Love in Plain Sight [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Susan Laine
eBook Category: Gay Fiction/Reference
eBook Description: A Senses and Sensations Story
What does love look like? If you see it, will you give it the attention it deserves?
Police volunteer Sebastian Sumner may be deaf, but he's strong and capable. He's been involved with Detective Jordan Waters for a year now. Their relationship hasn't been smooth sailing, but their love is on solid ground. Too bad their work lives are on shakier soil--Jordan's is, anyway, as he sets out with his partner to investigate Aldous Henley, a shady art dealer suspected of forgery and smuggling. But proving these crimes and bringing the man to justice is more challenging than Jordan expected.
Before long, Henley isn't just a work problem. The case consumes Jordan's attention, and he's struggling to balance his busy professional life and his equally important private life--especially with a significant anniversary approaching. Love may be in plain sight, but that doesn't mean it should be taken for granted.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2012, 2012
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2012
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My name is Sebastian Sumner, and it's not like I wake up every morning singing "The hills are alive."
For one, I couldn't have carried the melody to save my life since I've never heard that particular song. Not that I hear much of anything on account of being deaf. I've been deaf since I was a kid, losing hearing first in one ear, then the other due to a childhood illness. I can still remember some sounds, but reminiscing is hardly the same as actually experiencing in the here and now.
I have felt the vibrations of Vivaldi's "Morning Mood" on loud speakers, but honestly that piece, just like all of the ones from The Sound of Music, seems to be at the top of most people's irritation list. I thought they were okay, but they were far too peppy for Jordan and his ilk.
And besides, bringing up something that already pushes all his wrong buttons at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday is not the way to go if you want to keep breathing.
Nonetheless, I loved annoying my man.
Jordan Waters, a detective in the Financial Crimes and Fraud Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia in Washington D.C., was my man. He was a tall, muscular, tanned guy with tattoos, scars and piercings, platinum-blond wavy hair with lavender-colored streaks, and eyes green like precious emeralds. Yes, at work he had to appear more conservative, downplaying the bad-boy image and hiding his tattoos and scars beneath a suit and tie, not to mention removing the piercings he only wore off-hours anyway. But I had the advantage: I knew the real him beneath the formal business attire. Jordan was my dream man.
All right, I admit it. Initially he hadn't been, not by a long shot. But sometime during the year we've been together, we've grown into each other.
Jordan was not a morning person, not without a pot of strong black coffee, preferably Hawaiian blend with tons of sugar. Weekends were the worst. He liked to sleep in--and I didn't. So I found ways to wake him up to play.
I leaned over him as he lay on his stomach on the deep-blue sheets, his face relaxed on the pillow. "Jordan," I whispered in his ear. "Wakey wakey. Rise and shine." Yes, I was fully aware of how badly I was goading him, but the day was wasting away.
He moved his shoulders maybe an inch. I placed my hand between his shoulder blades and gave him a gentle nudge. "Come on, sleepy head. We've got plans. I made breakfast."
He shook his back as he tried to dislodge my hand, and I could feel the vibration of him mumbling something, at this hour most likely profanities, especially any cuss words involving my ancestry, if you get my drift. Last time, he'd called me a son of a bitch and a fucking sadist right after I'd yanked the covers from him and left him shivering all alone in bed in the nude. Ah, our fun Saturdays were just that--fun for the whole family. Well, mainly for me.
This time I shoved him harder. "Jordan, don't make me go in the bathroom. I'll come back with something cold and wet, and it'll be all over you. And I promise it won't be lube."
Jordan's response was clear-cut. Twisting his arm from under the pillow, he brought up his hand--and flipped me off. Well, that wasn't very nice.
Carefully I moved the cover a bit lower to uncover his ass, namely the dip in the small of his back. I nuzzled there, showering him with open-mouthed kisses and then blowing slowly on the wet spots until his skin turned goose bumpy.
He rumbled something from deep within his chest, but he knew I couldn't tell what he had said, so I decided the commentary wasn't meant for me. If he had wanted to push me away from him, he could have done so easily as he was bigger and bulkier than me. I loved his skin. What he sometimes thought of as his flaws and imperfections were to me proof of a life lived. I knew he had a past, and not all of it was nice.
Then again, neither was mine, which was something we had in common.
Setting aside these depressing sentiments, long ago made obsolete in my current life, I shifted my focus to the beautiful masculine body beneath me. And he was all mine. Keeping the touch caressing and soft, I inched my fingers across the lines and curves of his back, from the valley of the small of his back to the hard ridges of muscles in his upper back and to his shoulder blades, tracing the expanse like a wilderness only for me to explore.
If I had loved Jordan more, I think my heart would have burst apart.
Squirming under my tickling touch, Jordan was chuckling, I could tell. I laid my cheek against his back and felt the sound traveling through his joints, muscles, and bones, echoing within me too. I adored his strong, lean back and the wide stretch of his smooth skin, marred visually with a few fight and job related scars and accentuated with tribal-style tattoos of curves, lines, and circles; they were not blemishes as far as I was concerned.
Placing a kiss in the dip and moving lower toward the crease between his ass cheeks, I relished the nearness of him, the very presence of him beneath me, in our bed, in our home and life together. I opened my mouth and licked a little line from the musky scented crevice up to the soft, firm mound of his right ass cheek, and bit into it.
Jordan shivered under me. He was the one with the ass fetish, but I did enjoy turning the tables on him once in a while.
Twisting free and turning around to lie on his back, Jordan stared down at me. This position afforded me the opportunity to lick the frontal groove where his thigh met his groin, and I refamiliarized myself with this delicious part of his anatomy. His natural musky male odor was stronger here, and I inhaled deeply, loving the olfactory sensation. I knew from experience he was sensitive at this junction between limb and torso, and I could tickle him by flicking my tongue down his inner thigh and then up to his soft perineum. I vigorously sucked his balls in my mouth, and he arched his back up from the bed and fisted his hands in the sheets. I couldn't hear it, but I knew for a fact he was moaning.
Yup, my Jordan was finally awake.
He brushed my nose with his hand, and I looked up, seeing him sign, "Coffee."
I let go of his balls and saw how he let out a sigh as his chest deflated. Jordan had never turned down morning sex, and certainly not on the weekends when he didn't have to rush into the shower to get a few precious drops of hot water. We lived in a loft household of four guys--me, Jordan, his brother Jack, and my brother Bro--so there was almost never any hot water left when one really needed it. Still, I wouldn't have minded sucking him dry and cleaning up whatever mess I'd made with a thorough tongue bath.
"I need coffee," Jordan signed, flexing his whole body on the bed with litheness akin to a relaxed cat.
"You've become a morning bully," I signed back, torn between wanting to please my man by making him coffee and wanting to please myself by continuing my ministrations--and perhaps going the extra mile for our mutual satisfaction.
Jordan grinned and looked at me, amused, through half-slitted, drowsy eyes. "Nope. A morning woody." He spoke the words and yawned impressively, scratching his chest with its light coating of fuzz. "Now hop to it, bunny."
I'd already gotten up, but I did read the taunt off his lips. "I heard that." I always said that, because he tended to tease me in some fashion every day.
"Liar." He always said that back, usually signing it too for good measure. Not this morning, though, as he turned to his side and burrowed his way back under the warm, soft covers, like a bear seeking refuge to hibernate.
Chuckling at my cuddly bear who hated morning wake-up calls, I made my way to the kitchen down the hall on the first floor, and started brewing coffee. As usual Jack came into my field of vision shortly thereafter as he sauntered down the stairs with his bed-head hair, blue T-shirt, and blue boxers, yawning and rubbing his flat belly.
Jack was Jordan's younger brother--and the sexier and more approachable of the two, without a doubt. Taller and leaner than his older brother, Jack had long golden curls that he'd let grow wilder and longer since I'd first met him and a tight body he honed to perfection in a daily exercise routine in the gym around the corner from our place. He had an air of omnisexuality to him, though he did have sort of an on-again, off-again relationship with Jordan's partner, Kevin Thompson. Jack was an EMT, and I knew Jordan worried about him a lot, not exclusively, but mostly because of his job. Jack's flirtatious lifestyle did lend itself to one concern after another, and Jordan was a very protective kind of guy with everybody, not just his little brother. My guy may not have shown much of his inner self to others, being a very private person unless he was flirting, but he felt things deeply.
And sometimes Jordan thought way too much for his own good.
"Hi, Jack," I said out loud. I have been told by many that I pronounce words well and speak intelligibly despite my deafness. I don't know how I sound--I've been told my voice sounds hollow and deep, and sometimes like baby babble--but others seem to get me, so that's good enough, I think. Jack has learned to sign a bit over the past year I've known and lived in the same household with him.
"Hi, Sebastian," Jack signed with a happy grin. Like me, he was a naturally energized man--and a morning person to boot, which suited me perfectly. Together the two of us could make Jordan's habit of not getting up bright and early into a wicked game. "That coffee for everyone?" He pointed at the Hawaiian blend I'd just finished making for Jordan, but since my man was in his grumpy mode, he snoozed, he lost. With a smile I nodded, and Jack tipped his chin in a gesture of greedy gratitude. He hogged the coffee pot like it was the crown jewels, poured a cup, downed it practically in one thirsty gulp, and immediately went for seconds.
"Let go of that cup, little brother, or face the consequences."
Jack started at Jordan, who'd snuck in past the winding staircase next to the kitchen. From where I was, I'd seen him approaching and, though I was the deaf one, I'd read Jordan's lips and got the jump on him, so to speak. Jack punched his brother in the gut in retaliation, but not hard enough to hurt him.
Jordan snagged the half-filled cup from his brother's hand and downed what was left while Jack was protesting, but too angrily for me to make out anything more than "fucking asshole" and "you'll regret that"--and then they were tumbling over the back of the couch, at each other's throats.
I smiled. These two guys were my family. The family we had made for ourselves.
"I can make more," I cut in with a disarming smile and conciliatory tone.
After disengaging from his brother, Jordan got to his feet and, in a gesture of theatrical snobbery, pulled down the wrinkled hem of his cream-colored T-shirt and straightened his dark brown sweatpants. All presentable again, he made his way to me as I was leaning against the island counter and wound his left arm around my waist.
With his right hand, he shifted the strands of my hair from my eyes and smiled down at me. "Hey, Snow White," he said. From the vibrations his voice made in his chest, I knew he'd murmured the words seductively, with a hint of arousal in his green eyes aimed at me. He called me that sometimes because of my looks--raven-black hair, sky-blue eyes, porcelain-white skin, and startlingly red lips. Though I always pouted after he used the endearment, I secretly loved it. "I wake up and get out of bed, as requested, and here you are, handing my coffee to another man. You slut."
I shrugged, feigning nonchalance. "Yeah, but I'm still your slut."
Jordan kissed me, and just like every time, my heart skipped a beat, or a dozen.
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After we had enjoyed breakfast--and rather comprehensive blowjobs in the shower--we made our way to the park. It was where we'd had our first impromptu date, and it held special memories for us. Jordan wasn't the type to display his feelings in public, but wherever we went on our dates and off-work days, he held my hand. I think it was due to his possessiveness and his instinct to protect me as much as his love for me.
All I knew was that I loved walking in the park with him holding my hand.
I had coffee ice cream and he had raspberry ice cream as we walked leisurely along the dirt path. It had rained the previous night, and the smell of wet soil was strong. It was late autumn, and it was already getting cold. Fall colors on the trees were sharp, and I watched the spectrum of earth tones in fascination--the child in me, I guess. I loved this season; it was my favorite. Time passed without me even noticing it much.
"Wanna get a donut?" Jordan asked me suddenly, letting go of my hand just long enough to sign the words. His hands were big and rough, callused and scarred, quite unlike my slender hands with long fingers, and his signs were a bit bumpy and gauche sometimes, but his knowledge of ASL was extensive by now. And every time he used it, watching me for my reaction and waiting for me to say something back, I felt all gooey and warm inside.
"It's a little predictable and cliched, isn't it? Cops and donuts?" I said out loud.
He grinned and shook his head in mock scolding. "Only if you're wearing a uniform on patrol--and don't actually like donuts."
I feigned outrage. "Who doesn't like donuts?"
"Exactly," he affirmed with a playful nod. "Want one?" I nodded in quick agreement.
We went to a small cafe near the park and got ourselves coffee and donuts--Jordan a chocolate-glazed raspberry donut and me a caramel-fudge-glazed lemon donut. We found an empty park bench, sat down, and enjoyed our outing with sweets.
People often wondered why I was with someone like Jordan, who was either charming in manipulative excess or brooding to the point of aversiveness, when I was upbeat, open, and positive. Kevin said it took a special person like me to entice Jordan into being approachable, though I don't think that was true. I always answered the same to everyone: Jordan had found me in my darkest hour and been there for me ever since, and he loved me unconditionally. That usually made people take a second look at him, as if only then really seeing him and what he was capable of.
"How's the case going?" Jordan's perpetual caseload was not thin by any stretch of the imagination, but most of them were sorted out relatively quickly--except for this latest one.
Jordan furrowed his brow, and from his slight jolt I knew he'd harrumphed. "Henley's a sneaky bastard. We know he's smuggling artwork, but we can't figure out how. We've searched the gallery twice and come up with bubkes."
"What about the money trail?" Locating funds was always the route authorities took in catching criminals, because in this day and age, hiding assets was not that easy.
Jordan shook his head in clear irritation. "Henley's has only two accounts as far as we've been able to determine, one for sales and purchases, and another for donations and charity. Nothing stands out. No red flags." I deduced from the way his chest heaved and deflated that he took a long sigh. "But that art gallery is a front for some kind of illegal activity. I know it. I feel it in my bones."
No matter how annoyed Jordan was over something, he always remembered to turn his head in my direction so I could effortlessly read his lips.
I loved that thoughtfulness about him.
The family I'd been born to had been overly protective at first and shunned me later. They never did quite know what to do with me, how to handle my deafness, or what to say to me. My father had been ill for a long time before he died, and we'd never been that close. My mother saw my existence as a kind of personal failure, and she had never bothered to learn how to sign. That's why I had become so proficient in reading lips. Considering it was partly due to this ability that I landed my job as a volunteer police officer, and a paid one at that, I didn't blame her for her mistreatment of me.
It was old news anyway.
"What do you mean by donations and charity?"
Jordan grinned a little at my interest in the case. I was satisfied with uplifting his sour mood, not that that was an issue today. "His art gallery, Henley's, receives so-called donations from his best clients who have purchased a certain amount of art from him, and in return he keeps his client list up-to-date with charitable events and the like. In appreciation of conducting business with him, his clients, as private contributors, donate substantial amounts for the continuing operation of the art gallery. And Henley himself splurges when it comes to charity." With another angry headshake, Jordan sighed.
"But... I thought you said those aren't real works of art he sells at his gallery?"
Jordan leaned closer and kissed me on the lips gently. "Aldous Henley--apparently named after Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World--has a record for art forgery as long as my arm. He's done time in the States and in Europe. Now he owns Henley's Art Gallery where he sells his own forgeries of famous pieces of art. He advertises selling handmade copies, for God's sake, and he's been interviewed in several prestigious, noteworthy art publications. And since both the seller and the buyers know that they're fakes, apparently it's not illegal."
From his expression of forced levity, I knew he was being sarcastic. "Really?"
"He always identifies and gives credit to the original artist and has not once claimed that he's the original artist. He signs them with his own name, and he produces a certificate stating they are genuine copies of such-and-such artist. And if there's a copyright infringement issue, he simply jumps the gun and acquires that legal permission from the copyright holder or their estate." Suddenly Jordan chuckled, bemused. "So, now he's regarded as a postmodern boy wonder as an artist-slash-businessman, and he makes a lot of money. His business is on solid ground, and it doesn't look like the cash flow is dwindling anytime soon."
"How do you know he's smuggling real art instead of just producing these forgeries if they sell so well? Why take the risk?"
Jordan thought about that for a while. "Why take the risk? I don't know. Greed?"
"You've met Henley. Does he seem like the money-grubbing type?"
At that Jordan laughed outright, and I was puzzled. He leaned closer with a wicked gleam in his green eyes and signed, "Henley's fucking gorgeous, like one of those GQ models in Hugo Boss and Armani, but also with a dose of old-world aristocratic gentleman-dandy. He might go for money, but he could also grub anybody's ass, if he wanted to."
Though Jordan was just trying to get a rise out of me, I admit I felt a twinge of jealousy, and I guessed that showed on my face because he curved his luscious lips into a naughty smile just before he kissed me. And I do mean kissed. Opening my mouth with his own, Jordan stuck his tongue inside, and together our tongues danced hungrily for a while--until wolf whistles from passing guys on roller skates caused us to break the kiss.
With a quiet chuckle shared, we continued snacking on our coffee and donuts. What I felt with Jordan was a mix of raw passion and serene contentment. Our relationship had taken some hits in the beginning, but we'd muddled through, as people do.
And now it was a mere few days until the one-year anniversary of us moving in with each other and starting out our life together as a couple. I was so anxious about that special day I could barely breathe at times.
Even though Jordan habitually kept a watchful eye on his immediate surroundings, not in a manner obvious to anyone but me, he mostly watched me. Since the beginning he'd been like that, savoring the look of me. At first it had made me self-conscious and bashful, but now it just turned me on. His gaze was glued to my lips as I ate my sugary goodness, and every time I licked a bite of the donut's creamy dough off my lips, I saw the hunger grow in his eyes, darkening them like an impending gale.
Time to go home, I thought.