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For two weeks, Jacob tried to see Riley but couldn’t manage it. Riley didn’t avoid Jacob’s phone calls, answered them starting the morning after he left the apartment. He refused, however, to discuss anything that didn’t have to do with the Baxter murder case. As soon as Jacob began to apologize, Riley cut him off and asked if there was anything new to do with the case.
Riley was very careful to always answer the phone when Jacob called, unless he absolutely couldn’t because he was on the job. To ignore the man would give him an indication of the hurt he felt, even if the whole thing was his own fault. Jacob hadn’t lied to him, or done anything that he didn’t want done. In fact, he was the one who had practically jumped on Jacob every time they were together. That still didn’t mean that he would open himself up again.
When Jacob asked for a meeting, Riley asked what new information there was. When there was no real reason for the meeting, Riley refused to meet, saying they could discuss options just as well over the phone. The moment the conversation turned away from business, he excused himself and hung up.
He didn’t avoid Blue, although he made it perfectly clear that they were not to discuss anything to do with Blue’s brother. Not wanting to jeopardize their renewed friendship, Blue did his best to adhere to that condition. Jacob’s name sometimes came up, but only to say they had seen each other or things of that nature.
The two men were meeting for dinner one evening, and Riley arrived a little early. He’d spent a couple of hours with Hunter and they parted in front of the restaurant. Riley barely had time to sit before Blue came in. He looked shocked and just a little angry, which surprised Riley.
“What’s up? Is there something wrong?”
“Yes, I think there’s definitely something wrong, Riley,” he hissed, leaning forward over the table as he fought to keep his voice low. “Am I seeing things or was that really Hunter I saw you kissing out on the sidewalk? You can’t be seeing that jerk again!”
“You don’t understand…”
“You’re damned right I don’t understand! After what he did to you, I would think you would keep far away from him.”
Riley sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. “Look, I bumped into him a couple of weeks ago. He never got married and she was the only reason he ended things with me. It hurt him to break things off with me, but the woman did have a previous claim and he did what he thought he had to.”
“And you believe him? The man is probably feeding you a bunch of lines to pull you back in.”
“He hasn’t been the least bit secretive — I mean you saw him kissing me on the street! — and when I told him he would have to wait to be intimate, he agreed right away. He said it would be hard, but he hasn’t argued or pushed me even the slightest bit. He’s even brought me to his place and everything. He never did that before, but of course, back then we were working together. It’s so much better than it ever was. You have to trust me that I know what I’m doing.”
There was so much more to the whole thing, but as much as he wanted to, Riley knew he couldn’t bring them up right now. It was so delicate, balancing everything so carefully, he had to keep it all to himself. Not even Sara was in his confidence about this.
There was no mistaking the disbelief on Blue’s face. Most likely, it was only his desire to keep their friendship going that kept Blue from saying exactly what he thought of the whole situation. Riley could almost see the internal struggle going on. On the one hand, Blue wanted to keep their friendship. On the other hand, a friend would try and keep another friend from making a terrible mistake. Waiting to see which side of the argument would win was a bit nerve-wracking.
In the end, Riley knew that he had pushed this too much and too far. Blue stood up from the table, shaking his head sadly. “I can’t sit here and pretend that I’m all right with this. You’re making a mistake, taking up with Hunter again after everything he put you through. I don’t want to judge you and if you ever need to talk, please know you can call me, but…”
“I’m sorry. Sorry that you feel you can’t even share a meal with me now. You may not believe it, but I do know what I’m doing and what I’m getting myself into. I’m not quite as stupid as people seem to think I am. I’ll see you around, Blue.”
Riley turned his attention back to the menu, not seeing the words printed there. He had no right to be hurt, because his actions ensured that this was exactly the reaction he would get. In a few days or weeks, when things settled down, it would feel wonderful to be vindicated. So what if his none of his friends understood or believed in him? He would do what he had to and that had to be enough.
“You’re not stupid! What you are is naïve; gullible. You believe the best of everyone, even if they don’t deserve it.”
“Please go, Blue. Go before you or I lose our temper and say things neither one casino siteleri of us means. I know what I’m doing,” he repeated. He kept his eyes down, unwilling to see the other anymore, knowing how he must look.
It took nearly a minute before Blue turned on his heel and left the restaurant. Riley slumped back in his chair, dejected and torn. Being with Hunter right now was the right thing to do. No matter how it alienated him from the few friends in his life, it was where he needed to be. Tomorrow he would call his parents. They knew nothing about this whole situation, and he needed to hear someone who would not judge him and tell him he was wrong.
His mother would tell him about the things going on in the neighborhood, the gossip that she loved to gather and was careful of repeating. Her son was an easy outlet, because he wouldn’t repeat any of it, and even if he did, he was far enough away that it didn’t matter. His father wouldn’t take the phone, more uncomfortable with him, but he would give his opinions in the background. Some of his observations were often very funny and they would make him laugh.
Food was the last thing he wanted, but he forced himself to eat everything on his plate. There was nowhere he wanted to be and nobody was expecting him. At the edge of his mind, he knew that if he called Hunter to say he wanted them to meet, he would immediately be invited over. They didn’t need to hide their meetings anymore and the contact would bring some kind of satisfaction.
Instead, Riley fingered the key in his pocket. Along with that key was a slip of paper with an alarm code. Yes, he would go and do some digging. That would keep him busy and stop him jumping into anything he wasn’t ready for. No matter what he told Blue, or even himself when feeling lonely and dejected, he didn’t know if he would ever let Hunter that close to him. Better for him to get some work done and dig up information for his clients.
At nine that evening, Riley eased himself down the darkened corridor, hoping the place was as deserted as it appeared. He used his keychain flashlight to see where he was going. At best, he figured he had half an hour at most to find the information he needed and get out. If he evaded the building’s security, there would be no reason for anyone to check the security tapes. He had no idea how he would explain his presence otherwise. At least, he chuckled wryly, he knew some lawyers he could hire.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he reached the personnel office and slipped inside. The blinds were drawn across the window, but he still refrained from turning on the overhead lights. Nobody could know he was here. The desk of the head accountant was in an office separate from the rest, and he headed that way, knowing the information he needed would most likely be found there.
The drawers to the filing cabinets were locked and he looked around for the keys. They weren’t in any of the desk drawers, or anywhere else he thought to look. Did the person take them home every night? That was unlucky. He could check on the computer, but it would take too much time to hack the password from here. Every minute he lingered made it more dangerous. Perhaps…the head assistant! Usually, the assistant would arrive earlier and might be responsible for opening up the office. Riley hurried out and paused. From this perspective, he could see something promising about halfway down the room.
Slowly he made his way through the row of cubicles towards the glow he could see in the darkness. Yes, one of the clerks had left their computer on. He sat down and let his fingers stroke the keys, wondering if he could access the personnel files from here. It depended, he supposed, on whether the person who left their computer on would leave their access codes in an easily accessible place. He pulled open the small drawer on his left and smiled at the piece of paper taped to the bottom, half-obscured by a handful of pens and pencils.
Browsing through directories and files, he finally found the personnel files. According to the box that popped up when he tried to open them, he only had three tries to get the correct password. Riley scanned the list of passwords in the drawer and zeroed in on the most likely one. An error message flashed for a moment, before the box returned. Another attempt proved wrong as well, and he started to sweat. Heart pounding against his ribs, Riley spent a few precious minutes focused on the paper, trying to will the correct one to leap out at him.
None of them seemed right. There were four possibilities left and they all seemed wrong. What would happen if he typed the wrong one? At best, he would simply not have the opportunity to try again and would have to leave, since he couldn’t stay any longer. At worst, his attempts would be flagged and they would know someone had been in the offices after hours.
With a deep breath, figuring he might as well take his chances, Riley carefully typed in his last hope. For a moment, he slot oyna was sure he’d failed. The computer screen went blank for a few seconds, dashing his hopes. Then, the database appeared and he covered his face in relief. A few clicks and keystrokes and he was looking at the information he’d come for. Picking up a pen, he removed his notebook from his pocket and copied down everything on the screen, whether he needed it or not. Best to have too much than not enough.
He would go home, hop onto the computer and input his new searches with what he now knew, and things would start moving forward on this case. In the morning, he would call his mother and put the file together to forward to the client. Once that was done, he might take a little vacation.
There was his grandfather’s cabin up in the mountains. A week away from people would do him a world of good. With one stop for groceries on the way up, he would be all alone up there, since it was late enough in the season for the few other cabins to be empty. He might even catch up on his reading and there were a few movies he’d bought but had yet to watch. Yes, a vacation alone was a fine idea.
By the time Blue got home, he already regretted leaving Riley in the restaurant. It was none of his business who the guy dated and he had no right to make him feel bad about it. Two weeks ago, when they finally got together again, Blue told Riley it wasn’t up to him to agree or disagree with what Riley did. Now he’d just done it again. He really was a terrible friend.
“You’re back early,” Harley called from the living room. Blue went to the kitchen for something to drink while he answered.
“Yeah, I ended up not staying. Riley is back with Hunter and I told him it was a bad idea and left. He was making excuses for the guy and said he knew what he was doing. I should have stayed but I couldn’t.”
“He’s back with that Hunter guy?” That voice didn’t belong to Harley and Blue swallowed as he turned to face his brother. “What the fuck is he thinking of!”
It didn’t take long for Blue to relate the conversation he had with Riley at the restaurant. He admitted how he had walked away, even though he regretted it before he got very far away. Now, away from the shock and the situation, he remembered the strange way Riley said ‘I know what I’m doing’. There had been a strange emphasis on those words. Possibly it was a reference to people not thinking him smart. If there was more, he couldn’t imagine what it was.
Their conversation was interrupted by Jacob’s phone ringing. He listened for a moment, then cursed soundly. When he hung up, he stared off absently, looking angry and confused. “Apparently, Riley called off the sketch artist the law firm contracted with. I don’t know what the fuck is going on.”
Jacob had to go in to the office. He would meet with Foster, find a number for the PI firm Riley worked for, and try to find out why the sketch artist was cancelled. Was Riley trying to undermine the investigation into Baxter’s possible alibi because of their falling out? He didn’t seem to be that kind of person, but what did Jacob really know about him? If there was a reason, it had better be a damned good one.
By ten in the morning, Riley was ready to go to bed. He’d searched databases, printed reports, double-checked the information and stuffed everything into two envelopes to be sent off later in the day. He then called his mother and got an earful of all the gossip he could handle for the next year. All he needed to do now was take a quick shower and he would fall into bed and sleep until the following day if he could manage it.
He was almost finished his shower when a loud noise caught his attention. Frowning, he turned off the water to hear better and caught the knocking at his door. Swearing at the thought of his well-deserved rest going out the window, Riley hurried into an old pair of sweats and ran out to answer the door, leaving the towel hanging from his shoulders. A furious Jacob stood in the hallway. The man didn’t even give him time to think of a greeting, just shoving him out of the way to barge into the room.
“Come in, by all means,” he muttered, glaring at Jacob’s back before shoving the door closed. “To what do I owe the honor of this early morning visit?” Okay, technically this couldn’t be considered early morning, but fuck he was exhausted.
“Did you or did you not cancel the sketch artist we had scheduled to meet with Andrew Baxter?”
“Well, yes I did, but…”
“You had no right to do that! It was at your suggestion that we got the guy, and after being cancelled once, he agreed to come back and you go and cancel him again!”
“I know. I had to…” Once again, Riley couldn’t get a word in edgewise and he started to get pissed off.
“Just because I let my mouth run away with me, which you won’t let me apologize for by the way, you can’t try and sabotage our client. The partners at the law firm are not pleased and have already canlı casino siteleri contacted your boss.”
“Before you start throwing accusations around, and trying to ruin my career, I would suggest you read your email! I sent you a message that I was going to cancel the sketch and why. But that would have been too easy, wouldn’t it? Instead of trusting me to know what I’m doing, you automatically think I’m some revenge-minded simpleton who doesn’t understand that a murder investigation and proving someone innocent is more important than my feelings.”
Riley tried to shove Jacob out of the apartment, but even angry as he was, he couldn’t manage it. Growling and muttering to himself, he stomped off to his room to get dressed. No longer tired, blood boiling as he replayed the encounter in the living room, he found the old suitcase and threw clothes into it. Fuck, if the law firm had contacted his boss, that meant that Mr. Wade would be pissed and probably fire him.
The knock, when it came, was soft enough, but it still made Riley jump and stumble over his own feet. He glared at the door, wondering if he should open it or not. Slowly, without even realizing it, the tension began to drain from his shoulders. Jacob was on the other side of the door, wanting them to talk.
Like Sara always told him, it was time to communicate. What good did it do to ignore the people who wanted to talk to him? All it did was to keep the hurt from going away when they might really just have said the wrong words. He sometimes said things he didn’t mean when surprised or angered by something. If he’d heard the story of his counselor from another person, maybe he would have reacted the same way.
Taking a fortifying breath, he called out for Jacob to come in. “I’m sorry that I took off and didn’t listen to what you wanted to say. Um, when I told you about the counselor, I mean. It’s a touchy subject for me, as you might have guessed.”
“I couldn’t believe what that idiot told you. I spoke without thinking, but even so, it was a shitty thing to say to you.” The two of them looked briefly at each other, until Riley couldn’t take it anymore and lowered his gaze. “So, um, Blue says you’re back with Hunter.”
“No! God, don’t you ever read your email? I couldn’t contradict Blue, because it’s part of a case and confidential. Even if he’s your brother, I couldn’t tell him anything. I could never go back to Hunter, not after you…I mean…I don’t think about him in that way anymore.”
Luminous green eyes, wide at what escaped unbidden, lifted again to look into pale brown ones. Jacob smiled at the expression of wariness directed at him. He took a step forward and cupped the soft cheek, sparse stubble lightly scratching the skin of his palm. He stroked a thumb over full lips, and shuddered when the tip of Riley’s tongue darted out to taste him.
Riley trembled, unable to look away from the handsome man in front of him, who touched him with such tenderness. It wasn’t an overtly sexual touch, yet his lips parted to accommodate his increased breathing. He touched the tip of his tongue to the thumb and nearly groaned at the delicious, salty taste. Without thinking, Riley then curled his tongue around Jacob’s thumb and drew it into his mouth to suck on it.
It was good, not nearly enough, but good. Releasing it, Riley stepped forward, pressing his hands to the muscled chest before leaning up to claim a kiss. They tasted each other for a long time, slow and sweet, Riley opening up to let Jacob in. The trembling increased along with his arousal, until he couldn’t stand it anymore and started to rock and whimper.
Jacob lifted his head to draw breath into lungs that were started to burn. He pressed kisses along the jaw and throat that was bared for his touch. Soon he changed to licking and nipping, causing Riley to gasp and arch his back as he searched for more. Glistening, swollen lips tempted him back up and they let themselves fall down onto the bed as they resumed their kissing.
“Jacob.” Riley pushed Jacob away for a moment, needing to say something now before he forgot later. Being here with Jacob was so wonderful and so right. “I can’t promise not to take offense at things you might say. I do promise to at least try not to overreact, and to give you a chance to explain or apologize.”
“That’s all I can ask; all anyone can ask. I missed you, you know. When I heard that you were with Hunter again, I hated it. I don’t think I’ve ever been jealous before. I didn’t think I could be jealous.”
Something flashed in the depths of Riley’s eyes at those words, which then turned dark. Jacob found himself rolled over with a squirming body on top and hands roaming all over, touching and stroking wherever they could reach. When Riley whispered in his ear, his voice was strained and husky.
“Make love to me, Jacob. I want to feel all of you around me and in me.”
“Are you sure? We don’t have to…”
“Yes.” He started to undo his pants, rubbing his groin against Jacob. “I’ve been sure since we were in your apartment. I want this with you because I…I trust you, Jacob. I know you won’t do anything to hurt me physically, and not emotionally either if you can help it.”
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