Chapter One



SCREAMING meant money. The first shout brought Jonathan Hogenboom’s head straight up, and the responses lifted him away from his desk. Loud shouting—a lot of money.

Ricky’s voice carried over the hubbub. “Seven hundred and thirty thousand bucks! I am da man!” 

A triumphant conga line came snaking past Jon’s door. Ricky saluted, hips gyrating, and eager hands dragged Jon out to join the dancers weaving through the anything-but-staid offices of Wolfe Gorman Equities. The neighboring firms up and down Wall Street might make more money, but they couldn’t possibly enjoy it as much.

“Ricky is da man! Bam! Ricky is da man!” Of course Ricky would be chanting the loudest, his voice rising over the others’ as he led the motley assortment of traders, analysts, and, good Lord, Edgar Wolfe too, between desks and through racks of files. Jon had his own reason for shouting out Ricky’s man-ness from the tail of the line, his hands on an analyst’s chubby waist. Most of the rest of them were exulting because Ricky’s successful trade had just paid their year’s salaries.

Dwight threw Jon a wry glance over his shoulder, acknowledging that this was a ludicrous way to behave at work, but still kicking out at more or less the right beat, if not with the correct foot. Before the tail of the dance line had gotten around the desks in the center of the wide room, Logan turned to snarl, “Watch your feet, you—” Jon lifted an eyebrow at him, waiting to hear exactly what he thought Dwight was, but Logan wisely chopped it off. Good, Jon’s last explanation of business etiquette had stuck. At least in his presence. Once Jon dropped off the end of the line, Dwight was on his own with the other analyst. 

The front of the line wove around to Ricky’s office door again, and the chanting dropped to softer, less organized congratulations, which Ricky would accept as his due. Jon didn’t stop to watch Edgar pound Ricky on the back or ruffle the dark waves of hair out of their carefully combed elegance. He didn’t stay to listen to the analysts offer praise of Ricky’s timing or skill—that was all nonsense, anyway. Still, $730,000 was not to be scorned, and Jon would offer his own sort of congratulations more privately.

He had a few minutes before Ricky would come find him, which Jon used to best effect, taking a swig from the mouthwash bottle and locating a few of the less prominently placed toiletries that the hedge fund stocked in the executive washroom. Far more elegant than the plebian facilities down the hall, the washroom sported a wide couch on the Oriental rug in the dressing area, which gave Jon a place to fidget. The door opened, giving him a jolt that someone like Edgar or Geoff Gorman would actually need to use the plumbing in the marble-tiled room adjacent.

“Don’t want anyone walking in on us again, do we?” Ricky shot the recently installed bolt on the inside of the door. “Damn, but making pots of money buys some of the finer things in life!”

“Like privacy?” Jon was in his arms in a flash, their lips meeting for the first celebration of success. “I thought old Edgar was going to drop his trousers and join in.” 

“He gets the big slice of the money and that’s all.” Ricky had his hands on either side of Jon’s head, controlling him for an expert, thorough exploration of his mouth. “I get you.” 

“Oh, yeah, Ricky, I am all yours.” Jon’s cock couldn’t stay imprisoned in the finely tailored trousers one more minute. He reached to free first himself and then Ricky, whose expensive slacks fell into a puddle at his knees. Nothing else fell—there was nothing else to remove. “Commando?”

“I planned to close out that position today, take the profits. Big profits.” Ricky grinned, his teeth dazzling white in the smooth olive of his skin, and then he was too close to see, his tongue thrusting into Jon’s mouth, his hips shoving against Jon’s.

“Confident.” Jon shoved back, knowing that Ricky would want to top today, flush with the exhilaration of success.

“Hey, I’m good.” 

For some things, Jon would agree, like the way Ricky had both globes of his ass, working the muscled buttocks in strong, well-manicured fingers and promising more pleasures with each squeeze. For others—“Lucky,” Jon disagreed, and got his ass slapped for it.

“Don’t start that now, Jon. I don’t want to hear it.” Ricky shoved him down on the couch. “This will shut you up.” 

“In a minute it will,” Jon disagreed again, groping behind him for the condom he’d extracted earlier from a discreet box in the washroom’s vanity.

“You aren’t going to make me wear that, are you?” Ricky grumbled, poking his cock into Jon’s face but not trying to evade the latex that nimble fingers unrolled over him. “The risks are so low.” 

Jon glanced up with an eyebrow raised to cut that off. “Still a risk. It’s rare, but it happens.” 

“Yeah, yeah, rare events happen and no one expects them because they’re rare.” Ricky quit griping because Jon had lifted the crisp white shirttails that covered his goal and took that hard, sheathed cock between his lips.

I wish we could do it bare, Ricky, but you haven’t stopped going to the clubs. I’d rather taste your soft skin and smell hot man and not weird chemicals, but you take the damnedest chances. No, concentrate on the feel of Ricky’s flesh, the texture of the closely trimmed hairs, the way his balls rolled inside the nubbly skin. Opening his throat, Jon leaned deep, taking Ricky in far enough to feel skin against his lips, the brief touch a tantalizing reminder of things that weren’t safe to have with this man. Complete openness, complete exposure, total trust. His lips danced around the head, over latex and the need to protect himself from Ricky’s risks. 

But damn, he loved to suck the man’s cock.

Hands in his hair urged Jon on. Guttural sounds that couldn’t be allowed to grow louder, even with the door latched, drove him to greater efforts, but Ricky pushed him back, tipped him over on his side.

“I gotta get in, I gotta get in.” Ricky fumbled open the lube, smearing the greasy balm over Jon’s eager hole, getting some on the Egyptian cotton that didn’t get brushed out of the way in time. “Damn, Jonny, I gotta get in you.”

That was where he should be, that was where Jon wanted him, and where Ricky was a short moment later, pushing through rings of muscle that burned and expanded. “So good like this, I can see you, reach you….” 

Twisting to grip Ricky’s thigh, Jon could see the intense concentration on his lover’s face, the focus on his goal, which came closer with every thrust of his hips. Dark eyes closed now, full lips parted to pull in more air, Ricky couldn’t be far from his climax. He probably looked that same way when he got the confirmation on the sale that had put a small fortune into his trading account—Jon had spent time in Ricky’s office. Another vigorous thrust from behind grazed Jon’s gland and scooted him an inch across the brocade upholstery. “Damn, Ricky….”

Hot hands on Jon’s thigh and waist pulled him back. Ricky’s hard cock slid out of him and rammed back inside once, twice, and the third time he stayed jammed deep, pulsing and throbbing, spilling heat into Jon’s ass. Ricky stayed rigid, his head thrown back in a gorgeous line that Jon could only see from this angle, and he’d have looked forever except for needing to do something for his own nearly untouched self.

Drawing a shuddering breath, Ricky curved forward over Jon. “Show me,” Ricky urged and didn’t withdraw. “Love to watch you.”

Falling back to the cushion, Jon gave Ricky something to watch, his hand flashing back and forth. Their sex had Jon further along than he’d thought, and there was no reason to hold back—he worked his shaft and flexed his ass to feel Ricky’s slowly softening cock, and then Ricky slid his hand between them to cup balls that were already tingling. 

The soft encouragement of Ricky’s fingers was all it took—Jon’s orgasm rolled through him and out, bringing a cry that he had to muffle in the upholstery. Ricky stayed pressed against his ass, one hand on his nuts and the other on his hip, until Jon’s exquisite shudders passed. “Beautiful. I never get tired of seeing you come.”

“Did I miss the rug this time?” Jon opened one eye but couldn’t lift his head enough to see over the edge of the couch. Ricky slipped out of him and returned with a damp linen towel, which felt warm and soothing against Jon’s hole. The cloth would go into the hamper, and the laundry service would bring them back in soft stacks to go next to the marble sinks.

“Yeah, this time.” Ricky patted Jon’s butt gently, telling him it was safe to sit up again. “Easy cleanup. I’ll get it.” 

Tucking his dress shirt back into his trousers, Jon restored his appearance to the businesslike respectability a hedge fund trader should display at the office. He’d left the tie and suit coat on the back of his chair two hours ago and wouldn’t put them back on until it was time to leave; Wolfe Gorman was fairly laid-back for a hedge fund, being small, its customers scattered around the world and unlikely to come inspect the traders. Ricky had taken casual one step further and rolled up his sleeves, but his shirttails were once again doing their duty of keeping his cock’s outline from being too clear.

“Are we something, or what?” Ricky returned to Jon’s arms.

“We’re hardly the only ones to come in here and do this.” Jon nibbled the shell of Ricky’s ear. “The condom box was almost empty.”

“Put it on Dwight’s shopping list.” 

“The guy’s got a master’s in economics and his job includes buying the office condoms. Something is wrong with that.” Jon couldn’t help laughing.

“It’s probably the only time he’ll ever need to do it—let him have the thrill. Or do they have a mission in his online game that requires retrieving the Golden Condom of Thoron now?” Ricky tapped his fingers against Jon’s back, keyboard-style. “Use Control-R when located and return it to the Ass of Goobledon?”

“For all you sneer at the games, you seem to have a pretty good idea of how to play.” Opportunities to tease Ricky didn’t come up often enough to waste.

“Gah. Put it on Logan’s list if you’d rather, and tell him to get a copy of the Times while he’s at it.”

“You tell him. He’s probably waiting in your office right now with a handful of things for you to sign.” Jon cut off Ricky’s next sentence by kissing him. “Go make your pet assistant happy and sign them.”

“I’d rather make my pet trader happy and fuck him.” Ricky ran the tip of his tongue over Jon’s lower lip. “I’ve got seven hundred thirty thousand reasons to do it today. But I suppose we ought to get back to our desks.”

“We’ll do it some more tonight,” Jon promised. “Where shall I take you to dinner?” A shaking at the door handle made them both turn and let go of each other. “Somebody may pee his pants out there.”

“Or come in them. Better let him in. Bleah.” Ricky unlatched the door, and the pair strode out, the picture of successful traders with nothing but business on their minds. Jon ignored the leer on Edgar’s face and accompanied Ricky back to his office, where, sure enough, Logan and a clipboard waited.

“Purchase, 200,000 shares, leverage loan forms, and the trade ticket, Mr. Santeramo.” He held out the clipboard. Ricky flipped up the bottom corners and scrawled his name on the forms, not looking at the rest of the papers.

That stack could contain anything at all! “You sign things you haven’t read?” 

“I know what they are. Logan knows he’d better get them right, they’re the same forms I sign all the time. What’s to read?” Ricky whipped the tip of his Montblanc pen across the last form, blithely making expensive promises with a signature. 

Logan accepted the clipboard but didn’t seem inclined to stop gazing at Ricky. Not that Ricky wasn’t fine to look upon, or maybe it was the confidence that oozed out of him that pulled Logan’s eyes, but the deliberate way Logan excluded Jon from his view was the sort of slight that a lowly analyst with an MBA from a third-tier business school did not offer to a senior trader at the firm. Time to jerk his leash again.

“Shopping list for you.” Jon scribbled the preferred condom brand on a slip of paper, enjoying the way Logan’s eyes widened as he read. 

“And the late edition of the Times,” Ricky added, adjusting the display of his Bloomberg news monitor. “Though it probably won’t have anything in it I can’t get off this.”

“You’re getting a lot of noise for your bits of signal out of that thing.” Jon had different channels programmed into his Bloomberg, worth the exorbitant monthly cost, but the fund’s traders didn’t have to share the two group news machines and the vast amounts of information that poured out of the proprietary news terminals. “Oh, and Logan—” Jon stopped the young man, who had finally turned to the door. “Two tall, skinny, cinnamon lattes, no whipped cream.”

“Yes, Jon.” 

“Yes…?” Jon waited for the correct response, arms crossed.

“Yes, Mr. Hogenboom.”

“Off you go, and shut the door behind you.” Jon hitched a hip on Ricky’s desk to continue the conversation, glad of Logan’s absence. The gap between them was a lot wider than Jon’s thirty-four years to Logan’s twenty-six, or from trader to analyst.

“I’m not going to drink that pretentious sweet crap, you know.” Ricky looked up from some earnest reporter’s face on one side of the screen and two scrolling lists of stock prices on the other side. “Especially if we’re going out to dinner later. I want to go to Marimba’s, get some Cuban food.”

“I probably won’t drink it either, just enough to scold him if he gets the order wrong. I’m reminding him of who’s who around here.” Jon reached over to run his fingers through the deep brown, nearly black waves over Ricky’s ears. “If you’re getting the ‘Mr. Santeramo’ treatment, then he damned well doesn’t call me by my first name, and he does fetch my coffee.”

“You’re right.” Ricky managed to turn enough to put a kiss into Jon’s palm without taking his eyes off the screen. “But I am Mr. Santeramo today for seven hundred thirty thousand good reasons, and he hasn’t been here long enough to have seen you make a score that big.”

“The scores have been decent, getting bigger, and speaking of which, why no puts or stop-loss orders in that stack, Ricky?” Rubbing Ricky’s jaw with gently probing fingertips, Jon asked about a troubling omission.

“Because stop-losses are for pussies.” Ricky snorted. “It’s like planning to lose, Jon.”

“It’s planning for something weird and unforeseen, Ricky. What if you’re on the couch with me when some rare event happens and you can’t get the order executed fast enough? You’d lose a fortune.”

“The last couple times I set one, daily price fluctuations triggered sales.” Ricky jerked his face away from Jon’s hand. “And then the stocks ran up and away without me. I could have made a mint.”

“Set the trigger price lower, or buy puts; hedge the position that way.” Jon bought the rights to sell his stock at an agreed-upon price when he made his initial purchases. Sure, it limited the profits slightly, but it really limited the losses.

“Not anymore. It’s costing me too much money.” Ricky sat back in his chair, too far away for Jon to reach him, and started writing columns of numbers. 

“It could cost you a lot more if you don’t have them.” 

“Jon, if I hadn’t had puts on the trade today, I’d have made another ninety thousand bucks, and multiply that by every trade I make. I need that profit, or I’m never going to hit the threshold for the bonus.” Ricky looked up from his math. “And if I don’t get that bonus, I won’t have the bucks to buy an apartment of my own once my lease runs out. The kind of place I want asks 50 percent down.”

That meant an outlay of at least a million dollars in cash, two or three times that in a really choice building. “Then keep renting and saving.” Jon knew better than to make the invitation he really wanted to offer—he wouldn’t ask Ricky to live with him until they had a firm commitment. It might be a while.

“That’s easy for you to say.” Ricky jabbed the pen through his arithmetic. “You don’t have Edgar for a cosigner on your lease.”

“That sucks.” Edgar for a boss was bad enough. “Can’t you get him off when you renew?”

“Maybe if I commit to another two-year term. Or maybe not, and then I’m stuck.” Ricky shredded his arithmetic and tossed it in the trash. “I want him to be dependent on me to make lots of folding green, not me dependent on him for a place to live.”

“Leaving your positions unhedged risks you depending on him just to have a job, Ricky.” Understanding why Ricky would take on the exposure didn’t mean it was a good idea. “You’re worse off than before if it blows up.”

“You start every new position out thinking it’s going to blow up.” Ricky favored Jon with a sour look.

“It’s an acknowledgement of the way the world works, Ricky. Rare events happen. Sometimes smart people don’t connect the dots in time, or someone does something truly out of the blue. Remember what happened to the markets after 9/11? I just want you to protect yourself from the risk of a Black Swan event.” Aghast that he even had to explain this to a trader of Ricky’s experience, Jon reached for arguments that wouldn’t seem like an attack. 

“So you think I’m going to blow up. That’s not a vote of confidence.”

“Black Swans do happen, and it has nothing to do with my confidence in you.” Actually it did, or more accurately, it had to do with Jon’s confidence that Ricky—or anyone, really—would recognize the signs of a truly enormous and devastating loss about to happen. “It happened to Jesse Livermore, it happened to the Bass brothers, hell, it happened to John Maynard Keynes. How about Long Term Capital Management?” Russian bonds dropped from 75 to 10 in a matter of weeks, bringing LTCM and damned near the entire world economy to its knees back in ’98. Ricky’d been twenty-five then, already working for Wolfe Gorman, and should remember what a disaster that had been. Jon recalled it vividly. “That guy Niederhoffer, down the street, he’s blown up on a scale this whole fund can’t even begin to match, and he’s not stupid by a long shot. I don’t want it to happen to you.”

“I don’t want it to happen to me either, and I’m going to do just the opposite. I am going to make great steaming piles of money, and you aren’t going to convert me to your investing philosophy, so stop trying. It’s dull.”

Oh, crap. He’d gone too far and triggered the word of doom. Dullness, in Ricky’s world, was unforgivable. Too late, he might as well push on. “I just want you to protect yourself from the risk.”

“You want to protect yourself from every sort of risk, and you want to protect me too. That’s a lot like being kept in a cage, Jon. Condoms even for oral sex, stop-loss orders on a new stock position, what next? Monogamy and money market accounts?” The brightness had gone out of Ricky’s face, replaced with storm clouds. 

“None of that is a cage, Ricky.” Oh man, he’d really stepped in it if Ricky invoked a word that he’d shot Jon down hard for even mentioning.

“You don’t see the bars.”

“Bars can keep bad things out as well as keeping something in.” 

“Maybe I don’t want to be kept in, anyway.”

No, Ricky had never suggested limiting himself to one man, and Jon would not spend the time now to think about why he remained faithful to a player—he had a financial disaster to stave off. “I’m not trying to keep you in, Ricky. I’m trying to keep you from blowing up.”

Spinning around in his chair, Ricky gave Jon a slit-eyed glare. “That won’t happen. I’m not going to open a position in some company where it could all go bad really fast before I’ve even had a chance to make the big buck. I pick them better than that.”

Jon swallowed hard and tried again to speak reason. “Just because you have a particular need for money doesn’t mean the market’s going to go your way.”

“It has been.” Ricky slapped the Bloomberg off. “And I’m not going to forfeit sixty to eighty thousand bucks a trade if I don’t need to. My lease is up in a few months.”

Cold fear grew in Jon’s gut. “Ricky, even if it takes a little longer to make enough, don’t.” 

“Don’t what? Don’t do anything I need to do to be sure Edgar can’t appear in my living room with every right to be there?” A bubble of froth appeared in the corner of Ricky’s mouth. He dashed it away with the back of his hand. “You’ve been a trader from the minute you walked through the door here, you’ve never had to—”

“No, I haven’t.” Jon cut him off. “And you didn’t, either; you could have walked.”

“I could have walked away from my one chance to get some real wealth. Sure. Spoken like a man who’s never lacked for funds. Not all of us were born with silver spoons in our mouths.” The hate in Ricky’s eyes pushed Jon back a step. “You’re the one man here Edgar can’t ruin, and I don’t see you doing a thing about him.”

“I—” Jon stopped. There was nothing he could say to that.

“Because he doesn’t affect you personally, right?” Ricky rocked forward in the chair and jumped to his feet, glaring down on Jon. “Because it’s much easier to do the right thing by supporting the arts and donating money than taking a stand a lot closer to home?” A bitter laugh. “And I can’t take a stand until I’m out of that lease.”

There were other ways to get out from under Edgar’s thumb, Jon wanted to say, but Ricky kept talking. “You’re always going on about rare events. Making a score this big is a rare event, though not as rare as it used to be, and I am going to enjoy it. You better make other dinner plans, because I just decided that I’ll be going to the club. Without you.”