Discovered in a Crossfire


"This is not," Bodie opined as he squeezed off a shot over my head, "the way I'd intended this evening to progress."

I squinted out into the darkness beyond the garden grounds, looking for a muzzle flash to sight my next shot.

"Yeah? What'd you have in mind, then?" There - movement in the trees. I nudged Bodie away from the window and took my aim, rewarded with a cry of pain as I ducked my head below the window sash.

"Oh - bit of this 'n that." I dared a glance in his direction. He was slumped against the wall on the other side of the window, slipping out the empty clip in favor of the full one he pulled from the pocket of his tuxedo trousers. With his bow tie long discarded and his ruffled shirt open to midchest, he looked annoyingly suave in the flickering light of a hunter's moon. He looked up at me as he rammed the clip home, the blue of his eyes lost in the shadows that pressed in around us but his rueful humor evident nonetheless.

I made myself look away, cursing myself for the thousandth time for being three kinds of idiot. When Bodie'd shown up at my flat to give me a lift to this questionable soiree, he'd looked no more breathtaking than he did now - but I'd held my tongue as I always had, restricting myself to a patronizing tweak of his perfectly wrought tie. Even that was probably too revealing, focused as I was on his lips as I straightened an already faultless bow.

Looking at him now, both of us breathing hard as the adrenaline continued to pump through our bodies, I regretted my endless cowardice once again. The odds against us this particular evening were quite long, considering we were alone in a large house with no backup, the man we were supposed to protect already dead not six feet away from us and any form of communication now chancy at best. Was his own fault, of course - Mr. Reinholdt had no idea he was dealing with the devil when he'd arranged to get himself relieved of CI5 hospitality. But he was a man who knew too much, and his mates had had no compunction about eliminating him from their fold - Bodie and I, as two bothersome CI5 operatives, were just icing on the cake.

We had one chance - after the well-heeled guests had left and we were alone with Reinholdt, I'd made contact with base, part of our hourly check until the next morning. We were far enough out in the country that the R/Ts were useless, so I'd had to make do with an old-fashioned phone - a phone whose lines had been cut prior to the first assault, when our East German defector and now dead playboy had taken a sniper's bullet between the eyes from his erstwhile liberators. A squinting glance at my chrono told me we had exactly forty-seven minutes until the next check in was expected - and then God knew how long of a wait for help to arrive from London.

"Sorry to interrupt your plans, sunshine," I offered eventually. "How many you reckon are out there?"

The broad shoulders lifted in an insouciant shrug. "At least three - two 9mms, one them European, and something a little less sophisticated."

"Well," I said, ever so modestly, "I think one of them may be out of commission now. Leaves us with two."

"Ray, Ray," he chided. "Don't count 'em, they'll only multiply. How're you fixed for ammo?"

"Not good. Down to my last clip already."

Heaving a put-upon sight, Bodie edged closer to me beneath the window. "So it's a waiting game, is it? Save the ammo and pass the champagne and all that."

He was close enough for me to catch a hint of the aftershave he wore, a scent I defined as undeniably masculine - essence of Bodie. His dark hair was gently mussed about his face, giving him an almost fey appearance in the poor light - oddly vulnerable, completely untouchable. Staring at him now only served to tighten the knot of regret that lodged permanently beneath my ribcage, for here we were, another dire situation, another chance of leaving feet first, and I was no closer to sorting out my feelings than that day not so very long ago when my life became defined by the light in Bodie's eyes whenever he looked at me.

I nodded toward the double doors that led into the dining room where we were holed up. "Why are they bothering with us, anyway? They made their hit, they should be in the next county by now."

"Dunno. Duck."

I did as instructed, my head butting against his chest as he brought his gun to bear in the small opening created by the broken window pane. He shot twice, getting a hail of fire in return that chewed up the window frame and had us scrambling for safety behind an overturned table.

"One weapon," I panted. "Other one must be coming inside, catch us in a crossfire. Let's get this table up against that doorway."

Working quickly, we had the large mahogany dining table shoved against the double-wide opening in no time, then I remained behind it while Bodie moved back to the window to watch any approach from outside. Our movements were smooth, choreographed for the dangerous dance we'd come to know too well. Not a word was spoken as we ended up back to back on the floor, only a few feet between us in the narrow room.

"So, you never told me," I began conversationally, sighting the ornate door handles across the entryway, "what you had planned tonight. Got a bird you were planning on seducing while I stood watch outside Reinholdt's bedroom?"

I was only joking - Bodie was ever the consummate professional - so I was shocked to hear his next words.

"Something very like that," he replied easily. "Not here, though. After the op, after our relief showed up and we'd both had a kip. Now you know there'll be reports and questions and all the other messy business Cowley loves to abuse us with - not at all conducive to the seduction I'd had in mind."

Seduction. Normally a lovely word, it now resounded in my head, filling my mouth with a bitter taste. I tugged impatiently at my suddenly constrictive tuxedo jacket, but a white shirt even in this erratic moonlight was like pinning a target to my back. I settled for yanking one edge of my tie to unknot it, then pulled it off completely. After tossing it aside, I tore at the top button of my starched shirt, wishing I'd never started this conversation. My eyes fixed on the front door situated across the hall from my post, I forced a jovial tone into my voice.

"Must be someone special, then. You usually don't plan so far ahead."

"Been planning this one for some time. Years, if you must know," he added laconically.

"Years?" Startled, I turned around to stare at the back of his head. Years - that spoke of devotion, even love, perhaps unrequited. Or not so unrequited, if Bodie - God, my Bodie - was pinning his hopes on this seduction he'd apparently planned so assiduously.

"Back around, Doyle," he said primly, without so much a glance in my direction. "Don't fancy being caught unawares by someone coming through the front door."

"Yeah, right." I bared my teeth at the broad shoulders, my voice strained as I turned back to once again taking up my vigil of the foyer. Sweat was beginning to coat my palms, making the grip on my gun slip a bit. I changed hands and rubbed my palm on my pants, feeling lower by the minute but compelled to have the truth from Bodie once and for all.

"So." My voice coarsened and I cleared my throat. "So, who's the object of your affections, anyway. Haven't met her, have I?"

A dreadful silence followed. Bodie was taking his time about answering, forcing all kind of silly fears into my head. Was it someone I knew? An old girlfriend of mine, one of our co-workers? Or could it be - the thought of Bodie swearing love for a girl was enough to break my heart - to think of him and a - someone who wasn't me -

"Ray - "

"Hang on, something's happening." The doorknob was slowly turning on the front door. I braced myself against the stout table leg and took aim, aware of Bodie tensing at my back. Without further warning, the front door edged open just as gunfire erupted behind me. I felt my coat pocket plucked away from my body, followed by a stinging sensation along my ribcage as I heard Bodie return fire, but I was soon too occupied with my own problems. The front door opened wider and the first thing I saw coming through was the muzzle of a fully automatic weapon, one we hadn't counted on. If I missed my first shot, that nasty fellow would shred my mahogany barricade like so much swiss cheese - and me with it. Forcing myself to ignore the fierce battle behind me, I waited as an arm, a shoulder, a back, and finally a vulnerable neck cleared the edge of the door. Then, as gently as if I were stroking the cheek of a beautiful woman, I squeezed the trigger.

The automatic didn't make a sound as it fell onto the plush Aubusson rug, followed in very short order by one very dead assassin.

Behind me, the firefight died away. Even in the midst of my own battle, I was aware of the report of two different weapons answering the snarl of Bodie's Glock - that meant we were still two against two, if our luck was with us tonight, although that automatic had been a cruel surprise. Bodie's harsh breathing again matched my own, filling the room along with the cordite residue that circled around us in lazy swaths. Eventually our exhalations calmed, the quiet of the night again restored - until they made their next pass at us.

"That was refreshing," I said, slipping the nearly full clip out of my firearm. I'd taken only one shot and Bodie, countless. I split up the ammo I had left and nudged his shoulder with my hand to give him half. He hesitated, giving me an unreadable look before letting me pour the cartridges into his palm. We reloaded in silence, then resumed our positions.

"At least two out there." Bodie's tone was even lazier now, sounding almost bored. I weighed the tension of the moment against the possibility that I'd never hear that indolent voice again, so even though it would take the resuscitation of a painful conversation, I decided that I'd prefer to experience his unstudied arrogance once more.

"Mmm, probably. They'll regroup and come at us again, I expect. Plenty of time for you to finish telling me about this secret love of yours. How'd you plan on going about it, then?"

"Going about what?"

"The seduction. C'mon, Bodie, give us a few pointers, maybe I'll learn something. We've time to spare."

I was glad I couldn't see his face, nor him mine, because when he began to talk, his voice was so low and sweet I could hardly fathom that it was Bodie speaking to me like this.

"It'll be nice, Ray," he began prosaically enough. "Good dinner, decent bottle of wine. Music - you can pick it out, if you like."

Something twisted deep in my gut. "Not a chance, mate. This is your seduction, not mine."

He continued as if I hadn't spoken. "Lights will be low, of course. No candles - can't have them burning down the place if we get distracted, can we."

"No, 'course not," I murmured, now perversely wishing I'd kept my stupid mouth shut. I began to hope for another assault but our friends outside remained stubbornly silent, forcing me to listen to Bodie outline his plan. I realized suddenly that I needed something from him, some kind of reassurance that at the end of this fantastical recitation of his, he'd still be my Bodie in some way. By teasing him, I hoped to break the mood, get him back on our usual footing - and let him to keep his bloody seduction to himself.

"Bit romantic for you, isn't it?" I said, allowing a touch of disdain to enter my voice. "You've a more blunt approach - I've seen it. Buy 'em a drink at night and give 'em cab fare home in the morning, that's your idea of romance."

Speaking out into the uncaring night, his next words would have driven me to my knees in a heartbeat if I wasn't already kneeling on a cold and unforgiving parquet floor.

"That's not romance," Bodie said calmly. "The romance starts when I take you in my arms. You'll be startled, those big eyes of yours wary, maybe even a little angry with me for assuming too much. But I'll gentle you, let you get used to the feel of my arms around you, one hand pressing you close, the other resting on the swell of your backside, just below the band of your jeans. You won't realize I've backed you against the wall until you feel it behind you, but that's nothing compared to feeling me along the length of you. I'll already be hard for you, Ray - hard and wanting you so badly. When you open your mouth to say something, I'll kiss you, so lightly you'll swear you can hardly feel me at all. You'll moan a bit, wondering how all this came about - but when I put I my tongue inside your mouth, Ray - oh, you'll know."

I was shaking as he finished, his unruffled certainty leaving me adrift in a torrent of confusion and desire. This couldn't be real - Bodie was surely having me on, getting me back for making him confess his plans. I opened my mouth to say something, anything, to make him stop this painfully false seduction.

Whatever I'd planned was instantly lost as he continued. "Your mouth - it's so gorgeous, Ray. Been wanting to kiss you forever. It'll take a moment for you to respond to me - you'll be wondering if you should thump me, defend your honour. But I know you - and I know your body. Made love to you thousands of times in my dreams. You won't want to, but your arms will come 'round me and you'll turn your head, just so - "

"Bodie, stop." My voice cracked on his name as I rubbed the sweat out of my eyes with my forearm. "Not here. Not now."

"Can't," he said regretfully. "It's got to be now, no other choice. Now, where was I."

Running away wasn't an option and I wasn't sure I'd take it if it was offered. Beguiling and dangerous, Bodie's tale was seducing me as sure as if he'd touched me - maybe more so, given the precariousness of our situation. The peril we faced made the whole episode startlingly vivid, the danger outside no more electrifying than the heated outpouring of Bodie's imagination.

"The kiss will end," he went on, "but I've got to have more of you. My hands slide to the buttons of your shirt, slipping them loose one by one. When I reach the last one, I'll run my fingers inside the top of your jeans. You can't help it - you'll buck against me, your mouth wet and hot against my neck. Before you know it, I'll have you unzipped, the fabric parted, my warm hand searching you out, wanting to hold, to caress, needing to use my mouth on you."

A gasp escaped me before I could suppress it and I bit at my lip in wretched frustration. It was wrong to let him know what he was doing to me - it could lead to nothing good for us. My body reacted to his words but my heart remained untouched except for the bruise it was forming - a bruise the size of Bodie's indifferent lust.

No movement came from the entrance I was guarding; no sound betrayed another oncoming barrage of violence. Only Bodie could be heard, inexorable, inescapable - darkly addictive.

"You're weak in the knees, now - we both are. I guide you to the floor, impatient to feel all of you against me. Your shirt slips off your shoulders with a whisper - I tear mine off in an instant and then I'm smothering you, reveling in what I've always known would be so perfect between us. I can't get enough of your mouth, the skin of your shoulder, the feel of your legs wrapped around my waist. For a tough lad your skin is so soft, Ray, tastes so wonderful. I've slid your jeans down and now I've got you right where you belong, beneath me, slick and hard, so I - "

"Jesus, Bodie, stop!" He was tying me in knots, in more ways than one. I was too strung out on the tension of the situation to feel his words properly, but they were having an effect nonetheless. If this went on - if he kept this up - I'd be incapable of doing my job. We were both breathing hard again, tension of another kind coiling in the room, the outside menace secondary to the threat we realized now existed in each other.

But I'd heard enough.

"Never thought of you as cruel, mate," I spat out. "Not toward me, at any rate."

I heard him shift behind me and I was immediately hopeful and terrified that he would try to touch me. I didn't want his atonement for a few minutes of innocent eroticism - I wanted his promise that at the end of his narrative, there'd be more than sated desire.

It was not forthcoming.

"You're right," he said, his voice now as disinterested as if we were discussing a football match. "Sorry, Ray. Got carried away is all. Won't happen again - just forget it."

A strained silence fell between us and I knew I wouldn't be able to look him at him straight on if we didn't get past this. My mind's eye filled in the blanks with unwanted details - Bodie would be wearing a five o'clock shadow now, adding a hint of rakishness to his other undeniable attributes. But now that we'd done something so intimate - his participation in the telling, mine in the listening - would his face close against me if we got out of this in one piece? Had my silence conspired to damn me in his eyes?

And then it seemed as though all my questions were moot - out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Bodie jerk back as another hail of bullets crashed through the room. My face and hands were hit with sharp slivers of wood as the paneling erupted above our heads but before I could turn to help him, the front door exploded inward. Exhaling sharply, I laid down as much fire as I dared, given my alarming lack of ammunition.

It began to look as though Bodie's verbal seduction would be all we'd share. He was out of ammo and yelling creative insults at our attackers as the cylinder of my gun clicked on empty. Reaching blindly behind me, Bodie's hand was right there, grasping mine tightly before we broke for separate corners, out of the way of the bullets permeating the air around us.

There were no words now, no time for a tender scene of farewell. Our eyes locked and Bodie smiled at me - not the mad grin of a warrior facing imminent death, but a gentle, unapologetic half smile that brought a blossom of warmth to my chest even as I expected that same portion of my anatomy to be pierced by enemy fire. I wanted to say something to him, something profound that we could both take to our grave, but I realized at the same time as Bodie that the sound of gunfire had abruptly ceased. In its place was the unmistakable whump, whump of helicopter blades, so close to our position that the floor vibrated beneath our feet.

That sound signaled the end of our adventure as a multitude of CI5 operatives proceeded to swarm over the property. Even Cowley attended, informing us in his best tone of refined acid that Reinholdt had been far more of a rogue than we'd known and only the timely emergence of an informant had alerted our side to the true nature of the attack.

With our presence no longer required, Bodie and I were swept up into a car and removed to headquarters, Cowley taking our report from the front seat during the ride. Bodie was his usual unhelpful self, complaining equally about the lack of intelligence and the poor quality of the food that'd been served. I told my story straightaway, since there wasn't much to tell - at least that had any bearing on the actual incident. Cowley dismissed me with a nod but his ferret-like attention returned time and again to Bodie, who resolutely stared out the window for the remainder of the drive.

Upon arrival, I was ordered to see the squad doctor. Bodie had sustained no injury but I'd had a neat slice of skin removed from my ribs, making a mess of my once pristine dress shirt. I went reluctantly - I'd much prefer having Bodie tend to me at my place or his as we'd done for years, but that option was no longer open to me, now that everything between us was wrought with double meaning. Yet I trusted Bodie to be waiting for me when I was done at the infirmary - and was shocked to find myself alone in the corridor, informed by a graveyard shift secretary that Bodie'd been released and had left for home.

It was all just a way to pass the time, then. Nothing more. Bastard.

I couldn't let myself be hurt by the episode, so I got angry instead. Minding my little scratch, I took a quick shower and changed into the spare jeans and tee shirt I kept in my locker, all the while letting my temper brew darker and darker. By the time I'd yanked on my old leather jacket, I was almost ready to show up at Bodie's flat and give him a piece of my mind - but I knew I needed time before I faced him again. Dawn was fast approaching and sleep was becoming an irrefutable priority.

I was almost out the door that led to the car park when the pedantic voice of Cowley saying my name froze me in my tracks. Fixing a respectful aspect to my face, I turned to face him.


"You seem to be unharmed from your ordeal, 4.5."

Aside from Bodie, there was no one I was less in a mood to deal with than Cowley. He looked no different now at five a.m. than he did at noon or seven in the evening - dour, knowing, endlessly alert. My goal now was to evade him as quickly as possible and then take myself off to bed, hopefully where memories of this night would not come back to mock me in the dark.

"I am, sir, thank you for your inquiry. Will there be anything else?"

"Nasty business tonight. You're fortunate your partner is such an excellent shot. Maybe not quite in your league, but I'd wager close enough."

I stared at him, not understanding this sudden swerve in the conversation. "Sir?"

His eyes narrowed and I realized that I'd somehow given something away. "A fine bit of work he did - taking six men out in the dark like that."

"Six?" I blurted. We'd - I'd - only counted on three at the most. That meant that Bodie'd known we had practically no chance of surviving when he'd -

"Aye, lad. The odds were against you this time, no mistaking it. Six dead men and more behind them. I doubt you would've survived much longer." He started to turn away, then paused to glance back at me. "I'll have you at the shooting range first thing Tuesday and I want 3.7 to give the new lads some pointers. You will pass that on to him, 4.5?"

"Yes, sir," I answered faintly, then made my escape through the heavy glass door and into the pre-dawn chill. Head down, I walked across the deserted lot to my car, my mind reeling with the implications of Cowley's remarks. I couldn't let myself read too much into the matter - it was still just Bodie doing his job.

In other words, it was nothing personal.

I reached my usual ride from the motor pool and was about to put the key in the lock when I saw him. He was perched on top of the concrete wall that separated the car park from the alley not five feet away from me, still dressed in his tux and looking exceedingly unrepentant.

"'Bout time," he said as he jumped down, brushing off the shoulders of his jacket with the sides of his hands. Staring at him, stupefied, I couldn't even lean away as he reached up and fingered a lock of my damp hair.

"Could've done that at home," he said huskily. His beard was very dark now and in the mists of the fading October night, his eyes had taken on a peculiar shade of grey. Belatedly, I pushed his hand away and inserted the key, giving it a vicious turn to unlock the door.

"Want to go straight to bed when I get home," I said, my voice deliberately dismissive. He'd played me too well earlier and I wasn't going to give him a chance to resume the game. I opened the car door, only to have it slammed shut again as Bodie imposed his body against it, bringing him close to me once more.

"Always thinking ahead, aren't you, Doyle."

The anguish that suffused me at his glib tone must have been clearly imprinted on my face as I looked at him, for the teasing light in his eyes went out at once as he reached for me.

"Ray - "

Stepping out of his range, I shook my head. "Six, Bodie? Six? You knew all along we were outnumbered - why didn't you tell me?"

He had the grace to look uncomfortable but then covered it with a quick shrug as he dug his wandering hands into his pockets.

"Five, actually. Like you said, you'd got one yourself." He grinned, trying to get me to loosen the grip on my anger. "Told you they'd multiply."

I slammed my hand against the unforgiving metal of the car. "Why didn't you tell me, damn it? I'd a right to know!"

"Know what?" he barked, stung into defending himself. "Know that we were facing our death in that stupid house? That only a miracle was going to get us out of there in one piece? Sorry, Ray - you want me to admit it was a bad choice to talk about a long-held dream of mine instead of anticipating seeing your brains splattered across the floor? Fine, I admit it. Are you happy now?"

My anger faltered and died within me - it couldn't withstand the impact of Bodie's honest anger. Seeing defeat begin to draw his shoulders into an uncharacteristic slump, I took a step toward him and brushed the back of my palm against his stubbled jaw.

"And all those pretty words of seduction?" I said, half choking on the words. My belief that I knew this man intimately had been shaken to the core in the last few hours, but his fragile sigh as I touched him was the beginning of a new understanding. He let me stroke my fingers down his throat and into the deep valley made by his open shirt, keeping my touch light, exploratory, not admitting to the power his words had over me but not denying it, either. "Were they just a farewell pressie, something to ease our passing into the great beyond?"

Bodie's eyes had drifted shut but when I went to remove my hand, they snapped open as his fingers took my wrist in a bruising grip.

"Don't," he said between clenched teeth. "Don't make fun of it, Ray. It may not have meant anything to you, but it means all the world to me. Even if," he paused and turned my captive hand over, bringing it back to his cheek, "even if we never did get around to the really important parts."

Again his eyes closed as he brushed his open mouth across my palm. Desire and fear, that lethal combination I'd felt earlier, collided inside me. We had to have this out now, for good and all, or we'd never work together again.

"And what would the really important parts be?" I breathed as he curled my fingers around so he could kiss my knuckles. "Or can I make an educated guess?"

He looked up at me through his ridiculously long eyelashes, not a glimmer of amusement in the depths of his unnaturally colorless eyes. "You'd guess wrong, if you're thinking I just want to have sex with you." His lips twisted in a wry smile. "Not that it wouldn't be spectacular, I assure you."

I returned his smile, helplessly aware that I was now giving back only bewildered affection in my expression. "Go on."

Changing his grip again, he employed his considerable strength to draw me into the curve of his body until our noses nearly touched. We were both aware that although exposed in the concrete garage, we were completely alone, our survivor's sixth sense giving us leave to play out this part of the evening's drama in a smelly car park in the middle of London.

"The best part, Raymond," he replied quietly, "would be when you held me in your arms, both of us still warm from the loving we'd just shared. I'd put my head - oh, about here - " he used his free hand to tap lightly at the space above my heart " - and then you'd tell me in no uncertain terms how much you lo - "

I couldn't let him make my own declaration. Before he could finish, I leaned forward and covered his mouth with my own, swallowing his startled gasp. His free hand captured my neck and slipped up into my hair to cant my head so that our first kiss was as deep and full of commitment as we could manage, pressed as we were against my car's unyielding surface.

And he was right - Bodie's kiss was an astonishment, revealing more about his feelings than all the honeyed words he'd poured over me in the country house. Tenderness, passion, need - he gave it all to me with the gift of his mouth and demanded nothing less in return.

He broke away first, guiding my head to his shoulder while we regained our breath. The waning night was fresh and damp but Bodie felt warm and solid beneath my smashed cheek as I slowed my breathing to the point where I could speak clearly.

"Why now?" I whispered against his collar.

"Hmm?" His one hand remained buried in my hair, massaging gently; the other still held my wrist in a loose clasp.

I lifted my head so I could see his eyes. "Why now?" I repeated. "We've been in similar situations in the past - never inspired you to this before."

Wordlessly, he lifted my hand and slid the cuff of my jacket toward my elbow, revealing my wrist. There were several thin strips of scar tissue there that time and ointments had not eliminated, but then burn scars rarely fade completely away. Bodie raised my hand to his lips and kissed the exposed area, his eyes as they turned blue in the growing light never leaving mine.

"No, Bodie," I scolded him gently. "Never that - that was just a job, for God's sake!"

"No, not that exactly," he agreed. He hugged me close again. "But I swore then that I'd not let too much time pass before I told you the truth. When things went to hell tonight, I knew I'd waited too long again. Had to do something, didn't I," he finished plaintively.

I smothered a tired laugh against his shoulder. "Your methods are beyond me, mate, but I do like the results."

We parted reluctantly; the sun was almost upon us and people would be arriving soon to start their day. We shared a sheepish grin as Bodie retreated to the passenger side of the car, both of us aware that the fast disappearing night lacked only one final act to seal the unspoken vow we'd just taken.

Without consciously making the decision, I took Bodie home with me. He must have approved of my choice, for he made no comment as we climbed the steps that led to my door. Sensing we were coming to an awkward moment, I gave him a push toward the lounge before he could say or do anything, while I moved into the kitchen on the excuse of making coffee. What I really needed was a moment by myself, to regroup after the last few hours. After all, Bodie had been in my flat dozens of times, but now he was here with a new purpose, one that had nothing to do with our job and everything to do with our future.

Before I'd even half filled the kettle, I recognized the folly of what I'd just done. Bodie and I needed to get through this together, not apart, so I turned off the water and set the kettle aside. More than anything, I needed his reassurance that I hadn't just dreamed up this whole thing, and that he'd meant everything he'd said. I grabbed a towel and dried my hands, then strode into the lounge, intent on making Bodie irrevocably mine, although I wasn't entirely sure how to accomplish my goal.

Apparently, my intentions would have to wait. Bodie had fallen asleep, his dress shoes off and neatly tucked beneath the side table, his coat pillowing his head against the curve of the couch. My erstwhile seducer now resembled nothing so much as a worn out schoolboy.

"So much for my ruination," I murmured, overcome with fondness for the sleeping roué. Truthfully, my own body was making its displeasure known; to remove myself to my cold and lonely bed had no appeal but there didn't seem to be much choice. As I took a step toward my bedroom in search of a blanket for his comfort, Bodie's drowsy voice reached my ears.

"Ruin you after breakfast, if you like."

I turned back to see him smiling at me, his left arm lifted in an unmistakable gesture. Shaking my head for choosing a lumpy couch over the soft mattress not twenty feet away, I went to him gladly to be immediately tucked in tightly against his side. We both wriggled around a bit as we got comfortable - I even managed to toe off my trainers, whereupon Bodie made a retching sound followed by a conciliatory kiss to my nose.

When we'd finally both settled to our mutual comfort, curled around each other like two exhausted puppies, I realized that I'd no idea if Bodie was going to be satisfied with the foregone conclusion of my seduction. Affection was one thing - I knew I had that from him, always had, almost from the beginning. But did he want what I now craved above all things?

My eyes drifted shut as I lost the battle to stay awake in order to torture myself with these questions. As the heaviness of unconsciousness began to pull me down, I felt his large, square-cut hand cup my cheek and a kiss as soft as eiderdown land atop my head.

"Love you, Ray." The words were muttered on a deeply satisfied sigh, letting me float into a well-earned slumber with my doubts abruptly laid to rest - and my heart completely and forever seduced.

-- THE END --

January 2004

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