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Welcome to Stealing Serenity, a stand alone, erot­ic con­tem­po­rary M/M roman­tic sus­pense. This novel­la is releas­ing one scene/day (week­days) on the blog ahead of pub­li­ca­tion. All chap­ters will be avail­able for free until the book is pub­lished, then they’ll be removed. If you sim­ply can’t wait, the com­plete ebook is avail­able now on the web­store. Paperback and Subtle Cover alter­nate com­ing soon. Expected pub­li­ca­tion: July 5th

Chapter Four

July 19, Tuesday—8:15 a.m.

224 Alondra Ave

Rybin’s Nest Tailor, La Mesa

Daniel held the tailor’s door open for Justin and let the bell chime on the han­dle to announce their pres­ence. A heavy-set woman with a tape mea­sure draped around her neck looked up from the man­nequin and sum­mer dress she was alter­ing. Her mouth was full of pins. She grunt­ed at Daniel and jerked her head to the mid­dle of the room where a line of mir­rors stood in a semi-circle.

Go ahead,” Daniel said to Justin. “She’ll need all your mea­sure­ments, so you might as well go first.”

What do I need to do?”

Just stand there for a minute.”

The tai­lor fin­ished pin­ning the dress and said from her stool. “Daneel, some­thing not good?” Her Scandinavian accent thick­ened her vow­els. “No trouser break is lat­est fash­ion.” Her small eyes glanced at him over small­er glass­es perched on the end of her nose. They said very clear­ly that she knew there was no prob­lem with her work.

It’s very styl­ish, Helena. I’m just here for a fit check and to get Justin set up with his first suit.”

Justin frowned at him. “I own a suit.”

Helena stood up off her angled stool, but her height nev­er changed. “Not one of mine you do not. Daneel, I can­not fit clothes you are not wear­ing, go change.” She snapped the tape mea­sure off her wide neck.

Daniel hid a smile at Justin’s wide-eyed look and found the chang­ing room in the back. It was lit­tered with half-com­plet­ed projects, pants full of pins and skirts with twice-fold­ed hems. When he returned to the main room, Helena had recruit­ed her assis­tant to take notes. She moved Justin around like a doll, run­ning the tape mea­sure up, down, and around var­i­ous angles of his body and call­ing out num­bers as she found them, rapid-fire infor­ma­tion in her native language.

With sud­den deci­sion she moved from mea­sure­ments to fab­rics and draped sev­er­al sam­ples over Justin’s shoul­der. Daniel smiled. “Not the green or the pat­tern, Helena. We’re try­ing to talk peo­ple into part­ing with their money.”

Bold makes the impres­sion, but as you like.” She removed the two out­lier sam­ples and shuf­fled in some alter­nates. “It is not the black, I think.”

I like black,” Justin said. “It goes with everything.”

Except your hair,” Daniel said.

Justin put a hand on his short surf-bleached hair and glanced in the mir­ror. “Since when do you know any­thing about suits?”

Ha,” Helena barked and swapped sam­ples again. “When he come to me first he was like kit­ten. Know only mother’s milk.”

Hey, I know a thing or two.”

You did not know between a Gucci and a Zegna.”

Justin made a face. “Gucci is a bag, right?”

Helena let out a long sigh. “Gucci is a per­son, Yusteen.” She tapped the sam­ples on his shoul­der. “It is the blue or the charcoal.”

Blue,” he said.

Charcoal,” Helena and Daniel chorused.

Justin huffed. “Why did you even ask?”

It was… how is it, retorisk?”

Justin glanced at Daniel.

He clar­i­fied, “Rhetorical.”

Helena mut­tered the word to her­self and threw the sam­ples back in her box. “You are want­i­ng links or but­tons?” She took the notepad from her assis­tant and shooed the woman out of the room.

Daniel checked the jack­et he had on. “Links. Keep the fit under­stat­ed, though. This is a work suit and a leisure suit so it needs to blend in every­where. I don’t think Justin plans on hav­ing a col­lec­tion of them.”

Helena looked up. “Why not?” She peered at Justin. “You do not want anoth­er suit?” She asked, as if peo­ple reg­u­lar­ly walked into her shop requir­ing an entire­ly new wardrobe in one visit.

No,” Justin said.

Helena remained unaf­fect­ed by the flat answer. She scrib­bled in her note­book then ges­tured for Daniel to take Justin’s place in the mid­dle of the floor. “You will be bor­ing, also?”

I hope not.” Daniel smiled. “I want to take the break out of these pants. Fit the jack­et in a bit more. Flatter my backside.”

Ah ha. I told you no break was good.” Helena tugged and fold­ed at the fab­ric around Daniel’s arms and legs. She pinned, mea­sured, and drew with a white pen­cil direct­ly on the suit. “Fancy like Zegna?”

Don’t go crazy.”

Daneel, you do not have a Zegna. You come to me and you say you are doing what, a par­ty with rich peo­ple? Zegna is the suit for par­ties. They throw mon­ey at you,” she jabbed a pin through the fab­ric and mut­tered, “and maybe tear off the Zegna.”

Helena, you’d be bet­ter off mak­ing an entire­ly new suit than try­ing to turn this old thing into some­thing like that.”

Yes.” Helena threw her pen­cil into the sam­ples box. “That is what I will do. A new suit for Daneel, and a new suit for Yusteen. You two will, what is it, kill it. That is what the kids say today?” She shooed Daniel out of the fit­ting area and guid­ed him to her coun­ter­top where she could ring up the order. “Two new suits,” she looked over her small glass­es, “in black.”

Daniel sighed. “Two suits. Black for me, but char­coal for Justin. And will you please alter this one?” Daniel indi­cat­ed the one he was wear­ing with a flick at the collar.

Helena rolled her eyes with elab­o­rate exas­per­a­tion. “Fine, I will also fix the cock­tail suit.” She flapped her hand at him. “I will ring you up. Change.”

When Daniel came back out of the chang­ing room Justin had stepped out­side to wait. Daniel lay his bagged suit over the counter and pitched his voice low just in case. “Helena, cut mine like a Zegna, but don’t go beyond Gucci for Justin’s.”

She made a face at him. “You will not match like this.”

He’ll nev­er have a suit that fan­cy in his life—”

No, I can­not do this to you. You two walk in togeth­er, you do not match, it is a disgrace.”

Helena,” Daniel leaned over the counter, “he’s not the one I’m try­ing to impress.”

She blinked at him as if it took a moment for his words to trans­late. Then her eyes nar­rowed to slits. “You are sly like a woman, Daneel.” She can­celed the reg­is­ter with a few taps and nod­ded to her­self. “It is dangerous.”

You’ll do it?”

Yes.” She made a grasp­ing ges­ture. “Your card, before I change my mind about the cock­tail suit.”

Daniel passed her Kearin’s card. “We’ll need to pick up the new ones on Friday. You can take your time with the alteration.”

Yusteen’s suit will be ready. When is your party?”

Monday night.”

You will come in Monday for fit­ting and details.”

Cutting it a lit­tle close, isn’t it?”

Show me some­one else that can make you a Zegna from num­bers in a week and you can go to them,” Helena said with the kind of tone that stat­ed she knew quite well no one else could hope to match her skill. “They won’t even have the wool by Monday.” She hand­ed the card back with a direct look.

Daniel would have said it was aggres­sive if he hadn’t been famil­iar with her bold man­ner. He nod­ded. “Monday. I’ll be here.”

Helena smiled. “I like when you come to vis­it me, Daneel. You are absent lately.”

Work has been keep­ing me focused for a while.” Daniel signed the receipt. “I’ll catch up with you next time, I promise.” He waved on his way out and found Justin wait­ing by the car.