Kilroy turned away from reception, knowing he had no right to feel disappointed because Griffin had gone out for the evening, only to see his quarry entering the hotel. A smile of pleasure lit his face.
"I see you've finally got round to buying some warmer clothes," he remarked. Taking three of the bags from the porter, he handed them to Griffin, carrying the rest himself.
"Thank you," said Griffin acidly, but heading for the stairs, he mellowed enough to give Kilroy a warm smile. "Coming up?" It was clearly a rhetorical question as he was already climbing the stairs.
"To see your etchings?"
"You can see anything you like," said Griffin generously. "I wasn't expecting you back from Bruges until the end of the week."
"Annie rang you?"
"She did more than that," said Griffin, looking amused. "She called in to give me the message personally. Don't panic, she was very discreet when she checked me out."
"It was you I was worrying about," retorted Kilroy smartly.
"You're a rotten liar. As it happens, we had lunch together. Don't look so suspicious, she told me what a wonderful man you are, and I wondered about her sanity. Things went well, didn't they?" Griffin added, still taking the stairs two at a time by the third floor.
"Very. Case solved."
"Due to natural genius on your part, or luck?" enquired Griffin, handing Kilroy his bags while he fished for his key card.
"Cynic. The Sherlock Holmes of industrial espionage, that's me."
"Well, no, as it happens. Given that the chief suspect did a runner yesterday, even I couldn't get it wrong," Kilroy admitted cheerfully. "But the client's happy and I've taken the rest of the week off."
"Good, then you can come house-hunting with me. I haven't got to grips with damp courses and cesspits yet."
Shedding carrier bags with a fine disregard for the possible fragility of the contents, Kilroy began to stalk Griffin. "Has anyone ever told you that your chat-up line leaves a lot to be desired?" He nudged Griffin in the direction of an open door.
"You'll find the bed more comfortable than the bath," said Griffin, pushing him gently in the opposite direction.
"You know we'll be committing an illegal act in a public place?" said Kilroy, as they began to undress one another.
"It's all right," Griffin reassured him, "I won't inform on you."
"I just thought I'd mention it," said Kilroy with a dignity which was marred by the fact he was wearing only his socks by this time.
Griffin gave a patient sigh. "And you complained about my chat-up line. In case you've forgotten, I was in the hotel business for seventeen years. While in Hong Kong sex between males used to be punishable by a prison sentence ranging from two years to life, hoteliers have always been more preoccupied with payment of their bills than the sex lives of their guests."
Balanced on one leg as he pulled off his second sock, Kilroy made a less than heroic figure. "Prison?"
"We can save the discussion on the laws regarding homosexuality for later," said Griffin firmly, toppling an off-balance Kilroy onto the bed and following him down.
Palming Griffin's buttocks as Griffin straddled him, Kilroy gave a sigh of sheer contentment. "Come on then, let's see what you've got," he encouraged.
"I like your etchings," murmured Kilroy, threading his fingers through the luxuriance of hair at Griffin's groin.
One leg bent, his forearm resting on his knee, Griffin savoured a mouthful of brandy. "You're impossible. Particularly if you're hoping I'm going to achieve another erection tonight. I'm forty, not fourteen." His eyes darkened in a rapid change of mood. "I'm too old for you."
"Given that you're four years older than me, you're hardly Methuselah."
Griffin's impatient expression made it plain he had not been seeking any glib reassurance. "Why did you pick me up that first night?" he asked, reaching for a cigarette.
Kilroy lit it for him. Propped on one elbow, he openly studied Griffin, as if trying to learn him pore by pore. "Apart from the fact I find you one of the most attractive men I've met?"
"I'm forty," Griffin repeated irritably.
"And as sexy as hell. Don't pretend you don't know it either. I might ask you the same question, except that common sense tells me you probably fancied me as much as I fancied you. At least I hope that's why."
"Of course I did."
"You don't enjoy younger flesh?"
Kilroy kissed his shoulder. "There are far better things to do than have a mid-life crisis. Besides, you're not old enough."
"I'm serious," said Griffin with asperity. "Why me and not the barman at the club?"
"Who?" Kilroy's puzzlement was unfeigned until he traced the reference. "Oh, him. He must have been all of nineteen. And yes, now that you mention it, he was attractive - and available. Of course I like young flesh. Who doesn't? But at thirty-six I'm tired of one-night stands. I prefer men to boys. Fortunately I still have the luxury of choice. And don't try and tell me you don't," he added with asperity.
"Perhaps," Griffin allowed with a small smile, the receipt of compliments obviously no novelty. Stubbing out his half-smoked cigarette, with a careful finger he traced the scars which ran down Kilroy's chest. "Why men in favour of boys?"
"Because I prefer quality to quantity in my sex. Though both would be best," Kilroy admitted, a wry quirk to his mouth. "My last lover was twenty. Lust apart, would you care to guess how much we had in common? My job was one of the many things he couldn't understand about me. Much as it pains me to admit it, there's more to life than fucking, even if it's not all as much fun. Call me unrealistic, but I haven't given up hope of meeting someone who wants what I want. And if I'd known I was going to be cross-examined, I'd've left you in that bloody club," he added, rolling away from those assessing eyes.
Griffin rubbed the back of Kilroy's neck. "It was a stupid question on my part. I always talk too much after love."
"Not to me you don't," snapped Kilroy, hunching his shoulders.
This time Griffin kissed his neck. Gaining no response, he sighed, withdrew and said, "What do you want to know?"
Kilroy rolled onto his back. "Don't sound so resigned. Virtually everything. The most important thing at the moment is, do you snore?"
"Certainly not," said Griffin indignantly. "Anyway, you already know that."
"I might have fallen asleep before you started."
"Don't you mean irresistible?"
"I know exactly what I meant. Irrepressible might have been a better choice of word."
"Not always." Kilroy began to wonder what image Griffin had of him. "Who'd want to be nothing but a court jester?"
His smile curiously gentle, Griffin began to trace with his mouth the scars which covered Kilroy's torso.
Embarrassed, Kilroy tensed and tried to ease away from the contact. "That isn't what I meant."
"I know. But I didn't want to be accused of cross-examining you again," said Griffin with a spurious meekness.
"Pull the other one. I was caught on the edge of an explosion while I was working undercover in Belfast," said Kilroy shortly.
"For the Army?"
"In a manner of speaking. I resigned four months later. It was that or be transferred to a new regiment and a desk job until I could be trusted not to crack up on the job." Kilroy was visibly erecting fences around himself, this not the course he had envisaged the conversation taking.
Seemingly oblivious to warning signals, Griffin not only remained in close contact, but renewed his caresses, his fingertips drifting from one silvery track to another, skimming over the clear sign of skin grafts until his hand came to rest over Kilroy's heart.
"Scars turn you on, do they?" said Kilroy in harsh rejection, sitting up.
Griffin didn't even blink. "They're preferable to dead," he said matter-of-factly. "Did you receive any counselling before you left the Army?"
If he had made the mistake of displaying any sympathy Kilroy would have walked out; as it was, his tone was scathing. "From the Army? That's classified information."
"No, it's bollocks. Did you?"
"Christ, don't you ever give up!" Kilroy left the bed, unconsciously rubbing his torso.
Sinking back onto his heels, Griffin said nothing. It was the inexorable silence which defeated Kilroy.
"I was debriefed in depth. It was a long time ago."
"Not that long. From the look of you I'd say about seven years."
"I was right, scars do turn you on." Kilroy shrugged into Griffin's bathrobe, but there was more resignation than anger in his voice. "Just over nine years," he added.
"Counselling might have helped. Did you ever consider it?"
"No I bloody didn't! Christ, that was the last thing I wanted. The only thing which helps is time. It was sheer fluke that I survived. By rights I shouldn't have, but Mark went in first. There was a trembler device on the door. He took the full force of the blast. Fuck, you're doing it to me again. And will you say something instead of kneeling there looking like the bloody Sphinx!"
"Mark was unlucky. It's pointless to feel guilt for something that wasn't your fault."
"Thank you, Dr Freud. I don't believe in luck," Kilroy added, needing to soften his response, without quite knowing why.
"Really?" Griffin looked no more than curious.
"Well, maybe. Sometimes. But if I thought everything was foreordained I'd cut my throat. What would be the point in living? How do you do this to me?" Kilroy added in a goaded tone as he sank onto the edge of the bed. "I'm not in the habit of running off at the mouth and yet you have me... I hadn't thought about this," he gestured to himself, "for years. And if it's all the same to you I'd like to keep it - "
" - that way," completed Griffin without rancour.
"You know too bloody much by half," muttered Kilroy, feeling naked after his revelations.
"No, but I understand guilt."
Shooting him a quick glance, Kilroy's self-protective belligerence faded. "Yeah. It's a bugger, isn't it."
"There are feelings I enjoy more," Griffin conceded, rising from the bed to pull on another bathrobe. Catching Kilroy's eye, he gave a wry grimace. "You've got to give credit where it's due, I'm hell on wheels when it comes to the afterglow."
Taken by surprise, Kilroy began to laugh. "It's been different. But I don't see why you should claim all the credit. Are you hungry?" he added, surprised to realise he was starving.
"Very. And that's easily rectified. Sandwiches or the full works? Room service can do either if I order before ten."
"The full works. If you don't want me to leave."
Having moved to the phone, Griffin turned to look at him. "If I did, you'd be the first one I'd tell."
The bewitching smile which accompanied Griffin's promise caused Kilroy's breath to catch, the warmth of the man was as palpable as the sun on a golden day in June. Kilroy could understand why Griffin didn't smile like that often; he'd be fighting them off in droves. But it was disconcerting to realise how much he liked this man.
Feeling uneasy the following morning and telling himself it was because of his lack of progress in the investigation, Kilroy stepped up surveillance on Griffin.
By the end of the week the suite was bugged, the plugs the hotel used replaced by those containing voice-sensitive microphones.
A complication arising from the audio surveillance occurred to Kilroy - fortunately in time to preserve his sanity - when he realised he was likely to star in the recordings. Glad he had allocated what he called the Langlois case to the two least curious men in the agency, he ensured that he alone had the chore of listening to the tapes. He had never cared for public performances in club land and he wasn't about to make an exception for the agency, Henri Langlois or anyone else.
His first stay in Griffin's suite at Brown's after it had been bugged was uneasy, Kilroy severely inhibited by the fact he knew he would have to listen to his own performance the following morning. Worse, the voice-sensitive microphones could not discriminate between coherent speech and the barely audible sounds made at climax, never mind the basic inanities which could ensue on the way to the peak. What might have seemed witty or even coherent in lust could make acutely embarrassing listening in the cold light of satiation.
Too experienced not to sense something wrong, Griffin set his brandy glass down. "Thanks for dinner. But it's getting late and we both have a full day ahead of us."
"You don't want to...?" Miserably self-conscious, and unaccustomed to the feeling, Kilroy trailed off into silence.
"Not tonight. You look as if you've developed a headache." There was a distinct edge to Griffin's voice by now. Given the expectations Kilroy had raised up to the moment they entered the hotel suite, it was understandable.
Kilroy straightened in his seat. "You think I'm trying to give you the brush-off?"
"I don't know. Are you?" Griffin's face gave nothing away.
"Would you care?" retorted Kilroy unguardedly, frustration on several levels getting the better of him. "I've been wearing myself out in a non-existent race, haven't I. You're not interested in anything more than a few fucks and forgets."
Griffin's eyes narrowed in warning.
"Oh, forget it," snapped Kilroy angrily. "Let's call it a day. I know when I'm beaten. You were too subtle for me, you see. I'm a simple soul, I need things explained in words of one syllable. You're not ready for a relationship."
Griffin remained propped against the wall, one hand in the pocket of his cashmere slacks as he regarded Kilroy thoughtfully. "Maybe I'm not," he said at last, "but I don't see why I should allow myself to be manipulated into feeling I should apologise for the fact."
"You can't hide for ever. I won't be the only person to realise you can't hack a real relationship. Sex only gives the illusion of intimacy, a bit like you."
"Oh god, you've been reading the problem pages again." The resignation in Griffin's voice dragged an involuntary choke of laughter from Kilroy, who had expected fireworks.
"Maybe so, but I'm not going to let you change the subject," he said doggedly.
"I'll be interested to hear how you think you can stop me," said Griffin, abruptly unamused.
They glared impotently at each other before Griffin shrugged. "I'd be sorry if it ended here," he admitted.
Kilroy blinked, wondering if he had heard correctly. "You would?" he said weakly, unconscious of the pleased smile he was wearing.
"Damn," sighed Griffin, recognising his mistake.
"So it's not a one-horse race."
"It's not a race at all," snapped Griffin, irritable because he had committed himself more than he had intended.
"No," agreed Kilroy, looking appallingly smug.
Griffin stalked over to where he sat. "Are you trying to wind me up on purpose, or does it come naturally? The moment we arrived here you started behaving like a Victorian maiden waiting to shriek 'rape' at the first opportunity."
"I know," admitted Kilroy sheepishly. "Could you stop looming over me, you'll give me a complex."
"I know what I'd like to give you," muttered Griffin, sorely tried. His tumescence was clearly outlined beneath his slacks.
"Yeah?" Kilroy's expression brightened. "OK, you've talked me into it." Inhibitions forgotten, he settled his palm where he judged it might be appreciated most.
Griffin's breath hissed inward before he took hold of Kilroy's wrist and hauled him upright. "Are you in any hurry?"
"None at all," said Kilroy cheerfully, revelling in the effect he was having, Griffin's breathing was audibly disorganised.
"You will be," Griffin promised him. "Bed."
Kilroy went without a murmur. Pinned by Griffin's weight, his head clamped in position by a two-handed grasp, he made no attempt to match or resist the assertive aggression in the bruising kiss. Closing his eyes, he tensed as he fought his instinctive reaction to the violent assault, prepared, for now, to give Griffin the benefit of the doubt.
"Damn!" muttered Griffin, straightening. "I didn't intend that."
"What?" asked Kilroy, his lips throbbing from the savagery of Griffin's kiss.
"There's a difference between sport and violence," said Griffin flatly, his gesture of negation making his preference clear.
"I know." Kilroy resisted the urge to touch a sore spot at the corner of his mouth.
"From experience?" asked Griffin, in a gentler tone.
"Only the once."
Griffin nodded. "Me, too." Leaning down, he licked apologetically at the corner of Kilroy's mouth, murmuring when Kilroy locked his arms around him, drawing their lower bodies together.
"That the best you can do, is it?" teased Kilroy.
Griffin's mouth hovered, their breath mingling, before he kissed Kilroy again, the fingers of one hand curling around the top of Kilroy's skull. Kilroy gave himself up to the embrace without thought or qualm.
That night, while they forgot restraint, battling as if to achieve the impossible and climb inside each other's skin, the passion was mutual.
"Don't panic, my face isn't going to fall apart," Griffin promised.
While he sounded more amused than offended, Kilroy gave him a wary look. His flinching withdrawal on discovering that a portion of Griffin's cheekbone moved and felt inhumanely cool, was hardly tactful.
"I just wasn't expecting... You must have taken one hell of a knock," he added, touching the centre of the implant with a gentle finger.
"The surgeons did the best they could. Fortunately I don't remember much about it."
"I bet you did afterwards. That would have been bloody painful. But it suits you."
"I suppose that's a compliment," Griffin murmured, earning himself a light slap on the rump. "You're an idiot," he told Kilroy. "I'm long past the age of having any false vanity."
"Oh, so you just accept the fact you're gorgeous and go from there."
Disconcerted by the expression in Kilroy's smiling eyes, Griffin gave him a gentle push. "I thought you were supposed to be making us some coffee."
"And I thought Italians were supposed to be subtle," mused Kilroy as he reluctantly crawled out of bed.
"I'm a half-breed," Griffin reminded him. "You look worse than I feel. Get back into bed. I'll see to coffee," he added in a long-suffering tone, before he went into the sitting-room.
Making no attempt to dissuade him, Kilroy smiled as he remembered the depredations Griffin had caused to his kitchen and wondered if he could charge Langlois for the broken crockery and burnt out percolator. Duly reminded that Griffin was supposed to be a job, his smile faded.