A Self Portrait

an excerpt




Laguna Beach, California



Sometimes life just can't seem to stop throwing curves at you. On this particular day when things started to go to hell, I had forgotten that my lover, Jeff Stevens, PI extraordinaire, had told me he was meeting his LAPD buddy Detective Joe French for lunch up in LA.

Jeff and Joe had been on the force together some years before, and had remained friends after Jeff had quit to set up his own private agency. Joe had actually been extremely helpful on a couple of Jeff's cases. In fact, if it had not been for him, I would have probably been dead meat not long after Jeff and I had met-but that's another story.

Anyway, when Jeff reminded me he was going up to LA to have lunch with Joe, I wasn't thrilled. Not that I minded Jeff meeting a friend. I trust him implicitly, and besides… Joe is straight. It was just that our friends, Nick and Eric, were arriving from New York the following day and I had made a list of 'to do's' that I had anticipated Jeff's help with.

On top of that, just as he was about to leave, I had a sudden feeling of apprehension. He must have seen the look on my face because he was very quick to ask me if something was wrong.

"I don't know," I told him. "I just had one of my funny feelings."

Over the years we've been together, Jeff has come to respect those 'funny feelings' of mine. Ever since I awoke from the coma that had kept me in la-la land for three years, I've been subject to these strange turns whenever I feel someone close to me is in danger. Sometimes, it's a nasty nauseous sensation and other times it's like an electrical charge making my skin prickle with an eerie feeling of anticipation.

I tried convincing myself it could be that I'd been feeling just a bit out of sorts ever since we'd come back from visiting Jeff's mother in Arizona. The dry desert air and intense heat had brought out all kinds of allergies I didn't know I had until then. That, and the fact that Jeff's mom was not the easiest person in the world to get along with, had made it a kind of tense visit.

It was the first time I'd met her and it was obvious from the get-go that she was just not about to admit to herself the kind of relationship I had with her son. We played it very low key and although it was a strain for me to keep my hands off Jeff the entire time we were there-an entire week!-I behaved myself impeccably. Mrs. Stevens and I, I never got comfortable enough with her to call her by her first name, got along okay. She was quite sweet really. She just seemed so out of touch with her son's life, and it bothered me to see my usually so 'take charge' man be at a loss around his mother.

Now, he stood in front of me, head cocked a little to one side, a questioning smile on his lips and looking better than any man had a right to. Wearing a snow-white polo shirt that accentuated his tan, that often-errant lock of wavy chestnut hair falling over his brow, and with his smoky gray eyes gazing into mine, he was, in my opinion, the epitome of masculine beauty. Okay, I'm biased, but there it is. I could get hard just thinking about him, never mind having him within kissing distance.

"You wouldn't be kidding me with this, would you?" he asked.

I wanted to wrestle him to the ground and ravish him on the spot. As if I could-he's got a good twenty pounds of solid muscle on me. I controlled myself enough to reply somewhat shakily, "No, of course not. It might be nothing at all. Just please be careful driving up there. You know there's a bunch of madmen on the freeways every day."

He chuckled and held me tight against him. "Don't worry kiddo," he murmured in my ear, making me even harder. "I'll be back before you know it." He cupped my butt with one hand, the bulge in my pants with the other. "I'll look forward to having both of these later."

Weak at the knees, I croaked, "You'll have to wait 'til after dinner. Andrew and David are coming over, remember."

"Damn, that's right. You just love to keep us busy don't you? Nick and Eric arriving tomorrow for a whole week wasn't enough?"

"Well…"

He chuckled and bussed my cheek. "What time?"

"I told them around seven."

"Fine. I'll call you when I'm on my way back." He kissed me tenderly. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

I clung to him for a moment longer before reluctantly letting him go. I watched as he ran down the steps from the front door to the driveway below where his car was parked. Before he pulled out, he smiled at me and waved and I was suddenly on the verge of running to stop him from leaving.

"Jeff!" I called out, but he didn't hear me as his car sped to the corner and was gone.

Pull yourself together, I told myself as I went back into the house, Jeff can look after himself. He'd certainly proven that several times over in the past. My cell phone jangled and I hurried into the kitchen where I'd left it.

"Miss me?"

I laughed in spite of myself, feeling relief at the sound of his deep warm voice. "Yes, come on back."

"No can do. You feeling better?"

"Yes," I lied. "Just be careful, please."

"Will do. See you later." He hung up and I walked into the living room, still carrying my phone. Dammit! Why can't I shake this uneasy feeling?

Of course, there was no way of knowing then that the events that would take place over the next forty-eight hours would probably be the most bizarre of my life.