Pseudonym






To: Skip2mLou
From: XBoxer

Dear Lou,

Well, I only have a few minutes before I’ve got to head out into mid-afternoon traffic and see if I can get the Audi through it without damaging the paint, but I thought I’d get a line off before I do. I’m thinking you’re probably somewhere between Bakersfield and Fresno, and may not get this until you find a rest stop with Wireless, but them’s the breaks for those of us on the road.

You’re right about the paisley. Fabrics aren’t my strong suit—(suit, get it? Har-har) and I’ll switch it for velvet, I guess. No point in making the Duke seem any more like a faggot than he already looks. I’ve already heard back from my editor about not having enough description of his damned clothes as it is, so I’m going to be picking up a few coffeetable books on costumes on my next day off.

Whenever THAT is.

The boss has been opting for the limo more and more these evenings, and frankly I think it’s because he can grab a catnap if he leaves the driving to me. Can’t complain, really, since he’s still my primary employer and a good guy—usually—to boot.

Anyway, I’ve got that whole hunting party scene typed out, and now comes the fun part in reading it out loud to see if it sounds any good. Call me if you want a good laugh tonight, and I’ll run it by you. No drinking any Doctor Pepper at the same time though, since I’m not close enough to give you the Heimlich.

Give Boris and Yancey a pat for me—

Harry

To: XBoxer
From: Skip2mLou

Harry!

I’ll be passing through your way in two days: I’ve got a shipment of experimental plasma for Good Samaritan’s labs and smooth sailing down the Five, so if that offer to sweep me off my girlish feet and take me to Yang’s Chopstick Hut is still open, I’m your gal, buddy. Both Yancey and Boris have a hankering for egg rolls too, so better hit the ATM first.

I did not laugh at the hunting scene. At least, not too much, seriously. You’ve done a nice job setting up Duke Anton’s lusty interest, and I’m impressed with all the research you did on the whole hawking sport, bloody as it is. It fits the story, and yeah, a few of your more squeamish PETA readers might get fussy, but who cares? Moonlight’s Surrender isn’t meant to be great literature—you said so yourself. Frankly, I think you’ve done a hell of a job, and you can practically taste the sparks between Anton and prissy Ginellia, so rest easy, okay? Your editor is going to love it, and you’ll have the book done in no time.

Speaking of time, is that boss of yours going to give you any? Stark can’t possibly need you on-call 24/7, right? I’ll understand if you get paged mid-dinner, but tell me you’ll at least try to get the night off, because I still want to beat you at pool, and catch the latest scary movie. I think we’re up to Friday the 13th, the Saga continues.

Gotta go—the pups are getting restless!

Lou

To: Skip2mLou
From: XBoxer

Lou,

I’ve got the night off, in theory. Meet you outside Yang’s Chopstick Hut. You’ll know me: I’m the guy who looks completely out of place in a Chinese neighborhood.

Get ready to lose at pool, too. The definition of a pool hall is ‘a joint where ex-boxers hang out all day, sharpening skills while they bullshit about their former careers.’

Harry

To: XBoxer
From: Skip2mLou

Oh Harry--

Tough talk, big man, tough talk! I have a mint issued portrait of Mr. B. Franklin in my pocket, and he wants company, so be prepared to give up his twin from your wallet once I beat your heinie BAD.

Let’s not have Boris hold the money though; he tends to drool on it.

Lou


*** *** ***



To: Skip2mLou
From: XBoxer
Lou.

I’ve been trying to reach you for the last two days, and I’m just about ready to call in the big guns if you don’t at least shoot me an IM or a phone message or hell, even a postcard would be nice, you know?

Look, I’ve started this damned note about ten different times, and even though I’ve got some writing under my belt, I’m not that good at this part of it, so bear with me here, because I need to get this down, even if you don’t read it.

I was out of line. I admit that. At the time it didn’t seem that way, but after a few beers, it’s true that even my famously even temper has been known to, ah, be provoked. And deny it all you want, that creep was eyeing your ass along with making crude remarks under his breath while you were lining up your shots. I know I should have listened to you and ignored him, but this is a GUY thing, Lou. We don’t put up with crap like that about the gals we’re with. Call it macho and sexist and stupid, but it’s in the hardwiring, okay?

He’ll be fine. I took him home from the ER myself.

Anyway, I know you’re still pissed, and I’m seriously regretting the little scuffle (by the way, that was in no way, shape or form a ‘beat-down’ honey, because believe me, if I had delivered one of those, Mr. Asshole would still be walking hunched over clutching his nuts) and I want us to get past this, okay?

You’re a friend of mine, and nobody gets away with treating you like a piece of meat while I’m around. I’m sorry if that annoys you, but it’s true.

Anyway, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, so I’m going to catch a nap before I go out and get the Spyder washed. I’ll check my mail obsessively, and probably grovel before this is all done.

Come on, Lou—I’m sorry for upsetting you and ruining the night. Please forgive me already.

Give the boys a chin scratch for me at least---

Contrite Harry

To: XBoxer
From: Skip2mLou

I am only forgiving you because I want to see the next chapter of Moonlight’s Surrender and find out if Anton gets slapped again.

And I miss you.

But—and this is a big one, Hogan—you cannot presume to step in for me like that. I’m a big girl; I can handle things myself. If you’d ignored the creep he would have stopped because he wasn’t getting any sort of reaction and things would have been fine. As it is, you’re lucky he’s not interested in pressing charges.

So, to reiterate: you can be Stark’s bodyguard but not mine. That’s Boris’s job anyway, although Yancey likes to believe he’s the big deterrent, the dumb pug.

I’ll be back in town around the 16th—shipment of vaccines for LA General, so if you want to meet up at Shipman Park, me and the mutts will be at our usual bench.

Shaking a finger at you—

Lou

To: Skip2mLou
From: XBoxer


Lou—

Going to be a little late—Stark’s PA needs a lift out to the airport. She almost never asks me for a personal favor, and I owe her, so if you and the boys can wait thirty minutes longer, I’ll be there, Milkbones and manuscript in hand.

There’s a new flick out at the Bijou we oughta catch—period piece with that actor you like so much. Consider it my makeup present?

Harry


*** *** ***


To: XBoxer
From: Skip2MLou


Dear Harry,

Just a note before the fur kids and I get back on the road for the long haul to Bend. First of all, thank you.

The flowers were gorgeous and totally unnecessary and I love them. Only you could find grape hyacinth at this time of year and I’m not even going to get on your case about the cost because I know you’ll just give me that damned inscrutable grin of yours, you big lug.

You have a hell of a memory for details, buddy, and I’m still blown away that you remember what I like.

And about the other thing. I’m not sure what to say. Maybe it’s good that I’m going to be gone for the next three weeks, because I just can’t think about it with any sort of objectivity. We’ve been friends for so long, Harry—going on two and a half years now—and even so, I’m just not sure I can handle what this means.

I’m going to miss you, and I’ll write, sure, but you have to give me some time here. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you too much, but I’d be lying if I said I was ready to jump into anything before I really was.

Sheesh, I sound like an idiot and a bitch. I’m sorry, Harry—I wish I could stop the fluttering in my stomach and the ache in my throat, but I can’t. You’ve been my best friend for so long, and I’m terrified of losing you.

Gotta go.

Love,

Lou

To: Skip2MLou
From: XBoxer

Dear Lou,

I’m writing this from the driver’s seat as I sit on the tarmac, waiting for You Know Who to get off his jet. We’re already late, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to expect me to make up the time by speeding—which I’m good with, actually—but I’m getting antsy just hanging around here. Luckily Ms. Potts is running herd on him, so I expect he’ll be here pretty quick.

I’m not really in any better shape than you are, if that’s any consolation. I’m supposed to be working on Moonlight, and I promised Iggy the outline for the next one, Savage Grace, but somehow I just can’t get into the fifteenth century at the moment.

Not when I’m thinking about you and when we said goodbye.

Ironic, huh? I’ve plowed through four romance novels now so you’d think I’d know how to play out a situation in real life, but no, chalk Hogan up in the ‘without-a-clue’ side of the scoreboard.

Damn it. I’m not going to push, Lou, but from my perspective, it was good. Really good, not that I’m some sort of expert on liplocks or anything, but when you had your arms around me, I just—

It felt terrific. To ME, anyway, and I’m sticking with that.

So in the meantime, you do what you need to do up in Bend. I’m guessing you’ve got some short shuttles between Mercy San Pedro and Oakville, so watch those merge lanes, and make sure whatever you drive has good wiper blades.

You know where to find me.

Thinking of you---

Harry


To: XBoxer
From: Skip2MLou

Harry—

Yancey got into it with a pit bull outside McDonalds; He’s in surgery for his throat and eye. I’m at the vet’s now, waiting. I don’t know how bad it is, and he’s nearly five, which is a hell of a lot of years in dog.

God, wish you were here.

L

To: Skip2MLou
From: XBoxer

On my way. Cross streets?

H

To: XBoxer
From: Skip2MLou

Damn it, I don’t even want to know how you’re pulling it off! Orchard Veterinary Clinic at Orchard and Rosemont, in Mountain View. Yancy’s still in surgery, and I’ve got Boris with me.

Oh Harry, I don’t want to lose him!

L

*** *** ***


To: Skip2MLou
From: XBoxer

Dear Lou,

Stop already. As the boss is fond of saying, ‘it’s just money, and we’re supposed to use it’ so I need you to quit fretting about the bill or paying me back or any of that nonsense. Yancey’s on the mend, and that’s the important thing here. Let’s focus on that, okay?

I know this means an extended stay for you three in Bend, so I’m going to send the proof for Moonlight’s Surrender there and if you get around to looking it over, I’d be grateful. No rush—Iggy’s given me a couple of months to do the final polish, and before you ask, yes, I did get started on Savage Grace, but I’m thinking about shifting the action to Italy because I’m tired of England.

Miss you. I know it’s only been a week, but spending three days with you and Boris and Yancey the Chubby Mummy meant a lot to me, Lou. The coffee. The walks. The arm-wrestling. Where else can a guy get beaten at pinochle by a babe and her Russian wolfhound while a pug wrapped in two acres of Ace bandage snores through it all?

Good times, I’m telling you, good times.

And I know that even though we’ve kinda tabled the big discussion for now, in light of Yance-man’s recuperation and all, I’m feeling better knowing we’re not awkward around each other.

(Yes, I am thinking of that goodbye kiss, and no, I’m still not ashamed of picking you up off your feet and making people stare at us.)

Whatever happens, Lou, you’ll always be the girl woman I kept from passing out in the main terminal of LAX oh so many years ago, and we’re solid, which is good enough for me for right now.

Gotta get moving—the boss needs me to stand around and keep the riffraff from interrupting his lunch out at Crepe d’Or. Just an observation here, but I’m starting to think Stark’s clueing in on how P he feels about his A.

About time.

Smooches to you, tummy scratches to the boys—

Harry

*** *** ***


To: XBoxer
From: Skip2MLou

Harry!

Happy birthday! The fuzzy ones and I will be down your way in six hours—can you get some time off? Please say yes, because I’m planning on wearing a dress and everything. We’re taking you to Waffle World—Kidding! Actually, I’ve got a connection down on the dinner yacht, and they’ll let me bring the boys along if I have them bathed and on leashes.

I dunno what’s going to be harder to accomplish—getting them to wear leashes, or me in a dress.

Le t me know ASAP so we can reschedule if that boorish billionaire boss of yours won’t let you go. Here’s hoping you can make it!

Love,

Lou

To: Skip2MLou
From: XBoxer


Louise—

You. In a dress. Oh I’ve GOT to see that! Hell, I’d call in sick just to get a chance to check you out in girlywear, woman. Consider me there, and yes, I’m bringing a camera. I’ve been needing a new wallpaper for the computer, and this seems to be the occasion to get one.

Where are you staying? You and the fur boys are always welcome at my place, no strings attached, as usual. The added advantage is a chance to see the first three chapters of Savage Grace, not that I’m bribing you, no, no, no.

Okay, yes I am.

Come stay and I’ll give you my room again and the chapters, because it’s cheaper than getting a hotel and you can trust me, you know that.

Love,

Hopeful Harry

To: XBoxer
From: Skip2MLou

Harry—

Are you sure? You know how much Yancey snores, and that I need at least THREE cups of coffee to be civil in the morning—

And seriously, it’s not you I can’t trust, you big lug; it’s ME.

Unless that’s okay by you too, for your birthday.

Love,

Lou

To: Skip2MLou
From: XBoxer


Oh Lou---

Okay?

MORE than okay, woman. As O and K as those two damn letters can ever possibly convey, got it?

Yes, please, with Cool Whip and sprinkles and every other sugar-loaded confection out there! Stay with me, and we’ll see what happens. No pushing, no pressure.

Love you.

Happy Harry


*** *** ***



To: XBoxer
From: Skip2MLou


Darling Harry,

Here is the letter, as promised, from Monterey. Please note the enclosed attachment photo of Boris and Yancey barking like idiots at the seagulls, who are completely un-terrified of our fur kids.

Hee!

I’m feeling very good today—not quite as sore was I was yesterday when I left, but then again, I could get USED to that kind of soreness, because damn it, Hogan, you are big and good and yeah, probably addictive. Who would have thought that under those plain suits and dark sunglasses lurks the skillful libido of a world class stud.

No wonder your damn books sell so well—you know the romance AND the sex!

Okay, now that I made you blush, (and I know I did!) I just wanted to say that your birthday was very, very good for me, Harry, and for more than just the physical part. I loved just cuddling up together naked afterwards with you and listening to you read Savage Grace out loud. And eating birthday cake in bed, and feeding Yancey all that burned popcorn, and the four of us having that picnic out on the beach.

Damn it, I’ve got another four days until I make the LA run again, and I’m hoping, hoping, hoping we can get together, because you’re my best friend and I’m sort of, seriously, crazy about you.

That sounds so high school, but I’m not sure I’ve got the brain cells left to maturely convey how I feel, so I’ll settle for showing you once I see you again, Harry.

Love you,

Lou

To: Skip2MLou
From: XBoxer


Lou-Lou!

Got your note, and right after that, Iggy called and said Touchstone is interested in optioning Moonlight’s Surrender as a vehicle for Benicio Del Toro and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Guess which one I’m happier about? Here’s a hint: Not the last item.

Baby, you are terrific, and you’re not the only one with a few aches in places not mentionable in public. In our lusty rush, we did take on a few positions I’m paying for now.

That, by the way is NOT a complaint. God, no! While I’m very fond of beds as surfaces for lovemaking, I’m certainly not going to turn down the chance to test the kitchen table, or the living room sofa, or the counter in my bathroom as long as YOU are enticing me on.

Love you. Putting that in right now so it’s said loud and clear.

LOVE YOU.

I wish you could see me right now; I’m grinning like an idiot of course. Anyway, four days is going to seem like an eternity, but you’ve been on the circuit for what? Six years, so I have patience that you’ll make it into town just like you always do, and I’ll be waiting for you and Yance-man and Big Bad Boris.

Oh, and Mona as been bugging me to invite you back for another night of pinochle and kielbasa, so I’m dutifully passing the invitation along. We’ll go, have dinner, and after a suitably polite amount of time, make it an early night and go home---

It’s so true, Lou baby; people in love are completely idiotic. It’s a good thing I’m not in the ring anymore, because feeling like this, I’d be clocked before I even got off the stool in my corner.

When did it start? Hell if I can pin it to an exact moment, but now that it’s here, I don’t want to let it go. You drive safe, honey, and I’ll be waiting for you.

All my love,

Harry





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