Ezra was forced to his knees and his arms were wrestled behind his back as he struggled. The handcuffs were warmer than he imagined. The stories he had heard had always involved the cold clasp of the bracelets. He was glad that it was cold dirt against his face and not concrete. The scratches and cuts would have been unbearable. It had been years, more than a decade and he had never been caught. The people had never been missed. Ezra had never thought of making a grandstand. He had never fantasized about getting caught. Ezra was confident that he would go to his own grave before the mass graves had been unearthed. He prayed to a god that he didn’t believe in that Ardyn could not be connected. The harsh words and the ugly looks from every person that his eyes met as he lay on the ground stung. Ezra closed his eyes as they hauled him to his feet. He didn’t put up a struggle anymore but he didn’t help either. Ezra allowed them to pull his dead weight to the back of the car and shove him in. The countless graves would never reveal the true level of his actions. Some bodies were destroyed elsewhere and never buried. They would never know how many souls had moved on by his hands. Ezra set up and his hair shifted out of his face. He watched as the bulldozers moved in and he smiled. They would destroy more evidence than they would recover. His trial would be easy.
Ezra sat up in a cold sweat with his sheets twisted around him. His vision was blurred and his heart pounded in his ears. He swallowed several times. It had been that dream again. It was not reality. Ezra calmed himself. He chuckled. He reached for the bottle of water he kept by his bed. There was movement to his left. Ezra turned abruptly. He had forgotten that he had not gone to bed alone. Danny lay peacefully by his side. Ezra eased off of the bed and went to the bathroom. He stared in the mirror and took in his appearance. He looked the same and nothing had changed. Ezra was never sure of his age in the dream but he felt older there. He was relieved that it was just the dream again.
“I should have never let Ardyn talk me into seeing that damn psychic,” Ezra told himself as he washed his face.
Ezra glanced at his clock. He decided his day could start early and he got in the shower. He was dressed and ready for the day before Danny turned over and hit the snooze button. Ezra kissed Danny on the head and left to his office.
Ezra watched with loving eyes as Danny climaxed under him. He cared for Danny and wanted to go to the next level. Danny touched his face as he kissed him. Ezra pulled Danny close as they lay in bed. Ezra was ready to give Danny the world. Ezra reached over to the nightstand and opened the drawer. He pulled out the little box.
“Danny my love,” Ezra turned to him and held out the box, “be mine forever.”
Danny looked at the ring. It was a beautiful diamond the size of a dime. Danny felt his chest grow tight. He jumped up from the bed and rushed to get dressed and grab all of his belongings. Danny began to fill a suitcase with as much as he could carry. Ezra sat up in the bed confused.
“You have got to be kidding me!” Danny exclaimed as he searched for his shoes, “a ring? You proposed to me. This year has been great and all that but, I mean, like I like you and all that’s for sure. Ezra I really like you but this was nothing more than getting my music out there. I thought that you knew that. This last year and four months has been great babe really but I can’t marry you.”
Ezra closed the box slowly and watched Danny as he zipped around the bedroom and connecting bathroom. Danny had declined the proposal. Danny had used him. Ezra had given him his heart and trust. He had provided Danny with everything he had to give and all he had done was break his heart. The sheet dropped from around Ezra as he stood and went up behind Danny.
“Danny, how could you turn me down? I love you.”
“I know you do lover,” Danny turned to Ezra.
“You don’t love me?” Ezra asked.
“Have I ever said I love you?”
Ezra looked to the floor and thought back on their time together. It should have been obvious. Danny had never said the three words that meant the most to Ezra. In a text it was always a little heart and the letter ‘U’ and in person it was always ‘loves ya’. He should have noticed.
“I wasn’t just friends with Joey. He is the man that I love. I’m sorry but this was all business,” Danny gestured between them.
“No,” Ezra stated as he turned his grim expression back on Danny.
“It was. I needed to further my career and you were the way to do so. Joey understood. In fact I planned the break up after the release of my next single so that I could go public with Joey. You and I were not meant to be.”
“Did you know there is a bushel of nerves between your jaw and skull behind your ear that can cause a temporary paralysis? Did you also know that if your brain is accelerated too fast the fluid surrounding it cannot decelerate at the same speed and causes disorientation if not full unconsciousness?” Ezra changed his stance and balled his hands into fists.
“What?” Danny asked with a furrowed brow.
Ezra shoveled another mound of dirt into the large hole. He looked over his shoulder at the shadowy figure by the car. Ardyn nodded at him. He wiped his forearm across his forehead to keep the sweat from out of his eyes. Ezra finished filling in the hole and stuck the shovel in the packed earth. He leaned on the shovel and caught his breath. With one final pat on the dirt he walked away from the grave. Ezra lit a cigarette once he was back at the car and looked at his handy work on the ground illuminated by the headlights. He stood there several more minutes before he put the shovel in the trunk.
“Good work,” Ardyn’s voice still held the thick accent.
“Danny should’ve loved me more,” Ezra took another drag from the cigarette and flicked it on the freshly moved earth.
Ezra shook Ardyn’s hand and her tattoos were visible for a few moments as she crossed in front of the car. He nodded at her as she got on her bike. Ardyn was just a mere rumble on the breeze before he got in the car and left the site. He pulled onto the highway and went to the little hotel. Ezra went straight to his room and took a shower. He spent extra time on his hair to make sure all the dirt was removed. He didn’t want to risk any evidence on his body in case it came to air what had taken place. Ezra took his clothes that he had worn out back and put them in a barrel and set fire to them. The bums in the alley would be appreciative for the warmth. He wanted to set the room on fire but knew that would bring questions. He tied his hair back and wrapped it tightly in a scarf before he began his clean up. Ezra took out his dust buster and began his ritual of after work cleaning. When finished Ezra packed all his belongings into the car and went to the office. He handed the guy his key card.
“Thank you so much Mr. Jones. Hope that it was a pleasant stay these last couple of days.”
“It was spectacular,” Ezra signed the receipt and handed the man a tip and was gone.
Ezra headed back to his city. He took his personal bag out of the car and pushed the little sedan into the river. Ezra called Ardyn and she came around and picked him up. He held on to her as they swerved through traffic he thought about how lonely he was again. Ardyn was his best friend and could never be more. Ardyn fed his need for companionship but couldn’t fill that void where the love of a man was needed. She took him to his apartment and let him off.
“Be good. I don’t want to have to visit the woods again any time soon.”
“Ardyn you know me.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ve got plans with Jacob this evening but I’ll come by around lunch time tomorrow.”
“Okay. See ya then.”
Ezra went up to his lavish condo. He looked around and wished again that he had someone special to share it with. Ezra had everything he could want but without love it felt useless to him. Ezra walked through the halls of his condo bored and in need of a warm body pressed against him. All he wanted was what everyone wanted. Ezra had so much love to give and there had been countless times he had given it to the incorrect person. He wanted to find the person that would complete him. Ezra went to his home office and sat at his desk. Work had always been his fall back and always would be. Music was his passion and his first love. There was always work to be done. For Ezra that suited him just fine when he was single and dreading the loneliness.
Ezra lay on his bed staring at the ceiling. Ardyn had tried many times to get him out of the house to social activities but he refused. He wanted to be miserable for a little longer before he got out there and moved on. Danny had been the longest relationship in too long awhile and he felt he deserved the time to mope and bask in his own misery for a few weeks. Ezra took a few deep breaths and felt the depression slip. He smiled. It was time.
Ezra showered and changed into his black leather pants and a lavender button down. He threw a black blazer over the shirt and grabbed his wallet. Ezra took the braids out of his hair and went down to the garage. He got into his black sapphire luxury sedan. Ezra headed to one of his favorite spots, Thai Cuban Bistro. He always had a standing reservation every night just in case. They knew that if he wasn’t there by 10 PM that they could give his table away. There were a few others in front of him. Ezra did not mind the wait it gave him a chance to view who else was there. He smiled as people greeted him. There was one more person in front of him that put up an argument with the maitre d’. Ezra listened in and realized the handsome guy with the auburn hair wanted in but the normal seats were filled and only reservation tables were left. Ezra stepped forward and grabbed the man’s arm lovingly.
“Sorry I’m running late dear. Traffic was terrible getting here,” Ezra kissed the man on the cheek, “sorry about that Enrique. He’s with me.”
“Oh perfect. Next time just let us know you’re with Mr. Garrison and we’ll have you seated waiting for him. He tends to run late every now and again,” the maitre d’ smiled at the man.
“It hadn’t occurred to me. My apologies for making a scene,” the man swallowed his surprise and joined the lie.
“Right this way to your usual table,” Enrique grabbed menus and led them to the table in the corner with the best view of the restaurant.
Ezra sat down with his back to the wall so he could see the restaurant in its entirety. He took in the man in front of him. The man was built nicely and dressed in a Versace suit didn’t hurt. His auburn hair was designed at that messy sexy look that was popular and his grey eyes were piercing as he looked up at Ezra. They waited for the server to leave before they spoke.
“Thank you,” the man said as he opened the menu.
“Not a problem. They fill up quickly on the weekend for general public.”
“Yeah I get that now. I had been told about this place and since I’m only visiting for a little while I didn’t want to miss out.”
“You’ll enjoy it,” Ezra smirked at him.
“Thank you so much Mr. Garrison.”
“Call me Ezra.”
“Very nice to meet you Dadrian.”
They looked over the menu as they waited. The server returned with their drinks. She pulled out her pad for their order. Ezra almost laughed. That signaled to him that she was new. None of his regular servers ever produced a notepad for orders.
“We’ll start with the lobster shiitake pot stickers. He’ll have the palomillo of marinated lamb and I’ll have the tropical hoisin roasted duck. Also bring an order of panko crusted crispy plantain. Make sure that there is enough time between the appetizer and the entrees. We don’t want to have to rush through one to get to the other,” Ezra folded the menu and handed it to her.
She jotted down everything and took the menus.
“Thanks,” Dadrian was little unnerved that the man had ordered for him.
“You’ll want to remember this place as a good experience so I think you deserve the best. Their lamb is the best and so is the duck. We can share everything. That’s the way it’s designed. I figured you should have something you know is going to be good. Sometimes when you try new things and it isn’t something you like then you have a bad idea of the place and people you were with when you tried it,” Ezra said as he sipped his drink.
“Good idea,” Dadrian said as he fiddled with the cloth napkin.
“So you said that you’re just visiting out here. Why?” Ezra sipped his drink.
“I’m a fashion designer so I’m out here for a fashion show. I travel so much and everything gets so busy I forget that I need to step out and try new things. Plus my models kicked me out for working too hard today,” Dadrian downed his drink and motioned for another.
“Hmm. Yeah sometimes you need to take a step back and enjoy life.”
“Yeah. What do you do?”
“I own a record label,” Ezra watched Dadrian and measured his reaction and every move.
“Oh wow. That’s why they know you here,” Dadrian looked around and realized there were several notable celebrities around them.
“Yeah. I spend a lot of time here with clients or friends. I like to keep a table reserved you never know what could pop up.”
Dadrian watched Ezra as he surveyed the restaurant. It sent chills up his spine. It looked as if he were on the hunt. Ezra had chosen the seat against the wall so no one could sneak up on him. Dadrian shook his head; it was all in his mind. He was just nervous about being at dinner with a complete stranger. When he looked up again Ezra stared at him with a pleasant smile. For some reason it made him blush. Dadrian looked back down at his drink. The server brought out their appetizers and refreshed their drinks.
“Oh my god this is like heaven in my mouth,” Dadrian after he took a bite.
“They are delicious.”
Ezra watched the man across from him. He liked his style, he was gorgeous and someone fresh and new. Ezra would have to let Ardyn know tomorrow that he had found a new friend. He couldn’t take his eyes off of him. They talked about little things of their lives to give glimpses into which they were. It was natural and not forced like dates were. It felt like friends at dinner. Ezra could not help but feel drawn to the fashion designer from San Diego. He was not like the others that Ezra had taken home. Physically alone there were big differences. Dadrian was tall, well proportioned and muscular not scrawny and petite. He seemed genuine, self aware and had a good sense of humor. Plus Dadrian had his own career and would not depend on Ezra to take care of him. They finished dinner and had another round of drinks before they left.
“Where are you staying?”
“That’s not too far, would you like a ride?” Ezra asked as the valet brought his car around.
“Sure thanks,” Dadrian appreciated it because he was not one to hold his alcohol well. He was sure Ezra had just as much to drink as he had but he didn’t seem fazed at all. Dadrian hadn’t known that Ezra switched to just soda after the first two drinks.
Ezra drove to the hotel and parked. He knew that he couldn’t leave Dadrian to walk in by himself. Ezra helped the tipsy man out of the car and to the hotel. The staff knew him there as well. He greeted them and continued on their way. Ezra was glad that Dadrian wasn’t too inebriated and was easy to get to the elevator. Dadrian handed him the room key and Ezra pushed the correct floor and led the way to his room. Dadrian smiled at him the entire way to his room. He looped his arm in his and skipped down the hall with him. Ezra laughed as they stopped in front of his room. Ezra opened the door and left Dadrian to go in.
“You’re not coming in?” Dadrian asked a bit disappointed as he realized Ezra hadn’t followed him in.
“I’ve got to work in the morning,” Ezra softly smiled.
“Hm so do I but that’s okay,” Dadrian walked back to the door and stopped in front of Ezra.
“I bet it is. I should really get going,” Ezra whispered as Dadrian leaned forward.
“I’m gay too and you’re hot. It’s the least I can do since you got me into that wonderful restaurant and you paid! I thought it was to get right here in this moment,” Dadrian brushed his lips against Ezra’s.
Ezra allowed him to deepen the kiss. For the first time in years Ezra had lost control of the situation. Ezra knew that he wanted this man. When Dadrian’s arms wrapped tightly around him he almost gave in. Ezra loved the way Dadrian tasted and the way he kissed and nibbled on his lips at the same time. He loved his strong hands that moved down his back and rested firmly on his ass. Ezra felt himself almost give in. He would have that man but on his terms. It took all his might to pull back. Ezra looked up into those smoky grey eyes and almost threw it all away right then. He cleared his throat and pushed away from him.
“I want to but not like this. We’ve only had one meal together that makes it one date. I don’t give it up on a first date,” Ezra smirked.
“Okay. I can respect that. Then I’ll see you tomorrow night. You have my number. I’ll make reservations this time,” Dadrian leaned against the door frame with the sexiest expression on his face.
Ezra turned on heel and walked briskly to the elevator. He ran his hands over his face once he was inside and safely concealed by the closed doors. Ezra had almost lost himself back there and he needed to be careful. Ezra couldn’t give his power away to someone else.