NOVEL: The Panic Pure, by Harper Kingsley [mm suspense] – Chapter Seven

Title: The Panic Pure
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm suspense thriller

Summary: Daniel Worth, billionaire and CEO of Worth Enterprises is questioned by FBI agent Marshal Newman about the disappearance of one of his employees. They strike up a conversation and soon are regularly meeting and begin dating. However neither realizes just how close danger is lurking.


 CHAPTER SEVEN

Danny was both relieved to see Marshal that night and more nervous than he’d been since the first time they’d had dinner together. It was just one of those times when he could feel the words stuttering in his mouth and he didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands, so he kept knotting them together in front of himself to hide their tremble.

“What’s going on with you tonight?” Marshal finally asked, having noticed that Danny was acting strangely.

It was with a heavy sigh that Danny pushed away his dessert plate, the slice of raspberry cheesecake left largely untouched. “We need to talk,” he said.

Marshal cocked his head. “About what?”

“About what we’re doing here,” Danny said.

Marshal went completely still, a little of the color draining from his face. “What do you mean?”

“I just… I just…” Danny chewed on his lip nervously. “I was thinking that you were my friend.”

“I am your friend,” Marshal said.

Danny shook his head. “No, you are my friend, but it was pointed out to me that you were something more. I know that you… you like me, and I… I like you too.”

Marshal looked as though part of him wanted to smile, but he was still too worried about what was coming next.

“I don’t want you to realize that you’re wasting your time with me. I mean, I don’t want you to spend all your time and effort on me, only to realize when it’s too late that I’m not really what you want.” Danny looked down at the tabletop, unable to meet Marshal’s eyes. “I know that I have issues, it’s kind of one of the biggest things about me. Things happened in my past and I didn’t exactly deal with them well, but I’ve spent most of my life trying to get beyond all that. Being able to like you is something of a success for me because it shows that I’m actually making progress with my intimacy issues. But I’m still not to the point where I’m ready to do some things.”

“That’s all right,” Marshal said. “I’m willing to wait as long as you need.”

Danny smiled thinly. “You say that now, but I don’t know if you’ve quite realized how long it could be. I don’t even know how long it could be. I just know that sometimes I get so afraid I can’t even breathe or there’s some places my mind doesn’t even let me go.” He drew in a shuddery breath. “I don’t want you to end up resenting or hating me because you’ve spent your whole life waiting for something I just can’t give you.”

Marshal’s chair made a scraping sound as he stood up. He walked around the table to kneel down at Danny’s side, his hand reaching out, but not quite touching him before resting on the arm of the chair next to Danny’s elbow. “I promise you that I will be happy with whatever you are able to give me. As long as you’re trying to meet me halfway, even if things never get to the point where… well, you know… I will still be happy just to spend time with you and to be able to talk to you everyday.”

“But I…”

Marshal held up his hand. “I’m nearly thirty years old and you’re the first person in my life that I have ever felt such a deep connection to. I know it’s kind of hokey, but I believe in soul mates and I believe I’ve met mine. So if we’re not ever able to be completely physically intimate, well, me and my left hand have been close friends for a while now and I don’t think I really mind keeping up that relationship as long as I get to see you everyday too.”

A watery smile pulled at Danny’s lips. “I just…” he sighed miserably. “I hate that I’m so fucked up. I try so hard to hold myself together, but it’s like every part of me is full of cracks and things just kind of seep out.”

Moving slowly, like he was facing down a wild animal, Marshal carefully laid his hand on Danny’s knee. He didn’t clamp down or anything, just placed his hand there gently, his fingers flat and his touch light enough that Danny could pull away with no trouble. “I’m going to be honest and say that I have no idea about what all kinds of things you’re dealing with. I know that terrible things happened with your parents, but I have definitely gotten the feeling that deeper things have gone on with you. I’m not going to press you about any of that. I just want you to know that if–when–you’re ready to talk, I’ll be ready to listen.”

Danny looked at him, not quite knowing what he was supposed to do. “How can you be like this?” he asked. “You’re almost too wonderful. It makes me scared that none of this is real.”

Marshal snorted. “Believe me, I’m entirely real and I’m not as wonderful as you think I am. Just wait until football season comes around, because that’s when my personality’s true ugliness comes out in full force.”

Danny couldn’t help a little laugh. He reached out and carefully traced Marshal’s face with his hand, liking the way the man didn’t flinch back even a little. “I just want you to know what you’re getting into with me,” he warned.

“Believe me, I’m not walking into this with my eyes closed,” Marshal said. “And I really don’t want you to look at me with rose-colored glasses either. I’ve got my flaws, just like any other guy, and I don’t want you to start thinking otherwise because that’ll just lead to trouble.”

“All right,” Danny said shyly. “We can try this. I just wanted you to know that I’m not…” he trailed off uncertainly.

Marshal looked at him for a long moment, then abruptly stood up. He held out his hand. “Come on, let’s go work on your Legos.”

Danny blinked, his forehead wrinkling, then he held out his hand and let himself be pulled to his feet. He stumbled a little, but Marshal caught him. “Okay,” he said.

In his head, some part of Danny had thought things would go differently. He had pictured yelling and hours of arguing and eventually him being left alone again. He hadn’t expected calm acceptance and someone that was willing to put up with all of his mental baggage. It was going to give him some things to discuss with Dr. Landry on Thursday and she would help him understand the mix of emotions he was feeling–relief, fear, and disappointment.

He walked with Marshal out of the dining room, telling himself not to think too much and to just take things as they were.

* * *

There was this sense that some kind of terrible doom had been miraculously avoided. He couldn’t really explain it, but for a second there he had thought that Danny was going to tell him that he never wanted to see him again. The panic that had swelled through him at the idea of being shown the door had been nearly overwhelming.

He got a flash of himself curled up in the fetal position in his apartment, completely unable to function.

It was kind of terrifying to think that someone could have so much control over his life and not even realize it. It made him wonder when exactly Danny had become so entirely vital to everything that he did. He had understood that he was pretty much stumbling his way into love, but there had been no point when he had ever thought that he was reaching the point where he couldn’t live without Danny… not until he’d thought it was all going to be taken away.

Marshal sat cross-legged on the carpet watching Danny industriously click Lego pieces together.

He probably should have been insulted that the moment they’d come into the room Danny had ignored him, but he was taking the opportunity to explore his own thoughts. Plus, he’d pretty much realized that building things out of Lego was Danny’s way of coping with various situations. It was his version of hands on therapy and he needed it to be able to maintain his emotional control.

Marshal didn’t know what all had happened to Danny, but he had a dark feeling in his gut that it hadn’t been anything good. It had started with the death of his parents, but from the few times he’d mentioned his aunt, Marshal thought that if he ever saw her in person he might have to watch himself so he didn’t end up on capital murder charges.

Not that he knew for sure what had been done. He just had his suspicions, but they were strong ones.

He hated the thought that someone had hurt Danny. It was just one of those things that never should have happened and he almost frothed at the mouth whenever the idea intruded on his thoughts. He just had to force himself to face the fact that bad things had happened, but they had taken place long before he’d met Danny and there was nothing he could do about any of that. He could only deal with the man as he knew him now.

“Can you slide that tub over here?” Marshal twitched at the sudden sound of Danny’s voice.

“What?” he asked.

Danny gestured impatiently. “That tub right there of corner pieces. Can you slide it over to me?”

“Oh, sure.” Marshal pushed the tub across. He couldn’t help the surge of fondness when he saw Danny’s busy frown as he dug through the pieces to find whatever he was looking for. “Hey, can you tell me why you decided to start building cities? I mean, you could basically build whatever you want, you have enough pieces.”

Danny shrugged, clicking blocks together. “I bought a special edition model of a fire station and it was the most detailed thing I’d seen at the time. When I was done, I just got this giant surge of satisfaction, you know? So I went to look for even harder projects, but there pretty much wasn’t anything on a par with that so I ended up making them up on my own.

“I think that in another life I would have been an architect and designed my own buildings and cities. I realize that most people think my hobby is stupid, but I really enjoy doing it and it keeps me busy.” He chuckled. “You wouldn’t believe the mess I made when I tried building my first couple of projects. I tried going at them without making any plans or anything and everything got out of control. I do a lot of research on my projects now.”

“It shows,” Marshal said. “You should really think about putting your cities on display. Don’t they have like Lego competitions and stuff?”

“Sure,” Danny said, “but that’s not why I build. I’m not out to impress anyone or anything like that. I just do it for myself.”

“But they’re so good that I think people would really like seeing them.” Marshal ran a hand through his hair. “You’re a real artist.”

“No,” Danny shook his head, “I just like playing with Legos, that’s all.”

Marshal sighed. It was obvious that Danny didn’t see what he did as any kind of art, even though he put so much into it. There were definitely people out there that would love to see whole cities made out of Lego, but Danny didn’t understand that and Marshal wasn’t going to push. Not now anyway.

“Do you need anything else right now?” Marshal asked.

Danny cocked his head. “No, why?”

“Well, I was just going to go and get a soda or something from the kitchen. It’ll give me a chance to stretch my legs.” Marshal stood up. “I’ll bring you something back, okay?”

“All right.” Danny was already back to clicking pieces together, occasionally glancing at the plans he had spread out beside him on the floor.

Marshal smiled fondly at Danny’s bowed head. He was just so focused on his task.

 

Navigating the gigantic house was always a bit daunting, especially since he wasn’t a hundred percent certain about where exactly he needed to go. He’d been to the kitchens before, but he was usually following after Danny and not trying to make it there on his own.

It was different wandering around by himself. For one thing, the house suddenly seemed much larger, either that or he had shrunk without knowing it. There just seemed to be turns he’d never noticed before and none of the paintings on the walls looked even remotely familiar and he was really starting to wonder if he’d managed to get himself lost.

So it was with a sense of relief that he found himself in front of one of the sets of double doors that led into the kitchen. He’d really begun to worry.

He pushed the doors open and stepped into the bright room. Everything was all polished silver and every surface gleamed with cleanness. It made him wonder if Olivia had OCD like her employer, which was actually fairly amusing to him.

He was just reaching for the handle of the refrigerator when he realized that he wasn’t alone.

“What are you doing in here?”

He turned to see Arthur standing at one of the corner counters peeling an apple. The knife flashed as he cut off a chunk and brought it to his mouth. Marshal wondered if he was about to be faced with one of those crazy knife fight situations he used to think were so cool when he was a kid.

“I just came down to get something to drink,” he said.

“Why didn’t you call one of the maids? They would have been happy to bring you anything you wanted, that’s what they’re getting paid for,” Arthur said. He picked up the bowl of peels and walked over to set it down next to the sink. He then began to eat the slices he’d peeled, his teeth crunching down audibly.

“Danny was busy with his Legos and I thought he might like something to drink and I just wanted to stretch my legs a little.” Marshal didn’t like how defensive he sounded, but couldn’t help himself. “I’m really not used to the whole idea of maids and servants and all of that.”

“Hm.” Arthur finished his apple and wiped his hands together briskly.

Looking around for some kind of safe topic, Marshal shifted uncomfortably, wondering what exactly was going on here. He drew in a deep breath and tried for casual friendliness, “So, Artie, how do you like working for Danny?”

“Well, for one thing, no one but members of my family ever call me ‘Artie.'”

“But Danny calls you Artie,” Marshal said.

“Yeah, and that pretty much tells you what he is to me,” the man said, circling closer to him. “Which lets you know how I’ll feel if you end up hurting him. Do you understand?”

Marshal looked at the other man’s serious, not-quite threatening expression, and nodded. “I get where you’re coming from, and I promise that I won’t ever hurt Danny.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Arthur said. “You’ll try your best, but there’s going to be a point where you’re going to have to say or do something that will hurt Danny’s feelings. It’s a given.”

“Fine,” Marshal said, “I promise that I won’t purposely hurt Danny.”

Arthur nodded. “Fine then. You just try your best to do right by Danny and I won’t have to break your kneecaps.”

“What?” Marshal raised his eyebrows, thinking it was some kind of joke. But Arthur wasn’t laughing.

“Danny is my best friend. I’ve known him since we were kids. I saw all the shit that happened back then and I know that he got really fucked up by it.” Arthur leaned in close, his dark brown eyes staring into Marshal’s. “So you better believe there’s no way I’ll let you screw with him and get away with it. You better be serious about him, otherwise you need to leave now before he really gets hurt.”

“What about me?” Marshal asked. “You don’t think he might hurt me?”

Arthur laughed, a short barking sound. “Please. Danny’s one of those people that has been so beaten down by life that he couldn’t hurt anyone even if he wanted to. But you could really do some damage, I can see that clearly. You could break him into so many pieces that he won’t ever bounce back from it ever again.”

“I won’t hurt him,” Marshal said, matching him stare for stare. He had the feeling that if he looked away, he would lose something.

He realized why Arthur had seemed so hostile toward him. The man was worried about his best-friend, yet at the same time hoping that Marshal would be good for him.

“And what’s going on in here?” They both jumped a little as Olivia bustled out of the pantry. There was a small splatter of red sauce on her usually pristine white apron and there was a faint dusting of flour across her cheek.

“Nothing,” Arthur said, smoothly turning away from Marshal and going to sit at the wooden table. “Geez, Olivia, you look a fright.”

She patted at her hair self-consciously. “What do you mean?” she asked.

Arthur pointed. “You’ve got flour all over your face and stains on your apron. What happened, did one of your experiments blow up again?”

Olivia opened a drawer and took out a cloth. She went to the sink and ran some water over it before wiping at her cheeks. “Don’t you ever think that you’re too old for me to whip your butt, Arthur Conway,” she warned. “I was organizing things in the pantry and things got a little away from from me.” She turned to look at Marshal. “And did you need something, honey?”

Marshal shook his head. “Naw, I just came down to get a couple of sodas for me and Danny. I ran into Arthur here and we just got to talking, that’s all.”

She frowned minutely at Arthur, a warning glint in her eye. “Don’t let Arthur try to bully you. He thinks of Danny like a brother and he’d do just about anything to keep him from getting hurt. Even make a total and complete ass out of himself.”

“Olivia!” Arthur whined, suddenly sounding a lot less threatening. He went from being the best-friend warning him off from hurting Danny to being a man that was being scolded like a small child by a motherly woman that knew all his secrets.

Marshal couldn’t help smiling. It was good to know that Danny had such genuinely nice people looking out for him. It was obvious that they cared about him, from the way they made Danny look completely professional to outsiders while at the same time caring for him like a brother and son during the everyday and the way they protected his interests so fiercely.

It was nice to know that there were people willing to take care of Danny if he wasn’t able to be there.

 

When Marshal got back to the “game room,” he found Danny still deeply embroiled in his Lego masterpiece. It looked like he was putting the finishing touches on some kind of bridge or something, his concentration absolute.

So Marshal was a little surprised when he set the soda down next to him, to have Danny look up at him with bright eyes.

“You were gone for a while,” Danny said.

Marshal shrugged. “I spent some time listening to Olivia read Arthur the riot act. It was pretty hilarious. I kind of wish I’d had a tape recorder, because it’s the kind of thing you want to listen to over and over again. It’s good blackmail material.”

Danny smiled. “You do realize that you work for the FBI, don’t you? Should you be talking about blackmailing someone?”

“I trust you not to turn me in,” Marshal said. He sat down on the floor next to him, not so close as to be in his way, but close enough that he could feel the heat of his body, or at least imagined that he could. “I really like Olivia and Arthur.”

“I do too,” Danny said.

“Seriously,” Marshal said, “I don’t know if they really like me or not, but I could totally tell that they’re all about taking care of you, and I appreciate that.”

“You’re kind of shmoopy today, aren’t you?” Daniel leaned back on his hands, gazing at Marshal’s face. “It’s just a little off-putting, considering you’re supposed to be a tough FBI agent.”

“Did you just say ‘shmoopy’?” Marshal asked, raising his eyebrows. “And what’s the deal with the way you keep bringing up the fact that I’m in the FBI?”

“I don’t know,” Danny said. “I think it’s because I’ve been thinking about Janeane Brooks. Are you guys even close to finding her?”

Marshal sighed heavily, shaking his head. “We’ve pretty much stalled up, and even though the case is still open, it’s been moved down in priority because we don’t have any real evidence or anything to work with. Her parents are pushing for us to find her, but without any real signs of wrongdoing or a body or anything…” He shrugged. “It’s terrible, but gut feelings don’t take us too far and there’s pressure from my boss to move on to other things.”

“I can’t believe the FBI is just going to let this go!” Danny sounded honestly distressed and it was almost painful for Marshal to look into his eyes. “Her family must be frantic and now you’re telling me that she just isn’t a priority anymore? That’s terrible.”

“I know, but we’ve run out of leads and the trail has already gone cold.” Marshal popped the top on his can of soda, not because he was really thirsty, but just so he had something to do with his hands. He hated the look on Danny’s face, wanted to be the hero and wipe it all away, but he knew there was nothing he could do. “We’ll still be working the case, but we’ve already got five other cases we’re working, and two of them are confirmed murders.

“My boss has to look at the bigger picture. Janeane’s trail has gone cold and there’s no signs of foul play anywhere. She’s simply disappeared.” Marshal took a gulp of soda, letting it burn the back of his throat. “For all the FBI knows, she got tired of her job and took an unscheduled vacation to clear her head. I know it’s weird, but it happens all the time. She could show up tomorrow like nothing happened.”

“But that’s not going to happen,” Danny stated. “I feel like something bad happened to her.”

Marshal shook his head. “I do too. But Joanna and I don’t have any solid leads and there’s not really a whole lot we can do right now until we get some info to start the investigation back up again. It’s always such a shame when you realize there’s nothing to do, and without a body or some kind of evidence of foul play, there’s nothing we can do. She’s gone.”

He was surprised when Danny, giving him a long, careful look, suddenly scooted closer to him and laid his head on Marshal’s shoulder. “It’s just not right. I can’t believe one of my people could disappear without anyone noticing.”

Moving slowly so he didn’t startle him, Marshal wrapped his arm around Danny’s shoulder, squeezing him gently. He knew it was stupid and that a hug wasn’t really anything, but he felt as though they had taken a huge step forward in their relationship.

“It sucks, I know, but her case isn’t closed or anything. We’ll still be keeping our eyes out for any leads. I promise.”

Danny made a soft sound in his throat, but stayed leaning against him. The only sounds in the room were their quiet breathing and the thunder of Marshal’s heart. He felt a bit of nervous sweat trickle down his spine and had to be a little amused at his own nerves.

They stayed like that for a few, long moments before Marshal was emboldened enough to lean in and carefully kiss Danny. He made sure to give him enough room to pull away if he wanted, though he really wished he wouldn’t.

When he felt Danny tentatively respond, he felt a surge of happiness. He thought that maybe everything was going to work out.

 

Joanna took one look at Marshal’s face when he stumped in and threw himself in his desk chair and knew something was wrong. “What happened?” she asked.

He looked around, making sure no one was close enough to overhear, then leaned closer over the desk. “I kissed Danny last night,” he said softly.

“I know he’s ‘not your boyfriend,’ but I’m thinking that kissing him should be a good thing. So why do I get the sense that it’s not?” she asked.

Marshal shook his head. “I kissed him and he started to respond, then…”

“Then what?”

“He started crying. He cried for close to half an hour, then he just kept saying he was sorry until he fell asleep. I had to call Arthur to take him to bed.” His skin still burned from the fire in the glare he’d received, but there was no way he was pushing things far enough to try carrying Danny to his bedroom. He could have just left Danny on the game room floor, but that would have been totally wrong, so he’d had no choice but to face the dragon.

“Ouch,” Joanna said, “but you knew he had issues before you got involved with him.”

“I know,” he said. “I’ve just been trying so hard and I thought we’d gotten further than this. I mean, we had a talk last night about having a real relationship and everything.”

“You pushed him past his comfort zone,” she said, “of course he was going to freak out. He’s on such a narrow line anyway.”

Marshal sighed heavily and scrubbed his face with the palms of his hands. “We’ve come so far and I just can’t help it that sometimes I really want to go further. But I don’t want to force him before he’s ready.”

Joanna twisted two paper clips together, a worried look on her face. “Seriously, I don’t want to be mean or anything, but I think you should break it off with him before you get too invested.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, surprised. She was the one always watching those sentimental, lovey-dovey romance movies, though she would probably shoot him if he told anyone at work about them. She had a tough-girl reputation to maintain.

She looked right in his eyes. “Marshal, the guy has some serious issues. Issues that I really doubt he’s going to ever get completely passed, no matter how much you try to help him. You’re getting way too wrapped up in him and I know you’re going to get hurt.”

He sighed again. “Logically, I know you’re right. But… it’s already too late.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

He shrugged, quirking his lips. “I love him. He’s this beautiful, fucked up person and I love him and I don’t think I’m ever going to get over that. He just kind of burrowed his way passed my guard and…”

“And now you’re going to stick it out with him even knowing you’re probably going to get hurt,” she finished.

Marshal nodded. “Yep. I know it’s stupid and I know I’m going to get hurt, but I honestly think that he’s worth all that. And I’ve decided that I will take whatever he’s able to give me and be happy with that.”

“Even if it’s just G-rated cuddling on the couch and playing with his Legos?” She raised an eyebrow at him.

His lips lifted in his first smile of the morning, realizing that he probably was a fool. “I think I’m going to the toy store after work to buy a few more Lego kits,” he said. “That’ll give us something to do tonight.”

“And what’ll you do about your blue balls?” Joanna asked, mock-seriously.

Marshal laughed a little. “I guess my left hand is going to be crazy stronger than my right by the time I go to my next physical.”

Even knowing he was facing a hard road, it felt good to laugh at himself. It just made everything seem not quite so bad.

* * *

It was strange waking up in his bed and not knowing how he got there. There was just this sense of disassociation from everything around him that he had to wonder for a moment if anything was real.

Danny pushed away the mound of pillows trying to swallow him and sat up. His sinuses ached and his eyelids felt swollen and sore. Dreams still twisted behind his brain and his body quivered with nerves. It was obvious that he hadn’t taken his pills last night and now he was going to spend the rest of the day paying for it.

He turned his head slowly to look at the clock. He felt as if his body was going to shatter to pieces if he moved too fast.

“Crap.” He had overslept and no one had bothered to waken him. He had a feeling that Arthur was to blame, had probably switched off the alarm clock and told the maids to leave him alone and let him sleep. Only now his schedule was completely ruined and there was nothing he could do about it.

A wave of helplessness went through him at the thought of his broken schedule. Always knowing where he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to do was the only thing that kept him from completely breaking down, so to find out that he had overslept was a complete catastrophe.

Feeling the panic threatening to overwhelm him, he forced himself up out of bed and toward the bathroom. His toes curled and uncurled in the carpet as he stumbled forward, his bones aching and his eyes burning.

He felt terrible, but there was nothing he could do about that. There was a reason he was always supposed to take his medication at about the same time, and he was going to pay for deviating from his schedule.

Danny reached the bathroom and fumbled open the medicine cabinet. It was hard to read the labels on the bottles, but he forced himself to concentrate until he found the one he was looking for.

He shook two of the tiny pills out onto his palm and quickly put them on his tongue, rolling them in saliva to help them melt faster. The taste was a bitter balm, one that he had long since learned not to simply spit out. That never helped anything.

It didn’t take very long for the pills to do their work. He could feel his muscles loosening and the tension flowing out of him even as the colors of the world brightened around him. The pills always made him feel as though he was both closer to reality and farther away. Things were more in focus, yet he got this sensation that nothing could really hurt him because none of it was real.

Danny closed the medicine cabinet door, carefully not looking at his own reflected eyes. This was not the kind of morning where he wanted to really see himself.

He padded back out of the bathroom and sat on the end of his bed. He still felt mildly terrible, but it didn’t seem like such an important thing.

The sun was shining through the windows and he idly had to wonder how he could have even slept with the room so bright. Usually he needed absolute darkness to be able to sleep, otherwise his brain would start working too fast for him to catch up and every shadow would become a face or form to terrorize him.

There was a light tap on the door. If he had still been sleeping, he wouldn’t have heard it.

He raised his voice, “I’m awake.”

The door opened soundlessly and Arthur came in. He was wearing his usual suit and tie and looked utterly professional, which made Danny a little embarrassed about his rumpled sleep clothes. “I’m glad you’re up.” There wasn’t an ounce of shame in Arthur’s voice. He was absolutely certain he had done the right thing in letting Danny sleep in.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” Danny demanded.

“Because you needed to sleep,” Arthur said like it was completely obvious. “After what happened last night, I figured you were going to wake up with one of your hangover things.”

“What happened last night?” Danny asked. He could tell from Arthur’s expression that it wasn’t going to be anything he liked, but there was nothing he could do about that. Whenever he lost track of time, he always had to know what had taken place, always.

Arthur looked at him sadly. “You kind of freaked Marshal out when you had an episode, then had a crying jag. He called me because he didn’t know what to do. I got you changed into your pajamas and into bed. You were so out of it that you didn’t even know what was going on.”

Danny felt a cringing kind of embarrassment go through him. “Oh no. What must he think of me?”

Arthur quickly hugged him. “Don’t worry about that. If he’s worth anything he’ll call to check on you and you can explain things to him. If not… then fuck him, you deserve better.”

“I haven’t had an episode in a while,” Danny said. “I can’t believe…” Memory flooded him and he squinted his eyes up in despair. “Oh no, he kissed me. That’s what triggered the episode. He kissed me and it wasn’t even bad and I went and freaked out on him. He must think there’s something really wrong with me!”

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Arthur said firmly. “You might want to talk to Dr. Landry about the recent changes she made with your medication, but there’s nothing wrong with you.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the medication either,” Danny said. “It’s not the medications’ fault that I’m so screwed up.” Frustrated tears burned the corners of his eyes, but he grit his teeth and held them in.

Arthur just hugged him tighter. “You’re not screwed up. Everything’s going to be all right. Marshal will call and he’ll be completely understanding.”

“How do you know that?” Danny asked.

Arthur was fierce when he said, “Because otherwise I’m going to kill him and bury him in the backyard where no one will ever find him. And that is a guarantee.”

Danny had to laugh a little. “I’m glad you’re here to look after me.”

“There’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be.”

* * *

It was strange how watching Agent Newman had kind of put his desires on the back-burner. All that bubbling rage and amorphous want had just kind of left him in peace and he had actually begun to think that this was what a normal person felt all the time and it maybe wasn’t all that bad. A kind of easy contentment where everyday just came as it would and he could pretend that he was one of the crowd and it was going to be okay.

So when the hunger suddenly struck him, it was nearly overwhelming, like it had been the very first time.

He felt the usual sense of horror about what he was going to do, the wrongness that society had instilled in him with their insidious message of morality and all that garbage. But at the same time, there was that odd delight that was so much more powerful than the idea of right and wrong.

His was a desire that could not–would not–be denied.

All it took was one glimpse out the windshield while he waited for Newman to finish in some hole-in-the-wall bagel shop. Just a flash of glossy black hair that caught his eye until he zeroed in on the tall young man in the dark blue tracksuit with the white piping up the side. He had an MP3 player hanging on a lanyard around his neck and the earbuds were firmly planted in his ears as he paused to catch his breath after his dash across the street. He looked like a student maybe, some college kid that might be on the track team with his whole life spread out before him, a cornucopia of possibilities.

That were all about to be derailed.

There was something so delightful about knowing he had the power to destroy such a beautiful thing. He would absorb all of that power and possibility and make it his own, incorporating all of that potential into his own being, making it an indelible part of himself.

That young man could go on to make a life for himself, find a wife, have children, end up with some ultimately fulfilling career. But when Adam’s desires consumed him, all of that potential would be consumed as well, feeding Adam the energy of life and creation, imbuing him with power.

It was the purest testament to his love and the ultimate sacrifice to his hunger.

Though he rarely felt arousal, he felt a stirring in his groin at the thought of what joy he was about to share with the other man. He didn’t even know the guy’s name, but whatever it was, he was sure it would be delicious.

/CHAPTER