C2 Chapter Two
Kyle LaFleure stepped out of the taxi and looked up at the building in front of him. He tried to maintain his objective architect’s eye, cataloging the features—four stories tall, four bays wide, cast stone cornices and moldings. He’d date the building to mid-twentieth century. However, what had his heart beating erratically wasn’t the display of architectural details of an era when buildings were meant to stand the test of time with quality materials and workmanship. No, it was the knowledge that inside that building was Garrett Sloan, the man who’d occupied Kyle’s working hours and fantasies for the past year.
When Kyle’s firm had won the bid for Totally Five Star Hotel’s newest project, it had been a major coup. Then, to his shock, he’d had been selected as the lead architect. This opportunity would be the greatest achievement of his career. Now, having worked closely with Garrett for the past year, Kyle knew he’d never again be the same man as he’d been before the tall Brit walked though his office door.
He let out a long breath and adjusted his satchel. At the entry door, there was a security panel. Kyle pressed the button for Garrett’s flat. The screen came to life and Garrett’s face appeared.
“You’re right on time. I’m number four-A. Oh, by and by, the lift is a bit dodgy.”
“I could use the exercise anyway. See you in a few.” Kyle heard a beep and the entry door unlocked. “Was he wearing an apron?” he said as he opened the front door and walked into the lobby.
Kyle started jogging up the steps. By the time he got to the fourth floor, his heart raced and he panted from the exertion. He really needed to get back to running on a regular basis. Before he’d taken on this project, Kyle used to run a twenty-kilometer path along the Thames three times a week. He’d taken up running as a stress reliever shortly after moving to London and joining his firm. A colleague had told him it was a good way to clear his mind of all the interminable tasks on his agenda. At first, Kyle had been skeptical, but now he found that if he didn’t run on a semi-regular basis, his body and mind got very agitated.
He stood in front of Garrett’s door and took one last deep breath. He was an adult and fully capable of controlling his urges around an attractive man. He and Garrett had been working closely for a little over a year, without stepping over any lines. There was no reason that they couldn’t maintain the same discipline here. Besides, once they broke ground in a couple of weeks, Kyle would be far too busy to think about Garrett’s tall, trim, athletic body. He wouldn’t constantly fantasize about pinning Garrett to a mattress or desk, and most definitely not picture Garrett sucking his cock…
“Merde!” he whispered .
“Something wrong?” Garrett asked, as he opened the door.
Kyle cleared his throat and adjusted his satchel to shield his erection. “No, no. Just realized I forgot something.”
Garrett held the door open. “Please, come in. I made supper because I fear we’re going to be working late and not have time to eat out as we’d planned.”
Kyle frowned as he walked inside. “What do you mean? Everything should be ready to go.”
He followed Garrett down a short hallway. A round table with four chairs filled the space of the eating area in front of them. A laptop sat open on the table and several papers were spread all over the surface. It looked as if Garrett had been working for some time. Sheer curtains billowed from a breeze blowing through the open French windows beside the table. A fully stocked bar ran along the length of the exposed brick wall. He could use a stiff drink to calm him at this point.
Kyle peered around the column into the salon. A couple of low-backed couches flanked a square coffee table and a flat screen hung on the wall. Another set of open windows allowed fresh air into the flat. Kyle couldn’t resist the allure of the terrace he spied outside. He set his bag on one of the chairs then stepped out.
“Yeah. Bridget really outdid herself by arranging the leasehold on this place,” Garrett said while handing Kyle a glass of wine.
Kyle tried not to shiver at the sound of Garrett’s deep voice behind him. He gladly accepted the glass and took a healthy swallow. He felt the warmth of Garrett’s body. Their arms brushed as Garrett moved past him, and Kyle realized it was the first time they’d shared more than a professional handshake.
“I hope you like sarma and baklava . I decided to make local dishes to properly initiate ourselves to the country.”
Kyle turned and looked at Garrett. The man wore casual clothing—another first. The top couple of buttons were open on Garrett’s tailored shirt, giving Kyle a tantalizing glimpse of the base of the man’s strong neck. Kyle followed the trail of buttons down Garrett’s flat stomach. The slacks hugged Garrett’s hips and the fit emphasized the man’s lean build. He smiled as he realized that Garrett was barefoot. How unfair was it that the man even had sexy feet?
“I’ve never had it. But as long as there’s no shellfish involved, I’m all for trying new things.”
“Then we should be fine. I found the recipe online. They’re stuffed grape leaves, filled with rice, seasonings and ground meat. It took me a few tries to get the leaves to roll correctly, but I think they turned out properly. I have some yogurt to serve with them. I was thinking we could eat out here on the terrace.”
Kyle glanced at the small table set for two. It looked cozy and even a little romantic with the Bosphorus in the background. Too bad it isn’t a real seduction . “That’s fine, but I have to say I’m thinking more about why we have a lot of work ahead of us tonight instead of filling my stomach. What’s going on, Garrett?”
Garrett sighed and set his glass of wine on the iron table. “There’s been a change of plans.”
He felt the blood drain from his face and his chest tightened. “What do you mean?”
Garrett took several steps toward Kyle and put his hand on Kyle’s shoulder. “I know how hard you’ve worked on these plans—how hard we’ve worked for the past year on this project. Yesterday, I was called into the CEO’s office and told that he wants to modify the design—and I’m not just talking about the curtains and bedspreads. It’s going to require a complete rework of certain structural elements.”
He reared back, very grateful for the balcony railing that kept him from falling to the street below. “What?” he exclaimed. “C’est impossible! Ce que ces idiots mère putain ont une idée de ce qui se passe dans l’élaboration des plans? Pensent-ils que je viens gribouillé le dessin sur une serviette un après-midi?”
“I know. I know. I’m sorry. But this was a decision above my head. Look, let’s eat then I can go over the details. We’ll find a way to make this happen and it will be brilliant.”
Kyle turned and braced his hands on the railing. It was a good thing Garrett knew French, because Kyle had a tendency to switch back to his first language when he was upset—or aroused. He winced as he realized he’d called the CEO of Garrett’s company—who was paying Kyle’s company a very impressive amount of money for their work—a mother-fucking idiot.
He studied the surrounding buildings, cataloging all the architectural details as a way to calm himself. The Cihangir neighborhood was a unique blend of historic buildings nestled among modern structures. Consequently, across the street was a stone, flat-roofed building with ornate cornices and friezes, while just down the block stood an ultra-modern glass structure.
Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Garrett set plates on the table, along with a bottle of wine. He turned and faced Garrett. “How bad? I’m not going to be able to enjoy this meal you’ve made if I’m panicking about throwing out a year’s worth of work.”
Garrett pulled out one of the two chairs and gestured for Kyle to sit. “I’m not going to lie. This is going to be a challenge, but I have every faith in you.”
He sat and Garrett gave Kyle’s shoulders a squeeze. He kept his eye on Garrett as the man leisurely strolled over to the other side of the table and sat as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Garrett lifted the napkin and placed it across his lap. Kyle watched all the movement with a dispassionate gaze. So much work. So many hours spent hunched over his drafting table, and nearly getting carpel tunnel reworking blueprints on his computer until they were perfect—gone.
And he’s sitting there looking at me as if it’s no big catastrophe!
Kyle looked down at his plate where Garrett had placed several of the sarmas . There was a small dish of yogurt on the table. Garrett had put in a lot of effort to make this meal nice. The changes were obviously not his idea, so Kyle wasn’t upset with him, but it still aggravated him to the point of fury that the corporate owner—who consequently knew nothing about structural engineering or architecture or any of the multitude of elements that had to be orchestrated for a project of this size to be successful—wanted to stick his hands in and swirl them around to make a big mess at this stage of the game. They’d had plenty of time to give their input during the initial planning stages. All designs had been run past them for approval, but clearly, the fickle rich felt as though completely disrupting the building schedule to satisfy their whims was no big deal.
“You’re not eating?”
Kyle looked over at a frowning Garrett. He picked up a sarma and tried to smile. “I’m sorry.” He took a bite. It was delicious, even if it went down his throat and lodged in his stomach like his mémé’s duck mousse pâté. “It’s good. Thank you.”
A drop of wine lingered on Garrett’s lips before he dabbed it away with his napkin. Kyle couldn’t help but wish it was the man’s tongue that had done the job—or better yet, his own. He really shouldn’t be thinking of sex right now, but at least it kept his mind off the enormity of the work ahead of them.
“I’m glad you like them. I understand you being upset and distracted, but let’s try to enjoy our meal. Then we can worry about what needs to be done.”
He nodded. “How was your flight this morning?”
“Smooth, which is all we can ever hope for, right? And yours?”
“Ah well, I decided to visit my parents in Lyon for the weekend before coming here. My flight should have been only just over three hours, but due to a maintenance issue with the plane, it took me almost twice that time.”
“Well, I’m one to believe that it’s better to discover a problem with the plane while it’s still on the ground and not in the air.”
“True. Then things went smoothly. I will say your flat is much nicer than mine is. I love the modern design.”
Garrett nodded. “I’ve only been here a few hours, but it feels very comfortable. I love all the windows and this terrace. The real test will be tonight when I climb into that big bed.”
“Hmm, too much space to roll around can make it difficult to get a good rest.”
“Too bad I won’t have someone to share it with me. Then we could help each other sleep, preferably after wearing ourselves out.”
Kyle gasped in a lungful of air and choked. He coughed until his eyes watered. Garrett stood immediately and knelt in front of him, patting him on the back. Kyle managed to catch his breath. He looked into Garrett’s green eyes. In their emerald depths, Kyle thought he saw desire mingling with concern. He leaned forward a couple of inches. Garrett rested his hands on his knees, the warmth of his touch burning Kyle’s skin through his trousers. Their gazes locked. Garrett tightened his fingers fractionally on Kyle’s knees. Then Garrett closed his eyes and let out a long breath. It was as if the shutter of a camera lens had clicked and the moment captured moved forward. Garrett stood and took several steps backward.
He cleared his throat. “I’ll go get the dessert.”
Kyle stood and picked up his now empty plate. “I’m full. How about we get to work, and maybe we can have dessert later.” Kyle gathered Garrett’s dishes as well and carried them to the man who still stood just outside the windows leading to the table where he’d dropped his bag. Garrett’s gaze appeared trained on Kyle’s lips and he resisted the urge to lick them.
“I’ll grab the glasses and bottle,” he said as he passed Kyle.
Kyle swore he heard Garrett mumble something under his breath that sounded like ‘or several bottles’. He took the dishes into the kitchen that was just off the salon. The modern décor continued in there with stainless-steel countertops and appliances, mixing with warm cherry wood cabinetry. The appliances were small, about half the size someone would find in a normal house, but filled the space available with just the right balance. Kyle set the dishes in the sink then crossed through the rectangular columns back over to the table.
He opened his bag and took out his laptop and a notepad. Writing longhand always helped him think more clearly. Plus this way he could study the blueprints on the screen and take notes without having to flip to another document.
Garrett sat and brought his laptop out of sleep mode. “Here’s a list of the changes.” He turned his screen around and showed Kyle.
Kyle felt his eyes bulge as he read down the list. Some of the requests were more interior design orientated, but others would require complete overhaul of key structural elements.
“They want to convert the spa into an authentic hamam ?”
Garrett nodded. “The idea is to bring a taste of the old city into the European side.”
Kyle frowned. “Why? If someone wants old city Istanbul, they can simply make a reservation over there.” He started scribbling down all the points on the list.
“Why do people want to stay in Taksim Square? What draws them to places like the Marmara and the Intercontinental?”
“Convenience and luxury,” Kyle answered as he wrote. He made a notation next to the request for mosaic tiles in the baths.
“Right, and both places have a predominantly contemporary design—as do most of the hotels on this side of the city. So tourists and businessmen stay here, because it’s familiar and comfortable, but then they travel over to the old city because they want to experience traditional Istanbul. They Google the best hamams , mosques and bazaars. The plan is to bring the exotic nature of Ottoman era Istanbul to the luxury and convenience of Beyoğlu.”
Kyle sighed and looked down at the list. “I can understand the concept, but why at this stage? We’re scheduled to break ground in two weeks! This is going to delay everything. We’re going to have to get plans reapproved by the building inspector and the municipality. Get new building permits. That alone is going to cause at least two months of delay, not even counting the amount of time it takes me to draw up new blueprints.”
“There’s no way to change their minds?”
Garrett shook his head and held out the plate of baklava .
Kyle accepted the sweet consolation prize, took a bite and sighed. “I’m going to have to video conference with the firm and get the all the engineers’ input once I talk to your boss and get a new wishlist and set of priorities. Find out exactly what they want to showcase. If they want a real hamam , then a complete redesign of the lower level will be required. That means we’re going to have to adjust the guestrooms that were originally supposed to be on the second level. In fact, right now I’m thinking that we might want to revisit the possibility of using a single story design and bring in historical elements of the great Ottoman designers such as Mimar Sinan. Any idea what we’re going to do for a mason? None of our contractors have the kind of experience necessary to successfully complete the projects I see listed here.”
“Actually I made some queries and there’s a man by the name of Emir Şahin who comes highly recommended. He’s independent, and when I contacted him, he provided several quality examples of his work and references.”
“Which, of course, you vetted.”
“Absolutely. I do have a concern as to whether he can handle a project of this scope alone. Granted, ours is a boutique hotel, but we still plan to have thirty guest suites, not to mention the new hamam , restaurant and common areas.”
Quickly, Kyle looked up from his laptop. “He doesn’t work with a crew?”
Garrett shook his head. “He’s an artist who specializes in hand-carved stone. The samples he sent me included fountains, columns, fireplace surrounds and similar projects.” He turned the screen back toward Kyle and showed him the images Emir had sent.
“Those are beautiful. I suppose a lot of the projects will require casting, but if they want the hotel to have an authentic Ottoman feel, hand carving will be required. Maybe the interior designer can find some architectural salvage items?”
“They want the hotel to be the ultimate Ottoman luxury experience.”