A tap on the door drew my gaze from the page of figures I’d been going through. A smile bloomed over my cheeks when I saw the face of the man who had popped his head around the doorframe.
“You got five minutes?” Saul asked. When I nodded, the blond giant came into the room. He stood at six foot eight and resembled the Chicago Bears linebacker for size. Strength was a given with how many muscles the dude had.
Saul acknowledged Warner, who was talking quietly on the phone. Most likely with his boyfriend Terrence, judging by the soft smile he was wearing. The guy only worked in the building next door, one they could see from their office window, and if Warner got his butt out of the chair and tilted his head, he’d be able to see Terrence. It didn’t matter. Warner was head over heels in love with his boy and spent most of his time checking in with him.
It was a love I’d encouraged, but that didn’t stop the curl of envy in the pit of my stomach. It was getting harder to ignore, what with the state of my love life and Warner’s smitten behavior. He was my best friend, and I was happy for him, I truly was, but that didn’t change the large empty bed at home with no one to fill it.
I lounged back in my seat, making it creak, happy to focus on something other than the emptiness of my love life since my last boyfriend. I twirled the pen I held and stared at Saul, whose brows knotted together when he looked at me.
“What can I do for you?”
Saul cast a look at Warner, one I couldn’t interpret, before looking back at me, not quiet meeting my gaze this time. The back of my neck itched as my gaze narrowed on the man who was giving off weird vibes I wasn’t used to. I’d known Saul for six years and it wasn’t hard to see he was uncomfortable.
“You see, it’s like this, I’ve an issue next weekend that’s come up suddenly, and I can’t cover the work gig.”
Like so many of the men that were employed for our security business, Saul lived a kink lifestyle. It hadn’t meant to be a prerequisite for our employees. It just happened that way when Warner and I had started the business after coming out of the services. Those first few jobs were for those we knew in the kink community and from there it kind of snowballed, in a good way, with word of mouth and us being discreet. Our employees being Doms and Daddies, did however, have its downside, especially where relationships and their expectations were involved. Saul had started a new relationship several weeks ago with a needy boy.
“Is it Nicky?”
Blond hair flew about his face as he once more glanced towards Warner. “Sorry boss, it’s just that’s something come up. It’s personal… not something I really want to talk about right now.” He made a strange noise in the back of his throat, his face flaming. “I really am sorry, but I seriously can’t do next weekend.”
Staring at the nervous giant in front of me, I angled my head, trying to figure out what I was missing, because it sure as hell felt like there was something. Saul, in all the time he’d worked for us, had never been this evasive or pulled out of a gig.
“Saul, has something happened between you and Duke? I’ve had no call of complaint. In fact, he’s always happy when you work on his security detail. You’ve been penciled into the calendar for this gig for eight weeks. I checked with you only last week.” I hated how pissed I sounded, but I was more than aware that there was nobody available to take Saul’s place.
I ran through all the security jobs we had booked through the next week and the nightmare of working on shuffling guys to fill this fucking big hole left with Saul unable, or unwilling, to work next weekend. I was getting more of a vibe of unwillingness than being unable. But it only was a gut feeling, one I’d no evidence to support. Saul wasn’t usually one to let us down, but by the way his lips pinched together, I figured questioning him further would be a waste of my time.
I scratched my jaw, coming up with and discarding all the potentials for replacing Saul. Duke Lester, a billionaire, was one of our biggest paying clients. He employed two of our men full time when he was in the States. Well known in the kink community, he held several parties every year on the build-up to Pride, culminating in the parade. The Pride Fest was in three weeks, which meant the party next weekend was the private event held in Duke’s home for all those who volunteered to be part of the fun weekend. That included celebrities who enjoyed kink but weren’t open about it, hence the additional security required. Someone who Duke trusted, which put Saul top of the list.
“You couldn’t have chosen a worse weekend to be unavailable. Is it the money?” I tapped my lip with the pen. “I told you this gig was going to be triple the pay, didn’t I?”
There came a cough from Warner, who was pretending interest in the computer sat in front of him on the other side of the room. I could see from where I was sitting that it wasn’t even switched on. The office was not large enough for me to miss it as I glanced at him. My business partner’s dark head was down, but his shoulders were moving.
“What’s so fucking amusing?” I snapped. “I should make you cover the party.”
When Warner’s head came up, his expression revealed no humor, intensifying my previous feeling that something was off. For the life of me though, I couldn’t figure out what was making me suspicious.
“I’ve got plans, as you well know. I’m taking Terrence on a trip to Disneyland. We leave next Wednesday for the long weekend. It’s been booked for weeks.”
Terrence was a Little and had been going on for weeks about what he was going to do on the trip. There was no way I would take that away from him after the issues that had arisen in the past with his father’s health and recovery, along with the scumbag lawyer who’d been stealing from Terrence. Something that had gotten resolved, hence the trip to Disneyland as a reward for Terrence. It was a shame their busy schedules meant they were only just getting to go, but I was glad they were finally getting round to it..
“Yeah, and so has Saul for this event,” I ground out testily, then apologized to Saul when I caught his wince. “Sorry. Things happen, I get it. It just leaves me in a bit of a hole.”
Saul’s flaming face looked to get hotter, though that barely seemed possible. He shuffled, his sneakered foot kicking at the ground, his eyes shifting once more back to Warner.
“You’ll have to do it,” Warner pointed out, hardly suppressing the grin as his comment drew my attention.
“Me!” I hadn’t done an event like this in a very long time; I avoided them after my ex boy got jealous about not being able to come with me. It hadn’t been the first time, and no matter how many times I’d explained I was there to keep people safe, Eric had never understood.
That is no longer an issue.
I swallowed back the bitterness at my single status and nodded. “I suppose I’ll have to as there isn’t any other option.” As I moved forward, I dropped the pen on the desk and shifted my gaze back to Saul, feeling a little guilty for taking out my snit on him. “You know we’re here for you if you need to talk or need support.”
“I do, and thanks. I gotta go. Nicky is waiting in the car.” He gave a one handed salute and, for such a big man, was out the door like a sprinter.
I pointed my thumb towards the empty doorway. “Do you know something I don’t?”
“Nope.” Warner dropped his gaze back to the computer, but not before I caught the light in his eyes.
Chair creaking, I lounged back and eyed my best friend. “What am I missing?”
The phone rang, and Warner reached for it. “Nothing,” he answered as he picked it up. “Good morning D & S Securities, how can I help?”
Damn him, he was so good at keeping his thoughts to himself. But my senses were buzzing like a damn fly had gotten into my ear and was fleeing about madly. I stared at Warner for several minutes as he walked a client through what we offered. When he arched a brow at me, I worked to shake off the odd feeling he knew the reason behind Saul’s sudden change of plans.
Pulling up the work diary and the details of the event to be held at Duke’s large penthouse on North Michigan Ave, overlooking Lake Michigan, I reread the information. Duke was not a man to surprise with a change, so I reached for my phone, dialing his personal number.
“Austin, to what do I owe this pleasure?” a deep, rumbly voice asked before I spoke. “I can’t remember the last time you called me personally. I hope there isn’t a problem?”
“No problem,” I reassured him. “There’s going to be a change of security detail for the party next week, and I wanted to let you know.”
There was a moment of silence. “Oh, there isn’t an issue, is there?”
“Of course not. Saul has to pull out for next weekend. I’ll be taking his place.”
He met this with a deep, raucous laugh. “So I’m getting the big boss, am I? I’m honored. I’ll need to mark the occasion with something special.”
I chuckled. “It’s my privilege. Is there anything else I need to be aware of for the night?”
“That it’s all night. We barely ever finish before sunrise.”
“That won’t be an issue,” I replied, groaning internally. I wasn’t as young as I used to be and staying up all night, even if working, wasn’t something I’d done in more than half a decade.
As we finalized the details, I consoled myself that there would be some fun things to watch and keep me entertained… and awake, hopefully.