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HUNTED BY DEVILS

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FIVE

Half-deafened by the time he and Griffin left the foyer of the Mayfair, Kilroy delayed any attempts at conversation until they were a good hundred yards from the crowd of young girls.

"I told you my flat would be quieter," he said smugly, hailing a taxi.

"While I loathe people who say 'I told you so', the thought did occur to me some time around dawn," admitted Griffin, giving the driver the name of the restaurant he had selected. "I've moved to Brown's Hotel."

"So you could watch me from your window?"

"No, so you could watch me."

Kilroy froze, then gave a weak grin when he realised Griffin was joking. Guilty conscience, he mocked himself, but there was bitterness in the knowledge. Thrusting it aside, he concentrated on Griffin to such good effect that they were amongst the last to leave the restaurant, their conversation having ranged far and wide during the evening. It disconcerted Kilroy to realise how much he enjoyed Griffin's company; they had more in common than he had supposed. While it wasn't necessarily a comfortable discovery, that remained true when he invited Griffin back to his bed. This time there was little speech between them and no fireworks, only the glide of skin on skin and the touch of a hand until inevitably their languor gave way to urgency.

Sated, and feeling strangely attuned to the enigmatic stranger in his bed, Kilroy's contentment soured when he noticed Griffin's remote expression, as if he wished to distance himself from what had taken place. Reminding himself that he was supposed to be working, Kilroy quelled his prickle of irritation at Griffin's moodiness; but it didn't stop him plotting how he could make Griffin lose that formidable control.

As silent in the aftermath as he had been in climax, Griffin's replies to attempts at conversation were monosyllabic. Unsurprised, Kilroy watched him leave thirty minutes later.

oOo

Because in the real world it was no easy matter to gain access to someone's hotel suite to plant audio surveillance equipment, Kilroy had to content himself with ordering a couple of his men to keep Griffin under surveillance until they could obtain it. He could make little of Griffin's activities. Griffin met an acquaintance who, research established, had been a fellow pupil at Bedales school and then spent several days inspecting houses in the Home Counties. Their price range gave Kilroy pause for thought. Either Griffin wasn't as poor as the dossier suggested, or he had a more ambitious plan than kidnapping Josh Cassidy for a mere three million dollars.

oOo

"I wish I had your facility for languages. Fluent Italian would have come in handy a few weeks ago," remarked Kilroy idly.

"My father insisted that I grew up trilingual," said Griffin absently, his brandy glass cradled between his palms. "It developed from there."

"How many languages do you speak?"

"Um..." Griffin began to count, "six fluently. Living in the Far East one needs both Cantonese and Mandarin. And Portuguese is handy for some sections of society in Macao, of course."

"Of course," echoed Kilroy. "With such a choice at your disposal, what language do you make love in? I know you swear in Cantonese."

A reminiscent smile warmed Griffin's face. "Given similar provocation, I'd swear in any language." A glance summoned the bill.

Kilroy beat him to it. "When I invite someone out to dinner, I pay. And you can stop sulking. If it bothers you that much you can make it up to me later. In kind."

Griffin's lazy gaze travelled over him, amusement in his eyes. "I never sulk, and I'm feeling very...kind. What if I don't insist?"

"I'll have to think of a form of bribery to tempt you into my bed."

"Just allow me to follow you out of the restaurant," said Griffin blandly, his gaze lingering on Kilroy's tailored cream slacks as Kilroy rose from his chair.

oOo

"Well, that was an improvement on our first night," said Kilroy, his voice rich with repletion as they lay sprawled in the wrecked bed.

"And on our second," said Griffin, stirring to deposit in a bundle of tissues the condom he wore. Taking another handful from the box by the bedside, he freed Kilroy, cradling his laxness for a moment, regret on his face. "Bloody AIDS," he muttered abruptly.

Taking the wad of tissues from him, Kilroy lobbed them into the wicker waste bin. "At least our generation can remember the joys of sex without latex."

Sinking back on his heels, Griffin gave a lazy stretch, before tossing Kilroy a damp towel with which to clean himself. "You think safe sex is the first thing kids think of?"

"Hardly. I'll get rid of these. Brandy?"

"Please." Griffin stepped through the piles of their clothing to retrieve his cigarettes, shivered, shrugged into a dressing-gown and strolled into the sitting-room.

Even at this early stage in their relationship Kilroy was not surprised to see him crouched in front of the bookshelves. "Every time I find you in here you're going through the poetry books."

"Aren't businessmen supposed to read poetry?" Griffin snapped shut the volume he had been looking at.

"Those I've met don't," replied Kilroy mildly. The dossier on Griffin had made no mention of poetry, either. He wondered how much more it had left out.

"What's that look for?" enquired Griffin, slipping the book back onto the shelves and leaning against the wall.

Cocking his head, Kilroy eyed him solemnly.

"You recline that magnificent pair of buttocks/Against the wall...why tempt / The stone, which is incapable?"

Caught mid-inhalation, Griffin gave a soft choke before, his face alight with amusement, he replied:

"Don't squash your arse against the wall/Them stones are good for bugger all."

"I hadn't heard that one before. Strato?"

Griffin nodded. "Who else? Not that I've ever tried to use it as a chat-up line."

"It's just as well. Besides, I should think you do OK without the dubious help of the poets." Kilroy handed him a balloon glass.

"I prefer the direct approach," Griffin allowed, before he gestured to the shelves. "You've a catholic selection - and space for more."

"I'm in the process of packing most of my belongings. This flat's convenient for the office, but it's never felt like home. Not since I got the house. I'll need the money I'll make from selling this place to help pay for the renovations."

"Is the house a recent acquisition?" The body of the glass cupped in his hand, Griffin inhaled his brandy appreciatively as he allowed the alcohol to warm.

"In a manner of speaking. A great-uncle I'd never even heard of, never mind met, left it to me when he died. I'd never considered living outside London until I saw the place. Nineteen acres, with a view that has to be seen to be believed - a bit like the state of the house."

"It's run down?"

"More like falling down," said Kilroy frankly, switching on the gas fire when he saw Griffin shiver. "But it has character, which is more than I can say for this place. Come and get warm. Thin-blooded colonial."

"Imperialist lackey," retorted Griffin amicably. Hooking a large cushion onto the floor, he sank bonelessly in front of the fire, as if to leach as much warmth from it as possible. Its glow cast intriguing shadows over his face, highlighting the profile that Kilroy had yet to tire of watching.

"I'd probably be offended if I knew what it meant," he said lazily. "How are you enjoying your stay in Britain so far?"

"It's had its moments."

"I'm delighted to hear it. Are you free tomorrow evening?"

"I doubt it. I'll probably be driving down from Cheshire, unless I decide to stay the night," replied Griffin absently.

Hugging his knees to his chest, Griffin propped his chin on the support they offered while he stared at the artificial flames. It would be wiser to make the break with Kilroy now. He wasn't ready for involvement with anyone, least of all a man whose physical allure was like a magnet and in whose company he found it disconcertingly easy to relax. Quite why that should be so was a mystery: Kit wasn't the most skilled or inventive lover he had enjoyed over the years, or the most witty or stimulating companion. But he was dangerously addictive and instinct warned that he wouldn't have the sense to keep things light. Griffin didn't want to hurt him, or to make promises he couldn't keep.

"I should leave. I've got an early start tomorrow," he announced, making no attempt to move.

"If you change your mind you're welcome to drop in."

Griffin glanced up, his resistance dissolving when he saw the droop to the gorgeous mouth he had resisted tasting because he was unwilling to experience that intimacy with a casual partner.

"On the other hand, if my host was kind enough to offer me a bed for the night..." he heard himself say.

Kilroy joined him on the rug. "Traditionalist. When was the last time you made love in front of a fire?"

"With or without draughts whistling under the door?" asked Griffin, but he hooked an arm around Kilroy's strong neck, drawing Kilroy down to him. "Optimism triumphing over experience again," he murmured as they lay together, exchanging languid caresses for no better reason than the pleasure of touch.

"James?" Gaining no immediate reply, Kilroy added, "Jim?"

Griffin opened one eye. "Try again," he invited. "On second thoughts, don't. What do you want?"

Leaning over him, Kilroy searched the relaxed face, his mouth hovering above Griffin's. Taking silence for consent, he bent his head. Slowly, and with all his considerable expertise, he kissed that delectable mouth, his tongue coaxing the lips apart. For a moment Griffin tensed; then, as if unable to resist, his mouth relaxed, lips responding of their own volition. Their tongues began to flirt, then explore, unhurried in the aftermath of sex.

Eventually Kilroy wriggled, winced and withdrew from the embrace he had initiated. "The fire's burning me," he exclaimed, rubbing his reddened flank.

"Only the fire?" teased Griffin, his hand covering that which Kilroy had rested on his belly. "Will you fuck me tomorrow?" he added, his eyes on the ceiling.

That the last thing he had expected to hear, Kilroy's jaw dropped. "I..." He made a fast recovery, instinct answering for him. "Yes. Now, if you like."

Amusement banished the drugged repletion on Griffin's face. "You English. You brag so beautifully. I'm tempted to give you a challenge you can't rise to." He stroked Kilroy's lax penis.

"But think of the damage you might do to my confidence. Tomorrow would be better," Kilroy allowed.

"I'm sure it would."

"What's with this 'you English'? Aren't you?"

"Only half, and not by inclination."

"What's wrong with the English?"

"Virtually everything. Their most infuriating trait is the fact that beneath an Englishman's self-deprecating manner lies a conviction of superiority, if not actual perfection."

"I've never been accused of self-deprecation before," mused Kilroy.

"That I can believe," said Griffin with feeling.

"Are you suggesting I'm less than perfect?"

Catching the light, Kilroy's eyes were of a blue so deep a man could drown in them. Griffin found himself in the rare position of having to struggle to concentrate. "Time will tell," he said weakly.

Abruptly remembering what he was supposed to be here for, Kilroy obliquely slid the conversation back to Griffin. "From what you've said you're more English than I am. I've got healthy mongrel blood fizzing through my veins. Or a mixture, anyway - Irish, Scottish, English and Polish. Granny was nippy on a bike."

"Good for your granny."

"So what do you regard yourself as, if not English?"

Griffin gave him a look of surprise. "I've never thought about it. While I'm half-Italian, I hold a British passport. So much of my life has been spent travelling that the question's never seemed important."

Kilroy's expression soured.

"You disapprove," noted Griffin.

Kilroy did not try to deny the obvious. "Not everyone can afford to be so blasé about their nationality. For some it's literally a matter of life and death."

"Given the position ninety-five per cent of the Chinese community in Hong Kong are going to find themselves by nineteen ninety-seven, courtesy of the British Government, I hardly need reminding," said Griffin, acidly unamused.

"Why should you care?" asked Kilroy with deliberate provocation.

"Why shouldn't I?" countered Griffin. Getting to his feet, his hands dug into the pockets of the dressing-gown, drawing the fabric tight against his rump.

"I don't know."

"It's a strange time to choose for a conversation about expediency."

"Expediency?" Kilroy sat up. "Are we still talking about Hong Kong?"

"What else is there?" His voice clipped, Griffin's expression was guarded as he turned.

"You. Me. The fact you've lived and worked in the Colony. I haven't. How big a bogeyman is communist China?"

"After Tiananmen Square? There weren't any problems with costiveness in the Chinese business community once the news broke."

They talked for more than two hours.

"You should have been a politician," said Kilroy, disconcerted by Griffin's passionate involvement with the Colony. Griffin was more than well-informed but then he moved in circles frequented by the power-makers. Money talks, he reminded himself, but his cynicism was tempered now.

"That can't be intended for a compliment."

"Oddly enough, it was. More politicians with your commitment to principle rather than party line and I might start voting again. You care deeply about the future of Hong Kong."

"The people more than the place. What might suit China wouldn't suit the capitalist paradise on earth, or her people. But that's no excuse for lecturing you. You must have been bored to death."

Experienced in reading people, Kilroy was learning that he needed to watch Griffin's eyes if he wanted to gauge his true feelings. "I don't think you could bore me."

Disarmed, Griffin stared at him. "Kit, you're - "

" - keeping you awake," Kilroy interrupted quickly. "I'll put the alarm on as you have to make an early start."

Griffin got to his feet. "Not on my account. As I'll need to change before I set off, it makes sense for me to spend the rest of the night at Brown's. I won't be long." There was open relief in his voice at the thought of escaping an intimacy he had not sought. As good as his word, he showered and dressed in under ten minutes.

"This is ridiculous," said Kilroy with frustration as he followed Griffin down the stairs.

"The hotel's two minutes away. Hardly an excessive distance to travel," Griffin pointed out, disconcerted to realise he did not want to leave.

"No. Have a good trip to wherever it is," mumbled Kilroy, swallowing a yawn.

Griffin looked apologetic. "I keep forgetting you're not a man of leisure like myself."

"No problem," said Kilroy easily but another yawn betrayed him.

Griffin gave him a quick kiss. While no more than a brush of lip against lip, it was more than Kilroy had expected given Griffin's retreat.

"I'll give you a ring when I get back," Griffin announced, turning away.

"No," said Kilroy wickedly, "I'll ring you."

It took Griffin a moment to place the reference. "Fine. Only how will you know when that will be?" he asked, his eyes wide and innocent.

"Smart-arse. OK, you ring me." Kilroy took encouragement from the fact that Griffin's hand continued to hover on the door handle.

"I...never mind. Take care," added Griffin with a trace of awkwardness, and then he was gone.

Staring after the retreating figure, Griffin's footsteps echoing on the pavement in the silence, Kilroy decided that an investigation of Henri Langlois and Charlie Cassidy would not go amiss. While not naive enough to be converted overnight, he was finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile the complexity of James Griffin with the profile of the callous dilettante presented in Langlois' report.