Here’s a little peek:
ePistols at Dawn
Kelly stood looking at the clock tower. Jae broke the silence. “Originally, I thought maybe we could go to the observatory.”
“Oh, that would be—”
“We don’t have to.” Jae took his hand. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to, I don’t know, gird your loins to come and see me. I don’t want you to dread coming up here.”
Kelly quirked a small smile that was genuine and dazzling and then whispered, “I think it far more likely I’m going to dread going home.”
“Yeah?” Jae used his remote, but instead of entering the car Kelly leaned against the door and smiled up at him in invitation.
“You make me feel like a doll,” Kelly said on a breath, his eyes on Jae’s. For all Jae had been thinking about Kelly’s eyes, he found things in them he hadn’t noticed before, tiny gold and orange flecks inside the hazel irises and coal-colored rings around them. Long, dusky eyelashes caused smudgy shadows when they swept down, either to blink or to hide his thoughts. Kelly lowered them right then and a delicate flush stained his cheeks.
“Do I stand too close?” Jae asked. “Loom too much?”
“No.” Kelly swallowed, and his Adam’s apple bobbed. The first pleasant rush of arousal flooded Jae’s body. For once he didn’t want to act on it immediately. He didn’t want to shatter the delicacy of the moment.
“I can think of someplace to go. Someplace quiet.”
Kelly smiled. Jae could see what he thought. He thought Jae was suggesting someplace where they could act on what Jae was sure they both wanted.
“All right,” Kelly murmured with an expression that defined surrender. Jae opened the door for him and helped him in, sliding a hand down his arm and around to help him buckle up in a gesture that became an excuse for brushing touches on skin that rippled and got gooseflesh with anticipation. Kelly made the most of the opportunity to touch him back.
“I have just the place.” Jae closed the door and walked around the back of the car. While Jae drove, Kelly kneaded his shoulder. Jae had placed his coat in the back of the car. With only the thin fabric of a black T-shirt between his skin and Kelly’s fingertips, he felt the warmth of the man’s hand as it caressed him. He pulled into the parking lot of the Kyoto Grand Hotel, and to his surprise, Kelly asked no questions, just allowed himself to be led.
It was as if Kelly didn’t look at anything but him. That unnerving and frank gaze was serene as he waited for Jae to tell him—to show him—what was going to happen. There was a waiting stillness in him that Jae was willing to attribute to wisdom, to age, to tranquility, to fear. To anything, really, but indifference. When Jae put his hand on the small of Kelly’s back and led him from the elevator out into the garden, he felt the heat coming off Kelly in waves. Not indifference then, far from it. Submission.
Jae had a moment’s regret that he hadn’t taken Kelly straight home to his apartment.
“Wow,” Kelly breathed.
“Yeah.” Jae began down a path rich with mounds of blooming pink azaleas and sprays of ornamental grasses, dotted by bonsai trees. They walked slowly, savoring the scents of late summer flowers and soil and water, which fell in sheets from a waterfall and collected in placid pools.
“Oh, good, good place.” Kelly seemed to examine each and every plant and rock eagerly as he passed the large chunks of rosy-colored stone imported from Japan. Beds of sand had been meticulously combed into swirls and patterns, like south sea island tattoos, evocative representations of the ocean. “You could hardly believe anything like this existed if you were simply down on the street looking up.”
“I come here when I need to think.” Jae didn’t mention that he’d come here once or twice to think about Windows, and how to draw out the writer and expose what he’d thought was the woman who’d mishandled his sacred text.
“It’s wonderful.” Kelly let him lead the way. “I like to garden. At home, I have a kind of gazebo in the middle of mine, where I like to sit. I’ve found over the years that it’s important to me.”
“You garden?” Jae couldn’t equate the act of gardening with the seeming grab bag of phobias that manifested themselves in Kelly. “Isn’t that kind of…”
“Dirty? Messy?” Kelly laughed. “I had a friend growing up whose mother had a crippling case of OCD. She had to bleach anything, and I mean even my friend, before she could touch it. It was actually kind of sad. But for some inexplicable reason she used to eat at fast food restaurants whenever I went to visit.” Kelly shook his head. “It was as if whatever made her phobic about germs hadn’t quite presented itself logically and said, here, germs are everywhere. She would go for miles to avoid touching a child’s toy, but drove through a chain restaurant for lunch without giving it a second thought.”
“So what you’re saying is it makes no sense?”
“How do you stand it?”
“The very fact that it makes no sense is how I stand it,” Kelly explained. “It’s like…being allergic to something, only you don’t know what it is…or maybe it changes every day. You go through all the motions, and you think, well, crap. Here we go again.”
“You’re very well adjusted for—”
Kelly barked a laugh. “For someone who is so obviously not.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Jae said, taking Kelly’s hand and leading him along the path beside the sand ocean.
“It’s all right. Sometimes I feel so old. I didn’t always have this, but it didn’t happen overnight. The panic attacks came on gradually, and at first…well. I don’t want to talk about that. I just got some help dealing with the physical manifestations and worked on trying not to avoid or anticipate the events.”
“That’s almost…heroic.” Jae stopped him. “I doubt if I could be that sanguine about it.”
Pain flickered briefly in Kelly’s eyes and Jae wondered if he’d accidentally said something wrong. It was there and gone so quickly he might have believed he’d imagined it if Kelly hadn’t tightened his grip on Jae’s hand.
“That’s the joke. Everything extraordinary that I’ve ever done has occurred entirely in my head.”
Jae touched the back of one of his fingers to Kelly’s cheek. “Surely not everything.”
“Well—” A loud cough from someone on the path nearby caused Kelly to begin moving again, and Jae was sorry Kelly never finished his thought. They spent the rest of the early afternoon sitting in the rooftop garden, and then they wandered over to the section of Little Tokyo where they explored the shops and found another Japanese garden next to a community center. They walked around that for a while. Kelly sat on a stone bench near a lotus pool. Jae joined him there, enjoying a lengthy companionable silence.
Eventually Jae’s stomach rumbled loudly and they both laughed.
“Hungry?” Kelly watched schools of tiny fish darting back and forth in the water.
“I am.” Jae sighed, getting up.
“What a spectacular place to spend time, thank you so very much.”
“It wasn’t the most exciting afternoon.” Jae took his hand again and began to lead him back the way they’d come. “I’ve been known to show a date a better time.”
“Different,” said Kelly. “But I doubt better.”
Kelly turned to him, looking up. He had to shade his eyes as the afternoon sun slanted over them. “Well. Not if you didn’t think so. It might have been less than exciting for you. I’ve been known to bore more outgoing people to death.”
“I don’t ever think I could find you boring. You take such interest in things. It’s fun to watch.”
Kelly smiled as Jae led him back to the car. In the dark and isolated cool of the parking garage, Jae pulled Kelly in and kissed him, smoothing down the crisp white fabric covering the smaller man’s torso. He didn’t stop until his hands cupped each of Kelly’s tight ass cheeks. He lifted Kelly up to his toes in an incendiary embrace, from which they eventually broke apart, dazed and panting.
“It’s official, I will never find you boring,” Jae stated shakily, taking Kelly’s hand. To his surprise, he felt a sharp tug of resistance. He turned. “What?”
“I don’t know.” Kelly glanced back the way they came.
“Can you tell me?” Jae put his hand on Kelly’s shoulder, experiencing a protective surge somewhere in his chest, which felt tight and expansive all at once.
“I just…” Kelly’s eyes rose to meet his. “I wanted to freeze that. Get it right here.” He fisted the front of his shirt. “So I would never lose it.”
Kelly began moving toward the car again, catching Jae’s hand as he went. He shot Jae a smile over his shoulder that was at once sweet and sheepish. “I wanted to hang on to that a little longer, is all.”