"Sorry about that. I didn't realize it had been on. I'll turn it off."

I reached into my tux jacket pocket and dragged out my cell phone. The Belgian diplomat sitting across the cocktail table from me in the Bourbon Steak Lounge bar of the Four Seasons Georgetown Hotel lifted his hands in a "no problem" shrug and gave me a pleasant smile.

We had stopped here for a drink after taking in a concert by the Royal Band of the Belgian Guides regiment at the nearby Kennedy Center. It was Christmas Eve and the whole city was at least pretending to be festive. So was I. It had been my idea to come into the bar when I'd brought him back to his hotel, beckoning him to follow me into the gaily decorated bar, its pulsing red and blue strings of lights bathing the lounge area in the spirit of the holidays.

When I looked at the caller ID, though, I had to change my mind. "Sorry again," I said apologetically, "but this is from a few rungs above me in the pecking order. Since it won't switch over to my inbox now, I'd better take it."

"No problem." Again that hooded-eyes smile that had a touch of something more than just friendliness to it. A slight licking of his lips as he gazed at me. If I'd thought getting tickets on short notice to the concert featuring a group from his own country would be the highlight of his evening, I obviously was wrong.

He liked the concert, but he wanted me. I was not unaware that he had his foot out of his shoe with his sock-clad toes rubbing my ankle under the hem of my trousers leg. The rubbing took on the rhythm of the pulsing Christmas lights, which added to the sexual overtones of the act.

It always gave me a little thrill to know I could still have this effect on men.

"Hello, Tyler," I spoke into the phone. I kept my voice neutral. He should know I was working.

"Where are you now, Craig? Are you busy? Jenna wanted me to check on whether you'd brought back her parcel."

"Yes, Tyler, I have it," I answered. "Not with me, though, and I'm not free at the moment, I'm afraid. I can get it to her--" I was taken aback that Tyler would even know about the parcel. For some reason I'd thought Jenna was keeping it a secret from him--like, perhaps, it was a Christmas gift for him.

"Oh, I forgot. Working? Is it the Belgian?"

"Yes, it is," I answered. "I have it and I can--"

"How about eleven tomorrow night then? I should have remembered the Belgian. But now that I see your schedule, I see you should be off for a week after this. Eleven, shall we say? You know where the flat is, don't you? Off Dupont Circle--Q Street."

"Yes, I remember." I hesitated at the word "flat," but it was so like Tyler to use that word rather than "apartment." I'd never been invited to Tyler and Jenna's residence here in D.C. before. I wasn't on their A list by any means. But I had tracked down the street address just because I was curious where they lived. I'd meant to check the place out on Zillow, but I hadn't gotten around to that yet.

Tyler sounded a bit tipsy on the phone. I'd never known him to be the slightest out of control before. The summons I recognized, though--it was quite a slip on his part for him not to have remembered that I was on the hook to entertain the Belgian diplomat tonight--even though it was Christmas Eve. But it was very much like him to have everyone's schedule within reach. And it also was very much like him to expect everyone to drop whatever they were doing to do his bidding.

It was sort of a love-hate relationship between Tyler and me, with me being kept off guard because I never was able to gauge just how he felt about me. And it was important that I know.

In many ways Tyler had been my mentor and had helped at strategic junctions to keep me moving ahead in the organization--which was especially hard, considering what my superiors knew about my preferences, not to mention that I often liked to tread my own path rather than the company road. And then there was the inexplicable physical attraction--at least on my part. Inexplicable, because Tyler was really everything fake, but successfully so, that I resented.

There had been hints about Tyler's own preferences around the organization, but they had mostly been stilled when he'd unexpectedly married Jenna, twenty years his junior and no older than or more senior at the time to me in the office.

Of course, Jenna had risen faster than I had since that time. I didn't resent that. We'd trained side by side; I knew she was better and smarter than I was--and was far more able than I was to remain on the company road while bending it in her chosen direction. She would have risen that quickly anyway. Marriage to Tyler, though, had made it a sure thing.

I wondered why Tyler, instead of Jenna, was calling me about delivery of what I brought back from St. Petersburg for her. The two usually kept their business separate, and Jenna had been quite careful not to pull Tyler's rank on anything or to try to use him as her go-between. I don't think that would have worked even if she had tried, though. I'd even half thought that what I'd picked up for her in Russia was meant as a surprise for Tyler.

Tyler rarely praised me or my work to my face or within my hearing. I had worked as his deputy in Bangkok, where he'd sent me off to Phattaya Beach for a long weekend with a Russian industrialist the office wanted information from.

From that assignment, given and taken without question, I realized that he not only knew my proclivities, but also was willing to use them for office needs. And back here in Washington he was two steps above me, but in the same analysis office.

I had made enemies in the organization--among others as ambitious and opinionated as I was and in the management rung above me--and yet I had gotten a cushy analysis management position for my stint back in the States. I knew Tyler had done that. God knows there were peers of mine who made sure I knew Tyler had done that for me. But he hadn't yet told me to my face that my work was superior--or even adequate to his expectations, which was the same thing as being superior.

Tyler was largely a cipher to me. But I was somewhat afraid that the imperial distance he kept from me stemmed from him not being enough of a cipher to me. In Bangkok I worked with someone who downright despised Tyler and his imperial ways and gleeful filled me in on Tyler's murky past.

"Imperial" is, I think, a perfect way to describe the face Tyler showed to the world. He had a graduate degree from Harvard and had gone on to Oxford and made sure we all knew that--even though, in our business, most everyone else also had graduate degrees from a prestigious university or two. My educational degrees were better than his, for instance, but no one in the office would have guessed it--or would acknowledge it even if the comparison was dangled under their noses.

He feigned a slight English accent to go with the degrees and dressed elegantly as an English don could be imagined to do. He had the tall, thin, yet well-formed body and classic Roman nose slightly pointed toward the sun and sharp, witty tongue to carry it off.

No one in the organization wanted to be the butt of a Tyler joke. The jabs invariably bit right through the recipient's armor, which was all the more galling because Tyler's own public persona was so screamingly fake. In total, he came across as everything an elitist Agency senior officer was in the era of the 1950s. That was sixty years ago, though.

I knew from the coworker who had no love for Tyler whatsoever that Tyler was raised on a rural farm in West Virginia, the backwater state where his undergraduate degree had also been taken, and that there wasn't a genuine patrician bone in his body. He had made it to and through Harvard and Oxford and up the ladder in his career by mental brilliance, sterling gamesmanship, and by being able to pass himself off as being part of the Washington inner circle. His first name wasn't even Tyler. It was Earl. Tyler was his middle name and had been his mother's maiden name.

Unfortunately, Tyler knew I knew that, and I'd made the mistake of referring to it in public some years early. His retort had been glib, swift, and brutal, but we both knew it had wounded him and chipped at his façade.

So, what could have either gone to friendship or hatred remained in a limbo of Mexican standoff. I knew his origins were Hicksville and he knew I was, at best, bisexual and, more honestly, gay.

There was respect on my part, because he was pulling his part off admirably, if maddeningly. I just couldn't be sure whether there was respect on his part. There must have been some semblance of that, though, or he wouldn't be mentoring me from behind the curtain as he obviously was--while standing off from me in person.

Unless, of course, he had some plan in his back pocket to use me down the road.

At least Jenna had remained as much the Jenna I trained with as the Jenna who was now married to "the man." We had always been friendly, while still competitive, and I sensed no change in her attitude upon having acquired the edge of being married to one of the titans of the office.

She wouldn't give me a hint of what he really thought of me--or whether she even knew. Indeed, she gave the impression that he completely compartmented from her what he thought of her coworkers. I gave her credit for not discussing her peers with him; some of our colleagues who I knew she really didn't like were prospering in the office when a little bit of effort from Tyler could easily have sidelined them.

On the whole, despite what some others whispered, I believed that he got, by far, the best part of the deal in the marriage. He needed others to take care of him; he wouldn't stoop to any work that would soil his hands and cause him to break into a sweat--or even to bother to read the directions on how to assemble anything. My vision was of Jenna quietly taking care of him into his old age with a caring, low-key, steady hand--and doing so no matter what feathers he ruffled, including hers.

This just doubled the question running in the back of my mind of why Tyler and not Jenna had called me about the parcel I had retrieved for her in St. Petersburg--and why he wanted me to bring it their apartment rather than take it to her at the office. What, in fact, was urgent to have it delivered at Christmas if it wasn't a Christmas gift from Jenna to Tyler.

"I said this is the hotel I'm staying at. I have a room upstairs." The Belgian was talking at my inattention. Bad tradecraft on my part.

"Excuse me? Sorry, I was thinking of the call I just got. That was rude of me. I've turned the cell phone off now. You're much more interesting than the piece of business I was thinking of." I gave him a "interested" smile. My attention needed to zip back to the bar in the Four Seasons hotel. I obviously had been daydreaming when the assignment at hand was to keep the Belgian happy.

The Belgian was leaning into the table. He still was playing with my shin, covered in a silk sock, with his similarly clad foot, but he also had a beefy hand on my knee under the table, squeezing it to the rhythm of the pulsing strings of Christmas lights. He obviously knew I would make myself available to him because I was making no effort to draw away from his advances.

He had been more presentable than I had thought he'd be. The top tier of middle-aged, of course, but I appreciated mature men. In compensation, he was tall, and, although "beefy" answered for him well, he also was muscular and not too heavy around the middle.

He was no beauty in the face, but we wouldn't be in the light for very long, I imagined. I had known European men like him before. Most of them were experts with the cock, and, so, I was looking forward to this evening. Most of them were just a bit cruel too. I'm embarrassed to say that I also was looking forward to that.

"Yes, yes. You have a room here. That's very convenient." Of course I knew he had a room at this hotel; we had booked it for him. We knew just about everything there was to know about this Belgian diplomat, including what he knew that could be of use to us.

"Would you like to see my room?" he asked. "I know it's Christmas Eve and I've already taken up much of your holiday time . . ." I could hear the eagerness in his voice. It was always nice to be wanted. And of course I wanted to see his room. This had all been part of the preplanned package.

"Yes, I very much would like to see your room," I answered, giving him what I'd been told was a special gift of mine--a dazzling smile of not-completely-feigned eager acceptance. "I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing on Christmas Eve."

* * * *

Tyler's apartment wasn't what I expected, at least until I got inside. I expected Tyler and Jenna to live on an upper floor with huge windows in some old high-rise apartment building. There certainly were enough of them around Dupont Circle. Instead, it was an old Georgetown row mansion that had been cut up into apartments. Theirs was commodious, with such amenities of yesteryear as wood paneling, wainscoting, and crown molding.

I also expected their taste to be spare, but expensive and in good taste--I certainly saw Jenna this way. As soon as Tyler opened the door to me and I stepped into the vestibule, though, I knew it was a habitat of "one of us." It was chock-a-block with the same collection of Oriental, European, and Middle East treasures that my house was. Everyone in the business seemed to have decided the exact same acquisitions from these places were treasures they must have--to set themselves apart from everyone else.

It just had a more "stuffed"--although artfully stuffed--appearance than mine did. That wasn't because they had collected more than I had. In choosing to live in the Virginia suburbs rather than in the thick of the trendy district of Washington, D.C., I could afford twice the house they could on a third of their combined salary.

What was notable was that there was no trimmed Christmas tree or any other evidence of holiday decoration.

Tyler was a surprise, though. He looked as elegant as ever, the handsome face with graying sideburns on a precisely cut head of dark hair. Tall and lean. He had on neatly pressed dark trousers, but instead of a shirt, he was wearing a red silk robe--perhaps his sense of a Christmas decoration? It was more a smoking jacket affair that came down to the knees and, while exposing a good bit of his bare, tanned chest, was held together with a black silk sash. He looked formal and casual at the same time in an old money way that he'd been bringing off for years.

He had a cigarette in one hand and a martini glass in another. The cigarette paper was turquoise. Even in this Tyler had to set himself a step above and apart from everyone else.

"I brought the parcel," I said, as I shook snowflakes off my topcoat and onto the black and white-block linoleum tile of the foyer. The declaration was largely irrelevant, because there it was, being brought from under my arm to be extended toward him.

"You can lay it there on the table," Tyler said, not even looking at the package. "Come on through. What's your poison?"

I stood there in indecision for a few moments, having assumed that this would be the same as his office--that I would be held, standing, in his outer reception area until a secretary came to relieve me of the memo or paper draft I was bringing to him.

I had expected that Jenna would answer the door, I'd pass the package to her, she'd thank me for a favor we traded back and forth, there'd be a bit of a chat on where each of us had been in the world that month, and then I'd be gone. I was looking forward to dispensing with the transaction. I also was looking forward to the week without an evening assignment. I could cruise on my own requirements and preferences. I wouldn't have to have any other motives running except the anticipation of personal pleasure.

But Jenna hadn't greeted me at the door for the passing of the parcel. Rather, Tyler, dressed to slouch eclectically and fashionably, as much as Tyler ever did, had answered the door and invited me into his inner sanctum--or at least their entertainment space, devoted, no doubt, to guests who were far more interesting and had far more cachet than I did.

"Well, come on then," Tyler said, turning at the door that I could see led into a well-appointed living room with leather chairs on either side of a fireplace grate. "Just leave the parcel on the center table."

There was, in fact, a round mahogany-wood table in the center of the vestibule, mounted with one of those four-foot-high flower and fruit arrangements that you only saw in hotel lobbies and the pages of House Beautiful.

"Oh, and you can just drape your coat on one of the chairs," he called from the other room.

I did as he instructed--I'd always done as Tyler instructed. I left the parcel on the center table and folded my topcoat and left it on one of the four Chippendale chairs set precisely against the vestibule walls between doorways leading off in all directions.

"Perhaps Jenna should open the parcel to ensure that it's what she ordered," I said as I entered the living room. I was self-conscious about being in jeans and a sports shirt; I hadn't thought to dress formal for a package delivery. But, of course, if I'd been thinking on all cylinders, I would have worn an Armani suit.

"Uh, thanks," I then said as Tyler handed me a gin and tonic. I hadn't told him what I wanted to drink, but of course a gin and tonic would have been what I would have asked for.

"Jenna isn't here," he said, as he motioned me to one of the chairs by the fireplace.

There was a fire in the grate, and I could see the snow falling beyond the two windows looking out onto Q Street. It seemed to be falling faster than it had when I'd entered the building. I'd had a hell of a time finding a parking space in this area of town, and I wondered how they--or anyone--could stand living in Georgetown under that sort of pressure. But then, in our line of work, pressure and the luck of the find came as givens.

"Jenna isn't here?" I asked as I sat down. Christmas week and they were spending it half a world apart from each other?

"No, she's in Vienna today. Prague tomorrow, I think."

At least there would be plenty evidence of Christmas were Jenna was.

"She asked me to bring that parcel from St. Petersburg," I said. I was speaking repetitive nonsense. But I always had had the feeling of being slow and tongue-tied in the presence of Tyler. It was that superior-subordinate, love-hate thing. He intimidated me and, at the same time, I had been more than a bit distressed when I heard that he and Jenna were getting married.

I guess before that I'd hoped the rumors were true and that he secretly fancied me. I know I had secretly fancied him for some time. It had almost been a relief when he had sent me off to fuck and be fucked by the Russian in Thailand all weekend. I thought that, perhaps, it being in the open what I preferred that . . . well, that he'd make some sort of move himself. But he hadn't. And, of course, he would have had to be the one to make the move.

He was as ambiguous about sex as he was with everything else.

And then the surprise announcement that he and Jenna would marry. The office scuttlebutt gave that union six months max--we were used to musical beds and marriages in our organization. But that had been three years ago. And, by all accounts, their marriage was working out marvelously--even though one or the other of them was out of the country a good bit of the time.

"Fuck the parcel," Tyler said, which snapped my head up to where I was looking closely into his face. Tyler didn't use profanity. There was a look of weariness, almost distress, in his chiseled, patrician features. "I invited you here precisely because Jenna was in Vienna today and Prague tomorrow. I, in fact, just spoke to her on the phone to make sure she was there."

"I don't understand," I said.

"Oh, I think you do, Craig. I think you've understood for some time. Maybe you haven't wanted to intellectualize it. But I think you well understand why I called you to come here when Jenna was an ocean and a continent away. This won't change anything, of course. I have no intention of leaving Jenna."

"This? What's this?" I asked.

He just gave me a sardonic "you dunce" look until I no longer could avoid understanding what he meant.

"But . . . why now?" I asked in a low voice.

"I'm tired of shopping on the street, looking for young men who remind me of you and then disappointing me when they aren't you. It's particularly galling during the holidays." His voice sounded strained--as if that was one of the darkest secrets he possessed. And perhaps it was. I had no illusions how hard it was for Tyler to give up a secret. I knew--and appreciated--how hard this was for him.

For just a second, but not more than that, he let the mask drop away from his face and I saw the raw pain and want in his eyes. But it was just for a second, and then we were back to the guarded, patrician Tyler, Harvard and Oxford graduate and office fair-haired boy, whose wit and sharp tongue were a sure defense.

But this was vintage Tyler too, especially with subordinates. He who baldly stated what he wanted--and got it. He wasn't going to beg me, and I knew better than to expect him to. And I wasn't going to walk out of the apartment until he'd gotten what he wanted.

He let his statement hang in the air, as he took a swig of his martini and a couple of drags on his cigarette. I couldn't continue looking at his face, hoping beyond hope that I'd see that vulnerability and want in him again, because it had flickered there so briefly. He certainly knew how to read me, though. I couldn't hide my vulnerability to and want of him in my eyes. So I looked away--to the windows. It was snowing even more heavily on Q Street now. It would be a bear just to get my car out of the parking space on the narrow street and to drive through the drifts across the Potomac to the Virginia suburbs tonight.

Of course I was rationalizing. Which was silly, because there were no decisions for me to make here. This was Tyler--and Tyler's turf.

Tyler stood up from his chair and carefully, deliberately set his martini glass down on the small table beside his chair and placed the red-ash-tipped cigarette--not yet finished, the only signal in the room of his sense of urgency from a man who carefully finished off everything--in an ashtray.

"I'll be in the bedroom when you are ready to come. The main bath is off hallway to the left. Use the beige towels."

He'd left the light on in the bathroom, which was across the hallway from what obviously was a home office den. There were two more doors on either side off the hallway farther on. Two bedrooms, I surmised. I gave a smile, but it was a nervous little smile, when I saw that he had laid out an anal douche bulb on top of a beige washcloth on the bathroom counter.

So, he was going to top me. We hadn't cleared that up. It didn't matter to me. I went both ways--and no doubt he knew that. But it was a testament to the sudden impact this had had on me that I hadn't even thought about it.

I certainly had cleared that up with the Belgian diplomat the previous night before we had gone up to his hotel room. But he had wanted it both ways and, after pleading that I be gentle with him, which I was, hadn't come anywhere close to being gentle with me. He had treated me like a common whore and had repeatedly called me that as he was fucking me. And I couldn't say he was wrong. But he had given us what we wanted. So, there were worse ways of being a whore than the one I practiced, I thought.

Night lights were glowing in both bedrooms at the end of the hall. The bedroom on the right obviously was the master bedroom, but I didn't expect to find Tyler in there. And of course I was correct. Even I would have been too uncomfortable having sex in Jenna's bed to perform.

The bedroom on the left had two twin beds in it. Tyler was lying on his back on the bed against the far wall. He was covered with a sheet, but I knew he was naked. His trousers and smoking jacket were neatly folded on the bed closer to the door.

He was looking straight up at the ceiling, his eyes glistening. Were those tears?

I had walked down the hall naked and stood in the doorway to the bedroom, backlit by the dim light in the hall. I wanted him to look at me. He could have had this any time in the last eight years. Now that I was here, and our mutual want was out in the open, I could acknowledge to myself that I had wanted him from the first. I knew I looked good and was well equipped. I wanted him to look at me, and I wanted to hear the intake of breath that assured me that he regretted the years of holding back.

I had thought of Jenna while I sat in the living room, briefly watching the fire blaze in the grate of the fireplace and the snow fall and the Christmas lights on the row house opposite blinking on and off beyond the living room windows, bringing rhythmic pulses of red and blue into the room. The rhythmic pulsing of the colors brought to mind the Belgian's hand on my knee in the hotel bar and then of the rhythm of the fuck, and I could see Tyler in that image, but not Jenna. Quite suddenly I saw Tyler and another man. Me? But if Tyler had been seeking it on the street . . .

No, Jenna could just watch out for Jenna herself. I knew a thing or two about Jenna's sex life too. And not just with men. At this moment, I hoped that she had continued with that--that the attraction the two had to each other wasn't dependent on the sexual. But even that didn't matter.

Guilt was of no use. Tyler had given instructions. Tyler always was to be obeyed. I could easily envision Tyler very reasonably voicing to Jenna that he had decided to take me on as a male mistress and her answering, "If you wish," and the two going on with their life together just as it was--without Jenna resenting either him or me. Perhaps that too was just rationalization on my part.

He knew that I was there, posed in the doorframe, but he didn't turn to look at me. He wasn't going to give me even that satisfaction.

"Come here," he said. He voice was hoarse. So, at least there was that much. A slight chink in the armor.

I walked slowly over to the bed, as he sat up on the side of the mattress and brushed the sheeting away. This bedroom was on the same side of the apartment as the living room was and the drapes were drawn back on the window, so the same pulsing of the red and blue Christmas lights invaded this chamber.

His cock was long and, like him, on the thin side. And it was in full erection, running up his flat belly as he sat on the side of the bed. His hairless torso, except for a thin patch at the pecs, was that of a runner--lean but well muscled and that of a much younger man than I knew him to be.

I felt a stab of irritation. Even in this he led a charmed life of fulfilled falsity. I knew his schedule permitted no time for exercise. All of this had been given to him without any effort required on his part. I had to work ten hours a week to maintain my conditioning. And he was twenty years older than me. The man ate whatever rich food he fancied and drank like a fish. I hated and resented that in him. I was no less aroused by him, however, for all of that undeserved reward.

But then I saw them. I'd been told he had them, but, knowing how office legends went, I only half believed. Two scars on his torso, near his left side, just above and to the left of his navel. Bullet wounds. Proof both that his continued life had been charmed and that it had been all too real. Life could get all too real for people in our profession. Seeing the puckered wounds there heightened my arousal, my sense of adventure and risk.

I reached out for the wounds with the fingers of a hand, seeking something raw and genuine in him. But my fingers had barely brushed the scars when he enveloped me with his arms and drew me into his torso, between his spread legs. He buried his face into my belly. I heard the muffled sob and felt the wet tears on my belly.

I wrapped my own arms around his neck, my hands cupped his perfectly cut hair, and I kissed the top of his head. We rocked back and forth in place. I felt the urgency of him against my thighs. He no doubt felt mine running up his sternum.

Just like that, all was forgiven. He could have anything he wanted. The chip in the armor was a chasm. He would have possessed me anyway--by right and the power of his position and personality--but I surrendered all, willingly.

His mouth moved down to cover the bulb of my cock, which he sucked between snuffles until we were both heated up and consumed by throbbing need. His lips slid down the shaft, inhaling me, and began to work faster and faster.

The pressure and release of his mouth on my cock was matching the pulsing of the Christmas lights filtering into the bedroom. Moaning, I pulled my knees up onto the bed on either side of his hips, leaned my torso back, with my hands gripping his knees; and, using the leverage of my thighs and knees, fucked his throat to an ejaculation.

He released my cock and kissed me along the lower belly line of my trimmed pubic hair after I had come, while I held position straddling his thighs. He handed me a condom packet, which I opened myself and then reached back and rolled onto his cock, which, after my ejaculation, he had slapped around on my buttocks, rubbed across my hole, and used the bulb to worry my hole open to him. I was the one to reach back and lube his shaft and the opening to my channel, as well.

Typical Tyler, I was doing most of the work. I even fucked myself on his shaft, in synch with the pulsing lights, holding the cock in place with a greased hand as I settled on and slid down it and doing the hard riding as he held my waist in his hands and gave me an enigmatic smile.

Just when his remoteness and arrogance were getting to me, though, the dam burst on his emotions. He reached up and pulled my face down and took my lips brutally with his into a deep kiss.

He twisted my body to the side and came with me, his knees sliding under my buttocks. Then, still wildly kissing my lips and my face and down to my nipples, he fucked me furiously, with much passionate noise registering need and pleasure from both of us. I certainly learned now that he could use salty profanity as well as anyone could.

The passion ended with nearly simultaneous fireworks from both of us.

He rose from me then and padded off to the bathroom, while I stretched out on the bed. I have no idea how long the uninhibited, honest part of the fuck had lasted, but, for now, it was enough. He had dropped the pretenses and façade--not for long, but long enough for both of us to know he would.

When he returned from the bathroom, he crawled under the covers of the other bed in the room without uttering a word.

I was disappointed, but it wasn't a disappointment that lasted for long. Twice more in the night, his body came down on mine in the twin bed, and he fucked me fully and passionately, holding me in his tight embrace, kissing me all over my body, muttering how hard and glorious my body was, sliding that long, hard cock in and out of me, coaxing out shared ejaculations. Showing each time that he wanted me, couldn't get enough of me, couldn't--in the dark and just between the two of us--voice enough approval of me and my openness to his need.

He became progressively more open and demonstrative with each fuck, until, at the release of the last coupling of the night, he was holding me close, rocking my body with his, and the faces of both of us were tear stained. He didn't leave me then, and we both went to sleep in a close embrace.

I left the apartment before dawn, although dawn came late in the winter in Washington and the moonlight on the fallen snow beyond the windows lit the Georgetown neighborhood up like it was day. Sometime in the night the pulsing red and blue lights from across the street had been turned off. But that was only in the real world. In my memory they were still going, still in synch with the rhythm of the fuck.

Tyler hadn't been in the bedroom when I woke up. I showered, dressed, and came out into the living room. He was sitting in the same chair as the previous evening, smoking an exotic-colored cigarette again, but this time fisting a coffee mug rather than a martini glass.

The only other difference was that he wasn't wearing trousers now, just the smoking jacket, with his now-flaccid cock exposed between the parted edges of robe, and he looked more human. His hair was tousled, his arm and hand movements weren't so studied, and his smile when he looked up at me was less judging, less severe than any I'd seen from him before.

"I'll go now," I said, half expecting to be offered breakfast, or a cup of coffee, or something--fearing that I'd receive criticism or a command to never mention this night of coupling again.

"Yes," he answered. No offer of coffee, but no brutal dismissal either. Would he claim that I had seduced him? Would this be all my fault?

"The parcel for Jenna is on the table in the vestibule," I said, turning in the doorway into the foyer. "Perhaps you should open it to make sure it's what she expected." I no longer cared if it was meant as a Christmas gift surprise for him. He'd already gotten his Christmas gift--from me.

"Take it with you," he answered.

"Take it with me?" I nonsensically repeated.

"Yes, and bring it back with you this evening . . . and then bring it back every evening until Jenna is back. I'm not sure when she'll return. I made sure your evening work calendar was cleared for a week. If you bring it back every evening, there will be a good reason why you have come to the apartment."

Typical Tyler. He assumed I would be at his beck and call for the week between Christmas and New Years. Like I didn't have other plans and people to see. But of course he was right; I'd clear my schedule for him.

"Yes, sir," I said, my spirits rising as I pulled on my overcoat, put the parcel under my arm, and prepared to face the snow. He wanted a delivery every night for as long as we could--the Christmas gift that kept on giving.

For some reason I felt like I had been the one delivered. Delivered from all those years of secret want. And I was beginning to see the possibility that Tyler might be delivered from himself--or was beginning to be--as well.

"Happy holidays to me," I muttered under my breath.



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