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Tono [MultiFormat]
eBook by Mickie B. Ashling

eBook Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
eBook Description: Sequel to Loving Edits In the aftermath of Mick Henley's death, his two lovers, Paul Alcott and Tono Garat, find themselves at odds. Tono has rejected Paul on the pretext that the public will find out about their love affair, thus tarnishing Mick's memory; the reality is that Tono fears Paul will lose interest in him because they're not intellectual equals. Tono's fear is compounded when Mick's final novel, Momentos, is presented to Paul posthumously with a request to start a trust from the proceeds to aid artists and writers suffering from ALS. Mick's only stipulation is that Tono spearhead the organization. Paul is energized by Mick's request, but Tono is angry and conflicted about the challenge. After a five-month separation, they reunite, rekindling their strong physical attraction--and illuminating their many differences. As always, Mick's presence lingers, intruding at unexpected times. Are their memories preventing Paul and Tono from finding true happiness as a couple? Can there be a life for two vibrant alphas without the gentle Mick to buffer the discord?

eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2011, 2011
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2011


6 Reader Ratings:
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Prologue

San Sebastian, Spain, 2009

They'd been drinking steadily since lunch, mindful of Mick's request that anyone attending his going away party be shit-faced. Paul was intent on becoming comatose so he wouldn't have to subject himself to this final trauma, but his brain refused to give him the satisfaction. He was still aware of his surroundings and the small group of people gathered to send Mick off on his final journey. More importantly, he was tortured by the sight of his handsome Spaniard, hanging onto Mick's urn possessively.

The past week had been a nightmare he'd tried to forget by putting away massive amounts of liquor; a futile attempt to ease the heartache and take away the awful truth that Mick was gone. He couldn't believe that Mick's beautiful body had been reduced to ashes, and he would no longer hear the sultry voice calling him sweetheart.

They'd placed Mick in his favorite position the night he died, spooned between his two men, the way he'd slept for years. Paul remembered touching Mick's glossy hair and whispering in his ear, recalling an article he'd read that mentioned the hearing was the last thing to go. He'd hoped it was true because he wanted Mick to leave this world knowing how much he was loved. "They're going to have to take numbers wherever you're going, babe," he'd said gently. "You'll be the hottest angel up there."

He and Tono had listened to Mick's shallow pants of breath and the heartbeat that grew faint. When he finally stopped breathing, they'd cradled Mick all night, alternately crying and reminiscing until dawn crept through the shutters, announcing a new day--a day without the amazing man who'd enriched their lives for so many years.

After Mick's death, Tono had retreated to some dark place in his head and wasn't letting Paul in, which made it much harder to bear. The Spaniard had spent hours writing the poem he planned to read at the beach when they scattered the ashes, but he refused to show it to Paul, hoarding this final tribute.

Paul kept looking at Tono, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man he'd come to know over the last three years, but that tender lover was hiding behind a thick emotional wall he couldn't penetrate. Every attempt he'd made had been rebuffed, which negated Mick's original theory that he and Tono would find solace within each other's embrace. Mick was their common thread and the one thing they shared. Now that he was no longer a part of the relationship, there wasn't much left, or so it appeared.

Paul picked up his glass, swallowed what remained of the amber liquid, and nodded at Tono. "Ready?"

"Si."

* * * *

The small procession began its walk from the bar, which was located on one side of San Sebastian in a district called Gros. They passed El Kursaal Convention Center, site of the San Sebastian Film Festival. It was a stark reminder of Mick and the night he'd received the award for best screenplay.

It had been five weeks since Mick had announced that he was the luckiest man in the world. That bold statement now mocked them for challenging a disease that had been biding its time, waiting to come out and snatch what little bit of humanity Mick had left as it progressed with a virulent speed, shocking all of them.

Their bubble of hope had exploded when Mick had lost the use of his arms, followed swiftly by the loss of his voice and his full capacity to breathe. When the doctor pushed for a tracheotomy, Mick reminded them of the DNR he'd signed years ago. Despite heartbreaking pleas by both Paul and Tono, Mick remained firm, insisting that no heroic measures be performed to extend his life.

Zurriola Beach, which fronted the center, was deserted, as one would expect on this dismal November afternoon. The waves crashed and pounded the sand, sending up sprays of salt water that rained on the small group of people as they crossed the bridge into the Parte Vieja. The only thing penetrating Tono's consciousness was the sound of the angry sea as it slammed into the concrete abutments holding up the bridge, also named Kursaal. The violent, swirling water echoed the despondency weighing him down, making each step toward Mick's favorite spot on the beach more difficult.

They walked in pairs, except for Tono, who walked slightly ahead, hugging the urn close to his body. Paul and Baxter were directly behind him, followed by ten other couples. It was a small assembly of Mick's closest friends and Tono's immediate family who had gathered on this damp and chilly day. This final ceremony could have waited until the spring. After all, the public memorial service had already provided the closure on Mick's brilliant but short life. However, Tono refused to wait until the weather improved. Mick had requested that his ashes be scattered over La Concha Beach, and in his mind, Mick couldn't care less if the sun was shining or not, so why should they?

The Parte Vieja was the center of San Sebastian, the "old town" that looked exactly the way it had in the nineteenth century. The streets were cobbled and narrow, making the winding walk a little hazardous to the inexperienced. Stones were chipped and twisted in many places, worn down from years of accumulated traffic, and the weather was making everything slippery. Some buildings had been refurbished, but the majority of them were in their original medieval state, patched and held together with spit and high hope. Remarkably, they'd withstood the test of time, virtually unchanged for over a hundred years.

Baxter stumbled, but Paul held him up easily, supporting his assistant, who by all rights should have been home, warm and dry. "A sixty-three-year-old has no business walking around in this shit," Paul had railed at him earlier, admonishing Baxter to dress warmly if he was too stubborn to know what was good for him. The faithful employee had been a large part of Mick's life in the last three years, opting to be his primary caregiver rather than entrusting Mick's daily requirements to virtual strangers. He, too, would miss the young writer and wanted to bid him farewell in the manner he had requested, weather and arthritis be damned.

It was depressing navigating the dimly lit streets. Normally, light and laughter spilled from the bars, where people congregated for pintxos and drinks, but today it was quiet in keeping with the somber mood of the mourners. Most of the onlookers knew where they were headed and why. Mick's death had been highly publicized, his partnership with Tono discussed by the press. They were celebrities in this small seaside town, and everyone was saddened by the news that the American had finally lost his battle with ALS. Tono no longer cared that his private life had been exposed so publicly. He had no intention of ever playing Jai alai again, and if anyone had issues with his homosexuality, it was their problem, not his. He'd come out to his family a few years ago, and they had accepted his pronouncement with surprising tolerance, in large part due to their love and respect for the young American who'd won their hearts without much effort. Mick had a way of putting people at ease and could charm anyone with his engaging wit and humor.

However, there was one thing Tono was adamant about: keeping the intimate relationship between the three men a well-guarded secret. He had no desire to reveal their unique arrangement, leaving Mick's memory open to any kind of criticism. He wanted the world to remember his partner for all his achievements and not his sexual proclivities. If the press got wind of the unique dynamic between the three men, it would ruin everything positive Mick had left behind. They would become fodder for gossip, and the name-calling and finger-pointing would tarnish Mick's legacy. What they shared in the privacy of their home was nobody's business but theirs, and his insistence on keeping the lid on this was affecting his relationship with Paul.

Tono had refused to sleep with him as soon as Mick passed. They'd had to maintain an illusion for the general public, but Tono had carried it one step further and had become a virtual stranger in their home. He'd had Baxter move his clothes to another room, and he'd locked the door each night, keeping Paul away. No amount of persuasion on Paul's part could change Tono's mind. Paul felt like an intruder again. It had been this way in the very beginning of their partnership, when Tono was coming to grips with their interesting arrangement. He'd excluded Paul from his and Mick's relationship, causing high tension for all of them. It had taken weeks to overcome the strife, but the resolution, and resulting release, had been magnificent. Now, the strife was back. Paul felt the wall as clearly as if he could see the bricks in front of him. Tono refused to communicate. On top of the dreadful reality that they'd lost the man they loved, Tono was distancing himself each day.

* * * *

Tono turned toward the music that filtered out from one of the bars they walked by. It was a love song by Julio Iglesias that he and Mick had considered "their" song. The dulcet voice of the Spanish crooner touched him deeply, reminding him that life was but a series of moments one took for granted. La vida se hace siempre de momentos, de cosas que no sueles valorar y luego cuando pierdes, cuando al fin te has dado cuenta, el tiempo no te deja regresar

Tono embraced the small urn even tighter, pressing it against his heart, as the memory swamped him, bringing tears to his eyes. He forced himself to walk away and continue down the path toward the beach, finding himself in the same spot where he and Mick had ended up the night they'd met, except this time, the American who'd turned his head and won his heart was gone. In his hands was all that remained of the vital man who had been a part of his life for the last nine years.

Tono waited for the assembly to gather around him, and he pulled out the paper that contained the poem he'd been working on for days. It was his final tribute; a minuscule token that barely scratched the surface of his feelings. He cleared his throat and began to read.

* * * *

Te vi en el bar y me enamore.

Desde entonces en el corazon te lleve.

Mas tarde pude conocerte.

No se si fue destino o suerte.

Nos guiamos por un sentimiento prematuro

Sin saber que mas tarde prodria ser muy duro

Nos despedimos poniendo como testigo al mar

No sin antes decirte que dejaste en mi

Muchos recuerdos que jamas podre olvidar

Fuiste el unico y lo mejor de mi vida

No habra nada ni nadie que cierre esta herida

No one in the group could help their tears as they listened to Tono's well-modulated voice breaking at the end of the recitation. Even the foreigners in the group, who barely understood the words, certainly felt the emotion. The only one who hadn't shed a tear was Paul. He appeared unmoved until one looked closely. He was biting his inner cheek and his eyes were bloodshot, but he was frozen in his sorrow, bound by the ropes of propriety forbidding him from throwing himself on the sand and wailing in a desperate and hideous display of grief.

Tono unscrewed the cap of the metal urn and tipped it over. The wind picked up the ashes and whipped them up into the air, carrying Mick's remains over the Bay of Biscay.

"Adios, carino," Tono said softly. He put the urn down and faced the group. His eyes were vacant and almost black in the dim light. Paul's attempt to console with a gentle touch was quickly rebuffed. Tono jerked his arm away and stalked off, leaving everyone behind.

* * * *

Chapter One

New York City, 2010

Paul Alcott sat at his desk ruminating over the surprise package delivered an hour ago by Mick's attorney. Alcott Press hadn't heard from the man since Mick's passing, other than a few cryptic messages saying that everything was still tied up in legalese and would be for several months. Now, Paul's meticulously scheduled life was upended with the appearance of what appeared to be a manuscript, marked FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. Along with the three hundred fifty-page manuscript entitled Momentos, there were two letters, one for him and one for Tono.

He'd been steeling himself for the past hour, afraid to open the letter, knowing it would undoubtedly peel off the scab that had been forming over the gaping wound created by Mick's untimely death, yet he was overjoyed to be receiving this final note from the man who'd been his everything for as long as he could remember.

Paul opened the envelope and pulled out a white sheet of paper filled with Mick's familiar handwriting and began to read.

Dearest Pauly,

If you're reading this, I must be dead. I'm terribly sorry for keeping this last novel from you, but I was afraid you would dissuade me from writing it. I remember how you scoffed at Tono's idea of writing our story years ago, but despite your doubts, I took that same idea and ran with it. Momentos is our story, and my best way of showing you and Tono how much your love has meant to me. It's your choice to publish or not, but if you decide to go ahead and send it to print, I will be smiling from whichever karmic plane I've crossed into.

My only stipulation is that whatever profit is realized should be used to start my foundation--Mick Henley's Trust--to aid writers, and any other artist, suffering from ALS. The very idea of going through this disease with little or no financial help is mind-boggling. I'd like to see my legacy put to good use, and it is my desire that Tono spearhead the foundation. I'd like it based out of New York City as well. I'm counting on you, Pauly, to convince him that it's the best place to house this sort of thing.

He will balk and give you a hundred reasons why he won't do this, but I have faith in your powers of persuasion. You brought him home to me, sweetheart, a formidable task I never thought you could accomplish, so there is no doubt in my mind that you will triumph in this, my last wish.

I love you, Paul, always and forever.

Mick

Paul reached for his cup of coffee with a shaky hand, causing the liquid to slop over the rim and make a mess on his desk. He grabbed the manuscript and the two letters to avoid their destruction, and he placed them on the table that was on the far end of the room, close to the bathroom, which was his next stop. He wasn't at all surprised when he stood over the sink to wash his hands and saw that his cheeks were wet. Mick had been the only one who could ever make him cry without even trying. He let the running water slip through his fingers for a minute before bending down and rinsing his face, trying to compose himself. He'd been blindsided by this final request, yet rejuvenated as well.

The surprise manuscript was the best thing that could have happened at this juncture. He'd immersed himself in his job since returning from San Sebastian five months ago, suicidal, for the first time in his life. He'd never thought much about death, but since Mick's demise, it was all he thought about. Paul had never felt so alone. A large part of his melancholy stemmed from the brutal rejection he'd faced at the hands of the Spaniard.

The three of them, Mick, Tono, and Paul, had shared a lifetime of happiness in three short years, surprising, considering the physical challenges Mick had been dealing with. The early days of Mick's disease and the resurrected relationship with Paul had been almost idyllic after the battle that had ensued in the beginning. Mick's desire to have both men in his life had been an unexpected turn of events neither Paul nor Tono had planned. The resulting union had been hard-won; Paul had never expected Tono to relinquish his hold on Mick. Getting Tono on board had been the most difficult hurdle, but they'd finally worked out a satisfactory arrangement, aided by Paul's declaration of love for the Spaniard. And really, who wouldn't love the man?

Tono had proven over and over that their trust and love for him hadn't been misplaced. He'd been more than generous, sharing himself equally with Mick and Paul. He'd never hesitated to express his feelings, nor did he resent the deep and abiding love Paul and Mick had for each other. Tono seemed to have worked out the conflicting arguments in his head, accepting that what Paul and Mick shared was immutable. The Spaniard knew he would never be able to compete or compare with their deep-seated history, but what he brought to the table couldn't be discounted. Paul and Mick would have never reunited if not for Tono's loving and munificent persona. In the end, it had ruled over guilt, fear, and jealousy.

But now, the Spaniard was conflicted again, rejecting Paul summarily the minute Mick died. It had been a horrendous time for the two of them, watching helplessly as the man they loved slipped away. Mick's fervent wish that they comfort each other had failed in the end. Tono had shut himself off, leaving Paul bereft of not only one but two of the things that were most important in his life. His success and fame paled in comparison to what he'd shared with Mick and Tono.

Paul had left San Sebastian a broken man. Baxter, surrogate father and assistant, had done his best to pull Paul out of this terrible place, to no avail. The world-renowned publisher, editor, and screenwriter had reverted to his old habits of pain management. He'd spent the last five months alternately drunk or steeped in one endless round of mindless sex after another. His apartment had become a virtual haven for every hustler in Manhattan who had brown hair and brown eyes, and if they had a dimple on their chin, so much the better.

Mick's request would force him to do the unthinkable: go back to Spain and have a face-off with the stubborn man who still had his heart. Paul would have to break through the wall Tono had erected and figure out what the hell his problem was. Aside from the immediate need for his approval to move forward on the manuscript, Paul wanted answers. Why was he shoved aside and dismissed so easily? He thought he'd meant more, but due to Mick's request, he was no longer willing to wait passively for Tono to see the light. He was going to flash that light and shock him into admitting he wanted their relationship just as much as Paul did.

Paul knew Momentos would be a bestseller without opening a page. Mick's talent as a writer was undeniable, and this would be his final moment of glory. Paul would not deny him that, and he would have to convince Tono as well, even though the story would open their relationship to much speculation. The public be damned, Paul thought. In the end, the only thing that mattered was Mick, and if his desire was to tell their tale, then Paul would be more than happy to honor his request, and no one and nothing would stand in his way.

* * * *

Chapter Two

The next morning he strode into his office purposefully, eager to start the day and hopeful that Tono had responded positively to the multiple queries asking him to come to New York to sign papers. He'd read Momentos last night and now, more than ever, wanted Tono's okay to get this project off the ground.

"Any word from Garat?" Paul asked his secretary.

"He has not responded to any of our faxes, e-mails, or phone calls. He's ignoring us, sir," Linda said softly, placing the coffee on his desk. She was dressed in a black Ann Taylor suit, looking every bit the professional. She'd been with Paul for almost four years and had come to know her exacting employer like the back of her hand.

"Damn it!"

Linda gnawed on a pencil nervously and only stopped when Paul glared at her. It was a bad habit she couldn't break, despite Paul's constant refrain to quit it. Other than that, she was perfect in every way and had become indispensable.

"Well, that settles it," Paul snapped, shoving his chair back from the desk and standing. "Mohammed will just have to go to the mountain."

"Sir?"

"Never mind," Paul said, picking up his briefcase on the way out. "Cancel all my appointments. I'll be gone for a week at least. Any manuscripts waiting for edits can continue to wait. Pass out the Prozac if an author decides to have a breakdown."

Linda smiled, knowing he was right on the mark. They would be calling every hour on the hour wanting to know what Paul Alcott thought of their story. Before she'd started working at Alcott Press, she'd had no idea that writers were so insecure and needy. "Where are you going, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Back to Spain," Paul replied. "If there's anything truly pressing, you know how to get in touch. At least I know we're living in the twenty-first century, unlike that Neanderthal who doesn't even own a BlackBerry."

"Yes, sir."

"Oh, and call the airport. Have them get my plane ready. I want to leave in about two hours."

"Yes, sir."

"And Linda."

"Sir?"

"I like your suit."

Her smile was pure sunshine, and he couldn't help but smile back. She really was lovely. Unfortunately, his libido was impervious to her charms.

And speaking of libido. What would happen if and when he finally laid eyes on the Spaniard? Would Tono continue to keep him at arm's length or would they end up having another round of mind-blowing sex? Because sex with Tono was not only mind-blowing, it was earth-shattering and out-of-this-fucking-world amazing. Paul acknowledged that despite his hurt and his bitterness at Tono's rejection, he was unable to resist him. He'd be down on his knees in a second if Tono asked for it or said the word that always made Paul's cock surge and his heart beat just a little faster.

"Rubio." Spanish for blondie, in and of itself an innocuous word, but when Tono growled it in passion, or whispered it tenderly against Paul's ear, he melted, turning into a bottom of the worst kind, out of character and completely surprising for an acknowledged top. Tono's words were as effective as a magic potion.

He called Baxter from the car, urging his assistant to pack him a bag and rustle up some euros so he wouldn't have to stop at a bank. He kept a safe in his study, and he was pretty sure he had some left over from his last trip, saving him the aggravation of standing in a long line to change money. If he took off from JFK at noon, he'd be in San Sebastian at the crack of dawn, just in time to get his stubbornness out of bed. To Tono it would seem like the middle of the night, since he never hit the sheets until one or two in the morning. Fucking insane hours. Paul had bitched about it constantly when he'd been commuting and had ended up getting used to eating at midnight and having lunch around two in the afternoon. For someone who was hung up on time management, the Spanish system threw him off completely, but there was no fighting it. The only part he really enjoyed was the forced siesta, from two to four, when the city, and probably the entire nation, paused to rest. He had many fond memories of long sessions making love to Mick and Tono. He sighed, wishing he could turn back the clock, but he knew it was impossible and he had to move on.

Mick's surprise novel had given him a new purpose in life. He could feel himself reviving, casting off the cloak of sorrow he'd been carrying around since November of last year. He was done being morose. No more random fucks either. They were pointless and, if he were honest, as exciting as a high school jerk-off session. Really, for a man who'd just turned forty, had more money than God, and was still able to turn heads, he was acting like a loser. Enough already.

If his meeting with Tono did not end up a "happy ever after" or even a "happy for now," he'd move on. He would accept that whatever they had was fun while it lasted, and it made Mick incredibly happy in the end, which was all that mattered. He couldn't deny that he was still in love with the stubborn man he'd fallen for three years ago. There was something about Tono that appealed to him in a very basic way. Maybe it was because he was proud, opinionated, and all male. He wanted nothing to do with Paul's money or anything the Alcott name could provide. He'd refused financial help other than agreeing to split the expenses of Mick's medical care in the last three years, which had reached astronomical proportions. He'd paid for the apartment at Alcott Terrace on his own, and in cash, from what Paul had gathered. No mortgage for him, and now that he was renting it out, he was accumulating a nice monthly income in the five-figure range. Paul had no idea what kind of money Jai alai players made, but Tono had more than enough to go around, despite the fact that he hadn't played professionally in at least five years.

Paul supposed he should mentally prepare himself for the worst. It would avoid more pain. His emotional state was too fragile for another rejection. He would make this about business and stick to that agenda. Tono would follow his lead, being the reactive person that he was. Mick had called him a big marshmallow with a concrete exterior. He'd said that in a loving way, trying to explain to Paul that deep inside Tono was a tender and vulnerable man. And yes, Paul had seen that side of Tono, but only when Mick was around. He'd been fortunate to catch the overflow on occasion, but mainly, when he and Tono interacted, it was in hi-def color, 3-D all the way. They brought out the worst in each other. Primal and pulsating arguments were common, as were wild and uninhibited lovemaking sessions outside of Mick's presence. Yet, underneath it all was a mutual respect that had grown over the years.

Tono said he needed time to think about their future. He didn't want to tarnish Mick's reputation by going back to New York and staying with Paul since he'd rented out the apartment he and Mick had shared. The off chance that someone would actually put two and two together had been the main reason he'd kept Paul at arm's length, or so he said. Even though Tono had never said he didn't love him, his decision to stay away was just as painful.

The chauffeur pulled up to the curb. Baxter was already waiting with Paul's suitcase and a small envelope filled with cash.

"Where will you be staying?"

"At the apartment, where else?"

"Have you reached Tono?"

"Baxter, I have a key."

"I'm aware of that, sir, but maybe he's no longer there."

"Where else would he be? San Sebastian is his home."

"You're right, of course. Well, have a safe trip and give him my best."

"Right. Call me if you need me."

"I will."

* * * *

By the time his Learjet touched down at Donostia-San Sebastian airport, Paul had eaten, taken a two-hour nap, showered, and shaved. He was ready to face whatever bullshit he had to deal with. He'd worn his light blue Armani shirt, the one that Tono liked so much. He'd said it brought out the lover boy in him, whatever the hell that meant, but Paul was ready to bring out the big guns if necessary, and looking his best always helped.

He took a taxi from the airport because he didn't want to get involved in the minutia required to rent a car. He'd deal with that tomorrow. Maybe, if things worked out, he'd get Tono to drive him around. He used to enjoy doing that when they were still together.

He found himself getting more and more nervous the closer they got to the city. The airport wasn't that far out of town, probably twenty minutes, tops, nothing like the ride from JFK to Manhattan. Paul didn't have a lot of time to settle down, and he willed himself to stay calm. He was acting like a virgin about to walk up the aisle, for fuck's sake. It's not like he didn't know every single inch of Tono's face or body. He knew him in and out, backwards and forwards, and oh yeah, up front and oh-so-personal. He gave the driver a huge tip, mainly because he didn't want to wait for the change. The elevator was like a woman in labor, creaking and moaning all the way up to the ninth floor. The front door opened easily, and he breathed a sigh of relief, secretly worried that Tono had changed the locks.

The house was dark and quiet, as he'd expected. Tono was probably fast asleep. He made a straight line to the master bedroom to see if Tono had made any changes since he'd left. He flicked the light switch and froze in a caricature of the cliched deer in the headlights.

"Que cono!" Tono's favorite expletive flowed out of his mouth, along with the long and thick cock that had been invading that same space. The blond who was attached to said cock squeaked in horror and pulled up a sheet, trying desperately to cover himself. Tono knelt on the bed, magnificent in his anger, puffed out and indignant and ready to kill whoever dared to intrude, until he saw Paul.

"Pol!" he barked. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

It took Paul a second to retort. "Joining the party, what else?"

"Vete!" Tono commanded, shooing the blond out of his bed. He and Paul waited patiently until the poor guy gathered up his clothes and made a hasty retreat. When they heard the door slam, Paul pounced.

"How dare you bring someone else into Mick's bed!"

"This is my bed," Tono roared, "and who are you to walk in here and tell me what the hell I can or can't do!"

"Bastard." Paul moved swiftly, striding across the room with every intention of hurting the man who'd made his life miserable for the last five months. When he got to the bed, he pulled his arm back, winding up to slap Tono, but the Spaniard caught his arm and said "Stop!" Tono's shocked face was almost worth the frustration of not being able to scratch his eyes out, or better yet, blacken them. Paul wrenched his arm away from the death grip, spun around, and headed toward the kitchen, slamming cabinet doors until he found the Chivas. One glass swiftly followed another as he sucked up the amber liquid with shaky hands. This was the last thing he'd expected. Never, ever, in a million years had he thought he'd walk into this scene, and although normally a peaceful man, he'd acted instinctively, protecting Mick's space, even though he was no longer there.

He heard a cough and a shaky voice. "Rubio?"

Paul clutched his glass so hard it broke, cutting his hand in the process.


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