I stuffed my hands in my pockets and waited for Ezra to join me. Standing on the front porch, I looked out over the corral where Vin and Buck were schooling our latest purchase. A big part of me wished I was over there while a tiny part whispered going shopping might be fun. Even though the day was sunny and warm, I felt a shiver run up my spine.
Shopping couldn't possibly equal fun, not in my book.
But Ezra was adamant we needed to go together to chose the new sofa. I think it was his out loud musings on whether a classy aubergine would look nice that decided me. Well, once I looked it up and realized he was thinking about purple . . .
Purple, I shuddered all over, gave in and told him I'd be glad to go along. He'd smiled sweetly and blocked out time in his schedule for our trip. He was on the phone to Japan at the moment, negotiating a preliminary meeting between two companies who were thinking of doing business together. He'd been contemplating becoming a business mensch, as he liked to call it, for some time and our decision to leave law enforcement fit right in.
"Ready when you are, Chris," his voice startled me.
Looking at his trim figure in the cream colored linen slacks, matching jacket and green shirt, I thought about how much I wanted to take him back to bed. "I'm ready, too. Truck or Jag?"
"The truck, I think. If we find something appropriate, we can have them load it." His eyes sparkled up at me and I fell in love all over again.
I'd thought he might decide that so it was sitting in front of the house all clean and polished. Waving to the guys, we got in and headed for town. Ezra had a list of furniture stores and their addresses but he directed me to the edge of Denver where something called Furniture Row could be found for our first stop.
If we were lucky we'd find the perfect one, buy it and take it home. I stopped dead in the entrance of the echoing building. Bigger than five football fields placed end to end and side to side, I'd never seen so much furniture in one place in my life. It was going to take forever just to walk from here to the back of the store.
"It looks like they have a good selection today," Ezra smiled and headed in.
I didn't want to lose him so I hurried right after. We passed through paisleys, country-cute, sleek-teak, chrome, I paused at a black wrought iron with thin cushions. It looked like some kind of masochistic instrument of torture and I gulped when Ezra paused too.
Lifting an eyebrow, he looked from it to me, running a finger along the spiky back and smiling. "Not in my dungeon, Chris."
See, he really can read minds.
"Come along, Chris, the leather is waiting." He started off again and I followed along wondering if they had sofas in that suede material on our bed.
That might be kind of interesting I thought and cast my gaze out further to see what we were headed to. Gradually the sets of sofa and loveseats gave way to bigger sofas upholstered in darker fabrics. More . . . manly, I guess you could say. Looking to see who else was here, I saw a couple of guys wandering around aimlessly and I wondered if they wanted to be here anymore than I did.
"Aubergine, Chris," Ezra ran a hand over a rolled arm done up in kind of a deep plum shade. He winked at me and I stuck my tongue out at him. He chuckled and began to inspect those sofas nearest us.
I went in a different direction so we could cover more territory. The sooner we found a good couch, the sooner we could go home and test-drive it. I decided my criteria for the perfect sofa was how comfortable it was when Ezra took me over the back or side. So I measured each back as to where it hit my crotch. To hell with color, my comfort was more important.
They were all too low, I thought after ten minutes of concentrated effort. Turning to find Ezra, I saw him speaking to a salesman who had a disinterested look on his face. That bothered me for some reason and even from here I could tell Ezra wasn't thrilled with him. My lover wasn't a fanatic about good manners but he did expect to be served with politeness.
Right then and there I wrote off this store. I started back towards him and noticed he was angling towards the front left of the building. It was tricky threading through the sofas but gradually I met with him at the edge of a sea of chairs. We did need a new chair to sit across from the recliner we both loved.
"Good morning, gentlemen, may I help you look for something in particular?" The cheerful voice came from a young man with a goatee and his long blond hair in a pony tail, wearing a green t-shirt with the words 'Legolas Lives . . .' and a picture of the Elf from the Lord of the Rings movies.
"We're looking for a comfortable leather chair in one of the darker colors." Ezra said with his neutral face on. "Not a club chair but also not a wing-back, I think."
"Sure, let me show you what we've got in right now." He grinned and turned to the right.
On the back of his t-shirt, it said '. . . With Gimli' and a picture of the dwarf from the movies. I snickered when I made the connection and the salesman tossed me a grin over his shoulder. "The subtext in the books was unmistakable, don't you think?"
I hadn't read the books but Ezra was flashing the grin that made my knees go weak. "I would say you are quite right, Will. I don't think Tolkien ever realized how strongly he'd written their friendship."
"True, but if you *really* want to find some great stories then you need to go on-line and read some of the fiction that's come out since the movies hit the big screens." He winked from beside a navy blue leather chair and I finally saw his nametag - Will. "How about this one?"
Ezra sat down and stroked the soft leather arms. "Too deep for me but Chris, why don't you try it?"
I'd already walked behind it and shook my head. "Too short backed."
He chuckled. "True, you pick out the backs and I'll test them for legs."
The salesman had caught on, I'm pretty sure but he seemed all right with us, calling out when he found one that might work. Ez' sat in black ones, green ones, plum ones and even one in something I would have called mustard, but kind of like Goldilocks none of them were just right. Until we crossed over into the section of rejects. I swear somebody on LSD had to have been creating those colors.
They hurt the eyes, they were so bad. Ezra looked like he'd tasted something bad and even Will grimaced. "I know they're evil but some of them come in colors that won't scare the kids. There are a couple I think you might like."
"Lead on, Will, the least we can do is try." Ezra winced at a kind of chartreuse green that looked like something out of Ghostbusters. We walked up to a red chair that had a wide seat and rolled arms. When Ezra sat down in it, the arms seemed to fit at just the right height for his elbows. The back sloped a little and his head fell back naturally to rest on the dark crimson leather.
Walking behind him, I could see the back was just right for him to bend me over and take me hard. "How's it feel, Ezra?"
"Comfortable seat, the back is at a good angle," he wiggled a little and curled a leg up under him after first slipping off his loafers. The sight of his long elegant foot wearing just a sock made me go absolutely rigid with need. "Will, does this one come with a footstool or hassock or maybe even a sofa?"
"I'll go get the catalog." Our salesman smiled and headed off.
Resting my arms on the back of the chair, I leaned in a little. "The back fits me just right. We'll need to christen it once it's home."
He chuckled, his eyes looking up at me from his comfortable spot. "I'd be glad to make sure it fits our . . . exacting requirements, Chris. But let's change places so you can try it out."
I took his place and felt instantly at ease. "I think it's wide enough you could sit in my lap, too."
He perched on the arm after slipping his shoes back on. "Yes, I could, love. I have a good feeling about this one, Chris. If we're lucky, it comes with a look-a-like sofa and a nice big ottoman. Then the living room will be done and the major shopping finished."
"I thought you still wanted a dining room table and chairs?" I leaned back and under the cover of his leg, stroked the linen cloth behind his knee.
"Yes, but that's something I think should be commissioned. A native artisan who is close to his Colorado roots and works in mission oak or perhaps even a Stickley-like designer is the person we're looking for." He winked at me.
"Hey, gentlemen, it does come in several other pieces." Will approached us with a slick looking catalog in one hand and a chain full of different colors of leather swatches.
Oh god, I called them swatches. Maybe *I've* been watching too much HGTV.
"Nice, very nice indeed, Will." Ezra's eyes were alight with interest and I craned my neck to take a peek. "See the same nice lines and the rolled arms," he pointed to a colored grouping of a sofa, love seat and chair with ottoman. "They're nice and solid. I'm inclined to get all four of them, five if we get more than one ottoman."
Will had splayed six colors out for us and my eyes went right to a soft butterscotch, my fingers coming up to stroke across it. Looking at Ezra, I saw him nod approvingly. "We'll take them in this color. Did you want two ottomans or more?"
"I believe two will suffice, Chris. The loveseat and one of them will go into my office for those moments when I'm waiting on a call or have a client who is reading a prospectus." Ezra smiled at Will. "Let's write up the order and give you some remuneration."
Will grinned and pulled out a sales contract from his back pocket. "I had a good feeling about it. Here, write on the catalog." He handed them to Ezra and my lover took another seat nearby. "Did I hear you say you're looking for a dining room table and chairs?"
I gave a short explanation of why we didn't like either of our current tables. He nodded then kind of shyly handed me a business card. 'Will and Peter Barnes, Furniture Makers', their address and phone were listed in antique font with the picture of a carved acorn in the corner. For some reason, it reminded me of the carvings on the Standish cupboard.
Ezra finished filling in the forms and handed them to Will, standing to peer over my shoulder at the card. "Excellent, Will, may we make an appointment to look at your wares?"
"That would be great. We don't have a lot of pieces since we mostly build to order but Peter has a few he kind of went crazy on while he was carving." Will beamed at us and his pride in his partner's work shone through. "Whenever is convenient for you except for this weekend. We're taking some of our wares to the county fair over in Jefferson."
Ezra had his PDA out and was checking his schedule while I handed over my Visa with a surreptitious movement. I was determined to pay my own way even though he'd probably always make more than me. Horses would never bring in big sums but breeding could bring in the occasional winner and the financial markets had their own share of downturns. Although Ez' was extremely careful in his investing, saying he was no gambler when it came to money.
It was just his heart he'd risked with me, he said one night when we were still talking about retiring from the government, and that gamble had paid off handsomely. I'd kissed him hard for the compliment and we'd made love for hours before finally falling to sleep.
"How about Monday at three, Will?" Ezra asked. "Here's one of my cards."
"Sounds good, I don't work here again until Wednesday." Will took the card and jotted the date and time down on it. "I'll go put in this order and be right back."
"Chris," Ezra's voice was faintly chiding.
I looked innocently at him. "What?"
"I thought we were splitting our costs fifty-fifty." He sat back down on the arm of the chair.
"We are and when it comes time at the end of the month to divvy up, we'll split it then." I gave him my modified glare, the one I used to use on other law enforcement officers who were being dense. "The household account is for both of us to decide on and I think we just decided that we *both* liked that set."
"My dear Chris," his soft voice made me melt inside and I felt his fingers lightly touch my shoulder. "I'm so very lucky you love me. However, my office is part of my business. The loveseat and ottoman need to be parceled out so I can use them as a tax deduction."
I chuckled, wanting to lean into his touch but knowing I couldn't. "That goes without saying, Ezra. I never get between a man and his tax strategies."
"Fool," he said without any heat. "I wonder if Peter is Will's brother or his lover."
Blinking at the sudden change of subject, I looked over to the office area. Will was finishing up work at the cash register while ignoring the other salesmen who were lounging around. "I got the impression he meant life-partner instead of blood-partner."
"Hm-m, I did, too. He seems like too nice a young man to be working here." Ezra's face showed the tiny moue of distaste I'd started looking for when he was tense. "The other salesman was the closest thing to rude I've seen in quite some time. I couldn't tell if it was the fact that we were two men or if he just dislikes Southerners."
My eyes narrowed and I sent a laser glare at the tall blond who'd been so dismissive. "Did you catch his name?"
"Tom, but we are not doing any investigating, Chris. He's simply an unpleasant person of whom the world has rather too many." The little touch was back and I fought the urge to lean again.
"Nah, Ezra, you're right. There's way too many assholes in the world and now we've got our new sofa and chair, we don't ever have to come back here again." I smiled up at him and tucked the name away until I could talk with JD. What Ezra didn't know wouldn't hurt him and I was determined to make sure he didn't have to put up with any kind of nastiness. "We don't have any other shopping to do, right?"
It was his turn to chuckle and he stood up when he saw Will returning. "No, Chris, we are finished with our chores for the day. You can safely return home and the delights of horse-gentling."
I shot out of the chair with a sigh of relief. "Thank God, this wasn't too bad - for a shopping trip, that is."
"Practically painless," Ezra reassured me with a flash of his dimple.
"Here's your card, Mr. Larabee, and a copy of the sales receipt." Will smiled at us and handed everything back to me. "It was a pleasure doing business with you, gentlemen. I look forward to seeing you on Monday at 3:00."
Ezra shook his hand then I did. Threading our way through the furniture, I kept my eye on the door and avoided looking at anything else. I'd been good but I need fresh air and open spaces after spending an hour and a half in this furniture barn. Once outside, I took a deep breath and smiled.
Maybe I needed to get a little Ezra-fix before I went to help the boys with our new mare, I decided. Once we were in the truck, I leered at him and wiggled my eyebrows. "Since it didn't take us very long, Ez', maybe we could go home and practice our . . . moves for when the new couch arrives?"
His grin was pure imp and his hand immediately arrowed onto my groin. "Why Chris, what a good idea. I'll just help you get ready, shall I?"
Those clever fingers of his were going to have me hard and aching by the time we got to highway six. I grinned and pulled out of our parking space. I wouldn't have it any other way.
The end of part 7