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Friday, September 14
Jules Cassidy was nervous.
After years of working for the FBI, nervous didn't happen to Jules very often anymore. At least not in a situation with nary a hostile gunman, armed terrorist, angry insurgent or crazed hostage-taker in sight.
As Jules effortlessly caught a taxi at Boston's Logan Airport, as he settled back in his seat for the stunningly traffic-free ride to the downtown hotel, as the relentless, week-long autumn drizzle that had plagued the entire east coast from Virginia to Maine finally stopped and the clouds opened in a late afternoon blast of sunlight suitable for accompaniment by a full choir of angels, he had to smile.
His entire impromptu trip north from Washington , D.C. had been a piece of cake – chocolate and practically dripping with strawberry-flavored easy.
Sign from God, anyone?
And yet, Jules was still undeniably nervous.
Some of it was from the taco Jules had grabbed in the airport. God, what a mistake. He'd thrown it away after eating only a few bites, but the portion he'd consumed had become his traveling companion – a lump of lead in his stomach.
Of course, some of what he was feeling came from the adrenaline surge of anticipation at the thought of seeing Robin after too many days apart.
Hey, babe. It's me again. God, I miss you. Call me back. And oh, may I state for the record that this phone sex thing is no longer novel...?
These past two weeks had been the longest the two men had gone without seeing one another since former A-list movie star Robin Chadwick had gotten out of rehab.
And no, Jules's nerves weren't from worry or fear that Robin had fallen off the wagon. Robin's commitment to his on-going sobriety was steadfast. Same as his commitment to their still fledgling yet extremely solid romantic relationship.
Yeah, and okay, there was that shifting-of-the-taco twinge of nervousness again. What if Jules was wrong, and it was too soon for this? What if Robin wasn't ready?
What if Jules's last minute, cancel-all-his-meetings-and-take-Friday-off, spur of the moment, rush-up-to-Boston-uninvited trip came across as needy and possessive? Desperately needy and possessive.
God, he wished there was a thought-vacuum that could suck the unwanted yet still persistently loud voices of cheating ex-lovers from the caverns of one's mind. It had been years since Jules had shared both his home and his life with his ex, Adam, and yet he could still hear the son of a bitch's voice. You don't own me, J., although you'd like to, wouldn't you? You'd like to lock me away...
In truth, Jules hadn't wanted to own Adam or lock him anywhere. But he definitely hadn't wanted to share him, either. And if that unwillingness to share was defined as being needy and possessive, so be it.
It was the desperation that he hoped he could hide today – assuming Adam had been right and Jules was, in fact, desperately needy and possessive. Desperation was unattractive – so cloying, so unpleasantly pathetic. So obvious. You could smell it on a man in about a half-second of face-to-face.
Jules did a quick sniff check of his armpits. But all he could smell was that hideous taco. He definitely had a fantasy going involving a shower in his immediate future. Like, fifteen minutes after he got to the hotel. He'd change out of his FBI costume – as Robin called his collection of conservative dark suits and ties – and into jeans and a t-shirt. And there he'd be when Robin returned from the set. In bare feet and home-from-the-office hair, coated in exactly zero desperation.
It helped to remember that Robin wasn't Adam. Thank you, baby Jesus. Robin truly loved him – quite possibly as much as Jules loved Robin.
"Hey, babe, I got big news." Robin had left Jules a longer message in lieu of his standard brief morning I'm thinking of you voicemail. "Good news. Great news, actually." His expressive voice was laced with even more excitement than usual. Robin's mundane, day-to-day existence registered at a passion level of about fifteen on a scale from one to ten. This morning, however, he'd been up well past twenty and that had made Jules smile. "Art's writing another story arc for my character – they want me back. At least ten episodes this time, maybe even more. They totally love what I've been doing."
Yeah, like the entire world hadn't noticed that Academy Award nominee Robin Chadwick was not just acting rings around his cast mates in Boston Marathon, but was bringing them and the entire HBO TV show up to an entirely new level. Damn straight writer/producer Arthur Urban wanted him back for more. And yet Robin's surprise was genuine. He honestly didn't realize how amazing he was.
Robin had been bouncing back and forth between DC, where Jules worked, and Boston , where the HBO series was in production. It had started as several intensive days of work a few months ago, when Robin was first cast in a relatively small role -- a minor character for a mere two episodes. But Art Urban knew greatness when he bumped into it on his set, and he'd expanded and stretched out Robin's role over another six episodes.
It was doubly gratifying, because the character Robin was playing, Jefferson O'Reilly, was straight. It was pretty stupid, but gay actors in Hollywood rarely were cast as anything other than gay characters.
This job did, however, mean that Robin was spending more and more time in Boston . Apart from Jules.
"Don asked for way more money," Robin's voicemail had continued, "and they agreed. They didn't even fucking blink. They want to put me in the credits, which is, well... It's nice. I feel very Sally Field, you know?"
Jules did know. They liked him. They really liked him. And Don, Robin's agent, no doubt liked him, too. And for more than just the bigger paycheck. Robin's sister Jane was a Hollywood insider, and the last time Jules had spoken to her on the phone, she'd told him that Robin was garnering some early Emmy buzz.
"I haven't said yes," Robin had reported in his message. "I wanted... Well, I wanted to, you know, talk to you about it first, because... shit, it's Boston . If it was DC, I'd've already signed, but..." He'd gotten quiet. "I really miss you, Jules. Call me back, okay? I need to hear your voice."
Jules had called him back. Repeatedly. But every time Jules had been free, Robin's phone had been turned off. And vice versa. They'd phone-tagged seven times before Jules had cancelled his lunch, his two o'clock, his four-thirty and his six-fifteen and hopped the shuttle to Boston .
He checked his phone in the cab, only to find he'd missed three more calls from Robin. He dialed, but was bumped right to Robin's voicemail as the taxi driver took the exit from the highway.
It was then that his phone rang.
But it wasn't Robin. The call was from Alyssa Locke who, along with her former-SEAL husband Sam Starrett, were Jules's best friends.
"Are you there yet?" Alyssa asked. She knew he was heading to Boston . She also knew his evening's agenda. God help him.
"I'm at the traffic light at Arlington and St. James," Jules reported. "It's just a few more blocks to the hotel."
"You're not going to believe where I am." His former partner in the FBI was now the XO – second-in-command -- of Troubleshooters Incorporated, the most prestigious personal security firm in the United States . Alyssa could well be anywhere in the entire world. Or quite possibly orbiting the moon.
"Can you give me a clue?" Jules shifted to try to find a position where the taco didn't burn at his stomach lining quite so much. "Like, which time zone?"
"Same as you," she said.
"You're in the trunk of the cab that I'm sitting in," he guessed as he popped a few more antacids from the roll he'd picked up on his way out of Logan . "Which would put Sam in the glove compartment."
Her laughter was rich and musical. "No, but you're close. We're over at the Sheraton, on Boylston Street ."
From the Hardcover edition.