The next time he saw Adam was two days later. This time, there was no lawnmower. Adam was carefully pruning the newly planted azalea bushes around the pool, and Karl happened to catch sight of him out of the window. Adam had a piece of paper in his hand that he kept referring to after each snip of the shears, obviously some kind of cheat sheet. It was tempting to go out there and supervise; however, Karl told himself that he wouldn't. He was going to avoid Adam from now on, because there was no point in torturing either of them with the kind of interaction that would just be a repeat of the previous time's.
It was a hot day, though. A swim would feel good.
Karl changed into his swim trunks and slathered on some sunblock, then went out to the new pool. He didn't acknowledge Adam's presence at all, pretending that he hadn't even seen him. It would just make Adam uncomfortable.
The water, heated by solar power, was almost too warm, lapping against the steps leading down into the pool with languid slaps as Karl dived in and disturbed the pristine surface. It was a good pool, deep enough to make diving safe at one end and long enough to allow a swimmer to work up some momentum before needing to turn and push off again. And although the interior was a mosaic of aqua and green tiles, sparkling brightly, the pool was a sensible rectangle.
He swam without trying to impress Adam with excess speed, his body cleaving the water as noiselessly as possible, a skill he'd honed over the years. No need to worry that a splash would give his position away here and invite a bullet, but it was more effort to be careless than it was to be careful. The clean kiss of the water and the rhythmic beat of his arms and legs were enough to distract him from the prickle of awareness that told him Adam was watching him. It felt good to do this, to swim for pleasure--without it being part of a physical therapy session with a concerned trainer fretting when he pushed himself to the point where his legs were trembling and his throat tight with pain. Stupid of them to fuss; Karl knew his body's limits and when he could push and how hard. Always had.
He decided to complete one more length and then get out and sunbathe for a while, sprawled out under an umbrella on one of the wide, luxurious loungers dotted around the pool. Christ, it was like living in a hotel with no guests. Why had he bought this place, anyway? After his spartan quarters on the base and the years of sleeping rough on missions, he'd told himself that he'd earned a slice of the good life. He'd had a bellyful of it now. He could afford this large house, these acres of land, and the staff to keep both looking well maintained. Though did he want it? He wasn't sure that he did.
Adam dropped the shears and muttered something under his breath when Karl got out of the pool, water coursing off him. Karl grinned, hiding it in the thick towel he'd snagged, dazzlingly white, one of five stacked neatly on the small bar by the pool. Nice to know that he could make Adam nervous half-naked as well as fully clothed. Without vanity, he knew that he looked good, his body powerful, solid, scarred here and there, sure, though that was generally more of a turn-on for the men he fucked. It might have been for women, too, but Karl had never bothered to find out. He'd known what worked for him from his first hard-on, and it wasn't girls.
It wasn't usually sweet and shy, either, but Adam had enough going on behind those baby blues to stop Karl from slapping that label on him. Adam had gotten angry at being manipulated--hard to blame him for that--but he'd controlled that anger, which was what had made Karl intrigued enough to want to push him again.
It wasn't the nicest thing he could do to someone who needed a job and wanted to keep his employer, but Karl had never aimed for nice. It didn't get you what you wanted.
He tossed the towel down and got himself an ice-cold Shiner from the fridge behind the bar. The bubbles popped against his tongue, fizzing brightly, and he swallowed, caught up in the visceral pleasure of feeling strong again, and the hell with his shot-up leg. He set the beer down on the bar and caught Adam's longing stare.
"Want one?" he asked, and tapped a finger against the condensation-beaded glass. "Or do you want to keep killing the vegetation?" He'd been told that azaleas weren't politically correct; they needed too much water or something. Even so, Karl liked the showy blooms, and even if they were over for this year, he was looking forward to seeing them bloom in spring. Assuming he hadn't died of boredom in the intervening months.
"What? Am I?" Adam looked startled, then guilty, which wasn't part of Karl's plan.
"Nah," he said, waving the idea away. "I'm just giving you a hard time. No, it's fine. Hot. I thought maybe you could use a break."
Adam relaxed a little bit, seeming to consider the offer. "I probably shouldn't," he said finally, glancing down at the shears on the ground. "I don't think Mr. Jackson would like it. He said you wanted this job done as fast as possible." Jackson was the man in charge of keeping the gated community's approved list of contractors up to date, and probably the one who'd recommended Adam to Sophie.
"Who says we have to tell him?" Karl shrugged and took a second Shiner from the fridge, then dangled it tantalizingly in Adam's direction. "Besides, I'm the boss. What's he going to do, fire you for doing what I asked?"
Slowly, Adam brushed off his hands on his jeans and came around to where Karl was standing. He hesitated before reaching out to take the beer, and when he did his fingers touched Karl's for a little longer than was strictly necessary. "Thank you."
"Drinking alone is a bad habit, and I've got enough of those," Karl told him. He raised his eyebrows and gave Adam a mildly rueful smile. Time for frank and honest. "Are you still pissed off at me for the way I came on to you? It's not another habit of mine. I was jet-lagged, and to be honest, I wasn't even sure what month it was, never mind what day."
It was amazing how often it had been part of his job to charm people. It took longer to get information out of people that way, and it sometimes left him feeling guiltier than punching an already battered face would have, but it was an option he'd used from time to time with some success. With Adam, it felt like cheating, but that was something else that Karl was good at. Stalwart and honest heroes were usually the first casualties. Karl had gone more for silent and sneaky, and the hell with fighting fair.
"I wasn't pissed off at you," Adam protested. He'd twisted the cap off his bottle and was still holding it in his hand, distracted from his task by the discussion. He flushed. "Sorry--that was rude. I didn't mean--just, I wasn't mad. It's just that people--men. Men don't usually come on to me. Like that. Um, or at all."
He lifted the bottle to his lips and drank quickly, like he needed an excuse to stop himself from talking so much. As soon as he lowered it, he was off again, like an out-of-control racehorse. Karl liked it. People who talked a lot didn't do a good job of keeping secrets, and an open book like Adam was refreshing; it meant that Karl didn't have to keep his guard up.
"Why were you jet-lagged?" Adam asked. "I mean, were you on vacation? I went to Italy once--it was incredible. Have you ever been?"
Italy. Rough red wine, pasta that needed a lot of chewing, and a locate-and-extract operation that had gone from simple to screwed up in the space of one phone call, leaving Karl scrambling to get his team out in one piece. He'd lost Dino on that one, watched him choke on blood and die, brown eyes glassy with shock and agony.
"I've seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa," he replied. "It does. A lot. And, no, it was business, unfortunately." He held out his hand, and Adam dropped the cap into it without thinking, responding to the unspoken command. Karl liked that instinctive obedience more than he should. "You were in Italy and no one tried to pick you up? A beautiful young man like you? No one pinched your ass in the street or blew you kisses from their scooter as they were driving by?" He was teasing Adam again, a rough jostle against his defenses, to test how much Adam would take.
Adam lowered his eyes and shook his head, then glanced up at Karl again. He was curious, Karl thought, which was good. "I was with someone. Um, a woman."
"I figured." Karl smiled encouragingly and drank some more of his own beer. "And she paid for everything; am I right?"
Flushing again, Adam nodded. "How--how did you know?"
Karl shrugged. "I guessed. You said you hadn't worked for a while. She was older?"
"Um. Yeah. Not by a lot, though." Adam rubbed the rim of the bottle against his lower lip nervously, glancing at Karl again. He was nervous, probably anticipating that Karl would think of less of him for having been some kind of boy toy.
"I'm thirty-seven," Karl said and let that hang between them for Adam to snap at or swim away from.
"Okay--she was older than you," Adam admitted and offered Karl a shy smile. "I'm twenty-two." He gave his age the same way Karl had--this is me, no pretenses, so here's your chance to stop this before it even starts.
Karl nodded slowly. Younger than he'd expected based on appearance, yet it was what the folder in his office said, and the data had all been verified by Jackson and then Sophie before Adam had been allowed onto the property. It was old enough for most of what Karl had in mind. "You're not from around here, judging by the lack of a Texas accent."
"I'm from New York originally." Adam grimaced. "Liked the city, hated the winters. I always said when I grew up, I'd move south, and eventually I ended up here in Dallas."
"New York? We were practically neighbors," Karl said, stretching a point. "I grew up in Philly, but I've moved around a lot. Texas is okay for now." Plano, on the edge of the city, had turned out to be not really his kind of place at all, though he didn't see himself sharing that with this wide-eyed kid. He decided to end the small talk and find out if Adam was willing to play. If he wasn't, there wasn't much point in continuing the conversation.
"Listen, kid, are you interested in men at all? Because I'm bored and in the mood, and you're cute." Okay, maybe cute wasn't the right word, but compared to the men Karl hung around with, Adam was apple-pie wholesome even if he had let some rich cougar chew on him. Adam's hand tightened on the bottle, his eyes widening, but the swift pass of his tongue across his lips as he swallowed hard was encouraging. "I want to finish this beer with you on your knees sucking me as I drink it, but say no and I'll accept that. I'm not interested in unwilling virgins--and I won't complain to Jackson about you if the answer's no; this is between us."
Adam looked uncertain yet not horribly shocked by Karl's proposal. That was a good sign too. "I don't--I mean, I've never, really. Um, in high school there was this guy at a party, but we were pretty drunk, and it didn't go past making out. I, um...I liked it. I've thought about it, since then, but I'm--I don't know if I'd--You'd probably want someone who knew what they were doing." Now he looked miserably disappointed, which was an even better sign.
"I've wanted you since I saw you," Karl said bluntly. He'd never been afraid to admit to wanting something or someone. Hiding desire made it a weakness to be exploited; declaring it made it a goal. "Why don't we see what you can do?"
He walked over to the lounger, shoving down his clinging, wet shorts as he went and kicking them away unconcernedly. His place, his pool, and if anyone who worked for him was close enough to see or hear him, well, they wouldn't waste time in backing off. He didn't hire fools. He was half-hard already, anticipating the tentative licks and fumbling touches his cock was about to get, intrigued by the novelty of it.
He lay back on the chair and took a sip from his beer. Adam was still by the bar, his eyes wide, and Karl sighed. "Want some friendly advice? You need to get closer. A lot closer."
"R-right," Adam stammered and paused to take the towel off the bar on his way over, which showed initiative. There were more and more points in his favor, Karl thought as Adam put the towel down on the ground. Adam hesitated, standing over Karl for a long moment, but Karl's casual position seemed to give him courage, and he finally knelt and then rested a hand on Karl's bare thigh before looking left and right as if to make sure they were alone.
"It's fine--there's nobody around today. Don't worry about it." It was more reassurance than he was used to giving, but it had also been a hell of a long time since he'd been with anyone this young and inexperienced. He was willing to cut the kid some slack. "Let's see what you've got."
Adam hesitated again, and Karl waited patiently. Slowly, the hand on his thigh slid upward to his dick before closing around the base of it gently. "I don't know--I don't want to do this wrong." Again, Karl waited, and again he was rewarded when Adam leaned in and pressed soft, warm lips to the head of his cock. Then Adam's tongue, too dry, trailed down along his shaft toward his balls. It rasped over Karl's skin, dragging at it, the discomfort perversely arousing because it seemed to prove that this really was Adam's first time doing this. Karl had never had the urge to tutor someone when it came to sex--well, he'd never needed to--but he'd trained men how to fight and shoot and done a good job, judging by the results he'd gotten. This really wasn't any different; you sweetened the dose with some sugar in the way of encouragement and dealt firmly with any slacking off by putting the fear of God into the lazy son of a bitch. Okay, maybe it was a little different...
He stopped Adam before his cock was skinned raw, sliding his hand along the back of Adam's neck and squeezing it gently enough. Startled eyes stared up at him, and Adam asked, "Did I...did I hurt you?"
"Slick things up a bit," Karl said. "That helps too." With a shiver at the thought of how it would feel, he tipped the bottle of beer up, allowing a trickle of liquid to splash down across his belly and cock, the chill like a blow against his warm skin. He bit back a groan, his hand clamping hard on Adam's neck, pushing his head down. "Clean me up."
There wasn't any hesitation this time, although the flat of Adam's tongue across Karl's skin was still tentative, unsure. That just made it better; when Adam's fingertips ghosted over the sensitive flesh of Karl's balls, he groaned and tightened his ass, lifting his cock, wanting more contact. Adam might be uncertain, but he wasn't stupid. He responded to the unspoken request with a firmer touch, a more confident slicking of his tongue over the head of Karl's cock as he licked up the spilled beer.
"Good," Karl said. "That's good."
The encouragement seemed to help too. Adam alternated licking Karl's dick, balls, and thighs before moving to his belly, searching out every drop of beer and making Karl's nerves fire and spark. He experimented with sucking at the head of Karl's dick, though he didn't take it in deep enough to really provide the kind of stimulation it would take for Karl to come.
Karl relaxed, soaking up the attention. It had been months since he'd been touched by anyone who didn't see him as a patient, injured and weak. He didn't mind how long Adam took to get used to the idea of a man's dick filling his mouth; there was no rush. He growled a warning when Adam took too long scraping a stray pubic hair off his tongue, making faces that might have been funny any other time, but he allowed Adam to set his own pace for the most part. He was rewarded for his forbearance eventually by Adam taking a deep breath and bobbing his head down, taking in as much of Karl's erection as he could and, predictably, choking. Karl didn't mind the choking, though the scrape of Adam's teeth as he pulled back hastily wasn't pleasant. It hurt.