we invented the remix 6

warm oil and an innocent smile by pensnest: the french quarter mix by topaz

James Lance Bass, eldest son and heir to Blackwater Ridge, was many things, but a farmer was not one of them. His family home was moderately sized, situated near a small tributary of the Mississippi, well-run and lovingly-tended by his father and his father before him. Lance, as he'd been called all his life, had been raised to step into their shoes and had, indeed, not thought much about it until he'd made his first visit to the great city of New Orleans, accompanying his father and uncle at the age of fifteen.

They had tended to business. Lance had fallen in love.

Not with a person, no--though there had been more than one beauty who had caught his eye. No, Lance had fallen in love with the city itself, rife with possibilities that had never even been so much as hinted at in anywhere that he'd been before.

He'd begged and pleaded to be allowed to remain, to take on the responsibilities of his father's agent in the city, arguing that it would give him an appreciation for the business side of selling the cotton that was becoming increasingly important to the farm. He hadn't been allowed just then, but at seventeen, well before he reached the age of majority, he returned to set up his own household and do just as he'd asked, not only for his father, but for his uncles and a few select friends, as well. He, of course, had had an advisor as he'd moved into his new position, and his mother had stayed on until she was certain his household would run smoothly in her absence, but for all intents and purposes, Lance was his own man.

He'd floundered a bit at first, had been taken in by a smooth-talking confidence man, but nothing too awful and by the time the British forces had ringed the city and the mayor had metaphorically thrown open the gates to Lafitte and his cohorts, Lance had been settled and established, enough so that he'd remained through the battle and acquitted himself honorably. New Orleans was his home now, even if he'd yet to make that clear to his family. His sister had married well; Ford would take excellent care of the family and had already provided several children to whom Lance could, if necessary, pass his lands. Once, deep in his cups, Lance had admitted to himself that this would be the answer to all the unsatisfied yearnings he kept folded down tightly beneath his publicly smiling exterior, but he spoke of it to no one.

On the surface, Lance was no different than the other young sons making their way in the city. He gambled with them, whored with them, hunted and rode with them, but when they slept the day through and cared only for their next amusement, he tended to business. And while they sought the company only of those like themselves, he found great pleasure in the acquaintance and friendship of those who would never have been deemed suitable in any place other than New Orleans.

Alexander McLean was one of those, a former first mate on a ship whose captain held more than a few ties to the Lafitte brothers. He was based in the warehouse district and was, confidentially, the person to see when there was an urgent need for goods or services not commonly available in the open markets.  Lance had done business with him more than once; had played cards--picquet and whist and occasionally faro--with him at several establishments. He counted him as a solid acquaintance, one whose card he would take readily in business matters, and one who intrigued him under the quiet, urbane manner Lance constantly strived to project.

All of which made the events of the previous evening and the carelessly scrawled note tucked inside the pocket of Lance's faultlessly tailored coat assume a presence far beyond what any other might assume.

Lance smoothed his hair once last time and took his leave of his assistant, reminding him of several upcoming appointments before he stepped out of the offices he kept and started toward the section of the French Quarter where he knew McLean lived. The street was quiet and mostly well-kept, though the houses were smaller and less opulent than the street Lance's family had deemed suitable for him. Lance touched the note one last time, to remind himself that he'd not dreamed the encounter, that he had tangible proof and then knocked, firm and strong, on the front door.

McLean's man, tall and blond, with a face that looked to be no older than Lance himself, opened the door but made no move to take Lance's card, nor to admit Lance. He suggested bluntly that Lance make arrangements for his desired meeting at a more civilized hour. Lance put on his most charming and harmless face, the one that had served him well through the first long years of establishing himself in business and simply refused. The blond remained implacable. Lance had never actually been physically removed from a doorstep, but he began to think this might be the morning for such an occasion, when McLean's voice cut through the rising tension.

"What the devil is all the racket, Nick?" The blond stepped back and shrugged and McLean appeared in the doorway, attired in nothing more than a heavy silk dressing gown. "Bass? Is that you?"

Lance straightened the cuffs on his coat and stepped forward. "We have some unfinished business from last night," he said, pleased at how steady and even his voice came out. "I took the liberty of calling, but your man remained unconvinced that he should summon you."

"That's why he answers the door," McLean answered, dry and crisp. "I'll handle it, Nickolas," he added, and the blond arched an eyebrow and nodded once before disappearing into the house. There was a familiarity between the two that had Lance missing home suddenly. As much as he loved the city and the life he'd carved out, there was something to be said for having someone who knew you intimately. He jolted back to the present when McLean cleared his throat. "Are we conducting this on the doorstep?"

"Not at all," Lance murmured, and followed McLean into his drawing room. It was tidy, but impersonal, the furnishings clearly those that came when McLean let the house.

"Business, you said?" McLean poured two glasses from a cut-glass decanter; Lance accepted one wordlessly, despite it not yet being noon. Instead of answering, he slid the note from his pocket and held it out. Lance didn't think he was imagining that McLean went pale when he read it, even though the other man's voice was steady when he said, "So you're here to collect."

"No," Lance answered. "Not exactly." He was definitely not imagining the cold, almost lethal, expression that flickered in McLean's eyes at that, not at all.

"You're here as a courtesy before you sell it to the highest bidder, then." There was a world of danger in that flat, unemotional voice, enough to send a shiver down Lance's spine, but he met the hooded gaze as calmly as he could.

"Absolutely not." Lance forced himself to sip at the excellent brandy in his glass, to maintain his facade of calm. "It stays between us." The tension in the room eased, but only enough that Lance felt that he might not feel a dagger slide between his ribs before he could speak again. "I'm curious, though... Why exactly did you write what you did?" The faro table had been nearly deserted the previous night, with the final hand being only the two of them. Lance had won steadily through the evening, but it wasn't unusual for a player to end the night with a note when his cash had been depleted. Lance hadn't so much as glanced at the note McLean had scrawled and tossed into the center of the table until well after the evening had ended and Lance had been slowly readying himself for bed.

"I'd imagine it had something to do with the bourbon Chasez pours."

"No." Lance shook his head. "You hadn't been drinking all that much--"

McLean laughed, a short, quick bark that held more than a little self-loathing, if Lance was any judge. "Haven't you heard the stories, Bass? Never trust a drunkard when there's a bottle to be found."

"If that's how you want to leave it, fine," Lance said. "I don't think that's what was happening, though." McLean's expression didn't change, but Lance remembered how he'd looked the night before, when he'd tossed his note into the game. He'd been watching Lance all night, dark eyes flickering to Lance's mouth and hands and throat. Lance took a deep breath. "I think you meant to offer yourself, because you knew I'd accept."

The silence in the room stretched out, broken only by the clatter of a carriage moving on the street outside the window. McLean's hands tightened on the paper, until Lance could see the veins standing out. "And if that's true?" he asked, his voice, usually so clear and smooth, hoarse enough that Lance imagined it catching in his throat.

"You were right," Lance answered, hardly daring to breathe. "I would accept." The silence fell again, near-smothering in its weight. Lance couldn't help but break it. "If it is not true, if it is something you did not intend, I will not hold you to the note." McLean's head snapped up at that; Lance found it difficult to speak under the intensity of his gaze, his voice catching and rasping in his throat. "I don't want it," he paused to take yet another breath, his body still not getting the air it needed, "Not that way."

"You'd walk away? With nothing?"

"Free and clear," Lance said.

McLean put the note on the small table next to the brandy decanter and looked Lance up and down. "What would you do if you had me?"

The light coming through the windows was clear and bright, dappled from the small tree just outside. Lance watched the shadows dance along the floor. He considered his words with the greatest of care, as though he were entering into the most important dealing of his life. "I would," he began, then shifted his gaze to catch McLean's eyes. "I would want you naked for me, so that I could touch you wherever I might please. Even if I chose to do nothing but share a meal with you or hear of your time at sea, I would know that I could lay my hands on you." He thought of it, a swift teasing glimpse of how perfect it might feel, the anticipation, the expectation. You would know it, too, he thought, but didn't say. There was no need; McLean understood perfectly, Lance could see it in the set of his shoulders. "I would take my time with you--or perhaps I wouldn't," he added. "But I would do as I pleased."

His mouth was dry; the brandy was heady as he sipped it. "That's what you want, isn't it? Why you offered yourself, instead of writing a draft against the gold I know very well you have access to. You want to give yourself to someone and--I'm honored. I haven't said that yet, but I am."

"So well-mannered," McLean murmured, amused, but Lance didn't think he'd been wrong to say as much as he had. It was true, and what little he could read of McLean's stance--and it was a challenge--told him he'd not spoken awry. Well, that, and the fact that he had yet to be knifed and his body left in the street, he reminded himself. The danger of it all was almost as enticing as the thought of the bedplay.


"I wouldn't restrain you," Lance said, musing. "Not at first. It would be better, knowing you were keeping yourself still, obeying me, knowing that you understood that, as well. Later, perhaps; so that you could be free of any obligation other than accepting what I gave you." McLean made a small noise, trapped ruthlessly in his throat; Lance smiled. "And most definitely not stopping your mouth. I think I would very much like to hear you." He swallowed hard at the thought. "Would you beg for me? Would you like it if I slicked you with oil, put my hands on you and worked you open but wouldn't give you anything more until you earned it?"

McLean's eyes were hooded, dark; his breath came as rapidly as Lance's. "Would you?" Lance repeated.

"Yes." The word fell into the silence like a rock into a pond, rippling outward with a smooth, perfect wave.

"I would, too," Lance admitted. "Very much."

The sunlight caught the rings McLean wore on both hands, emeralds and diamonds and a single ruby that glittered like blood. He moved slowly, allowing Lance to admire the lean gracefulness of his body as he untied the belt that held his dressing gown closed. He paused for a second, then shrugged it off his shoulders. It slid to the floor with the whisper of heavy silk and McLean stood naked under Lance's gaze. His skin was marked heavily, inked with designs and patterns Lance desired greatly to map with his hands, his mouth. Patience, he told himself, gathering that desire and holding it under tight control.

The seconds ticked by; with each one, Lance could see the struggle it took for McLean to remain standing calmly, and when he finally allowed himself to touch the smooth, warm skin, his hand slid over muscles so tightly corded he thought they might break the bones beneath them. "If I told you to take your ease, would you follow my direction?"

McLean shook his head once, a quick, sharp movement.

Lance leaned close. "Should I hold you in default, then?"

McLean closed his eyes and breathed in, slow and deliberate, the tension in his body lessening slightly.

"Good," Lance said, allowing his voice to drop as low as it could. He could admit that he liked McLean not being entirely at ease; his tension was... delicious. "I'm not prepared for you, for this." Lance let his hand slide the length of McLean's body, nudging his legs apart with a booted foot. "I have an appointment I must keep." It was a bald-face lie--even if he'd had an audience with Old Hickory himself, Lance would not have stepped foot outside the room had he not wanted this relationship to begin with the proper attitudes firmly in place. "Do you attend anything this evening?"

"Dinner, then car--"

"Make your excuses," Lance interrupted coolly, staring down McLean's objections. "My offices lie just off Bourbon Street--you know them, yes?" He barely gave McLean time to nod before he continued, "I'll expect you at sunset. Make sure your man knows you'll not be back for the night; I don't wish to be interrupted." He stroked his thumb over the lean curve of McLean's hip, teasing downward with short scrapes of his nail before he stepped away and crossed to the door.

"One night, Bass."

"That was the note, yes. But the faro tables never close," Lance answered, smiling and stepping out into the quiet, tree-lined street, breathing deep in the warm, heavy air and luxuriating in the desire pounding through his veins.

He truly did love this city.

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