Terry and the Peachers

XVII

By Michael Arram

Terry and Jenna were on the ferry once more. It was the weekend and they were making the daytime crossing. Paul had returned to Finkle Road and Matt had jetted off to Italy. Terry and Jenna were in a peculiar state. Terry had no real feelings for Jenna, but his cock certainly did, and it had dragged him into several more sexual encounters. He doubted that she had any feelings for him either, but certainly wasn't shying away from the sex, meaningless or not. The pair of them were also basking in the euphoria of a personal call of congratulation from Richard Peacher and two startling bonus payments directly into their English bank accounts, Terry's rather larger than Jenna's. And Richard Peacher had apologised that they weren't on the scale that Anson would have demanded.

But Terry was deeply confused emotionally and for the first time in his life, felt that he was the victim. It was not a feeling he liked, but as soon as Jenna's hand stroked his groin he was ready to sit up and beg for anything. He hoped that the return to Courçon would bring back some equilibrium after all the excitement of the big sting on Anson, who was now in a high-security facility under detention under the harsh terms of the Terrorism Act. Jenna guessed that his many enemies in the intelligence community would make sure he stayed there as long as possible.

They were sipping thick French coffee as they looked at the wake leading back to England.

'So what's next, Terry?'

'According to what we've been led to expect, the fall of Madam Ambassador. I wonder if she knows that Anson is out of circulation? Unlikely, I suppose. She's back in the States now, and they don't report British news stories there. All she'll know is that communications with him and his team have suddenly gone dead. She'll think he's taken the money and run.'

'It'll be a bit of a relief just to get to be a bag carrier again. Phase Two is not our business, we'll just be spectators,' Jenna pondered

'Well, yeah. But riding the adrenalin rush was amazing. I'm still more than a little high. But something tells me that we're not destined to be left to vegetate. You know that the boss and his Matt have split?'

'Oops. I take it he's depressed.'

'It's sad the state he's in. But it means that all the old plans will probably be shelved. No return to England now, I think. I expect he'll stay with his plan of studying to finish his degree, but maybe not in England.'

'So I'd better plan for a long stay based in the States.'

'Yup. I've already got Mark at work on our long-term residence permits and all the tax complications, he's a regular little Trojan. He's got a whole range of alternative plans worked out, would you believe, depending on what Andy decides. He's still got a shift to Wiltshire scenario, a shift to London scenario, a stay in Los Angeles scenario, and - to me most likely - a shift to Santa Barbara one. I've told him to prioritise the last one. He's already bidding for space in the Peacher mansion. I told him to do it soon with the housekeeper, in advance of any domestic shake up that follows on from the fall of Mrs Peacher, although I didn't mention that as a possibility.'

'I'm looking forward to Santa Barbara. What's it like?'

'Big rambling mansion across a plateau on the mountains above the city: lovely climate, big pool, servants and security everywhere. We'll be a very small affair there. Andy has his own suite but we'll be shoved on the outer edge of the office block., I don't doubt. We probably won't get sleeping space in the mansion.'

'Talking about sleeping, I'm ready for an hour or two in the cabin. Coming?'

Terry saw a kindling of something in her eyes, and again he could not resist. They entered the small double cabin and Jenna swarmed out of her clothes. She never wore a bra. She was standing with her back to him, and he admired the boyish backside, with her small and muscular buttocks. He too was soon naked, and he came up behind her, holding her around the waist. He moved her long fair hair and kissed her neck, his erection channeled between her cheeks, she pushed back. 'You like my arse, don't you.'

'Like a pretty boy's.'

'Would you do me the way you do your boys?'

'What, up your arse?'

'Mmm.'

Terry fell to his knees and asked her to lean forward and spread her legs. He separated her cheeks and found her hairless crack and the pucker staring back at him. He deployed all his rimming skills, and found it not unlike what he usually did, but without the hanging genitals in front to caress and manipulate. Instead, he massaged and opened Jenna's vulva, and then worked patiently to get as much as his hand in there as he could.. She began shuddering and groaning as he worked at both her entrances, moving his fingers into her anus too. Then at length he stood, keeping his hand inside her vagina and entered her from behind. He pushed steadily, loving the movement of her body as she adjusted to his penetration. She's had anal sex before, he realised. He caught her eagerly looking at the image in a full length mirror of their copulating. He smiled and began pushing and thrusting harder. She began moaning his name. Jenna was a strong but light woman, shorter than him. With a sucking noise he removed his hand from her. He held her now by her crotch with both hands under her thighs and lifted her; she put her legs up to her chest, and he pressed her against the wall and began thrusting hard into her arse, suspended as it now was in mid air. Now he was moaning her name. He came explosively inside her rectum and held her there long after filling her up, the sperm running out of her on to his tight scrotum and then dripping on to the cabin floor.

'That was the best sex I ever had in my life... Terry you're a god.'

He gasped as he lowered her and they fell together on to the floor. 'They all say that.' He sat up his chest heaving. 'What am I doin' with you, Jenna?'

'Screwing my arse?'

'You know what I mean.'

'Well, I'm not trying to turn you straight or anything like that. But for casual sex with no emotional consequences, it can't be beaten can it? You don't like women...' Then it clicked.

'... and you don't like men.' he ended.

'Woah. A step too far there, soldier. I've never had it away with a sister. But you're right, there're not many men I would want to go to bed with. Most men seem to want to use me just for gratification or to bolster their egos. It put me off sex for ages. But no one could say that about you, Terry. Sex with you is sex on equal terms. So don't feel guilty, lover. You're a superb sex machine... no really, you are. You're not selfish, you care for the person you're with, at least while you're with them, and you may well be using them, but at least you're not abusing them.'

'So why do I feel it's wrong?'

'Ah, I can't answer that one. You love sex with me, don't you?'

'Er... to be honest, yes. Although I'd as much be shagging a man. I suppose I'm less homosexual than I thought.'

'... or more bisexual?'

'But that's not why it feels wrong. I don't feel as though I'm a traitor to my orientation, or anything like that. Some of the guys I've shagged in the past have had wives.'

'Then it's more personal, isn't it.'

'I suppose. Yes, it must be that.' He finally admitted to himself that the concept on cheating on a lover meant something to himself after all. He had fixed emotionally on Ramon, and it was changing him.

Another thought struck him, 'Hey. Why don't you care about protection when we have sex, Jenna?'

'I can't have kids, Terry,' she said, very matter of fact. 'As far as diseases go, I know you're very particular about precautions when you're with boys. You either shag virgins or you cover up otherwise. Take it from me, I'm just as particular. We've both got clean genitals. So we can enjoy the ride with the hood down.'

She closed on his deflating penis with her mouth, and stimulated it erect again. They stayed naked and making love all the way across the Channel, and he brought her to orgasm a surprising number of times in different ways. She was almost mindless with sexual stimulation by the time they'd finished. He came again in her twice, and although the last time for him was a lot of effort for little return, it almost pushed her over the edge. When they dressed, he noticed the dilated pupils of her eyes and the rosy flush to her skin.

'You are beautiful after you've been shagged to the point of delirium,' he said. They went for the car arm-in-arm, smiling.

Courçon was still the hub of the Peacher empire, although without Mrs Peacher, the kids and her staff it seemed quieter. Jenna went looking for Mark, and Terry went looking for Andy. He found him with a book on his lap on the terrace at the back of the house. He looked worn out, and Terry felt very sorry for him. But Andy put down his book as soon as he saw him and held out his arms. Terry held him long and hard. He felt Andy kiss his cheek, and he remembered why he was gay.

'My brave Terry, what a hero.' Terry kissed him back too, and not chastely on the cheek but taking his time, sucking gently on Andy's lips. Andy didn't draw away, but returned some of the attention. Terry got hard before he separated. He wondered if with a small push, he could take Matt's place in Andy's bed, but sternly ruled out that scenario. He was not a golddigger. Still, it would not be a bad idea if Andy did find some other boy to sleep with, and save him from futile introspection. That at least was what Terry would have done. They sat down, hand in hand.

'How're you, boss?'

'Considering my world has come to an end... pretty good.'

'It can't be as bad as that.'

'You saw him last, how did he look?'

'Unhappy.'

'But not irresolute, was he?'

'Well, no.'

'Making up his mind and sticking to it is what Matt does. I'm not too hopeful.'

'But he loves you, Andy. He must do.'

'Aah yes. Love. It doesn't necessarily make you happy does it.'

And speaking from his heart for once, Terry had to admit, 'No, it doesn't.'

Andy sagged a little against Terry, and he held him round the shoulders, kissing his golden head gently. 'Thanks, Terry. I don't know why people reckon you're just a cock with legs. You've got a lot of heart.'

'Do you want to talk about things now, or leave them till later, boss?'

'Later. You need to get over to the kitchen and get something from Mme Cirier.  She'll be glad you're back. I'll see you in the comm centre at nine, Terry, OK?'

Terry found Jenna and Mark talking earnestly. She had begun filling him in on what was going on in the Peacher world and on what they had been doing in England. Mark's jaw had dropped and he had not noticed. Terry added his information as she developed the story.

Mark put his head in his hands, 'I can't believe all this. You guys in England fighting contract killers. Mrs Peacher in search of a dossier that would destroy her. And now Armaggedon approaches. And she was so nice to me when I met her walking her dogs.'

Terry gave a grim little smile, 'And what did she want to know, Mark?'

'Nothing really. Was I settling in alright. Were my quarters comfortable. That sort of thing... oh yes, didn't I feel a bit lonely that Jenna and you were gone...'

'... and when would we be back?'

'Aah... right.'

Terry shrugged, 'I don't think you gave anything crucial away. She was just charming the help and laying the ground for making you more useful, in due course. She was on autopilot. I'm off to see Mme Cirier about some food, coming?'

They agreed readily enough, and talked over venison paté and red wine until Terry had to go to keep his appointment.

The comm centre was empty, and both Peachers were there. Richard got up and shook his hand warmly. 'Terry, thanks for all you've done. It was far more than I had a right to expect of one so young. But you are resourceful and very courageous.'

'Part of the service, sir.'

'It's silver service. You'll be coming back to Santa Barbara with us at the end of the week. I'm putting you in charge of Peter's security too, Andy thinks it's a good idea. You have a good relationship with the boy, as Andy says. You'll need to find an addition to your staff fairly soon. He's nearly fifteen, and although there's not much to do at the moment, pretty soon he'll be getting a social life which will need to be discretely monitored.'

Hm, thought Terry, you're a clever man, but you don't know your kids at all well. But he said. 'Very happy. Does Mrs Peacher know about your decision, sir?'

'There's a lot that Mrs Peacher doesn't know at the moment, but she will know soon enough.' His face became blunter and harder.

Terry felt daring, 'Is there something you can tell us about your plans at this point, sir?'

'No,' was the blunt reply. Then Richard unwound a little, 'I'll keep you briefed, Terry. You have a small part to play in the grand finale of my second marriage.'

'Thank you, sir.' Terry turned to Andy, 'Can you let me know what your plans are sir?'

Andy stirred, 'We're taking the Global with my father from Poitiers on Saturday. Mark and Jenna and the rest of the staffers will fly scheduled from Paris and join us in Santa Barbara, but you'll be with me, Terry.'

'You're not going back to Pasadena, sir?'

'I've given up Pasadena. Mark had Mrs Fuentas start clearing out our stuff and sending it on to Santa Barbara. She'll be taking a holiday for a few months, visiting family.'

'Your long term plans, sir?'

'Let's just say they're fluid, Terry.'

Terry thanked father and son, and took his leave.

He found his way back to his old room, and found the bathroom empty. So he took a bath and reminisced to himself about the fun he and Ramon had in it. Once out, he sat on his bed with his laptop and checked the e-mail he had not looked at now for nearly a fortnight. Once he'd discarded the junk he found quite a lot of interest. There were some quirky little messages from Peter Peacher giving coded highlights of his latest escapades with Jordan. He wrote back affectionately and lightly announced that he had just become responsible for Peter's security, so he had better be in bed on his own by 10.00 or he'd beat the living daylights out of him. See you soon. Love, Terry.

Then there was what he wanted to see, message after message from Ramon, now resident in a Catholic private college near Santa Ynez. He seemed to be finding it difficult without Terry, and he poured out all the love and adoration in his heart for his distant and separated lover. Tears started in Terry's eyes. This was not the immature puppy love of Will the Waiter, nor was it baffled lust. This was the pure thing itself and he felt awed to be at the receiving end of it, all unworthy as he knew himself to be. He wasn't sure how to respond to such outpourings, but he knew he must learn how to, and that soon.

He checked his bank account on line and looked open-mouthed at a very substantial six figure balance, mostly the result of Richard Peacher's bonus. Three months before it had been £145.50 after the Christmas binge. Money was going in, lots of it, and he wasn't spending any. Food, accommodation and all his travel were taken care of, so the balance was just mounting up. He put his head in his hands. He was going to need an accountant to deal with tax. He'd ask his dad: his dad had one he was sure. Time to grow up, Terry, in more ways than one.

He pressed the reply button to Ramon's last. He typed for over an hour, frequently stopping and deleting passages. He decided that he could only be truthful in the face of Ramon's love, so he told him truly how much he did miss him, how unworthy he was of what Ramon was offering. He told him about Will the Waiter and Jenna, although he knew it could only cause the boy pain, but he offered what meagre compensation he could in the assurance that none of them compared with what he felt for Ramon and that he was sorry for what he was coming more and more to regard as a tragic weakness in himself. He also began speculating what they could do when Ramon had graduated from high school; how he would get them an apartment near wherever his college would be, and they would be together as lovers. He ended with the big news that he was heading back to California.

A moving response from Ramon was awaiting him next morning. The kid must have been checking his inbox every spare moment. Terry felt even more guilty at the unbridled love and tenderness that cascaded out of the screen: the pure delight that Terry was thinking of him. Whether Ramon felt pain about the others he could not tell. Ramon cared only for him, the others were just phantoms. Terry wept, freely and openly, as he rarely had since he was a child, the tears running down his cheeks.

He went jogging round the perimeter with Jenna. She was much the same as if they'd never had days of intense sex together. Back in the Peacher household, she was not going to reactivate the relationship. It was all a bit weird for Terry, who had not felt out of depth in sexual matters since he was sixteen. But the backwash of the affair with Jenna had unexpectedly left them good friends, so much he could tell. She was easier and more relaxed with him than she had ever been. Maybe with Jenna you had to fuck yourself into friendship. Lucky old Mark, he thought.

There was a week to pass in Courçon. Terry had morning meetings with Andy and tried to get some decisions out of him as to his longer term plans. But Andy was evasive and was not willing to commit himself. In the end he told Mark to proceed with the Santa Barbara arrangements and compile a list of social work courses in North American universities, ready to present them to Andy. Jenna stood by as driver for Andy, and Terry put his blue apron on, much to his team's amusement and got back to helping Mme Cirier complete the big clean up of the château. All in all, it was quite a peaceful week.

He took Thursday off and talked Andy into coming into La Rochelle with him. The problem was that La Rochelle had been one of Andy and Matt's favourite places, and his boss spent most of the day on the verge of being weepy. He only cheered up when Terry dragged him to the aquarium, because Matt and he and not been there. Terry loved the shark tank. 'You feel something of an affinity with the old requins, do you?' asked Andy with something of the old impishness.

'I'm a changed man... or at least changing, honest.'

'Giving monogamy a chance then?'

'Er, not quite. But I'm nearly there. I just need to be in range of Ramon for the magic to begin.'

'Won't be long now, Tel.'

'Wow! Look at that kid there, the blond with the small arse. See the way he's looking at me. Fuckin' hell he's heading into the loos. That was a come-on if ever I saw it. See you in ten.'

Terry emerged with the grinning boy twenty minutes later, to find Andy sitting patiently reading the literature.

'How old was he, Tel?'

'I dunno... eighteen? Came in my mouth like a fountain, anyway. He wants to meet up later. He's got a pretty friend too.'

Andy surprised himself by going along with Terry, whose enthusiasm for casual sex tended to carry all morality and doubt before it. He was nervous. He had only had three sexual liaisons in his life, and Matt had been his partner for years now. They met up at a bar with Charlie and Michael, the two English lads, who were on a gap year travelling Europe, and Andy made an effort to chat up Michael, the pretty dark friend. He quite liked the boy, so it wasn't too difficult. It was an education watching Terry in operation. He sparkled with confidence, sexuality and humour. He drove them all north into the moonlit dunes. Though it was cool, he and Charlie left their clothes in the car and started making out under some bushes, and soon Terry was on top of the boy pumping energetically and enthusiastically into his rectum, the boy squealing with excitement and pleasure at Terry's size in him.

Michael too undressed and began undressing Andy, who did not resist, as it seemed somehow discourteous. Both Charlie and Michael were very polite and privately-educated boys from Surrey, and it would almost have seemed rude to turn them down. He let Michael take him into his mouth and in the end they got down next the car and adopted the 69 position. He gave it his best, and after five minutes heard the boy groan. Reluctantly he swallowed the cum of someone other than Matt. The taste surprised him by being different, thinner and more watery, and sweeter than the thick and salty ejaculation of his lost lover. When he couldn't come himself, Michael smiled and offered his backside and a condom. Andy was touched, but he declined and instead kissed the boy lingeringly on the mouth, and stroked him intimately. In a few minutes, his friend Charlie pulled Michael away, and very soon the two were in a complicated arrangement with Terry, who managed to come inside both of them. Andy lay back and watched the movie, stroking himself, and not exactly unmoved by their passion.

After half an hour they all lay naked together on the sand looking at stars, Charlie was sucking Andy skilfully from the front and Michael was probing his anus and massaging his prostate gland. They said they were determined to make him come and not feel left out. This time, he was able to comply fairly rapidly and generously, and Charlie leaned over him to share his ejaculation with Michael. Tasting local vintages was what you did in France, they said. Andy felt a certain guilty enjoyment at being the object of the sexual attention of two attractive boys at once. He listened with interest to the sexual memoirs of these randy eighteen year olds and their trek round Europe on their backs. They said that they had sold themselves to make money in Prague and fucked for DVD porno makers. They didn't seem in any way shy about it. When Andy wondered about their inevitable appearance on the internet, they just laughed.

'Look at it this way, Andy,' said Michael, 'I'm never going to be as pretty in five years time as I am now. It's immortalised our youth in a way; I only did it with Charlie, so I didn't get some scrawny Eurotwink with boiled cabbage breath and genital warts stuffing me. And when's my mum ever going to check out the sites I'll be on?' Andy surprised himself by taking Charlie's genitals in his hand and stimulating him erect. He went down on him and soon whispered to Charlie whether he'd like to take him. Charlie grinned, broke open a condom packet and took him enthusiastically from the front, Andy thrusting up with his hips as Charlie thrust down. It took a long twenty minutes for Charlie to deliver, which he did with a triumphant shout. Andy saw Terry watching and smiling as he took Michael on all fours next to him.

Andy concluded that the pair were compulsive exhibitionists. Something that was confirmed when they stayed naked in the back as Terry drove them to their campsite, alternately kissing each other and jerking each other off, and barely concealing themselves when other cars passed. What was the point, they said. Nobody wore much if anything on their campsite.

'Don't you dare spurt semen in the back of my car you bastards, or we'll see if you're into punishment too,' Terry snarled. They laughed hysterically and went back to necking. Andy found himself with his hands in his trouser pockets just watching them; they were hot and perfectly shameless. They wanted Terry and Andy to join them in their sleeping bags. Charlie in particular wanted another go with Andy saying some very complimentary things about his talents as a bottom, but they declined, driving off and leaving the pretty pair barefoot and bare-arsed walking up the dark track, their clothes and shoes in their hands, waving happily. Andy had secretly shoved five hundred euros in one of the pockets of Charlie's long shorts. There was something engaging about the dissolute pair.

'How do you feel now you're a cruiser, Andy?'

'Odd. Very nervous. I could get it up, but it took a while to come. Seems I can only do it easily with Matt. Still, they were sweet boys, if more than a bit mad.'

'Yeah, I'll see if I can get that DVD when it comes out.'

'Terry, did it occur to you that they were inventing a lot of that, just for bravado?'

'No, seriously?'

'I've been to Prague. It's pretty clear that they haven't.'

'So they were making it up!'

'They were teenagers, Tel. Teenagers live between fantasy and fear; well, apart from you that is. But you are not in any way typical of anything. You live in the world for the moment in a most unusually intense way. That makes you very dangerous and also a bit gullible, if you don't mind me saying so.'

'You're not the first to say that, boss.'

'It's nice; you're the most knowing innocent I've ever met.'

'Is that good?'

'I think so. By the way, who did you tell them we were?'

'I just sort of implied we were gay tourists from Swindon. I very much doubt they'd have recognised you, boss.'

'That's just as well. It's the advantage of having been in a couple with Matt. Everyone sees and recognises him, but me they never remember.'

'Don't know why, boss. You're quite a looker yourself.'

'Tsk, Terry. Don't flatter the boss.'

'No. Mean it. I'd pick you up anytime.'

'That would be more flattering, Terry, if I didn't know what you're capable of picking up when the mood's on you.'

Terry, impossible to insult, laughed his head off. He was secretly delighted to have led Andy astray, and he had loved watching him being ploughed by the boy, Charlie. Andy had that rare capacity to lose himself utterly in his lovemaking. It was very stimulating just watching him squirm and moan. Terry was pretty confident that his boss would be less absorbed in his misery from now on. The only problem was that the group sex had left him with a dangerous desire to have Andy squirming under him.

Saturday came, and the bags were out on the steps. A minibus and van were loading up the staffers and their luggage for the trip to the station at Niort. Terry was driving the two Peachers, and a well-built and silent security man had taken the seat beside him. He'd said his farewells to the Ciriers, who both kissed and hugged him, Mme Cirier saying that she'd miss him like one of her own sons. He waved at Jenna and Mark sitting together in the back of the bus, they grinned and waved back. He got the impression that they did not envy him in the least.

He turned out of the château, his car being followed by another carrying a PA and secretary. It was a silent journey north, with Richard Peacher working from his briefcase and on his mobile, while Andy stared out the window. Terry made one effort at chatting with the security guy, whose name was Zeke and who came from Topeka. But Zeke was beyond even his talents. Terry pulled into the airport car park and opened the door for Andy, being impressed at the cool way Zeke opened his side for Richard Peacher, while scanning the area for likely assassins, his hand on an imaginary pistol, which Terry reckoned would not be imaginary when they reached the USA. In fact all that was to be seen was a bemused-looking douanier, who didn't seem that dangerous. Terry went over to check the arrangements for embarkation and his by now fluent and well-accented French got him immediate attention. He and Zeke loaded the personal baggage on to a trolley and trundled through security and immigration after the Peachers, to find the Peacher jet in all its glory already warming up outside the shabby terminal.

They boarded quickly and the jet was already taxiing as the door was being shut by the steward. Richard Peacher was not a man for wasting time. The jet was modern and smelled new. Zeke and Terry sat at the rear. Terry got on with the next Pratchett in the series, and Zeke cleaned his nails and dozed. Andy came back to chat from time to time, and they managed to pass a lot of the time with computer games on Andy's impressive lap top. They touched down at Charlotte to refuel, and flew on directly to Santa Barbara. It was the cool of the early morning on Sunday when they disembarked and Terry went to get his boss's bags. He and Andy rode together in the back of their car as the waiting Peacher motorcade moved off.

'Well, here we go, boss. It's Armaggedon time.'

'Shh, Terry,' Andy whispered. 'She's got agents throughout the staff.'

Terry was delighted to find Sylvia Powicke waiting for the motorcade. Carlos and several domestic assistants unloaded the bags. Sylvia came over with a clipboard. Terry leaned in and gave her a kiss. She seemed genuinely happy to see him.

'Heard about your adventures, Terry. You're an underground hit with the loyalists here in Peacherland. You need to take this car. You and your staff are sharing an apartment downtown. Their flight comes in this afternoon, so get some rest and pick them up from the municipal airport.' She looked suddenly conspiratorial. 'There's a key staff meeting tomorrow at seven thirty. You're on the briefing team. Get as much rest as you can. You may be in for one hell of a ride over the next week. Oh, and I've left a present for you in your apartment. Here's the address and directions. There are three Chrsylers in the parking lot: pick your colour, the others are for Mark and Jenna.'

4445 Pacific Boulevard was a luxurious white condo behind flowering bushes, gorgeous in the bright sunlight. Terry changed out of his suit as soon as he got in, and explored the place in his boxers. There were beautiful wooden floors, expensive furniture and fittings and a fantastic wide balcony, with views over the beach and twinkling ocean. He checked out the three bedrooms, and picked out one for himself with an ocean view. It was his perk, he reckoned, as he put his bags on the bed. The fridge was full and he drank an iced tea, stretched happily in the sunlight, divested of his pants and unobservable from the outside. A packet with his name on it had been on the table. He opened it as he lay there. A slim pistol slipped out and fell onto his bare belly. His feeling of well-being abruptly disappeared.

He put on some comfortable leather sandals he had picked up in France, wrap-around shades, shorts and a polo shirt, and went back to the car, nearly incinerating his hand as he put it on the roof. Welcome back to Southern California, he thought. He was grinning all over his face as Team Terry arrived at the barrier, hot under their bags and European winter clothes. They had the grace to look pleased to see him through their tiredness. 'You'll like the condo, guys. It's got a gym, and a pool out the back, and a balcony with an ocean view... you better believe it, this is the life. How was the trip?'

'Jenna cheats at cards,' Mark complained.

'Mark is a wuss.'

'Cheat'

'Wimp'

'Crook'

'Limp wrist.'

'Ouch! You saw that, he hit me.'

'Call me effeminate again and I'll call you butch.'

They squabbled all the way back to the apartment, where they were struck dumb. Then Mark yelped, grabbed a towel and trunks and scampered out to the pool, followed by Jenna whooping down the stairs. Terry watched them horsing around from the back window, and although he was not too much up on heterosexual behaviour, he thought he detected that there was some sort of courtship ritual going on here.

When they were back, Terry had the makings of a meal on the go. They kicked around the possible significance of tomorrow's meeting, and the shape of the future. Jenna and Mark seemed blissful. They both agreed that the change of job was the best thing that had ever happened to them.

'And this place is amazing,' said Mark, 'A month ago I was living in a top floor flat off the Old Kent Road with two other guys from uni. The place had damp and it leaked and the heating didn't work. Since then I've been in a French château with attached forest and now a Californian condo with Pacific view and a cool Chrysler out front waiting for me to drive it. Maybe Andy will settle in New York or Boston or somewhere fantastic like that. I'm getting our long-term work visas sorted tomorrow in hopes. I'm seeing someone in the Peacher attorney's office.'

They drank wine out on the balcony till the sun went down, getting drunker and merrier. Terry told them the gems of his collection of cruising stories, but he was pleased to register that his mind clamped down on any indiscretion, such as what had happened with Andy and him in La Rochelle last week. Mark was as curious about gay sex as most straights Terry had got to know. The more graphic Terry got, the more questions he had. Jenna, on the other hand, got bored and nodded off.

In the morning, Terry was up with the sun, and sipped his coffee leaning over the balcony watching the glittering sea and distant sailboats bobbing. The other two were asleep. The Channel Islands were blue on the horizon. Then he dressed in a light blazer, preppy white slacks and Peacher tie, and drove up to the house. Zeke was on the gate; he nodded him through, unsmiling.

At 7.30 he was in the conference room with a number of Peacher officers, but he only knew Sylvia. The rest were in very expensive suits: directors, lawyers and media consultants he reckoned.

Richard and Andy Peacher came in ten minutes late. Andy caught his eye and gave a brief, pale smile. His father opened a file and uploaded a Powerpoint presentation.

'Gentlemen. Perhaps we had better begin by introducing you to each other. This is Terry O'Brien, my son's chief of staff, and a key player in recent events. Terry, you know Sylvia. This is Francis Cooper Freeman, head of my legal office; Randolph Castelnueva, chair of the Peacher Foundation; and Bill Franklin, chief executive of the Peacher Corporation. You all know that what is said in this room is confidential, and absolutely so.

To begin. On Friday afternoon I will be filing for divorce from my wife Eleanor in the Santa Barbara county court.' There was a subdued gasp and rustle around the table. 'I don't intend that Ellie gets more than a suitable level of support from my estate, and I intend also that the children will stay with me. Cooper?'

'I'm shocked of course, and very sorry. But Dick, you're not going to get anything like that good a deal. She'll be wanting a considerable proportion of your assets, and there was no prenuptial agreement. As for the kids... they're all minors, there's not a chance she'll give up custody. Is this wise? Peacher Corp will take a massive knock in the markets. Announcing just before the market closes will limit the immediate damage, but Monday will see Peacher stock in free fall.'

'Nevertheless, on Monday she will issue a statement accepting just such a deal.' Blank astonishment was succeeded by several voices at once. Richard held up his hand, 'This is one reason why she will.' He clicked a mouse. A succession of dated pictures commenced, beginning with the exterior of the mansion's pool house and showing Mrs Peacher in a passionate liaison with a young man, maybe a masseur or a tennis coach, he had that sort of athletic vacuity about him. The pictures were graphic to say the least. Terry suddenly realised how Peter Peacher and his friend Jordan had been caught in their secret liaison in the pool house, Peter's mother had been using another room for the same purpose. No wonder she had been so outraged at her son.

Cooper Freeman looked stunned, but rallied. 'I'm sorry, Dick, but although proven adultery won't help her, and it will speed the suit up, nonetheless it won't get you custody or limit her financial claims.'

'That's true, but let's start looking at some figures. Document after document began appearing, and although they meant little to Terry, the others in the room were taking notes and looking very serious.

'Six million dollars?' said the CEO of Peacher Corp, 'She embezzled that much? Cooper, isn't that a federal felony?'

The lawyer looked sombre but more confident. 'A cast iron indictment. She's looking at ten years however much her lawyers delay things. What did she do with the money?'

'Drugs for her nephew in part. I have a dossier here tracing the payments, and a friend high in the FBI has passed on a tape of her nephew's interrogation in Miami. He's willing to testify against her.'

'Then she's screwed,' said the lawyer, 'No offence.'

'The main thing,' said Richard, 'is to keep this out of the courts, and get her to take the package I have in mind. One house, comfortable income, and access to the kids, but not custody.'

'She'd be insane not to take it. But she might fight, nonetheless.'

'If so, then there's more and dirtier stuff.' He highlighted a group of entries. 'These payments went to a London group called Anson Securities. The head of the group is in prison in Britain on terrorism charges, thanks to Terry here.' The suits looked at Terry with new interest, and he smiled innocently back. 'We can link her and Anson with very little difficulty, and we even have tapes of their conspiracies, all directed against my son, Andrew, and his associates.'

Cooper gave what amounted to a smirk, considering the gravity of the occasion.

'Then she's done for. The only possibility is for her to try to brazen it out, and blackmail you with the scandal. But if she did, the likelihood is that she would end up in the pen, however good her lawyers. And what about her appointment as ambassador? Any open scandal and that would go by the board.'

'That's the reason why I pushed it with the President. She can portray the split as brought on by her life change. She can resign care of the children to me and seem caring.'

The lawyer smiled, 'Very clever. How do you want to proceed, Dick?'

'It's Monday. You and I will confront her on Thursday morning and give her the terms. She knows enough to see that there is no chance for her to tough this one out. But before then there is a list of employees I want terminated as of tomorrow morning. It's quite a long one. She has created what amounts to a network of informants within the organisation. She used them to get access to the money she needed for her schemes. I suspect she may have been blackmailing some of them, and I believe that at least one of them was another of her lovers. Sylvia has identified them all and for weeks she has quarantined them from any sensitive information that will help Ellie. If my wife notices they are gone, it will unsettle her, perhaps. I don't mind if she senses that things are wrong. I want her unsettled. Which is where Terry and Sylvia come in.' He looked keenly at the pair of them, sitting at the end of the table. 'I need you two on high alert till Friday, when she will be leaving the mansion permanently. Terry, I need you to watch the children. Sylvia, you've got the bigger job of watching the staff. I don't know what she might try, but you're to stop it. She is not to take the children away; if she does she will have a negotiating counter that she will use ruthlessly. You understand?' They nodded solemnly. 'Questions?'

He closed the meeting and adjourned with the suits for a strategy meeting about the impact of the affair on stocks of his corporations.

Sylvia and Terry looked at each other in the corridor. Terry heaved a sigh, 'What a guy. Remind me never to get on his bad side.'

'There's no end to his brilliance, or his generosity. He could have broken her, but instead he allows the creature the glittering diplomatic post that she manoeuvred and plotted for. He didn't care. He just wanted his kids. A really great man.'

'Can you give me a quick tour of the house, Sylvia? Are the kids in school?'

'The older boy is at his private college in the city, the little ones are with their nanny, their father doesn't want them in school until junior high.'

Terry was given a thorough tour of the precincts. Sylvia introduced him to the head of domestic security, a Mr Carol Wyszynsky, who was instructed to do anything Terry told him, and given to understand in no uncertain terms that Terry came between him and Sylvia in the line of security management. He looked mildly unhappy at taking orders from a rather fey-looking English kid, but he was ex-military and knew about obeying orders, even if they came from officers a decade junior.

Terry said goodbye to Sylvia, and told Wyszynsky to follow him. He headed up to the nursery, from which he could hear two bright young voices reciting tables. He knocked on the door and entered. He recognised the blond twins who looked up curiously from their work table.

'Sorry to interrupt,' he said to the young Englishwoman in charge, 'My name's O'Brien, I've just taken over responsibility for security, including that of the children. I thought I'd introduce myself... you must be Edward and Harriet.'

'Uhuh,' said Ed. 'I know you... you're Terry. You drove us to Courçon. You're Petey's friend. He thinks you're really cool.'

Terry grinned a grin that made him seem not much older than Ed. 'That's me. Can I just check around the room for a minute, access and overlooking windows.'

'Cool.' said Ed, 'Security stuff. You gotta gun like Wyszynsky?'

'Mr Wyszynsky,' Terry corrected the boy, without directly answering. In fact his shoulder holster had been reassumed, with its new occupant in place. He poked around. Then he apologised for the intrusion, telling the kids that he'd see them later. Wyszynsky took him to Peter's and the twins' bedrooms. Just ordinary kids' rooms; Peter's was a total mess, as he'd half expected.

'OK, thanks,' he said to Wyszynsky as they finished the tour, 'I'll need a room to base myself in for at least a week, and my assistant, Jenna Hartash, will be working with me. Other than that, we won't be bothering you, Carol.'

He nodded, and took him up to a small side office just off what he called the guardroom, where the security screens were watched by a crewcutted man in shirt sleeves. He told him to make himself at home, rang down to the kitchens for coffee and left Terry alone. Terry looked at his watch. It was ten. He rang back to the apartment.

'Jenna?'

'Terry?'

'Come up to the mansion. You found your Chrysler?'

'Mark took the cool blue one and left me with the red one, the git.'

'They'll direct you at the gate. Come round the back and park by the service block.'

Jenna arrived in their temporary office half an hour later, dressed in a female version of the Peacher livery, and looking unusually flushed and disorganised.

'That was the first time I've driven on the wrong side of the road,' she said, 'it unnerved me.'

He filled her in on the morning's events, she whistled with awe. 'Wow. So there was a lot more to her machinations than we'd ever imagined. Screwing the tennis coach, eh?'

'Or whatever he was. Let's go take a look at the love nest.'

Terry took her round the house, pacing round the big pool and across to the low pool house set in a grove of mountain oaks. It was empty, with storage below and vacant bedrooms above, the beds stripped but functional. He recognised the bed on which Mrs Peacher had done some unusual things with her lover. He looked up to where the camera had to be, and he thought he saw a small hole in the ceiling plaster. He couldn't resist checking the uncovered bed for stains, wishing he had a U/V lamp as in CSI.

'Urgh, Terry, you're disgusting.'

'You didn't say that when I was screwing you up your arse on the boat.'

'We enjoyed that.'

'We did indeed. You've not suggested doing anything else along those lines.'

'Terry, Terry. I never took you for the possessive type. We had a few days of very good sex. But it was only sex. We both move on. How many guys have you screwed since then?'

'Only two.'

'Well there you are.'

'Have you slept with Mark yet?' Terry asked impertinently.

'Now how do you reckon on that? Mark's a lovely bloke, but he's more like a kid than you are, even though he's three years older than you. You don't seduce men like Mark lightly. He wants more than a casual fuck; he wants a relationship. I don't do relationships.'

'Sorry, but I thought I detected a connection between you two.'

'He's funny, and he makes me laugh.'

'Aah. That's how it all starts.'

'Stop being so wise. You're nineteen.'

'Nearly twenty.'

'My point exactly.'

They laughed, and moved on.

As they were walking round the back of the mansion, they were suddenly confronted by Mrs Peacher and Hampton Stuyvessant as they turned a corner. They all stopped, rooted suddenly.

'Good morning, Madam Ambassador, Mr Stuyvessant.'

'Mr O'Brien, I believe.'

'Yes, ma'am. This is my assistant, Miss Hartash.'

'Why are you here?' Stuyvessant looked very interested at the interchange, and was for once looking directly at Terry's face.

'Here, ma'am?'

'Here, yes, in the mansion. You have no business here.'

'I believe that with Mr Andrew Peacher here, I do. I'm his chief of staff and Miss Hartash is his security officer.'

'This is ridiculous. He's just a boy and giving him a staff is wasting money and pandering to his self-importance. I would not get used to working here Mr O'Brien, not at all.' She marched off angrily, followed by Stuyvessant, who gave a curious backward glance at Terry.

'Something's got her goat,' Jenna observed.

'Yes. She's just seen me alive and well. Anson hasn't done his job and she can't raise him. She must sense her affairs are on the slide.'

Terry checked out with Sylvia, and Jenna and he took his car and went driving round the city, buying lunch on a sidewalk café. They sat in the sun, with their shades on looking at the beautiful people pass by. They compared men they fancied, and discovered that they had similar tastes. Dark, slender men with small butts turned them both on. Terry annoyed her by claiming them all as gay.

'How do you know?'

'It's gaydar.'

'That's bollocks, as we used to say in the marines.'

'Course it's not. As soon as I see a guy I mystically know whether or not he is of my persuasion.'

'How come they stare at me then.'

'They're just covering up. Really they're trying to scan me out of the corner of their eyes.'

At three they headed back to the compound, in time to see Peter in a school uniform emerge from his SUV. Terry told Jenna to be scarce for an hour or so.

Peter's handsome little face brightened when he spotted Terry, and he ran over, giving Terry a high five.

'Terry, my security chief and mentor, wassup?'

'All sorts of things. We need to talk, Pete, and not here. Have you got a mobile?'

'You mean a cell? No. Still grounded.' Terry chucked his mobile to the boy.

'Ring Jordan, and see if he can get to 4445 Pacific Boulevard, apartment 18. We'll meet him there at seven.'

'Cool. Secret stuff.'

'Homework?'

'Jeez. How did you know?'

'It's a law of nature. If it's not finished by 6.45 I'll shoot you in the kneecaps.'

'I'm on it.'

'Be round the back by my car at 6.45, dark green Chrysler, local plates. And don't forget to give back my phone,' he shouted after the speeding boy.

The car was running when Peter hopped into it and startled Terry by kissing him decidedly and firmly on the mouth.

'What's that for?' he said, licking his lips. The boy tasted very wholesome, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in fact.

'Cos I like you, and cos we're gay.'

'I'm glad we got that clear. But... er... Pete, I know lots of gays who don't do the kissing thing.'

'Sorry, have I upset you?'

'To tell the truth, no. I liked it. Do it any time you want.'

Peter giggled. He was in tee shirt, soccer shorts and trainers with no socks. He took off his shoes straightaway and put his rather gorgeous bare feet on the dash as soon as they left the compound. The window was open and his thick and tangled blond hair was fluttering in the breeze. He had delicious freckles and a brilliant smile; he was an absolute delight to look at. The kid had long left the pretty stage and getting very much into the handsome one. He had matured physically even since he first saw him, hiding in Ramon's bed. His legs were thicker and feathered with gold hair beneath the knees. It was also clear that he was wearing no underwear, as one of his pink testicles was distractingly falling out of his shorts and his penis was obviously responding to the breeze on his scrotum. Terry focused on the road. Two years more, so help me, and you won't be able to keep me off him. The boy is going to be a major babe, and he knows it too.

At Pacific Boulevard they found Jordan hanging round the condo entrance with his mountain bike. Terry ushered them upstairs. Mark was already at home reading a paper and watching the TV. Terry introduced the boys and sent them out on to the balcony, and came back with cokes; they were necking enthusiastically, Peter's tongue far down Jordan's throat.

'Break it up, lads.' he ordered. They separated smiling, but Jordan sat on Peter's lap and held his boy lover round the neck, staring at him like a lovesick puppy.

'So what's this about, Terry my man,' asked Peter.

'I'm not sure where to start, Pete, but I think you both need to know what's going on. Nobody's given me heads up for this, and if I'd said I was going to do it, I think I'd be fired. But you need to know it. Trouble is, once you do know it, you're going to have to pretend you don't, and it's not the sort of news that will sit easily in your head.'

'So mysterious, Terry.'

'Straight to it then. Your dad and mother are about to divorce.'

'Shit.' Peter's mouth had fallen.

'Sorry. Is it a shock?'

'Sorta. But it's not the divorce so much - they live different lives in any case - it's the fact that she'll walk off with us kids. She'll make sure I don't see Jordan and Andy for years. She's a cow.'

'Well, here's the good news. She won't. Your dad has arranged it so that she won't be able to hang on to you. You'll stay with your dad.'

'Hey, good old dad. How did he do that?'

'I can't tell you, but your mother will only have access, not custody.'

'This gets better. I appreciate you telling me this, Terry. You're an ace. But how much aren't you telling me?' Terry suddenly realised that Peter was a lot more like his father intellectually than he was comfortable with.

'Er... an awful lot. You need to get it from Andy though, not me. Ask him Friday,'

'Friday?'

'That's when the news will break. There's another reason why I'm telling you this. I'm responsible for your protection, Pete. I have some reason to believe that your mother knows more about what's going on than people, even your dad, thinks. I think that... no, I fear that... she will make moves to secure you kids under her control and take or send you away. That's something that I must stop at all costs. But it isn't easy. She's your mother and until the divorce agreement is signed, no legal force in the land can stop her.  So this is what I propose. Here's a cell phone for your use, fully charged, and it's not just for you to spend the nights talking dirty to Jordan.' They sniggered. 'You need to ring me, any time of day, if you spot something peculiar starting to happen. Then you need to get yourself and the twins to a hiding place. Any suggestions?

'Yeah sure. There's a fort me and Jordan made when we were little, down in the ravine. There's a secret path and an overhang. You'd never know it was there... that's where we showed each other our dicks and had our first blowjobs.' They giggled. 'The twins know it too, cos the little rats followed us once and nearly caught Jordan jerking off on my face. I was going to beat the crap out of that Ed, till Jordan stopped me.'

The secret life of kids, Terry reflected, who'd believe it? 'OK. Then that's your safe area in case of trouble. You run there, and take the twins. But will they come with you?'

'Certainly will. I know where Ed keeps a joint he and his hideous little gang found in the woods and were smoking last month. He threw up into the pool. He'll do anything I tell him.'

'OK then. Now I've got to take you back in half an hour. That's my bedroom through there. Have fun.' Their eyes sparkled and they looked at each other. Before he knew it, they had closed on him, both giving him decidedly prolonged, affectionate and erotic kisses in turn. There was an inevitable reaction, made worse when a boy's soft hand started feeling his genitals appreciatively through his trousers.

'Ooh, I didn't know they got that big,' Peter whispered through a broad grin. 'You make Jordan and me look pathetic. Can we have a big talk some day about gay stuff, Terry? Something tells me you may be the best guy to talk to.'

Terry caught his breath, their reaction had taken him aback, as did his own reaction to their playful advances. For the first time he belatedly realised that there was a serious crush problem developing with Peter. 'Uh, sure. Some other time.'

They dashed off, and his bedroom door slammed behind them. Laughter was succeeded by silence followed by the creaking of his bed and some muffled grunts and groans.

Mark looked curious. 'Whassup with those lads, Terry?'

'Er... don't ask. Just let's say that they're friends who've been apart a long time.' He turned the TV up.

Talk about this story on our forum
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily. Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]