Blue didn’t spot any news vans staked out around the apartment building, but noted a couple of police cruisers and suspected they’d been dispatched at his father’s request. With the coast clear, Cameron wheeled the Mustang into the parking garage. He braked to a halt between Derek’s Porsche and a motorcycle. Blue recognized the black bike trimmed with silver chrome as Cameron’s. He felt another surge of affection tinged with anger at how well the men in his life had planned “The Great Courthouse Escape” minus his awareness or input.
Cameron gave a final rev of the engine and pulled the key from the ignition. He looked over at Blue. “I guess we’ll talk again soon?”
“Yeah.” Blue smiled. “When’s a good time to call?”
“Anytime in the evening. Now that my crew’s trained, I’ve been putting in less overtime at the garage. Finished painting the house for my landlady too, so I’ve got some free time in the evenings.”
“What the hell do you do besides listen to books? Sit on the porch swing and watch the traffic go by?”
Cameron chuckled, taking Blue’s jab against small town life in stride. “Actually, some nights I do.”
“No shit. You really have a porch swing?”
“Hey, I like my porch swing. It’s relaxing. Though for your information, I also work out, watch movies, listen to the radio. This local DJ airs a show every night about paranormal stuff.”
“You mean like UFO or Elvis sightings?” Blue gave a derisive snort.
Cameron shook his head and laughed. “A few kooks call in, but it’s more so about hauntings, psychic predictions, things like that. This occult shop owner guest hosts sometimes and does tarot readings over the phone.”
“You believe in that crap?” Blue asked.
Cameron shrugged. “You can say I’m an open-minded skeptic. Can’t prove it, but can’t disprove it, either.”
“You’re full of surprises, you know that?” Blue reached out and took Cameron by the hand. “It’s good to see you happy. You seem more at peace with yourself now.”
“I am,” Cameron said. He leaned across the gear shift console and pressed his lips to Blue’s brow. “You helped. Thanks. If you ever need a favor from me as a friend, you let me know. Okay?”
“Okay.” Blue turned his face up. He touched his lips to Cameron’s in a chaste kiss, keeping it brief to be safe. “I guess we can both get on with our lives now,” he said, his sense of a new beginning laced with sadness.
“Yeah. Just be sure to call me every now and then.”
Another quick kiss and a few minutes later, Cameron mounted the motorcycle. Some incongruous fact dawned on Blue. “Hey, if you’re taking your bike, who’s driving the Mustang?”
“You are.” Cameron unclasped a ring from his keychain. He tossed a pair of keys across the parking space. Blue caught them with a jangle and gave them a puzzled look.
“Cam, I don’t understand.”
Cameron started the bike. He spoke over the purr of the engine. “Talk to Derek. He’s the one who signed the title.”
Blue stood mutely and watched Cameron ride out of the garage. Stunned, he took the elevator to the fifteenth floor.
He stepped into the loft. He shut the door and leaned back against it. Derek pivoted the chair from where he worked at the computer hutch. “I thought you’d be back tomorrow.”
“It’s too much,” Blue said.
“What’s too much?”
Blue held out the keys and jangled them impatiently. “The car! It’s too goddamned much!”
“I wanted a second car.” Derek shrugged, face impassive.
“Bullshit. You have expensive tastes, but you’re also the practical type who only buys what you need. You and I both know who that car’s for.”
Derek pursed his lips a moment. “You can borrow it if you’d like. You can drive to school.”
Blue threw his hands up and stalked over to the kitchen island. He slammed the keys down on the counter. “I can take the bus or bum rides from Jodi, like I’ve been doing the past two months.”
“Have it your way, but the offer stands. I’ll add you to the insurance policy tomorrow. Make sure you fill up when the tank gets low.” Derek turned back toward the computer and started typing.
Oh no, he wasn’t.
Blue stormed over to the computer hutch. Arms crossed, he stared down at Derek. “Will you look at me?”
Derek’s fingers hovered a moment. He turned the chair aside and looked up at Blue, his poker face maintained. Torn between embracing his master and throttling him, Blue opted to climb onto the chair and straddle Derek’s lap.
He peered down, hands on his master’s shoulders. “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. But I can’t drive that car.”
Derek’s jaw tensed, just a little, but Blue caught it. “You have a driver’s license, don’t you?”
“So now you ask.” Blue chuckled at the flicker of panic behind Derek’s staid emerald gaze. “Yes, I have a license. It’s good for another two years.” He waited until he felt Derek’s chest deflate with a quiet sigh of relief, then continued. “But that’s not the problem.”
Derek tensed again, one eyebrow arched. “What is it, then?”
Blue bit his bottom lip, suddenly embarrassed but determined to hide it. He intended to make his partner squirm, because while it was awesome to be surprised by one’s boyfriend with the sweetest ride ever, Derek still should have asked.
“I can’t drive a stick,” he confessed.
“You can’t drive a stick.” Derek shook his head, turned it aside, propped it against his hand. He let out a wry laugh. He looked back at Blue, his expression gone sober again. “You will when I’m through with you.”
Blue leaned in and nudged his forehead against Derek’s. Without warning, the tears crested. “I’m the worst boyfriend in the world. I don’t deserve you doing nice things for me.”
“You’re not the worst, Blue. Far from it.”
Blue shook his head, tears rolling down his face. “How can you say that after I’ve been with Cameron the past few hours?”
“I knew exactly where you were. You went with my full blessing.”
“Do you want me to tell you what we did?”
“No. I trust you.”
God, that just made Blue feel worse, though he could take pride in knowing Derek’s trust hadn’t been placed in vain. He sniffed, crying harder. “You seemed surprised that I didn’t stay the night.”
“That’s your business, Blue.”
“Well, you should know this. Cameron and I had a long talk. I’m not seeing him anymore, not like that. We’re just friends now. You’re probably happy to hear that, huh?”
Derek brushed the bangs back from Blue’s face, kissed the tears from Blue’s cheeks. “I won’t lie and say I’m not, but I don’t like seeing you hurt, either. I know the situation with him has been confusing for you. I’ve understood that you needed to work through it.”
Blue smiled down at Derek through watery eyes. “I really don’t deserve you. I love you. I love you so fucking much.”
Blue pressed his mouth to Derek’s, putting every ounce of emotion he was feeling that moment into the kiss. Derek met and matched him in intensity, until it was Blue who pulled away to catch his breath.
Sitting straight, he wiped the remnants of tears away with the back of his hand. He half laughed, half cried. “You still should have asked me about the car.”
“Perhaps. But I didn’t.”
“So what we do now?”
Derek stood, hefting Blue up with him. He started backing Blue toward the bathroom. “First, we get you in the tub. You reek of a certain mechanic.”
Blue looked away, shamed all over again. Derek cupped his chin and made him look back up. “Then, we’re getting a good night’s sleep before we take my
new car out for a spin.”
“Okay.” Blue grinned, wrapping his arms around Derek’s neck, leading as much as he was being lead to the tub. “But I get to drive.”
The kiss that followed was interrupted by the chime of Blue’s cell phone. Seconds later, Derek’s went off too.
“Shit,” Blue mumbled. “I bet it’s my dad.” Pulling away from Derek, he reached into his pocket. He flipped the phone open to check the text message. Derek had remote control in hand and the TV on before Blue could read the message aloud.
Zack’s angry face filled the screen, his suit and tie changed out for an orange jumpsuit. “You’ve all been misled!” he yelled at the cameras, struggling between the officers who dragged him in cuffs and chains from the courthouse. He whipped his head around and shot an angry glare at his attorney, who noticeably flinched. “Fucker! You promised me twenty years max!”
His rant was cut off as he was shoved into the back of a prison van. The camera panned to a reporter on the courthouse steps. “A rather violent reaction from Zackary Smith, also known as the Maple Street Killer, in the face of eight consecutive life sentences without eligibility for parole. Smith’s defense pled guilty but insane, yet it’s apparent from the jury’s verdict they didn’t buy the insanity plea and the judge has ruled accordingly. Again, eight consecutive life sentences without parole for Zackary Smith. It’s speculated that testimony from Shane McGowan, nineteen-year-old son of local District Attorney James McGowan, played a hand in the jury’s decision.”
The newscast switched to footage of a familiar black Porsche speeding from the courthouse. Jodi peered through the passenger window from behind her oversized shades and temporary blue hair. Smiling, she raised two fingers in a V, palm out, then flipped her hand around, turning her flash of victory into the British equivalent of flipping the bird.
“Jodi-chan’s performance was certainly in full character,” Derek said. He turned off the TV just as the words “outed as homosexual” left the reporter’s mouth.
A dizzying wave of relief washed through Blue, leaving him to sway where he stood. Derek reached out and caught him before his knees buckled.
“He’s locked away for good, Blue. He can’t hurt you, or anyone else, ever again.”
“I know,” Blue mumbled, sagging against his master’s chest. “I just wish I felt like it was truly over.”
“Let’s get that bath,” Derek said quietly. Blue mutely complied.