Chapter One

Part Three
of Three

The next day, Jarod awoke to the alluring smell of pancakes and the sound of fast-paced music. He was surprised to find that he'd actually managed to sleep well, if only for a few hours. But then he'd never seemed to need much sleep, even when his conscience wasn't plagued with guilt and doubt.

With that happy thought, Jarod got dressed and made his bed before venturing downstairs to the kitchen. Steve was already there, fixing breakfast while whistling cheerfully to the music coming from a nearby cd player. Jarod paused long enough to run an eye over the cd cases, not seeing a group or title he recognized. Not that he was that familiar with any current groups.

"What kind of music is this?" He finally asked and Steve jumped, startled. He threw Jarod a slightly wild-eyed look.

"I didn't realize you were up. You were sleeping pretty good when I came down. Hungry?"

"Yeah, thanks." He took the offered plate and waited for Steve before going to the table.

"Celtic rock-and-reel." Steve said then, seeing Jarod's confused look, added. "That's the music."

"Ahhhhh. It's. . .interesting."

"Better get used to it. You'll hear it a lot around here. Sleep okay?"

"Once I got to sleep."

Steve grinned. "No one's ever died of sexual frustration."

Jarod threw him a nasty look and the other's grin widened.

"Did you notice yesterday," Jarod asked abruptly. "How we kept anticipating each other?"

Steve's grin vanished. "Yeah, I noticed. I was wondering if you had."

"I did." He frowned. "This is so weird. I 've never experienced anything this before."

"A time for firsts." Steve said with a secretive smile and Jarod looked at him sharply. Steve hesitated then shrugged. "I've a twin brother. We. . .well . .we have this. . .what's wrong?"

Jarod had acquired an uneasy look. "The Centre does a lot of work with twins." He finally said.

Steve started to speak then paused, looking thoughtful. "Back in college, Jim and I participated in some kind of study but nothing came of it. We weren't inclined toward revealing our bond. It's kinda like having someone in the back of your mind all the time." He grinned again. "Now I have two someones."

"So you're kinda. . ." He paused as Steve absently handed him the salt, something he'd only been thinking of asking for. "So you're used to this then."

Steve realized what he had just done and smiled. "A bit more then you, I should think." He reached out to lay his hand over Jarod's. "The bond is mainly feelings. We always knew what the other felt. Or if the other was lying."

Jarod smiled, understanding what Steve was implying. This new bond was still confusing to him but he could feel what Steve was talking about. A nice warm feeling in his mind that hadn't been there before. But there was something he needed to know.

"Do me a favor, Steve."

"If I can."

"Lie to me."

Steve looked startled then thoughtful. Running a finger lightly over the back of Jarod's hand, he said quietly. "My name is Steve Horne, I was born in Scotland and I am 47 years old."

Jarod frowned, his eyes unfocused as he concentrated on that new addition in his mind. He felt the feeling change subtly twice while Steve was speaking. "Your name isn't Steve and you lied about your age." He threw Steve a confused look. "Steve...?"

Steve laughed. "James Steven, actually. And I'm 42." He ran a hand through his silvery hair and added wryly. "The men in my family tend to go gray early in life."

"But you were born in Scotland? I wondered at the accent."

"Still noticeable, eh? Jim lost his years back but then I was in Scotland not too long ago. It tends to resurface then. And apparently linger. Come on. Let's clean up and get back to work."

"Slave driver." Jarod said without heat.

"You betcha."

The day passed quickly as the two men worked, the dogs dozing in the shade nearby. They rarely needed to speak, anticipating each other's needs. Even the dogs got into the act. Jarod found Finn bringing him a hammer just as he was about to ask for one. He took it, staring at the dog warily.

"Ah, Steve?"

"Hmmmm?" The other man threw him an innocent look and Jarod's eyes narrowed.

"Did you have Finn bring me this hammer?" He asked suspiciously.

"Who me?" Jarod glared at him and the man laughed. "What? You thought maybe the dogs were telepathic? Of course I did."

"Hmmmmm. Finn, do me a favor and bite him.

The dog panted happily at him.

After supper that night Jarod prowled the library while Steve worked on the computer nearby. The kitchen may have been the first room that Steve remodeled but the library was obviously the second. It was crammed full of books; non-fiction all in one section then mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, thriller and a hodge-podge of other kinds of books. Jarod pulled out book after book, unsure of what he wanted to read first. He had never really had a chance to read for pleasure before and certainly never books of this type. Ellery Queen, Honor Harrington, Garrett, the Kencyrath Chronicles. Book after book after book after. . .

But he wasn't able to concentrate on reading material. He was thinking of other things.

"So how do men have sex?" He asked abruptly and Steve dropped the keyboard he had balanced on his lap. "Sorry. I didn't mean to startled you."

"It's okay. I've a spare. But I don't think I'll need it." He picked it up and frowned, poking keys before setting it back on the desk with an air of satisfaction. "It's a good idea to keep spares of everything around here."

"You're avoiding the question." Jarod studied the other man, seeing the blush darkening the other's face. It showed up easily against Steve's fair skin. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to make you uncomfortable. I'm just. . ."

"Curious?" Steve sighed. "I can understand that." He hesitated then bent down to pull something from the books directly behind his desk. "Here." He meet Jarod's eyes with a wry smile. "I was curious too."

Jarod took the book, blinking at the title. "Gay Sex; A Manual for Men Who Love Men." He read out loud.

"Keep it for awhile. I've already. . ." He paused, flushing again, but Jarod could finish the sentence easily enough.

"Thanks." Jarod looked down at the book then away. He didn't feel comfortable reading the book here but it was far too early to go to bed. Setting it aside, he resumed his prowling. He was just pulling out a thick leather-bound book when Steve swore, shoving the keyboard away from him in disgust.

"Problem?" Jarod asked in concern.

"I was just talking with Jim. His ex is giving him a hard time about their son." Steve stretched then relaxed, looking at Jarod teasingly. "What? Not reading?"

Jarod felt the heat in his face and knew he was blushing as fiercely as Steve had been not too long ago. Steve laughed.

"I understand. Come on, we have a busy day tomorrow." Steve started to turn away.

Jarod caught Steve's arm and drew him back into a kiss. His arms slid around the other man, holding him close, his tongue dancing lightly across Steve's lips until they parted. He felt a hunger he'd never experienced before except in his dreams. The dreams he had shared with this man. After a long moment, they parted.

"That's some good night kiss." Steve murmured.

"It doesn't have to be."

Steve hesitated and Jarod frowned, afraid he'd pressed too hard. "No pressure, Steve. Really."

"Let's just take it slow, okay? We've time. And besides," He reached down to pick up the book from where Jarod had set it. "You have some reading to do."

Jarod sighed. "I have this feeling that isn't the only thing I'll be doing."

Steve laughed as Jarod realized what he'd just said and flushed deeply.


The next morning, Jarod woke up to the sound of rain on the window and the faint rumble of thunder. He laid there for a long while, reveling in the sound. Having spent most of his life underground, he had rarely heard the sounds of nature. It was remarkable how much pleasure could be found in those simple things.

He looked around the room, pleased at what he saw. The wallpaper had all been peeled away to reveal wood paneling that was in remarkably good condition considering it had been covered for several decades. Or maybe that's why it was in such good shape.

"Wood paneling?" Steve's voice came from the open doorway. "I didn't know this room had wood paneling."

Jarod laughed. "Surprise. When did the storm start?"

"About an hour ago." Steve leaned against the doorjamb. "From the sound of it, it'll probably be storming on and off for awhile. So we get to work on the inside of the house for awhile."

"Well, I've done my part." Jarod dragged the pillow over his head.

"Oh, no. You don't get off that easy." Steve was next to the bed, pulling the pillow away. "We've got four stories of rooms to renovate here. Not to mention the basement. You gonna get up or do I fetch the frozen marbles?"

"What?"

Steve smiled. "Jim was very bad at getting up in the morning so Mom took to keeping marbles in the freezer. If he didn't get up fast enough for her, she'd toss them in the bed. That got him up quick."

Jarod smiled as he stretched. Thunder cracked and from downstairs came an answering howl. Steve looked up.

"Ahhh, de children of dey night! Hear how dey howl!" He said with a hideous accent and Jarod starting laughing.

"What's that from?" He finally managed to ask.

"One Foot in The Grave." Steve sat on the bed. "Who's author stole it from Dracula. You haven't seen that movie?"

Jarod threw him a look.

"Sorry. Come on. I have a copy of it downstairs. We can watch it while we are working in the sitting room."

"I'll be down in a minute."


Steve showed Jarod where the generator was and all the emergency equipment then they set to work on the inside of the house. Despite the severity of the storm, Steve assured Jarod that the actual storm season was months away and they had plenty of time to finish the shutters. They set up to work in the sitting room, remodeling it into what would be the living room complete with a state-of-the-art entertainment center. The entertainment center was already in place and Steve slipped in a movie as soon as they reached the room.

When the storm worsened, Steve brought out a radio to monitor the fishing ships out of the nearby village of Mooreland. Luckily the majority of the fleet had been in the harbor when the storm had hit and what wasn't soon was. There were some pleasure craft out though and they listened while the Coast Guard worked at getting them to safety before the storm got even worse.

That night, Jarod sprawled in a chair, idly sketching while Steve put together his research for his next book. He had to work off of the computer, afraid to turn it on during the storm for fear of frying it and soon he had notes scattered all over his desk. He also talked to himself as he worked, the low murmur of his voice an odd comfort to Jarod.

It was about midnight when a clash of thunder broke Jarod's concentration and he looked up to meet Steve's eyes. The other man was leaning over the back of the chair, watching while Jarod sketched. Looking down at the picture, Jarod found himself blushing again.

"Still having dreams?" Steve asked.

"Actually no." Jarod mumbled. "Just a good memory."

"And a one-track mind."

"Well, I did miss my adolescence, y'know." He said defensively.

"True." Steve smiled slightly, his eyes thoughtful.

Jarod tilted his head, concentrating on that feeling in the back of his mind, that sense of Steve dwelling there now. "Steve, do you want to make love to me?" He finally asked.

Steve blinked. "I. . .yes, I do, Jarod."

"Then why don't we just do it?"

Steve said nothing.

Jarod closed the sketch book and rose, turning to face the other man. His hand slipped into Steve's, his thumb caressing the back of his hand as he leaned forward to kiss him. His other hand slipped around the man, drawing him close. At first Steve responded but, when Jarod's hands wandered downward, abruptly drew away.

"It's late, Jarod. Tomorrow. . .tomorrow we can talk more." He turned and walked quickly from the room.

Jarod stared after the man in confusion. He could feel the other's emotions, the longing that matched his own but there was something else intermixed with that longing.

Fear.


He couldn't move. His wrists, his ankles were bound, his eyes covered. Something sharp drew across his chest and he could feel the warm wetness of blood. The delicate touch of fingers touched his inner thigh then drew upward followed by something cold and sharp. . .

Jarod woke up to the sound of a scream and he sat up, gasping for breath. But he hadn't screamed.

Steve.

He threw off the covers and ran for the door. Steve's room was on the other end of the hallway and the scream was just fading when he reached it, throwing open the door to see Steve thrashing wildly on the bed, his teeth clenched against another scream.

"Steve! Steve, it's just a nightmare! Steve!" He grabbed the man's shoulder to shake him firmly only to stagger back as Steve's fist hit his cheek hard.

"Get away from me!" Steve screamed, his eyes wild and unseeing.

"Ste. . .oh, god." Jarod heard the sound of claws on the floor and whirled just in time to see Finn come through the door and lunge straight for him, snarling fiercely. "God. Steve!" This time the fear was his and not Steve's.

"Finn, no!" The command came suddenly and just in time as Finn's teeth clacked shut dangerously close to Jarod's leg. The dog blinked then, looking oddly embarrassed, turned to Steve. "Home, Finn. Bed. Go." And the dog turned and walked back out of the room.

Steve turned to look at Jarod, eyes widening. "Did I do that? I'm sorry, Jarod."

"Do what?" Jarod said dazedly, still seeing Finn's long, sharp teeth in his mind.

"You've got a bruise on your cheek. I'm sorry, Jarod."

"What happened?"

"What. . .?" Steve's face froze suddenly, acquiring a sick look before he turned away. Jarod grabbed his arm.

"What happened, Steve?"

"A dream. A nightmare." Steve looked at him sharply. "No. You didn't. . ."

"Yes, I did. Steve, do you want to talk about it?"

"Not particularly."

"It might. . ."

The phone rang.

"Damn." Steve turned to look at the phone, drawing a hand through his hair.

"Aren't you going to answer it?" Jarod asked.

"I know who it is. I better though or he'll call the sheriff." Steve reached for the phone. "Hi, Jim. No, I'm fine. Just a bad dream. Sorry to wake you up. I'll be fine. We're having a storm here. I guess it's playing havoc with the phone. I'll call you in a couple days. After the storm passes. Yes, I promise. Later." He hung the phone up

"Steve?"

"It's not important, Jarod. Go back to bed."

"That wasn't just a nightmare, Steve. That was a memory."

Steve stiffened.

"This has something to do with your reluctance to make love with me, doesn't it?"

Steve didn't answer right away. Instead he walked to the window to look out at the raging storm.

"It's beginning to die down from the look of it." He commented then sighed. "About three-four years ago, I was visiting Jim in Portland. He's a profiler, too. . .I mentioned that, didn't I? Well, there was this guy picking up women and carving them up pretty bad. Jim did a profile on him. Well, it turns out this joker was high-up in the force and he found out about the profile. He didn't appreciate it."

He turned away, starting to pace.

"See, the profile said that this guy had a very strict upbringing by parents who did not approve of alternate lifestyles -- which proved to be true -- and that he just couldn't accept the fact that he didn't like women. So he kept picking up women and. . ."

"Killing them when he couldn't meet his own expectations."

"Something like that, yeah. He started carving the women up with a straight razor. In the profile, Jim theorized that he was homosexual, that he was taking his frustration out on the women when he couldn't performed with them. Well, he read the profile and got upset. Decided to test the theory. With Jim." He paused then took a deep breath. "Only he didn't get Jim."

"Oh, god." Jarod paled.

"Exactly. One night, I got out of my car and got knocked with something. When I woke up, I'm tied up on a bed somewhere with a blindfold on and that sick son-of-a-bitch drawing a razor across my chest."

Jarod hesitated. "Did he. . ?"

Steve gave him a twisted smile. "Turned out that he couldn't perform with men either but that didn't stop him from doing. . .other things."

"I'm sorry, Steve. No wonder you've been holding back."

Steve hesitated. "I want. . .Jarod, I do want you. I'm just. . ."

"Afraid." Jarod finished for him. He stepped closer. "One thing I've discovered during my time out of the Centre. . .during my time here, in fact. I don't like being alone. And I don't think you do either. I'd like to stay with you tonight. No sex. Just comfort."

Steve closed his eyes then re-opened them. This time, his smile was more open. "I'd like that." He said quietly and let Jarod lead him to the bed. Luckily it was a large bed and they both fit with room to spare. When Jarod first drew Steve closer to him, the other man stiffened then relaxed into Jarod's arms with a sigh. They laid together quietly, listening as the sounds of the storm started to fade.

Interlude One

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