Five nights and it was over; Toby was so tired he didn't even go to the closing concert-what for? He knew a lot about those fingers; they'd been almost everywhere on him, around him, inside him. Inside him, so deep, so hard, so controlling and he was hard just thinking about it; and the music... he would've been unable to care for the music.
But Christopher Keller didn't quite vanish from Toby's life; his laugh, his half dangerous smile, his focused gaze his voice lingered a bit more, popping in Toby's head at unexpected moments; then day after day the memory got hazier, Toby could shrug it off like something odd or funny, something he didn't regret, didn't yearn for, a reminiscence that made him smile; hey, he'd fucked Chris Keller, after all.
Until he found a message on his cell phone.
"Got tested. I'm clean, can assume you are 2 -except if you're making a habit of fucking celebrities in hotel bars unprotected. Get a kick out of that?"
Toby had to sit down, staring at the words on the screen.
/ Conceited fucking bastard I'm gonna kill you. /
He hit the "call back" touch and waited.
"Yeah? Fuck, what?"
"Mmmm. How nice. Am I waking you up?"
There was a silence, the rustling of sheets being pushed away and a sigh.
"Man or woman?" Toby asked.
"Does it matter? What the fuck do you want? It's... Toby, isn't it?"
"Thanks so much for remembering my name. Now listen, Mr Keller; would you do me a favour? Erase my phone number from your agenda."
More rustling and the noise of a door closing.
"Wait, wait... Why?"
"You sent me a message, remember?"
The silence stretched, where the fuck could he be? Some high-class hotel, probably.
"Yeah, and then what?"
"Do you really think I'm like that? Someone who gets off on fucking stars?" "Does it matter, what I think? I thought I'd let you know everything was OK."
Toby listened to the silence filled with a sound he couldn't identify. "Motherfucker," he hissed, then hung up.
Later he wondered about the noise; wondered if Chris Keller had been chuckling, or, and that was very unsettling, sobbing. When he wanted to call back, he only got the vocal box and he wasn't sure of what he should be saying.
But surprisingly, he was called back in the middle of a meeting with his father, his brother Angus and other partners.
He rushed out of the room, caught his father's worried glance and smiled, hoping to reassure him.
"I'm... I'm really sorry, I was out of my mind." "You were laughing on the phone; or were you crying?"
He knew at the moment the words left his mouth that it was the wrong thing to say -too late, too late, shit, what possessed you, idiot?
There was a sigh, very far, and a very quiet and soft voice saying, "OK, now listen. I wanted to apologize, that's all. There's nothing else to say. You're way out of your league with me, and I'm way out of mine with you; this relationship..." "We have no relationship, remember? It was just about sex, about fucking; you said it yourself." "I'm glad you see it that way. OK, let's just forget about it, right? We had a great time together, now it's over; I think it's better we don't hear about each other anymore."
Easy for you to say, Toby thought, because I keep seeing you in every of my favourite magazine, hearing of you on TV, and there's your face and sometimes more, and your smile on the CD's in every music store.
"You don't sound OK."
"It's because I'm tired. Now drop it, please. And hang up first, I don't want to be the one who does that."
Toby just hung up, silently cursing the other man for spoiling a memory that had been a good one, so far.
After that his life was back to normal again, that old sort of boring normal; work, dates that didn't turn into anything good, the kids every week end, old friends; he began to date Katherine McClain, attractive and smart, a good lawyer with a strong sense of responsibility; at the time, he thought she was just what he needed, what he lacked. It wasn't passion, but didn't believe in passion. She didn't frown on him when he drank too much; her first husband used to be violent, Toby was a nice change; he'd never beaten anyone, man, woman or child, in his whole life. And Katherine's son was the same age as Holly, a perfect friend for Gary; things were fine, or so he wanted to think, think that he was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after 3 years of emotional disaster.
He read things about Keller; a short biography in a book by a famous author and something a journalist had written in a magazine. Christopher Kelller never discussed anything private during interviews; if a question about his childhood or something else was asked, he rose and left; people around him warned the journalists; interviews were all about music, and nothing else. Sometimes, when he was in a good mood he made a little show, put his wicked sense of humour on display, played the seductive part; but no private questions; he'd been trapped once or twice when he was young and untrained; that kind of things never happened anymore.
So all of it was second hand information. At the beginning of Christopher Keller's story was a girl of 14 giving birth in the toilets of a commercial center, and dying -blood loss. But the baby was alive when they found him. No one had ever heard of the girl before and no one ever claimed her, the cops didn't find anything about her, except a name she'd written on a sheet of paper, and Toby's Harvard trained mind thought of rape, incest, a young girl hiding her pregnancy until the end; things that weren't supposed to happened in a civilised country, but happened.
First time Chris played he was barely five; there seemed to be a mystery here; the story said a nurse sat the little boy in front of a piano and he just played some melody he'd heard, stunning all the people around him; later they all swore that the boy had never been near a piano before. The picture was nice; probably embellished; Toby guessed he'd never really know.
Anyway it wasn't difficult, then, to find a host family for such a gifted little boy; he received a special schooling. Until 14, he was an easy going kid, working a lot, focused solely on music.
What happened then was noted nowhere; probably the boy had discovered something that had changed his perception of things.
Sex, Toby thought, and everything about his birth, enough to make his comfortable world crash down on him.
Anyway at the age of 17, after winning several prizes abroad, and three music contests, he broke loose; ran away, wandering from town to town, hiding. One night he was caught in a brawl and killed the guy he was fighting; an accident, his lawyer said, but the judge didn't quite believe it. Christopher Keller was sentenced to eight years, both too much if it was an accident, and too little for a murder; from the day he was incarcerated, his entourage worked hard to get the sentence reduced.
Three years later, a tough and angry Keller was released from a prison called Lardner; he'd protected the only thing that mattered to him, his hands, and he'd kept on playing piano, encouraged by a woman who worked part-time as a psychiatrist there. When he got out, first thing he did was getting married with the sister of an older guy who'd been his cellmate for a while; her name was Kitty, she was a witty smart woman, she negotiated a new contract for her husband with a major company and the music swallowed him again, recording sessions, hard work, concerts everywhere and this growing fame he didn't seem to care much about. Three wives, three divorces, and rumours.
"Not only did he go to prison," Neill Philips explained to him one day they were having dinner together, "but the rumour says he killed a man. I mean, another one, a journalist who'd been a little too curious about some things; last time his friends saw him the guy was going to a rendez-vous with our genius; no one ever heard of him after that."
Toby glanced at his plate and sighed.
"What did the cops said?"
"They questioned him for days, but he just said they'd parted around midnight and that the man had taken a cab. They never found the body." "Maybe he's not even dead."
"Maybe. And maybe our homophobic pianist killed him. Daniel was gay." "Did you know him?"
"I'd met him once or twice, hot young geek, a brain, blue eyes, witty and obstinate. Why are you so interested in Christopher Keller? Are you a fan?"
Toby saw Neill's disapproving eyebrow.
"Not really," he said.
June came, and flew by, lot of work, lots of cases, most he won but still, Toby didn't feel quite satisfied with his work; he bought some new records, avoiding piano pieces, went to the opera with Katherine, to the cinema with the kids, listened to Gen's rants about her alimony being too low- usual stuff; and then a hot dry July; Toby's parents left for holidays in some cozy island, his kids at Gen's parents' place, Katherine was spending two weeks with her son in Europe; most of friends were gone too. He went to bars, drank, chatted with strangers, had dinner with his brother. One night he went home very late, walked up the stairs and stumbled over something at the top of the stairs.
Someone, he realized; strong arms caught him as he was about to fall, he was pushed back down on the hard stone, sheltered by the shadows of a dark night and heard a soft laugh.
"Hey, you're drunk!" lips crushed on his, a tongue explored his mouth, "I can taste vodka and... what else?"
He pushed him away, looked hard.
"I can't believe it! What the fuck are you doing here? What..."
Chris leaned against the wall beside the door. "It's a nice place you have here; but lonely." "Chris, listen, I don't know if you're drunk of something, but..." "You're not happy to see me? Come on, I bet you are!"
Toby took a deep breath and tried to get up but two strong hands kept him sitting, holding him still; he felt sweat running down his spine and tried to believe it was anger of fear. But it wasn't and when Chris shifted, came closer, crouched in front of him, his eyes peering through the darkness, Toby found it difficult just to breathe; he closed his eyes and rested his head against the wall, fingers stroking the nape of his neck.
"How long have you been here?"
"I don't know. Two hours, three, maybe, I was waiting for you. I didn't know where you'd gone. New lover?"
Fingers snaked inside his pants, flew the buttons opened.
"No, listen, it's over, you said..."
"Forget it; I changed my mind. I missed sex with you."
Toby's cock stretched lazily against the warm wet palm and he moaned.
"What do you want?"
Toby tried to escape. "Let's get inside, then." "You're freaking out? Afraid someone will see us? No one can see us, it's too dark, too late and the road's too far; nice place, by the way; don't think I'd told you that before."
Two fingers squeezed the head of his cock, Toby made that mewling sound that seemed to turn Keller on.
"Jesus, I wanna be inside you," he said, yanking Toby's pants down, revealing a soft pale ass, pushing his thumb against the tight opening, lightly first, then harder.
"You want that, don't you?"
Toby mewled again and the wet thumb entered him roughly. "Oh fuck yes, I like that," Chris said, grinding his straining cock against Toby's ass, getting himself ready.
No lube, no condoms; unsafe rough dangerous sex with someone he hadn't seen for a whole year - No, no way; it took him all he had to push Chris away, fight him, his body screaming for release, his brain struggling for reason.
He managed to free himself from Chris' grip and fastened his pants with trembling hands then reached for the light.
"Jesus, what happened to you?"
Chris said nothing, tucking his cock back into his pants with shaking hands; Toby helped him up and into the house, sat him down on the couch.
"Hey, what happened," he said, brushing trembling fingers against the dirty face, not daring to touch more, noticing wounded hands, cuts bleeding, swollen wrists.
"Nothing," Chris said, "I just crashed my fists in the walls a bit too hard, I guess."
There was something in his eyes Toby didn't like, something that reminded him of a stray cat he'd found years ago, wounded, and hidden in his room. He'd given him the same defeated look that said, "what's the point?"
"Why don't you take a shower, I'll get you some clothes, then..." "I don't wanna talk about it, right? But," Chris said, looking utterly exhausted, "would you do this "mi casa es su casa" for me? Just for a night or two? Please? I have nowhere to go, I'm tired of sleeping outside."
Mi cas es su casa? Toby frowned; and smiled, remembering. "Oh, yes. No one's after you to cut your head off, though?" "Well, looks like they'll cut my balls when they find me."
Toby took a pizza out of the fridge and shoved it into the oven, sat down on a chair waiting while Chris Keller was showering.
When Chris came back he looked a bit better, cropped hair still wet, unshaven, eyes tired, emaciated but even like that, oddly dressed in Toby's clothes, he still looked different, a god among human, a tiger among cats, and it didn't have much to do with beauty, Toby had seen other men more beautiful, Neill Philips first of them, 15 years ago, long curly dark hair, dark eyes and golden skin, a Greek god, really -but that was before his friends began dying, before he gave up the naughty life he loved so much, and Toby; even if they had only fucked a dozen times, he still remember how stunningly beautiful Neill had been.
But Keller... He shook his head, unable to pinpoint exactly where the attraction lay, what made him so seductive, irresistible and hot. Something in the way he moved, maybe, or his fierce blue gaze; his sensuous mouth; his body; his hands, all of the above.
God I want him, I want him so much it hurts, he thought, Chris sitting in front of him, fumbling with his fork and knife until he gave up and grabbed the pizza with his aching hands.
"We have to do something about your hands." "They'll heal. Don't worry about that."
None of your business, Beecher, he translated, just give me shelter for a day or two, and I'll give you what you want in trade.
"You know, you don't have to fuck me, I'll let you stay without that," Toby said casually. "I'll keep that in mind."
OK, so much for seeking reassurance; he was right after all, I'm way out of my league here.
But later, Chris said, "Would you mind my sleeping with you?"
"Given all we've done already, sleeping in a bed doesn't look too compromising, I guess."
They walked up to Toby's room together, Chris throwing himself onto the bed, arms spread wide as Toby undressed. "Come on, come here," he said, impatient, held out an arm, grabbed Toby's naked hip and pulled him down, wrapped him in his arms, stretching against his body with obvious relief.
"Mmmm. Yeah, feels good."
They fell asleep in each other's arms but when Toby woke up at dawn, he was alone; fuck, he thought, Chris was gone again. He stretched, on still warm sheets, listened to the silence of an early morning, heard something downstairs and got up, swaying a bit with sleep, walked down.
Chris was standing in front of the mahogany bookcase in the living room.
"A lot of records," he said without looking at Toby. He was barefoot, Toby's jeans on, nothing else. "Did you fall in love with Dinu Lipatti? You've got an awful lot of piano stuff by him."
He turned to Toby, noticed his dishevelled hair, flushed cheeks and smiled.
"You in a hurry? Have to go somewhere?"
"Yes. No. What time is it, exactly?"
"It's barely six, I couldn't sleep, I spent sometimes trying to find where you were hiding the coffee machine. Did I wake you up?" "No, not really. I... I have to go to work early and..."
Chris laughed, came closer.
"Wake up, Baby," he said, giving Toby a light shake, "It's Sunday; you work on Sundays?"
Ah, shit, Toby thought, I'm being so lame.
"Well, why not? I got some files I have to finish; it's not like I had something better to do, you know..."
The grip on his shoulders hardened.
"Stop that," Chris Keller said, his voice soft and soothing as he combed his fingers across Toby's hair and said, "Let's make some coffee, OK?" Toby gave in to the touch, leaned against the strong body and sighed.
They went back to bed, drank coffee, dozed off, woke up again and Toby showed Chris around the house, the kids' bedrooms, what had been his and Gen's bedroom before she left him for that other guy, and where he didn't sleep anymore, and the garden protected by big old trees, morning sun pouring down through the leaves; Chris raised his head, looked up.
"You didn't show me the cellar."
"It's not really a cellar; it was a room... I used to sleep there, sometimes, when I wanted some privacy. Read. Listen to music."
If Chris found that strange, he didn't say it loud.
"Show me, then."
The door was locked; Toby fumbled with the key, walked into a little attic room smelling of wood, opened the blinds and light rushed inside, dust dancing in golden rays; they blinked. There was an old metallic bed, a locker and ...
"You have a piano."
It was an old shiny black upright Steinway. "Yes, my grandfather gave it to me; it's an old one, but the sound's quite good." "You play."
"I played, I don't anymore. Holly does sometimes; she's my daughter, she loves this place. Romantic and all." "Why don't you play anymore?"
"I don't know; life changes, you know; I changed."
Chris looked at him closely; like hell you changed, he seemed to think, but kept silent once more; then went to the piano, sat on the stool and lifted the lid, ran his fingertips on the keys, just brushing against the old ivory, making no sound at all, but Toby could feel a shiver run down his spine.
"Ok, let's give it a try. My wrists feel better this morning. What do you want to hear?" "I... I really don't know; whatever you like to play."
Chris glanced at him and smiled; spent a mighty long time running his hands on the keys, playing randomly, then started something slow and easy and wild, Dvorak maybe, Toby thought, or Svetlana, not a lot of virtuosity implied -probably Chris' hands were still aching; but the result was breathtaking. The music that seemed to permeate every single cell of his brain and body; the sheer pleasure of having Christopher Keller for himself alone, and the sight of this sharp profile, brows knitted in focus, gaze intense and dark, fingers dancing on the keys; and the sun stroking delicious shades of gold on the naked skin of Chris' shoulders and back, while droplets of perspiration ran lazily down his spine.
Toby couldn't help, he rose from the bed where he was sitting and crossed the distance between them, rested his hands on the Keller's shoulders, licked a bead of sweat, warm and salty, his tongue roaming higher, on the nape of his neck, against his jaw, his teeth nibbling the earlobe; and yet Chris kept playing.
"Keep it up and you'll have to fuck me," he said in the end.
"Whenever you feel ready; I sure am."
"Then suck my dick, first," Chris said, pushing back the stool to give Toby some room, watching him kneel at his feet and unbutton his pants, yank them down, and blowing hot air against Chris' hard dick. "Bitch," Chris said and moaned when Toby swallowed him all; leant forward and rested his forehead on the keyboard in a discordant explosion of sounds, closed his eyes and finally came in Toby's mouth, his thighs shaking under Toby's hands as the sounds echoed and died in the room.
Led to the bed, he waited until Toby had retrieved something that could pass for lube and relaxed, letting slick fingers open him up and Toby's cock enter him, torture him in a soft and unyielding way, until he was begging for release because it was so much pleasure it hurt and Chris was always afraid that he could leave a part of his soul in something that intense; an old fear that led him to be cautiously picky about the few ones he let fuck him. Toby took pity on him, stroke his cock once, twice, more and they came together, shining with sweat in the warm sun of July; phone ringing desperately downstairs and Toby not giving a fuck, listening to the music of Chris harsh breathing.
They slept and fucked again, on the wooden floor where they'd fallen, and against the wall beside the window; then fell asleep.
It was late in the afternoon when Toby roused in Chris' arms. Something had woken him up, the always working part of his hyperactive brain warning him; and as he breathed in Keller's heat, never wanting to leave, filling his nostrils with the smell of sweat and come lingering in the room, his clouded mind cleared up.
/I'm being played/
Chris woke up minutes later and their eyes caught.
"Hey. What's up?"
Toby sighed; dreading to ask, wanting to believe just a minute longer; he rose, naked, went to the window, turned to face Chris...
"You may think I'm a bit dense and easy to fuck with but I'd like to know now," he said, resting a cold blue gaze on Chris still slouched on the bed, "What do you want from me? What is all this seduction game about, exactly?"
Chris Keller shifted, his smile unchanged, got up and came near his host, glancing out at the garden where shadows grew.
"Hey, bright guy, I like you," he said, nuzzling Toby's neck with his lips.
"Stop it and answer my question."
"OK, then, you wanna know why I'm doing this, huh? Except the fact that I'm getting a real kick out of it? Except the fact that you turn me on? That you're the best fuck I ever had?" "Something like that, yes; the naked truth."
Chris stepped back, tilted his head on the side, and his smile faded.
"Two weeks ago I trashed the recording studio, hurt a guy there; then I broke loose and cancelled my recording sessions, a concert, broke the contract I had with my recording firm, fired my staff... What else?"
Ah, they'd done a good job in shutting everything up.
"Anyway I'm in deep shit; the only thing I need right now is a sharp minded wicked Ivy League successful lawyer to save my sorry ass. I think you can do that."
And he shut up, looking deep into Toby eyes, waiting for an answer.