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HUNTED BY DEVILS

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EIGHT

Kilroy became adept at skipping long portions of audio tape. The rest told him little more than the surveillance; Griffin was visiting what seemed like every timber merchant and toolmaker in Britain, in between house- hunting and meeting acquaintances from his days at Cambridge and Bedales.

It was, Kilroy supposed sourly, inevitable that public schoolboys would move in the same social circle. They were a diverse bunch of men, whom he disapproved of on principle but whose reputations were no worse than any other random sampling of men. If Griffin had any Machiavellian plans for Josh Cassidy he was taking a long time to get round to them.

Lacking contacts in the Far East, Kilroy hired the services of a detective agency in Hong Kong, seeking information about Melville's death and Griffin's life, together with all press cuttings on the two subjects. His investigation of Henri Langlois, as he had suspected would be the case, did nothing to confirm or deny the Frenchman's allegations against Griffin.

While Kilroy was not convinced Griffin had any plans to kidnap Josh Cassidy, he was certain he was up to something; the only problem lay in establishing what that might be. There was steel beneath the silken sophistication; Kilroy suspected he would make a dangerous enemy. A more pertinent question was how far Griffin might take a grudge against an ex-lover who had spurned him.

oOo

"So much for my plans for an early start," remarked Kilroy as he strolled into the sitting-room, pulling on the jacket to his suit.

"Not guilty," retorted Griffin, glancing round the side of The Guardian. "It was your fault we had a lie-in."

"Point taken," grinned Kilroy, before his nose wrinkled. "What's that funny smell?"

"Drains?" suggested Griffin, pulling a face now it had been drawn to his attention.

"No, it's coming from the kitchen." Directing a look of the darkest suspicion at Griffin, who disappeared back behind his newspaper with a self-conscious twitch, Kilroy braved the other room. The stench increased tenfold when he opened the door.

"The eggs have boiled dry," he announced accusingly when Griffin deigned to appear. Switching off the cooker, Kilroy opened the window and gave his theatrically-shivering companion an unsympathetic look. "It's a wonderful autumn day outside, so pack it in. Fresh air wouldn't be necessary if someone not four feet away from me hadn't burnt breakfast. We were aiming to achieve lightly boiled eggs, not golf balls. What time did you put them on?"

Griffin wore a faintly harassed look. "About half an hour ago, I think. I made sure the water was boiling."

"That's a bit long for four-minute eggs," pointed out Kilroy with restraint.

"So that's what the phra - smell was," amended Griffin, feeling about two inches high. It wasn't easy to cover gaps in your education when you didn't always know what they were; he was reluctant to admit his ignorance. It was impossible to spend any time in Kilroy's company without realising he had a knee-jerk reflex against what he obviously regarded as wealthy parasites. While Griffin intended to work on that, he preferred to act from a position of strength rather than one of total ineptitude.

Busy investigating what else was edible, Kilroy had missed that betrayal. "Not to worry, we didn't have anything to go with them anyway. Put some clothes on and I'll buy you breakfast on the way to work. There's no need to shave."

"The days of designer stubble are over."

"So start a new fashion. You look bloody gorgeous," Kilroy added frankly. "Very après-sex."

"It's hardly surprising in the circumstances." Griffin looked without enthusiasm at his crumpled clothes, which had been discarded in haste the previous evening.

"Here: socks, briefs and a shirt," offered Kilroy, perching on the edge of the bed while Griffin began to dress.

"You wouldn't like a closer view, would you?" asked Griffin acidly, aware he was providing the floor show.

"It's perfect from where I am, thank you. Hurry up. I'm hungry. We're only going round the corner, not the Ritz."

"The Ritz is only round the corner," Griffin pointed out, combing his tangled hair and making a mental note to get it cut.

"You're coming slumming with me instead."

"What's new?"

Uncowed, Kilroy encouraged Griffin down the stairs and out into the sunshine.

Still pulling on his Missoni knitted jacket, Griffin sniffed the air. "It's comparatively warm."

"Don't sound so amazed. You're getting acclimatized, that's all."

"Probably just my arteries clogging up," returned Griffin but he ate almost as much as Kilroy when they sat at a Formica-topped table at the back of a small Italian sandwich bar.

"What are your plans for today?" asked Kilroy idly, over his second mug of coffee.

Griffin wrinkled his nose. "Very dull. Lawyers and bankers all day and a game of squash in the early evening."

Kilroy resigned himself to the fact that the contents of the two meetings would remain a secret; both professions took seriously the philosophy of client confidentiality. "I didn't think you knew many people in London," he said casually, mentally reviewing the names the agency had checked.

"Nor did I until I bumped into Tom in South Molton Street, since when old acquaintances have been crawling out of the woodwork. I've even been pleased to see some of them again. I thought I'd go to see the new Redgrave play tonight. Does it appeal?"

"Is it a comedy?"

"Not so's you'd notice. It's about Isadora Duncan. The dancer," Griffin prompted.

"Ah." Kilroy tried to pin on a look of enthusiasm. From Griffin's grin, he realised it hadn't been a success.

"Point taken. I'll go alone. You were supposed to be rushing to the office to catch up on paperwork," Griffin reminded him dutifully.

"I know. Why do you think I'm still sitting here? Anything's preferable. Do you fancy a drink after the play?"

"Let's make it a meal. Meet me outside the Queen's Theatre at ten-thirty - if that's not too late for you?"

Kilroy directed what was intended to be a crushing look in his direction before agreeing with an eagerness which might have worried him had he paused to register it.

oOo

The following week Kilroy concentrated on reviewing the facts he had collected on Griffin, looking for anything suspicious. Financial and police checks on his contacts were clear and the more he reread Langlois' dossier, the more convinced he became that the most damning elements had been fabricated. The information didn't tie in with the man he was coming to know, or the results of his own enquiries.

If the stakes hadn't been so high he knew he would have already returned the dossier and fee to the Frenchman. Because the safety of a child could rest on his decision, Kilroy transferred the fees due from Langlois to an account in his own name and tried not to wonder how he would pay them. Feeling increasingly uncomfortable with his role as a spy, he decided to wait for the Hong Kong agency's report on Griffin before he made a final decision.

oOo

Kilroy spent Saturday night at Brown's because it was less conspicuous than trying to sneak out in the middle of the night with a guilty look on his face. While the hotel wouldn't care, he did.

"It's only dawning on me slowly that you're a night owl," he remarked, watching Griffin return from the bathroom.

Glancing at the face that was heavy-eyed from lack of sleep, Griffin grimaced. "Unlike you. I must be playing havoc with your work schedule."

"Things are quietish at the moment so I can get away with it. But I function best on about six hours a night."

"I've got used to making do with less. I'll kick you out early next time."

"That wasn't quite what I had in mind," sighed Kilroy. "Can I ask you something?"

"As you'll do it anyway, I may as well be gracious about it."

"Great, when does that act start?"

Griffin tossed his dressing-gown over Kilroy's head.

"Nice. It smells of you," noted Kilroy, rubbing his face against the warm silk before dropping it on the floor.

"That's amazing," said Griffin, getting into bed. "Very profound. What did you want to know?" he added, having learnt that Kilroy never asked the predictable or even the rational questions.

"I was just wondering if I'm pushing you faster than you want to go. Be honest."

Rubbing his nose, Griffin propped himself against a pillow; out of consideration for his non-smoking companion he refrained from lighting up. "I'm used to having more space in my life but I'm not complaining so far. What made you ask?" he added curiously.

"The fact that sometimes you get a hunted look."

"You think so?" Griffin gave him a quizzical grin. "Well, if I get a panic attack, you'll be the first to hear about it. Relax. Oh god, what great thought's struggling to surface now?"

"Will you spend next weekend with me at the house? It's only sixty or so miles away." It had occurred to Kilroy that if this relationship was to work he must let Griffin into all areas of his life - that included his real home. He was reluctant to admit how much he wanted to see Griffin at Whitehaven.

"Yes. That is..."

"Uh huh, it's too late to back out now. Right, that's settled." A scowling face appeared in Kilroy's line of vision.

"You hardly know me."

Kilroy tweaked a rose-brown nipple. "That's what I'm trying to rectify, even if I'm not getting much help from you. Speaking of getting to know you better..." Barely subduing a grin, he fell silent.

"Yes?" said Griffin in wary encouragement, having learnt to mistrust Kilroy's sense of humour.

"It's not very tactful," Kilroy admitted.

"Tact isn't your forte. Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Like what?" asked Kilroy, all innocence. "No, you can't tickle me. James! All right! I'll talk!"

"I know you will," said Griffin, poised to continue his assault if necessary.

"I was just wondering if you'd still like me to fuck you," said Kilroy with spurious meekness. "We never did get round to it."

"Yes," said Griffin without evasion or hesitation. "And I had noticed."

"I'm glad to hear it. In that case, we should get some sleep. Do you want me?"

Griffin's expression answered for him.

Kilroy settled himself more comfortably. "I thought as much. Why didn't you say anything before?"

"I would have got round to it. When the time was right." Griffin switched off the light.

Kilroy gave a snort. "I bet I can imagine at which point. Would I have been in any state to hear you?"

"Only if I've lost my touch," Griffin conceded.

"About tomorrow morning. I reckon we should toss for who has the pleasure of going first. What do you think?"

"First come, first served," said Griffin after a moment's thought.

Groaning, Kilroy rolled onto his stomach. "May the best man win, then." His buttocks received a fleeting caress.

"I will," promised Griffin.

 

 

His face half-obscured by the pillow, Griffin mumbled a sleepy complaint and gave a protesting wriggle before his eyes opened. "Oh god," he groaned with mock horror as he felt Kilroy's erection prod his flank. "You're up so it must be morning. Don't I even get a cigarette first?"

"Not even one last wish," said Kilroy cheerfully. "Though if you need the bathroom..."

"I don't," said Griffin, unwillingly amused.

Kilroy leant across him to reach for the packet of condoms. "This is much healthier than smoking. Environmentally friendly, too."

Griffin's nose wrinkled. "We should have unwrapped them last night. I hate the smell of rubber."

"Pure machine-tested latex, these are. I wish I'd gone for the raspberry-flavoured ones though."

"With spikes on?"

"One horn at a time." Flat-palmed, Kilroy rubbed the tightening muscles visible down Griffin's back. "Hey, I won't deny the obvious but if you don't want this, just say so." His hands rested wistfully over the rise of Griffin's buttocks while he stroked the downy object of his desire with his thumbs.

His cheek on his folded arms, Griffin's head turned. "That isn't the problem. But as it's been over a year since I've been fucked, I'd appreciate your forbearance. How would you like me?"

"Now there's a leading question." Nuzzling the hollow of Griffin's spine, Kilroy parted the small buttocks to expose the clenching muscle. "Let's get you lubed up first."

"Lubed up?" repeated Griffin with disbelief before he began, incongruously, to giggle. "Wonderful expression. This is a delicate mechanism you have here, not a rusting engine. I'll see to it."

"Not likely. It's half the fun."

"True." Relaxing, Griffin curved one leg to ease the pressure on his stirring sex.

Kilroy explored him with his mouth, tasting the sharp bitterness of sleep-slick skin. His tongue made Griffin squirm, the edge of tooth-enamel drawing a soft sound from deep in Griffin's throat as his cock filled. He gasped when a moist tongue stabbed his anus. Exhaling, he offered himself up, his fingers opening and closing over the pillow as the sweet torment continued.

Finding Griffin impossibly tight, Kilroy was careful with him. While he took two fingers with only mild discomfort, the third made him quiver, his clenching hands betraying him.

"James?"

Griffin muttered something succinct into the pillow.

Kilroy's lack of Cantonese notwithstanding, he had no difficulty in understanding the gist of the message. "That's enough for today," he announced, easing his fingers from Griffin's cramping body to massage the small of his spine.

"The fuck it is," said Griffin, turning onto his back. "I'm not a prick-tease."

"I never thought you were."

"No? Well, I doubt if he'd agree with you." Griffin touched Kilroy lightly before he knelt up to enjoy the view. "Extra strong, superfine and an excellent fit. But I'm glad you passed on the spikes. Ribbing, too. It'll give us something to look forward to," he added, reaching for some more lubricant. "I'm ready, he's eager, so let's fuck."

Settling against the mattress, he gave a long stretch before reaching for his own penis. Hand curling around himself, he began a languorous rhythm. Looking up, he gave Kilroy a glance of slanting mischief, wicked as any boy's, but with a man's knowledge besides. A dead man would have responded to that mixture of appraisal and invitation; Kilroy surrendered without a qualm.

"Let me," he said hoarsely.

"Hang on. It's just occurred to me." Griffin sat up in one smooth movement. "Who decided you should go first?" He was so close that his knees brushed Kilroy's inner thighs.

"First come, first served," Kilroy reminded him. His eyes widened when his balls were taken in a firm grasp, the pressure of those skilled fingers threatening rather than delivering pain as yet. "That's not the hold of a gentleman," he said apprehensively, hoping he wouldn't sneeze. This was a street-fighter's hold.

Green eyes laughed at him but there was a fleeting menace behind the warmth. "What makes you suppose I'm a gentleman?"

"Fear of castration," replied Kilroy promptly.

Supple as an eel, Griffin nuzzled what he held before releasing Kilroy and flopping onto his back. "OK, take me," he declaimed. Flinging his arms and legs wide, his beautiful cock thrust toward his belly. "No?" he added, when Kilroy did not move.

"How could anyone not want you," said Kilroy helplessly, tracing the underside of Griffin's cock with the side of his thumb.

Griffin's breath caught. "I frequently ask myself the same question, particularly when teased by handsome blue-eyed men." Grasping his wide-spread knees, he drew them back until he was bent virtually double.

Kilroy couldn't have resisted him to save his life. Running his hands up and down Griffin's inner thighs, he positioned himself, easing home an inch at a time so that Griffin's body had time to accustom itself to him, while he pulled encouragingly on Griffin's cock. By the time his pubic hair brushed Griffin's buttocks, his balls were in knots, Griffin's body like a satin-gloved hand squeezing his length.

"Home free," sighed Griffin. Unwinding his legs, he locked one high around Kilroy's ribs, the other hooking over his flanks; the sole of his foot rubbed the clenched buttocks. "Now," he commanded, just before he surged upward, dragging Kilroy impossibly deeper.

Revelling in the freedom given to him, Kilroy unleashed his strength as he withdrew almost completely, only to thrust home to the hilt. Griffin met him strength for strength, demanding all Kilroy had to give. Their bodies meshing, pace and rhythm matched, Kilroy knew to the second when Griffin was going to come. As always, Griffin was silent, but the sensations racking him stripped away his controls, his face betraying him. Only when he had calmed did Kilroy finish, his head thrown back as he arched strongly and came with a shout. His arms failing him, he sank over Griffin with a sigh of contentment.

When he stirred some time later their bodies made small wet sounds as they parted. Sinking back on his heels, feeling very pleased with himself, Griffin and life in general, Kilroy exhaled noisily.

Sprawled wide, Griffin's eyes slowly refocused. Realising he was under surveillance, his face lost all trace of drowsy contentment. "Thank you," he said lightly. Sitting up, he slipped from the bed, stretched and left the room with a steadiness Kilroy could only envy.

Peeling off the condoms he wore, Kilroy rolled them in a bundle of tissues, frowning when he heard Griffin's voice from the other room and realised he must be using the telephone.

When Griffin reappeared a few moments later, Kilroy eyed his cigarette with resignation. "I suppose I should be grateful you waited to light up until I'd finished."

"I'm not so sure I did. While I've ordered coffee, it may take some time to arrive. Do you know what time it is?" Griffin pulled on a dressing-gown, obviously finding the room cooler than did Kilroy.

"Early?" hazarded Kilroy, experiencing a faint twinge of guilt.

"Five-thirty. But I forgive you, in the circumstances."

"That's lucky. Did you think to order any food? I'm starving."

"Somehow I knew you would be. I told them anything would do."

"Where are you going?"

Griffin turned, surprise on his face. "Back to bed, of course. It's Sunday. Day of rest."

"But what about room service?"

"You're the one who's hungry, you let them in."

"I'll be in the bathroom."

"How can you be so certain?" Light dawning, Griffin gave a delighted chuckle. "You're...no, you can't be bashful. Not you."

"Bastard," said Kilroy amicably. "You know bloody well I am. It's my shy and retiring nature."

Griffin snorted and slapped him lightly on the backside. "So that's why you were so coy the other week. How sweet."

"I'll give you sweet," threatened Kilroy, outraged.

"Save it till we have the energy to enjoy it," Griffin advised him. "What's that you're holding so tenderly? Oh. They looked more impressive when they were full." He pushed Kilroy and his unsavoury package in the direction of the bathroom. "I'll see to room service," he sighed.

"Food," said Kilroy ecstatically, on his return to the sitting-room.

With a horrified fascination Griffin watched him devour the breakfast of two men before inspecting the trolley in the hope of finding more. "Your food bills must be horrendous," he remarked idly.

"We can't all live on caffeine and cigarettes. Instead of going back to bed, why don't we go for a run. You do jog?" Kilroy remembered to ask.

"When I have to. I don't have to this morning. It's pitch black outside, and from what the waiter said, cold and pouring with rain. But don't let me stop you." Griffin took his second cup of coffee into the bedroom.

Propped in the doorway, Kilroy's eyes darkened. "Would you rather I left?"

"Only if you're going to keep talking." As if realising what lay behind the question, Griffin sobered. "Of course I wouldn't. I'm just a bit short on sleep," he added pointedly, making himself comfortable on the bed. Rolling onto his stomach after he finished his coffee, he felt a proprietorial hand settle over his rump; brushing away his robe, it bared him to the cold air.

"Am I tickling you?" Kilroy asked, watching Griffin's gluteal muscles twitch.

"Yes, but I don't suppose that will stop you. You approve of my ass, I take it."

"Arse. You're in England."

"I hadn't forgotten. An American would have cleaned his teeth by now, and a Chinese bathed."

"Is that a subtle hint?"

"A shave might have been a good idea," said Griffin, wincing as a stubble-roughened jaw scraped his buttocks.

"Sorry. What would an Australian do?" asked Kilroy, his stomach giving a jolt when he remembered Charlie Cassidy and the job he was supposed to be doing.

Wide-eyed, Griffin turned his head. "There's no such thing as a bent Australian male, didn't you know?"

"Pull the other one."

"Come to that, according to the Chinese authorities, there's no such thing as homosexual behaviour amongst their population."

"Eh?" Kilroy's jaw dropped.

"True," Griffin promised. "It's not mentioned in their penal code. They claim it's a purely foreign phenomenon."

"More like phenomenal," judged Kilroy.

"Ah, but we're part of the decadent West. Earlier this year the Bill bringing Hong Kong's laws on homosexuality in line with Britain's was brought before the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council."

"That's good news?"

"They've finally decriminalised homosexuality, despite the Opposition's insistence that homosexuality is totally alien to the Chinese character."

"Is it?" asked Kilroy, sidetracked.

"Give me patience. Not in my experience. Haven't you ever heard of the people of the torn-sleeve?"

"No. Tell me."

"Once upon a time," began Griffin, relying on an approved formula, "about two thousand years ago in the final years of the Han Dynasty - "

Kilroy gave a theatrical snore.

"Do you want to hear this or not?" enquired Griffin.

"I'd love to, only without the history lesson."

"I just thought I'd check if you were awake."

"Not only awake but seriously considering strangling you. I'm hooked, ready and waiting, OK?"

"I love it when you're masterful," breathed Griffin. When a capable hand tangled in his hair he obligingly looked up, returning Kilroy's kiss with an unhurried pleasure. "Mmn, where was I?"

"Han Dynasty," prompted Kilroy in a long-suffering tone.

"Right. Well, this emperor fell in love with a male courtier who was celebrated for his beauty and the simplicity of his dress, in stark contrast to everyone else. It was from their love that the name the torn-sleeve people comes."

Kilroy's caressing hands stilled. "Because they were beaten up so often?" The mixture of resignation, anger and sadness in his voice spoke volumes.

"This is a romance, not a tragedy. Just for once, true love won through. Who's telling this story?" Griffin added with mock-indignation.

"You. Very slowly. Tell me." Massaging Griffin's rump, Kilroy half-expected to hear Griffin purr with contentment.

"Well, as you ask so nicely. Beset by the cares of court, this emperor - Ai, I think his name was - spent a delicious night with his lover. But when he tried to leave the bed the following morning his lover's head was pillowed on the sleeve of his robe, trapping him. Rather than break into his lover's rest, Ai cut the sleeve from the robe. Since that period, Chinese homosexuals have been known as the people of the torn-sleeve."

"It's better than shirt-lifter, I suppose. What happened next?" asked Kilroy, whose mouth had softened.

Griffin's head turned on the pillow. "How should I...? I don't know," he amended, gentle when he noticed Kilroy's expression, "but I've always thought they lived happily ever after, making love by the light cast by fireflies dancing in their wicker cages. I like the story too, so you needn't look so defensive. Although, given a choice, I'd rather be woken up early than sleep with a guy who just happens to keep a knife by the bedside."

"Pragmatist. Where's your sense of romance?" chided Kilroy, snuffling Griffin's scent.

"Not there for a start." Griffin twitched as the sensation on his buttocks changed. "If you're wondering if I'll be able to take you in, don't bother. You've already proved it to our mutual satisfaction."

"You might have said the earth moved," protested Kilroy, his tongue tip tracing the taut curve of the undercheek. It twitched.

"I might," Griffin teased. He gave a sigh of sheer bliss when the aching small of his back was rubbed with exactly the right amount of pressure. Then the touch changed. "What are you doing now?" he asked curiously, the brush of fingers tickling him.

"I was just thinking. If your arse - ass, if you insist - wasn't too gorgeous to mark, I'd like to see it wearing a tattoo. From cheek to cheek. Just about here." Kilroy's fingers spanned the area in question.

"A tattoo?" repeated Griffin blankly. "Of what?"

"There's only one thing it could be." Kilroy waited until Griffin half-turned, intrigued despite himself. "'Kilroy was here', of course." He gained more reaction than he bargained for.

"You arrogant son-of-a-bitch!"

A moment later Kilroy found himself flattened against the mattress, his arms pinned above his head, Griffin's knee threatening what he treasured most. Intrigued by Griffin's reaction time, Kilroy made no attempt to resist. Griffin was faster than any man that graceful had the right to be. Almost as if he had been trained The thought was unwelcome in its implications and Kilroy did his best to shrug it away.

"I surrender," he said meekly, going limp.

The ferocity faded from the narrowed eyes as Griffin relaxed, although he remained balanced over Kilroy, his thigh muscles and knees supporting his weight as he released Kilroy's wrists. "For a moment I thought you were serious."

"I think I was," admitted Kilroy ruefully.

Griffin leant forward so that his forearms banded Kilroy's face. "You're possessive."

Under that unblinking, disconcerting gaze, Kilroy told the unvarnished truth. "A bit. I'm not obsessively jealous, and I don't insist on being joined at the hip, but I guard what's mine. That's possessive, isn't it," he realised with an endearing surprise.

"You're a bastard," sighed Griffin, bending to kiss him.

When they finally drew apart Kilroy gave a contented sigh. "You're very good at that."

"Years of practice. I should get up. There are some calls I need to make."

By this time Kilroy expected the signs of withdrawal. "I'll leave you in peace."

"It doesn't seem very likely. You're not a peaceful person."

"While you're all tranquillity, I suppose?"

"No," admitted Griffin wryly. "I've not had much experience of promulgating domestic harmony, and not just because I've lived in hotels for so many years."

It took Kilroy a moment to absorb what he was being told. "You mean you've never lived with anyone full time?"

"No," said Griffin warily. "Long-term relationships but not live-in."

"You never met anyone you wanted to live with?"

"Twice. One man, one woman." Griffin sat up.

Kilroy leant forward to rest his palm on Griffin's tensing back, rubbing it gently. "What went wrong?" Griffin was silent for so long that he was surprised when his question was answered.

"Robert was murdered and she...didn't want me. I can't say I blame her. There are times when honesty isn't the best policy."

"In what way?" Suddenly Kilroy realised whom Griffin must be talking about. He wondered cynically how Griffin's account would tally with Charlie Cassidy's.

Leaving the bed, Griffin lit a cigarette and propped himself against the wall. "I meant that if you've been living a lie, as I was, don't expect a reward when you finally tell the truth." While his tone was flippant, his eyes were sad.

"Is that why she left you?"

"That and the fact her passion was largely spent. It's strange I should have made such a mistake, I'm not usually so naive. But because I'd fallen in love beyond the point of prudence, I thought she would love me enough to understand and forgive me. She did neither. In fact she hates me for betraying her. Ironic, isn't it. The seducer seduced."

"Do you still want her?" Kilroy asked abruptly.

Griffin stared first at him, then at his cigarette.

"Stupid question on my part," muttered Kilroy, feeling an unreasonable surge of resentment.

"Not necessarily. Why should you think I would?"

Guilt for what he was doing sharpened Kilroy's tone. "The fact that I sometimes wonder where you are - it's certainly not with me. I don't need to see blood to sense a raw wound."

Shooting him an intent glance, Griffin's inimical expression eased. "I'm not sure," he said honestly, before he added, "but what about your wounds?"

"Me? I don't know what you're talking about," Kilroy denied quickly; too quickly.

"If you say so. It's time I had a shower." All brisk practicality in answer to that rebuff, Griffin's mask was firmly back in place as he left the room.

Kilroy exhaled, impatient with himself. He should have fed him some sob story instead of clamming up But he understood why Griffin had retreated so fast. He increasingly had the sound of a man who had dammed up his emotions for so long that his control was stretched wafer-thin. More, he seemed to know it, wary of spilling out every secret. What he didn't sound like was an extortioner. There again, by his own admission he'd set out to cold-bloodedly seduce Charlie Cassidy. It wouldn't do to take at face value crocodile tears because the hunter had been caught in his own trap, Kilroy reminded himself, angered by the confusion of his emotions. It was time to storm those barricades. They were there for a purpose, so break them down. He'd done it to better men than James Griffin. But it was repairs which kept coming to mind while he used the other bathroom to shower and change.

He was drinking fresh coffee by the time Griffin returned. "You mentioned something about wanting to go house-hunting today," Kilroy said encouragingly, as if unaware that he had outstayed his welcome.

"Perhaps later this week." While he would not lie, Griffin desperately wanted time to himself, appalled by the ease with which he had begun to open his heart to a stranger, albeit one who fucked like a cross between an angel and a trucker. Yet sometimes, when Kilroy thought himself unobserved, the sadness behind the flippant facade became visible. Bad enough to want to understand its cause, even worse to want to alleviate it. Maudlin sentimentality, he castigated himself.

"Fair enough," said Kilroy equably, knowing better than to push. "I hope your wallet's in a healthy state."

Caught off-guard, Griffin froze, a sick disappointment spreading outward. Opportunists were an occupational hazard for wealthy bisexuals.

"Because I thought you might like to take me out to dinner tonight - if you're free - and I have very expensive tastes. Do you have a preference: Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds or the Pizza Hut?"

Relaxing, a reluctant amusement tugged Griffin's mouth. "French. Nouvelle cuisine I don't enjoy it particularly, but you can't afford to eat a heavy meal."

"I'm not fat," said Kilroy indignantly.

"Indeed you're not, but sex is better after a light meal than a heavy one."

"Get out of here, you're just a cheapskate. So I'm to pay for my supper, am I? That was a joke," Kilroy added gently when Griffin's eyes flickered again. "Tell you what, I'll eat a huge lunch and just inhale tonight."

Griffin's hands parted in a gesture of surrender. "We'll eat where and what you choose - except fast food."

"I'll book a table. Eight-thirty. Should I meet you here?"

The diffidence in Kilroy's voice was Griffin's undoing. "No. In fact if you don't have anything else planned for today, come to the sports club with me. We could drive out of town for lunch, you seem to know everywhere that serves edible food."

"Anyone would think I did nothing but eat. But as it happens, I know just the pub," said Kilroy, satisfied with his progress so far.

Trying to ignore the persistent feeling that he was betraying a trust, Kilroy occupied his time while Griffin was changing by studying the papers spread across the desk in the sitting-room. He could make little sense of the sketches or cryptic notes; either Griffin was using a sophisticated code, or he was planning to run a small timber yard, neither of which seemed particularly criminal - or explicable. Hearing sounds of movement from the other room, Kilroy quickly moved away from the desk. Guilt for what he had been doing made him talk too much and too brightly. Conscious of it, he grimaced when he glimpsed the glance Griffin shot at him and fell into an unnatural silence as they went to collect Griffin's car.

 

 

Given Kilroy's confident manner, it had not occurred to Griffin that he might feel self-conscious about his scarred body, until Kilroy showed little enthusiasm for any of the activities on offer at the sports club.

"What about a swim?" he asked, pulling on a pair of black swimming briefs.

"I haven't swum for a while. I'll have a workout in the gym," Kilroy added without enthusiasm, feeling uncomfortable about his spying activities and wanting some time away from Griffin, particularly while Griffin looked so fuckable.

While Griffin nodded, his expression was thoughtful. "OK. I'll see you later."

The exclusive club catered for every whim of their guests. Having swum his fifty laps, this the only form of exercise he could honestly say he enjoyed, Griffin showered, dressed, and went to find the Club Secretary about the possibility of hiring the pool for his private use.

Having waited in vain for Griffin, Kilroy went in search of him, arriving in time to hear the Secretary's plummily regretful tones as he told Griffin that the pool was too popular with the members for private hire to be possible.

Deaf to Griffin's conversational overtures as they went down to the car park, Kilroy waited until they were in the privacy of Griffin's Jaguar before he let rip.

"Was that for my benefit?" he demanded, coldly angry when he realised the extent to which his behaviour had been misinterpreted.

"It didn't hurt to ask," said Griffin mildly, turning the Jaguar into the Sunday traffic.

"It didn't occur to you to check with me first?"

Ruffled by Kilroy's tone, Griffin's tone was equally sharp. "Should it have done? Where shall we have lunch?"

"I'm going home. To my flat. You can drop me off here if you have other plans."

While Griffin had, they all included the man at his side. Seeing a sign for a multi-storey car park, he turned into it.

"Where are we going now?" demanded Kilroy.

"Nowhere. I just thought that if you're spoiling for a fight, it might be a good idea if I parked the car. What have I done to piss you off now?"

"Taken it for granted that I'm incapable of making my own choices. If I was paranoid I'd hardly enjoy you pointing it out to all and sundry. I can't say I got much of a charge out of watching you try to buy everything in sight either," added Kilroy, opening the passenger door the moment the car drew to a halt in a parking space.

"Now hang on just one fucking minute. All I..." Releasing the forearm he had grabbed to reinforce his point, Griffin stared through the windscreen. "I'm sorry," he muttered ungraciously. "It was a spur of the moment decision. I didn't think."

"No," said Kilroy unforgivingly, slamming shut the door.

Griffin lit a cigarette as he watched Kilroy stalk off. Flicking on the compact disc player in the dashboard, he frowned as he listened to Paul Simon begin his recital of the Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover. Silencing the CD before the song ended, he muttered an angry, "Fuck it," and turned the key in the ignition.

As the car glided down the ramp to the exit, a figure huddled out of the rain under the overhang of the roof caught Griffin's eye. Griffin slowed the car to a stop and opened the passenger door, waiting until Kilroy slid in and fastened his seat-belt before setting the car in motion again.

"I hoped you hadn't gone," Kilroy said into the silence, which was more comfortable than he had expected. "Discovered I hadn't got enough money on me for a taxi home. Sorry," he added, surprised to realise he meant it.

Griffin shrugged the apology away. "Don't be. Quite apart from the fact it isn't any of my business, you were right. I was showing off. You must bring out the worst in me."

Stretching out his legs, Kilroy looked relieved. "I might have known it would be my fault."

"It must be. I am never wrong," intoned Griffin but his flippancy was forced.

"Do you often get these protective urges?"

"I thought you were convinced it was yet another indication of the vulgarity of the newly rich," retorted Griffin, evading the question because it was loaded with implications he wasn't prepared to consider.

"You're not new rich," said Kilroy with decision. "You're far too used to getting your own way. I'll have to train you out of the habit."

Drawing to a halt at the traffic lights, Griffin's eyebrows rose. "Really?"

"You said you admired optimists."

"When?"

Kilroy looked vague. "I can't remember. The lights have changed," he added helpfully.

Shaking his head, Griffin resisted the temptation to make a racing start. "I need a drink," he announced in a heartfelt tone.

"D'you feel forgiving enough to buy me one, preferably with lunch as well?"

"Probably. Where did you have in mind?"

"Wherever's closest. Then we could go back to the flat to sleep it off over the Sunday papers."

"How big a lunch are you planning to eat?"

"Don't be dense," begged Kilroy. "What we'll be sleeping off is illegal in public."

"Oh that." Griffin slowed to turn right into Stratton Street and parked outside Langham's Restaurant, hoping the clamping units did not operate on a Sunday.

"You might underwhelm me with a bit more enthusiasm," Kilroy complained.

"Don't sulk," Griffin advised him, smiling as he unfastened his seat-belt, "it doesn't become you. I expect I'll manage to rise to the occasion."

"So do I," said Kilroy confidently.

 

Some of Kilroy's satisfaction dissipated at eleven-thirty that evening when Griffin glanced at his watch and announced that he must be going.

"It's a bit late to visit someone, isn't it?"

"I'm going back to Brown's. I promised you an early night."

"You don't need to leave for that. We don't have to screw like minks every time we sleep together."

"It hasn't stopped us so far. Besides, there are some figures I need to work on before tomorrow afternoon and my laptop's back in my room."

"Suit yourself," shrugged Kilroy sulkily. His ploy backfired.

"I intend to. Good night. I can see myself out."

When Kilroy tried to ring Griffin twenty minutes later he found the line engaged. Giving up at one o'clock, he got ready for bed. Still awake an hour later, he gave the pillow he was cuddling an irritable punch and inhaled another faint trace of Griffin's scent.