“Those shoes look awfully fancy,” she said with a smile.
“I wanted to impress you.”
“That’s not your job or mine.” More with that smile. “But they’re a very nice pair of tuxedo shoes. I’ve learned all about men’s fashion from Butch.”
“He and I use the same tailor now.”
“I believe that.”
When they got to an unmarked steel door with no window in it, she knocked, waited a moment, and opened the way into an anonymous room with gray walls, a table in the center, and only two chairs.
“I’m sorry this is so dour,” she murmured as they entered and she closed them in together.
As she sat down, he realized she’d brought a yellow pad and a pen with her. Huh. He hadn’t even noticed she’d taken anything from the desk.
“Join me,” she prompted as she motioned to a chair.
“This won’t take long,” he muttered as he sat down. “Not long at all.”
As Ruhn pulled the truck over in front of the Commodore’s impressive front entrance, he was thinking about cologne—something that was not on his normal list of musings. Which was the point.
Leaning forward so he could regard the skyscraper’s towering steel-and-glass facade, he found himself finally understanding why people used the stuff. Previously, with no one to impress, the idea that you would deliberately scent yourself with something formulated by a bunch of humans and marketed to great expense seemed a ludicrous exercise in lost wages.
Now? With the prospect of Saxton joining him in this cab?
He wished he had the sophistication to know what was the right cologne and the money to buy it—
One side of the double doors opened and Saxton strode out into the cold, the male’s breath leaving in a puff of white that drifted over his shoulder. He had on that pale brown coat of his and a red scarf knotted and tucked in at his throat. His slacks were navy blue or perhaps black. His hair was thick and shiny, brushed back from his beautiful face. He had a brown satchel in one of his gloved hands.
Before Ruhn could stop himself, he put the truck in park and got out, going around to open the passenger door.
“You are so kind,” Saxton said with a smile as he approached.
Ruhn had to stop himself from leaning in for a kiss. And as if Saxton recognized this, he brushed Ruhn’s forearm as he got inside.
Shutting the door, Ruhn proceeded to resume his position behind the wheel. “Is it warm enough in here for you?”
“It’s perfect.” The male looked over. “How are you?”
An easy-enough question, but those gray eyes were pointed without being demanding. More was being asked, wasn’t it.
Ruhn cleared his throat and then focused on the male’s mouth. All at once, the air became thick and charged.
In a very low, very deep voice, Ruhn answered with the truth: “I am hungry.”
During the daylight hours, he had thought of nothing but their time together, replaying that erotic scene in that kitchen over and over again—until he had had to relieve himself. About a hundred times.
Being attracted to someone of the same sex still seemed strange.
That sex they’d shared had been the most natural thing he had ever done.
“Well,” Saxton murmured. “After our work is done, we’ll have to see if we can take care of that for you. A male must eat, doesn’t he.”
As the promise of orgasms and pleasure and exploration swirled between them, Ruhn put the engine in drive—and prayed this meeting with the human developers did not take long.
“I know where we’re going,” he said.
“As do I,” Saxton chuckled.
Ruhn blushed as he glanced over. “I mean across town.”
“Me, too.” Saxton reached over and squeezed his hand. “I shouldn’t tease you. It’s just that blush. You know.”
“It’s not manly.”
Saxton frowned. “What an odd way to put it.”
“I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m not good with words.”
“You do just fine.” Saxton squeezed again and released his hold. “You need to stop apologizing for yourself. You are not less than. People are only ever different.”
Given that Ruhn wasn’t sure what to say—as usual—he made a noise that he hoped seemed supportive. Agreeable. Something like that.
Fates, he was in over his head here.
“So,” the solicitor said briskly, “I have everything all arranged. Backdated contracts, which are already in the process of being filed with the humans, a cease-and-desist letter to threaten the developer with, and a partridge in a pear tree.”
“We’re bringing them a bird?”
Saxton laughed. “It’s a saying.”
Ruhn put the directional signal on and headed down toward the river. At the bottom of the decline, he nodded toward the ramp that would take them up onto the highway.
“Is this way okay?”
“However you wish to go. I trust you.”
With a nod, and a feeling of pride for that vote of confidence, Ruhn took them up onto a congested stretch of the Northway.
“Lot of traffic.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Saxton said. “Tell me, was Minnie okay? When you went to see her right before dawn?”
“Ah, yes, yes, she was. Nothing was out of order. When I knocked on the front door, I told her I was just checking on her. She said all was well—oh, and I fixed her downstairs toilet for her. It was running.”
“That was kind of you.”
“The bathroom sink was also leaking. And the furnace was making a clunking noise when it kicked on. I may investigate all that further.”
“I can understand why she doesn’t want to leave that house.”
“But it is too much for her to take care of. It really is.”
Somehow, the accord between them seemed so much more profound than just a meeting of the minds on the subject of Mistress Miniahna.
But perhaps he was merely romanticizing.
Back at the training center’s interrogation room, Peyton was having a hard time following Mary’s line of questioning.
Eventually, he had to no mas it.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he interrupted her. “I don’t mean to cut you off, but I thought this was supposed to be about work? I don’t understand why you’re asking about my family.”
“Just getting additional background.”
“I was already screened right after orientation by the Brother Butch. I mean, it’s all in my file.”
“I like to collect my own background.” The female smiled. “Is there some reason you’re uncomfortable speaking about your family?”
“Not at all.” He shrugged and eased back in the hard chair. “It doesn’t bother me. It’s just a waste of time.”
“And why is that?”
“Look, I told you. We both know what’s going to happen with all of this.”
“All of what.”
He motioned between them. “This conversation. The statement I gave your mate about what I did. It would be more efficient to kick me out of the program now as opposed to waste all this paperwork. It’s not like I’m going to sue you guys for wrongful termination or some shit—sorry, stuff.”
“You make it seem like you’re very dispensable.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re taking for granted you’re going to be dismissed.”
“But I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Mary intertwined her fingers and sat forward, resting an elbow on her pad. “You’re part of the team.”
“Isn’t that the Minions’ song?”
He shook his head. “I’m just being a smart-ass.”
“I know. It’s one of your coping mechanisms—but your deflection through humor is a topic for another time.” Again with the smile. “So why do you think that you don’t matter to everyone else in the program?”