"Robyn, please…stop thinking so much and just come with me," I asked quietly, and tugged on
her hand. After a slight hesitation she followed, and I led her up the stairs that ended in a
spacious bedroom with soft, thick carpeting and a huge, low-lying bed.
At the top of the stairs I paused and fumbled a little at a row of switches, surprised when I hit the
one I wanted - the one that turned on only the four wall sconces positioned around the room - on
the second try.
I took a few steps toward the bed, pulling Robyn with me, and then turned towards her and raised
her hand to my lips. She watched with hooded eyes as I released her hand and ran light fingers
across her abdomen, feeling the ripple of reaction in the muscles beneath, and stopped at the hem
of her shirt. "I want to undress you…" I said softly, and held up my splinted arm, "but I think I
might need some help."
She took a small step back, her eyes not leaving mine, and her hands went to the fastenings of
her shorts. She undid the button and zipper and pushed the shorts, along with her underwear,
down her long legs, kicking them to the side when they hit the floor. In one quick motion she
pulled her shirt over her head and dropped it on top of the shorts, and her bra quickly followed.
My eyes followed the final garment's progress to the floor, and then slowly traveled back up the
tan, smoothly muscled length of her legs, pausing briefly at the neatly trimmed thatch of dark
hair at the juncture of her thighs, and continuing upwards, over the long, flat expanse of her
belly, small, firm breasts tipped with dusky brown, and her long, elegant neck…She met my
gaze with no sign of embarrassment or discomfort, her posture self-assured, and almost arrogant,
and she had every right to be.
"You're amazing," I whispered reverently, stepping forward to run my hand up her side, across
her breasts, and down across her stomach, stopping with my hand just above her navel. "So
beautiful…" I ducked my head and tasted the skin of chest with my tongue, slowly moving lower
until I captured a pebbled nipple in my mouth and sucked gently.
Robyn let out a growl of pleasure and her hands went to the back of my head, pulling me closer
as I sucked hard on a nipple and then dragging my mouth away and dropping her hands to the
hem of my shirt. "Now you. Arms up," she rasped, and I compliantly lifted my arms to let her
pull my shirt over my head. She tossed it to the side and eyed my front-closure bra with a
professional eye, making quick work of it and kissing the top of each breast as the scrap of
material dropped carelessly to the floor. She slowly knelt and dropped a chain of kisses across
my stomach, untying the drawstring of my shorts and letting gravity do the rest. Then she sat
back on her heels and just looked. I stood quietly as she had done, trying for the same confidence
and finding that the way she looked at me made it easy.
Love, desire, tenderness…all of it and more shown in the dark depths of her eyes. I smiled gently
down at her and touched her cheek. "Come here, you."
She slowly climbed to her feet. "I'm scared of hurting you, Caid," she told me softly. "I don't
want to hurt you."
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"You won't, baby." I smiled softly. "We'll figure something out."
And we did.
We lay face to face on the bed, sharing long, soft kisses and gentle touches, hands gliding over
warm skin, reacquainting ourselves with each other.
"God I've missed this," Robyn murmured, skimming her palm from my thigh up over my belly to
cup my breast, squeezing gently.
"Mmmm," I sighed deeply and mirrored her movements, brushing a thumb across her nipple and
leaning in to initiate another long kiss.
The pace was slow and gentle, with no rush or urgency, and when our fingers finally found each
other, the release was unexpectedly intense. We clung to each other, my face buried in her hair
and hers pressed against my neck.
"God, Robyn…" I choked out in a half sob, half laugh, overwhelmed by emotion and how much
she made me feel.
She pulled back and stroked my cheek with an unsteady hand, gazing at me in wonder. "How did
I not know it could be like this?"
'Oh, baby…" I kissed her softly and pressed my face into her shoulder, unable to find any other
She carefully rolled onto her back and wrapped her arms around me, and after I maneuvered my
splinted wrist to a more comfortable spot between us, I settled my head onto her chest and
snaked my other arm around her waist, pulling us closer together.
She kissed my head, her fingers making lazy patterns on my back. "I love you, baby."
I turned my head a little and kissed her chest. "I love you too, sweetheart."
Robyn spent the entire two days of her break with me; I kept expecting her to tell me that she
needed to go home, or she had things to do, but she stayed, and we fell into a routine of sorts. A
short walk in the morning, reading the newspaper over long, drawn out breakfasts, another
longer walk off Liz's property in the afternoon, a quiet dinner and a movie or television in the
evening, and gentle love making before falling asleep in each others arms.
It was idyllic; as close to perfect as I'd ever managed to get, and I knew with overwhelming
certainty that this was what I wanted. I'd never thought in terms of forever before, actually
scoffing at the idea of one person making me happy for the rest of my life, but for the first time, I
could imagine it. I'd found someone who could make forever possible, and when she was ready,
that's exactly what I would ask for.
"Well." Connie blinked her light-brown eyes once, very slowly, her face expressionless.
She pulled off her thin, gold-framed reading glasses and tapped one ear piece against her lower
lip a few times, regarding me speculatively. Sinking back in her chair, she dropped the glasses to
hang from an intricate gold chain looped around her neck and steepled her fingers. "Well, well,
I smiled slightly and took a sip of the espresso her assistant had brought in a few minutes before,
watching her reaction carefully while acting like I wasn't; like the possible repercussions from
what I'd just shared with her didn't worry me one bit.
"You've certainly had an eventful summer, haven't you?" She swung her chair slightly to one
side and stared at the wall for several moments. The question sounded rhetorical so I didn't
answer, taking another sip of espresso and waiting. She swung the chair back and pinned me
with sharp eyes. "You know," she tapped the tips of her steepled fingers together, "four months
ago, you were by far my easiest client. Steady gig, liked your privacy, stayed out of the public
eye, rarely needed anything…"
I grimaced apologetically. "Yeah, Con, I'm sorry to be such a pain all the sudden…"
She waved an imperious hand. "Oh, goodness, Caid, don't be sorry. This is what I do, and I quite
like what I do. I also quite like you, which I can't say about many of my clients, but I'll tell you,
it makes what I do even more fun for me." She smiled, and some of the tension that was knotting
my shoulders drained away. "So." She leaned forward and rested her elbows on her desk. "How
do you want to handle this? I'm assuming that's why you told me. And thank you, by the way.
For telling me."
I nodded and let the corners of my mouth turn up in a tiny grin. "I know how much you hate it
when people know more than you do."
"Damn right I do," she said with a huff, and we both smiled.
I set my cup down on the corner of her desk and sat back, crossing my legs. "That's one of the
reasons I told you - Robyn is about done with shooting on Lost Key and due back in LA soon,
and I don't really know how things are going to play out, but I'm planning on spending as much
time with her as possible. I wanted you to be prepared in case this whole thing leaks somehow;
wanted to have some kind of…game plan, I suppose you'd call it."
She nodded. "And the other reasons?"
"I guess…" I shrugged helplessly. "I guess I'm looking for some advice."
Pencil-thin eyebrows crept up her forehead. "About your…love life?"
I laughed softly. "No…about how to keep my love life mine."
"Ah. Okay then." She leaned back again and cocked her head to the side. "Let me ask you first -
is this something you want to go public with?"
"God no," I said with an emphatic shake of my head. "At least, not like going on to 20/20 and
coming out to Barbara Walters kind of public, and not right now, either." I suppressed a shudder
at the thought of the media attention that would draw. "I don't want to outright lie about it, but I
also don't want to make a public statement…Gah!" I ran a frustrated hand through my hair. "It
pisses me off that we even need to worry about this. This isn't news, it's my damn life!" I said
angrily, and she raised an eyebrow at my vehemence. I calmed and gave her a wry smile.
She waved the apology away. I sat for a moment, and sat forward, resting my elbows on my
knees. "Connie, this relationship is extremely important to me. There are already
enough…complications," I said carefully, "without bringing the public into it. If things don't
work out, I want it to be because of me and Robyn, not because of media interference or public
opinion. I want to be able to work on this without the world looking on, and I want you to tell me
how I can get the space to make that possible."
She searched my face for a moment, nodding slowly. "Okay." She picked up a pen and tapped
the desk. "This is how I see it, Caid. You've got two things that need addressing. One," she
waved the pen at me, "you're gay…" She gave me another sharp look and added, "or at the very
least, bi-sexual, and although you don't want to lie about it, you also don't want it to be public
knowledge at this time."
She waited for me to confirm her statement with a nod before continuing. "Now, if that was all
we were dealing with, that's not nearly as hard as people think, especially now that you've been
off the front pages lately. Ron Chandler, Tara Sun, Rena Kohlakis, Owen Lucio…all gay
celebrities who have managed to be 'out' in their lives, without outing themselves to the entire
world. A combination of keeping a publicly low profile and being discrete is usually all it takes,
and I know you are very capable of both."
I nodded again. It was common knowledge in the industry that the people she listed were gay,
but the press never mentioned it.
"What complicates things somewhat," she continued with a wry smile, "is issue number two: the
fact that you have decided to embrace your newly found lesbianism by becoming romantically
involved with an extremely visible public figure who, last I heard, was publicly involved in a
relationship with another extremely visible public figure." She tapped the pen against her chin,
frowning, and said carefully, "Mmm…what exactly is her involvement with Josh Riley, Caid?"
I smiled slightly, amused by her sudden delicacy. "You mean is Robyn cheating on Josh, and am
I the 'Other Woman'?"
"Well," she squinted her right eye, the only sign that my question had flustered her. "Um…yes."
I let out a chuckle. "Robyn and Josh are not romantically involved, and Josh is very aware of our
She sighed in relief. "I figured as much about those two, but I wanted to make sure…"
"You figured…" I blinked. "You did?"
"Sure." She shrugged slightly. "I've been on the coordinating end of enough merks to spot one
when I see one, although it's tricky with those two since they obviously like each other -
sometimes it's so damn obvious that the people involved can't stand each other, it's pathetic..."
"Um…" I frowned, stopping her rambling. "Uh…merks?"
"Merkins," she clarified at my baffled look, giving me the same fondly indulgent look that Liz
did when I showed my utter lack of entertainment business savvy. "As in, a woman dating a man
to cover up her sexual orientation. If the man is gay, it's called a beard."
"You're joking." I stared at her. "There's a name for that?"
"Of course there is. We have a name for everything. And that kind of thing is fairly common
Well, I knew that. I'm not completely clueless. I just would never have guessed they'd have a
name for it.
I reached for my cup and sipped absently.
And what in the hell was a merkin, anyway? Did someone just pull that name out of their ass?
Sounded like some kind of termite exterminator….
"…with Josh Riley something that Robyn plans to continue? Because that might throw a little
hitch in your plans for privacy - "
"Huh?" I said, pulled from my pondering of merkins.
She tapped her pen on the desk. "I was asking if those two planned on continuing their front.
Because honestly, Caid, since she's the one in the public eye, it's going to be her actions, more
than yours that dictate the amount of privacy you'll be able to have. To lead a private life, you
need to be a private person, which means keeping away from clubs, premiers, parties and events
with lots of paparazzi and reporters. If she can pull herself out of the public eye, and manage to
do it without creating too many waves, then you might be able to get that space you want." She
put the pen down and steepled her fingers again. "On the other hand, if she continues her public
involvement with Riley, that will make her a top commodity to the press, which amounts to more
scrutiny, and would certainly make any kind of privacy hard to manage."
"I…" I chewed the inside of my lip, embarrassed that I didn't know the answer to that question.
"I don't know," I said finally and sighed. "I don't think they will, but we haven't really talked
A tiny tic in her left cheek was the only outward reaction to my admission. "And would you be
okay with it if they did continue?" she asked bluntly.
"I…" I stopped and shook my head. "No. I wouldn't."
"I didn't think so." She put her pen down softly, staring at it for a moment before looking up at
me. "So," she said after a slight pause, "what you need to find out is what Robyn is willing to do,
and then ask yourself what you can live with."
I held her gaze for a moment, and then looked out the window behind her. "Yeah," I said quietly.
"I guess that's the question, isn't it?"
The sun hung low over the ocean to our left and a sluggish breeze had begun to blow in off the
water, cooling the sweat on my skin and countering the oven-like effect of the sand on either side
of the path that radiated swirls of hot, dry air up at us. The steady slap of my feet on the asphalt
was soothing, and I took a deep breath and held it through several strides, feeling a smile of
satisfaction form on my face.
It felt good to run.
I'd only been out a few times since the attack, each time able to go further, and today I was
pleased that the slight ache in my back that had accompanied my last two attempts had yet to
develop, even coming into our third mile.
I glanced over at my running companion, noting with a twinge of jealousy his easy, athletic
stride and barely increased breathing. With chrome bug-eye sunglasses, a white backwards
baseball cap, white t-shirt and long navy shorts, he looked barely twenty, and if his t-shirt didn't
reveal a few dark spots of perspiration, I'd almost think he was wasn't even sweating.
Josh's bid for the Wimbledon title had been cut short by a stomach virus that had hit him late in
the second round of play, leaving him dehydrated and fighting cramps, nausea and fatigue. He'd
struggled through the third round and eked out a win but his weakened state finally caught up
with him in the fourth round against a spry young Australian and he'd lost badly in straight sets.
We'd spoken a couple of times since his return to LA the week before, always talking about
getting together, but today was the first time we could manage it. Josh had suggested dinner, but
I'd wanted to get outdoors after the first day of shooting for the new season of 9P, so we'd
compromised with a run along the Parkway, which we'd follow up later with take-out at his
house in the hill section of Manhattan Beach.
I signaled it was time to turn around, and we turned a tight circle and headed back towards the
parking lot and Twila.
"I know you can kick my ass, Josh," I zigzagged around a pair of walkers along the busy path.
"You don't have to wait up for me. When you asked me to go for a run with you, I didn't actually
expect to be running with you."
He grinned at me and shook his head as we dodged more pedestrians. "This is good, Caid. I'm
still feeling some after-effects from whatever bug I picked up, and I don't want to push it just yet,
especially in this heat." His gave me an appraising look. "How are you holding up? Back ok?"
I nodded. "Feels great. I think the heat is good for it, actually."
"Good. Robyn said she'd whoop my ass if I let you over-do it today."
"You talked to her today?" I asked curiously as we detoured through the sand to get around a
large family strolling along the path.
"Yeah, she wanted to let me know she'd be back Thursday." He glanced at me. "You knew that
I nodded and couldn't stop my wide grin. "Yep."
Josh caught the smile and laughed, shaking his head. "God, you two…" He made a snapping
motion with his hand. "Whipped, whipped, whipped."
"Eh, shaddup." I backhanded him lightly on the arm, but my smile didn't fade. "You're just
jealous," I said jokingly.
"Damn right I am," he replied seriously and smiled wryly at my surprised look. "I know I said all
that stuff about focus and not letting myself get distracted by being involved with someone," he
paused when a nearly naked man on roller blades shot between us and skated past. "…that
doesn't mean I don't want to be," he finished as he eyed the tiny speedo and pelt-like back
skating away from us with amusement.
"I'm sorry…whoa," I swerved slightly as a biker with long blond dreads and no shirt flew by.
Josh held out a steadying hand and I settled back into stride, smiling my thanks before
continuing. "When we talked about it before, I guess I just thought you weren't…into that kind of
thing." I waved my hand. "A relationship or whatever."
"Oh," he laughed, "I'm into it. Too much so, which is why I get so distracted. I tend to forget
about most everything else…" He trailed off with an embarrassed look.
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