Other Lives
by Lianne Burwell
November 1998

Mac Ramsey lay on his back, in bed, staring up at the lights reflected 
through his bedroom window onto the ceiling, wondering if things could 
possibly get any better. Compared to the first half of his life, he was 
on top of the world.

For twelve years he'd been dragged around the world by his father, a 
petty conman. For years he had figured prominently in many of his 
father's schemes, until he outgrew the 'cute little tyke' stage, and 
started to get too tall. After that, he had been lookout and backup. And 
from time to time, his father would drop him off with a friend for a 
month or two, while he went off somewhere.

When Mac was twelve, though, his dad had dropped him off with a friend in 
Hong Kong, not realizing that his friend had... other plans for Mac. 
Late one night, he'd overheard the man arranging to sell him to some sort 
of brothel that supplied young boys to businessmen, and he had hit the 
ground running. For three months he had lived on the streets, on the 
edge of starvation, working as a pickpocket. A Caucasian, he'd been the 
target of the various Asian gangs. A pretty boy, he'd been the target of 
predators. But he'd survived. He was good at that.

But that all changed one day when he saw an elderly businessman. Easy 
pickings, he thought. And he had been. A quick snatch and run, and he had 
the man's wallet. He found himself a safe corner and checked his prize.

The wallet was full of cash, enough to keep him alive for *weeks*. Then 
he checked the ID in the wallet, and realized that he was dead. It 
belonged to Old Man Tang, head of the most powerful crime syndicate in 
Hong Kong. They would find him, and kill him. There was nothing he could 
do about it. Unless...

That night was an exercise of every skill he had ever learned in his 
short life. He had crept into the Tang compound, sneaking past the guards 
and the security systems and the dogs. Inside the main building, he had 
made his way to the library. Quietly he had placed the wallet, all of the 
money still in it, on the desk and turned to leave.

The doorway was filled with armed guards. He raised his hands and closed 
his eyes, prepared to die. It had been a gamble, and he had lost.

"Leave us," he heard and opened his eyes to see that all the guards were 
gone, and Old Man Tang was standing there, alone. For a moment, Mac was 
sure that the man wanted to kill him, personally, but Tang was smiling.

"Quite clever, but there are security cameras everywhere, and you missed 
seeing one. Why did you come?"

"I... I wanted to return your wallet. If I'd known who you were, I 
wouldn't have taken it. Really!"

The man laughed. "So, instead you sneak into a heavily guarded building 
to return it?" He shook his head. "What is your name, boy?"

"Mac Ramsey." Mac was almost dizzy with confusion by this point. Was he 
going to be killed? Or let go?

Neither, was the answer. Instead, Old Man Tang had taken him in. Given 
him a home, teachers, a new life. A new brother, and - a year later - a 
new sister. In time, Mac had stopped wondering what his real father was 
doing, where he was. It didn't really matter.

Tang was his father now, and he was more than happy with the exchange. 
Michael was the brother that he'd always dreamed of. And LiAnn...

LiAnn stretched against him and started to get up. Mac grinned, and 
pulled her close, kissing her deeply. He pouted when she pulled away.

"Mac, I have to go."

"No you don't," he said, running a hand down the flawless skin of her 
back until it came to rest cupping one small buttock. LiAnn was 
everything he could hope for in a lover, and - he hoped, eventually - 
a wife.

"Yes. I do," she said firmly, pulling away again. She got out of the bed, 
and started collecting her clothing. Mac propped himself up on one elbow, 
grinning at the sight of her.

"Why do you always have to leave?" he asked. "Why can't you stay the 
night? In fact, why not just move in?"

LiAnn turned, a serious expression on her face, and Mac felt his grin 
disappear. Something about her expression made his stomach knot up. "What 
is it?"

"Mac..." She took a deep breath and started again. "Mac, we've had a lot 
of fun, but there really isn't much of a future for us together."

"What do you mean, there isn't? Why not?"

She sighed. "I just... can't see us staying together. I mean, we're both 
young. I think we shouldn't narrow our options so soon. See other people."

Mac shook his head. "I don't understand. I don't *want* to see other 
people. I'm happy with *you*."

"But I do."

The blunt statement knocked the breath out of him, and he couldn't find 
anything to say. Instead, he watched in shock as she got dressed, and 
left. She paused at the doorway.

"I'm sorry, Mac."

Then she was gone.

Mac flopped back into his pillow. He'd been on top of the world, only 
moments ago. How could things change so fast?

* * * * *

Mac swept through the apartment, whistling a dance tune to himself. 
They'd been fantastic that night. He, Michael and LiAnn had retrieved a 
diskette's worth of information from the target's computer and done it 
with style. Using the ballroom dancing competition as cover had been 
brilliant, if he did say so himself.

Who was he kidding. He'd suggested the plan just so that he could have 
LiAnn in his arms again, even if only on the dance floor, and it had been 
*wonderful*. All the passion was still there. He could see it in her 
eyes. She still wanted him. Loved him. He still had a chance.

That's why he was in her apartment, waiting for her. Bouquets of white 
roses were on every surface. He'd given her white roses once before. 
She'd pointed out that red roses were for love, white were for 
friendship. He'd replied that everyone did red. If she got white roses, 
she'd know they were from him.

He inhaled deeply the perfume from one of the bouquets. They were meant 
for each other, and they both knew it. All he had to do was convince her 
of it.

He was rearranging the last bouquet when he heard the front door open. 
He turned smiling, but the smile dropped away. LiAnn wasn't alone. 
Michael was with her. They were laughing. Then Michael pinned her to the 
wall and gave her a lingering kiss, and Mac felt the bottom of his 
stomach fall out.

He must have gasped or something, because LiAnn turned to see him. She 
pulled away from Michael, straightening her dress.

"Mac! What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to talk to you. Alone," he said, looking at Michael.


"No," Michael said. "Anything you need to say, you can say to both of us."

"This doesn't involve you."

"Yes it does," Michael said, taking a step forward. LiAnn grabbed his 
arm, pulling him back. "It's about time you knew. Father is sending me to 
take over the Singapore operation."

"What?" Mac said in disbelief. "He's breaking up the team?"

"There's more. LiAnn is going with me. As my wife." Mac watched, stunned, 
as Michael brought LiAnn's hand to his lips.

"LiAnn?" She nodded, confirming what Michael was saying but wouldn't meet 
his eyes. Mac couldn't believe it. They'd only been apart for a few 
weeks, and she was marrying Michael? How could she have moved so fast? 
Then Mac felt his heart freeze over.

"Just tell me, LiAnn," he said, the ice creeping into his voice. "How 
long has this been going on? Is *this* why you would never stay the 

She didn't say anything. She didn't need to. The expression on her face 
told him everything he needed to know.

He left without a word.

* * * * *

Victor Mansfield entered the squad room that was home to the Toronto PD's 
Narcotics branch, and the room fell silent. He ignored it. Stan was 
waiting in their corner of the room, and he ignored him too. He'd gotten 
very good at ignoring things over the last few months. He sat down and 
started going through the information for the day's agenda.

"Looks like Kandall's going down," Stan said. Victor grunted as an answer.

Whenever possible, he kept away from his partner and the rest of the 
team. He'd learned not to trust them. Finding out that the team was 
dirty, only weeks after transferring from Vice, had been bad enough. 
Watching them frame another cop for possession with intent to sell had 
been worse. Jimmy McLaren, a recent graduate from the Academy, had been 
collecting proof of corruption in the department, planning to turn it 
over to Internal Affairs. Unfortunately, he'd been found out first. His 
proof had disappeared, and when officials had arrived to search his 
locker, a kilo of smack had been found in it. Despite his protests of 
innocence and his attempts to explain about the corruption, the young man 
was still in jail, waiting for trial.

"All right, folks. Listen up." Victor looked up as Joe McDowell came into 
the room. McDowell seemed like the perfect cop, with an impressive arrest 
record, but Victor had seen the man accept bribes and shake down drug 
dealers. "We've got a warrant on 'Skrag' Kandall. We're taking him down, 
tonight. Gather around, and get your assignments."

Victor joined the others, waiting to find out where he was supposed to 
be. Idly, he wondered if Kandall had refused to pay the bribes to keep 
McDowell happy.

After the kid had been arrested, Stan had come to see him one night. Stan 
was the one who'd convinced him to make the move to Narcotics, and now he 
was telling Victor about the way the team worked. Making sure that Victor 
understood the price of ratting on the team.

Victor got the point, all right. He was part of the team, and he was 
trapped. He assured Stan that he'd keep his mouth shut. But he also told 
Stan that he wasn't going to be dirty. He'd look the other way for the 
other cops on the team, but he wasn't going to take anything. Stan had 
nodded and told him that it was good enough. Then he'd told Stan to get 
the hell out of his apartment. He'd work with the man, but he'd be damned 
if he'd be friends with someone who'd gotten him into this mess.

That had really hurt. He'd gone through the Academy with Stan. They'd 
been friends. Brothers. Lovers. Victor's first and only male lover. But 
that was over.

Victor accepted the sheet of paper with his assignment from McDowell. The 
man stared him down, and he lowered his eyes, the picture of submission. 
He examined the instructions, wondering if this time, he was intended to 
take a bullet. He figured that was where he was headed.

* * * * *

Mac stood at the large picture window in Father's office, looking out at 
the night lights of Hong Kong. The sight was beautiful, but oh so cold. 
Mac's face felt scratchy from the tracks of tears that had dried. The 
tears were gone, now. He wasn't sure that he had any left.

"Mac? James told me you were in here. What is wrong?"

Mac turned to face the father of his heart. "Michael told me that he and 
LiAnn are leaving for Singapore."

"Yes. Michael wanted a chance to head the operation there, and LiAnn said 
she wanted to go with him."

Mac sighed. Deep inside, he had hoped to find out that LiAnn was being 
coerced into this, that it wasn't something that *she* really wanted, but 
that hope had just been dashed.

"What do I do?" he finally asked.

"Whatever you want," Father said, in a puzzled tone. "Nothing need change 
for you."

Mac shook his head. "Everything has changed. I... I don't think I can 
keep working for you as a thief alone. I just... I don't want to do that 

"Then what would you like to do?"

Mac looked over at where Father was, sitting on the sofa. There was no 
censure on his face, just open concern of a kind he had never seen from 
his real father.

"Something different. Something... not illegal?" He winced. The Tang 
Family was heavily into the underworld. Little of what they did was 
legal. But he'd been a thief for most of his life. He wanted to do 
something completely different from that. Something that *wouldn't* 
remind him of Michael or LiAnn.

"So working on the gun operation is out?" Father said, in a mildly amused 
tone. Mac winced.

"Definitely. I don't think I could live with myself knowing that I sent 
guns that someone is using to kill people."

"Sit down, Mac." Mac came over, and perched on the couch, feeling very 
uncomfortable. "Actually, this is very good timing. As you know, law 
enforcement techniques around the world have become very accurate, and 
effective. Technology, being the way it is, will only make it more so. I 
have been considering, for a while, converting the Tang holdings. Moving 
them to only legitimate operations. I am sure that I have mentioned this 
to you before."

Mac nodded, wondering where this was going.

"Unfortunately, this cannot be done all at once, and until it happens, I 
must devote a great deal of my attention to the... less than legal 
operations. I would like to put you in charge of the conversion process, 
reporting to me."

"Me?" Mac sat up straight. "But I don't know anything about business."

"No, but you are intelligent. You will learn. You will be enrolled in 
business courses at the University, and I will assign advisors to you who 
*do* know business. But *you* will be my representative in these matters. 
Is this agreeable?"

Mac chewed on the inside of his lip, as he considered the offer. He'd 
never been offered this sort of responsibility before, and it scared the 
*hell* out of him. But, deep inside, a spark lit up at the possibility. 
That Father would consider trusting him with this warmed him, despite the 
chunk of ice that seemed to be lodged in his heart. And... And it was a 
chance for him to do better than Michael. To prove that he was the better 

"Okay. Where do I start?"

The smile on Father's face was almost blinding.

* * * * *

"So, did he see you?"

Andy nodded to McDowell's question. "I made sure. He saw me carry the 
package from the building."

"Did he say anything?"

"Not a word. Gave me a dirty look, though."

McDowell nodded. He turned to Stan. "Looks like your boy is behaving 
himself. I'd be happier if he was in all the way."

"Vic's not dirty. But he's not a rat, either."

"We should just get rid of him. He's a liability!"

McDowell waved off the outburst from one of the other men in the room. 
His eyes never left Stan's. Stan's eyes were pleading for his friend's 
life. "As long as he doesn't step out of line, we leave him be. But if he 
ever does..."

Stan nodded. He understood. If Vic stepped over the line, he was a dead 
man, and Stan might be the one ordered to deal with it. That was the 
price of being part of the team.

* * * * *

Victor sat at the end of the bar, staring into his beer. He swirled it, 
watching the dark liquid shift in the glass. It had been six months since 
the lay of the land had been explained to him. Jimmy McLaren had been 
sentenced that day. Five years in jail for possession with intent to 
sell. Someone in the squad room had commented on how awful it was to see 
a cop go bad like that. He'd been looking straight at Victor when he'd 
spoken, and Victor had gotten the message. Don't rock the boat, or you're 

So here he was, sitting in a bar. He'd gone out of his way to find one 
that wasn't frequented by cops. The last thing he wanted, right now, was 
to be around other cops. He felt so *dirty*. Even though he wasn't 
involved with what they were doing and wasn't going to *get* involved, he 
still felt like he was as bad as them, because he wasn't going to do 
anything *about* them. He'd become a cop because he wanted to fight 
crime, not ignore it.

Sometimes, he thought he should chuck it all. Move away from Toronto. To 
Vancouver, maybe. But he knew he wouldn't. *They* wouldn't let him. They 
would want to keep him where they could watch him. Even if he got away, 
he knew they'd still scuttle any chance he had of joining another police 
department, and being a cop was all he knew, all he wanted to know. 
Besides, it just wasn't in him to run away.

No, he was staying in Toronto.

Victor drained his glass, then called for another. He wasn't going to 
make a habit of it, but tonight he wanted to get very, very drunk. Drunk 
enough not to feel. Drunk enough not to care about what he was going to 
have to do to stay alive.

* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *

Victor's eyes were blurring from fatigue. He'd worked all the previous 
day, gone on a stakeout that had turned into a raid on a local drug-
seller. Then he'd come back to the station to work on the report for the 
bust. The last sleep he'd gotten had been more than thirty hours ago, and 
that hadn't been a very restful sleep either.

He sighed, and rubbed his eyes. He rarely got any sleep that could be 
considered restful. For more than two years he had felt like he had a 
target carved in the back of his head. He'd tried to tread that fine line 
between being an honest cop, doing his job, and trying not to annoy the 
dirty cops enough to make them put him down. His stomach was in a 
permanent acid roil, and his doctor told him he was on the verge of 
developing an ulcer.

He was also lonely. Honest cops avoided him as being contaminated. The 
dishonest cops - even if he was inclined to associate with them - avoided 
him as being dangerous. As for outside relationships... Victor sighed. 
There'd been a couple. Ivy. Gloria. None of them had worked out. He knew 
it was his own fault, though. How could he put his effort into a 
relationship with *this* hanging over his head?

Victor sighed, and pulled over the seizure report. As senior officer on 
the scene, he had to sign off on everyone else's reports, as well as 
write his own. He went down the list, noting that all the guns and 
ammunition were listed. Then he hit one line. Four kilos of street-grade 
cocaine recovered.

Victor closed his eyes, the pain of a headache starting. He'd seen the 
packages of drugs. There had been at least five kilos there.

He signed the report, and then quickly added his signature to the rest, 
not bothering to read them. He dropped them off on the Captain's desk, 
then grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. Technically, he was 
supposed to be at work for another hour, but he didn't care. 

It was days like this when he seriously wondered why he bothered staying 
a cop. The pain behind the eyes was getting more intense, and he decided 
that tonight was going to be his once a month drunk night.

Maybe he could get drunk enough not to dream of the lives that would be 
destroyed by those drugs. But he wouldn't bet on it.

* * * * *

Mac stepped off the Tang jet at Pearson Airport in Toronto, already 
sweating under his designer suit. Toronto in August was hot and humid. In 
the distance, he heard the faint grumble of thunder. Three men waited for 
him on the tarmac.

"Welcome to Toronto, Mr. Ramsey," the man in the lead said. "Customs 
should not take long, then we'll take you to the hotel. The penthouse 
suite is ready for you there."

"Thank you," Mac said. Behind him, his bodyguard, Matthew Cheong, 
descended from the plane carrying his briefcase and laptop bag. Sometimes 
he wondered what he would do without Matthew. For nearly two years, the 
man had been by his side. He had guarded Mac, shielded him, given him 
advice. He'd even hinted a couple of times that he wouldn't mind sharing 
Mac's bed. Mac had turned him down, though. His bed had been a lonely 
place since LiAnn had left him for Michael, but he still wasn't ready to 
let anyone else into it.

Customs was quick. The reason for coming to Canada was given as business, 
and he wasn't carrying anything illegal. The Tang Family might be 
associated with criminal enterprises, but there was no proof, and no 
reason to deny one of their representatives entry into the country.

After that, they proceeded to the hotel. After the flight from Hong Kong, 
Mac was exhausted. It was late in the evening, so there was no point in 
starting on the reason for his visit. That could wait until morning.

For more than two years, since his late night conversation with Father, 
Mac had thrown himself into the Tang business enterprises. He'd taken 
night courses and studied under the best business advisors available. If 
his knowledge could be translated into academic credits, he probably 
would have been able to qualify for an MBA several times over.

He'd also worked hard at making Father's dream of a legitimate Tang 
Corporation come true. That was what had brought him to Toronto in the 
first place. The Tang Family had a shipping company based from here. It 
used to be used for smuggling. Mac didn't know what, and he didn't really 
*want* to know. It could have been drugs, or guns, or fake designer jeans 
for all he cared. But now it was a legitimate company, importing artwork 
from China and the rest of Asia.

At least, that's what it was *supposed* to be doing. Unfortunately, it 
appeared that the local manager had different ideas. Rumors had made it 
all the way to Hong Kong that the man was still smuggling, but for 
himself now. Rumor also said that he had been skimming the profits, back 
when the Tangs were still using the company for smuggling purposes. Mac 
was there to put an end to that.

The move to legitimate enterprises had been moving slowly, more slowly 
than Father would have liked, and the main problem was resistance from 
within the Family. Old-timers, who hated change, and many of the younger 
generation who preferred the excitement of crime to the dull requirements 
of modern business. At every turn, someone was waiting to try to derail 
the process.

Mac climbed into the waiting limo, and leaned back to close his eyes. 
He'd been working non-stop for the entire time and he was exhausted.

But still, it kept him from thinking about other things. It kept him from 
noticing how lonely he was.

* * * * *

Victor was on his third drink. He had picked the Regency Hotel for the 
start of his drinking binge, although he guessed that they would probably 
be kicking him out fairly soon. They didn't like drunks in the bar - at 
least when they weren't guests of the hotel. That was fine. He'd move on 
to the next place. He'd chosen to start here, since the chances of 
running into a fellow cop were too small to be measured, and the *last* 
thing he wanted was to have to talk to another cop. He might end up 
saying something really stupid. Something that would get him killed.

He finished off the drink, and considered ordering another, but the 
bartender was giving him dirty looks. It was time to move on. Victor 
tossed a couple bills on the table, then stood, putting on his coat. 
There was a bar down the street. He didn't think he was likely to run 
into anyone he knew there, so that would be his next stop.

As he was leaving, a large group came through the door. Most of the men 
were oriental, but they were fawning all over a guy who was definitely 
Caucasian and younger than Victor. Curious, he watched as the group 
crossed the lobby, heading for the private elevator, which only went to 
the penthouse. He couldn't understand what they were saying, since they 
were talking in some language he didn't understand. From the look of 
them, it was probably Chinese. But he did pick up a few words. The man 
they were talking to seemed to be named 'Ramsey', and the name 'Tang' 
came up several times. There was something about the name that pricked at 
his memory, but he couldn't nail it down. It bothered him, though.

Passing the group, Victor got his first good look at the man. He couldn't 
be older than mid-twenties, Victor guessed. He was dressed in a black 
suit, with retro wide lapels. His shirt was silk, and snowy white. It 
complimented the pale coloring and almost black hair perfectly. His lips 
were wide and full, the most sensuous lips that Victor had ever seen on a 
man, but they were held impassive. Lips like that should be smiling, he 
thought, then kicked himself. What was he thinking? Sure, the guy was 
attractive, but so what?

He  turned, and watched the group get into the elevator, trying to make 
eye-contact with the young man. It was like he couldn't turn away. The 
compulsion held until the elevator doors closed, hiding the young man 
from view. For a moment, Victor stood, dumbfounded. Suddenly, he was 
completely sober.

He headed for the door. He wasn't going to the next bar like he planned, 
though. He was headed for the PD. He wanted to know who this 'Ramsey' was.

* * * * *

Victor sat at the computer, ignoring the strange looks he was getting 
from the night-shift. All his attention was on the computer screen in 
front of him. The Toronto PD computer system was connected to an 
international law enforcement network, information on criminals and 
crimes made available to everyone. Victor punched in 'Tang', 'Ramsey' and 
'Asia' into the computer and waited for the search results.

It hadn't taken long.

The Tang Family was a crime syndicate based in Hong Kong. Probably the 
most powerful syndicate in Asia. The man who ran the family was known 
only as Mr. Tang. He had three children, one natural, two adopted. 
Michael Tang, LiAnn Tsei-Tang and Mac Ramsey.

So what was the adopted son of a Hong Kong crimelord doing in Toronto?

Victor didn't know, but he wanted to find out. He closed his eyes for a 
moment and pictured the man that he'd seen in the hotel lobby. Ramsey's 
face had been solemn, but suddenly Victor saw the expressive mouth curve 
into a grin, full of mischief and humor. Then the face changed again, and 
it was glowing, eyes shut and mouth open, passion written in every line.

Victor squashed that image, as fast as it had appeared. He knew better 
than to fall for that. After all, if betrayal could come from a lover who 
was also a fellow cop, only worse could come from a criminal.

No. Stick to business.

* * * * *

A group of men clustered around a table in the back of a Hong Kong 
restaurant. The youngest was twenty-three. The oldest was sixty-nine. 
They all worked in different segments of the Tang organization, but they 
were united by a common complaint.

"So, he is going to package up the Tang operations, around the world, and 
sell them to the local bosses, keeping only the legitimate operations for 
himself," said the man at the head of the table. "He is going to *sell* 
us the Hong Kong operations."

"His offer is generous," one man said.

"We are Tangs! We should not need to buy what rightfully belongs to us. 
We are Tangs, and the Tangs are a crime family. We have been so for 
generations. But now *he* is turning his back on that. It cannot be 

"It's the fault of that brat, Ramsey," someone said, to a growl of 
agreement. "He never should have taken a foreigner into the family. LiAnn 
is a proper oriental, but Ramsey is a *white*, a round-eye."

"And that should have been the first sign that he was growing weak. Now 
he converts operations to legal businesses, sending Ramsey as his 
representative. It must stop *now*. Do you want to be a banker?" he 
asked, pointing at one man. "An accountant? A stockbroker?" he continued, 
pointing to others. "Or selling Chinese imports or fashions? No. The old 
man has grown weak. He cannot be allowed to continue."

"What are you suggesting?"

"Kill him."

For long moments there was dead silence in the room. Then it erupted 
into chaos. The man at the head of the table bided his time, while 
everyone else shouted and argued. Finally, he stood and waited until 
everyone had quieted down.

"We kill Tang. He is no longer capable of leading the Family. If we let 
him try, he will destroy it. If he dies now, Michael takes over. Michael 
is a proper Tang, who will restore the Family to its proper operations."

The argument continued long into the night, but the end result was a 
foregone conclusion. They would not have accepted the invitation if they 
were not already inclined towards a drastic course of action. One by one, 
the men agreed, then left the room, until just the leader and his aide 
were left.

"I hope you're right about Michael," the aide said. His boss laughed.

"Of course I'm right. He won't turn his back on the Family's traditions. 
He respects them. He was *raised* by them. And who else would the Old Man 
name as successor? Ramsey?"

The aide laughed too. No, Tang wouldn't name anyone but his natural son. 
Anyone else would be unthinkable.

* * * * *

Mac sank back into the limo seat and closed his eyes. The meeting with 
the head of the import company, Jonathon Teal, had not gone well. The man 
had been downright disrespectful of Mac. He seemed to think that Mr. Tang 
sending a twenty-five year old was a joke, even if the twenty-five year 
old was his own son. An examination of the company's books hadn't 
uncovered any evidence of smuggling, but after meeting the man, Mac was 
sure that he was up to everything that the rumors said he was, and maybe 

Tomorrow, Mac planned to make a surprise inspection of one of the 
company's warehouses. His own criminal past meant that he knew all the 
tricks for hiding illicit goods. If they were there, he'd find them.

But for now, he wanted to go back to the hotel. Dinner was already 
ordered from the best Hong Kong style restaurant in the city. Who knows, 
there might even be a martial arts flick on the television. He hadn't 
indulged in one of those for a long while. He never had the time.

Passing through the lobby, one thing caught his attention. A man. Mac 
frowned. He'd been there the night before, when he'd arrived. It could be 
that he was a guest at the hotel, but somehow Mac didn't think so. The 
Regency was one of the more expensive hotels, and the man didn't dress 
like he had money.

Mac took a closer look. He was dressed in slacks, a shirt, and a brown 
leather jacket that had obviously seen better days. Brown hair was cut 
short and spiky, not a terribly flattering cut, as far as Mac was 
concerned. He was trim, fit, and he held himself ready for anything. Like 
he expected an attack at any second.

And his face. It was handsome, but unsmiling. Premature lines were carved 
into it, as though he'd seen hell, and lived to talk about it.

Then the man looked his way, and green eyes captured his own. Mac felt 
his breath shorten, and he had to force himself to keep moving. Next to 
him, he could feel Matthew's sudden worry. He didn't care. It was as 
though the world had just narrowed down to himself and the other man. Mac 
felt his body tighten up in a way that was both familiar and strange. 
He'd felt it before, when looking at LiAnn, but never when looking at 
another man.

Then the elevator doors were closing, and the  other man was gone. Mac 
felt all the air whoosh out of him in one breath.

What the hell had just happened?

* * * * *

Hong Kong. The Golden Lotus restaurant. It was the Godfather's favorite 
restaurant, so naturally, it was where he chose to meet with two of his 
most trusted lieutenants for lunch to discuss business.

But it was a day that was going to end in tragedy.

As the three men, and their bodyguards, left the restaurant, a black car 
came screeching down the street. When it stopped, three men with semi-
automatic guns jumped out. The bodyguards went down quickly.

One bullet hit its target. The Godfather dropped behind his car, 
bleeding, but not badly injured. He reached for the spare set of car keys 
that he carried and moved towards the car door.

A burning pain stopped him. He'd been shot in the chest. Already dying, 
he turned to face his lieutenant.

The man fired twice more, and the Godfather's vision started to go black. 
As the world faded from consideration, he prayed.

He prayed that Mac would be strong enough to do what must be done.

* * * * *

Mac looked up into bright green eyes, wondering where his common sense 
was. "I don't even know your name," he protested weakly.

"Do you need to?" asked an amused voice. The man started to move against 
him, and all thoughts of further protest were washed away.

Mac moaned and arched up into the weight above him. A burning heat 
pressed down, down, down. Then that heat was pressing into him, and Mac 
cried out.

"You're mine," the man said, thrusting into him, hard. "Mine, mine, 
mine..." Each word was punctuated with a hard thrust, pounding into him 
until he couldn't even remember his name. Mac twisted and turned, begging 
for more. The pounding continued.

Then he realized that the pounding was coming from the door. He sat up 
and found himself tangled in the bed sheets, alone. A sticky mess made it 
embarrassingly clear that he'd just had the most intense wet-dream he 
could remember having since he was a kid. He closed his eyes for a 
second, and once more saw the face of the man in his dream. The man he'd 
seen down in the lobby. The pounding continued.

"Yes!" he finally called out. The door almost flew open as Matthew came 

"The Godfather is dead!" the bodyguard cried out without preamble. Mac 
froze, staring at him in shock. There had to be some mistake. "He was 
shot, outside the Golden Lotus."

Mac was finding it hard to breath. It was like a vise had been placed 
around his heart, and someone was cranking it shut. In one corner of his 
mind he wondered if maybe he was having a heart-attack. Unnoticed, a 
single tear escaped, and trickled down his face.

"His 'in case of' papers name you as the new head of the Family. Should I 
order the jet to come collect us for a return to Hong Kong?"

"No!" The vise finally released enough for Mac to speak. "Do they know 
who killed him?"

"Not yet."

"Then we stay here, until we have a better idea of what's going on. Tell 
them I want to know who ordered the hit, and I want to know *now*. I will 
finish what he sent me here for, *then* we will go home."

Matthew bowed low and left the room, closing the door behind him. Mac 
looked at the clock and calculated the time difference. Father had died 
in the early afternoon. He must have been at the restaurant for lunch.

Father was dead.

Suddenly it hit Mac. His father was dead. The tears were coming fast, 
now. He curled up into a ball, the semen-stained sheets clutched to his 
chest. His father had been shot down in the streets, half a world away, 
while he'd been lying here having a wet-dream.

Mac heard loud sobs echo through the room. Then he realized.

They were his.

* * * * *


Michael Tang rolled towards his wife. LiAnn's face was shiny from the 
tears that were still flowing. His own face still showed his own grief. 
Their Father was dead, murdered.

LiAnn was biting her lip. It worried him that she was so nervous about 
whatever she wanted to say. For more than two years now, they'd been full 
partners in everything they did. It had taken her a while to get over the 
guilt she felt for causing Mac pain. Mac...

Michael had known that LiAnn was sleeping with both of them. He'd had no 
problem with it. They were siblings. But he loved LiAnn, and she had come 
to love him. However, neither of them had really understood how deep 
Mac's emotions ran until the night they had told him that they were 
getting married. The intense pain, followed by the dead look, had told 
them how badly they had misunderstood him.

Father had kept them up to date on what Mac was doing after they left for 
Singapore. Mac had refused to talk to them before they left, although 
he'd been at the wedding. Michael had wanted to ask him to be best man, 
but knew that would too cruel. But Mac had done well. He was Father's 
right hand, the way that Michael had known he didn't have the talent to 

But now Father was dead, and he had named Mac as his successor. Michael 
could see the troubles coming.

"About Mac..." LiAnn finally said. "You could contest him for leadership, 
you know. A lot of people would support you."

Michael could feel the tension in his wife's body. "Yes, they would. But 
I'm not going to. Mac has earned this. He *deserves* it. And I think 
he'll do a much better job than I ever could. Father was right." He had 
been right about a lot of things, Michael realized. He'd fought with the 
man about his dream of taking the Family legit, but in the last two years 
he'd come to understand that the man was right. Going legitimate was the 
only way to save the Family in the long run. He just wished that he'd had 
the chance to tell his father that. To tell him that he supported him.

He couldn't tell Father, but he'd be damned if he would make the same 
mistake with Mac.

LiAnn relaxed in his arms, and he realized that she'd been worried that 
he *would* start a war to take the Family from Mac. "LiAnn... There was a 
time, once, when I would have fought him. I felt like he was a rival. For 
position, for Father's love, for you..." He paused. "But you chose *me*, 
and that told me that I didn't have to worry. Sometimes, I wonder what 
sort of person I would have been if you had chosen Mac over me, and it 
scares me. I would have tried to destroy him for taking you away."

He pulled her on top of him and started kissing her. Face, throat, lips. 
All were feathered with soft touches. "You are my love, my life, my 
sanity. Without you, I don't know what I would have become. I just know 
that it wouldn't have been good. I love you."

LiAnn buried her face in his neck. He could feel the dampness of her 
tears there. "I love you too. But I'm worried about Mac. He doesn't have 
anyone, and now there are going to be people out to get him."

"I know. I'm worried too."

Gradually, she relaxed into sleep. Michael wasn't so lucky. Late into the 
night he lay holding her, staring up at the ceiling, wondering what the 
future held for the Tangs. He hoped Mac was all right.

* * * * *

"Damnit, you said that Michael..."

The man at the head of the table held up his hand, interrupting the 
speaker. "This is just more proof that Tang had to be taken out. That he 
would name a foreign *boy* as head of the Family is *worse* than an 
insult to us and our ways."

"Ramsey won't turn his back on the old man's plans. He's the one who's 
been *implementing* them. Your plan got us *nowhere*!" Shouts of 
agreement rang out. The man stood.

"Not true!" Everyone stopped, and turned back to him. "Ramsey is a 
foreigner and alone and on a different continent. He can be eliminated 
even more easily than the old man. Once he is gone, everyone will turn to 
Michael for leadership."

"But what will *he* do? He hasn't talked to Ramsey in more than two 
years, but he still speaks of him as his brother. What guarantee that 
*he* won't decide to follow in his predecessors' footsteps?"

"I'm headed for Singapore. I have an appointment to talk to Michael this 
afternoon. I'm sure that he will be exactly what we want. In the 
meantime, I've sent a team to Toronto. This time tomorrow, Mac Ramsey 
will no longer be a problem."

The reaction to his pronouncement was not as positive as he would have 
liked, but the men in the room agreed to wait and see what the result was 
before making any more decisions.

Their leader watched as the men left. They were weak, all of them. He was 
the only one with the strength and vision that the Family needed.

Yes, Michael would be the next head of the Family - like it or not.  As 
head, he would need to provide an heir quickly, and once there *was* an 
heir, there would be no need for either Michael Tang or his wife. And who 
else but himself would be able to run the family while the child grew up? 
As for children, accidents happen...

* * * * *

For the third day in a row, Victor was sitting in the lobby of the 
Regency Hotel, waiting for Mac Ramsey to make an appearance. That 
moment of eye-contact, two days ago, had been a revelation. That night, 
Victor had made a sticky mess of his sheets, dreaming of the man. Even 
now, if he closed his eyes he would see Ramsey underneath him, crying out 
with pleasure.

Victor cut off that line of thought. The last thing that he needed was 
another hard-on.

He'd called his Captain the next day and told him that he was taking some 
of the vacation days that had been building. The man had wanted to know 
why such short notice and where he would be, but Victor hadn't told him 
anything. How the hell could he explain that he was suddenly obsessed 
with a man with criminal connections and was taking vacation time to 
stalk him? He didn't really understand it himself.

And Ramsey... Whatever had brought him to Toronto, it looked like something 
had gone wrong. He'd only made a brief appearance the day before, and 
he'd looked like shit. His eyes had been red and swollen, and the 
expression on his face had made Victor want to go to him, comfort him. 
He'd squashed that urge, ruthlessly. The man was a criminal!

He still wanted to hold him and soothe him, though.

The elevator pinged, and Victor looked up from where he was sitting, 
shielded by a potted fern. Through the fronds, he saw Ramsey and his 
entourage get off and head for the doors. The young man still looked 
nothing like the cool and collected professional who'd arrived days ago, 
but he was obviously in better shape.

Victor got up and followed them out the door, from a discreet distance. 
Seeing them get into a limo, he quickly headed for his own beat-up 
vehicle and started it up. He pulled out into traffic, several cars 
behind the limo.

Time to see how much he'd learned in tailing class.

* * * * *

Mac turned to Matthew and held out his hand for the list. It had taken 
twenty-four hours for him to get himself under control. But he still had 
a job to do and a local boss to force to toe the line. After all, if he 
couldn't do *that*, then there was no point in even *trying* to run the 

He glanced down at the piece of paper. On it was a list of all the 
warehouses in Toronto that the man controlled. He had a hunch that a 
search would turn up goods that shouldn't be there, so they were going to 
conduct a surprise inspection.

"That one," he said, pointing to a random address on the list. Matthew 
nodded, then leaned forward to instruct the driver.

Mac turned his head, and watched the crowds as they drove through 
Toronto. Part of him was tempted to just hop out of the limo, disappear 
into the city, make a new life. One far from Hong Kong, the Tangs and the 
politics of the crime world. But he knew that wasn't going to happen. He 
owed Father too much. If nothing else, he owed it to the man to make his 
dream come true.

He would turn the Tang Family into what Father had dreamed of, or die 

* * * * *

"Where the hell is Mansfield?!"

Stan flinched, despite his best efforts not to. McDowell had hit the roof 
when he'd heard that Vic had suddenly taken vacation time and 
disappeared. Joe was convinced that Vic was plotting against them.

"I don't know." He said, wishing that his voice didn't quaver so much.

"Well *find* out! I want Mansfield found and brought in."


McDowell turned towards him, enraged. "I've given him two years, boy. He 
still doesn't play along, and now he's taken off. I think he's planning 
something. I want him out of the picture. Permanently."

He turned and headed out of the room. Stan could feel the sweat forming. 
For two years he'd been trying to protect Vic, even though the man 
wouldn't give him the time of day. But now it was too late. All he could 
do was protect himself.

Stan closed his eyes and tried to remember the last time that Vic had 
smiled at him, talked *to* him. He couldn't. He'd destroyed the best 
relationship of his life, and he couldn't blame anyone else but himself.

* * * * *

Mac cracked open another crate, and found the same thing that he'd seen 
in the last three. Guns. Very powerful automatic rifles, to be precise. 
The sort that were very popular in parts of Africa at the moment. The 
problem was, he knew what those rifles were used for and it made him sick.

He turned to Matthew. "I want Teal," was all he said. Matthew nodded.

As he turned away, Matthew was already ordering the destruction of the 
rifles. Mac had already given orders, before they even arrived, that 
anything illegal found in the warehouse was to be destroyed. What they'd 
found made it even more necessary. The Crimson Dragon Import company was 
directly tied to the Tangs. If the Canadian authorities had found this, 
the Tang reputation in this country would have been destroyed.

Mac was already planning more inspections. Every one of the company's 
warehouses would have to be checked, although he would guess that nothing 
would be found. If Teal had known they would be here, he had no doubt 
that this warehouse would have been as clean as a whistle.

As he left the building, he could hear the sounds of more crates being 
opened. As soon as all the rifles were found, they would be smashed, then 
loaded into a van. Outside of the city, a more permanent solution would 
be found for them. For a moment he was tempted to apply that solution to 
Teal as well. But no, that wouldn't be appropriate for a *legitimate* 
company. All he could *legitimately* do was fire the man.

Mac was headed for the waiting limo, another headache already forming, 
when the car came around the corner. Reacting instinctively, he dove for 
cover. The crates didn't provide much protection from the fire that 
followed, but it was better than nothing.

He reached for his gun, then cursed when he realized that it wasn't 
there. He didn't have a permit in Canada and hadn't wanted to risk legal 
troubles if he was found with one.

Mac could hear the shouts from inside the warehouse. Obviously Matthew 
and the others had heard the sound of gunfire.  The only problem was that 
they were out-gunned, and probably out-numbered. He could see the door 
opening, and he shouted a warning, searching for something - *anything* - 
to use as a weapon.

For long moments, Matthew stood in the doorway. No guns were fired. It 
was like the entire world had paused. Mac's throat closed up at the 
thought of the bloody death waiting for his aide, surely only seconds 
away. Matthew turned towards Mac.

Almost too fast for Mac to react, Matthew's gun was out and he was 
firing, but not at the attackers. He was firing at *Mac*! One bullet 
grazed his upper arm as he threw himself out of Matthew's sight.

What the hell was going on? And what the fuck was he supposed to do now?

* * * * *

Victor had followed the limo from the Regency down to this warehouse 
district. Ramsey and his people had gone inside one of the buildings 
there, so Victor parked around the corner and came up around the side of 
the building. He made sure that he had a good view of the warehouse's 
main door and settled down to wait, trying to ignore the condition of the 
alleyway that he was in.

An hour later, he was debating the idea of just leaving. Lord only knew 
how much longer these people would be. Just as he was about to give up, 
though, he heard the door open. Poking his head out cautiously, he saw 
Ramsey come out, alone. He looked both tired and pissed off. Then, as the 
man stepped towards his limo, another car came around the corner with 
tires screeching and Ramsey hit the ground behind a pile of crates near 
Victor's vantage point.

Victor watched in disbelief as a seemingly endless stream of Asian men in 
dark suits got out of the car and started firing. He cursed himself for 
not bringing a cell-phone. He couldn't even call 9-1-1!

The firing stopped. Victor pressed himself against the wall, drawing his 
own gun. Careful not to be seen, he took another look. One of Ramsey's 
men came out of the warehouse and drew a gun.

And shot Ramsey?? What the *fuck* was going on???

For one thing, Ramsey was about to end up *dead*. His arm was bleeding, 
and he was moving in Victor's direction. Victor had two choices. Run, 

He grabbed the other man's arm as he came up even with Victor, not 
noticing whether or not it was the injured one, and pulled him around the 
corner and down the alley-way between buildings.

"Who the hell are you?" came the plaintive call. Ramsey's voice was rich, 
with an unidentifiable accent. A bullet pinged off the wall next to them.

"I'm the guy trying to save your skin. Now shut up and *run*!"

It was a damn good thing that his car wasn't far away, since the guys 
behind them didn't seem interested in talking, and they were massively 
over-armed. Victor practically threw the other man at the vehicle. Looking 
a rusted, beat-up piece of junk on the outside, he didn't bother to keep 
the doors locked. After all, who in their right mind would steel 
something that looked like it was two steps from the junk heap? But no 
matter what it might look like, it ran like a dream. Victor had spent a 
*lot* of his free time working on it.

As a result it started easily the moment he turned the key, and he pulled 
away. He was almost out of sight when the first goons came into view. One 
bullet came after them, shattering the driver's side rear-view mirror.

All right, he'd just saved the life of a Hong Kong mobster. Now what the 
hell was he supposed to do with him?

* * * * *

When Michael Tang got back to his apartment that night, his thoughts were 
a confused tangle. His father's top aide had asked for an appointment, 
and he hadn't seen any reason to say no. Now he wished that he had.

"Michael? What is it?"

He turned to his wife, and considered what he was going to say. Then he 
realized that there wasn't any *good* way to say it.

"I think Mac is in danger."

"How?" No hysterics, no denials. Just a cool request for information. 
God, he loved this woman.

"Chung came to see me. He danced around a lot of subjects, but mainly he 
implied that the Family was going to need me. He wanted to know things 
like what direction I would take the Family in if I were head. He also 
implied that Mac wouldn't be head of the Family for long."

LiAnn frowned. "That doesn't sound good. Chung always struck me as being 
a little too ambitious for his own good. He was also very much against 
Father's plans for turning the Family into a legitimate corporation."

"He mentioned that too. He implied that Father's plans were why he died. 
I think... I think he might have been involved in the shooting."

LiAnn's expression went very cold at that. "If so, then he is a *dead* 
man," she said, and Michael could hear it in her voice. She was very 
serious. Father had rescued her from a bad situation, sold to a brothel 
at the age of thirteen. She had worshipped the man. If Chung had been 
involved in the hit, she *would* kill him.

LiAnn was headed for the phone. She punched in the number for Mac's 
private cell-phone, which neither of them had ever used, but both of them 
had memorized. She stood waiting, growing more agitated by the moment.

"There's no answer," she finally said, hanging up. "It's mid-morning in 
Toronto, but he's not answering."

The rational part of Michael's mind promptly started suggesting reasons 
for that. Maybe the batteries were dead. Maybe he'd shut it off. Maybe he 
was ignoring it. Michael ignored the suggestions. Instead, he pulled out 
his own phone and dialed a different number.

"This is Michael Tang. Get the plane ready. I'm flying to Toronto." He 
turned to LiAnn. "Pack enough for a couple of days. I'll arrange weapons 
for us, and an entourage of people that I *know* we can trust."

She nodded, then was gone.

* * * * *

Mac was completely lost by now. He glanced over at his companion, not 
bothering to be subtle about it. It was the same man he'd seen at the 
hotel twice. The same man who'd been haunting his dreams while his father 
was being killed. He was a little relieved to find that the man's voice 
was nothing like the one in his dream, although it was a very pleasant 

"Who are you?" he finally burst out, unwilling to stay quiet any longer. 
"And why have you been following me?"

"I'm a cop. Why shouldn't I be following a Hong Kong mobster?"

"I'm not a mobster."

"Mac Ramsey, adopted son of old man Tang, head of the biggest crime 
syndicate in Eastern Asia. Mobster."

Mac blinked. He was a little surprised to find out that the man knew his 
name. "Everything I work on is legitimate."

The man snorted. "Like the Crimson Dragon Import Company? Get real. We 
know that they're involved in smuggling, both guns and drugs. They're 
going down, big time."

Mac's jaw clenched. "Not any more. That's why I'm here. To make *sure* 
that they aren't involved in *anything* illegal."

A sneer was the only answer he got from the other man. He was beautiful, 
but he was obviously a jerk.

They'd been driving for nearly a half-hour, making lots of turns. The 
other man had been keeping a watch in the rear-view mirror for any signs 
of pursuit. Mac was doing the same, although he was distracted by the 
pain in his arm. Eventually, the man seemed satisfied, and the turns 
seemed to become a little more purposeful.

Finally they pulled into the parking lot next to an old, run-down 
apartment building. The brick was dingy and the fire-escape looked like 
it would be suicide to trust a man's weight to the corroded metal.

His companion got out of the car and waited impatiently. Mac got out, 
cradling his injured arm. The other man's leather jacket was slipped over 
his shoulders, hiding the blood.


He followed the man into the building, wondering what the heck he was 
doing. He didn't even know the guy's name, but he was following him 
blindly? On the other hand, he obviously couldn't trust his own people, 
and a gunshot wound at a hospital would bring in the cops, along with 
some uncomfortable questions. He didn't exactly have a choice, except to 
trust the man and hope that it didn't get him killed.

He followed the man up three floors in a stairwell filled with debris 
that he preferred not to take too much notice of. Down a dark hall they 
went, until they stopped in front of one door, and the man used a key to 
let them in.

Inside, the apartment was cold and dingy. A few pieces of furniture 
covered with old sheets decorated the single room. It smelled like 
someone had died recently.

"What *is* this place?"

"A hidey-hole," the man said. "Someplace I keep in case I run into 
trouble and can't go back to my place. If they got my plates, they'll be 
able to find out where I live."

That made sense, Mac thought. There was just one burning question he 
wanted to ask immediately. "Listen, I really appreciate the rescue, but 
what the hell is your name? It's kind of hard to thank someone nameless. 
Besides, you already know my name."

The bright green glare made him shift uncomfortably. The man seemed to be 
giving serious consideration to refusing to answer. Then he relaxed a 
fraction. "Victor Mansfield," was all he said as he opened the closet and 
started feeling along the top shelf.

When he pulled back, he had a first-aid kit in his hand. "Here," he said, 
waving his hand at one of the sheet-covered chairs. "Sit down and let me 
see the arm."

Obediently, Mac tossed Victor's jacket at another chair. He took off his 
own jacket and shirt, wincing at the damage. Both were obviously a 
permanent loss. He sat down and held out his arm for inspection.

The first-aid kit turned out to be remarkably well-stocked, and Mansfield 
obviously knew what he was doing with it. The wound in his upper arm was 
prodded, washed and splashed with an antiseptic that made Mac hiss in 
reaction. The wound was then wrapped in a sterile bandage.

Mac found himself watching those hands as they worked. They were strong 
hands, but their touch was surprisingly gentle. For a moment, his dream 
from the other night became very immediate, and he had to fight to keep 
from letting his reaction show.

Finally, the hands let go. "It's just a flesh wound. It should be all 

"Victor, tell me something."

The man looked at him, suspicion obvious on his face. "What?"

"Why haven't you called in? Wasn't this an official surveillance?" The 
man glared, and Mac realized that it wasn't. "Why were you really 
watching me? And if you think I'm a mobster, why did you bother saving my 
life? Not that I'm objecting, mind you."

The other man's jaw dropped, and an expression of confusion ran across 
his face before being replaced by a cold expression.

"I'm going to get us some food. Don't open the door for anyone."

With that, Mansfield was gone. Mac found himself staring at a closed 
door, hearing the click as the man locked it from outside.

For a moment, he thought of just leaving. He still had his credit cards 
and cash in his pocket. He could have found a hotel, or something. He 
immediately discarded the idea. He didn't know the city well, he was 
injured and his credit cards could easily be traced.

Besides, he wanted to know more about Victor Mansfield. The man intrigued 
him. He set up surveillance, without authorization, and then saved Mac's 
life. And the way he looked at Mac... Like a starving man staring at a 
fancy meal that might be poisoned.

Mac knew just how he felt.

* * * * *

Victor climbed into his car but didn't start it immediately. Instead he 
sat there, trying to will his erection down. Mac Ramsey was even more 
gorgeous close up than he was from a distance. The pale skin was 
flawless, the dark hair looked very soft, and his eyes seemed to almost 

Vic cut off that line of thought. It was *not* helping him with his 
problem. He started the car and headed for a nearby mall. They needed 
food, and Ramsey needed clothes that wouldn't stand out so much.

As he pulled into the mall parking-lot, he was puzzled by a strange 
noise. Then he realized that it was his cell-phone, ringing in the glove 
compartment. He flipped it open and pulled out the phone to answer.


"Vic, where the hell are you?!"

Victor snarled to himself. He did *not* need this right now. "What do you 
want, Stan?"

"McDowell wants to talk to you."

"I'm on vacation. He'll have to wait until I get back."

"Vic... He's worried. If you don't come in, I don't know that I can protect you."

"I don't need your protection," Vic said, rubbing at his temples. "I 
don't *want* your protection! Just... tell him I'll be back a week from 
Monday. I'll talk to him then."


Victor didn't bother to wait to hear what Stan wanted to say. He was sick 
and tired of it all. He knew that he'd probably just signed his death 
warrant, but he found that he didn't really care any more.

* * * * *

Mac looked up as someone started to open the door. It sounded like a key 
being used, but he wasn't about to take chances. Holding a knife that 
he'd found in the kitchen, he moved to stand beside the door.

He relaxed when he saw that it was Mansfield. The other man didn't look 
terribly surprised to see him holding a weapon, either. He just tossed a 
bag at Mac.

"I got you some lower-profile clothes. You can change in the bathroom." 
He brushed past, carrying a couple of grocery bags.

Mac locked the door, then looked at the bag. He wasn't sure what he'd 
think of Mansfield's idea of 'low-profile', but it had to be better than 
running around half-naked. Besides, he was cold. He tossed the knife on 
one of the chairs to reassure Mansfield, then ducked into the bathroom. 
Trying to ignore the condition of the room, he stripped down to his 

Inside the bag, he found a pair of jeans that fit him perfectly. With it 
was an undershirt, a blue button-down shirt and a cream-colored pullover 
sweater. Left in the bag were a pair of sneakers, also the perfect size, 
socks and a spare pair of boxers. Silk, Mac was surprised to notice.

Looking at his reflection in the tarnished mirror, Mac was pleased by 
what he saw. The clothes were definitely low-profile, but they looked 
surprisingly good on him.

When he stepped back into the main room, he found Mansfield waiting. He 
had set up a card-table that Mac had seen in a closet while combing the 
place during Mansfield's absence. On it were bags marked with the logo of 
a fast-food hamburger joint. Mac shuddered, but was glad that it wasn't 
that North American version of Chinese food. He preferred the grease of 
hamburgers and fries to *that*.

Parking himself on one of the folding chairs, he opened one of the burger 
wrappers and took a cautious bite. Maybe it was hunger. Maybe it was 
stress. Whatever it was, the burger tasted like pure ambrosia, and he 
wolfed it down quickly, then reached for a second.

"So..." he said, after taking a swig from one of the drinks to clear his 
mouth. "What happens now?"

"I'm not sure," was the blunt and very honest response. "Can I ask a 

Mac was a little surprised that Mansfield would even bother asking for 
permission. Stuffing a fry in his mouth, he nodded.

"What exactly *are* you doing in Toronto?"

"Well, I got word that the owner of the Crimson Dragon company was 
refusing to go with the order to only deal in legal imports. I came to 
find out if it was true, and if it was... deal with it."

"Deal how?" The man looked suspicious.

"Fire the owner, put someone we could trust in charge."

"Why order the change in the first place?" The suspicion had faded 
somewhat, and Mansfield now looked more curious.

"Over the last decade, crime prevention techniques have gotten more and 
more sophisticated, and they are going to continue to improve," Mac 
explained. "Father realized that it was going to be suicide for the 
Family to stay a crime syndicate. Piece by piece, we've been converting 
the Tang holdings into legitimate enterprises only. Unfortunately, 
there's been some... resistance."

"That why your bodyguard tried to kill you today?"

Mac sighed, and put down his hamburger. Suddenly, he wasn't quite so 
hungry. "Probably. It's also probably why Father was killed, two days 
ago." He ran a hand through his hair. "He was shot down, outside a 
restaurant in Hong Kong."

"So what happens to your family now?"

Mac looked up at the question, but saw only grudging sympathy on 
Mansfield's face. His beautiful face... Mac shook himself. "He named me 
heir. He wanted me to finish the job he'd started, and he knew that I 
*would*. Unfortunately, so do other people. The ones who want to stay a 
crime syndicate will need to kill me to prevent it."

"So what do *you* want to do?"

Mac considered the question. He could walk away from this, start a new 
life. No... He owed Father too much. "Find a way to get home alive. 
Finish what *they* started. Fulfill Father's dream."

* * * * *

By that time it was getting late, and Victor was exhausted. The stress 
and the adrenaline from the day was catching up with him, and Ramsey 
didn't look much better. Ramsey helped him clean things up, and he pulled 
the sheet off of the sofa-bed so that it could be pulled out. Sheets and 
blankets were pulled out of the sealed bags he'd left them in, and the 
sofa-bed was made into a warm, if lumpy, bed.

While Ramsey was changing into the boxers in the bathroom, Victor 
stripped down to his own underwear, and climbed into the bed. Ramsey came 
out and climbed in next to him, after turning off the light. Victor took 
deep breaths. It had been a long time since someone had shared his bed, 
and he'd missed it. Missed it so much that even having a mobster there 
felt good.

Except he wasn't *quite* a mobster, was he? A mob family going straight. 
Who would have thought it?

"Vic? Why *did* you save me?"

Victor stared at the ceiling, lit by passing cars outside. It felt weird, 
having this man call him by his first name. But good at the same time. 
"I don't like seeing someone betrayed."

Ramsey... *Mac* shifted in the bed next to him, rolling over to face him. 
"You know what it's like, don't you?" It was a confident statement, not a 

For a moment Victor didn't say a word. He shouldn't trust this man. But, 
he suddenly realized, he *wanted* to tell someone. Someone who would 
understand. Mac would, he thought. He was glad that the lights were off, 
though. This sort of conversation was easier in the dark.

"I went through the Academy with a guy named Stan. We clicked almost 
immediately. Best friends, partners..."


Victor nodded. "Yeah. My family life wasn't great. My father blew a 
gasket when I said I was going to be a cop, kicked me out. Well, he would 
have if I hadn't left first. My mother didn't want to get involved. I've 
got a kid sister, but I haven't seen her in nearly ten years now. Anyway, 
Stan became everything I needed. When we graduated, I ended up in Vice. 
You see some pretty nasty stuff there. After a couple years of that, I 
wanted a change. Stan was in Narcotics and convinced me to transfer 

"That's how you knew that Teal was involved in drugs."

"Yeah. But there was just one problem. Narcotics is dirty. McDowell - the 
guy who runs Narc - he skims off the stolen merchandise. Takes bribes 
from dealers to look the other way. And you toe the line, or else."


Victor snorted. "That about sums it up. This was two years ago. I wanted 
to do something about it, but I quickly got an object lesson. A rookie 
was collecting evidence, probably planning to go to Internal Affairs with 
it. His evidence disappeared, and he was caught with a large amount of 
heroin. Got him a one-way ticket to jail."

"So you kept your eyes and mouth shut," Mac said. "If you don't, the same 
happens to you. And you know too much for them to let you go."

"That about sums it up," Victor said, surprised how well Mac understood. 
"Since then, I haven't... Well, I was in this situation because I trusted 
someone. I learned my lesson."

"I know how you feel."

Victor finally rolled over to face his bed-mate. "The bodyguard. Was he 
your lover?" He was a little surprised to find that he didn't like the 

Mac shook his head. "Nah. He tried though. You know a lot about me. How 
about Michael and LiAnn?"

"Michael Tang. Only blood-relation of old man Tang. LiAnn Tsei, adopted 
like you. Married to Michael."

Mac's face had gone sad, and Victor fought the urge to comfort the man. 
"LiAnn and I were lovers, a long time ago. I was even thinking marriage. 
Then one day she says she doesn't want to be with me anymore. A few weeks 
after that, I find out she's marrying Michael. She'd been sleeping with 
both of us, but she chose him. I didn't know about it until then."


A bitter laugh answered that. "That about sums it up," Mac said, echoing 
Victor's comment from earlier. "Anyway, there hasn't been anyone since 
then. Two years, now..."

The unexplainable urge was growing, and Victor stopped resisting. He 
reached out and pulled the young man into his arms. "Two years is a long 
time to be alone."

He felt Mac rub a cheek against his chest. There was a trace of dampness 
where it passed. "Yeah," was the soft reply.

Victor tilted Mac's face up and saw the faint gleam of tears. Knowing 
that he was probably making a big mistake, he pressed his lips to Mac's.

The response was immediate, and desperate. Mac was clinging to him as 
though he were a life-preserver, and Victor realized that he was clinging 
right back. They tangled together in the bed-sheets, trying to get closer 
together. Much closer.

Victor cursed, as cloth got in the way. He pulled back a bit, ignoring 
the cry of protest, and reached to pull down Mac's boxers. Strong hands 
were disposing of his own underwear just as fast.

Then they were back together, nothing in the way. Victor cried out, into 
Mac's mouth, as their erections rubbed together, delicious friction 
sending sparks through his veins. He rolled on top of the young man, 
trying to control the tempo. It was useless. He had an armful of pure 
lust. Mac was out of control.

And he wasn't the only one. Still trying to control himself, Victor felt 
orgasm roar through his veins, and he emptied himself all over Mac's 
stomach. Mac made a sound that was almost a scream and came with him.

Still breathing heavily, Victor rolled off of his... lover? Mac followed, 
not letting go, and ended up pillowed on his chest. A trembling hand 
brushed across Victor's chest, sending after-shocks each time it grazed 
a nipple.

"I... I've never done that before. I mean, with a man." Victor's arms 

"Go to sleep, Mac. We'll figure out what to do next in the morning."

Mac gave a sigh and was almost immediately asleep. Victor found sleep a 
little more elusive. He was probably as good as dead, and he had just 
fallen into bed with a man that he shouldn't trust. He'd promised himself 
that he wasn't going to do that again. So why did he feel like trusting 
Mac was *exactly* the right thing to do?

He fell asleep, still trying to figure it out.

* * * * *

When Mac woke the next morning, he was surprised just how well he had 
slept, despite a bad case of the stickies. He'd always been a light 
sleeper, and with the bullet wound he hadn't expected to sleep at all.

Cracking an eye open, he found that he was still curled up with his cheek 
on Vic's chest. Pushing away, he looked down at the sleeping man. Vic 
immediately gravitated towards him, as though trying to recapture the 
lost warmth.

Asleep, Vic's face had lost the lines that Mac had noticed the first time 
he'd seen the man. He looked years younger. Mac reached out to trace one 
cheekbone, wondering how a man had ended up with such perfect lashes. 
Vic sighed in his sleep and Mac almost snatched his hand away.

Memories of the night before flashed through his mind, and he found 
himself blushing. Despite wet-dreams and invitations, he'd never really 
considered bedding another man. And yet he'd fallen into this man's arms 
only hours after meeting him. Even if he *had* saved Mac's life, it was 
still a stupid thing to do.

Or the best thing he'd done in a while.

Mac broke free from his reverie when he realized that Vic's eyes were 
open. "Ummm... Good morning?"

The man stared back at him, no expression on his face, until Mac was 
nearly squirming. Then he smiled, and the room seemed to get even 
brighter. "Yeah, I guess it is."

Mac leaned down, and they kissed. After a moment they pulled apart, 
identical expressions of disgust on their faces. Mac started laughing.

"Okay, brush teeth first. *Then* kiss."

* * * * *

After they got up, and Mac had overcome his distaste for the condition of 
the bathroom long enough to shower, they sat down to breakfast and plans.

"Not *everyone* in my group can be involved in this," Mac insisted, 
waving his fork. Vic looked dubious.

"You sure about that?"

Mac thought about it, then sighed. "No, but I have to take *some* risks. 
If I can get back to the hotel, and to my things, I can call..."

Mac froze. Who could he call that he was *sure* wouldn't betray him? When 
it came down to it, there was only one choice. "I can call Michael and 

"You're joking, right?" Vic asked, shock all over his face. "Your ex-
girlfriend and the guy she left you for?"

Mac winced. "They were my siblings and partners before that happened. I 
trust them, in this at least."

Vic still looked dubious, but he shrugged. "All right, where do we start?"

"You don't have to come with me, you know. I mean, you have your own 
life. You don't have to risk it for me."

The resulting laugh was almost a bark. "I had a call from Stan while I 
was out yesterday. McDowell wanted to talk to me. I said no. I don't 
think that I have much of a life left."

Mac's stomach clenched at that. It looked like, in a way, he'd destroyed 
what was left of Vic's life here. His jaw clenched. He wasn't going to 
let anything happen to this man. Not now, not ever.

"Okay, then. If we go in through the hotel's employee entrance, we should 
be able to avoid any watchers. I still have one of the keys for the 
elevator that goes to the penthouse floor. We get there, we should be 

"Unless they're waiting when the elevator doors open. Here." Vic reached 
into his jacket and pulled out a gun. He held it out to Mac.

"I can't take your gun, Vic."

"Why not? I always carry at least two backups."

Mac stared for a moment, then took the gun. He couldn't help shaking his 
head. "Boy, are *you* paranoid."

"Trust me, you learn fast."

Vic carefully packed everything away, covering the furniture with the 
sheets and blocking all the drains to keep insects out of the apartment 
before they headed out the door. They didn't bother with the elevator. 
Considering the sound of grinding metal coming from that direction, Mac 
didn't think he'd trust it.

Outside, the morning was already turning hot. The sun was shining, and 
there was a shimmer above the pavement. Vic was steering Mac towards the 
car when a voice came from behind him.

"So *this* is where you disappeared to, Mansfield."

Mac spun to see a middle aged man with a gun, flanked by three others. 
One of the three looked very uncomfortable, while the other two had 
matching expressions of contempt and hate.

"What do you want, McDowell?" Vic asked in a voice that suddenly sounded 
tired. The lines of strain on his face had returned.

"I wanted to find out why you didn't come when you were told to. It 
didn't take much work to link you to this apartment. Anyway, now I see 
*why* you decided to take a vacation. Who's the pretty boy?"

The man was leering, and Mac decided that he didn't like him. It wasn't 
just what Vic had told him. This guy was pure slime and it showed.

"I told Stan, if you want to talk to me, it can wait until I come back."

"But, Vic... How do I know that you're coming back? And then there's the 
matter of the little incident at the Crimson Dragon, yesterday."

"What?" Vic looked a little shocked. Mac wasn't sure how the man knew 
about what happened the day before, but he had a bad feeling about it.

"I had someone watching the place for Teal. Seems he's having a little 
trouble with some upstart kid from Hong Kong. This fellow has been trying 
to tell him what he can and cannot do. You wouldn't happen to *be* Mac 
Ramsey, would you?" the man shot to Mac.

"What's your connection to Teal?" Mac asked, instead of answering the 
question. The man broke into a smile that left Mac shivering.

"We are... business partners, I guess you could say. He asked if I would 
take care of a little problem for him. I told him, sure. After all, who 
in the department would fault me for defending myself from a foreign drug 
dealer? But first, I said, I have a little problem of my own to take care 
of. Conveniently, it looks like I can take care of both problems at the 
same time. A drug dealer *and* the dirty cop who's helping him, all in 
one confrontation."

"Joe, you can't be serious..." McDowell shook off the hands of the 
uncomfortable-looking man.

At that moment, things seemed to switch to slow motion. As Mac watched in 
disbelief, McDowell drew his gun. For a moment, Mac couldn't believe that 
the man planned to kill them in a public parking lot. When he realized 
that the man *was* serious, he dove to knock Vic out of the way.

But he was beaten to the punch.

As McDowell pulled the trigger, the man who'd protested moved between him 
and Vic. Both McDowell and Vic froze, as the man went down. Mac didn't. 
He pulled the gun that Vic had given him and shot once. As McDowell went 
down, the last two men took off.


Vic crawled over to the first man and checked him. Mac could already tell 
that there wasn't anything that anyone could do. The man was as good as 
dead. He let Vic have his moment while he checked McDowell. The man was 
dead. Mac's shot had hit him in one eye, going straight through. Mac felt 
a little sick. He was an excellent shot, but this was the first time that 
he'd actually killed someone. He moved back to Vic's side.


Vic was cradling Stan's head. The rattle of the man's breath said that he 
was almost gone. A trickle of blood was coming from one corner of his 
mouth. One of his hands twitched, as if he were trying to lift it.

"Sorry... partner..."

That was all he had the chance to say. As the last light left his eyes, 
Mac let himself feel a moment of regret for the man. He had gotten Vic 
into a sticky situation, but in the end he'd saved his partner's life, at 
the cost of his own.

"Vic..." he said quietly. "Vic, the cops will be coming. We need to get 
out of here."

Vic looked up, and for a moment it was like there was no mind behind the 
tear-stained face. Then he shook himself. "Yeah... you're right."

Gently, he lowered Stan's head back down onto the pavement. He carefully 
shut the eyes and leaned down to place a kiss on the man's brow. Then he 
stood, suddenly all business.

"Let's go."

* * * * *

When they reached the Regency, Victor's thoughts were still whirling. 
He'd driven the entire distance on auto-pilot. In his mind, he was still 
seeing the splash of blood as Stan went down. For two years he'd been 
hating his partner, blaming him for getting Victor into a no-win 
situation, but now the man was dead. Dead, saving *his* life. Vic was 
feeling... confused. He was having to reevaluate his whole mindset.

Mac was right beside him as they went in the back door, tense, but ready 
for anything. It was strange just how natural it felt. His partnership 
with Stan hadn't felt natural in years, and he wasn't sure that it had 
ever been this... right. It was like he and Mac had been working together 
all their lives. Victor had to keep reminding himself that Mac was headed 
back to Hong Kong, and he would be alone again. It amazed him how less 
than twenty-four hours with the man made that a painful thought.

There were no watchers at the back, and when they reached the elevators 
they were a little surprised at not finding anyone there either.

"I go first," Victor said, as the elevator neared the top floor. Mac 
opened his mouth to protest, then closed it and nodded when Victor glared 
at him. He might be close to losing the man, but it wasn't going to be to 
a bullet if he could help it.

The elevator pinged, and Victor was out, gun held ready and eyes scanning 
the hallway. It was empty. He waved for Mac to follow him.

There weren't many choices. From the elevator, there was only a short 
hallway that led to the penthouse suite's door. There was a stairwell, 
but it was for emergencies only. Opening the door would set off alarms.

At the suite's door, they paused for a moment. There were voices inside. 
Victor glanced at Mac.

"We could just knock," the young man whispered with a shrug. Victor 
considered the idea. A knock might be hotel staff, so anyone inside was 
unlikely to start shooting without first checking who it was.

Victor knocked.

The resulting silence seemed to stretch forever. Then light footsteps 
approached the door. Victor tightened his grip on his gun, and Mac 
tensed. The door opened.

The woman standing there was probably the most beautiful woman that 
Victor had ever seen. Her delicate features were oriental, marred only by 
lines of worry. She was much taller than the average oriental woman, and 
with the way her designer clothes hung on her slender frame she could 
almost have come off of a fashion show runway.

"Mac?" she gasped. Behind her, Victor could see people in the room 
relaxing fractionally

"LiAnn," Mac said, and brushed past Victor to hug the woman. A man came 
up behind them. Victor watched him suspiciously until he pulled Mac into 
a hug, murmuring something in Chinese. Then Mac pulled away.

"Vic," he said, pulling Victor into the room. "I'd like you to meet my 
siblings, Michael and LiAnn. Folks, this is Victor Mansfield. He pulled 
me out of an ambush yesterday."

Victor watched the other man. Michael was giving him a very thorough once-
over, heavily tinged with suspicion. Then the man held out his hand.

"Thank you, Mr. Mansfield. I'm sure you will be well rewarded, but we can 
handle things from here."

Victor's eyes narrowed at the dismissive tone. "Like hell. I am *not* 
going to run out on Mac now." He felt a flash of triumph when both 
Michael and LiAnn flinched.

Behind him, he heard the sound of the elevator door pinging again, and 
the suite door opened. He turned to see Mac's bodyguard come in.

"Sir, there's still no word on Mac..." he started to say, before he saw who 
was in the room. Before he could react, Victor slammed him up against a 
handy wall.

"What do you think you're doing?" Michael snarled, trying to pull Victor 

"Considering the fact that Matthew shot me yesterday, I'd say that he's 
doing just the right thing," Mac said in a frosty tone of voice. Michael 
stepped backwards.

"What?" he said, sounding very confused. "Matthew? Why?"

"Because he'll *destroy* the Tangs," Matthew snarled, as best he could 
with Victor's forearm pressed to his throat. "Because *you* should be 
head of the Family."

Victor could see, from the corner of his eye, Michael turn white, then 
flush red with rage. His wife grabbed his arm to restrain him from doing 
anything rash. Instead, he turned to his own people.

"I want him shipped back to Hong Kong. Mac can deal with him there." Two 
men stepped forward to take Matthew from Victor.

Michael stepped to Mac's side, his eyes sweeping across everyone in the 
room, of which there was a small crowd. "Just so that there are no 
misunderstandings... I support Mac as head of the Family. I also support 
the plans for making the Tang Family a legitimate corporation. If anyone 
disagrees, they will find no help from me." He glared. "They are more 
likely to find a quick, but painful end."

Victor had to restrain himself from gulping at that. The blunt coldness 
with which Michael said that was downright scary. But Mac was smiling and 
hugging the man. For a moment he was completely disoriented, faced with 
the proof of how different Mac's world was from his own.

Then he shook off the feeling. It was down to business.

* * * * *

Mac glanced around the room. Michael had brought a number of people with 
him, mostly from the Singapore office. He guessed that Michael had been 
very careful in the choices.

"What's the word from Hong Kong?" he asked, turning to his brother.

It was a little weird, sitting here with Michael and LiAnn. He hadn't 
seen either of them since their wedding, two years earlier. There was 
tension in the air, but Mac was a little surprised to find that their 
presence didn't bother him. He'd never stopped loving them, but the pain 
of what they had done to him had always colored his reactions to them. 
But now, that pain was... Well, it wasn't gone, but it was muted.

And part of that, he was sure, was due to Vic's presence. Maybe it was 
the fact that he'd finally adjusted enough to accept another bed-mate. 
Maybe it was the fact that the two of them seemed to fit together, almost 
seamlessly, as partners. Whatever the reason, Mac was beginning to 
realize that he didn't want to lose Vic when he headed back to Hong Kong.

Maybe... just maybe Vic could be convinced to come too?

Mac dragged his attention back to what Michael was saying.

"There's been no leads into Father's killing, but I doubt there will be. 
At least, not as long as Chung is running the investigation."

Mac frowned at that. "What do you mean?"

"Yesterday, he came to see me. He was very oblique in what he was saying, 
but the implication was that you would not be in a position of power for 
long, and that I would be heading the Family. He also implied that I 
would be more welcome if I kept the Family in the crime business."

Mac thought about it for a moment. "I know he dislikes me, since I'm not 
Chinese, and I can easily buy that he would try to have me killed, but 
you sound like you're implying that he's involved in Father's killing."

"He had means, he had opportunity and he had motive. He knew Father's 
schedule inside and out since he was part of it. He's also one of the 
hard-liners who have been against the legitimization process. He has made 
a show of *supporting* Father, but he has argued against every move in 
that direction. If he was not involved in the shooting, I am certain that 
he knows who was."

Mac closed his eyes. Now that he thought about it, it made too much 
sense. "All right. I need to get back to Hong Kong. Father had a lot of 
supporters, and most are still loyal enough to support his heir, no 
matter who. I need to grab the reins of power before Chung does, and I 
can't do it from here."

Michael nodded. "I brought my own jet. There's no way that Chung can 
sabotage it or suborn the pilot. It can be ready to fly out of Toronto 

"All right," Mac said. "In the meanwhile, he knows where I am as long as 
I stay here. We need to move to a different hotel. And preferably, we 
need to register in a way that he can't trace."

"I've got my credit cards with me. I've got enough cushion left to spring 
for one night, at least."

Mac looked at Vic in surprise. "You don't have to. You don't have a stake 
in this, you know."

Vic smiled back at him. "Yes I do," he said, tapping Mac's forehead. Mac 
smiled back. No, he wasn't going to lose this guy if he could help it.

"All right, let's get going then."

* * * * *

Everything was quickly packed up. Michael disabled the alarm on the 
stairwell so that the party could leave without using the elevator. One 
of his people would stay until they were checked into a new hotel. Then 
he would check them out of the Regency and join them.

The stairwell led all the way down to the underground parking. Once 
again, Victor insisted on going before Mac.

As he went through the door, he noticed a group of Orientals standing 
near the limo, and he immediately ducked back, pushing Mac against the 
wall. A bullet pinged off the wall next to the doorway.

No one shot again. Both sides were too well covered to get a clean shot, 
and they were too smart to continue wasting bullets. Victor wondered if 
they were going to sit there until hell froze over, or the cops arrived, 
whichever came first. Luckily, the parking garage was deserted, so there 
was no one around to call the cops, or get caught in a crossfire.

Then a voice called out in Chinese.

* * * * *

"Michael, you should not be here."

Mac snarled from his position weighed down by Vic. "I can't believe that 
Chung was stupid enough to come *here*."

Michael shook his head. "He is arrogant. He's decided that he's in the 
right, and nothing can stop him. Chung!" he called out, switching to 
Chinese. "Whatever you have planned, it won't work."

"You could have been head of the Family! Power around the world!"

"I don't want that! Mac is better for the Family. He and Father were 

"Then you are dead too."

A muffled footstep was all the warning they had, as several of Chung's 
men came down the stairs behind them. The distraction was enough to start 
the battle in earnest.

With gunmen coming down the stairs, there wasn't much choice. They had to 
leave the relative safety of the stairwell and move out where they could 
be fired on by the opposition. *Someone* must have called the cops by 
now, Victor thought to himself as he pulled Mac behind a car.

"Mac! Look out!"

Victor looked up as LiAnn called out. Coming up beside them was a middle-
aged man with a gun. Victor would bet that this was Chung. For a moment, 
he saw McDowell there, and he froze.


Two things happened at the same time. Victor tackled Mac, shooting at 
Chung at the same time, and Michael jumped in front of Chung's gun.

The resulting shots seemed louder than any that had gone before.

Silence reigned after that. Both Chung and Michael were down. Chung was 
dead, Victor's bullet having taken him out. Michael was alive, but in bad 
shape. Victor didn't pay any attention while Michael's people dealt with 
the last of the opposition. His attention was on the dying man and the 
two people holding him.

LiAnn had his head cradled in her lap. Tears were streaming down her 
face, as she told him to hold on. Mac looked stunned, as stunned as 
Victor had felt when holding Stan as he died. Victor shook his head when 
he realized that it had only been that morning when he and Mac had faced 
off against McDowell in the parking lot outside the apartment building. 
It felt like a lifetime ago.

"Mac," the bleeding man said, his voice strong but with a breathy 
quality. "You were right... You and Father... Don't give up... Make his 
dreams come true... You are... better for the Family... than I could ever 

"Don't talk stupid. Now hang on, there'll be an ambulance soon."

"You can't be here when it comes... You can't be... associated with this. 
You need to be in Hong Kong... Victor."

Victor moved over, wondering what business he had being there.

"You shot Chung?" Victor nodded. "Wipe your gun off. Give it to me... I 
shot him. Self-defense. Mac was never here..."

Victor frowned, then understood. Michael already had gunpowder residue on 
his hands. With his fingerprints on the gun that killed Chung, no one 
would be looking for him. He did as he was told, then pressed his gun 
into Michael's hands. The gun was one he'd bought illegally. There was 
nothing to tie it to Victor.

"They'll send you to jail," Mac said, pleadingly.

"I doubt it," Michael said with a smile. Victor could read it in his 
eyes. Michael was dying, and he knew it. This way, he gave his brother 
time to get out of the country.


"Yeah?" Michael's voice was fading, and Victor had to lean in close.

"I'm doing this for Mac, not you. Look after him..."

"I will. I promise."

"Good. Go..."

They broke into two groups, then. Most of Michael's men were going with 
Mac, to protect him. A couple would stay here, to corroborate the story 
that they were attacked and defended themselves. They were going to end 
up serving time, Victor knew, but none of them hesitated.

"LiAnn?" Mac said, still crouched down beside her.

"I'm staying with him," she said, not looking up. "I'm sorry, Mac. For 

Mac kissed her forehead, then let himself be led away. They climbed into 
the limo and left. In the distance, Victor could hear the sirens. He 
pulled Mac into his arms, feeling the young man restraining sobs.

"She'll be all right. She didn't have a gun, or fire one, so she'll be 
questioned and released."

"He's not going to live, is he?"

Victor didn't answer. He just tightened his arms around Mac, giving him 
the support he needed.

He was a little scared though. He'd promised Michael to look after Mac, 
but could he really just leave his home and travel half-way around the 
world for a man he'd first seen only days earlier?

* * * * *

They checked into a new hotel, using Victor's credit card and name. The 
decision was made to fly out at lunchtime the next day, as previously 
planned. Mac knew that Michael and LiAnn would make sure that there would 
be no problems with the authorities. If nothing else, he would be able to 
delay the cops until Mac was out of the country entirely. Still, he 
wasn't likely to ever return to Canada, so if there were problems, they 
wouldn't be critical.

He didn't like leaving the business with Teal unresolved, though. As soon 
as he was home, he would cut off the Crimson Dragon Company. It was too 
late to try to salvage it. And once Teal was on his own, some information 
in the right ears would make sure that he went down. Mac wanted to do 
more, but there wasn't time. The Family was more important.

When Mac decided to go to bed, no one commented on the fact that Victor 
immediately followed him into the suite's master bedroom. Without a word, 
they stripped and climbed into the wide bed. They lay there, side by side 
but not touching. Mac stared at the ceiling for a while until the silence 
threatened to deafen him.

He was still fighting the breakdown that he knew would come if he let 
himself think about what had happened. He had lost his father and his 
brother, and probably his sister as well. If he lost Victor too, he 
didn't know that he would be able to keep going. Just because Vic had 
promised Michael that he would look after Mac didn't mean that he would 
come with him, and he wasn't sure how to broach the subject. Finally he 
decided to go for the direct approach.

"So," he finally said. "I'm flying back to Hong Kong tomorrow."

"Your family needs you," Victor agreed in a flat monotone. Mac bit his lip.

"Will you come with me?" He didn't look at Vic. If the answer was no, he 
didn't want to see it in the older man's face.

The next thing he knew, Vic was on top of him, staring at him intently. 
"Do you really want me to?"

"Yes. After all, why not come? You said that there wasn't much reason for 
you to stay here. Even with McDowell dead... Well, I doubt he was the top 
of the ladder. Besides, I... I need you with me."

Mac held his breath and waited. He hadn't realized until he said it how 
much it was true. He *did* need Vic. He'd known the man less than two 
days, but he needed him. It was scary and it was exhilarating, all at the 
same time.

Vic didn't answer. Instead, Mac found himself being kissed breathless. He 
quickly submitted to the hunger that he was reading from his lover, 
letting Vic do what he wanted with him.

Vic seemed almost frantic, and Mac wasn't much better. Mac knew what he 
needed to do. Earlier, he had taken the little bottle of hand lotion that 
the hotel left in all the bathrooms and had stashed it here. Now, he 
pulled it out from under the pillow and pressed it into Vic's hand.

The man pulled back, and intense green eyes bored into him. Silently, Mac 
nodded. Vic opened the bottle and poured some of the lotion onto his 
fingers. Then Vic moved his hand down to between Mac's legs and probed.

Mac gasped as he felt the finger find its way into him. Seldom stimulated 
nerve endings went into over-drive. He squirmed, and invited the invading 
finger deeper. Soon it was joined by others, opening him up as he'd never 
been opened before.

When they were gone, he felt empty, but they were soon replaced by 
something larger and hotter. He stared up into Victor's face as he pushed 
his way into Mac, deeper and deeper. They both froze when Victor's balls 
came to rest against the flesh of Mac's ass.

Vic stared, as though he was memorizing Mac's face. Then he spoke, for 
the first time since they'd started this.

"You're mine."

Mac nodded, his throat too tight to speak. This was what he wanted. 
Someone to look after him, when everyone else was looking to him to run 
things. Someone he could give up the responsibilities to...

Then Vic started moving, and all thought disappeared.

* * * * *


Mac kept his eyes shut. It was morning, but he didn't want to wake up. 
Waking up meant facing the world again. Facing the uncertainty.

"Mac, please."

Mac opened his eyes, unable to help responding to the pleading tone in 
Vic's voice. Vic's expression worried him.

"Yes?" he asked, biting the inside of his lip. Vic was already dressed.

"Listen, Mac. There's something I need to do. I'll meet you at the 
airport. Okay?"

Mac nodded, and watched as Vic left the room. In the back of his mind 
he wondered if he was going to see him again, if this was a ploy. Maybe 
Vic had no intention of being at the airport.

Mac cut off that line of thought. If Vic didn't want to come with him, 
then there was nothing he could do about it. He needed to think about 
other things. Time to get dressed and start planning what he was going to 
do when he got to Hong Kong.

But he spared a brief prayer that Vic *would* be there.

* * * * *

Victor stood in the bank vault, staring into his safety deposit box. In 
the back of his mind he wondered if he was really going to do this. He 
could just walk away. After all, what he was considering doing was 
throwing away the life that he'd built up until now.

But what sort of life did he have? For the last couple of years he'd been 
miserable. McDowell was dead, but he wasn't working alone. He'd have to 
be insane to think that the man's death would free him, and even if it 
did, his career as a cop was basically over. He would forever be tainted 
in the eyes of his fellow cops. He briefly considered quitting and doing 
something *other* than being a cop, but quickly rejected the idea.

But was it enough to get him to leave the country altogether? Go to Hong 
Kong with a man he'd only known for a couple of days? He wished he knew 
just how Mac Ramsey had managed to get so deep inside him in such a short 
period of time, but he had. Victor pictured going back to his old life, 
cold and empty and lonely. Suddenly, he realized that it scared him *far* 
more than the thought of going to a foreign country with a near stranger.

Decision made, he pulled out the entire contents of the safety deposit 
box and closed it up. The money, pictures and passport went into his 
pockets. The rest went into a envelope that he'd brought along. Reports. 
Pictures. Tapes of conversations. Two years of proof of what had been 
going on in the Toronto PD's Narcotics division.

His next stop was the closest Fed-Ex drop-off. There, he packaged his 
evidence and addressed it to the only Internal Affairs person that he 
*knew* was clean. He paid the extra to make sure that it would be 
delivered to her and only her before two o'clock that afternoon. Glancing 
at his watch, he realized that he had better hurry if he was going to get 
to the airport in time.

At the airport, he parked illegally. He didn't bother to lock the car and 
he left the keys on the driver's seat. He wasn't planning on coming back, 
after all. Inside the terminal, he raced to where Mac's plane would be 

He was beginning to worry that he wouldn't make it in time when he saw a 
familiar dark head, surrounded by men in dark suits. He picked up the 


* * * * *


At the sound of his name, Mac turned around. Coming down the hallway at a 
run was Victor. Mac plastered a smile onto his face, wondering if the man 
had just come to say good-bye. He wasn't carrying any luggage...

Vic skidded to a halt beside him, breathing heavily. "Sorry 'bout taking 
off like that, this morning," he gasped. "I needed to do a few things 
before we leave."

"We?" For a moment Mac thought that he had misheard.

"Of course! Unless... you've changed your mind about the invitation." Vic 
looked worried.

"No! Of course not! I just thought..."

"What, that I wouldn't show? That I was going to give you the brush-off?" 
The expression on Vic's face was of fond exasperation. "Like I said, I 
needed to take care of a few things. Get my passport, and a few personal 
items." He brushed a gentle kiss across Mac's lips. "I promise, I'm not 
leaving you, now or ever."

This time, there was nothing fake about Mac's smile. "You don't speak the 

"So I'll learn."

"You'll have to learn to like proper Chinese food."

"As long as it didn't have tentacles when it was alive."

"It'll be dangerous. There's still a lot of people who'd like to see me 

"I *like* it dangerous," Victor shot back with a grin. "And they'll have 
to get through me first."

Mac turned serious. "Vic, be *very* sure about this. Don't come if you 
think you might change your mind in a couple months. I don't think I 
could take it if you suddenly decided to leave."

Victor kissed him again. "Mac, I know I haven't said the words yet. I 
love you. It scares me just how *much*, considering the fact that I don't 
really know a lot about you. But I thought about it, and I *want* to go 
with you. I plan to stick with you, no matter what. Like you said last 
night, there aren't any reason for me to stay in Canada, and a lot of 
reasons to leave. You top that list. So I'll be your bodyguard. Or 
secretary. Or sex slave." Mac grinned at the last. "I don't care what I 
get called, as long as I'm with you."

This time Mac was the one who initiated the kiss. "Where are your bags?"

Victor shook his head. "I've got everything I want to take with me," he 
said, patting his pocket.

"Well then, let's *go*!"

Turning to head through the door to the tarmac, and out to the waiting 
Tang jet, Mac felt his heart swell. He didn't kid himself. Running the 
Family wasn't going to be easy. There *were* a lot of people who would 
like to kill him, rather then let him succeed. But right now felt like he 
could take on the world and *win*.

* * * * *

From her vantage point, LiAnn watched the group head for the plane. She 
was glad that Mansfield was going with him. Mac had been lonely for too 
long. She was glad that he finally had someone to stay by him, even 
though it was hard now that she had no one.

Her vision blurred, and she wiped away the tears. The doctors had done 
their best, but Michael had died, early that morning. The police had 
questioned her for hours, but it looked like they were going to accept 
their story. The others who had stayed with her and Michael were in jail, 
but the lawyer that the Tangs were paying for was confident that they 
would be able to plead down, based on self-defense. They would go to 
jail, but not for too long, and they would have places in the Family when 
they got out.

She hadn't talked to Mac. The police were no doubt watching her. She 
probably shouldn't have even come to the airport, but she wanted one last 
look at her former lover before he was gone from her life for good. Mac 
would have asked her to come back to Hong Kong with him, if she had 
talked to him, so she had avoided saying no by not seeing him before he 
left. It would be too painful, with memories of Michael at every turn. 
Memories of Father as well. And it would be too dangerous for both her 
and Mac.

And for her child.

She ran a hand over her still-flat stomach. She was only two months 
pregnant. Too soon to be showing. Her child would be the only living 
being with the blood of the Tangs running through his - or her - veins. 
As such, the child would be a target to those who hate the Tangs, and a 
pawn to those who want to control the family. She wasn't going to let 
that happen to her child.

Canada was a good place to start over, build a new life.

As Mac and the others boarded the jet, LiAnn turned away. She didn't need 
to see them take off.

"Ms. Tsei."

Turning, she found she was no longer alone. The woman who had called her 
name was middle-aged, probably in her forties, and very attractive. Even 
in her heels, she stood several inches shorter than LiAnn. Long auburn 
hair curled around her shoulders. Behind her stood a tall black man, bald 
and well-muscled, and a blonde woman who was even shorter.

"Yes?" LiAnn frowned. Who was this woman, she wondered, and how did she 
know her name?

"I've been reading up on you," the woman said in a purr, moving forward. 
"You have a *very* interesting history, I must say. Very interesting."

"What do you want?" LiAnn felt her blood run cold.

"Quite simple. I want to offer you a job. I run an... Agency. We are in 
the law enforcement business, but on an international scale, and *very* 

She didn't trust the woman, but she sounded... interesting. "Tell me 
more," LiAnn said, letting the woman lead her away.

"How about dinner, then? I know a lovely little restaurant that serves 
gourmet fare."

LiAnn nodded. "What do I call you?"

"Call me... the Director."

The woman wrapped an arm around LiAnn's waist, warm and friendly, 
although LiAnn wasn't going to ascribe those attributes to the woman. At 
least, not yet.

"My dear," the woman said in a deliberately sultry voice. "I think we're 
are going to get along just fine."