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Authors: Augusta Hill

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BOOK: Love Saved
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Chapter 14

K
irk sat dejectedly
on the plastic kitchen chair, peeling potato skins into the bucket at his feet. His feet were aching after a long day searching for jobs, and he wished he could take a break on the couch to stretch his tense back. However, he still had a box of vegetables left to peel, and he didn't want to let his sister down. She was working twelve-hour days in her catering business, trying to make ends meet while he looked for work. The longer he went without money, the less time she’d have to make her art and try to follow her real dreams.

"Did you get any leads today?" Salma asked as she came into the room, her arms full with a heavy bag of rice.

"You should have let me carry that in," he chided softly, standing up to take the sack from her.

She shook her head at his offer for help and made her way to the kitchen counter. With a grunt, she dropped the bag onto the tile, next to various other boxes and bags of spices and vegetables. Wiping her forehead with the back of her hand, she turned and faced him again with a stern face. "You didn't answer my question."

"I found nothing. No other tourist agencies want me, and the airport doesn't need pilots. At best, I might be able to work loading baggage onto the planes, but I doubt anyone is going to let me touch the controls again." He finished peeling the potato in his hand and placed it on the table next to him where a small stack of peeled white orbs lay.

"It's not fair! You are an excellent pilot. Without your skill, the crash could have even been worse! It was the fault of that mechanic and your incompetent manager." Salma grabbed a knife and potato, sitting down across him Kirk and began peeling as well. She furiously cut into the vegetable's skin as if it had been part of the fiasco.

"Many people played a role, but at the end of the day, I was in the pilot's seat. It was a place of much responsibility, and I take the blame."

"You shouldn't," she hissed angrily, before stabbing her knife into the spud with extra vindication. "Why didn't that billionaire help you more? You were the one who saved his life. What an ungrateful, spoiled brat."

"Don't speak about him like that," Kirk broke in, his voice harsh and louder than he had intended. The room sat heavy in silence, and Salma looked at him with a frown. Clearing his throat, he continued on in a kinder tone. "Look, it's not his fault. He was a good man."

Salma sighed and looked at him with a slightly softened expression. "I'm sure he was very charming. But I'm just trying to look out for my brother." She patted Kirk on the knee gently. "I don't think he is a man who deserves your trust and friendship. Or your heart."

Kirk shrugged, not wanting the conversation to continue. His sister was supportive, and he deeply appreciated that. She hadn't been out there in the desert with him and Oren, however. She didn't get to see the good sides of the billionaire as he began to open and let Kirk see his fears and weaknesses. She hadn't seen how they had kissed in the tent, hearts raw and exposed as they let their defenses down.

When he failed to comment, Salma sighed and got up, beginning more prep work. They had several large orders to fill that day, and with her income being their only, they needed to take every single one they could get. They would have to peel and prep vegetables for at least another hour, and then she would spend several hours in front of the hot stove working.

He watched her out of the corner of his eye, his heart constricting painfully as he saw her knead her hands together, trying to unbend cramped fingers. He wanted more for her, a different life. He hated seeing her bent over the stove, sweat pouring into her eyes and her mouth tight with displeasure. It wasn't that the work was hard - he knew she gave herself muscle cramps from working all night painting too. It was that she hated it, and he couldn't give her the opportunity to promote her art in galleries like she dreamed of.

A knock sounded at the door, and Salma wiped her hands with a towel quickly. "That'll be the delivery boy, wanting to pick up the first round of orders. I'll tell him to come back in two hours since we are behind."

She left the room, and Kirk listened to her footsteps fade away as she went to the front door. He couldn't see the entryway from where he sat, but he could hear her voice rise in surprise as she opened the door. Then there was silence for several seconds.

"Salma? Is everything ok?" he called, straining his ears. Something seemed wrong.

He heard low murmurs begin from the doorway, but she didn't respond to him directly. He stood up, face creased in worry. "Salma?"

"It's ok, Khaled," Salma called, in a voice that said things were quite the opposite.

He stood up quickly and half sprinted to the door. As he rounded the corner of the front hall, he started to ask what exactly was happening. The words died on his lips before he could make a sound.

A tall, broad-shouldered man stood in the doorway, talking intently to Salma. He appeared to be pleading with her, his hands outstretched in supplication. Kirk's sister was shaking her hands rapidly in front of her, as if she was trying to shoo the man out the door. Both stopped talking and whipped around as they heard Kirk's footstep.

"Oren?" Kirk took a step forward, not trusting his own eyes.

"Kirk…no, that’s not right. You are Khaled to me now, and always will be.” Oren smiled as he said the name, and Kirk’s heart began to pound even faster. “I'm glad I finally found you. Although I wasn’t sure your fierce protector here was going to ever let me in."

"For good reason! You have ruined his life! He was fired from his job because of you, and now all he can do is search the streets for work because no one will let him fly. And if that is not bad enough, he has been moping around like a lovesick teenager for weeks." Salma crossed her arms in front of her, glaring at Oren as she spat her words out.

"I heard about the firing. Khaled, I'm so sorry. I made a point to tell everyone that it wasn't your fault. That you had worked tirelessly to save me. I even left money with your boss for a bonus!"

"What? We got no money. That bastard must have kept it for himself." Salma was pacing now, her face furious.

"I can replace the money. More even, whatever you need. I never meant for this to happen, please believe me."

Kirk was frozen in place, his mouth slow to accept commands. He felt like he was in a dream, everything around him occurring either too fast or too slow, and nothing felt natural. How could it be that Oren was there, standing before him? Looking so devastatingly handsome, but with eyes seeped in sadness?

"Oren? Kirk croaked again, finally getting his legs to move. He crossed the room stiffly, hands held out in front of him.

Oren reached out and met his grasp, squeezing his hands tightly. "I can fix things, I promise."

"Did you just come about money?"

"No. I came because I wanted to see you again. I heard what had happened, and the only thing I could think about was coming to make things right and to tell you to your face how I feel."

"And you do you feel?"

Oren took a deep breath before letting his words out. "Like every day since I've gone home has been dull and colorless. Like I’ve been marching in place, checking boxes and filling in bubbles for no reason at all. That I have everything in the world but want none of it." Oren's words started out hesitant and jumbled but became more fluid as his heart poured out. "I was sitting in my office, looking around at everything I've built, and I realized I had somehow been happier stuck in the middle of nowhere with you. I'm always the one leading my business, the one who all the responsibility falls on. With you by my side, I realized I didn't need to carry all that on my own. You supported me, cared for me when everything was bleak. I've never trusted someone else to be that close to me, but with you, it felt natural. I need that in my life again."

Oren was slightly gasping for air as he finished his speech, and he looked at Kirk with anxious eyes. Kirk swallowed slowly, trying to get the lump out of his throat so he could respond.

"Being able to watch over you, to protect you, was one of the greatest gifts I have received. I have thought of very little else since you left," he managed to get out at last.

Oren pulled him close into a tight hug, and they rocked together slowly.

When Oren pulled back, he looked over at Salma somewhat shyly. "I told you I wasn't going to say anything to upset him."

Salma laughed thickly, her eyes bright with tears. "I swear, if you hurt my brother..." She left the threat unfinished, instead cutting off her words and walking over to squeeze Kirk once on the shoulder. "I'll let you two talk alone. I'm glad you can be happy now." Then she left the room, heading back towards the kitchen to finish their orders.

"I have a crazy proposition," Oren said as soon as she left. "What do you think about coming back to New York with me?"

Kirk ran a hand over his head, thinking it over. "What would I do in New York?"

"Be with me of course." Oren flashed a grin before turning more serious. "I need a pilot who can fly me to events and meetings. I spend half my time traveling, and I realized I might be more comfortable if I had my own jet to take."

"And you will let my fly you again after last time?"

"Without hesitation. I know this is fast, but I don't want to let our chance at happiness slip by. If you come with me, we can see what develops here. We can get to know each other more, travel together, and make some new memories that don't involve heatstroke."

"I can't leave Salma," Kirk started, looking towards the kitchen. "We have no other family, and she needs me."

"Salma can come, too. You said she wanted to be an artist, and New York would be perfect for her. There are so many galleries and communities she could work with. I don't want you to abandon her, and I wouldn't dream of having you come without her."

"And if you get tired of me?"

Oren stepped closer again, and gently stroked Kirk's face with his left hand. "If I were to get tired of you, I'd be a fool. Please say you'll come."

He then leaned in, brushing his lips against Kirk's. Kirk mewed slightly with pleasure, opening his mouth to deepen the kiss. It was everything he remembered; electricity ran down his back, and warmth pooled in his stomach.

When they broke apart, gasping slightly, Kirk had his answer ready. "This is crazy, but maybe not as crazy as walking across the desert together. Yes, I'll go back with you. I need you in my life too."

Epilogue

O
ren leaned back
in the deck chair, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his face. Beside him, Khaled seemed similarly content, his shirt off and a hat pulled down over his face. Oren took a moment to enjoy the lean muscles of his lover, taking in every ridge of his smooth, taut stomach.

They were on the balcony of Oren's penthouse, enjoying their view of Central Park. Buying an apartment with that view had cost Oren a hefty chunk of change, and he had sold quite a lot of stock to get it. But Khaled had needed to be able to see nature or else Oren was sure the man would go crazy from claustrophobia.

Inside the apartment, Oren could hear the front door open and close, followed by high-pitched laughter. He smiled and leaned forward to gently shake Khaled's shoulder.

"They're back."

Khaled yawned and stretched before pulling the hat off his face and giving Oren a dazzling smile. "What do you want to bet that they've brought food with them?"

"Boys! We've brought some takeout home," came the musical voice of Salma from the living room. "Hurry before it’s cold."

Oren laughed and padded into the apartment, followed closely by Khaled. On the table, the women had set several bags of Chinese takeout, and the room smelled delicious.

"What have you two been up to?" Oren asked, piling chow mien onto a plate.

"We picked out a new outfit for Salma. She needed something memorable to wear to her gallery opening," Georgette answered, draping her arms around Salma's shoulders. "She is going to look amazing in this bright blue dress we picked out!"

"You are both coming, right?" Salma asked, looking from Oren to Khaled with pleading eyes.

"Do you think I would miss that? I'd walk across the Sahara to make it." Khaled smiled lovingly at his sister.

"Again," Oren broke in. "No doubt pulling me along behind him, complaining bitterly and slowing us down."

Georgette rolled her eyes and motioned towards the kitchen. "Let's go eat in there, Salma. They are going to start reminiscing about their incredible journey for the third time this week."

"If you walked across the Sahara, you'd be telling everyone about it too," Oren called as the two women retreated from the room laughing.

"It is one hell of a 'how we met' story," Khaled said as he settled down at the dining room table.

"Yeah, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. It started out as a tragedy and ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. Life is hard to figure out sometimes."

Oren set his plate down and settled into his chair. His leg was pressed against Khaled’s under the table, and he enjoyed the heat that flashed between them as they touched. Even after being together nine months, simple touches still managed to make Oren's heart skip a beat.

"It was the best thing to happen to me, too," Khaled said at last, breaking their companionable silence.

"That’s good to hear, because I have a surprise for you. I got us dinner reservations for tonight before we go to your sister's art show."

"Where at?"

Oren smiled mischievously. "Oh, you've heard me talk about it before. I just was waiting for the right time to take you. It's my favorite place, La Mar. We'll have the best seafood in the city."

"Is this the place you talked about for an hour as I dragged your half-dead body across the sand? I had hoped you'd never mention it again."

Oren laughed loudly. "I thought you'd remember it! Was I really that bad?"

"You were so out of it. Kept telling me how good I'd look in the candlelight. That was when I started to suspect you had some romantic feelings towards me."

Oren grimaced. "I have no memory of that, which is probably for the best. But I’d still love to take you.”

"Fine, I will go." Khaled smiled indulgently. "On the condition that we also reenact our oasis moment in the hot tub later."

"I thought you'd never ask!"

Oren looked at his lover’s smiling face and thought how lucky he had been to be saved by Khaled. Not just from the plane crash, but from a life of dullness and loneliness. Oren could let his guard down and finally allow someone to protect and love him completely. He looked forward to many years together, enjoying this beautiful new feeling of surrender.

BOOK: Love Saved
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ads

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