LOVE & STITCHES at The Asylum Part Three
Kept you waiting a little bit, sorry about that!
But now you can dive right in, and don't have as long to wait for the next part! <g>
The Anniston Falls Clinic’s atrium security floods cast the exterior parking lot in stripes of shadow and light. Gun pointed at the ground, Jared punched his code into the security pin pad with the index finger of his free hand. Far away, the booming rhythm from the Asylum Dance Club’s speakers cut off abruptly. The beeps from the pin pad chirped too loudly in the relative silence. Anyone inside would be alerted to his presence, but there was no help for that now.
Dredging up a decades-old stealth combat class training, he kept to the less well-lit areas, skirting around the perimeter of the space. Though it cost him time, it’d be a damned shame to have made it this far only to get shot. Everything outside had been normal, barring the flood of cars leaving The Asylum’s gates. No one had used the Clinic’s parking lot as overflow this evening, and the pavement had been empty other than some puddles that must’ve been the result of some brief rain.
Back to the wall, he paused outside the clinic door to listen for sounds that might alert him to what went on behind the door. A quiet murmur of voices, Seth’s deeper tones, and Julian’s tenor were the only conversation. Neither sounded distressed.
The sound of a scuff against the polished tile came before a quiet curse. More specifically, ‘Joder’. Keiran shot him a guilty look as he stepped up to his side. “Rhodey’s going to beat my ass for that. I managed the jump from the roof without a sound and now I can’t take a proper step?”
Lowering the gun he’d leveled at Keiran’s chest, Jared swore softly under his breath. “I’m lining up to take my turn. You nearly got yourself shot, my boy.”
“Don’t worry, sir, your trigger finger’s a bit slow. I would’ve moved.” Keiran’s hint of a smile was all him, but the trace of exaggerated confidence was the influence of Rhodey and his boy. Nudging his chin toward the door, Keiran spoke softly. “Do you think you forgot your briefcase in there?”
“No.” Jared shook his head, keeping his voice to a whisper. “Not unless I’m going senile, and I think I’m a little too young for that, no matter how slow I am—unless you’re all driving me to early dementia from stress.” He cocked his head, listening. “I think everything’s normal inside, but we should check.”
Keiran inclined his head, keeping close to Jared’s side. “I can talk to Rhodey about Seth and Quint taking more shifts, sir. The point of them staying is so you have less stress.” Lowering his gaze, he wiped the gray dust on his hands from the bricks he’d climbed down on his dark green jeans. “It was meant as a comfort, sir. I don’t think you’re slow in a bad way, I just know you wouldn’t have shot me.”
It was difficult to be angry, much less stay angry, with a sub who not only took wonderful care of all of them but whom Jared admired. He’d come a long way from the bruised and bleeding young stripper who’d stumbled into their lives and into Dallas’ arms. “Forgiven. As long as you help me design Wren’s birthday cake.”
“Consider it done.” A brilliant smile lit up Keiran’s whole face, his eyes taking on a distant look, like he was already picturing the cake, wetting his bottom lip like he could taste it. “The only sweet thing he really likes is honey, but for flavoring he’s partial to vanilla and I can do so much with that. Maybe a subtle royal cream icing with less sugar in it. If I balance it just right it’ll be delicious and he might even finish a whole piece.”
“That would be delightful—” Jared arched a brow, tipping his head toward the door. “Perhaps if things are worse in there than they sound, we can use the bloody scene as inspiration?”
The edge of Keiran’s lips quirked. “I have no issue with that, but we might have a few people leaving the party early. And I won’t be able to rope Reed in to help me with it…” He tilted his head slightly. “Which does mean we can avoid the glitter debate.”
Jared snorted, pushing the door open without commenting. Predictably, Seth leaned against the low wall that separated the waiting room from the reception desk, flirting with Julian. The receptionist was confident, friendly, and most definitely not gay—as the local harem of women he dated suggested. Apparently, Seth had a type and wouldn’t be dissuaded from pursuing Julian in his fantasies or in the waiting room.
“Bizzy, please save my bank account from a sexual harassment lawsuit and get your ass back home.” Tucking Noah’s gun into the back waistband of his dress slacks, he hid it from view.
Seth didn’t miss the gesture or that Keiran was by Jared’s side. Gaze skipping between them, he straightened, then glanced at Julian. “Just waiting to walk him to his car.”
“I’ll be alright, sirs.” Julian’s wide, friendly smile lit up blue eyes that were a shade toward violet. “My girlfriend is picking me up in a couple minutes.” He stood to grab his jacket from the hook under his desk. “You can get going. I’ll lock up.”
Keiran gave the man a warm smile, his tone conversational. “Is it Samantha? She’s gorgeous, but you really should work on the lighting with your scenes with her. I can make some recommendations if you’re interested?”
A blush stained Julian’s cheeks a ruddy pink, and he ducked his head. “Uh yeah. That’d be awesome. She’s a great Domme, but neither one of us are trained in filmmaking.”
Jared coughed into his hand. He might work in a club with a dungeon attached, but for some reason the subject of pornography had never quite become part of his sexual smorgasbord. “Speaking of lawsuits…”
Seth’s grin widened, shading his sharp features with some of the youthful glow he’d had when they’d first met. “Sorry, Jared. I forgot that you stopped buying cable television when they accidentally gave you the Playboy Channel.”
“I don’t blame him, it’s boring.” Keiran slipped his phone out of his pocket and handed it to Julian. “Give me your number, I have some equipment you can use. And some suggestions on tags to get you better views. You could be making a killing if you got on the front page of the searches, but...yes, now is probably not the time to get into all that.”
“That’d be really rad, thanks.” Julian stepped from behind the desk, revealing tight electric blue leather pants he’d changed into at some point. The cut and stitching cupped both his cock and balls in a way that left nothing to the imagination.
Not bothering with further excuses to extract himself from the extremely uncomfortable conversation, Jared backed toward the door. Just as it opened into him. The jolt slipped the gun part way down his trousers, to just behind his left ass cheek.
A feminine voice behind him purred, “Is that a gun in your back pocket, or are you happy to see me?”
Julian paled. “A gun?”
The woman—presumably Samantha—crossed the room to her boyfriend in two long-legged, confident strides. Honey blonde hair hung to her waist, swaying with each step, streaks of purple and blue giving it a rainbow effect Reed would admire. “It’s all right, sweetie. I’ve got you.” Her arm came around Julian’s shoulders as she faced the group. “He’s got a bit of a thing about weapons. We’re working on it.”
“I was just telling Julian to shoot me a text for some lighting tips and equipment I don’t use anymore.” Keiran’s smile was relaxed, the same one he might give to a customer at the restaurant or any member outside of the core. He nudged his chin toward his phone, still in Julian’s hand. “If you’re both comfortable with it, I have some advice to offer, but his workplace might not be appropriate. Except it’s after hours and the topic...well, I brought it up.” He let out a light laugh. “Either way, I’ll text you my number, so feel free to contact me whenever.”
Trying again to exit gracefully, without shooting himself in the ass, Jared dug the gun to a safer level, forced to turn around to face the group again at the sound of Seth blithely offering The Asylum’s dungeon as a film set some day when the club was closed.
“Oh holy fucking shitballs, yes! I’ve heard about your place, and I’d love to see it!” Her focus shifted to Keiran. “Please say you’ll do a scene with me and Julian? I know you don’t film anymore, but it’d really help our cred and—” Moving in, her amber gaze swept Keiran’s form appreciatively. “—I promise Julian will be so good with you.”
Blinking as though Samantha had begun speaking in a language he couldn’t fully grasp, Keiran took a step back. “I don’t mind helping a bit with my experience, but I don’t...it’s...I’m sorry, Ma’am, I don’t think…”
“His Doms wouldn’t approve.” Jared interjected, shooting a look at Seth that promised he’d be dealt with later. Dom or no Dom.
Seth held up both hands. “Hey. You never know, Jared.”
“Well, I mean…” Samantha looked between the three of them. “Oh! No. I didn’t mean I’d be touching you, Keiran. It’d be you and Julian. I’d tell him what to do. But, I get that you’d need permission. Sorry for not asking your Dom. I just got excited. I’ve seen every film you’ve made at least ten times.”
Jared watched Julian’s expression morph from hopeful to disappointed, everything about his evening thoroughly upside-down. My gaydar may need a tune-up...
Exhaling slowly, Keiran nodded, the smile returning, though not as bright. “Thank you, Ma’am, I’m happy you enjoyed my work. I’m afraid that’s all that’ll ever be out there, but it’s very nice to hear it’s still being appreciated.” He cleared his throat, glancing over at Jared. “I need to check in and give the all clear, sir. Rhodey thinks you...need a drink and a cigar. I’m sure he’s just worried about you.”
Unsure whether Keiran really had a bug in his ear or whether he was trying to get all of them out of there without the merc putting a hit on Samantha—of the non-sexual variety—Jared nodded a bit too emphatically. “Yes. Absolutely. Just came to see what was taking Bizzy so long.” He motioned to everyone, holding the door open for them. “We need to get back. It was nice to meet you, Sam—er, Samantha.”
Julian threw him an apologetic look, letting his Domme lead him out by the hand. Seth followed, Jared giving him a light boot in the ass on his way by, which earned him a dirty look from the other Dom. Keiran brought up the read and Jared turned off the lights and closed the door to the clinic.
“What were you thinking?” Voice lowered, he started in on Bizzy the second Samantha and Julian had gotten into her car. “Keiran, you’re not to take the blame for that pornography shoot invite.” Jared shot the sub a look that Keiran missed, busy scanning the stretch of parking lot and the treeline beyond. “I’m telling Rhodey to horse whip Seth.”
“How is this my fault?” Arms wide, Seth slapped them to his sides. “It’s a club. It should be used by the community sometimes. Consider it charity.”
“Porn is not charity, Bizzenhofer.” Jared barked the correction. “It is, in this case, a man and a woman performing coitus and God knows what else in The Asylum dungeon. A sacrosanct place that Lawson will geld you for even suggesting might be made less so by not only a blue film but also non-members.”
“This is about her being a woman,” Seth shot back. “You’re sexist.”
“No, Bizzy.” Jared stopped in the middle of the lot, not caring at this point if someone started shooting at them. He’d just use Bizzy as a shield. “I’m gay. It’s a gay club. And though I have tried the other flavors on the menu, I and the other members of this club expect the space to be respected as such.” He raked his fingers through his hair in a way that he hadn’t since he’d been in the desert with this man. “I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation. Have you lost your damned mind? Have you no sense of self preservation?”
Rubbing his hand over his mouth, Keiran brought his gaze from Jared to Seth, then back to surveying the area as he spoke softly. “This discussion should continue inside, sirs. And as for the offer, I should have expected it. I shouldn’t have brought up the topic, I just...know what it’s like when you’re starting out.” His brow furrowed as he patted his pockets. Then he groaned. “Rhodey is going to kill me.”
Since the latter statement seemed of more immediate significance, Jared addressed it first. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“Julian still has my phone.” Keiran glanced toward the clinic, the last car that had been parked there long gone. “I’ll have to get Wren to clear it remotely. At least he set the password, so it won’t be easy to access, but that was careless of me. I had some nice pictures on there, too.”
“Well, he can be unimpressed with us both, my boy.” Continuing the final fifty yards to the security fence, Jared shook his head. “It wasn’t like Bizzy’s mess didn’t distract us all. I’m surprised Mr. Murphy didn’t send in a band of murderous thugs to take us all out while Bizzy had his dick in his hand.”
“Murphy’s Law has nothing to do with it.” Seth punched in the code to the gate. “It’s because neither heaven nor hell wants your miserable cantankerous ass, and you’re destined to live for a very long time.”
Keiran’s brow rose slightly as he closed the gate behind them. “I’m not sure if you were informed, sir, but it seems Pike had a rough night. He didn’t touch the ribs I set aside for him. I’m sure Quint has it handled, though.”
“What?” Seth lasered in on Keiran. “Why? Is he sick? He’s had all his vaccines now.”
“He’ll be fine, Bizzy.” Jared made an executive decision for the peace of the club. “I asked Rhodey to test Quint’s ability to hold his temper, so we fed him a little alcohol…” That was a lie, times two. “Or maybe more than we’d intended, but he’ll be alright.”
The fist to Jared’s jaw shouldn’t have taken him by surprise, but for a moment he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t facing in the same direction as Keiran and Seth any longer. Or why the pavement rushed toward him. A quick stumble to right himself, Jared dodged as Seth closed in for another blow. This time, guard up, Jared managed to deflect the next strike as well as duck the third.
“Back off.” The cocking of Keiran’s gun was the only warning before he pressed it to Seth’s temple. “Now.”
Breathing hard, Seth worked the tapered blade of his jaw side-to-side, hands flexing. “You stay away from my subs, McCleod. Both of them.”
Jared wiped blood from his lip and spat more onto the rain soaked pavement. “They’re not both yours.” He glanced at Keiran. “Stand down, my boy.”
Lips thin, Keiran glared at Seth, but gave a sharp nod before stashing his gun out of sight. With how snug his jeans and shirt were, it was hard to tell exactly where he kept his weapons, but he was no doubt as heavily armed as all those close to Rhodey, barring Danny.
Keiran jutted his chin to the side door of The Asylum. “Rhodey wants everyone inside. He says if he has to come down here you’re both sleeping in the cells tonight.”
Leaning close to Keiran, Jared made sure Rhodey could hear his reply. “You keep making promises like this, merc, someday I’m going to make you deliver.”
Without looking to see what Rhodey might’ve said—whatever it was, he had little doubt the reply would register on Keiran’s face—Jared went around to the back of the building just to spite the merc, and climbed the fire escape to the top floor.
Inside, he quickly ducked into the half bath off the entryway to judge the damage from Seth’s rage. A red spot and abrasions promised a nice bruise in the morning under his beard, but he’d live. Pink swirled down the drain as he rinsed and spat before he exited the bath to head for the bedroom to put Noah’s gun away.
“Sir!” Jamie caterwauled from the kitchen. “Jared’s back!”
“Inside voice, Jamie.” Jared started to shake his head, winced, and thought better of it.
Noah’s voice came at a more reasonable level, some laughter in it. “Finish scooping me some of that ice cream I’d rather not know how you convinced Matt to give you.” There was a thump as he kicked something—likely the couch. “If you’re crashing here, Curtis, text Lawson, I don’t need him pounding on my door at four o’clock in the morning looking for you.”
“Hell.” Finished putting the gun in the safe, Jared looked around for Wren, who’d been on the bed when he’d left. “Noah? Where’s Wren?”
Meeting him in front of the door, Noah looked him over, his smile fading and his gray eyes going dark. “What happened to you?”
“Are you going to penny me if I say I walked into a door?” Jared leaned in, claiming a kiss from Noah’s lips. They tasted sweet and cold, like he’d been sampling the ice cream that Jamie dished out.
Those gray eyes narrowed. “No, but I expect an answer. Wren is in my art room. He wanted me to paint the snow he was sure he saw outside. He thought he’d get a better view from there and said he’d call me when he sees it again.”
Jared blew out a breath, understanding what might tempt Jamie to deal in half-truths at moments like these. Tipping Noah over into anger was something all of them avoided if they could. It only made him feel bad if he lost control, and the boys worried about him.
“Alright, but you need to do that exercise Stephan gave you first. Then I’ll tell you.” Trying to smile made him wince. He brought a hand up to his jaw, testing it. “I really need to train more.”
Noah grunted, going to the living room and pushing Curtis’ legs off the sofa to hang over the side so he could sit. He braced his hands on his knees, taking a few steadying breaths. “Just tell me, my man. I’ll be fine. The building hasn’t been put on lockdown, so I’m assuming there’s no threat we need to brace ourselves for?”
“No. No threat.” Jared sat heavily in the leather side chair closest to Noah. “Sorry to have worried you.” The dim lights in the loft cast one half of Noah’s face in shadow, making his strong jaw and dark loose curls look like a living Rembrandt. “I left my briefcase on the bar. My phone was inside, password removed, and someone stole it.”
Noah’s jaw ticked and he rolled his neck. “Rhodey’s on it? Why isn’t Wren checking the security footage?”
“Because—” Curtis mumbled from beneath a pile of blankets. “I’m more handsome in person.”
“Not the time, Curtis.” Jared threw one of the decorative pillows on top of Curtis’ head where it landed and stayed, obscuring his face. “Wren was clearing my phone and locking everything down. I imagine he’s finished, but I’ll go check.” He started to get up from the chair, not really wanting to stay and get into the Seth incident.
Motioning for him to stay seated, Noah pushed to his feet. “I’ll get him. Looking out the window seemed to relax him, so I didn’t have the heart to tell him it won’t be snowing for at least a few more weeks.”
Jared loosely laced his fingers with Noah’s, tugging him around. “I love you.”
“This ice cream is like licking Reed and Noah at the same time.” Spoon in his mouth, Jamie spoke around it, standing in the kitchen doorway. “N-not that I’ve ever licked Reed…” Jamie stammered when he apparently realized what he’d said. “He just smells good.”
Brow raised, Noah shot Jamie an amused look before bringing his focus back to Jared. “I love you, too.” He squeezed Jared’s hand, then crossed the room, tapping Jamie’s nose. “I’ll have to take your word for it, don’t give me any of that one. And fetch your other Dom some ice for his face while I ease Wren out of his snowglobe fantasy, little cat.”
“Yes, sir.” Jamie grinned like Noah had personally flicked the switch on the sun and shone it on him and him alone, before he danced back into the kitchen.
Jared started to follow, certain that Jamie would bring him something ridiculous like a ham steak or a single ice cube to press to his face. The loft door knob rattled, then someone knocked. A glance at the security monitor slowed Jared’s heart rate, but not by much when he saw who it was.
Seth stood in the vestibule, glaring at the door.
Tempted to engage the air lock that would leave the man’s lungs the size and shape of two deflated party balloons, Jared opened the door.
Barging across the threshold, Seth headed for the kitchen. “Where are they?”
Seth stepped into the kitchen, then came right out. He headed for Noah’s art studio next, and Jared stood back to watch.
“So help me, Seth, turn your ass around and close that door.” Noah’s tone was low, calm—the voice he used when he was trying to keep Wren from getting upset. But there was an edge to it that said that calm wouldn’t last. “I don’t know what your problem is, but I don’t want it in here right now.”
There was a long moment during which Jared mentally tossed a coin on whether or not Seth valued life. Odds were he’d listen to reason, but if he didn’t he’d have to deal with both Noah and Jared because Wren came first. Always.
Seth backed out, the door clicking shut quietly. “Where are they?”
“Sleeping off Pike’s hangover.” Curtis spoke from under the pillow. “I wish they’d hurry up and finish so they could get to work on mine.”
“They need to rest, Bizzy. You can get them in the morning.” He stood with his back to the kitchen, watching Seth Pace the room.
“Why? So you can play more games with my subs’ loyalties?” Seth folded his arms over his chest. “I don’t care what the fuck you do with me, McCleod, but leave Pike and Quint out of it. What the fuck did Quint, expecially, ever do to you?”
Jared’s gaze narrowed. “You don’t really want me to answer that, do you? Because it would implicate you as well, as you’re aware.”
There weren’t really hard feelings for Quint, and things between them were good. Seth, however… That was a completely different story. One that Jared had no desire to revisit with a throbbing jaw and Noah in the next room with Wren.
Pillows and blankets slid to the floor as Curtis sat up, tugging the IV out of the back of his hand, pressing the hem of his shirt over the small bead of blood that formed as though completely immune to risks of infection. “Could you two maybe fuck and get it out of your systems? Some of us are trying not to puke up what’s left of our liver.”
Seth stalked toward Curtis, murder in his eyes. “Were you in on this?”
The front door opened, Reed stepping in, eyes on the book he held upside down in one hand while he pushed the door shut behind him. “Me and Matt got everything cleaned up—Lawson’s still in his office with those subs that got wasted and trashed the backbar, he ain’t in no mood to be interrupted. Noah, you left this downstairs. I think it’s a lot more interesting this way…” He lifted his gaze, frowning as he looked around the room. “Are we fighting again? Clue me in quick, I just got to a good part.”
Seth’s “Shut up—” was forcefully fed back to him with a speed Jared wouldn’t have credited from Curtis in this condition.
The driving tackle sent Seth backward into one of Noah’s ceiling height bookshelves. Volumes rained down from the upper shelves, thundering to the floor like a leaden rain.
“Jesus Christ!” Jared stepped over books, shoving both men out of the way.
From the kitchen doorway, Jamie gave him a wide-eyed look of awe. “You’re sexy when you’re mad.”
Seth growled something that Jared paid no attention to other than to say, “Get the fuck out of here and don’t come back until you’re invited.”
“Sir, I’m sorry.” Quint came out of the guest room carrying Pike, his eyes wide as he took in the wreckage. “I should have kept him with me. Please don’t...this is no one’s fault but my own. We can’t...don’t let this ruin what we had here.”
Taking Pike into his arms, Seth brushed his boy’s thick mop of blue hair from his bleary eyes. “What we have is apparently a sham, if Jared is going to keep conspiring with Rhodey to test a man he knows would die for him.” He threw Jared a disgusted look. “I thought I knew you. Now I wish I never met you.”
Jared focused on picking up the books while Curtis lifted the heavy shelf. He tried not to let Seth’s words sucker-punch him, a hard swallow the only tell he didn’t manage to shove down. “We all had to prove ourselves here, Seth. Even me.”
“Wait...who told you Jared was conspiring with Rhodey?” Quint put his hand on Seth’s shoulder, shaking his head. “Jared didn’t know how many drinks Rhodey had given Pike—or that it was intended as some kind of test—until Rhodey mentioned it on the phone. He had no part in this, it was all Rhodey.”
“I was there, my boy. I knew what he was doing.” Jared faced Seth and Quint. “I don’t question his motives or methods. He’s saved all of us too many times for me to give him less than my full loyalty. I suggest you learn to do the same.”
“I did what I could.” Curtis threw Reed a look that begged for understanding. “Though I think it only amused Rhodey that I swiped those drinks. How could he not have seen?”
Pike shifted in Seth’s arms, letting out a weak huff. “Is all this because I got wasted? For real? I’ve drank more when I used to go bar-hopping with Ez and no one got pissed. Well, sometimes he got a little pissed when I did it without him and he had to fetch me from the Uber because I couldn’t find my driver’s number. Or when I didn’t bother texting him or Ez and fell asleep outside.” He made a face. “But seriously, it’s not a huge deal. And Rhodey stopped drinking before I did, so I win.”
The incredulous look on Seth’s face was worth its weight in gold. Jared bit back a grin. “I’ll have to remind him of that.”
“Not helping.” Seth shot him a glare, then shifted Pike to cradle him closer. “We’ll talk tomorrow about exactly why it’s a ‘big deal’. Quint—” Moving around the rubble, he brought Pike toward the door. “With me.”
“Yes, sir.” Quint glanced over at Jared, his apology in his eyes before he followed his Dom out.
Sitting on the back of the sofa after retrieving the book he’d come in with, Reed made a face as he tried to adjust into a comfortable position and flipped the page. “Rhodey totally noticed, Curtis, he just likes you and wanted you to feel good. Also, Pike somehow doesn’t gain any weight with how much he eats and no way could he have gotten even that far without you. So...this was Rhodey being nice?”
Curtis flopped gently onto the sofa to stare up at Reed. “That’s my brilliant sparkles.”
Heading toward the art studio, Jared grunted. “I can’t believe I took a punch from him for nothing.”
“Not for nothing, he’ll get his.” Noah lifted Jamie into his arms. “My uncle may enjoy his games or ‘tests’ as he likes to call them, but he’s not the only one who gets to decide when someone fails.”
“I would’ve done the same in his place.” Jared paused in the doorway, facing Noah. “And so would you. Likely worse. Both of us. You don’t mess with someone’s sub without stirring up a hornet’s nest.” Though Curtis didn’t look all that worse for the wear, he made a mental note to check him over again once he’d had some time with Wren. “As much as I support Rhodey, and always will, I don’t entirely blame Seth. And neither do you when you stop to think about it.”
Making an unconvinced sound, Noah continued to their bedroom with Jamie. “We’ll see. When I do. I put the noise cancelling headphones on Wren before I came out, so be careful not to startle him.”
“Thank you, love.” With that, Jared closed the door on the conversation and the art studio.
To finally be with the man the universe had seemed determined to keep him from all night.
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