"We're both scared," I told Ricky softly, cupping his face with my hands. "But this is going to work and then we can get back to our normal life again."
"I hate to break up this tender moment," Tom said with a bit of a smile, "but Ricky should go pack some clothes and whatever."
Ricky looked at him in shock. "Now?"
"Yeah. The sooner you're safely away from here, the better."
"What about work?"
"Tomorrow's Sunday. If this goes into Monday, you call in sick."
"It's the middle of tax season."
"And? Would you rather call in dead?"
"Okay, you made your point." Ricky sighed and got up, heading upstairs to pack.
"Keep him safe, that's all I ask," I said as soon as he was out of earshot.
"It's you I'm worried about. What you did was beyond stupid."
"Can you think of another way to make Ben finally show his face?"
"Unfortunately, no. Wherever he is, whatever name he's using, he's managed to keep well hidden. And his father seems bent on protecting him no matter what."
"As I said, Ben is his life."
"I can understand loving your kid, but he's taking it to extremes, if we're right."
"And with luck we'll find out soon enough if we are."
Ricky came back downstairs at that point with a travel bag slung over one shoulder. Tom stood, waiting for Ricky to join him. Before he did, Ricky came to stand in front of me.
"You will be careful, and call me every hour, and don't try to lose the man Tom sends as your backup or whatever they call it and…"
Getting up, I wrapped my arms around him. "Not sure about calling every hour, but yeah, I'll be careful. I'm not stupid."
"Right now that's still up for debate," he said with a small smile. "Just remember I love you and I prefer you alive and kicking to the alternative." Putting his arms around my neck, he kissed me hard.
I returned it, savoring as I always did the taste and feel of him. Then, gently, I unwrapped his arms, telling him, "I love you too. Now go. Tom's waiting."
With a deep sigh, Ricky gave me another kiss, a fast one, before heading to the door.
"I'll be in touch in the morning," Tom told me. "And arm this." He tapped the alarm box.
With that, he and Ricky were gone. I watched until they drove away before closing the door, setting the alarm, and going into the kitchen to throw out our half-eaten sandwiches. Somehow with all that had happened, neither Ricky nor I had managed to take more than a couple of bites of them. Grabbing another beer, I went back into the living room. I needed to go over my plan one more time—what there was of it. I hadn't been lying when I told Tom the farthest I gotten with it so far was my phone call to Carlo. I had ideas floating around in my head, but nothing concrete—yet. So I drank my beer and plotted.