Love and Loyalty
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by Tere Michaels
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica
Description: Screenwriter Griffin Drake needs to win over sexy and stoic Detective James "Jim" Shea in order to get the story of a lifetime, but he finds himself wanting Jim's heart.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: November 2009
185 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [265 KB]
Reading time: 150-210 min.
Griffin Drake was in trouble. Not the kind of trouble where you call for help--the kind of trouble where you make a sign of the cross and jump right in.
Detective Jim Shea, all six feet four, steel-jawed, and eyes the color of blue that he couldn't think of something creative for... God, what kind of writer was he? Right, the kind who was sitting across from a subject, a part of a larger puzzle, all but drooling in his creme brulee.
They weren't talking much; Detective Shea clearly didn't do this very often. Griffin didn't either, but he was a natural talker, a social butterfly who dispelled every notion of the solitary, uncommunicative writer. He did like to drink, however, but he tried not to drink alone.
Which explained how the bottom of the wine bottle came up so soon.
"You want something else?" Griffin asked, well aware they hadn't touched the Kelly case or anything else beyond small talk about their respective cities and sports. He was already thinking of excuses to do this again--and to make this evening last a bit longer.
"Uh, I should probably have a pot of coffee." Jim Shea wiped his mouth with the linen napkin and rested it back on his lap. On the one hand, it was a natural movement; on the other, Griffin wanted to massage the tension out of his shoulders. "And not drive afterward." He looked regretfully at the empty wineglass and the almost empty second beer. "Not a smart move."
"I'd offer to drive, but you'd just have to pull me over," Griffin said, adding and strip search me in his head. "Let's have coffee, then...maybe take a walk? Clear our heads."
Jim nodded, looking around for the waiter. Griffin got an excellent view of that chiseled profile and movie-star jaw. If this guy weren't so stiff, he'd make a wickedly hot leading man.
Raul materialized, and Jim ordered a pot of coffee (black, of course). Griffin ran his hands through his hair--then discreetly rubbed off the sticky gel on the napkin in his lap.
Classy. He was a class act. And grateful this place was so damn dark.
"Thanks," Jim said suddenly, like a burst of sound he had been working up to. "For this dinner and, uh, not talking work. It's a nicer night than I imagined it being."
Griffin looked at the detective in surprise. He smiled, entirely pleased with himself.
"My pleasure. I planned on working you to death over cheap diner food, but this is much nicer," he teased gently, leaning his elbows on the table. "Seriously? I'm really glad I gave you a decent birthday dinner. You deserve it."
Jim's handsome face didn't reveal much agreement. He just looked embarrassed--like he wanted to disagree, but that would be rude.
"Come on, man, stop giving me that look. I used my writer Google fu, and frankly I'm stunned you didn't have a bunch of people throwing you a big party."
Jim's eyes dropped.
"Well, thanks. That's nice of you to say," Jim said stiffly. The coffee appeared before either of them could crawl under the table.
Griffin watched him pour his coffee, and his palms itched. The French wine, the night, the dark--it made him stupid ballsy.
"Why don't you believe that?"
"Why don't you believe what I said? From what I can tell, you're well liked. Respected. Successful. You're not hurting for money or looks." He gnawed the inside of his mouth when that last word slipped out. "I'm not sure why I should feel bad for complimenting you."
Jim stirred his coffee aggressively. When he gestured with his spoon, tiny droplets of coffee flying across the table, Griffin reined in the urge to laugh.
"I don't like compliments."
Griffin let go of the reins.
"What? That's just... What does that mean? If I say - hey, Jim, nice shoes, that's a problem?"
"I don't trust them."
"I don't know. I just don't."
"You must be fun at parties."
"I don't go to parties."
Griffin rolled his eyes. "No parties, no compliments. Suddenly I'm understanding the lack of dating."
Jim's shoulders went up around his ears, and his eyes turned dark in the dim light. Griffin thought he might have to readjust himself under the table.
"Who said I don't date?"
"An educated guess."
"Do you date?"
"Occasionally." When Daisy made him.
Jim seemed stymied. He was clearly buying time by taking a sip of his coffee; Griffin enjoyed the tense silence.
Jim in control was hot. Jim slightly off-kilter was borderline illegal.
"Why don't you have a boyfriend?" Jim all but threw in an "aha" as punctuation.
"Don't want one," Griffin said breezily.
"I want the right one."
"Lofty." Jim shook his head. "Unrealistic."
"To want to date the right person? How is that unrealistic? I'm sure you know people who are happy with each other."
"Okay--so clearly they've found the right person. Why don't you think I can?"
"I don't mean you can't."
"I just meant it's hard to meet people, let alone the right person."
Griffin reached into his pocket and pulled out his BlackBerry. "Hang on, let me write down these pearls of wisdom. I'll use it for my next romantic comedy."
Jim made a face and Griffin laughed. Loudly. God, maybe he needed a cup of that coffee before he got loud drunk.
"You should try personal ads," Griffin teased. "Video dating."
"Shut up," Jim mumbled, stirring his coffee again.
"Maybe it's the bottle of wine talking here, Detective Shea, but I can't believe you walk down the street and don't get propositioned like twenty times a day. If I took you to a party back in my neck of the woods..."
"I'd spend the whole time busting people for possession," Jim finished.
"Hey...not the whole time."
Griffin pondered this. "Are you going to narc me out for smoking a joint at Sundance last year?"
"I'll let it go this time," Jim said drily.
"Then I'm clean. I like my wine, I like my vodka tonics, I like the occasional beer with my red meat. I don't do drugs, I don't smoke, I don't jaywalk, and I only speed on the freeways where it is actually the law in Southern California."
"You sound like a great guy. Why aren't you being propositioned twenty times a day?"
It was clearly the closest thing to flirting Detective Shea was capable of.
Griffin was delighted.
"Well." Griffin pointed at his face. "Not exactly movie-star or male-model material, and where I live, that tends to help. Now, if I want to get laid, I just have to walk into a Starbucks and announce I'm a screenwriter. Then I have my pick of wannabes and head shots and sample scripts."
Jim frowned. "You're very... You look..." He huffed. "That's stupid."
"What's stupid? I didn't say I was hideous. Hell, I'd probably do fine if I moved somewhere less attractive."
"How are you going to find the right person if you think everyone is just trying to use you?"
Griffin had nothing. He wished for a cup of coffee. A spoon to stir it with.
"I think I liked it better when you were speaking in one-word sentences and glares," he said finally, cracking a smile. "So what's your excuse?"
"I..." Jim paused, appearing to actually be thinking of an honest answer. "I'm not good at it. I pick the wrong people, I say the wrong things. I'm better with...a few words, lots of glares."
"No dinners out, too many late nights, birthdays all alone." Griffin tapped his fingers on the dark shadow of the tablecloth. "Sucks."
"Maybe. Or it just is what it is."
"If I tell Daisy any of this, she's going to be working hard to fix you up." Daisy would be horrified by Jim's lack of romance. Horrified.
Jim looked panicked. "Please don't do that, or is this some sort of 'semi-husband and wife, we spill everything' deal?"
"Wow, good call."
"Why don't you marry her?"
"Well, for starters, she's already married. Also, her lady parts are of no interest to me."
"Yeah." Griffin squirmed. Maybe he should shut up, ask for the check. Talking about his love life was slightly less dangerous than mouthing off about Daisy's. Not that Jim was going to excuse himself to call Inside Edition, but still. "For a long time, actually. It's complicated."
Griffin looked at Jim, who was clearly waiting for more.
"He owns the studio I work for. Bright Side." Griffin tried not to roll the words around in his mouth unpleasantly. Scaring Jim--and therefore Ed Kelly--off would be a disaster.
"So he's involved in Ed's movie?"
"No. That's a side project for Daisy and I."
Was that too quick? Too obviously a semi-lie?
"I don't know what that means."
"Like...a part-time job."
"Like a paper route."
"Yes, you're a paper route to me."
"No, Ed is a paper route to you. I'm Old Man Jenkins yelling for you to get off my lawn."
* * * *
There was flirting, and then there was Jim cracking jokes. Or making jokelike statements. Griffin swallowed his tongue and searched around for the elusive Raul, who swooped in and saved the day by appearing and disappearing with Griffin's coveted Black Amex.
Jim watched him from across the table, wary and amused.
"I don't think I'm quite sober yet," he said, his voice slightly strained. "Think I'll take you up on that walk."
"Good idea." Griffin stared into the shadows, sidelong glances telling him that Jim was watching him.
"What time is your flight back?"
Griffin rolled his tongue around for a moment. "Don't have a ticket yet. I was playing it by ear."
Jim was quiet. "You got a hotel room?"
* * * *
Raul dropped off the snazzy black leather folder, and Griffin busied himself leaving a show-off tip and signing his name with a flourish.
"Let's go," Jim said, already standing up and brushing off his suit.
"Fresh air will do me good," Griffin mumbled.
They managed to find their way out of the dark maze, smelling fresh air and freedom and privacy. At least that's what Griffin was going by. He thought maybe Jim was just using his cop instincts.
No use in overplaying his hand--maybe the question about the hotel room was just Jim being polite.
The valet walked over as soon as they hit the cool, crisp night air. Griffin breathed deeply as Jim said they were walking around the block and would be right back.
He said this with a twenty-dollar bill. Then he started walking, and Griffin followed, moving his legs into an awkward jog to catch up.
"Don't leave without me," he said, and Jim slowed down slightly, looking at him with a touch of surprise.
"Sorry." He shook his head and laughed awkwardly. "I think I've forgotten how to walk leisurely."
"Wanna lean leisurely?" Griffin eyed a deeply shadowed doorway, a shop closed for the night.
"Not sure that'll clear my head."
Another pass at flirting. Griffin all but knocked him against the brick wall of the store as they reached it.
"Ah, fuck it," he said as they collided. Jim caught his weight, impacting the wall against his back as Griffin went in for a kiss.
Jim was surprised but alert enough, apparently, to catch Griffin and open his mouth at the same time.