day.
"Long day," Jim said, echoing Blair's thoughts.
"Yeah, it was, but that's basically it. The rest will send in their proposals by mail or fax," he responded while turning to power off the computer behind him on his right.
Ellison nodded, his blue eyes staring thoughtfully at Blair before reaching into his left breast pocket and drawing out an envelope which he placed on the desk before the attorney.
Blair turned from the laptop screen at the sound. His eyebrows rose at the envelope. "What's this?" he asked while opening it and unfolding the check it contained. He looked up, startled at the amount. Sixteen million. "This is too much."
"If you hadn't taken Ms. Reynolds' case, the defective fuel line would have never been brought to my attention. No, please," Jim cut off the young man's protests. "This is just my way of expressing my gratitude. I want your clients to get their full settlements and not have to worry about your thirty-three percent."
Blair looked slightly guilty at the last statement.
Jim nodded knowingly. "You weren't going to ask for your percentage, were you?"
The attorney shook his head and then smiled wryly. "No, how'd you guess?"
Jim shrugged into his coat, "You're a good man, Blair." He turned to leave but suddenly twisted back to the still seated man. "You hungry?"
Blair stared silently up at the other man for a few seconds before replying. "Sure, starving."
"Would you like to join me for dinner?"
"Do you like Italian?" Ellison asked as he watched the other man put his coat on.
Blair nodded as he joined Jim at the door. The outer office was empty. Margaret had left half an hour ago, as had David. "Where are we going?" Blair asked as he locked the main door and then followed Ellison down the hall towards the elevators.
"Cappello's. Ever been there?"
"Yeah, a couple of years ago."
"The cannelloni is fantastic," Jim said to him as they walked into the elevator.
Blair paused and shifted uncomfortably when they exited the elevator into the parking garage.
"We'll take my car. You don't mind, do you?" Jim asked with a casual glance at the other man.
Sandburg shook his head 'no.' It was no problem. Right! Being alone in an enclosed space with a man who had the ability to make him hard with just a glance. A straight man at that. He really did like to live dangerously.
It was a quiet ride. Both men felt no need to disturb the night's stillness.
"Shall we?" Jim said breaking the silence and gesturing towards the restaurant after handing his keys to the valet.
Blair nodded and stepped inside, the solid presence at his back making a shiver run up his spine. Jim's proximity made him oblivious to the maitre de's obsequious spiel along the way to the table.
"What would you gentlemen like to drink this evening?" the maitre' de asked as the two men seated themselves.
"Just water," Blair replied. He wanted to keep all his wits about him, although that wasn't hoping for much since it didn't seem like his head was the one making the decisions tonight.
"Very good, Gary will get them for you. Enjoy your meal," wished the maitre de before scurrying away.
Blair looked around the restaurant. It didn't look like it had changed much in two years. "Thank you," he said, accepting the glass the waiter put down in front of him.
Gary handed them the menus and said simply, "I'll give you some time to look over the menu, gentlemen."
Ellison nodded. That was one of the things that kept him coming back to this place, the efficient staff. That, along with the good food. He smiled at the thought, looking across the table to find a matching smile on the attorney's face. "What's so funny?"
Blair's smile broadened as he met Jim's eyes. "Nothing really, I was just thinking that it's been awhile since I've been to a restaurant without prices on the menus."
"How long has it been?" Jim asked, intensely curious. The expensive suits that Blair wore bespoke a prospering business.
"Two years," Blair replied before quickly changing the subject. "So. are you going to order the famous cannelloni?"
Jim smiled. For some reason it pleased him immensely that Blair was going with his recommendation. "So, tell me, why Law?"
Blair laughed. "Most people who know me would say because I was a born debater. I have a big mouth and what better use for it than to help people get what they are entitled to."
"Against big bad corporations."
"You never wanted to be a criminal attorney?"
"I was. First year out of law school, I was a defense attorney. I disagreed with some of the...politics the firm I worked for espoused, so I left. What about you? Have you always worked for Ellison Enterprises?"
Jim nodded, his lips twisting wryly. "I began learning the business when I was thirteen, although I got my degree in Engineering and Technical Design."
Blair took a sip of his water, wondering what Ellison was thinking as he looked at him so intently. "What are you thinking about?" he asked before he could stop himself and was shocked at Jim's reaction.
Ellison actually felt his cheeks flush, a reaction he hadn't had since he was fifteen and got caught looking at a pornography magazine. "I was wondering why you pull your hair back?" He admitted, his gaze shifting momentarily to the ponytail before returning to the blue eyes which were now filled with amusement.
"Well," Blair began with an undercurrent of laughter, "as you so politely phrased it at our first meeting, I don't look like your typical attorney. This keeps it much simpler and seems to annoy the judges less than when I walk into the courtroom or chambers with my hair down. I seem to remember getting a lecture from his honorable self, Supreme Court Justice Townsend on appropriate hairstyles befitting a member of the legal profession."
"The Supreme Court?"
Blair gestured negatively with his right hand. "It wasn't a case. I was just there to deliver some papers and he waylaid me in the hallway. Of course it didn't help that I was wearing a Grateful Dead tee-shirt."
Jim chuckled at the sight Blair must have been then. It was something he wished he had seen.
Their food arrived and the next few minutes were spent with exclamations of delight as each tasted the cannelloni, declaring it the best they had ever had.
Jim watched the brandy swirl around the glass before bringing it up for a sip. "Are you married?"
Blair shook his head, his mouth occupied with swallowing. "No," he paused, his eyes looking downward for a second, "I'm sorry about your wife."
Jim looked out across the sea of faces in the restaurant. "Thank you." His eyes soon returned to the man seated opposite him, "Ever been close?"
"Nope, besides I don't think anyone could put up with my schedule for very long."
"So you're not involved with anyone right now?"
Blair frowned and shook his head "no."
"Good, I would hate to think that I was getting you in trouble," Jim said in a teasing tone while he discreetly motioned for the bill.
"Wait," Blair called out to the waiter who seemed to magically appear and disappear with Ellison's credit card in the blink of an eye.
"I invited you to dinner," Jim reminded him in a resolute tone.
Blair gritted his teeth in irritation. That tone brought back some bad memories. He took a long drink of the chardonnay he had ordered once the food arrived, wishing now that he had asked for something stronger.
"Why settle now after all these months?" Blair asked. It had been bugging him ever since the day he had first met the tall handsome man.
Jim sighed. "I wasn't aware of the problem--the defect or the class action. Steven, my brother, was running the company with my father's council up until three weeks ago. It's no excuse. The defect should never have happened. Those motorcycles should never have been sold. It was reprehensible that they were. My father and I hold vastly differing ideas of acceptable business practices." He stared intensely at Blair's nodding face.
"I take it my legal department had you running in circles," Jim said with a sympathetic expression.
"And into walls," Blair said with a small chuckle, "There were times when I wanted to strangle Brackett."
Jim's eyebrows lifted at the underlying vehemence in the comment. "I hope he wasn't too hard on you?"
'You have no idea,' Blair thought grimly. "Let's just say we had a personality clash and leave it at that." His firm tone effectively ending the subject.
"Shall we go?"
Silence fell once again in the confines of the car until Ellison pulled into the empty space next to Blair's roadster.
"Nice," Jim commented.
"Thanks. I restored her myself," Blair said proudly.
"Can I take a look?"
Both men got out and spent the next few minutes under the hood listening to the engine. "Sounds sweet," Jim judged.
"She runs even sweeter."
Blair reached up and closed the hood with a soft slam.
"You're losing this," Jim softly said, his hand reaching out to catch the black silk tie falling from the now loose mass of curls.
Blair's left hand instantly reached back to grasp the hair tie and his hand met Ellison's instead. Both men froze at the touch. Blair looked slowly up, not daring to breath.
Jim's hand tightened and he tenderly brought Blair closer as he bent down to meet those full lips with his own.
Blair watched as Jim bent down, his body completely wired. His lips parted at the first touch, anxious to taste the other man. Pleasure coursed through him as the tongue ruthlessly took advantage, exploring his mouth so thoroughly that it left him breathless.
"I like your hair down."
Blair blinked at the incongruous comment. "Okay."
"They're having a party for me at the Smirnoff Center tomorrow. Will you join me?" Jim asked as he continued to look down into the dark blue eyes.
Blair swallowed nervously, "A date?"
Jim nodded and Blair heard himself answer, "yes."
"Good." Jim bent down and kissed him again, this time chastely. "I'll pick you up at 8."
He released his grip on Blair reluctantly and stepped back. He watched as Blair got into the car and shot a smile in his direction before turning and driving away.
A matching smile covered Jim's face all the way home.
It didn't take long for reason to catch up with his balls, only four blocks, in fact. Fuck! Blair hit the steering wheel. Hard. He welcomed the pain since it helped clear his head. Well, one thing was perfectly clear. Jim Ellison wasn't as straight as Blair had thought.
He laughed at the inane thought. The big problem was that Ellison was a defendant in one of his cases. Okay, so Ellison Enterprises had settled but some of the agreements hadn't been formalized yet. It was an ethical grey area to be sure but it still might be questionable for him to fraternize with Jim. He couldn't afford to give any of his enemies any extra ammunition.
Blair sighed as he parked his car in his parking space and made his way up to his apartment.
'Hmmm,' he thought suddenly as he got into bed. 'He hadn't asked Jim why they were giving him a party. That might be important.' he mused as he fell asleep.
Blair adjusted his tie for the thousandth time, staring with frustration into the mirror. It just didn't look right. Maybe it was his hair? He stared at the long curly hair reaching past his shoulders. When had it gotten this long? He needed a haircut. Normally when he wore a tux he automatically pulled his hair into a ponytail, but not tonight. A flush crept up his face as he remembered the feel of Jim's hand buried in his hair when they had kissed.
He softly sighed. Blair hadn't been this nervous for a while. Doubts filled his head wondering if this wasn't about to be one of his monumental screwups. He frowned at the tie he had just re-done. It still didn't look right. He was just about to re-do it when there was a knock on the apartment door.
Blair took a deep breath before opening the door. Showtime.
Jim's smile broadened as he took in the younger man. He gave a low chuckle as he walked into the apartment. "You do it deliberately, don't you?"
He shook his head, slightly confused. "Do what?"
"Dress conservatively knowing how much it emphasizes your exotic good looks," Jim said, eyeing Sandburg's tux. It was one of the most classic tuxedos he had seen in the past twenty years. He was surprised that it didn't have tails.
Blair gave a husky laugh and looked away. "I plead the fifth, besides, I do like it when their faces tense up disapprovingly."
Jim snorted softly. "Here James Dean," he said, holding out the violet orchid boutonnière, exactly like the one he was wearing. "Let me," Jim heard himself astonishingly offer. He kept his attention on the flower, and tried to ignore the younger man's achingly close body. The slight curve he could feel as his fingers brushed lightly against the left side of Blair's chest, instantly evoking erotic images of a bare muscular chest. If he wasn't careful, they would never make it to the party.
Blair stared, mesmerized at the rugged face so close to his, feeling the strong fingers brush against his chest as Jim smoothly fastened the eye-catching flower to his left lapel.
"There," Jim said and quickly stepped back breaking the intense moment. "Shall we go?" Blair could only nod.
"Aren't you curious about the party?" Ellison glanced in Blair's direction while he maneuvered the car through the evening traffic.
"It's to celebrate your return to Ellison Enterprises, isn't it?" Blair replied, immediately adding in response to Jim's questioning look, "I read about it in the paper." He didn't add that he had also read the society gossip column which celebrated the return of one of the most notoriously eligible bachelors to Cascade. Evidently, William Ellison's eldest son had cut quite a path through the female population before marrying Carolyn Plummer. Blair wondered if he had cut an equally wide trail through the male population?
The ride didn't take long and soon Blair found himself staring up at a huge crystal chandelier.
A frown covered Steven Ellison's handsome face as he observed the guest of honor arrive late with his...date. He motioned to Brackett who happened to be nearby. "Lee, who is that...man with Jim?"
Lee turned around, his sharp eyes instantly focusing on the pretty face of the long haired man standing next to his boss. "Blair Sandburg. He's an attorney," Brackett stated quietly, his eyes narrowing at the sight of the blue-eyed lawyer.
Both men paused just inside the ballroom, a waiter immediately appearing to offer them champagne, which they accepted.
Blair looked around. Hors d'oeurves had been set up on a table to the left of the ballroom. "What, there wasn't a dinner?" he teased.
Jim grimaced and glanced sideways at Blair. "No," he said firmly, "I vetoed the dinner."
Blair laughed knowingly. He would have vetoed the whole thing, although he did enjoy a good party, just not this kind.
Jim tilted his head in the direction of the food, "Want to get something to eat?"
"No, I'm fine."
"I'm starving, I skipped dinner. Keep me company?"
"Sure, lead on McDuff."
Ellison smiled, a thing he seemed to be doing a lot lately.
They hadn't made it three feet before an attractive middle-aged woman stepped into their path. "Good evening, Jim," she greeted first before turning her eyes towards his companion.
"Helen. This is Blair Sandburg, a friend of mine. Sandburg, Helen Grassleaf."
"How are you doing, Helen?"
"Good, it's great to have you back, Jim. We all missed you."
"It's good to be back. How's Hal and the kids? How's Anne liking Dartmouth?"
Helen beamed. "Anne's doing great. She's made the dean's list for the fourth straight semester."
"That's great. I knew she'd do well. We're on our way to the food; care to join us?"
She shook her head. "No, I'd better not. I've already gorged myself enough for one night. I think I'll go save Jerod from Betsy. She's been boring everybody about the latest quarterly reports from R & D."
Jim chuckled knowingly. "Same old Betsy. Good luck."
The men continued on their way. Jim just waving 'hello' to the numerous calls of "Hey Jim" and "Welcome back, Mr. Ellison."
Once at the table, Ellison immediately began eating. He ate three little sandwiches within the first two minutes to Blair's delight.
Blair watched, bemused. Jim reminded him of a little kid. He certainly didn't seem to be the uptight billionaire Blair first met in the courthouse. All right, so maybe he had formed an erroneous impression based on Ellison's financial status, but more often than naught his first impressions were right on target much to his chagrin.
Blair picked up a slice of honeydew melon and some strawberries. "Are those sandwiches any good?"
Jim nodded, "Especially the chicken salad. Have one." He placed the little sandwich on Blair's plate and stared expectantly at him.
Blair took a hesitant bite; he'd had a bad experience with finger sized sandwiches at the age of thirteen that he had no wish to repeat. He smiled and nodded. "Pretty good. And no, I don't want another one," he said quickly, halting the man's move to get him another sandwich.
Ellison shrugged and looked across the crowd. "Would you excuse me for a minute? I see someone I need to talk to."
"Sure, I'll be here," Blair responded with a small smile. He turned around and was gazing down at the food to see what else he might like to try when someone walked up close behind him. He turned with a bright smile, "Back so...." He froze when he saw who it was.
"Good evening," Lee Brackett drawled. "How are you doing this lovely night, solicitor?"
"Fine," Blair responded, pasting a polite expression on his face.
Lee's blue-grey eyes gleamed. "I would say that you're doing more than fine."
Blair tensed at the insinuating tone. "What the hell does that mean?"
On the other side of the ballroom, Jim tensed and motioned to the man talking to him for silence.
"It seems you had a bigger fish in mind. Congratulations."
"Listen, you arrogant schmuck! I turned you down because I have no patience for assholes." Blair picked up another champagne glass and walked away, exuding indignation with each step.
Jim frowned as he turned and scanned the heads for Sandburg. His gaze immediately finding Brackett's instead. He had always wondered why the head of the legal department had personally overseen this class action lawsuit instead of pawning it off on one of his assistants. It seemed he now had his answer. Jim grit his teeth at the thought of Lee and Blair together.
"Jim, are you all right?" Bob asked, not liking the expression on his nephew's face.
"I'm fine, please continue with what you were saying," he requested although his eyes continued to scan around for a curly head of hair.
Blair stalked angrily away from Brackett. What a dick! He needed to get some fresh air. He maneuvered between the cliques and towards the balcony with a skill learned long ago.
He leaned his forearms against the railing and took a deep breath to relax. It was a beautiful night.
"So, you've finally come to your senses!"
Blair turned around with a sigh. He had just thought this night couldn't get worse. Blair stared into the arrogant green eyes, his back immediately tensing at the pleased expression on the man's face. "I'm not here for you...or to be seen with the right people."
A frown formed on the man's face. "So, why are you here?"
"I came with a friend."
The man's face darkened warningly, "Who?"
"None of your business."
The man took a step forward, but caught himself before he took another. "You are my business, Blair, and always will be."
Blair flushed and looked away, right into Helen's face.
"Blair, I'm so glad I found you. Jim asked me to come find you," she explained pleasantly.
"Where is he?"
"Back where you left him, at the food."
"Tell him I'll be there in a moment, thanks."
Both men patiently waited until the woman was out of hearing distance before continuing.
"You're here with James Ellison?!" The man's eyes narrowed angrily.
"Yes, and if you'll excuse me." Blair turned to leave but was halted by an iron grip. He looked pointedly down at the hand on his forearm and then back into the green eyes.
"I'm not done with you, yet."
Blair stepped closer to the other man. "Let go."
The man held on a few seconds more before releasing him. "This isn't over."
"It was over a long time ago," Blair called over his shoulder as he walked away.
Lee smiled as Blair Sandburg passed within two feet of him without realizing it. He had been captivated by the little exchange the attorney had had while out on the balcony. It seemed Blair did indeed have a taste for the bigger fish.
Brackett wasn't the only one who had caught the balcony incident. Once Helen had returned with Blair's message and location, Jim had immediately used his hearing to eavesdrop.
Jim scrutinized Blair's face as he followed the attorney's path across the ballroom, curious about Blair's connection with Paul Windhom, an old family friend. The obvious answer made his right hand whiten on the champagne flute. He pasted a smile on his face as Blair finally approached.
"Hi. Get lost?" The question came out with more of a bite that Jim intended.
Blair frowned slightly. "Something wrong?"
"No, nothing," Jim said in a more normal tone. "Feel like getting out of here?"
"Do I? No offense, but this isn't my kind of party," Blair said with a grin.
"Mine either, but you do what you have to do."
"Only if you choose to," Blair breathed, startled at the sharp look Jim gave him. There was no way he could have heard that. A frown formed on his face as he thought back to the other time Jim had reacted to something he had said ,which he couldn't possibly have heard. "Where are we going?" he asked as they approached the car.
"Feel like going to a club?"
Blair nodded, "Great idea, man." He hadn't wanted the evening to end just yet. He had hardly gotten any time alone with the sexy man.
"So, did you have an okay time?" Jim asked casually as they got into the car.
"Good. I hope you weren't too uncomfortable...since you didn't know anyone at the party."
Blair's face tightened slightly. "Oh, I knew a couple. As an attorney, you meet lots of people," he replied in a casual tone.
Jim nodded. That sounded reasonable but that little conversation with Windhom was way too personal for a simple acquaintance. He felt his jaw tense at the unasked question. It was none of his business. Ellison took a deep breath as they pulled up outside of the club.
"Want to get a drink?" Jim asked as soon as they entered.
Sandburg shook his head, "No. I think I've had enough for tonight."
"There's a table over there," Ellison pointed out as he herded them towards it.
Once seated, both men instantly reached up to their respective ties. They laughed as their eyes met.
"I hate wearing ties," Blair declared, pulling his tie off and stuffing it in the right pocket of his trousers.
"I'm not too fond of them myself," Jim stated as he too completely removed his tie. Both men relaxed, enjoying the pulsating rhythm of the music. Jim grinned when an old Smiths' song began playing, "Shall we?"
Blair nodded enthusiastically.
"Mind if I lead?" Jim asked as they walked onto the dance floor.
"No," Blair replied as he placed his hand on Jim's firm shoulder, something he had wanted to do all night. His heart immediately accelerating at the touch of the strong hand on his waist, pulling him even closer.
Ellison smiled at the slight tremble that coursed through the body he was lightly holding. He took a deep breath, enjoying the aloe smell of the curly hair as it caressed the right side of his face. Jim pulled back slightly and looked down. The deep blue gaze catching his in an intense dance of desire.
Blair's breath hitched. He raised himself slightly and gently guided Jim's lips down until they met his. Blair moaned when Jim parted his lips, allowing him to slip his tongue into the hot mouth. God, Jim tasted good. Blair pressed himself even closer to Ellison until there was no more room.
Tongues twirled, curled and brushed against one another in a forceful dance of personalities. Blair gasped as he gently disentangled himself from the kiss, amazed to realize that Ellison had him firmly anchored by a double-handed grip on his butt. 'When the hell did that happen?' he thought dazedly. "I think," Blair began.
"We should get outta here," Jim finished, reluctantly letting go of his hold on the firm buttocks. He kept hold of Blair's right hand all the way to the door where his hand instantly moved to the middle of his back, unwilling to break the connection.
Blair paused in the cool night air while he waited for Jim to open his car door. He turned his head just as he was about to get in, anxious for another kiss which Jim instantly supplied.
Sandburg's deep breaths reverberated through the car when he finally managed to get in.
Jim shot a grin in Blair's direction as he sat behind the wheel and quickly got them moving. "Your place?"
Blair kept rubbing his hands up and down his thighs, being careful not to accidentally brush Jim in any way. He was too damn old to have sex in a car. Shit, the drive didn't seem to take this long earlier.
As soon as they parked outside the building, Blair was out of the car like a shot with Jim not far behind him. Both men knew better than to touch each other in the elevator on the way up to the apartment.
Sandburg set a new speed record for unlocking his door; instantly rushing in and turning around to meet Jim in a passionate kiss. He pushed Jim back against the door, closing it as he ran his hands down the broad shoulders and slid the black jacket off as he explored the contours of Jim's jaw line with the tip of his tongue.
Jim let out a deep groan. One hand reached up to bury itself in the mane of curls while the other gripped Blair's hip, pulling him hard against his groin. He pulled back the hair, bringing the delicious mouth back to his for a long deep-throated kiss.
Blair reached down and unfastened Jim's belt, gently unzipping the slacks before reaching in to brush against Jim's cock. He encircled it with his broad hand and then gently pulled his mouth away, letting them both catch their breaths.
Anticipation filled the air as Blair stared into Jim's flushed face. "Blair, will you let me?" Jim panted, his eyes drowning in the dark blue pools.
"Yes," Blair breathed, his cock hardening even more at the thought. He brought his mouth back to Jim's, whispering, "Yes, oh yes" against the parted lips before delving once again into the wet heat.
Jim reached down and gently drew Blair's hand away from his cock. He wanted to make this last as long as possible. He rubbed his face against Blair's grizzled cheek before moving to nuzzle his ear, all while unfastening Blair's slacks.
Blair moaned into Jim's chest at the feel of the hot hands cupping his bare buttocks. He didn't remember ever being this turned on before. "Jim," he panted, wanting only an end to this delicious torture.
Ellison blinked, trying to form a coherent thought, "Which way to your bedroom?"
Blair shook his head. No way was he going to make it that far. "Sofa," he replied carefully moving backwards so that neither one of them tripped over their pants. He was so busy trying to undo the buttons of Jim's shirt, it wasn't until the back of his knees bumped into something that he realized they were there.
Jim's hands had been equally busy. Blair's jacket and shirt were now trailing wide open, revealing a mass of curly chest hair, which he instantly began to comb through with one hand while his other reached into his pocket for a condom. "Do you have anything to use for lube?"
Blair thought for a millisecond before reaching back to thrust his hands between the seat cushions. A triumphant smile burst across his face as he pulled his hand out after a couple of seconds with a tube of KY jelly in it.
Ellison's eyebrows quirked but at the moment all he really felt was relief. He quickly put the condom on, despite the distracting hand caressing his bare chest.
Blair squeezed out some lube into his hand and reached down to gently encircle Jim's cock. With a few strokes, he coated it generously.
"Blair," Jim growled before pressing his mouth down to capture the full lips. He stepped back at the gentle push against his chest.
Blair quickly moved to a kneeling position facing the back of the couch. His breath hitched as Ellison moved up achingly close behind him. Hands gripped the back of the couch as he waited anxiously.
Jim pressed up against Blair's body completely still for a few seconds before reaching around to pull Blair's face sidewise for a kiss.
Blair reached behind to clutch Jim's hair. He was dazed when the kiss ended. Just one thought was clear. "Please, Jim."
Jim gave a low laugh, which made Blair shiver with need.
Blair tensed slightly as cold lubricant was spread inside his hot passage before quickly being replaced with a blissfully hard cock. His toes curled as it edged slowly inside. He let out a deep breath as the delicious invasion continued until he could feel Jim's scrotum pressing up against his buttocks.
His hands tightened on the couch as Jim slid almost completely out before sheathing himself back to the hilt inside him again. Blair began to tremble uncontrollably from the pleasure of the long deep strokes which lightly brushed his prostate on each return trip. It didn't take long before he was panting, wanting, needing more...
Jim gladly obliged by pulling Blair back tightly against his chest as his thrusts became hammerings.
Blair welcomed the rough thrusts. Each one pushing him ever closer to the edge. Jim held Blair's hips still as his cock shoved deep inside, again and again. Blair came with a shout as Jim continued to wildly thrust.
Muscles spasmed around his cock, heightening Jim's need. His thrusts became frenzied as his balls tightened. He plunged as deep as possible into the trembling body and came with a groan.
Jim lay with his chest pressed against Blair's back, panting for several seconds before he recovered enough to gently withdraw from the slightly shivering body beneath him. "Are you alright?" Jim asked softly. Concern shone from his light blue eyes.
Blair rested with his head on the back of the couch, too tired, too sated to move. "I'm fine. Just enjoying this feeling."
Jim chuckled against the back of Blair's neck causing a shiver to run up his spine.
"You've got to be kidding me?" Jim exclaimed incredulously, looking down at Blair's slightly hard cock.
"I don't think even I can get it up again after that," Blair explained with a tired smile as he moved to lay down on the couch with Jim behind him.
Both men didn't realize just how tired they were and soon fell deep asleep.
Blair tried to shift his leg, and wondered why he couldn't move. He soon remembered why as the feel of the body pressed up behind him made the memory of last night come flooding back. Jim's hand was around his waist and their legs were entangled. Some time during the night, it seemed that Ellison had managed to fasten his pants while he had not.
Mirth bubbled within Blair as he realized what they must look like, especially him with his pants around his ankles and shoes on.
"What's so funny?" Jim rumbled against the back of his neck.
"Shoes," Blair managed to say between chuckles.
Jim grinned, amazed at how good he felt this morning. Happiness...it had been awhile. He reached up and touched one of the curls which glinted red gold in the bright morning sunlight. "Blair?"
Blair glanced back at the serious tone before closing his eyes, waiting for the axe to fall. He knew Ellison was too good to be true. Without even realizing it, he tensed slightly as his mental defenses went up. "Yes?"
"What are your plans for today?"
Blair blinked in surprise. His hand reached down and patted Jim's thigh. "Let me up."
Jim got up on one knee, which allowed Blair to roll over flat on the couch, then he settled back down between Blair's now parted legs.
Blair stared thoughtfully into the light blue eyes above him. "None, why?" he asked with a guarded expression although the press of Jim's body against his groin was doing its best to distract him.
Jim smiled. "I want to spend the day with you but I have an appointment later this morning. Care to join me?" he invited as he bent down to kiss the full lips.
Blair parted his lips welcomingly. He moaned slightly at the tongue's first quiescent foray before plunging deep inside. Blair sucked on the intruder, eliciting a groan of pleasure from deep within Jim.
Ellison's light blue eyes were gleaming when the kiss ended. "Well?"
Sandburg shook his head in a daze. Oh right. "What kind of appointment is it?"
"My realtor. I'm looking for a new place."
Blair tensed defensively. No, that was heading into dangerous territory. He opened his mouth to politely refuse when Jim added, "I'd really appreciate it. I hate looking alone." Blair gave a mental sigh. "Okay."
Blair stared up at the handsome face above him. Jim seemed so much younger, freer...more open in the morning light. He reached up to pull the rugged face down to his for another electrifying kiss.
A grin covered Blair's face as Jim began to nuzzle and lick his way down his body. His cock hardened as Ellison's hands got into the act as well. Blair's back arched as Jim's mouth engulfed the head of his cock. So intense was the pleasure that he didn't notice the caresses on his butt until a startling finger thrust elicited a sharp stab of pain.
Jim lifted his head concerned. "Are you all right?"
Blair nodded with an embarrassed smile. "I don't think I'm up for that again, just yet."
"Sore?" Jim inquired with a slight grin.
"It's been awhile," Blair said simply as he watched Ellison stand up.
Jim jealously wondered how long it had exactly been and with whom. "Hungry?"
Blair swung his legs off the couch as he sat up. "I could eat," he quipped, adding at Jim's salacious grin, "FOOD."
"I'll make breakfast while you take a hot shower. It should help with the soreness."
"Doesn't everyone?" Jim responded as he walked into the small kitchen.
Blair pulled up his underwear and pants before walking around to the front of the counter which separated the two rooms. He watched in amazement as Jim moved around with the ease of long familiarity as he pulled out food and began to well...cook.
He was shaking his head as he walked through his bedroom to the bathroom. "He can cook too, unbelievable."
Out in the kitchen, the smile on Ellison's face got even broader.
Blair thrust his head under the hot water. "Aaaaah." The water felt wonderful as it flowed down his body. He winced slightly as he turned around to let the water hit his lower back. Oh yeah, it had been awhile all right. Only six years. Which wasn't to say that he hadn't had male lovers. He was just usually the one who was on top. He grinned at the thought. For some reason, he couldn't see Ellison as a bottom. He shrugged and began to get on with the actual task of getting clean.
He was still fastening his blue jeans when he stepped out into the living room. Blair let the smell guide him out onto his balcony where Jim had set up breakfast. His forehead wrinkled at the artfully arranged cantaloupe and honeydew melon slices on a plate in the center of the table.
"Great view," Jim said casually.
"Yeah, although I'm hardly ever here," Blair admitted as he sat down and picked up his fork.
"I think I'd like to have a view of the Bay," Jim decided. He was tired of manicured lawns. The suburbs had never really been his style, but Carolyn had wanted the house. He forced a smile. "That'll narrow down the number of properties we'll get dragged to, right?"
Blair had seen the sadness flicker in the sky blue eyes and wondered what had caused it. He nodded before looking down at his plate. The first bite was hesitant but at the spicy taste, he began eating with gusto. "How'd you know I like spicy food?" he asked as he took a sip of orange juice.
"The half dozen take-out containers containing Kung Pao, Szechwan, jambalaya..."
Blair held up his hand to stop the list. "I give," he said laughingly.
"Leftovers are only good for a couple of days you know. Some of the dishes weren't even recognizable," Jim remarked in a disapproving tone.
Sandburg just shrugged completely oblivious to how the tight royal blue t-shirt stretched sexily across his chest with the motion.
"I take it you don't cook?" Jim drawled, shifting slightly in his chair.
"Actually, I do. I've just been busy lately." Blair looked over at the other man, letting his gaze fall to the wrinkled shirt. He flushed as he remembered how the shirt had sustained the damage. "Shower's free. What time is your appointment?"
Jim checked his watch. "We have forty minutes." He paused as he opened the balcony door, "Did the hot water help?"
Blair grinned. "I'm good to go."
Ellison stepped back and leaned down and kissed the smiling mouth. "I'll remember that," he whispered against the parted lips, then straightened and went inside.
Jim didn't know exactly what to expect when he walked into the bedroom but it wasn't a wolf's den. Penetrating silver eyes greeted him from the large forest mural covering the wall opposite, which featured a wolf pack running through a forest, with the alpha male above on a cliff warning off all enemies.
Ellison stared at the alpha's glowing eyes, which seemed to warn him to tread carefully as well. Jim laughed at the whimsical thought and continued on his way to the bathroom, discounting the flash of grey fur he saw for a millisecond out of the corner of his eye.
Blair strolled into his bedroom looking for his other Nike hiking shoe. The sound of the shower instantly making him imagine how Jim's smooth muscular chest would look glistening with droplets.
The intense lust that flooding him at the thought startled Blair. Last night had been too quick. He hadn't had the chance to really appreciate the tight body the way his dick was demanding him to. In fact, last night's encounter didn't seem to have taken any edge off at all, merely the opposite. He couldn't wait for the next time and that scared the hell out of him. Blair frowned. Relationships just didn't seem to work out for him.
He walked over to the closet and began rummaging for a shirt that would fit Ellison. Blair picked out a blue silk shirt, which was just a little too big for him in the shoulders but should fit Jim perfectly.
Jim walked out of the bathroom, not at all surprised to find the other man in the bedroom.
"Here, this should..." Blair began as he turned around but trailed off at the sight of Ellison. Jim was bare-chested, wearing just his black slacks, which only magnified the handsome man's sexual aura. "Or maybe I'm just not getting enough," Blair muttered under his breath.
Sky blue eyes looked questioningly at Blair but Jim said nothing.
"This should fit you."
Jim nodded while he accepted the shirt. "Can I borrow a pair of socks, as well?"
"Sure, what color?"
Blair's lips twitched. He was an argyle man himself but he did have a pair of white socks. He tossed them to Ellison and leaned back against the dresser to enjoy the view.
Jim casually sat down and pulled on the socks extremely aware of the blue eyed scrutiny. "Problem?"
"No, just...are you sure you want me along? Looking for a place to live is sort of personal."
Ellison's lips twitched slightly upwards as he looked down at his feet. "No pressure, counselor," he stated and looked up at Blair.
Blair looked away and out the bedroom window, trying to fight the smile that was threatening to break across his face and losing. "Okay, fine. Let's go," he said with a laugh and started for the door.
It was Jim's turn to enjoy the view as he followed the other man out.
Blair let himself tiredly into his dark apartment, immediately noticing the flashing red light on his answering machine. He walked over and looked down at the machine, hesitating for only a second before pushing the play button, knowing and dreading who...what he was about to hear.
The suave arrogant voice permeated throughout the apartment, displacing the quiet serenity. "There are some things I wish to discuss with you. I'll be having a late meeting at the Tower. I'll expect you at nine."
Blair frowned. Well, that blew his plans all to hell. He would just have to prepare for court tonight instead of tomorrow before work as he planned. Putting off the "requested" meeting with Windhom would end up only causing him more grief. The man would just turn up at the most inopportune time and place for another discussion.
A smile flitted across his face at the smooth clipped tone of the next caller. Jim. "I'm just calling to thank you for helping me out today with the apartment hunt. Till Tuesday."
He began unfastening his shoes thinking back on the day's events. Apartment hunting with Ellison hadn't been so bad. In fact, it had been sort of well...fun. Of course, it helped that he had been accompanying a billionaire who was looking for a new place.
Once Jim had informed the real estate agent that he wanted someplace with a spectacular view of the bay, it hadn't taken long for Jim to find a place. The loft was perfect, Blair had admitted to himself as he had walked on the beautiful hardwood floor and looked at all the windows. The view of the bay dominated the room. A penthouse apartment. It seemed to suit Jim to a tee. He sighed and rose to walk over to his desk. Time to get to work.
Jim peered into the refrigerator, looking for something to eat. A saran wrapped piece of chicken looked promising. He dug around for the container of mashed potatoes he had come across earlier. Ellison had begun regretting his rejection of Blair's dinner offer for the last couple of hours. But he had wanted to get started on packing his things and arranging to move into the loft as soon as possible. He would be tied up in meetings all day Monday and he really didn't want to spend another night in his father's house.
He had just gotten used to living without so many people constantly about. He had forgotten what it was like to have a full-time serving staff. Jim sighed as he sat down and began eating. It would be nice to have his own place again.
"Jim, I've been looking for you. Where have you been all day?"
"Good evening, Steven. What can I do for you?" Jim greeted his brother pleasantly.
"Jim what the hell is wrong with you? It was all right when you were in college to...to experiment. But now. It would have killed father if he had seen you arrive with that, that man to your party last night. You spent the night with him, I suppose?" Steven asked with a disgusted expression on his handsome face.
Jim's face tightened into an unreadable expression as he stood and took a step closer to his brother. Blue eyes met grey unwavering. "Steven, I'm only going to tell you this once. My private life is none of your business. Stay out of it."
Steven shook his head. "You're not serious. Jimmy, come on! I thought you were done with this crap. You were married, for Christ's sake."
Jim laughed and shook his head slightly. "Done with what, Stevie? Being bi-sexual. I'm sorry, but things don't work that way, little brother. Get used to it."
"Get used to it. Get used to what? That longhaired pretty boy that you embarrassed the family with at the party? Well I have news for you, Jimmy. You're not the first rich man to be enthralled by Blair Sandburg."
Jim's face darkened.
"That's right. According to this preliminary report Brackett was able to put together today, Blair Sandburg lived with Paul Windhom while he was in law school. Furthermore, it appears Windhom was the one who paid for the whole thing--law school, the clothes and that snazzy car of his."
Jim grabbed the report Steven was waving around and began to read it.
"Sandburg dumped Windhom two years ago. I guess he had no more use for the old man. Not when he could get a younger one," Steven added in a smug tone.
"Get away from me, Steven." Jim growled while staring coldly into his brother's eyes.
Steven knew he had crossed the line and made a hasty retreat. He had never seen actual hatred in the ice blue eyes before. He wouldn't want to be in Sandburg's shoes when his brother got done with him.
Jim stared in disbelief at the words in the report. It appeared that everything Steven had said was true and it certainly fit the exchange Blair had had with Windhom at the party. There was something between the two men, that was for certain. He just couldn't believe that Blair had taken advantage of Windhom. Sandburg didn't seem the type to be so mercenary. Just the opposite in fact, more a bleeding heart liberal. Jim gritted his teeth. He needed some answers, and there was only one person he wanted them from.
Blair straightened his back before stepping into the main dining room of the Tower and immediately headed towards Windhom's usual table in the corner. The best one, of course.
He nodded to the seated man as he pulled out his chair and sat down. "Good morning." Paul Windhom silently stared at the handsome man for a few seconds. "What is going on, Blair?"
"I don't know what you're talking about. You're the one who asked to see me," Blair responded and then turned his attention to the waiter. "Morning Tony, I'll have eggs and bacon."
"The usual? You got it, Mr. Sandburg."
"James Ellison," the man ground out with a hard look.
"What? You jealous because someone else got to show me off?"
Windhom's lips tightened into a thin angry line.
Blair shrugged. "I'm dating him."
Disgust raged in the green eyes. "So you're going to persist with this insanity?"
"What insanity is that? My life? I will date who I want and live and work where I want. I won't be your little puppet. I had enough of that when I was in law school."
Silence fell as the two men stared balefully at each other.
Blair sighed and looked down at the table for a moment before back to the face, which many would say was still as handsome as ever. "Look, I'm sorry. I tried to be the person you wanted, but I couldn't do it. Let me go."
Paul gave an elegant snort at the pretty little speech. "Enjoy your meal."
Blair watched, irritated as the distinguished looking man left without another word. Paul hadn't heard a damn word he'd said, except that he was dating Jim. 'Great, just great,' he sarcastically thought as his breakfast arrived, knowing that the controlling man had no intention of admitting defeat. 'Not when it came to him.' The stakes had just been raised in his little ongoing battle with Paul Windhom the Third.
Blair walked into his office whistling. "Hey Mags, I thought you'd be gone by now. It's past six. Get outta here. Go have a life," he teased.
The expression on Margaret's face didn't change as she whispered, "Mr. Ellison's here. He's been waiting for you for over an hour. He doesn't look too happy." Actually, that was an understatement. Margaret had never seen a man so cold and expressionless in her life.
Blair frowned, his gaze instantly going past her towards the closed door. "Go on home, Margaret. I've got this."
She nodded and beat a hasty retreat. She didn't want to be around when the shit hit the fan, which it undoubtedly was about to.
Blair walked carefully into his office. "Jim, I thought we had plans for tomorrow?" he pleasantly began as he walked towards his desk and placed his briefcase down. He carefully kept a neutral expression as Ellison rigidly advanced to stand directly in front of him.
"Did you used to live with Paul Windhom?"
Blair forehead wrinkled slightly, "Yes, what about it?"
"He paid your way through law school?"
Blair nodded his head. "I worked as an intern at his law firm during law school and for the first year after I passed the BAR."
Jim's face tightened and he turned away to stare outside the window.
"What is this all about, Jim?"
"This is about you and Windhom!"
Blair spoke confusedly, "There is no me and Windhom. I walked away from that life years ago." Well, he started this day out with a meeting from hell and it looked like he was going to end it with one as well.
Ellison's hands clenched into fists at Blair's words.
Blair ran a hand through his hair, suddenly remembering that he still had his hair pulled back. He took out the clasp and shook his head, letting the mane of hair down with a sigh.
"I didn't know you had a problem with Paul Windhom. I thought he was a friend of your family."
"He is," Jim said stiffly and turned around, temporarily stunned at the sight of the riot of curls which were down around the bewitching face.
"Look Jim, I'm tired. I've had a long day, so just tell me what this is all about."
"You're no longer involved with Windhom?" Jim asked with the hope that Blair would tell him the truth.
"Involved?" Blair was puzzled for a few seconds at the curious choice of words until realization dawned. Stormy blue eyes stared into Ellison's judgmental face. Blair let out a bitter laugh causing Jim to flinch.
"No, I'm no longer INVOLVED with Paul but I was in the past." Blair fell silent and waited for Jim's reaction. He hoped that this time he was wrong and Jim didn't turn out to be a royal bastard like the last one.
"You slept with him for money?" Jim asked disbelievingly.
"No, I never slept with Windhom, although I did let him buy my time and regard for awhile."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"It means just what I said. Now, let me ask you something. Why the hell is it any of your business whom I have or haven't slept with in the past? Who the hell are you?" Blair demanded stepping around the desk and up into Ellison's face.
"I'm the guy who fucked you yesterday morning, or have there been so many since then that you've forgotten?" Jim instantly caught the right hook Blair swung at him and the left hook a second later.
"You son of a bitch!" Blair struggled for only an instant in Ellison's arms before stilling.
"I'm sorry. That remark was out of line. I just," Jim paused, and released his hold on Blair. He turned away before he continued in a destroyed sounding voice. "I just couldn't believe it when I found out. I like you. I don't want to believe that you had sex with me as some sort of nefarious scheme."
"I didn't." Blair sighed as he sat on the edge of the desk. He needed to put an end to this game he was playing. He watched as Jim began to pace back and forth before the windows. "I slept with you because you made Becky laugh and you are sexier than hell."
Jim froze and turned questioningly towards Blair.
"Paul Windhom is my father."
"Your father?" Jim repeated as he walked back to stand before Blair.
Blair nodded. "My full name is Blair Thomas Sandburg Windhom. Much to my father's chagrin I started going by Blair Sandburg almost from the very beginning. My mother was the complete opposite, personality-wise, from my father. She was a wild carefree soul who traveled eight months out of the year and took me along with her. Dad indulged her, something I only dimly remember. Well, with the places we went to, it wasn't smart for people to know you were from a wealthy family because kidnapping for ransom was a real possibility. So we dropped off Windhom and just used Sandburg. Mom died when I was twelve and I came back to the States; it just seemed natural to go by Sandburg as a way to remember her."
Jim frowned as he dimly remembered someone trying to introduce him to little Thomas who was hiding under the rosebushes when he was twelve or thirteen. The five year old hadn't come out and he had forgotten the whole thing until now. "Little Thomas Windhom.." he muttered as he gently cupped Blair's chin.
"Huh?" Blair asked as looked up into the light blue eyes.
Jim gave a slight shake of his head. "Just remembering something. I think our fathers tried to introduce us when I was twelve," he explained with a laugh.
Blair grinned at the thought of growing up with Jim. It would have made the teenage years a hell of a lot more interesting. "Speaking of fathers, mine gave me the riot act this morning...about you."
Blair nodded. "That was what I was talking about when I told you I walked away from that life two years ago."
"Being Paul Windhom's son."
"Yep. Dear old dad was under the unwarranted impression that I was going to work for Windhom, Juarez and Price. Play the dutiful son at cotillions and marry a girl fitting my station."
Blair gave a sly grin. "He wasn't too pleased when he found out I was bi-sexual. Although, it's better than me being gay. I mean there was always a chance that I'd end up marrying." The hand that was caressing his face froze. "Jim?"
"I don't think I like the idea of you marrying." Jim bent down and placed a light kiss on the lightly trembling lips.
A smile was on Blair's face when Jim pulled away. Blair pulled Jim closer between his parted legs. "I said WAS. You're going to have to learn to pay close attention to words, Ellison. You're dating a lawyer."
"Anything you say, counselor."
Then words became unnecessary as their lips met again.
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Acknowledgements: Thanks Peggy, Maggie, Mary, and Lisa for the beta work. The story wouldn't have gotten better without each and every one of you. Thank you Amy for the beautiful cover. And a huge hug goes out to Patt who guided me every inch of the way and hey, she's artistic as well. The pictures were inspiring, Patt. Feedback is appreciated, but if you like the story and want a sequel, you will definitely have to let me know. I do appreciate any comments whatsoever.