Ghostwalker Sam Jones has been half in love with Michael King since he started working at Requiem Inc. But Michael is his boss and a Guardian, to boot. Sam thinks they could make it work anyway, but Michael uses his position and his age to keep Sam at arm's length.
When Sam continues to volunteer for the most dangerous cases, Michael has to intervene. He tells himself he's just doing his job, but he's always seen Sam as more than another operative, and he can't bear the thought of not taking his chance.
The connection between them has been strong from the beginning, and Michael's telepathy adds unexpected depth and an edge to their new romance, but working together while they try to build their relationship might be the hardest part of their job if they don't make some sacrifices.
"So after we finish this case, let's take a three-week vacation," Sam said as soon as the call connected.
His only answer was the sound of choking, and then Levi's worried voice in the background, asking if Dom was all right. Dom must have responded in some nonverbal way, because Sam didn't hear Levi again. He sat on the couch, leaned into the cushions, and waited for Dom to get hold of himself.
"Are you serious?"
"Sure am. Levi would like that, right? Maybe you two could go away like you're always talking about doing. Except I never agree to that much time off because I'm a selfish jerk."
"You aren't selfish," Dom denied. Then he let out a small laugh. "Much. The job is important, and we both take it seriously. So I have to wonder what exactly is behind your declaration."
"Michael says I need to take time off, so let's take some time off."
The silence stretched on far longer than it should. Finally Dom spoke carefully. "Punishing him isn't the answer."
It was on the tip of Sam's tongue to deny it, but it was Dom, his best friend and anchor, the man who knew him better than anyone else -- even better than his own brother. Sam made it a point never to lie to Dom, and he wasn't going to start.
"Maybe not. But ..." He blew out a breath and reached out to Cameron, who crawled closer. He nuzzled against Sam's hand and purred as he lightly stepped across the couch and right into Sam's lap. "But I think I need to take a break. Not because of the job. You know as well as I do that I can handle these cases for a lot longer than he thinks. But from him? Yeah. I need to step back."
"Ah, Sammy. I know it's hard considering everything." Dom mumbled something he couldn't make out, and it took Sam a second to realize he must have been talking to Levi. His voice was clear a moment later when he asked, "Tell me the truth. Is this about what you need or about showing King up?"
Sam had the decency to really think about his answer. "Both? He just ... with his eyes and his face and his big, damn heart that he pretends isn't as soft as it is. I need a step back. Some perspective. And maybe while I'm gone, he'll realize some things too."
Damn Dom for cutting right to the heart of it. Sam didn't want to answer because he wanted Michael to miss him, to see that not having Sam around was a bad thing. But even if Michael did miss him, it wouldn't make the slightest difference. Michael's convictions were absolute, and if Sam hadn't managed to crack through in ten years, it wasn't likely to happen with a few weeks' vacation.
"Okay. I won't push," Dom conceded, correctly interpreting Sam's silence. "I just worry."
"It's your job to worry."
Dom chortled. "Yeah, that's the only reason."
Sam laughed too and felt easier in his skin. Having Dom as a constant support, at work and at home, made his life better. And now he would give back by taking some extended time off. Dom could go do whatever Levi wanted.
"So, we going to do this?"
"Yeah. And Levi says thank you, and he'll bring you back something expensive and shiny. When do you think you can wrap up the case?"