“Yes, it’s bad,” Cary replied, not willing to lie to Preston as he tightened his grip on his shoulders. “I can understand now why you think you need to hide away here.”

“You never were one to pull your punches with me.”

“Never saw a reason to.” Cary traced a fingertip along the worst of the scars. “This gives you a sort of piratical look you know. It’s kind of sexy.”

Preston snorted out a short laugh. “Maybe, if it was the only one.”

“But it’s not, I can see that.”

“No shit.” Now Preston did pull away, stalking across the room to stare out the window so that he didn’t have to face Cary. “A thing of beauty I’m not,” he growled when he saw his bleary reflection in the windowpane.

Cary moved quickly to stand beside him. “Maybe not here,” he touched the reflection of Preston’s face, “but inside, in here,” he placed his hand on Preston’s chest above his heart. “You always were beautiful to me, that hasn’t changed and it never will.”

“God, you’re as bad as Tabby.”

“Tabby?” Cary frowned. “Who’s Tabby?”

“The woman I’m living with,” Preston replied snarkily.

Cary laughed. “If you’re implying you’re having a relationship with some female I’m not buying it for a minute so don’t go there Pres.”

“Is that so impossible?” Preston bit back his own laugh, feeling relief that he’d managed to get Cary off track.

“Totally. Remember I know you very well. You’re a lot of things but into women you definitely aren’t.” Cary looked around the room now, finally, seeing indications that this really was a woman’s apartment. “So I get that you’re sharing this place with this Tabby, but you aren’t ‘living’ with her with all that implies.”

“Like you’re living with Hugh?” As much as he tried Preston couldn’t keep a note of jealousy out of his voice.

Cary heard it but ignored it, certain he’d misread it. “You knew that?”

Preston shrugged. “I sort of gathered it from a couple of things you said or implied when we were IMing.”

“And that takes me back to my original question Pres.” Cary leaned against the window frame, looking at his friend. “Why didn’t you tell me from the beginning that ‘Kelly’ was you?”

“Because you would have wanted to see me, to get together, and I wasn’t ready to deal with that. I’m still not certain I am but it’s rather a moot point at the moment isn’t it.”

“Definitely.” He glanced at the bottle of champagne and then the sofa. “So, since I’m here so that we can celebrate our contract like we planned, and now,” he added with a smile, “my finding you again, where’s this caviar you claim you have.”

“Very good question. I’m sure I remember seeing a can of it on one of the kitchen shelves. I hope Tabby wasn’t keeping it for some special occasion.”

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