Lies of Omission


Lyle Atwood's company is hired to costume a party given by multi-millionaire Warner Radclyffe. As he and his employees begin preparations for the job, Lyle begins to feel as if someone is watching him. Then he meets Damien Sauvage, the newest tenant in the apartment building where he lives.

Damien tells Lyle that he's a waiter, and when Lyle confides in him that he thinks he's being stalked, Damien offers to help find out who it is. What he neglects to tell Lyle is he actually works for Radclyffe, who wants him to protect Lyle from a very powerful enemy.

As Damien gains Lyle's confidence, he becomes attracted to the younger man -- an attraction that Lyle reciprocates. He fights his feelings, knowing Lyle will hate him when he finds out his secret -- and even more so when he learns what Damien really is.

Radclyffe orders Damien to continue the job, as he has a secret of his own involving Lyle. A secret that cannot be revealed until the night of the party.

Can Lyle survive what is to come, or will the lies of omission be the death of him -- or worse?

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Chapter 1
“A haunted house in the middle of winter? Are you kidding?” Joseph, who managed Lyle’s costume shop, shook his head in disbelief. “Isn’t that a Halloween thing?” “Nope, not kidding,” Lyle replied. “That’s what Ms. Martell told me when she called. Her boss came up with the idea as a way to entertain some important people who are coming to town for a business meeting.” “Who’s her boss?” Elaine wanted to know. She was the other employee at Atwood’s Costume Emporium. She and Joseph took care of the day-to-day business while Lyle was responsible for the details of keeping the shop open. That meant he did the books, a necessary chore, paid the bills and salaries, and most importantly, created the majority of the costumes. It was his skill in doing that which had made the shop the most prodigious one in the city. “Mr. Warner Radclyffe. All I know about him is what she told me,” Lyle added, with a shrug. “Which is that he can afford to go all out on this and barring any problems, he wants us to provide the costumes.” Joseph shot him an incredulous look. “Do you ever watch the news?” “Not if I can help it,” Lyle replied dryly. “He is, to quote one reporter, the ‘mysterious’ head of a multi-national banking consortium. It seems he, or it, has their fingers in, hell, everything that can make a profit for them.” “Impressive, I suppose. Anyway, I have an appointment to meet with him tomorrow at his home. He plans on using us for this…party or whatever he’s calling it, if we’re interested. As Ms. Martell put it, he wants me to take a look at ‘the venue’.” Lyle rolled his eyes before frowning when what Joseph had said sank in. “‘Mysterious’?” “Yeah. He’s rarely seen in public and when he is, he’s surrounded by a phalanx of underlings and bodyguards.” “Damn. And I’m going to meet him in person?” Lyle grinned. “Should I bow down and kiss his ring?” “Maybe?” Joseph laughed. “Do dress up if nothing else.” “I am not wearing a tux.” “Lyle…” Joseph sighed dramatically. “Nice slacks and a dress shirt should do. Not your normal jeans and a turtleneck.” “Yes, bossman.” He chuckled when Joseph raised his middle finger. “All right, let’s get back to work. Now that the holiday season’s over, we could use new window décor. Maybe, umm…” “Groundhogs?” Elaine piped up. “That’s the next holiday, I think.” “Nope, Ms. Not Romantic,” Joseph replied with a smirk. “Try Valentine’s Day.” “Ugh. We just got over red and white for Christmas. Now we have to do it again? Who planned the holidays anyway?” “Not you,” Lyle gave her an amused smile. “Be that as it may, both of you use your fertile imaginations to come up with something that’ll remind passer’s-by that love is all that matters on February fourteenth, so they should pay us a visit.” “We will, and we’ll do at least two racks of costumes at the front of the showroom to give them ideas, as always,” Joseph replied. With that settled, Lyle went upstairs to his office, which was next to the large sewing room that made up most of the second floor. He took his computer out of sleep mode, opened a new document, and began making notes on what sorts of costumes would work for a haunted house. Tails and slinky black dresses for vampires. Check. Something ethereal, with pale makeup for ghosts. Check. Rags and tatters for zombies. He leaned back, picturing the assortment of masks they had for sale. I’ll need to order a couple of werewolves, with hands. What we had sold out over Halloween. Devils with horns and cloven feet, maybe. No, scratch the feet. Too hard to work in and they probably wouldn’t show up anyway. Witches and warlocks, of course. Insane clowns. Fright movie killers. Damn, the list is endless. “With my luck, he lives in some upscale, ultramodern house that won’t lend itself easily for creating a haunted house,” he grumbled. “Oh, well, that’s his problem. We’re providing the costumes and that’s it…if he hires us.” Lyle prayed Mr. Radclyffe would hire them because it could add a sizable bit to what he was putting aside to—sometime in the distant future—buy a larger building so the shop could expand. Hopefully, I won’t have the hassle of dealing with anyone other than him and probably Ms. Martell, from the way she talked. Being a loner at heart, he didn’t particularly like waiting on customers at the shop. Out of necessity he would step in to help with rentals if things got very busy. Over Halloween he’d handle the front office while the two temps he hired worked the floor with Joseph and Elaine. He paused what he was doing, thinking about his life at the moment. * * * * I don’t make friends easily. I can count them on…Hell, two fingers. Joseph and Elaine. And even then, when the day’s over we generally go our separate ways. His evenings, if he left the apartment, were spent taking long walks through the neighborhood around his building. Weekends, he might go to a movie or out to lunch or dinner at one of the local restaurants. Occasionally, when the walls seemed to close in on him, he’d drive to a club a couple of miles from home where he’d sit at a table for in the corner, sipping a beer while he people-watched. Growing up, his parents had encouraged him to spend more time with kids from school, but he was too shy to find that fun. Thus, they’d been more than a bit surprised when he’d joined the high school theater group—until he told them he’d done it so that he could work on the costumes. “You should be on stage, not behind it,” his father had said more than once. “I’m not an actor,” Lyle would protest. “I’d freeze up the second I saw all those people watching me. Why can’t you understand, costuming makes me happy. The rest of it…” He’d shrug and walk away, hoping his father wouldn’t pursue the issue, which he usually didn’t. He went to college where he got a degree in costuming, after which he’d found a job at a local costume shop. A year later when the owner retired, Lyle had offered to buy the place, using money he’d inherited from his never-seen but often talked about grandfather. At least that’s where his parents had told him it came from, and he had no reason to doubt them. The fact that he had never met the man didn’t seem to matter to his grandfather, any more than that they weren’t really related. That was because his parents weren’t related to him, either. They had adopted him when he was a few weeks old and raised him as if he was their own flesh and blood. That he wasn’t theirs by birth was instantly obvious to anyone who saw the three of them together. They were tall and stocky with dark hair and brown eyes. He was slender, blond, and blue-eyed, and even as an adult he barely topped his mother’s five-nine, to say the least of reaching his father’s six-three. “Thus history was made, once I took those business courses at the local college,” he’d laughingly told Joseph one night when they’d gone out to a local bar to unwind after an especially stressful day. “Thank goodness you and Elaine stayed on or the place would have folded two weeks after I took over. I’m not a people-person and you know it, even if I can fake it well enough to deal with customers when I have to.” “You do it pretty well. Like today. If it had been me, I’d have told that one couple to get off their high-horses or get the hell out.” “It was tempting,” Lyle had admitted. “I bit my tongue and did my best to calm them down. In the end, they spent a minor fortune on what they rented.” Thankfully as far as he was concerned, with Joseph and Elaine handling the rentals, he could spend most of his time doing what he loved, which was creating more costumes for the shop. While he’d never become rich, the shop did manage to grow under his steady hand and make a small name for itself as the place to come if you wanted something more than an average costume for a party or business event. * * * * “Okay, enough of reliving the past, I have work to do.” He returned his attention to the list he was making. I wonder if I should draw up some sort of contract, too. For sure if he does decide to use us he’ll have his lawyers come up with one. If I have an idea of what I’d want on our end it would help. He decided it would be a good idea and came up with a tentative one, outlining what the shop would commit to in terms of costumes, the maximum amount of time they would reasonably expect to give to the endeavor as far as being on site to help the actors get dressed for rehearsals as well as on the night of the party. Then he added a clause stating that the actors were to make appointments for fittings rather than straggling into the shop when the spirit moved. With that finished, he printed it out, as well as the list of ideas for costumes the shop could provide, and went down to show them to Joseph and Elaine. As Joseph scanned it he said, “What do you want to bet he’s already had some of his people come by to make certain we’re as good as our reputation says?” “Oh, I’m sure of it. He is a businessman.” “Haunted houses I’ve been to always have a mad doctor and his victim in a straightjacket.” Elaine shivered dramatically. “That was almost scarier than the zombies.” “You might suggest we’re willing to close early on the day of the party so that we’re there in plenty of time to dress the actors, but only if we’re properly recompensed for losing potential customers.” “All three of them?” Lyle replied dryly, but he made a note to add that to the contract. As they had no other suggestions, he returned to his office, added their ideas to the costume list and the contract, and read them over. Satisfied with the result, he printed them out, found a folder for them, and put it into his messenger bag. Then, he got back to the medieval costume he’d been working on prior to Ms. Martell’s call. * * * * “Home sweet home.” It was, as far as he was concerned—his refuge from the stresses of the day. He tossed the messenger bag on the sofa, took off his scarf, boots, and winter jacket, then went into the kitchen to make coffee and decide what he wanted for dinner. None of the frozen meals he had appealed to him, nor did the idea of making something with the ground beef he’d put in the refrigerator to defrost before he’d left for work. Being practical, however, he knew he had to fix something and letting the ground beef go bad would have been stupid. As a result, he ended up with a hamburger on sourdough bread, topped with mustard and mayonnaise. He poured coffee and took everything out to the dining table. “I’m nervous about tomorrow,” he muttered after taking a bite of the burger, which settled like a lead weight in his stomach. I shouldn’t be. I’ve met with enough clients who needed my help in planning their costume parties or galas. This is nothing new. But it was, he decided. I’ve never had to deal with a powerful businessman who could make me or break me with a word in the right, or wrong, ear. If he doesn’t like my suggestions, or thinks I’m being presumptuous in believing he hasn’t come up with his own ideas…That thought sent a shiver down his spine. What if showing up with a contract when he’s undoubtedly drawn one up already to cover all contingencies pisses him off? But damn it, it shouldn’t. It shows that I’m a businessman, too, albeit smalltime. He managed to finish his meal in spite of all the thoughts running through his head. After washing the dishes, he decided he needed to take a walk. It was something that soothed him and the best way he knew of to get his fears under control. Donning his outerwear, he set off. The temperature had dropped since he’d left work, and a brisk breeze had kicked up, making him glad he’d worn his watch cap. He was halfway down the block when a man he vaguely knew who lived in the neighborhood crossed the street to join him. “Where’s your dog?” He pointed to the collie he had on a lead, adding, “No sane man comes out on a night like this unless they have to walk their beast.” “Then I guess I’m not sane,” Lyle replied with a laugh. “I needed to get out of the house for a while.” “That’s what they make cars and bars for. Walking in this…” He shook his head. “Oh, well, too each their own.” He hurried on, disappearing around the corner with the dog trotting beside him. Despite the cold and wind, the sky was clear. Lyle looked up, searching for the Big Dipper which pointed the way to the North Star, and Orion’s belt. A thrill akin to what he’d felt as a child ran through him when he found both of them. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me the constellations. Every time I see them it reminds me of you and helps me regain some perspective. He made it around two blocks before the cold seeped in and he headed home. It was still relatively early, so he found a movie on Netflix that he hadn’t seen before. By the time it finished he knew, even though he wasn’t tired, that he should go to bed. He well aware he needed the rest if he was going to have his wits about him when he met with Mr. Radclyffe. A hot shower and a couple of chapters of the book he was reading did what was needed to help him fall into a dreamless sleep.

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