For those of you who have been complaining about the length of these updates, as my mom would say, quit your bitchin. lol Here's an extra thousand words for you this week. Now back to my never-ending work week. Yes, I work weekends. More fun coming soon. :)
XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
HEART FOR TRADE: WEEK 14
Ryan was so cold, he could barely think above the chatter of his teeth. The robe was soft, but it did nothing to ward off the bone-chilling temperature of the hallway. At least the fabric smelled like Sam, Ryan thought. He pulled the robe tighter around him, inhaling. He stopped. Thinking about Sam wasn’t going to get him anywhere. For all he knew, Sam wasn’t really who he said he was. Men professing their love and care didn’t usually have secret hideaways off their bathroom. Not that he had much experience with men or with bathrooms. However, he was pretty sure this wasn’t normal.
In the soft glow of the single bulb lights from above, Ryan managed to find the door handle. He could make out two other doors the same as the entrance before him, but this one was closest. Turning the handle, he was surprised as it clicked open. With such a secret place, he’d figured all the doors would be locked. And yet, the metal door opened with a soft push.
Ryan stood there, looking at another dark entrance as the metal continued to creak. His situation had gone from bad to worse. His mind conjured endless possibilities to what lie on the other side of the threshold. What if someone was in there waiting for him in the dark? What if this was a trap and the minute he stepped foot inside, he’d be blown to pieces? After all, he was on an Army base. They did have weapons. He’d seen them with his own two eyes.
Calming himself before he got worked up, Ryan thought his next move through logically. Most likely this place was only for Sam. There weren’t any cameras here, no speaker boxes either. Sam wouldn’t booby-trap his own secret hallway. Whatever was in here seemed valuable, and obviously the Commander wished to keep it hidden from the rest of the base. He wouldn’t want it blown up with a single step. It was just a room, albeit a secret room, and just like any other room in this place, there had to be a light.
Braving a step forward, Ryan slid his hand into the open space and slipped it into the dark. Smooth concrete greeted his fingers as he ran it over the wall in search of the switch. Relief flooded him. He flicked his hand along the switch and the room sprang to light with the hum of a fluorescent lamp on the ceiling. His relief was short lived, though. What he saw both freaked him out and beckoned him closer. Perfectly placed stacks of books lined the floor, creating a three-foot high ledge around all four walls. A desk, simple and industrial, sat in the very center of the large room. There was nothing, but a sheet of paper and what looked to be a marker on it. A worn chair with wheels was pushed into the desk, just waiting for its occupant.
But that wasn’t what made Ryan’s blood run cold. From the tops of the books to the ceiling, covering every square inch, were handwritten letters and numbers. Some were thicker than others, some very small, but all of them looked like the scribbles of a madman. Ryan swallowed, stepping further into the room. His heart raced as he spun around slowly to take it all in. Now that he looked up, even the edges of the ceiling had been covered with marker. Scarier still… Sam had done this. This was what he was hiding. What did it mean? How many hours had he locked himself away in here to do this?
Terrified that he was locked in the hallway of insanity, with his supposed partner sleeping mere yards away, Ryan went to turn off the light and find a way out. But as soon as he faced the door, he lost his ability to move. Looming in the doorway, looking every bit a serial killer, was Sam. A hoodie covering his hair, his eyes shadowed, narrowed at Ryan, Sam crossed his arms. A deadly looking flashlight was in his hand.
“Oh God.” Ryan put his hands up. “I’m sorry, Sam. I won’t tell anyone. Please don’t hurt me.” He backed up to the desk, metal thumping against his ass. “Just please…”
Sam’s eyes went wide. He pulled his hood back, realizing how he must look to Ryan. He put the flashlight on the ground and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Ryan, I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Please,” Ryan repeated. He patted his hands around the desk behind him, guiding his body around the rectangular perimeter until he was safely standing on the other side.
“Ryan!” Sam got his attention. “I said I’m not going to hurt you. Jesus,” he whispered.
Gripping the back of the chair, Ryan swallowed. He finally saw the flashlight on the floor. Sam had his hands raised and his hood pulled back. He didn’t look so scary anymore, but Ryan still shook from head to toe. “What is this, Sam?”
“This is my hopeless effort.” Sam shrugged. “I know how it looks, but I’m not crazy, Ryan.”
Lifting a brow, Ryan studied the walls again. “You sure about that?” His voice gave away his lingering fear.
“I guess not, seeing how freaked you are.” Sam bent down, dusted off the first book of printed documents, and picked it up. “It’s how I relieve stress. Sometimes I spend entire nights in this room, hoping I’ll find it, but I know I won’t. You can’t blame me for getting angry sometimes. Not that you know what the pressure feels like.”
“Hoping you’ll find what?” Ryan felt the tension dissipate. The sad look in Sam’s eyes, even from his profile, made him finally exhale. His body relaxed, but he still stayed behind the desk. Sam thumped the book against the desk, making Ryan flinch.
“Hoping I’ll find the password to the countdown. Or the end to my obsession, if you want to call it that.” Sam smirked, but the humor didn’t reach his eyes. “These are printouts from the decryption software before the database stopped updating.”
Ryan shook his head, confused. “The what and the what?”
“Right.” Sam opened the book, smoothing out a page. “The countdown is connected to the computer, following?”
“Okay.” Ryan nodded, leaning over the desk to look at hundreds of tiny combinations, letters and numbers like on the walls. Only these were neater, printed, and in little columns.
“The computer is connected to a larger database, letting us reach the other countries. When the countdown hits the database, every country will receive the same numeric clock on the big screen and a password-locked main screen on the computer.”
“But you said you didn’t have the password.” Ryan frowned.
Sam looked up. “We don’t. That’s why, since the death of my father and the loss of the password, we let a program try to find it for us, which is called decryption software. In the peak of the age of technology, the government used the software on an everyday basis, hacking into enemy computers from overseas, defusing password explosives, and a lot of other things. Here in Rineway, we were able to use it for a while to try and track down the password to the countdown.” Samuel fingered the top of the page. “We even used the other countries passwords to help narrow down the search, but their passwords were changed every ten years, as were ours, by the Commander in charge. Pretty silly to think it would lead us somewhere, I know, but it was worth a shot.”
“So all of this…” Ryan raised his hands, “was to find the password.”
“Yep.” Sam smacked the book shut. “You probably think I’m bat-shit now, but I’m not. A lot rides on my shoulders, Ryan. Sometimes I get stressed out.”
“You telling me you’ve never done anything to relieve stress?”
“Sure, I make things out of wood. Guess that’s not near your level of stress, though.”
“He up and died on me, Ryan. The man that was supposed to teach me everything he knew, he left me right in the middle of my Commander training. He left me without instructions. He left me with a base full of men and women that didn’t think I was right for the job, and he left me without a fucking password to save the world when that counter showed back up. Call this crazy, make fun of me all you want, but yeah, I am very, very stressed out.”
“I wasn’t teasing you. I’m concerned.”
“And minutes ago you thought I had come to bludgeon you to death with a flashlight, didn’t you? You were, and still are, freaked out.” Sam put the book back on its stack.
Ryan rubbed his eyes and sighed. “I’m not scared of you anymore, Sam. Yeah, I let my imagination get carried away for a second, but now that I know what’s going on, you don’t scare me. And I’m sorry about your dad. I know how hard it is to lose someone you love, need them so badly it hurts, but know they’ll never come back. I know exactly the place you were in, because I’ve been there. I was never going to be the leader of the pack, more Jarum’s thing, but no one else got me except my mom. Now that she’s gone, I’ve had to go it alone. I also don’t know about a password, but it sure as hell feels like I need one to get anywhere with you. One step forward, two steps back, you know? You could just stay still for a minute and talk to me before we end up back where we started.”
“What do you want to talk about?” Sam was exhausted.
“I have questions and I’d like you to be upfront with me.” Ryan crossed his arms.
“First, what are in the other two rooms, and why is this place here?”
“This was my father’s old office and quarters. He had it sealed after he became Commander from his father. He liked his privacy, a lot. The next room is old stuff of his, army memorabilia he collected from traders and stuff of my mom’s. I didn’t want to give it up. Call me sentimental.” He shrugged. “And the room after that is…” He flicked his eyes up. “It’s better if I show you. I never go in there because I swear I’ll be tempted to stay.”
“It’s not guns, right?” Ryan shied away.
“You think I’d want to stay around a bunch of guns?” Sam kept his face neutral. “How about we both think before we speak from now on? Two steps forward and keep on walking.”
Ryan almost slapped himself. “I didn’t mean to say you were… Shit, I’m sorry. You and I speak two different languages sometimes, I swear. Okay, from now on all this misunderstanding each other is done. Clean slate, okay?”
Sam smiled—a genuine show of teeth with a sparkle in his eyes. “Deal.” He held out his hand. “I think we both deserve a little treat. Come with me.”
After turning out the light, Sam led Ryan down the hall to the last door. The Commander grinned. “You can’t tell anyone about this, not even Jarum. No one knows this is here.”
“Not even Benny?”
“No. This is between you and me. No more secrets, right?”
Ryan had no idea what was behind the door, but he felt his stomach do a flip-flop. Not scared, just happy. There was more to intimacy than sex. Sam was trusting him with something important and it felt really good. Ryan smiled up at Sam. “Right.”
As the door opened under Sam’s touch, Ryan’s heart raced with excitement. A mixture of scents rolled in from the darkness on the other side. He smelled something sweet, something spicy, something old and cozy, and he licked his lips.
“Maybe we should wait until tomorrow. You have to be tired.” Sam couldn’t keep the grin from his face. Ryan elbowed him, laughing.
“Turn on the damn light and put me out of my misery. Not to mention it’s fucking cold out here.”
“I will.” Sam spun him around until his back hit the doorjamb softly. “For a price.”
Ryan coyly lifted his gaze. “And what’s that?”
“Make me a promise.” Sam bent down, touching his lips to the exposed length of Ryan’s neck.
Like a fire had been lit inside of him, Ryan’s hands immediately sifted through all of that dark hair. He clutched Sam to him, letting the Commander’s body cover his. “Anything.”
Sam sucked slowly at Ryan’s skin while toying with the opening of the robe. “Promise to never let me go back in that room.”
“It’s unhealthy,” Ryan agreed on a moan.
“I know.” The robe parted for Sam’s hand, allowing him to run his hands up Ryan’s thigh to his hip. “Promise me.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes. I promise,” he husked.
“Anything?” Sam shivered at the thought.
“Anything.” Ryan pressed harder against Sam’s hand as it traveled up his side. The belt to the robe loosened, coming undone.
With a soft kiss to Ryan’s mouth, Sam stood up straight, and tied the robe up again. “Thanks, and you’re getting better.”
“Was I a bad kisser?” Ryan covered his mouth, embarrassed.
Sam laughed. “No, I meant this.” He ran a hand over Ryan’s robe-covered cock. Hard in his palm, he gave it a little squeeze.
Ryan blushed, tightening the robe before batting Sam’s hand away. “I … well …”
“I heard.” Sam’s brows rose, a naughty grin on his lips. “Before your little adventure to the other side, that is.”
Cheeks blazing, Ryan ducked into the dark room without thinking. He couldn’t look at Sam or he’d explode, no matter how much self-control he thought he had. Listening to Sam’s chuckle, Ryan had to cover his eyes as the room was lit with a small chandelier. Lowering his hand, he forgot how to breathe.
“What in the hell is this place?”
“The room of forgotten treasures.” Sam walked past him, giving him a smile over his shoulder. “That’s what my dad always called it.”
A large white canvas screen took up one wall. Two red, cozy looking chairs sat in front of it with a strange looking contraption on a table between them. On either side of the room, metal shelves went from floor to ceiling. Bottles in an array of colors took up one shelf, some corked, some with metal caps. Rolls of fabric in beautiful colors and patterns were propped in a corner. Three large cardboard boxes with Hershey written across them made him cock his head. Clear tubs filled with little contraptions, cords, and plugs filled more shelving.
There were books, clothes, aluminum wrapped snacks. There were rugs, jewelry, scrapbooks full of pictures. There were computers, if that’s what they were, and another device that drew his attention immediately. It blinked with a little red light, causing him to come closer.
“What’s this?” He breathed, running his hand over the circular protrusions that looked a lot like the speaker boxes around the base.
“When I first heard this, I almost had a heart attack.” Sam smiled. “But now, it’s my favorite thing in the world. This is a stereo, Ryan. This is music.”
“I’ve heard traders play music before, not on a stereo, but…”
“This isn’t the campfire, Ryan. Sit down and close your eyes.” Sam grew serious. Ryan was nervous.
He sat in one of the red chairs, almost sighing as he sank into the plush cushion. The chair had a curved back with wood trim around the luscious red fabric. A few heads taller than he, it allowed him to rest his head. He was so comfortable, the chair seeming to wrap him right up as his hands smoothed over the equally plush armrests.
“I feel like a king,” Ryan confessed, closing his eyes.
Sam fiddled with the stereo, loading a cd into the drive. “Those were an anniversary gift from the French Ambassador to the President before the war. He brought them underground with him when he and his family lived here.”
“The President lived here, as in the President?” Ryan’s eyes shot open.
“Yes. As much as people would like to believe the President would stay topside and go down in glory, the reality was, he and his family were just like any other. He did everything he could to protect his country and his family at the same time. If this was an option for your family when bombs were blowing up everything around you, wouldn’t you run to safety?”
“Of course, you can’t blame a man for protecting his family, and if you think I still blame you for keeping all of this a secret, I don’t, Sam. I really don’t.” They shared a smile. “These chairs alone are worth protecting. To be sitting where the President sat, a part of history … this is something I’ll never forget.”
“I’m glad you appreciate them,” Sam said sincerely. “The things in this room are some of the most prized possessions that we were able to salvage over the years. Some were here from the beginning, and others we acquired by trade.”
“You must have had something good to give.” Ryan looked around the room.
“We did … life.” Sam turned back to the stereo. “Food, fresh water, warmth, people were willing to part with their trinkets for a better cause. Some people would part with anything to save their family.”
“Am I a trinket?” Ryan mused, running his hands over the fabric in wonder.
“You’re more than a trinket.” Sam’s voice cracked a little. “Which is why you’re sitting in that chair, here with me.”
“I was teasing you,” Ryan argued softly.
“I know, but don’t ever think you’re not worth something. To me…” Sam turned around with a small remote in his hand. “You’re everything. Close your eyes, Ry.”
On that beautiful note, Ryan closed his eyes, a little sad to break the breathtaking stare Sam had given him. He felt Sam’s hands cover his. The Commander’s body moved between his legs. A pure note of heaven filled the room, a female voice bouncing around his head like an angel. Words in a language he’d never heard sang true with passion, crashing like waves against his soul. His mouth opened to speak, to cry out how delicious every note was, but he’d lost his voice.
“This is music,” Sam repeated on a whisper, opening Ryan’s robe to reveal his naked body.
Eyes still closed, Ryan felt the cool air greet his skin. Kisses fluttered over his chest. Hands ran over his legs, gripping gently as the music grew louder, telling a story of the need between them. Fingers slid over his length, sliding up his heated flesh, and still he couldn’t move an inch. Never before had he heard anything so beautiful, so decadent and rich, so powerful and moving. The voice, along with Sam’s touch, gave him the feeling of floating. Tears streamed down his face. His heart clenched in the most emotional way. This was new, pure, and everything he’d ever wanted. This was learning. This was romance. This was his life now. This was Sam.
As lips covered his, he sucked in Sam’s ragged exhale, taking in the taste of the man he’d come to trust. His tongue greeted Sam’s, a slow slide of heat in his mouth. A knee pressed to his erection as Sam cupped his face, giving him something to grind against, never once breaking the passion between them. The wash of the singer’s voice bathed him in shivers. The touch of Sam’s fingers left him warm instead of cold. He never once thought of how long he would last this time. He paid no attention to the hour or the minutes. He just went with the flow, completely relaxed against the man who had claimed him. Slowly, Ryan realized what this sweet gesture had become. Sam wasn’t crazy. He wasn’t a bastard for taking him away from his family. He wasn’t insane for wanting to find the answers. He wasn’t frigid or uncaring to his needs.
He had given Ryan more in a few days than he’d ever experienced in his whole life. He’d learned. He’d trusted. He controlled, and he’d survived. No man would ever give him that unless he was in love. Sam loved him. Ryan knew that to be true, even never having known this kind of love before.
Slowly opening his eyes as Sam’s lips brushed over his, Ryan put his hand to Sam’s cheek. “Make love to me.”
Sam’s eyes closed tight. Years of being alone, of wanting something he’d never thought he’d have, leaked in the form of tears from the corners of his eyes. He smiled so wide, he thought he’d die. Eyes open, glassy with joy, he leaned down and kissed Ryan the way lovers do, perfectly.
TO BE CONTINUED…