Cameron Walker drummed the fingers of his right hand against the counter. He was staring intently at the postcard he was gripping in his left hand. He spared a glance at the cast adorning his left arm and gave it a glare. It was almost as if the plaster was mocking him. The cast on his arm was also a reminder of why he had the postcard in his hand in the first place. He needed to call Julian.
It really was the only solution. There was no possible way that Patrick would be able to take the time he needed to heal if he stayed at home. Cam had tried having Patrick stay in the spare room, but that hadn’t helped. He’d come home one day to find Patrick attempting to rearrange the furniture. He had to get Patrick out of town if he wanted his friend to get the rest that he needed. This was something that both he and Patrick’s boss had agreed on. Hell, Cam had Patrick’s bags packed and had him booked on a flight that was leaving the next day. He just needed to tell Julian that Patrick was coming to stay with him. For a month.
It was Sunday, so Cam was fairly certain that Julian would be home. Julian was a doctor, and Cam didn’t know many doctors who worked on Sundays. Picking up the phone, he punched in the numbers and listened to it ring. He was just starting to worry that Julian might not be home when the phone was picked up.
“Hello?” The voice on the other end of the line was male but not one that Cam recognized.
“Um, hi. Can I talk to Julian, please?”
“Sure. Hang on.”
Cam could hear the unknown man, whom he assumed was Julian’s boyfriend, move away as the phone was put down on a hard surface with a soft thud. After a brief conversation that was too far away for Cam to hear, the phone was picked up again.
“Hey, Julian. It’s Cameron.”
“Cameron?” There was surprise and pleasure in Julian’s voice. “It’s been forever. How are you?”
“I need you to take Patrick,” Cam blurted. He groaned and thunked his head against the counter. That wasn’t how he had wanted to break the news. He had wanted to at least talk a bit before he got to that part. He really did miss talking to Julian, and he didn’t want Julian thinking his need to get Patrick out of the city was the only reason that he had called.
“I’m sorry? It sounded like you said that you need me to take Patrick.”
“I did.” Cam sighed again. “I’m sorry I just blurted it out like that. I really did want to have a conversation first.”
“Cam, is something wrong? I can’t read you as well as I can read Patrick, but it sounds like something is bothering you.”
Cam sighed again, followed by a small laugh. He was starting to sound like a broken record. Julian and Patrick had dated in college. Cam was pretty sure that Julian was the only guy Patrick had been even remotely serious about. While Cam had enjoyed some wonderful sex with the two men, it had been obvious that they had been a caring couple. Cam had been surprised when Julian broke up with Patrick the day before the other man had been planning on doing the same. He had been hoping that Julian would be the one that Patrick stuck with. Of course, with Julian taking the lead in the breakup, the two men had managed to stay friends. Cam knew that Patrick’s reluctance to be in a permanent relationship had contributed to the split. Patrick just hadn’t been ready to really commit to someone when they were in school. Hell, he still wasn’t ready.
“Cam, are you still there?”
“What?” Cam ran a hand over his face and attempted to shake the cobwebs from his mind. “Shit, sorry, Julian.”
“It’s okay. So, why are you sending me Patrick? And can you even do that? I mean, it’s not like he’s a file that you can e-mail me.”
Cam chuckled. “I guess not. Patrick was hurt a while back and he’s not giving himself the time that he needs to heal. His boss wants him off for a month to give him a chance to rest, and I don’t think he’ll take the time if he stays here.”
Cam took a deep breath. This was the part that Julian really wasn’t going to like. “He got shot.”
“What the fuck!?”
Cam winced and pulled the phone away from his ear. “I said that he got shot. Last month.”
“Julian, could you please stop yelling at me?”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“Patrick didn’t want to worry you. He said that he was fine. Of course, he always says that he’s fine.” Cam sighed again. He knew he was babbling. He always babbled when he wasn’t sure what to say. Especially when he was stressed. And boy, was he stressed. After all, it was sort of maybe a little bit his fault that Patrick had gotten shot in the first place. “Can you take him?”
“For a month?”
Julian sighed softly. “Yeah, he can come here.”
“Good. His flight gets in at two o’clock tomorrow afternoon.”
“What? Damn it, Cam, do you think you could have waited any longer to tell me that he’s coming here? I still have to tell my boyfriend.”
“So, that was the boyfriend who answered the phone.” Cam perked up at the news. He knew that Julian and his boyfriend had been having problems earlier in the year, but things had obviously gotten better if the boyfriend was answering the phone. Especially considering what Cam knew about Julian; for the boyfriend to be answering the phone, they had to be living together. “What’s his name again?”
“Jack. Don’t think my boyfriend living here gets you off the hook.”
“Jeremy and I finally got together, and we’ve been living together for a month,” Cam blurted. He was hoping that if he distracted Julian the other man would forget to be angry with him.
“That’s great, Cam. Now, why did you wait so long to tell me that you were sending Patrick here? And why didn’t he call me about it?”
“He doesn’t know yet,” Cam replied. He knew that his voice sounded timid, but he didn’t care. Julian was the only other person who really knew how Patrick would react to the news.
“You’ve got to be shitting me. Cam! How could you not tell him?”
“Because he would have made a fuss and refused to go. You know how he can get. This isn’t something that I can let him talk his way out of. He needs this, Julian. If he keeps pushing himself the way he has been, the only thing that he’s going to do is hurt himself more.”
“You’re right.” A sigh came over the line. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I just can’t believe that he didn’t call and tell me that he got shot.”
“He likes to appear strong, Julian. You know that. There is no way in hell he would tell you about something that made him seem weak.”
“You’re right. I really should know this by now. I’ve got to go and talk to Jack.”
“I understand. Call me later? We really do need to catch up.”
“I’ll call you tonight. I want to hear how Patrick takes the news that you’re shipping him to Alberta.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me.”
“Bye, Julian.” Cam hung up the phone with a sigh. Julian was right. He needed to talk to Patrick.
Unfortunately, it was the last thing that he wanted to do.
Jack watched Julian hang up the phone with an amused expression on his face. He’d overheard just enough of the conversation to have a rough idea of what was going on. It was about time he met some of Julian’s friends from his so-called wild days. They had been together for close to a year now, and living together for six months. From the sounds of it, he was going to get his wish. He just hoped this mysterious houseguest wasn’t going to put a crimp in their sex life.
Like that was ever going to be a concern with Julian. Yeah, right.
“So, friend of yours?” he asked casually, leaning against the far wall.
Julian turned around, scratching the back of his neck sheepishly. The sheepish expression faded into something lustier as he raked his gaze down Jack’s bare chest and back up again. “What? Oh, yeah. Cam. We went to school together, sort of.”
“Sort of?” Jack asked, smirking a little. He loved the little games they played.
“We never had any classes together,” he explained. “We’re the same age.”
Ah. That explained it. Julian, boy wonder that he was, had started university young and finished his undergraduate degree before he’d turned 18. He and Cam might have attended the same school, but Cam would have only been in first or second year when Julian graduated and went off to med school. “And?” Jack prompted.
Oh, there was a flush! Jack crowed mentally. Julian hardly ever blushed like that around him anymore, and Jack loved that embarrassed look.
“And what?” Julian evaded, unsubtly.
Jack could have asked him how many times they’d slept together, but that would have spoiled his fun later. “And what did he say?”
“He said—” Julian was steadily advancing, closing the space between their bodies. Then he looked up at Jack’s face instead of between his legs, stopped, sighed, and basically threw himself into Jack’s arms. “Don’t be mad. He’s sending our mutual friend here for a bit.”
Sending? Interesting choice of words, although of course Jack had known that someone was coming. This Cam would have to be a pretty close friend to just ship someone out here into the middle of nowhere and expect Julian to put him up. “Oh?” he kept his tone light.
“He got shot,” Julian mumbled unhappily into his bare shoulder.
“What?” Jack managed, tightening his arms around Julian’s waist. “Jeez. Is he okay? Are you?”
Julian leaned into him. Jack didn’t like even the mention of that kind of violence around his lover and encouraged the snuggle by pressing a kiss to the side of his face.
“His name is Patrick,” Julian finally said, “and it was a month ago, and he didn’t tell me, and knowing him, he hasn’t been resting, and honest to God, Jack, I could just kill him for not being careful.”
Well. Jack carefully lowered his eyebrows back into the vicinity of his face. That certainly had been eye-opening. In more ways than one. Julian hardly ever spoke of his old friends with that much emotion in his voice. “So, when’s he coming?”
That figured. “Railroaded into it, huh?” Then something twigged in Jack’s mind. “Wait a second. This wouldn’t be the same Patrick under whose shining example we have the story of the pool game, the motorcycle, and the striptease?”
“That was so not my fault,” Julian said. Jack could feel his face burning against his shoulder. “I can’t believe Roz told you that story.”
“I can’t believe you told her!”
“Who do you think bailed him out of jail? I didn’t have any money! I lost it all in the pool game!”
Jack chuckled. “All right, so we’re going to have a houseguest. I have to say, I’m definitely looking forward to meeting him.”
“Really?” Julian asked. “That’s funny. I didn’t think that would be your first reaction.”
“You didn’t?” It came out sounding more hurt than Jack would have liked.
Jack felt Julian shrug, but the muscles seemed to stay tense in his back. “I don’t know. I guess I just thought—well, I don’t really have anything to compare it to, I guess. I mean, I’ve never met any of your ex-lovers—”
The way Julian stopped talking in the middle of a sentence informed Jack that the stiffening of his spine had not been as unnoticed as he would have liked. He hadn’t been prepared for Julian to use the word “lover” in reference to anyone else, he guessed—even with the word “ex” in front of it.
“Hey,” Julian said softly, wiggling back far enough that he could look into Jack’s eyes. Jack met his gaze levelly. “I’m sorry. I thought you knew that Patrick was my….” He stopped. “But that was a long time ago. We were practically kids then.”
“Relax.” Jack soothed him in return and found himself following his own advice. “I’m not jealous. Well, not that jealous,” he amended. “Not jealous enough to be rude to him or anything. I’m only human. Besides, I’ve never been shot, but I think if I had, I’d be glad to have someplace to go to recuperate.”
Julian snickered. “Patrick’s not going to see it that way. Cam had to conspire with his boss to get him away from work. He’s not very good at taking time off.”
“Speaking of time off—what time does his plane get in?”
Julian groaned. “Two. I don’t suppose you can get away with taking the afternoon off tomorrow?”
Jack shook his head. “Sorry, Jitterbug, no can do. I’ve got a meeting with some prospective clients. Why? Can’t you get away?”
“No. Dan’s on vacation in the Bahamas with his wife. Ugh.” Julian straightened, grabbed Jack by the hand, and started pulling him toward the stairs. Jack followed willingly, bemused. “It’s fine. Roz can get him; I know she’s got a window on Monday afternoons. Besides, she and Patrick get on like a house on fire.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” Jack let himself be pulled into the bedroom. Julian didn’t bother closing the door, just pulled his shirt over his own head and threw it in the corner. “What’s got into you?”
“Tomorrow we’re getting a semi-permanent house guest,” Julian pointed out, yanking Jack toward him by the belt loops.
Jack gave him a little shove that toppled both of them onto the king-sized bed. “And?”
Julian made a face as he rolled his body on top of Jack’s. “We’ll have to be quiet,” he said with obvious distaste.
Personally, Jack wasn’t sure Julian could do quiet, but that didn’t bother him at all. He certainly wasn’t going to complain about the treatment he was getting now. “Guess we’d better get all those latent screams out of your system,” he said cheerfully, wrapping both hands in Julian’s unruly hair and taking his mouth in a kiss.
Julian’s muffled sound of appreciation made Jack tingly all the way down to his toes. “Now you’re getting it.”