- I -
It was late Thursday morning, and Raven was bored out of his skull. Fridays through Mondays weren't too bad; in fact, they were pretty damn good. Julian's weekends started on Fridays, so boredom was naturally out of the question. On Mondays, Raven would usually catch up on his sleep and heal somewhat if the weekends got out of hand (which was the case quite often). However, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays would turn into slow crawling eons of hell itself. There were only that many books he could read (and he wasn't much into reading to begin with), and he could only handle several hours of staring into computer or TV screen, which left most of the day filled with nothing but empty waste of time.
He looked at the clock and sighed; it was only 11:30 in the morning, and he already got his TV fix for the day. He sat by the open window, smoking lazily, and remembering that old saying, which went something like, 'Idle mind is evil's playground.' He sighed deeply and flicked his cigarette out of the window, solemnly agreeing with that saying. He briefly considered phoning Julian and telling him to meet him somewhere for lunch, but then he remembered the blond telling him last night that he had some business lunch deal to attend today. That made him sigh even deeper.
Usually, whenever he felt this bored or restless, he would simply go out and pull a random job, trying to make it as challenging and entertaining as he possibly could. Now, however, that was out of the question - after what almost turned into a major fiasco several months ago, Julian was beyond paranoid whenever Raven would as much as mention something about random jobs. He would start ranting about researching, planning, and some other things that immediately took entertainment out of the entire ordeal.
Finally, Raven decided to go out and get some coffee and fresh air. While he was getting dressed, he regretted the fact that this morning, the blond left for work without waking Raven up, which was usually the case. They didn't fall asleep until almost four in the morning last night, so when Raven woke up a couple of hours or so ago, he realized that he didn't even hear the alarm go off, which didn't surprise him much - he was exhausted last night, to say the least.
Then, when he was almost out of house, he had an idea forming in his mind, and a slow smile stretched his mouth apart. He thought for a second, trying to remember which restaurant the blond was supposed to go to for his business lunch today. Then he recalled the name 'Blue Oyster' and grinned to himself. The afternoon just became much more tolerable.
He left the house after nodding a half-hearted 'Good morning' to the butler, who would treat Raven with so much cautiousness as if the dark-haired man was a walking and talking bomb waiting to go off, ever since Julian agreed to hire him back a couple of weeks ago.
Raven made it to the restaurant at noon sharp, parked his car on the side of the road, and wrapped himself into familiar and comforting invisibility after glancing around and making sure that nobody paid any attention to him. He walked inside completely unseen by the stern-looking matradee, and looked around, searching for the blond. He saw him almost immediately; there he was, sitting by the large table next to the window, talking to three serious looking men.
Raven silently made his way to the table, wondering how far he wanted to push the limits of testing Julian's self-control. Far, he decided almost immediately and threw a quick glance around. Nobody was paying attention to this particular table, it seemed, and he looked down for a few seconds. The tablecloth wasn't too long, which was a great thing, and there was plenty of room under the table. Raven looked at Julian who was saying something about some merger, nodded to himself, and carefully sneaked underneath the table.
He didn't want to startle the blond - that would ruin the fun - therefore, he carefully ran his fingers up the pant leg in front of him, which was enough to catch blond's attention. Julian blinked at the sensation and looked down. Raven threw off invisibility for a second or so to let the blond see him, and immediately disappeared out of sight the minute he caught disbelieving look of lilac eyes.
"What about the smaller branches?" one of the men asked, and Julian shifted his gaze towards him.
"This merger would affect every single one of them," he said evenly, and Raven's fingers smoothly slid up towards the zipper of his pants. "Several smaller branches will become one significant part of the big picture."
The tablecloth was just long enough to hide Raven's invisible activity, and Julian picked up his coffee cup with both hands and brought it to his lips, drowning his somewhat short exhale in whatever was left of his espresso.
"There is a chance of some smaller businesses resisting the idea," the other man said, and Raven slowly ran his tongue along blond's entire length, which sprung to attention with envious speed and ease.
"Yes," Julian said as evenly as before. "I am aware of possible repercussions. However, those could be avoided with relative ease..."
Raven delivered several more long, slow licks before wrapping his mouth around the entire, fully hard by now, length.
"...might cause instability," someone said, and Julian cleared his throat.
"Not if the problem is taken care of right away," he said in somewhat strained voice, thrusting his hips slightly forward under the table. "The..." he cleared his throat again, casually lowering one arm and tangling his fingers in Raven's hair. "The root of the problem, that is," he said and picked up his coffee cup once again.
"Let me focus on the financial aspect for a minute if you don't mind," a different voice said.
"Go ahead," Julian's fingers tightened their grip on Raven's hair when the brunet decided to push his testing limits a bit further by involving one of his hands and performing a quick tongue twirl at the same time, which made blond's hips jerk harder underneath the tablecloth.
"...the fiscal year..." the other man kept saying meanwhile.
"The changes would be quite noticeable," Julian said slowly, and Raven admired his self-control. "Some wouldn't come to attention right away, but..." The blond drowned a silent moan in his almost empty by now coffee cup. "...they would be impressive in a long run," he finished, doing his best to keep his breathing even.
Raven grinned to himself and picked up speed drastically, bringing his other hand up as well.
"Oh..." Julian straightened up when the tempo change caught him by surprise. "I didn't realize I was out of coffee," he said when his companions looked at him questioningly, his hips rocking steadily underneath the table. He cursed silently, perfectly aware of the fact that it was only a question of time before his strange fidgeting would become noticeable.
He bit the inside of his cheek when Raven swallowed hard twice in a row, making his throat contract with sweet, torturous tightness. Then the tempo increased yet again, making the blond swear up a silent, desperate storm. He was debating whether to keep himself under control thus prolonging the entire ordeal for God knows how long (Raven seemed to be determined not to back off until his mission was accomplished) or to let himself go while praying that he would be able to keep his composure, when suddenly, there was a shrill ringing of someone's phone. Usually, a thing like this would irritate Julian immensely - you do not keep your gadgets in full-volume condition while trying to discuss a business matter. Now, however, he was more than thankful for that annoying shrill ringing.
"I apologize..." one of the men muttered while feverishly trying to reach for shrieking gadget. It was obvious that he had no idea the phone was even in his pocket, let alone not in a silent mode.
"Take your time," Julian said rather tightly for several reasons and forcefully yanked on Raven's hair, pulling him off himself. "I would welcome a brief pause anyway..." He made sure his pants were zipped before getting up. "We will resume the discussion in ten minutes," he said mildly, moving his empty coffee cup towards the edge of the table, which was a clear indication for a refill.
He walked towards the bathroom without glancing back, perfectly aware that Raven was following him closely even though he could not see him. When he got into the bathroom, he scanned it quickly with his eyes, making sure it was empty, and then he closed the door and threw one of the magic streams around the doorknob, forcing it to stay locked.
"You are going to be..." he started saying in a low voice, and Raven threw off the invisibility while grinning almost evilly.
"Your self-control is impressive," he said, and the blond muttered something and pushed him against the marble counter. "This is a public bathroom..." Raven noted in unsteady voice while Julian was yanking his pants down his hips.
"Not for the next ten minutes it's not," Julian muttered and turned the brunet around, pushing him onto the counter without even pretending to be gentle. "Now, I have to return there shortly, therefore, I don't have time for preparations of any sort, and you are going to finish what you started..." He let his own pants to slide down to his ankles.
Raven looked into the mirror, meeting Julian's eyes. He was about to say something but the blond didn't wait for him to even open his mouth, entering him with one precise, hard thrust. Raven let out a low, muffled moan, digging his fingernails into cold marble, squeezing his eyes shut, and Julian froze for several seconds, letting him adjust somewhat. Raven took a deep breath and opened his eyes.
"I thought you were on a time frame..." he muttered with a crooked smile, looking at the blond in the mirror, and Julian correctly interpreted it as an invitation to move.
"You might want to be quiet," was all he said before slamming into the slender hips in front of him with immediate allegro, skipping the entire accelerando phase.
'Quiet' was easier said than done, Raven thought hazily when those quick, hard thrusts found their sparkling destination almost instantly. Watching the blond in the mirror didn't help a single bit - Julian was biting his lip mercilessly, trying to swallow his own moans the best he could, and it turned Raven on even more. That and watching both of them in the mirror was doing the trick as well. They locked their gazes on each other in the smooth reflecting glass, moving in a perfectly synchronized, quickening tempo, and Raven's throat was losing the 'quiet' battle pathetically.
Julian panted something that Raven didn't even bother to decipher, and pressed his left palm against the smaller man's mouth, muffling his moans somewhat successfully. Right now, Julian wasn't even thinking of making this last long for obvious reasons; therefore, he picked up the tempo even more, making Raven lock his teeth on one of the knuckles that were pressing against his mouth. Brunet's hips followed the maddening tempo eagerly, his restricted moans filling Julian's palm with delightful heaviness, and the blond made a hell of an effort to tear his gaze away from the mirror and throw a quick glance at his watch.
"Shit..." he muttered when he realized that it's been almost ten minutes since he left his table. He hated the fact that he had to go back there, and soon. He looked in the mirror once again, running his eyes towards Raven's hips, and what he saw, made his mouth twitch in a shaky smile. He kept the same breathless tempo going for several more minutes before reaching for Raven's pulsating, begging for attention need.
"Yes...!" Raven growled into blond's palm when he felt and saw that, pumping his hips into the furious fist violently. He grabbed onto the counter even harder without looking away from their reflections. "Oh, God, yes... More!"
Julian tightened his grasp and made his hand to move even faster. He felt Raven pulsate and swell in his fingers, and he locked his teeth on his lower lip hard even before the brunet groaned, "Oh, oh, yeah...!" into his palm, knowing only too well that he would follow the suit almost immediately, which he did. Raven bit onto Julian's hand hard, trying to lock all those sounds in his throat, but succeeding at that only partially, when the furious release made his hips jerk even harder, forcing him to spill all over the marble counter.
Julian hissed something unintelligible and buried his face in Raven's hair, muffling his own moans when he climaxed as hard as his mate did several seconds ago.
"Mmm," he said several minutes later, when they stopped spasming. "This made the meeting much more interesting..."
Raven let out weak laughter.
"This also made my day a hell of a lot less boring," he said in a low voice, and Julian raised his head.
"That's why you showed up here," he muttered without even trying to make this sound like a question. "Because you were bored..."
"Extremely bored," Raven nodded with a small smile, and the blond sighed and straightened up, making Raven wince at the unpleasant emptiness.
"I will need to figure out how to keep you occupied then," Julian said evenly after quickly cleaning up and getting dressed. "Not that I am complaining..."
Raven laughed softly and cleaned the counter, throwing the paper towels into the wastebasket when he finished.
"Missed some," Julian said absent-mindedly while running his fingers through his hair. "Right there," he nodded at the mirror when Raven gave him a questioning look.
"Huh," Raven said thoughtfully and wiped the mirror.
"Yes," Julian agreed in his usual manner. "Somewhat impressive distance. Well, I have to get back to my lunch..." He looked at the brunet as if contemplating something. "You were bitching about the painting in the study for the last month or so," he said finally, and his hand dove into his pocket.
"It doesn't go well with the rest of the house," Raven shrugged at that. "Plus, it's ugly, admit it."
"It's abstract," Julian nodded and pulled out his wallet.
"It's ugly," Raven said firmly. "It's a painting of a freaking purple circle, which is not even shaped properly..."
"Here," the blond sighed and handed him a credit card. "Go raid some antique stores, find a painting that goes well with the rest of the house."
Raven narrowed his eyes and looked at the card.
"What if you hate it?" he asked in a low voice, and Julian shrugged.
"I won't," he promised with a slight nod.
"What if I end up wasting a crapload of money on a fake?" Raven asked in the same low voice, and this time, the blond snorted.
"Please," he muttered. "When it comes to authenticity, you are better than any certified expert! You might not give a flying shit about art or whatnot, but when it comes to distinguishing between a fake and original, my money would be on you...! And believe me when I say it," he added a second later. "You know you originals from fakes!"
"Occupational hazard," Raven grinned and took the card.
"If someone gives you any crap about the card..." Julian started saying, but Raven interrupted him.
"They won't," he nodded, adding the card to his wallet. "Everyone knows me by now."
That was true; it didn't matter that Raven wasn't that famous to begin with. Whenever it came to Julian, people would somehow know that Raven was his mate even though they only announced it some several lousy weeks ago. It was as if there was some sort of a magical update when the matter was about Salamander. Sometimes, Raven wondered whether the 'magical' part was true. After all, Julian did control magic streams.
"But I'll call you if there is a problem," the brunet nodded melancholically after shoving his wallet into the back pocket of his pants. He glanced at his watch and sighed. "I suppose you'd better go back there before people start wondering if coffee caused some digestion problems for you..."
"Right," Julian hemmed and watched Raven wrap himself into the shroud of nothingness. "By the way," he said before taking off the stream, which was still wrapped around that doorknob. "This morning was the last time I didn't wake you up before I left, just so you know..."
"Sure," Raven shrugged lightly even though he was aware of the fact that the blond didn't see him. "It's nowhere close to a guarantee that I won't do it again though... And the next time..." he let out low, dark laughter. "I just might let you simply use the bathroom, instead of following you there. I just might wait for you wherever you left me... Just a thought," he shrugged again, after seeing Julian's expression. "I am curious how composed you can possibly be," he said pleasantly, and laughed again at the quiet, unintelligible string of obscenities. "If you think you'll come back home early tonight, let me know," he sighed. "God knows how long it'll take me to find something that doesn't make me gag..."
"I will," Julian muttered while checking himself in the mirror one last time. "Although, I don't think I would be able to... I am late as it is, and there are quite a few things I need to take care of today..."
He released the magic stream and opened the door after he was satisfied with the last self-inspection.
"I will see you at home," he muttered before exiting the bathroom.
He made his way back to the table, noting his freshly refilled coffee cup, and sat down, reaching for the creamer.
"Shall we continue?" he asked after mixing some of it with his espresso, and let out a tiny smile when he felt lips running lightly over the back of his neck. "As I was saying..."
 Refers to the events in the previous book, Debts.