If it had been just for Chris being irresistible, talented and sexy, Toby wouldn't have given in; he was smart enough to know what he wouldn't do, he wasn't shy or innocent; but there was something about Chris that matched his need; he just didn't know which need.
And that day, as Chris Keller wrapped his arms around him and kissed him, Toby was aware of losing himself willingly in this embrace. Jesus it was so good; a kiss that spoke of security and strength and he slid his arms around Chris' shoulders to pull him tighter, melt against him, breathless.
"Ah, that was fine," Chris said, breaking the kiss but keeping Toby close, feeling the warmth of Toby's skin through the fabric of the shirt, sliding his fingers along the blue tie.
"Christ, you're beautiful."
He began to loosen the tie, got rid of it and unbuttoned the white pinstriped shirt, snaking his hands inside to feel the warm smooth skin and burying his face in Toby's neck.
"And you smell good."
Toby was kissed again and kissed back the same way, feeling a shiver run through Chris' body.
"Business first, then restaurant, then fucking each other senseless," Toby said.
They ate Chinese in a deli, hidden in the semi darkness of a corner, on a dirty table, drank Chinese beer until late, feeding each other, eating rice and shrimp fritters from each other's hands, teeth biting sharply, tongues swirling around wet and salty fingers dipped in sweet sauce, sour sauce, hot spicy sauce ...
"Time to go, law boy," Chris said, rising, breathless.
In his room, he sat Toby on the desk and began stripping him -the buttons of the long sleeves, one by one, kissing the inner side of Toby's wrists, pushing the shirt away, pressing his thumbs against taut nipples, listening to the soft growl in Toby's throat; then unzipping the suit pants and spending a long time there, his face buried in Toby's crotch, strong fingers stroking his neck, sliding under the silky fabric of an old black shirt.
"Come on; let's fuck," Toby said, breathless.
Chris threw his head back. "You sure?"
"Of course I am, what the fuck do you mean?" "You said you didn't fuck your clients, remember?"
Toby seized him by the shoulders and dragged him to the bed, stripping him on the way, pulling him onto the mattress. After a short fight he was rolled over, Chris knees spreading his thighs wide. "From what I understand," Toby said, "you get to be the one on top tonight?"
Fucking Tobias Beecher was like nothing else. Making love with Susan, her yielding body taking him in was like sliding into smooth warm velvet, the sword into the sheath, natural place, natural moves, his mouth on her, soft fragile skin and wet mouth half opened; just love and bliss and release and soothing sensation.
But Tobias Beecher was never that yielding, never that smooth and when he was defeated by his own need, his own pleasure, he went blind and deaf and mute, clutched to any of Chris' body part, shoulders, arms, thighs, hips, bruising and hurting.
It felt like being dragged down into an endless spiral, pleasure painfully stabbing Chris' belly when he wanted to hold back because he wasn't sure there would any turning back but he couldn't, Toby was too strong, it was like being drowned, like falling helplessly in a dark sea, until they both surged back to life with a relieved cry, their hearts beating so loud it was scary, Toby trembling with something Chris couldn't quite identify; exhaustion maybe.
After sex they lay a long time on the bed and when Toby wanted to go to the bathroom Chris held him back.
"Stay here a bit longer."
And Toby stretched like a flower opens, sensuous and sinew, rubbing his wet and sticky body against Chris, his ass hard, strained muscles calling for Chris' hands; those hands Susan loved to kiss and lick, saying they were a treasure and a gift, teasing until Chris roared and laughed. But Toby, Toby wanted those fingers to torture him, around his softened cock and inside him, deep inside him, Jesus, that's so good, he moaned and Chris knuckles pressed against his prostate, Toby stretched some more and they were both panting, Chris' fingers playing Toby's body until they couldn't take it anymore and ended it; a blow job, a hand job, never mind, they were too tired to care.
"Great job, Toby," Chris said, rolling over to look at him, laughing at Toby's smug look, "I'm talking about the contract we signed this afternoon." "Yeah, well, it didn't take that much; you were pretty impressive. Jesus, you played like a god, do you know that?"
Chris kept silent, happiness washing over him, until Toby spoke.
"Why are you here? You can have anyone you want, you married a woman you pretend to love..."
"I love her."
"Yeah? Then what? Is it about my incredible sexiness?" "It's about the way you drown in pleasure when I fuck you." "Oh, just that?"
"Maybe that's enough. Why should there be more?"
That was all; Chris' arms tightened around Toby and Toby locked his thighs around Chris' hips; that's how they fell asleep. And later as Toby was hurrying across the hall to catch a taxi, Chris grabbed his arm, pulled him back, hugged him, his lips grazing against Toby's ear.
"My man," he said and kissed him.
Since their agreement some months ago, Toby had been seeing Chris a lot; never longer than 24 hours in a row, always under the pretext of work. The pattern was always the same; a meeting with some important guy from a record company, Toby listening to him and glancing at Chris who was sitting beside him, silent, eyes dark, shook his head and shrugged.
"There's no use of wasting our time any longer, Mr Beecher; let's go," he said and they left; made it to a room and fucked, Chris getting rid of his frustration and his anger in sex, then resting his head on Toby's shoulder, trembling with exhaustion, giving in to the fingers stroking his hair.
And it was getting at him, Toby knew it was; even in his office at Beecher practice, he kept thinking about a good way to make Chris' demands look a bit more acceptable, find a record company that wouldn't stink that much of money, that would be interested in Chris' ability in music and nothing else.
His work bored him. He'd given up pleading, the thrill he'd been getting out of it was gone years ago; he knew all the tricks, he was good enough to defeat anyone and when he didn't he could see his father's critical look. It didn't matter how good he was or how many cases he won, Harrison Beecher only seemed to notice the few cases Toby lost, and that reminded him of his son's failures -too many times driving drunk; too many women when he was married, too many easy cases, boring cases, lost because Toby didn't get excited enough, didn't work enough on those.
In Toby's mind the idea of quitting was slowly growing. Quitting, leaving for another kind of life, another kind of people, leave this narrow-minded place, narrow- minded city where he more or less knew everyone, or if he didn't his father did, or his grand mother, or he'd been in high school with this guy's new wife and all the same everyone knew about him, about the black sheep in the Beecher family, who'd nearly killed a little girl, nearly gone to prison, who didn't drive anymore, but still drank because he couldn't help, because the pleasure of losing himself in something or someone was too good to be fought.
Leave for a new place, take a new start and be with Chris.
But then reality took over; Chris had someone, he was fucking married with some woman he loved and there was no place for Toby there. So he sat behind his desk and resumed his work, avoiding Katherine and his father.
They knew. Everyone knew.
There had been a lot of phone calls from Chris at the office; the first one just after Katherine's dramatic exit, to make sure he was OK; they'd spent some time chatting on the phone and they'd got into the habit of calling each other -Toby called from work when he was bored; Chris called from home when he was fed up with playing. This is how Susan Keller learned to recognize Toby's voice, this is how Toby's secretary acknowledged the friendly relationship between her boss and Chris Keller, whose name she'd heard but couldn't quite figure out where until she asked Katherine McClain who, as the only other woman in the practice, always had a kind word for her.
And of course, Katherine knew at once. She checked a record at the local shop to make sure, stared for a moment at the face on the cover, and bought it, for the mere pleasure of throwing it on Toby's deck.
"So that's him? You get fucked in the ass by a pianist? You're so pathetic, and predicable; didn't you tell me once that you'd dreamed of being a pianist yourself, an artist? Maybe you think talent is contagious? Well I heard you play once and I'll tell you... It's not."
Toby had given a look at the record and smiled.
"Thank you for the gift and... To tell you the truth, I'm fucking him in the ass too. And it's good."
After that his relations with Katherine McClain were purely cold courtesy and it wasn't long until everyone knew about it -nice lecture from Neill and his father as if he was some 14 year old kid losing his virginity with a friend's mother -something depraved and slightly disgusting. This time he didn't give a damn and he told them so, warned Neill that if he dared print a single word about it, Toby would have a lot to say about the very virtuous gay leader's past too; he had the pleasure to see Neill pale and make a rather pathetic exit.
On the fifth of March Chris called as he did every week at least and told Toby about an old friend, the first violin at the Amsterdam Concertsgebouw who'd signed with a new independent company and that he wanted Toby to test the waters for him. Toby called the company and arranged a first appointment with its director, Francis Mc Kenzie. At that point, every one knew how demanding and difficult dealing with Chris Keller was, but the guy Toby met was young, and cool, "Call me Franck," he told Toby, "I hate my name"; he'd got a lot of different ideas about how a record company should work and was wealthy enough to leave his artists a free hand. It wasn't big; most of the people they'd signed were unknown, but they only dealt with classical music.
"Alpha music is a small start-up, you're taking a big risk here, Chris. Not a lot of advertising, marketing, your career..."
An impatient voice cut him short.
"Do you know so little about me, Toby? I don't give a damn for all the fucking marketing bullshit; I'll be fine there." "OK, so let's set up a meeting and sign. I'll have to see you before; I'll send you the contract, but..." "Yeah, baby; keep the damn contract, I trust you as always. We'll meet anyway, I'll call you back."
And after that, the deli, and they'd fucked, and Chris had said "I'm a working man again and you don't know how happy I am. When did they say the recording sessions would begin?"
"At the end of August."
"Susan and I hired a house in Tuscany; we'll be spending the whole summer there."
Toby felt sick.
"And I'd be delighted if you agreed to spend a month, maybe more, with us."
Toby said he'd think about it, although he knew he'd say no; no way he got caught in some love triangle like a blushing teenager; Chris didn't insist and they parted.
Toby heard the words for days, the last words he'd heard from Chris before they let go of each other; and he wanted to shake him and yell "This is love! Can't you see? It's love, what else could it be?"
Some weeks later Harrison Beecher dragged his son in his office. "Do me a favour, Toby, take a leave, there are too many rumours going on about you, plus you don't seem very interested in your work theses days. Give yourself some free time to think the situation through."
Toby called Chris back, and told him he was game if Chris still was.
The place Chris had found was an old stone house nestled in the crook of a hill, surrounded by a huge and half savage garden; secular trees casting huge shadows on a still green grass; it was the beginning of June, the weather was hot; the sky eerily blue, no clouds, heat already weighing on the still earth. The alley leading to the house was lined with cypresses; in old varnished jars, orange trees were exhaling a heavenly perfume.
A small woman opened the door and greeted him, kissed him on the cheek and above her shoulder he saw Chris' crooked smile.
Chris took him to Sienna, they got lost in the narrow shaded streets while Susan was drawing sketches- a balcony where an old woman was standing, an old crumbling building- and kissed in a corner; they fucked in Firenze in a small grotto near the amphitheatre in Bobolis Garden, while Susan was shopping. Some mornings when he woke up and strolled down to the kitchen wearing only pants, he could tell just by the way Susan moved and Chris' smug look what kind of night they'd spent; still Chris' hungry blue gaze raked over Toby's body and any opportunity was good, quickies under the huge staircase; in the bathroom, some holiday sex that was to be taken as lightly as the huge smooth ice-creams Toby had just discovered and that tasted like nothing he knew; he felt like a kid again.
After ten days, things changed. Chris changed; he was moody, absent minded, sometimes aggressive, a lot like an addict in need of his fix, Toby thought. He began to skip the walks across the fields, the visits, let Susan drive to San Geminiano with Toby, shop with Toby, fix meals with Toby, chat with Toby; checking from time to time how things were going between them, before walking back to the room upstairs where the piano was and play for hours while Susan and her host were enjoying their holidays, day after day letting down the walls of wariness erected between them.
"Chris told me once you didn't want any kids?" "I don't. Anyway it's not like I have any choice in the matter; Chris can't have any, he had a vasectomy when he was 25; it looks like raising kids is something that frightens him a lot."
Yeah? Why wasn't he surprised?
"You might regret it someday."
She looked him straight in the eyes.
"I knew from the beginning what I was getting myself into."
But there was a resigned little smile that said differently and Toby just nodded; he'd done the same; thrown himself in this thinking he knew -well he didn't.
And that way the month came to a surprisingly quick end; one of the last days a neighbour brought them a dish she'd cooked herself, for lunch; she'd always looked shocked by the fact that those american people didn't really know what "lunch" meant.
Chris didn't give a damn about lunch; he told Susan he wanted to work on something he'd just discovered, a completely different approach of Schubert's rendering, a detail he'd stumbled upon while reading again an old score of one of his favourite impromptus and that shed a new light on the whole thing; but he hoped Toby and her would enjoy their lunch together.
She nodded and stayed there a little while longer, leaning against the door, watching him, devouring him, his bare muscled chest, skin glowing in the bright sunshine, this body she adored, but he didn't notice her anymore, he was gone again, so she left. She'd tried, once, to reach for him during one of those moments and for a second she'd seen in her husband's eyes something so alien, so frighteningly blank that she'd sworn to herself she'd never try again.
"I guess we have his blessing," She told Toby, her voice trembling a little. He looked away as she dried her eyes; strange how her pain made him feel bad, strange how Chris' behaviour made Toby more and more uncomfortable.
"Listen," he said, "what we're going to do is enjoy this meal under the old olive tree, drink a lot and chat about everything. What about that?"
She shrugged and nodded; they dragged the heavy table across the terrace and Toby threw a red table cloth on it, set porcelain plates and crystal glasses on it while Susan brought the dish from the kitchen and went back to retrieve a bottle of old Valpoliccella.
"How did she call these?" Toby asked, pointing at the dish, his mouth full.
Susan couldn't remember; but they were hungry suddenly and the pasta was cooked just well, the sauce hot and tasty, tomatoes and basil and green pepper, a touch of -what? Olive oil, garlic, so many mysterious but delectable ingredients-even the colours were gorgeous, red wine, sauce, table cloth and Susan's rosy cheeks. A shame Chris was too busy to share this, Toby thought, especially since their neighbour, a dignified lady from Verona, had cooked it for him as a tribute to his talent.
"Maybe we should bring him some," Toby said, and Susan shrugged. "He didn't look interested; maybe he'll come down later, the lady told me it was good too when (it was?) cold. Chris and food anyway...."
Toby could've disagreed, he remembered sharing delicious dinners with Chris, the one in the deli two months ago had been one of the best moments ever; but sun pouring down on him through the silvery leaves of the big tree, scattering everything with gold, was making him lazy and he remained silent, enjoying this moment on the little terrace, surrounded with the heavy scent of late honeysuckles and potted orange trees, exuberant perfumed roses, withered petals of pearl and ruby falling to the tiles at their feet.
Shaking his dizziness he went to the kitchen, taking a moment to adjust to the fresh darkness after the blinding daylight, prepared a very strong coffee, listening to the endless repetition of a musical movement swirling down from the open window above, something devilishly enthralling that put a smile on his face and heated his soul.
Susan sipped her coffee and stretched, the straps of her white summer dress sliding low down her shoulder.
"The woman who cooked that thing is just as much a genius as the one upwards," she said, getting rid of her sandals and resting her feet on the chair nearby, a hand holding back the tail of silky cloth that barely covered her thigh -Toby remembered Chris saying how much he loved this dress; of course, he thought, she'd been wearing it for Chris, but he wasn't there.
He felt hot, his mind blurry with wine; he took off his shirt -one of Chris' actually and Susan laughed.
"Wow! Mind if I draw a quick sketch?"
His spread his arms wide and threw his head back, chuckling.
"I don't know; I'm not sure I'm a very alluring model," he said, his tone both amused and self-conscious.
Susan looked at him, tanned skin that made his eyes bluer, unruly strands of hair bleached with sun, beautiful body, long legs. She shrugged and rolled her eyes. "Just don't move, OK?"
It seemed to go on for hours, her witty look going back and forth between him and the drawing pad she'd retrieved, her cute nose frowned in concentration, hazel eyes shining with excitement, pearly teeth biting her lips as she worked on some tricky detail. Toby did his best to remain still, letting his mind wander, thinking how wrong he'd been about her. She was no ordinary person, her beauty -well maybe it wasn't quite beauty, but her attractiveness lay somewhere in this slim frame, smooth skin, witty animal like profile, small breasts, narrow waist and he felt angry against Chris suddenly; in this warm summer light she looked like something too precious to be left aside, a treasure that should've been put above anything else, work included, and it seemed that Chris had summoned him here, invited him for those holidays not because he loved him, he didn't; but because he'd found it a convenient way to relieve his own wife's boredom. And fuck him, of course.
"It's done!" Her voice startled him. "Do you like it?" He couldn't focus on the drawing; he couldn't take his eyes off her, her face lit up with pleasure and he had to close his eyes and take a deep breath. Get a grip, Toby!
"Yes, Yes, it's very good; you have a lot of talent. I mean I know you're a painter, but... Jesus I almost like myself here!"
She gave him a little disenchanted smile. "There's not enough room for two artists under this roof," she said.
He rose and came to sit by her.
"Don't talk like that; don't let Chris' genius overshadow yours, suck it away from you; you have your own life to live; you can't exist only through him."
She stared at him for a moment and rested a finger against his stubbly chin. "Isn't it exactly what you're doing?"
Maybe she knew, after all.
"Yeah, well; I don't know... But I have no outstanding talent that his own could overshadow. You have."
What happened next was barely a kiss, just a quick brush of her lips against his and a whisper.
Dazed, he stood still for a second or two then leaned forward again to make sure it was real, felt warm soft lips against his, pressing a little harder; he seized her shoulders, pulled her to him and she locked her slim arms around his neck, her scent, her taste flooding him; her now familiar flowery perfume, the scent of freshly washed hair and body already smoothed by clean sweat, taste of the meal they'd shared; their kiss deepening until they were both breathless and dizzy.
"Not here, he could see us."
They stumbled to the little wooden cabin nearby followed by the musical stream from above and got rid of the few clothes they were still wearing -a white g-string under her white dress; Toby was naked in his shabby jeans. He took Susan there, her back against the shaky wooden wall, the door precariously locked on them, her light weight resting on his hips, her hardened tits rubbing against his chest; each thrust pushing her hard against the wall; his fingers caressing and soft over her soft tanned skin, his cock buried so deep inside her he could've yelled with pleasure, smooth warm shelter where he came, hard, and she stiffened, moaned and bit his shoulder to stifle a cry, pleasure running through them like lightning, making them blind and deaf to anything that wasn't them; Toby only aware of her body's tight grip around him, her cheek smooth and hot against his neck, her trembling breath, racing heartbeat, no other sound.
No other sound at all, something familiar was missing; he realized that the music had stopped and that a warm and sensuous afternoon light was filling the small place.
He looked back.
Chris was standing at the door, staring.