Blair had his head resting on Jim's shoulder, eyes closed, hands holding on for dear life. Jim was moving in and out of him, of his body, and he couldn't believe anything could feel this strange - or good. The tugging of his nipple ring kept sending small threads of delicious pleasure through him and he could no more stifle his moans than call a stop to their lovemaking. Jim hit that certain spot again - he knew it was his prostate - and he shuddered so violently, he nearly jerked out of Jim's grasp. Jim's hold tightened almost convulsively as he gave another forceful kick that buried his cock at its deepest yet…and Blair tumbled over the edge.
They floated on the surface, exhausted limbs moved lazily by the water. Jim roused himself to finally whisper, "We'd better head for shore before we drown."
Blair chuckled. "Drowning by post orgasmic lethargy - cool."
Slowly and reluctantly, he pulled away and, together, they swam back to the grassy bank, walked out and dropped to the ground. After several minutes, Blair propped his chin on his arms and looked sideways at Jim, whose eyes were closed. Feeling confident that this was the perfect opportunity to look his fill of the man he'd just made love with, he nevertheless found it strange. Here he was, looking at a living, breathing Jim Ellison whose incredible looks were even more potent in person, and he was reacting in ways that no woman had ever solicited. And sure, maybe, in the face of Jim's…what, beauty? Blair might be feeling a tad inadequate in the looks department, not that he didn't have his own charm - but really, a jockey compared to an actor; to Jim? Not that Jim seemed to have minded a few minutes ago.
Blair smiled in memory and he quickly found himself choked up with emotion. With a tentative move, he reached out a hand to touch Jim's lips where they curved into a half smile. God, they hadn't even kissed yet - and with that thought, he leaned in - was just about to make contact -when Jim opened his eyes. The older man's smile widened and Blair couldn't stop the words that followed. "I love you."
The smile reached Jim's eyes then, but Blair didn't catch it as his own were focused on Jim's lips while he waited for the same words to come back to him. Instead, Jim reached out and pulled Blair toward him...and they finally kissed; deep and possessive.
Jim's question about how Blair would taste was now answered and, for the first time in his life, he found himself thankful for his senses.
They finally parted with Blair dropping his head so that his forehead rested against Jim's chin as he breathed out, low, quiet and almost reverently, "God, you're incredible. I didn't know it could be like this, Jim. The feeling of you inside me. I just didn't know - couldn't know it would feel so good. God, I love you."
Jim stiffened, his breath catching at Blair's words and then he remembered the resistance and tensing. He rolled away, avoiding Blair's eyes as he did so.
"Jim?" Blair asked, suddenly worried.
"You… you're, I mean, surely you've...." But he couldn't finish. He rested back on his heels as Blair sat up, puzzled.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
"Shit. You've never… That was your first time, wasn't it? You're a virgin."
Blair couldn't help it - he laughed even as he barked out, "I'm hardly a virgin, man."
"Oh, yeah? Have you ever had anal sex before today?" Jim asked tersely.
"Okay, no, but come on--"
"That makes you a virgin. Jesus, Blair, I could have hurt you." Then he said, voice stronger and tinged with anger, "You should have told me. Jesus Christ."
"Look, it didn't occur to me...I mean--"
Suddenly another thought struck Jim and he lurched to his feet, interrupting Blair's words. "Christ, you've never even been with a man before, have you?"
Jim's anger drove Blair to his feet, his own face flushing with a combination of ire and embarrassment. "What the hell is this all about? Why--"
Jim grabbed Blair by the arms. "Answer me. You've never been with a man before, have you?"
"No, not before today, why is that--"
Jim let him go so quickly that Blair almost fell, but he caught himself and watched, shocked, as Jim grabbed up his clothes and began to dress.
Feeling suddenly bereft and still unsure of what was really going on, Blair could only watch. Had he…had he said it too soon? Was that it? Damn, of course it was. Disgusted with himself, with the day, with everything, he knelt down, picked up his clothes, slipped his sweater over his head, pulled on his jeans and, as he straightened, felt, for the first time, an unaccustomed soreness. He hissed in discomfort, which caused Jim to turn toward him, his face set tight. Blair stifled any further sounds, put on his tennis shoes and violently stuffed his socks into a back pocket. All he wanted was to be anywhere but here. He could already feel the connection between them shattering. He bit down hard on his lip to keep words from spilling out; to hide his hurt.
And all because he'd said too much, too soon.
They walked silently back to the cart, slipped in and Blair drove them back to the trailers, never once looking at the angry man beside him.
When he finally pulled up alongside the trailer, Jim climbed out and, without a backward glance, walked inside.
Blair turned the cart around and headed for the stables and the freedom and succor he could only receive by riding.
Jim stepped inside and, as the door shut behind him, leaned back and closed his eyes. Only now, in the privacy of his trailer, did he allow the tremors he'd been desperately trying to control, take over.
He should have known, but damn it, it had never occurred to him that Blair was… that he'd never… damn. He could have hurt him. He hadn't even tried to control himself, giving into the need to connect so thoroughly that he doubted he'd been entirely human.
Thank God they'd been in the water.
He never would have, never...but God, oh, dear God.
GM watched Blair saddle Incacha, mount up, wince, and then turn the horse and head for the gate. In spite of Blair's earlier orders not to follow them into the woods, he'd done just that. Now, standing next to the fence with Will, he recognized something in Blair that he hadn't seen in a long time. Not since Alexis Barnes.
"I'm thinking one of us better go after him, GM. I don't much like the look on his face," Willy said softly.
GM spit out a wad of tobacco and nodded. "I'll go. Should be me anyways."
Ten minutes later he rode out after his boss.
Incacha was a huge, powerful Arabian horse and, when given his lead, ran like the wind using long, deep strides. It took all of Blair's strength, stamina and concentration to stay with him, which was exactly why he'd chosen him for this particular ride.
Blair had purchased him two years ago after being informed that he couldn't be broken. The moment he'd set eyes on the sleek, midnight black, heavily muscled and headstrong horse, he'd known they belonged together. Incacha represented everything Blair loved about riding.
Some believed that you had to break a horse to tame him, but Blair wasn't among them. He didn't even believe in taming a horse. No, for him, riding was a union between man and animal, each challenging the other's strength and spirit before merging into one powerful entity charging across the land.
Which was exactly what he needed now. No thoughts or memories, just power between his legs, the sound of Incacha's breathing matching his own with his hands strong and firm on the reins. He dug his knees in, lowered his head and gave Incacha his freedom. They raced across the expanse of Banks Folly, wove their way around the trees, taking each obstacle with long, clean jumps and then galloping over the open field. Thanks to the wind whipping at his hair and burning his face, he couldn't feel the hot tears of shame, hurt and loss.
Blair didn't hear the shot, but Incacha did. The bullet zipped passed the horse's head causing it to rear up in panic.
Had his concentration been where it belonged, Blair would have been able to control him, but it wasn't and, as a result, he was thrown.
He hit the ground, rolled over, and lay still.
GM knew Blair. Knew what he would do, where he'd ride, so he cut across the meadow in hopes of intercepting him. As he topped a small rise, he spotted horse and man racing hard through a stand of oaks. He was just starting down in order to intercept when he heard the loud crack of a rifle. Incacha reared back and, to GM's horror, Blair flew over Incacha's head.
Even as he raced to Blair's side, he scanned the surrounding area for the shooter, his hand moving back to his own rifle. A sudden whirl of dust to his right alerted him to a red Jeep speeding away and, while he would have loved to take off after the dickhead, Blair was his priority. He reached Blair's side, dismounted and, heart in his throat, knelt down beside the prone man. Blair was already moaning and trying to sit up so GM put out a restraining hand. "Not so fast, Boss. You know the drill. Let me check you out first."
He probed gently, checking for broken bones, all to a constant litany of, "I'm fine, stop that, nothing's broken, just got the breath knocked out of me." GM ignored him and continued to check him out even as he pushed Blair's hands away. Eventually Blair gave up and let GM do his job, but not without a final, "Fuck," to punctuate his displeasure.
"Nasty cut there on your arm and another one here," GM said softly as he gently touched Blair's temple. "Stay put while I get some water to clean these up a bit."
"Gee, may I sit up, O Great Master?"
GM snorted. He was more than used to his charge's hate of being coddled. But he helped him sit up and then moved him over enough that he could rest against a tree trunk. Coming back a few moments later, he began to rinse the cuts as Incacha, reins dragging on the ground, ambled over and began to nuzzle Blair's hair.
Reaching up, Blair ran a hand over Incacha's jaw and asked, "What spooked us, huh, baby?"
"Just someone trying to shoot you," GM said casually as he bandaged the cut arm.
Shocked, and not too sure he'd heard correctly, Blair said, "Excuse me? What did you just say?"
"You heard me. It was a rifle and best I could tell, just missed you."
"I didn't...I didn't hear anything."
GM kept his head down, concentrating on the task at hand while continuing the casual tone. "S'pect your mind was elsewhere, which is why 'Cha got the best of you."
"It could have been an accident," Blair said peevishly.
"Oh, sure. Just some hunter that fires once and takes off. Right."
GM chuckled and continued his work. Finally he sat back and said, "That'll hold you 'til we get back. You feel up to riding?"
"Hell, yeah. I bounced, didn't I?"
"Yep. By my count, a good three times."
"What? Only three? I'm getting old."
"Well, I'd have to agree 'cuz you used to get a good five or six bounces when you were maybe nineteen. But age has a way of slowing us down a mite. Take it from me. I don't hardly bounce at all anymore. Just drop like a lead balloon."
Blair barked out a laugh even as he held out his arm so that GM could help him up. Unfortunately, the world chose that moment to tilt on its axis and Blair swayed before falling heavily against GM. "Wow," he said, slightly dazed. "Did you feel that? The world just tipped."
GM raised one bushy, expressive eyebrow, "Yeah, it was the world's fault, all right." He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a slim cell phone. Flipping it open he hit a number and seconds later said, "Will, I found him...No, he's not but someone took a potshot at him and he went down. Send the wagon and call Doc Jones…Yeah, let 'em know. They'll want to come...and call the sheriff." He tucked the phone back into his pocket before letting Blair gently down again.
Blair rested his head back against the tree trunk and closed his eyes. Settling in beside him, their shoulders touching, GM asked softly, "You want to talk about it?"
He lifted his head to look at GM and matching pairs of blue eyes studied each other; one, sympathetic, the other, uncertain. Finally, Blair turned away. "Nothing to talk about."
"Don't think so, Boss. I followed you two." At Blair's panicked look, he added quickly, "Now don't get yourself in a dither. When I saw the way things were going, I hightailed it outta there. But when you drove out like the devil hisself was chasing you, I knew something went wrong 'tween you two."
He plucked a blade of grass, stuck it in his mouth and added, "I'm willing to listen."
Blair slumped down as GM's gentle tone got to him. Rubbing his face, he said, "Shit. I… Oh, hell. He went crazy because…because…."
Feeling ridiculous, he realized he couldn't finish. He was twenty-five, he'd been around the block and yet here he was, feeling like a idiot.
GM squeezed his arm reassuringly and said, "Tell me, kid."
Taking a deep breath, Blair said, "I...it was, you know...first time...with a… Oh, fuck."
"He didn't know," GM guessed.
Blair nodded miserably.
GM looked at the young man who meant more to him than any other living being and knew he had to help, to find the right words; to do this right, but he needed a bit more information first.
"Blair, did he--"
"I see. Okay, that means you scared him good. Anyone with half a brain and good eyesight could see what was what with you two. He just assumed that you were gay, see? You gotta understand, it's different with men--"
"Oh, for God's sake, I know that."
"No, you don't. Anal sex is different, you gotta be careful, there's preparation needed, especially the first time. And well, a man like Ellison, he's not gonna go 'round, seducing young, straight men. You understand? You scared him. Pure and simple."
"Now, Boss, stop pouting. It doesn't become you."
Blair's lips twitched as he tried unsuccessfully to smother a grin. "You mind telling me how you know all this?"
"You are okay...right?"
"Apparently. We were in the water."
Neither man could do it, contain it. They both exploded in laughter.
A horn alerted them to the appearance of the ranch station wagon. It pulled up and Simon and Joel were out and running, Willy not far behind.
Smiling, Blair and GM looked at each other as GM warned, "Prepare to be smothered."
The sheriff had come and gone after promising a full investigation and, while Simon and Joel waited downstairs, the doctor examined Blair. Wearing a blue t-shirt and sweat pants, he was sitting up in bed as Dr. Marvin Jones put his stethoscope back in his bag.
"So," Blair asked hesitantly, "do I ride on Saturday?"
Marvin smiled indulgently and said, "That depends on you. Stay in this bed until I say you can get up and maybe I'll certify you for the race."
"Right. Bed. I can do that."
Marvin Jones had been taking care of the Banks-Taggart-Sandburg family for the last fifteen years and he knew every single nuance of the young man he'd just finished examining. Blair's words said one thing, but Marvin knew damn he was really saying that there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that he'd stay down. Wagging a menacing finger at him, he lectured, "Now you listen to me, young man. You can get up to go to the bathroom but otherwise, you don't set foot out of this bed. I'll be back at two tomorrow afternoon and, if I'm satisfied, I'll certify, but if I have even a hint that you didn't follow my instructions--"
Blair raised a surrendering hand. "Got it. Bed until tomorrow."
"Good. I'll go down and break the news to Simon and Joel that you're going to live."
"Marv?" Simon stood at the bottom of the stairs, Joel pacing behind him. As Jones started down the steps, Simon repeated in a more demanding tone, "Marv?"
"There's no concussion. He's bruised and battered, but otherwise, he's going to be fine. If he stays in bed until tomorrow, he can race."
"Who the hell cares about a race?" Joel yelled. "Someone tried to kill our son!"
"Okay, okay, Joel, relax," Simon soothed as he took Joel by the arm and led him into the living room.
Calmer, but not by much, Joel said, "I say we pull Little Stogie."
"You know Blair won't allow that. If he can ride, he will."
"Damn. I hate this age of consent thing. Why couldn't he be seventeen again?"
"Come on, let's go up and see him," Simon suggested. He turned to Marvin and held out his hand. "Thanks for the house call, buddy."
"No problem. You'll get my highly inflated bill in the mail. I'll be back tomorrow to certify him."
Joel and Simon stood on either side of the bed and, with an exasperated look, Blair said, "Look Mom, Pops, Bud promises not to take the Model T again without permission, okay?"
"Blair, this is serious. We don't want to race Little Stogie," Joel said.
Blair turned to Simon. "Is that how you feel?"
"If it means keeping you safe, yes."
"So, what, I never race again? You never race a horse again? Because if we cave, that's what we're talking about."
"Blair, all we care about is you."
"Good. Then we race." He made a shooing motion with his hand. "Off you go so that I can actually do what the doc says and go to sleep."
Both men looked at each other, shrugged, and walked to the door. Just as Blair slipped down under the covers and, as the door was about to close behind his fathers, he heard Joel mutter, "I want to know which of us is Mom and which is Pops."
Smiling, Blair pulled the covers over his head.
Jim sat in his now darkened trailer, a glass of Chivas Regal in his hand.
Damn, how had everything gone so bad, so fast? One minute, he'd had the world in his arms and the next - poof - gone.
He should have known. Should have known.
Blair was straight, and thus a virgin to what they'd…to what…. God damn it.
Jim had always made sure his partners were experienced - always. You don't make those kind of errors, not in his business. He looked at his trembling hand. He could have hurt him thanks to have given into his emotions, his need to have Blair; to give to Blair; to be everything to Blair. He'd opened his senses wide and allowed the younger man to fill them….
Someone was pounding at the door. He staggered up and opened it to find a worried Paul on his step.
"I thought you'd want to know that David just got a call from the house. That kid, Blair? He fell, was thrown, I guess. They have the doctor up there now--"
He didn't get the chance to finish as Jim rushed past him and headed for his car.
Simon and Joel were coming down the stairs, Simon patiently explaining that he, meaning Joel, was definitely the mom, while he, meaning Simon, was most definitely the pop. Joel was arguing that no, Joel was the pop because he was taller, so Simon had to be the mom, when Sheila, Simon's secretary, opened the door to Jim.
No one had ever called Simon a fool and when he'd heard about the shooting and that Blair was out on Incacha, he'd known something must have happened between Blair and Ellison. He'd been more than ready to kill the man, but now, seeing his panicked look and the absolute terror in his eyes, Simon figured that whatever had gone wrong was about to be fixed.
"He's fine, Jim," he said quickly.
Jim looked up at the two men, but didn't relax.
"Would you like to see him?"
"I...could I? For just a minute?"
"Go ahead. Just up these stairs, turn right at the top. His room will be the second door on your left."
"Thanks, Simon. Thanks."
Jim took the steps three at a time.
Okay, Blair thought. Sleeping might not be possible after all. Hell, just how many lumps did this bed have anyway? He tried, in vain, to find that one comfortable spot, a place where his body could sink into and not hurt, but so far, no luck. His efforts were interrupted by someone knocking and quietly calling his name.
Sitting up as quickly as his sore body would allow, he said, "Come on in. It's unlocked."
The door opened and Jim peeked in, looking both worried and a great deal like a recalcitrant child. "I just heard and came right over. Are you--"
"I'm fine. Bumps, bruises, the usual." He cocked his head, noticed the way Jim was hovering in the doorway, so added, "You can come all the way in, you know. It's safe." He indicated a chair by the window.
Jim walked over and pushed the chair over to the bed as Blair watched, wide-eyed.
"Uhm, Jim? I only meant for you to take the chair, not take the chair."
Jim was already halfway down but did a marvelous job of catching himself and struggling upright. "God, sorry. I'll move it back."
Frowning, Jim looked at Blair while a smiling Blair stared right back at him.
"I'm sorry," Jim finally said - at the same time as Blair. They both laughed a bit nervously even as Jim rubbed at his face. Finally he said, "Blair, you've got to help me make you understand."
"It's okay, I do. You were scared."
"You could have hurt me."
"You made love to a gay jockey, only to find out he was straight."
"Yes. Exactly," Jim said again.
"You're deeply in love with said gay/straight jockey. Can't live without him."
"Yes, exactly," Jim said before stopping to reexamine his words.
Blair grinned, supremely happy with himself even as Jim's expression changed to one of shock as he tripped to how he'd been manipulated.
"Damn it, Blair. This is serious," he said in a weak attempt to gain some control over the situation.
Looking very smug, Blair said, "Yes. Exactly."
Jim gave a disgusted shake of his head and tried again. "Look, you have to understand that things are different now that I know--"
"You love me less just because up to this afternoon, I was straight?" Crossing his arms over his chest, he added, "I call that reverse discrimination."
Jim gave an exaggerated sigh. "I'm not going to win this one, am I?"
"I should just surrender?"
"Lay down your arms. Fly the white flag."
"But we go slow this time." Jim said it again for emphasis. "Slow."
"Isn't it a little late for that? I hate to break it to you, man, but this horse is gone and the stable door ain't ever closing again."
"We could try," Jim almost pleaded. "Start over. Go slow. A few quiet dates, a tasteful seduction and then it happens right."
"Man, you are fucking unbelievable. It could never happen more right than it did. And I thought my seduction of you was very tasteful."
Jim swiped a hand over his face. "I'm losing again. I'm fucking losing again."
"Your life story from now on, my man. From now on."
"Your fall…was that because of what I...what happened?"
"Not unless you shot at me."
"What?" Jim said, horrified. He jumped up and started pacing and muttering as if Blair weren't even there. "I should have been there, this never would have happened if I'd been there...not leaving his side again...no way--"
"Get over it, Jim. Hell, you're worse than Simon and Joel put together."
Looking only slightly penitent, Jim sat down and reached for Blair's hand. "Sorry," he said softly. "Sorry I wasn't with you."
"Me too. You'd have cushioned my fall."
Blair grinned and, for the next few minutes, they simply stared at each other and smiled foolishly. Finally Jim let go and made to get up. "I should be going. Let you rest."
"I...mm…you need sleep."
"Yeah, and I could sleep pretty damn fine if, say, for instance, you were sleeping right next to me."
"You mean stay here - with you?"
"Unless you prefer sleeping with Simon and Joel. Crowded, but whatever floats your boat."
"I don't know," Jim said. "What about Simon and Joel?"
"God, you are going to be a handful. Strip down and get in here. It's late, I'm tired, I hurt and I bet you're way more comfortable than this lumpy bed."
Since it was exactly what Jim wanted to do - he stripped. When his clothes were neatly folded over the back of the chair, Blair swept back the covers in a welcoming gesture and he climbed in.
Blair was happy to discover that he'd been right. Jim was way more comfortable than the lumpy bed.
"He's still up there."
"Yes, Simon, he is. And I expect he'll stay up there. Now let’s go to bed."
"No buts. Bed. And butts."
"Damn, I love it when you talk dirty."
"Shit, you're an octopus. Just how many arms and legs do you have?" Jim asked around a yawn. He looked down at Blair and smiled. It was kind of nice waking up with a short jockey wrapped around him like a pretzel.
"You're probably counting your own. Mine are the dark brown ones. Do a re-count," Blair responded sleepily.
Still grinning, Jim rested his cheek on the top of Blair's head. His hair tickled, but in a good way, leading Jim to realize that he really loved long hair on a sexy guy. Well, this sexy guy, anyway. "So what do we do today?" he asked. "I'm not scheduled for anything since they're doing exteriors and second unit work."
Blair gave a little humming sound right before he began giving serious attention to Jim's right nipple. Which, like his cock, perked right up. A moment later, Blair stopped, which forced a groan out of Jim.
"Bedridden," Blair mumbled. "But we'll probably come up with something to do."
He went back to loving Jim's nipple.
"Oh, yeah," Jim hissed out. "We can…certainly come up with something for a bedridden jockey."
Blair lifted his head and grinned wickedly. "I prefer Jim-ridden."
"I'm in love with a sex slut."
"Poor you. You have my sympathy."
"Thank you." Jim promptly pushed Blair's head back down, aiming him toward his other nipple. Fortunately, Blair had his own ideas and began to move down Jim's body, licking and stroking every inch of skin he could reach while making that same humming noise. Jim thought he could come just from the sound - the vibration of it.
Damn, it was fucking incredible. His whole body could feel the sound and it was like a small electronic device attached to his skin, sending little jolts of pleasure into him. The jolt traveled through every muscle, artery and nerve until it narrowed to a laser point and shot directly to his dick.
Do not pass go - do not collect $200.
Blair was teasing it, his tongue dancing around the head and up the side, driving Jim insane. Keeping his enhanced senses in mind, Blair knew exactly what to do to him and, as a result, was making love to him within an inch of his life; something no one had ever done before.
Then Blair took him into his mouth, took his cock, and God Damn, he was still humming and sucking and he had him down his throat and it was constricting and Jim couldn't stop. He had to thrust deep, hard and fast, his hands moving to capture Blair's head and hold it as he bucked, feeling those vibrations again as they traveled in waves, moving up and down his body. His head fell back and he arched and thrust one last time, Blair's name coming as he spurted deep and long with the most intense orgasm of his life.
He woke up thanks to a tongue that seemed to be trying hard to move into his mouth. It shouldn't take this much energy so maybe he should help? Yeah, that's the ticket. So he did.
He could taste himself on Blair, the combination of the two of them something he couldn't get enough of. He desperately wanted to touch Blair but found that he was unable to move, to raise arms that weighed a ton, so he just lay there, letting Blair have his way with his mouth, which was just fine with him until a knock and a voice brought him back to Earth.
"Blair? We're sending breakfast up. Would that be for two?"
Blair immediately flopped over on his back and, grinning, managed to get the covers up and over both of them just as the door opened and Joel peeked in. Jim ducked under the covers altogether, pulling a fine imitation of an ostrich.
"So is it breakfast in bed for two and if so, how does the lump on your left like his eggs?"
A muffled "Over easy," rumbled from deep undercover, causing both Blair and Joel to crack up.
Finally Joel managed to contain himself enough to nod and say with a grin, "Right. Over easy."
Blair was true to his word and stayed in bed as he and Jim worked on the actor's senses. Blair had him use the working sounds of the ranch while standing on the balcony overlooking the property. Blair tested his range, control, and the depth of his abilities, before working on variations of every single test. His mind never seemed to stop and, in spite of being confined to bed, he really led Jim through his paces.
At one point, Jim got frustrated as his sight and hearing slammed into each other, which resulted in Blair deciding that he was some sort of transistor radio with dials. According to Mr. Sony, Jim should be able to just turn them up or down as needed, but of course, Jim couldn't and was now looking around for something to throw at his tormentor. Unfortunately, Blair beat him to it and a pillow sailed through the air to smack Jim in the middle of his face.
Startled, he spun around only to be stopped cold by Blair's angry words.
"Damn it, Jim, will you listen to me? You've had these senses all your life and have been subconsciously controlling them - 'turning' them up or down as needed. They only controlled you when you suffered an overload of stimulation. Now sit down, shut the fuck up and do what I say."
Jim stood there, mouth open, pillow in hand. Finally he said, "Was that supposed to put me in my place?"
"Actually, that was my cheerleader speech. You don't want to see me mad, Jim."
Jim pretended to shake in fear - even as he walked over to the bed and sat down. And shut up.
They started again.
One frustrating hour later, Jim got it.
With a beautiful smile spreading across his face, Jim said, "My God, it worked. It actually worked. I can choose what to hear and follow a sound to the sight."
One eyebrow arching up into his hairline, Blair said dryly, "Gosh, no kidding? That's amazing and…you're welcome."
Jim stepped back into the room from the balcony, knelt on the bed, captured Blair's face between his hands and kissed him completely and thoroughly. When he finally pulled away, he whispered, "Thank you."
Dr. Jones arrived promptly at two and, after finding his patient in bed and in excellent spirits, pronounced him fit to ride. He signed the required certification papers which would be delivered to the Jockey Club by GM later that afternoon.
Just before taking his leave, Marvin handed Jim a prescription pad. "Would you mind? For my wife," he said apologetically.
Taking it, Jim asked, "What's her name?"
With an embarrassed cough, he said, "Er, uhm, M.a.r.v.i.n."
Hiding his grin, he signed it and, as he handed it back, said, "Lovely name for a woman."
"Yes, well. I think I'll be going now." He wagged a finger at Blair and added, "You take care and don't overdo, young man."
Blair saluted smartly. "Wouldn't dream of it."
With a snort, Marvin took his leave and Blair tossed the covers back and practically jumped out of bed. Rubbing his hands together, he said, "Shower and then down to the stables and Little Stogie."
Jim gave a helpless shake of his head. The guy was unbelievable.
Jim lounged against the door jam while Blair, GM and Will sat around the table in Blair's stable office and discussed the best way to protect Little Stogie between now and the race. He was pleased when one of the first things they decided was to not do their traveling that night, but rather limit their exposure by going in a single caravan in the morning. Blair had already talked with the local sheriff, who'd agreed to provide an armed escort. Jim had been surprised by that, but quickly realized that he shouldn't have been, not given Simon's wealth and Blair's popularity. Now all three men were discussing the trailer and equipment and how to ensure that they remained tamper-proof.
Listening to their ideas and plans, Jim realized that the dangers in racing were more varied than just the possibility of a fall, and it was obvious that Blair and his team knew exactly what they were doing. One thing that puzzled him, however, was how many times the name, "Alex Barnes" came up in the discussion. Jim made a mental note to ask Blair about the man when they were alone.
"So that's it then? We've covered everything?"
Jim straightened as he realized the meeting was coming to an end.
"Think so, Boss," GM answered. "I think we're as ready as we'll ever be."
"Okay then. Let's get cracking."
Will and GM pushed back their chairs and made their exits, both nodding at Jim as they passed him on their way out. Blair walked over and, grinning, asked, "You mind if I check in on Little Stogie again?"
"Not at all. Let's go."
A few minutes later, they were in Little Stogie's stall and Blair was rubbing him along his jaw, Jim standing a few feet away, content to watch. The stables were cool, dark and quiet, Little Stogie having been isolated to the far end for his protection.
Since, in effect, they were alone, Jim decided now was the time to quiz Blair on Barnes. Hands stuffed in his pockets, he said in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner, "So, tell me about this Alex Barnes. Is he really a suspect in all this?"
Blair now had one of the grooming brushes and was absently running it down Little Stogie's flank and, at Jim's question, said, "Well, it's possible. Probable even. Barnes is rich and wants to be richer. He and Simon have been serious business rivals for the last ten years. He's tough, doesn't much care how he gets something done, as long as it happens. So far, he's lost every battle with Simon and, in the last four years, has lost every race to me."
Blair paused, moved around to the other side of the horse and, brushing in earnest, said softly, "A little over four years ago I started seeing his daughter, Alexis. Rich, spoiled, beautiful, an artist." He chuckled in a way that was far from humorous as he added, "For a while, I thought I was in love with her. Things were good and Simon and Alex even began a project together. The news media started hinting at a possible merger, using our relationship as the catalyst."
"It…ended, and the project fell through, which resulted in Alex losing a great deal of money. We didn't and he declared war."
Jim heard what no one else could have, namely the speeding up of Blair's heart, and knew that he wasn't getting the whole story. Moving up behind him, he placed a hand on Blair's arm to stop the almost violent brushing and asked, "Why do I get the feeling you just did some judicious editing?"
Blair stiffened and gently disengaged himself before stepping away from both Jim and the horse. Unable to meet Jim's gaze, he moved to the front of the horse and began petting him almost absently.
"Blair, please? Tell me."
Blair shrugged. "What can I say? I was in love and I thought the world began and ended with Alexis. I was twenty, almost twenty-one, she was twenty-six. I thought...I thought she felt the same."
"But she didn't?"
Blair's hand slowed, "Oh, I suppose she felt as much as she was capable of feeling, but you see, it turned out that it had never been about us."
"It was business," Jim guessed.
"That was part of it...but not all of it. It turned out that Alexis and her father…they had a strange relationship. I...what Alexis had, he wanted and she had no trouble sharing." He gave a small uneasy shrug as he added in an even softer tone, "She even…encouraged him."
A kind of coldness seeped into Jim as Blair's words hung in the air above them.
"It ended one night," he said as if Jim hadn't spoken, "following a race. She invited me upstairs to her suite…and he was there. They made me…an offer, which I turned down…and that ended our relationship and engagement." He looked up and at Jim then as he added, "See, it was just a game to them and I was the prize, along with the merger."
His expression hardened then, but Jim could see what others wouldn't - hear what others couldn't.
"I never told Simon or Joel. They were both glad it ended because they'd never liked her. I kept it a secret - until now." He glanced up. "And it needs to remain just that: a secret, Jim."
"I think you're making a mistake in not telling them, but that's your decision and I'll respect it." He took a tentative step closer. "Funny how I seem to have this need to hold you right now. Would you mind?"
Ducking his head and hiding a sudden smile, Blair said, "I'm sure that could be arranged, but let me check with my agent first. Never make a move without his approval."
Gently pulling Little Stogie's head up, Blair started whispering in the animal's ear - and damn if the horse didn't bob its head up and down in agreement. Eventually, Blair smiled, nodded, kissed Little Stogie's muzzle, and said, "My agent is all for it."
Wrapping his arms around him, Jim still had the niggling feeling that Blair still hadn't told him everything about that night. But he would - eventually.
By six that evening, Jim was in a tux and waiting for Blair. When they'd arrived back at the house, it was to a heavy discussion as to whether any of them should even go to the dance, with Simon, Joel and Jim landing on the side of not going and keeping Blair safe. They'd lost, as evidenced by the fact that here he was, standing in front of the mirror and giving his tie a final adjustment.
Jim couldn't help but wonder how three men with a combined age of one hundred and twenty-five years, a combined weight of over seven hundred pounds, and with heights ranging from Jim's six feet to Simon's six feet-five inches, could lose so badly to a five foot-seven inch, twenty-five year old weighing in at about a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet.
Because they were pitiful and Blair was actually the alpha male, that was how.
Of course, Simon was ex-Covert Ops, which made him a handy guy to have around. Jim had grown up in the Bronx and clawed his way up and out so was no stranger to fists or weapons himself, and, as it turned out, gentle Joel, landscape artist extraordinaire, just happened to be a martial arts expert. Between the three of them, Blair, no slouch himself in the self-defense arena, would be safe.
And while Jim wasn't as comfortable with his senses as Blair seemed to be, the fact was he had them and, according to Blair, he was a sentinel, a guardian. So be it.
Tonight and tomorrow, he'd use this so-called gift to guard Blair. No one would touch him, no one would hurt him.
Not on this Sentinel's watch.
The Aspen Ball was in full swing when they arrived, the cream of Cascade's crop, dressed in all their glory, dancing, eating, drinking and chatting happily away. Business, politics and the race seemed to be the prime topics of conversation and Jim had to remember the dials - thanks to a sharp poke in the ribs by Blair - in order not to hear all of it. The one thing he did get from the snippets of talk was something he already knew: that Saturday's Sweepstakes would have an impressive field of horses and jockeys; the greatest in the world, with the most powerful and prestigious owners and consortiums in the world of racing backing them. It wasn't the Kentucky Derby, but it was close.
Simon was immediately pulled away by the Mayor, but not before Simon introduced him to Jim. Joel was seduced away by one of his landscaping colleagues in order to discuss the traits of a certain ivy - all of which left Jim and Blair alone at the buffet table - something Jim was very happy about. He was hungry, but he also had Blair to himself as they moved around the table, filling their plates. Unfortunately, it didn't last long. Jim had barely managed his first bite of Beef Wellington when Joel reappeared and, with a puppy dog look that would have done Blair proud, asked if they'd join him. Seemed he had several "fans just dying to meet you, Jim."
Giving him a little bump with his hip, Blair said, "Go on, you'll love Joel's friends. I'll catch up after one more go 'round with the buffet table."
Both Jim's and Joel's discomfort at the idea of leaving Blair alone must have shown on their faces, because Blair rolled his eyes and added, "I'm perfectly safe here and you know it, Joel. The security is good, we're among friends, and," he grinned at Jim, "I have an ace in the hole. So go on and I'll join you shortly."
"I guess I can't argue with your logic, Blair," Joel said somewhat reluctantly.
"And you know you can't, Jim. Can you?" Blair asked, eyes twinkling.
"Fine, fine. You win," Jim grumbled.
Once Jim and Joel walked off, Blair found himself almost immediately surrounded by racing enthusiasts, all trying to get the inside track on the race.
Blair was hot, tired, and his jaw ached from the constant smiling. He and Jim had been visually connecting since Joel dragged him off thirty minutes ago, but thanks to Blair's friends and fans, he still hadn't joined the two men. At the moment, he decided he needed air more than he needed to Jim. Knowing that the patio would be full of smokers, he quickly ducked out a side door that led onto a small balcony that overlooked the track's famous rose garden.
Once outside, he let the cool night air and scent of roses soothe him. For all his apparent confidence and control, it was the night before a major race and, with all that had happened in the last two days, he was feeling the responsibilities, both old and new. There was also the usual small wave of excitement and fear that he always experienced the night before a big event.
Blair raced for the enjoyment, but he was no fool, he also raced to win. He was first and foremost an athlete, trained and conditioned. Winning was great, but it was also his primary method of thanking Simon and Joel for all that they'd given him over the years. And, if he were honest with himself, and he always was, winning was a way to give himself something. Something that wasn't always easy to define. A purpose, maybe, or a reason to be?
The truth was, until his breakup with Alexis, racing hadn't been his priority…school had. But in a single night, Alexis and her father had managed to take away his sense of self worth, making him feel, if only briefly, like nothing more than an object; a chess piece in their sadistic, sexual games.
Simon and Joel had given him so much over the years, but there'd been one thing they'd been unable to provide: information about his father. And yes, as he'd grown older, he'd wanted to know what had happened to him, who he'd been, but evidently, all Naomi had ever shared with Simon and Joel was that he'd been a wonderful "boy who'd been taken too soon."
But that night, Alex Barnes had provided him with a chunk missing information on the circumstances surrounding his parentage. And apparently, his mother had never been married.
Not that he'd called him a bastard. No, Alex Barnes had used a different word. He'd told him he was nothing more than a mongrel because his mother hadn't even known who'd impregnated her. It seemed that Alex had done his homework on Naomi and her past and, that night, had shared it all. Shared things that Blair doubted Simon and Joel even knew about his mother or how he'd come to be conceived. Oh, yes, Alex Barnes had told him everything, and Blair had known that he'd been hearing the truth. He'd also accepted the fact that he'd never share what he'd learned with another soul. He would never share the venom of that night, of the words spit out like sharp weapons intended to fatally wound, to cut, slice and tear at his heart, dignity, and his sense of self.
He'd made another promise that night as well. He'd promised himself that no one would ever know of the vow he'd made, the one he'd hissed out at Alexis and her father after refusing their advances.
That night, he'd sworn that Alex would never win another race and that he would do everything in his power to ensure that Simon's company would crush Barnes. Then he'd left, the sound of their laughter ringing in his ears.
Alex Barnes wasn't laughing now. Blair had won every race that included a horse from the Barnes Stables and Simon had stayed ahead of Barnes, fending off any and all take-over attempts, building his power base, all with Blair's helpful suggestions.
No, Alex Barnes wasn't laughing now, which was why Blair knew, in spite of what he'd told GM, that Barnes would do anything to get what he wanted, which was to win.
The door behind him opened, the sounds of the ball intruding on Blair's thoughts. Figuring that it was Jim, he turned around, a smile on his face.
But it wasn't Jim. Instead, the man stepping onto the balcony was…Alex Barnes.
It seemed to Jim that in the last thirty minutes or so, he'd been introduced to every important member of Cascade society and shaken more hands, posed with more wives and daughters than a politician running for office. But through it all, he'd managed to keep his senses focused on Blair, catching his eye every few minutes, listening to his voice, honing in on its velvety tones and clinging to it like a drowning man to a piece of driftwood. But then Joel had introduced him to a woman swimming in expensive perfume and, for a few precious minutes, the only thing that existed was the cloying odor of the cologne. When he'd finally managed to center himself, he'd immediately looked toward the far corner of the ballroom where Blair had been surrounded by friends, only to find him gone. He couldn't have explained why that worried him, but the sudden shiver that ran down his spine set off a slew of alarm bells.
Shooting an apologetic look at Joel, Jim extricated himself from the fawning crowd with only one goal: to find Blair.
He managed only a few steps away before Joel touched his arm. "Is something wrong?"
Gaze skimming over the crowd, Jim said uneasily, "Blair - I've lost him. I think…I think there's something wrong."
That was all Joel needed to hear. "All right, you start looking for him while I track Simon down."
Jim simply nodded even as he began to filter out sounds and smells….
Blair had no intention of staying out on the balcony with Alex Barnes so quickly said, "Excuse me, I'm going back inside. Enjoy the night air."
Evidently, Barnes had other ideas. He was a big man, standing easily as tall as Simon but outweighing both Simon and Joel. Even so, thanks to a personal trainer, he was in excellent shape for a man his age; hell, for any man. His blond hair was cropped short and accentuated the hard, angular planes of his handsome face. Cold, icy blue eyes added to the overall impression of hardness and, just like his daughter, gave nothing away. At the moment, the cold gaze was moving slowly and insolently over Blair's body.
"I just want a few minutes. Surely you can spare that?" Alex said with what Blair assumed was his version of a disarming smile.
"I don't think so." Blair made a move to pass, but Barnes effectively blocked the door. He put out a restraining hand and connected with Blair's arm, which he grabbed, fingers digging into Blair.
"The offer is still open and I'll even sweeten the pot."
"I can make life very good for you, Blair, or very bad. Your choice."
Blair couldn't help it, he laughed. "Did you get that line out of an old forties 'B' movie, Alex?" Leaning forward, his own eyes cold, voice colder still, he hissed out, "The only thing you're going to do is keep on losing…over and over again…because I always keep my promises. Always."
Barnes eyes narrowed dangerously, his jaw clenching as his fingers dug deeper into Blair's arm. Blair didn't even wince.
"You listen to me," Barnes spat out. "You're nothing. You're less than nothing, and why I want you is a mystery, but I do. So understand this: you refuse me a second time and you will never know a moment’s peace again, and if you race tomorrow, you'll never cross that finish line alive."
"Is that all?"
"No." Barnes used his considerable weight and strength to swing Blair around so that he hit the wall behind him face first, hard, the side of his head slamming into the concrete with enough force to almost knock him out. As he struggled to clear his head and fight back, Barnes blanketed his body and trapped his arms against the wall. The older man pressed in hard, wrapped the fingers of one hand in Blair's ponytail and, with the other, grabbed Blair's genitals. He squeezed viciously, causing Blair to bite back a groan. Blair tried to kick back, but Barnes was pressing in too close and Blair had little to no wiggle-room.
Barnes squeezed again, even harder, as he thrust into Blair in a parody of love-making. The movement smashed Blair into the wall with each violent thrust. Lips close to Blair's ear, he hissed, "I could take you now. Use you. Discard you. I could kill you this instant; snap your neck like a twig. So tell me, Blair; tell me who has the power now? Tell me. " He slammed him into the wall again as he repeated, "Tell me, Blair. Who…has…the… power?"
Jim was concentrating so hard, he never noticed the moment Joel rejoined him, Simon in tow. He was still filtering out as many extraneous sounds as possible, trying to find that voice….
"Jim?" Simon asked while, at the same time, placing a hand on Jim's shoulder.
Jim waved an impatient hand at the man even as he cocked his head, concentrated…and…yes, there…."I could take you now. Use you. Discard you. I could kill you this instant; snap your neck like a twig. So tell me, Blair; tell me who has the power now? Tell me. " He slammed him into the wall again as he repeated, "Tell me, Blair. Who…has…the… power?"
Jim took off, shouldering his way through the crowds, Simon and Joel on his heels.
And then he heard the sound of bones breaking....
Blair surprised Barnes by thrusting back with his hips, which led the older man to believe Blair was reacting in pleasure. He relaxed just enough that Blair was able to use it to his advantage. He jerked his head back with enough force to smash Barnes' nose. Clutching at it, Barnes staggered back.
Blair pushed painfully away from the wall and reached for the door, but Barnes wasn't done. With a bloody hand, he grabbed at Blair's now loose hair and yanked him back. Ignoring the pain, Blair twisted around, kicked out and connected with Barnes' knee. At the same moment, the balcony doors were pushed open and Jim, Simon and Joel burst onto the balcony.
Barnes released Blair so fast, he literally stumbled back but managed to keep his balance. He bent over at the waist, hands on thighs, breath coming in jerky pants as he gasped out, "Hi, guys."
Jim, with a nod at Simon, advanced on Barnes even as Joel moved toward Blair.
"Leave him alone," Blair rasped out as he slowly straightened. He stepped between Barnes and Jim and faced his enemy. "You never had the power - I know that now. You can't touch me, and tomorrow, Little Stogie and I will blow you out of the water." He turned and walked back out into the ballroom, leaving his guardians no choice but to follow.
Once back in the ballroom, Jim, Simon and Joel surrounded him, knowing he wouldn't want to be seen, wouldn't want to answer any questions as they made their way out and away from the Aspen Ball, with Jim the only one who knew that Alex Barnes was still on the balcony, silent and still.
"We need to call the police, Blair," Simon stated firmly.
They were in limo, on their way home, Joel and Simon in the seats facing Jim and Blair. Joel coughed politely before saying softly, "Blair, he--"
"No." Blair adjusted the icepack he held to the side of his face and wished he had one more, for another very sore area. On the other hand, that would bring forth more questions, none of which he was inclined to answer. No one needed to know more than they did now.
Damn, his whole body hurt, but they didn't need to know that either.
Jim tried not to watch Blair, but it was damn hard. He knew he was in pain, and thanks to his senses, knew more than he wanted to about where some of it was located. But of even greater concern was Blair's demeanor. He seemed to be holding himself in, setting barriers up around himself. At the moment, he was sitting in the far corner of the seat, stiff and unyielding, his body language screaming, "Leave me alone."
"Blair, it's important that the police be informed," Simon persevered doggedly.
"I said no, and I mean no. It was a fight, nothing more."
"All right, but at least let me get more help for tomorrow. I know Captain Finkleman of Major Crime and I've no doubt that we can get more security. The current Sheriff escort will only be able to see us to the county line, you know that, and now it's not enough."
Blair gave him a grudging nod. "Fine."
Simon searched his son's face and, while seeing the usual stubbornness, he also found something else - something that scared the hell out of him. He knew his son, understood him as few others could, which was why every alarm he possessed was going off. Something more had gone on out on that balcony and, whatever it was, it had damaged Blair. Simon could see the pain of it in his eyes and it scared him.
He'd always suspected there'd been more behind Blair's breakup with Alexis but had never been able to get anything out of his son - until now - now when Blair was trying so hard to hide it from them.
He reached for Joel's hand.
Somehow, Blair made it upstairs while assuring his fathers that he was fine. He didn't seem to notice Jim, who followed him up.
Once inside the safety of his room, everything seemed to catch up at once and he was paralyzed – until Jim, with gentle hands, began to carefully undress him. He gave into it, let Jim guide into the bathroom, watched dully as the shower was turned on, the water temperature adjusted, and then as Jim removed his own tux. When he was done, he guided Blair into the large stall, stepping in behind him.
Jim let the warm water and steam do its work, the mist wrapping around both of them. When he sensed Blair's cramped muscles begin to loosen, he took up the washcloth and soap and began to lovingly wash Blair. The younger man remained unmoving throughout Jim's ministrations, his head lowered so that the mass of hair effectively hid his face. Using the soapy cloth, Jim lightly massaged Blair's shoulders and upper arms before skimming carefully over the old and new bruises in order to work gently on tense back muscles. As he worked, he had to stamp down on his own anger at seeing the physical evidence of what had happened on that balcony.
He washed Blair's hair and, ever so gradually Blair moved back, allowing skin to touch skin. As he did, and as Jim's hands continued to gently clean and massage, the truth penetrated his hurt, fogged brain; the truth that Jim knew - and that knowing didn't matter because Blair mattered more.
Blair surrendered the last of his pride and fear and allowed himself to rest back against the smooth, strong chest while he silently prayed that Jim would hold him. For some reason, he wasn't surprised when the older man did just that.
Holding him close, lips to Blair's temple, Jim whispered, "I love you."
"Thank you," Blair choked out.
The morning of the race dawned clear and warm but by then, the caravan from Banks Folly had already been on the road for thirty minutes. Everyone felt fairly secure, thanks to the two patrol cars, one at each end of the line of vehicles, patrol cars that would now see them all the way to the track.
Jim, Blair and GM were in the huge horse transport with Little Stogie, GM sitting in one chair, a rifle across his lap while Blair stood with Little Stogie in his stall, soothing the animal whose only weakness was his hatred of travel. Jim stood just outside the stall, content again merely to watch.
For GM's part, he'd taken one look at Blair that morning and, after doing considerable reading between the lines, headed back to his office and grabbed his hunting rifle off the wall. He was no fool.
The two hour plus trip to the racetrack proved uneventful and Jim was now watching as Little Stogie was led from the trailer and into his new home-away-from-home by Blair. There were two guards - both very trustworthy according to Simon - assigned to the horse; their job to ensure that no one got within ten feet of him.
It was obvious to Jim that the animal knew exactly what the day held for him. He nearly pranced into his stall, tail arched high, nose lifted to the air in order to take in the scents of race day. He twitched in anticipation, his prance carrying a bit of an edge as his nostrils flared with the excitement. Even to Jim's unpracticed eye, Little Stogie was ready.
"He's settled, GM. I need to head over to the Jockey Room and check in."
"You got it, Boss. We're on top of things. You go on."
Waving, Blair grabbed Jim's arm and they headed out of the stables. Once outside, Blair pulled him aside. "You've got to prepare yourself for all the sounds, colors, and smells. Use those dials, okay?" he whispered.
"Blair, I'm fine."
Searching his face and looking for any telltale signs of pain or stress, he let out a sigh of relief when all he found were a pair of calm, loving eyes gazing down at him. Grinning, he said, "By George, I think he's got it."
"That's jockey-brat to you."
Feet crunching the straw underfoot, they made their way across the paddock toward the Jockey Club. Jim had the strongest desire to take Blair's hand but, instead, asked, "So, what does someone say to wish a jockey good luck? I somehow don't think break a--"
Blair immediately clamped his hand over Jim's mouth, "Don't even think it, Jim."
Jim mumbled against Blair's palm, causing the younger man to finally remove said hand.
Grinning, Jim asked, "So what do I say?"
"Kiss ass? That doesn't sound very…sporty."
Laughing, Blair poked him in the ribs as he said, "Kick ass, you ass."
Checking that they were, for all intents and purposes, alone, Jim leaned down and dropped a quick kiss on Blair's lips.
Running a finger over his bottom lip after Jim stepped back, Blair narrowed his eyes and said, "That wasn't you kissing an ass, was it?"
Joel and Simon sat nervously in their private box surrounded by their friends. They always stayed close to each other when Blair raced, never more than an arm's length away. Today, their nerves were on high alert, both acutely aware how different today was from all other race days.
Jim was stationed above them, on an outside deck, his senses alert, eyes constantly searching for anything out of place. He strained to filter out unnecessary sounds, cataloguing as he did and discarding those he deemed normal.
A few feet away, GM lounged against the wall, toothpick in his mouth, rifle resting in his arms. He’d taken note of the odd way Ellison seemed to hear and see things beyond the normal range and knew that being with him was the place to be if they were going to watch out for, and protect, Blair.
Alex Barnes was alone in his private box, his face bandaged, his eyes black and blue. He didn't feel any pain; he was too intent on watching the track. In less than an hour, Blair Sandburg would be lying out on the same track: dead.
He would have preferred to go down a different road, but last night, Blair had made his choice.
On the top deck, in a restricted area three levels above Jim, a man knelt in front of the railing, a black bag at his feet. He had an assignment today, one that he excelled in. He was, in fact, one of the best in the world. To those who had enough money to buy his services, he was known as the "Ice Man", and his job was to kill. Today his victim was a jockey who'd be wearing the blue and white silks of Banks Folly. He'd be riding number seven: Little Stogie.
The assassin smiled.
Number seven. Lucky for him; not so lucky for one young jockey. Not today anyway.
End Part 2 - go to Conclusion