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The Best Laid Plans

By Jade Falconer



Description

At the height the Great Depression, young heir William is kidnapped and held for ransom by the desperate, yet handsome John. As he tries to make the best of the situation, William finds himself sympathizing with the criminal who is more than he seems, and who appears to want more than William's money.


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Excerpt

William accepted the plate, settling himself to sit cross-legged on the floor. "I don't suppose you have anything stronger than water," he said. His head was still throbbing dully, but he'd ceased to notice it until John mentioned it.

John raised an eyebrow and seemed to consider. "Actually..." he went over to his pack and pulled out a flask, "suppose it's the least I can do, considering." He held it out to William as he sat beside him.

"And never let it be said you didn't do the least you could do." It was an old joke, and not meant unkindly, but as the words left his lips he looked a little worriedly at John. He wasn't sure if the other man had a sense of humor, or if the quip was going to earn him another bash on the head.

John stared at him curiously for a moment as he chewed, then he laughed. "You're an odd one," he observed.

William relaxed a little. "Sorry." He took a bite of his food, watching John surreptitiously. Every moment in the other man's presence made him more appealing to look at. He wished he knew more about him, but he couldn't think of a way to ask that wouldn't sound ridiculous. Could one make small talk with one's abductor?

After they'd eaten, John took a drink of the flask and sat back. "You don't have to look at me like that. I'm not going to hurt you. I didn't mean to hit you that hard."

William averted his eyes and felt himself flush. He'd been caught staring and he felt flustered. He pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them. "I know. I wasn't, I didn't think you were."

"Then what?" demanded John, taking another drink. "I assure you, I want this over as much as you do."

William's gaze snapped back to John's face. "Nothing. I, nothing." He licked his lips and took a sip of water. "Why don't we talk about something else? To pass the time," he suggested.

John nodded. "We have nothing but time. So, tell me, William. Why haven't you married yet?"

William was a little shocked at so direct a question. "Now you sound like my mother," he said quietly. He considered how to answer for a moment. "I was supposed to marry a young lady who's the daughter of an old family friend, but she didn't want to leave Boston." He shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not really interested in all that." He knew it sounded odd. "What of you? Are you married?"

"All that?" John repeated with amusement. "No, I'm not married. Who would want to marry a man with no job and no prospects, with a mother who needs..." he stopped himself suddenly, looking annoyed.

William watched John's face. "I would think plenty of women would like a man like you," he said quietly. He could tell there were things John didn't want to speak of, so he skirted the issue.

"A man like me?" John laughed. "And what kind of man do you think I am? Besides a desperate kidnapper?"

William's lips twitched. "Under the circumstances, I think it's safe to say ambitious." He smirked a little, looking at John meekly. "But you know what I mean. The usual things. Strong. Attractive. Masculine." He bit his lip. "At least, I assume that's what women look for. I wouldn't really know."

John just gazed back at William for a long moment. He had a curious look on his face. "I don't know what women look for, either. And I don't much care, actually. But I'm sure you have them very interested, with your fortune at least."

"Oh, yes. I'd love to spend my life with someone who wants to take all my money. I'll have to do that eventually, I suppose, but I'm not particularly looking forward to it." He looked down at his boots. "But I'm surprised you don't have some pretty little girl to look after you. You seem like the type that would want to be taken care of."

"The idea certainly appeals," nodded John. "Being taken care of." He shrugged. "Just the details are the problem."

William was playing with his bottom lip. It was a nervous habit and he scraped his teeth over it. "What sort of details are in your way?" he asked quietly. This was turning out to be one of the most intimate conversations he'd ever had with another person. Rarely did anyone want his opinion, or worry about why he did the things he did.

John stared hard at William, then took another deep swig. He handed the flask to William and scooted closer. He loomed over the smaller man and growled, "Maybe my tastes don't run to pretty little girls."

William accepted the alcohol. He took a deep drink, sensing that he would need it. He drew a shaky breath, staring into John's eyes. "What do your tastes run to?" he asked hoarsely. His heart was pounding. It felt like all the hair on his arms stood on end.

"Well, the pretty little part is right," John amended, and his gaze traveled obviously down William's body.

William felt warm all over. "Have you ever kissed a girl?" he whispered, his eyes dropping to John's lips. Suddenly he wanted to know what it was like. He felt a strange tightness low in his belly.

"Of course," John said. "Done more than kiss, too. Haven't you?"

William shook his head. "No. I've never done anything." He realized this probably only added to his strange reputation. "What's it like?"

"Kissing a girl?" John asked, taking another drink and gazing steadily at William. "S'alright. Don't much care for it." He shrugged.

It begged the obvious question. The whiskey combined with the blow to the head had made William tipsy. So he asked, "Have you kissed another man?"