The First to Sin
Once upon a time, there was a little prince who lived at the very top of a very tall crystal tower.
Since he was the only heir to the entire kingdom, he was given all that he wanted and treated with the greatest of care. He had the best nannies and the best tutors. He had the best rooms and the best toys and the best clothes. In spite of all the indulgences, however, the young prince was a quiet, thoughtful child, more interested in the people around in than in the things shoved at him.
He knew from the people who took care of him to not indulge in gossip or to believe every wild rumor that he ever heard. But by the time that he'd learned to spell his own name, he knew what the servants—what everyone—called him when they thought he wasn't listening.
He asked the king, and failed to get a straight answer. He asked the queen, who had a fit of the vapors at the very subject. But being the resourceful lad he was, he asked the burly no-nonsense guard who watched the great doors of the crystal tower.
The guard, unused to children, did not bother couching his words and told the little prince flat out the secret he had been so studiously trying to uncover.
The little prince's mother had been his father's sister and his father had been his mother's brother. No one had welcomed him into the world, for if he'd not been conceived and not been born, then maybe the scandal could have been buried, the siblings separated.
But his birth had been irrefutable, unforgivable proof. Rather than face that truth, the little prince's parents climbed to the tallest part of the crystal tower and jumped to escape it.
They called him Sin because he was one.
"Tobin, your appointment with your editor is at ten, you're to meet your new secretary at one, and the board wishes for you to make an appearance at their quarterly meeting," Amanda, one of the myriad of assistants at Sinclair Incorporated, told him in lieu of 'good morning' or 'wake up' as her voice came in through the intercom.
"All right. I'm up," he mumbled between yawns before pushing the button that ran open the curtains to his penthouse bedroom.
Since the room was situated on the top of the tallest building that the company owned, in the middle of the city that it ruled over, there were no trees to block the sun streaming in through the cloudless sky. Well, no trees except for the ones that had been planted when he'd been born and now stretched up to the tops of the vaulted glass ceilings.
The room hadn't originally been intended to be a room. When he'd turned sixteen, he'd had the rooftop greenhouse completely enclosed and a portion of it converted to housing quarters. If he had to be Sinclair's hothouse flower, then he'd intended to live as one.
Stretching, Tobin popped the kinks out of his back and scratched his head sleepily. White hair fell in his face, and he yawned before rubbing the sleepers out of his gray eyes. He'd stayed up too late last night drawing. But it had been a clear night, with the stars shining and a full moon, and the mood had just been too hard to resist. There was also the added bonus that most of the various assistants and CEOs and secretaries went home by seven, nine at the latest, and the building was his to do with as he'd like. There was one night guard on duty who spent most of his time downstairs by the main doors watching late night television as he had for practically Tobin's entire life.
Plus, there was no Amanda to tell him when to go to bed or what to do with his evening. He'd outgrown his last nanny at fourteen and the nights had been his to do with as he'd seen fit since. There were the occasionally mind numbingly boring dinners that he'd been obligated to attend in the restaurant on the twentieth floor, but the board rarely asked that he schmooze anyone given his tendency to accidentally botch the opportunities so badly.
Unfortunately, he didn't have that luxury during the day.
He climbed out of bed and padded barefoot over to the service elevator that led down a floor to where his old bedroom had once been. It was now a living room of sorts, but it also had the kitchen, the laundry room and the bathroom adjacent to it. The overly pretentious and ornate clock that his grandmother had given him on his fifth birthday was chiming nine, so he had an hour to get ready for his appointment with his editor which was actually the only appointment he had that he wanted to keep today.
The Board could kiss his ass, and he wanted a secretary like he wanted a hole in his head. Unfortunately, this was the life he'd been born to and according to his grandfather it was this or Siberia. Sometimes he thought Siberia would be better. Or at least of change of scenery. The threat was an idle one, though, and they both knew it. Grandfather would kill him first before letting Tobin leave this building or the Sinclair legacy.
Choice, his choice in particular, had never been particularly big on the Sinclair agenda. And, ignoring the tight suffocating feeling the thought gave him, he tried to draw a calming breath and headed for the bathroom.
Stretching, he peeled off his shirt and then stepped out of his boxers. He'd have to wear a suit today. Os, his editor, would be shocked. If only because Tobin usually met with him in faded, frayed jeans and T-shirts he'd managed to buy off the custodial staff.
Os wasn't big on ceremony. It made him nervous.
"Os'll just have to live with it," he mumbled to himself as he rubbed his eyes and flipped on the lights in the bathroom.
"Well, I imagine if this is the show he gets, he ought to be quite happy."
Tobin let out a less than dignified squawk as he flicked his hair out of his eyes to see a complete stranger sitting on the edge of his bath as if he had every right to be there. The three-piece suit of designer quality made Tobin think the man had to be affiliated with the corporation somehow. The messy black hair and the devilish smirk that went from thin lips to pale green eyes made Tobin wonder if maybe a loose cannon somewhere had decided to take the words 'hostile takeover' to a new level.
"And you are?" he demanded to know, a dark eyebrow raised.
"Someone who's really appreciating the view." The stranger's gaze went from Tobin's head to his toes, lingering in places Tobin rather wished it wouldn't. Feeling the blood rushing to his cheeks, he tried to scrape together as much dignity as he could and grabbed a drab gray towel off the counter and wrapped it around his naked waist. Dammit. Didn't they have security for these kinds of situations? God only knew security was good at keeping him in. Couldn't they keep people out?
"That still doesn't answer my question. Who are you? And how did you get in here?"
"I wish I could stay and chat," the dark haired, pale-eyed stranger told him with that same irritating smirk as he brushed past Tobin, "but I have somewhere I have to be." He shut the door behind him and Tobin turned to scowl at it.
Right, he felt so much better now. And safe, of course. He seriously considered, for a moment, reporting the incident and the man to Frank downstairs or to Amanda—as much as she irritated him—because in a place like Sinclair Tower, intruders were not supposed to be able to make it past the thirtieth floor without keycards, identification codes (that changed on an hourly basis), and name badges. His grandfather had stepped security up quite a bit since Tobin had been a child. Cameras monitored everyone who made it past the twentieth floor. Tobin had fought tooth and nail—and had forcibly hunted out and ripped away the cameras that had been installed in his quarters until his grandfather and grandmother had finally called a truce and agreed to keep them out.
And that was the crux of the problem right there. His activities were already severely curtailed. Even if it meant putting up with handsome green-eyed devils interrupting him in the shower, he had no intention of reporting something that would take away the rest of the little bit of freedom he had.
Shaking his head, he tossed the towel back on the counter. At least the man had been here in the bathroom instead of upstairs.
"Os!" Tobin hugged his short, geeky editor to him enthusiastically, a genuine smile on his face.
"Man," Os's voice was muffled by the designer fabric of the butt ugly suit Tobin was sure was giving him a rash. "You really need a dog or something."
"Dogs like going outside," Tobin returned with a small half smile. It was the only draw back in seeing Os. He never failed to mention something that would remind Tobin of just how big of a glass prison he lived in. Os was a short little man with the scruffy beard and thick glasses, but there was an air of confidence about him even as he shrugged and sighed.
"Fine, I'll bring you a cat. My sister's Maine Coon had a whole litter," Os said gruffly, by way of apology. "And did you have to wear the damned suit? You know I hate 'em."
"Yeah, I'm meeting a new secretary after this and then there's a board meeting after that, so if you could stall or keep me or you know, kidnap me or something, that would be great," Tobin told him, flopping down on his bed.
"Yes, and face your grandfather's wrath? Do I look suicidal to you? Stronger people than me have tried to take on that man and failed. And by failed, I mean died. He's ruthless," Os said flatly.
"You're exaggerating," Tobin laughed halfheartedly, knowing that in all likelihood that Os wasn't. He got up from the bed to start pacing.
"Look, Sin, if you ever fire me, I'm a dead man walking," Os told him sincerely, stopping Tobin in his tracks. "After I met you that first time, he had people completely ransack both my place and my sister's and he made it very clear that if I ever even sneezed wrong in this building or with you that my ass would be grass."
"You never told me that," Tobin murmured, plopping back onto his bed a little shocked. He'd known Oswald since he was fifteen. In fact, it had been the proceeds—the couple pennies he'd made in actuality—from his first graphic novel which had won a national contest that helped him convince his grandfather to let him live in the greenhouse. But he hadn't actually met his editor in person until he'd been eighteen. They'd exchanged emails, talked on the phone, and done the whole videoconference thing with webcams, for years. And it had taken a lot of begging and pleading to get Os to agree to come and finally meet him.
Maybe Os had been right to be so hesitant.
"It wasn't important," Os dismissed. "I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to come see you."
"You did?" Tobin was less than convinced. He arched an eyebrow.
"Well, there was some that surprised me. Your confinement, that they ransacked my sister's house, and that you had three story arcs under your bed that you hadn't bothered to show me." Os shrugged.
"Those stories were underdeveloped and you know it," Tobin shot back, unwilling to go into the rest.
"Whatever, Sin. They were too personal, maybe. But underdeveloped? They were anything but. I still can't believe you won't let me get them published. They'd fly right off the shelves." Os snorted, kicking off his shoes and flopping back on Sin's unmade bed. Frowning at him, Tobin decided to ignore the comment and fished under his bed for his latest pages.
"Well, you're getting these instead," he plopped them down on Os's lap, getting down to business.
"Your secretary?" Amanda favored him with a confused look. "He said he'd talked to you already."
"He did?" Because Tobin really didn't remember talking to his secretary. Or even meeting him. This day was beginning to take a bizarre turn. Not that flashing a stranger in a suit this morning had been the epitome of normalcy, but still. And of course, since he'd be heading to the board meeting after this where he would get to sit silently and not move for four hours as they discussed everything from stockholders to advertising portfolios, the day wasn't looking as if it were going to get any better. "Uh, so where is he now, exactly?"
"You don't know?" Amanda raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow as she looked at him as if he were stupid. Of course, since she wasn't too happy with carrying the brunt of the workload that stacked up for him in the last couple weeks, he supposed she was entitled to be a little pissed. Except it wasn't like he asked for a lot, and since he couldn't leave the building, it wasn't exactly as if he had a thriving social life that needed to be kept track of on a daily basis. In fact, he spent most days just drawing, which was part of the reason he hated days like this when he had to play the mini-corporate doll.
"He said he was running an errand for you. I offered to show him around, but he said you'd already given him the grand tour."
Lovely, so his brand spanking new secretary had just invented a reason to leave the main office and had gone AWOL on his first day. Well, it didn't really matter anyway. Most of his secretaries quit within a couple of weeks out of sheer boredom. The rest were usually canned for surfing for porn on the Internet on company computers or stealing office supplies.
"Great, tell him once he's done with that, he can go home for the day," he nodded in what he hoped was a refined and authoritative way. The effort had to have fallen flat though because Amanda looked a lot less than impressed, or maybe it was just that she'd seen him running around in this place enough times in ragged jeans and old shirts to know that the suit was a temporary fixture.
"You're the boss."
Great, now she was just making fun of him. Sighing, he walked out and down the hall to face the next trial of the day.
"Tobin, a word?"
Tobin almost cringed at the gravely tone as he stopped up short at the elevator and turned to face his grandfather. "Sir?" Even in the softest of lights, the man still looked austere and foreboding. And he never failed to make Tobin feel like a backwards five-year-old.
"It's about next week, my boy." His arm fell on Tobin's shoulder. "Twenty-one years old, right? That's a big milestone in a man's life."
Right. Maybe in some men's lives, but since he was more like a caged canary, the passing of time really didn't seem all that important. The custodial staff might throw him a small party—Miriam in housekeeping on the fourth floor had been celebrating his birthday for him since she'd started fifteen years ago. His grandparents never failed to get him some kind of worthless pretentious gift that supposedly displayed the depths of their love and affection for him in an appropriately detached and clinical manner.
"I suppose," Tobin returned cautiously. "It is the legal drinking age."
He got a stern look for that. As if he hadn't been sipping wine like a pro at dinners since he'd been old enough to get dragged to them.
"It's an important age in any man's life, and it has little do with getting drunk like a naïve little fool. You've noticed that I've been requiring you to attend more and more of our meetings in the last few years?" His grandfather raised a stern eyebrow, leveling his gaze directly on Tobin.
Tobin resisted the urge to fidget.
"Yes, sir." Of course he'd noticed that his presence was being required at more and more of these stupid meetings. They'd made him nervous, to the point of nausea most of the time. They cut into the time he spent working on layouts and drawings for his next issue. Os had complained more than once in the last couple years about how deadlines hadn't been met and how it had gotten in the way of the conference calls and scheduling needed for the movie that had recently come out based on his first graphic novel.
A movie he wouldn't even be able to see himself until it came out on DVD.
"I've invited a good number of the shareholders to dinner tonight. We'll be dining with those who hold almost half the control in Sinclair Financial. and it is up to you to impress them tonight. If all goes well, I plan on announcing at the party your grandmother is throwing in your honor, that you will officially be joining the Sinclair team as my right hand man." His grandfather gave him a toothy smile, and it was only years of experience at carefully hiding his thoughts from his grandfather that allowed Tobin to not let the horror he was feeling appear in his expression.
Impress them? He didn't want to have anything to do with the shareholders. For people who had never once celebrated a birthday of his, was he supposed to be impressed himself that they'd remembered his twenty-first?
He didn't want to join Sinclair. He didn't want to be his grandfather's right hand man. There was nothing for him in this world, and there never had been.
Tobin wondered briefly if this was maybe what his parents had felt. His already tiny world was closing in on him around the edges, and he took a shaky breath at the thought of weeks of nothing but dinners like the one he'd attend tonight and endless meeting about matters of Great Importance that he neither cared about nor understood.
"Yes, sir," he said quietly. Protesting wouldn't do any good. There was nowhere to go and very few people willing to listen should he rail against his place in this universe. He'd attempted protests in the past only to have them fall on uncaring ears and fail in effectiveness. The last time he'd feebly attempted to put his foot down, Grandfather had threatened to cut him off from his art supplies.
As long as he could still draw, he'd survive. So he kept his protests to himself.
Tobin didn't bother flipping on the lights as he got out of the service elevator and stumbled into his room. The board meeting had been followed up with three hours of soul deadening chitchat. None of which Tobin's first seventeen or eighteen years of life spent socializing with the occasional nanny and the custodial crew had prepared him for in the slightest. The last couple years filled with meetings hadn't done much to assuage the situation either.
He was hopeless at it. Which was further compounded by the fact that he didn't care.
And of course, milling about when one had absolutely nothing of interest to say or contribute wasn't enough. Oh no. They had to have a five-course dinner. And talk about stock options and shares and something involving lots of letters that when strung together and spoken after a couple glasses of sherry, still didn't make a damn bit of sense to Tobin.
The moon was half full, and while the jacket to the hideous suit he'd actually worn all day was crumpled in a ball downstairs in the kitchenette, his tie was getting flung on a couple of rose bushes. He popped a couple of buttons in his haste to get out of the starched, long sleeved shirt and his belt clacked loudly against the glass walls as he tossed it off as well.
To think, when he turned twenty-one next week, he'd get to do this full time. For the rest of his life. God, what a depressing thought.
He flopped onto his bed and stared up at the stars shining through his ceiling. The world was a vast and interesting place, or at least, it should be from what he could tell from watching TV. There was so much of it that he wanted to see and experience and live. And while he'd known it was unlikely that he'd get to, he'd at least had some sliver of hope of his grandfather changing his mind. The old man had to realize that Tobin was not suited for this life.
That he didn't want it was a moot point, but still. Maybe he'd try talking Frank into early retirement again. Without having to worry about Frank getting fired or thrown in jail, he could attempt escape again. Of course, if the escape plan actually worked, he was certain that it wouldn't be too long until he got himself caught again out of sheer ineptness.
Why couldn't Grandfather want the things for him that he wanted for himself? But that too, was a pointless train of thought. Tobin couldn't bring back his parents, and for that, he doubted Grandfather would ever forgive him. Someone had to pay for the sins of his parents, and since he was the only one left…
"I have to admit, I thought the apartment downstairs was pretty sweet, but nothing beats this."
Tobin froze. The bed dipped, and he held his breath. The sheets rustled, and a warm hand landed on the bed beside his shoulder, effectively caging him in. He could feel his heart pounding hard in his chest, and he had to blink twice to make sure he wasn't hallucinating the sight.
Sitting on his bed—as if he had every right to be there—was the smirky businessman from earlier. Except he wasn't dressed in business clothes anymore. From head to toe, he was clothed in black. A harness hung off his shoulders, clacking slightly as he moved to grin down at Tobin.
"Hi," Tobin managed to squeak before he passed out from lack of oxygen. This seemed to amuse the man even more, and Tobin sucked in a succession of shallow breaths in an attempt to regain his equilibrium.
"So, you're the famous Sin, are you?"
"Who are you?" Tobin wanted to smack himself silly. Some stranger came into his room, invading his privacy and his space and the biggest protest he could mount was a pithy greeting and an inane question? It was amazing to him, in that moment, that more people hadn't tried. For all that his grandfather hated him and his grandmother abhorred his presence on the planet, a kidnapper still could have gotten a great deal of cash out of them by kidnapping Tobin. He was the only heir to their multimillion dollar corporation, after all.
"Gino." The man shrugged casually.
"Oh," he squeaked in return. "So," he started, only to discover that he had no idea what the hell to say. What did one say to someone who had just broken into one's home? "Are you some kind of pervert?" The words flew out of his mouth without permission, and he felt his face getting hot as Gino laughed.
"This from the guy who walks around in various states of undress in a room that has glass walls?" A dark eyebrow quirked, and Tobin wanted to pull the covers up over his head.
"This is the top of Sinclair Tower. The only thing as high as this building is the Marshall Building, and that's three streets over." He wasn't an exhibitionist, really. He walked around in his boxers or walked around naked, because no one could see him. No one wanted to see him. Few people even knew he existed. Wait. "You're not supposed to be here."
"And yet I am." Gino grinned, looking proud of himself.
"How did you get up here? Why are you up here? What are you going to do?" The questions came tumbling out as Tobin tried to sit up. Gino reached over, placed a hand on his chest and pushed him back down on his bed. That…
…that kind of pissed him off. Who did this bozo think he was?
"I could ask you the same question." The bozo in question chuckled and stretched, completely relaxed in spite of the fact that he was were he wasn't supposed to be.
Tobin gaped as Gino toed off black shoes and brought his legs up on the bed with an easy grace.
"Excuse me?" Tobin tried to scramble up again, but Gino easily pushed him back down, this time keeping him pinned down. "Get off."
"Not until you tell me how you got up here and why you're here." Gino reached over with one hand and ruffled Tobin's hair.
"Get off now!" Tobin roared, although he was sure it came out as more of a squawk as he struggled to get up from under the much bigger Gino. He'd spent his entire life in this tower. Literally. His mother had given birth in the ladies room on the fortieth floor. Doctors, nurses and dentists came to him. Not once in his entire life had he walked through a park or ridden in a car. And this jerk wanted to know how he got here? Why he was here?
"Say the magic words," Gino laughed, and Tobin squirmed as hands grabbed at his sides.
"Good enough." Gino shrugged, instantly releasing him. With a less than dignified yelp, Tobin crashed to the floor. Picking himself back up, he looked over at Gino—who had managed to look completely cool and collected—and glared. "So, you're the prized possession of the Sinclair family? I have to tell you, I'm not really all that impressed. I mean, unless you shoot laser beams out of your eyes?"
Well of course he wasn't going to be impressed! Maybe Tobin lived in a gilded cage, but he watched television. He surfed the web. Pale—while it might have been popular for women in the 1800s—was not in style right now. His white hair and grey eyes on top of that made him look like some kind of washed out ghost. The only thing that kept him from being tubby and completely out of shape was the fact that more often than not he forgot to eat, and he'd climb up and down a few dozen flights of stairs whenever he got stuck on storylines.
"Prized possession? I'm not the Sinclair family's prized possession." He looked Gino straight in the eye as he said it.
"They hide you away up here like you're the family jewels. And while the security is shit for someone like me, they still do quite a lot to protect you from the outside world." Gino climbed off the bed and gestured to all the lights of the buildings below them.
Protect him from the outside world? No, Tobin had no illusions on that score. Protection came with a certain level of affection. Frank, the night guard, protected him. This tower and his place in it was to protect the Sinclair legacy from him.
"What do you care?" he asked flatly, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I don't really." The clouds overhead broke farther away from the moon, and pale light came in through the glass roof bathing Gino in blue-gray light. "I just wanted to take a look at his highness and see if there was anything to the rumors." He shrugged. "Despite your earlier display, I gotta say, I'm disappointed."
Well join the crowd. Tobin scowled. "So. You came, you saw, you were let down. Now you can get out."
Sighing, as if he had the weight of the world somehow on his shoulders, Gino walked over, his fingers reaching out and brushing a few strands of hair off of Tobin's cheek. "Look, money isn't everything. You can't live your entire life locked away from the rest of the world simply because you're afraid that someone might contaminate you with their poverty."
Tobin stayed silent. Mostly because he had no idea what Gino was talking about.
"There's a whole world out there, and you're missing it. Why? All you have to do is take the elevator down and walk out those pretty double doors out front. Take a vacation from," Gino looked around the greenhouse dubiously, "this and see what the world has to offer."
Gino shook his head sadly. "Then you'll probably become as stunted and miserable a person as Lucian Sinclair." And with that, Gino strode over into the service elevator, disappearing as the doors slid shut with a soft snick.
Tobin let out the breath he'd been holding. Rationally, he knew he should be running for the intercom to buzz Frank and reporting exactly what had happened. But, instead he made his wobbly legs head back towards his bed, letting out a small grunt as he collapsed on it.
Gino was right, of course. If his grandfather had his way, Tobin would be taking an active role in the company come his twenty-first birthday. From there it wasn't hard to speculate that by his twenty-fifth, he'd be climbing the ladder, but his thirtieth that he might be vice president to be primed to take the reins at forty or fifty.
This wasn't the life he'd wanted. This hadn't been the life he'd chosen.
"All hail the conquering hero!"
"Bit me, asshole," Gino growled, shoving Roberto aside as he entered his own apartment and chucked his gear at the feet of his coat rack. His apartment wasn't much. The coat rack was probably the fanciest piece of furniture in it, but what he lacked in décor he made up for in camera equipment. And if his brothers valued their lives, then they better damn well not have touched a single thing in his room while he'd been gone.
"Ira called from the hospital about an hour ago to say he'd probably be here fifteen minutes ago," Samuel said as he breezed past Gino, drinking the milk straight out of the last carton Gino had of it.
"Where's Wesley?" he asked tiredly, shoving Roberto's fat head away from him as he walked around to sit in his recliner in his apartment. Honestly, all four of his brothers had their own pretty penthouse-like dwellings. And yet he couldn't get their lazy asses out of his place without a crowbar and a ton of crude language.
"Probably leading some cutthroat corporate raid." Samuel gestured absently. "He and dad were going over the details when I left for the night."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Roberto interrupted making a talking gesture with his hand. "We're not interested in that, brat, and you know it. Spill."
"You didn't manage it did you, freak," Roberto cackled happily. "I win the bet."
"He didn't say he didn't do it, moron," Samuel thankfully said for him, smacking Roberto upside the head as he walked around to plop down on Gino's couch and prop his expensive Italian leather loafered feet up on Gino's coffee table.
"Well," Gino drew it out, and he could see Roberto practically vibrating in anticipation as Samuel rolled his eyes, "the Sinclair's have shit for security."
"Goddamn you," Roberto scowled. "How do we know you're not lying you ass off to save your face?"
Gino made a mental note to later pound Roberto into the ground. "Because I met Sin St. Clair in his bedroom on the top floor of Sinclair Tower." He smiled arrogantly at his older brothers, propping his hands behind his head and kicking the footrest out as he did so.
"Sin St. Clair lives on the top floor of Sinclair Tower," Samuel repeated doubtfully. "You are so full of shit."
"No, he really does. I saw some of his story layouts under his bed. I can even tell you the title of the next graphic novel if you want." Okay, so maybe he was getting a little bit of enjoyment out of gloating in front of his brothers.
Roberto's mouth worked soundlessly for a few moments before he glared. "I hate you, you know that, right? Goddamn. You do realize I'm out a grand to Wes."
"Sucks to be you," he laughed back as Roberto gave him the finger.
The scrape of a key in the door told him that either Wesley or Ira was here, and he cursed himself again for having given all four of his obnoxious big brothers a key. He had no idea what the hell he'd been thinking, or even if he'd been thinking at all.
"Goddamn," Roberto repeated, "so Sin St. Clair is some eccentric old recluse who lives on the top of Sinclair Tower. How is this not like its own comic?"
"He's not old," Wesley beat Gino to saying as he threw a sheaf of papers on Samuel's lap. "Inside sources have been leaking that he's going to be joining the ranks at SFI next week. It's supposed to be made official at a bash held in honor of his twenty-first birthday."
"No way," Samuel scoffed, leafing through the paper.
Gino tried to process that. He knew Sin had looked young. He just hadn't looked that young. Hell, the kid had looked at him with old, world weary eyes. "He didn't look the corporate type," he finally mused aloud.
"Ha! Fork it over, Roberto," Wesley shouted triumphantly, holding out a hand. With obvious reluctance, Roberto dug out his wallet. "I told you Gino could break his way into anything."
"You two should really stop betting on whether or not Gino can break the law," Samuel mumbled around a pencil. "Besides, isn't this some kind of ethical dilemma for you, Rob? You are a goddamned cop, you know."
"He's out of my jurisdiction." Roberto waved away lazily. "'Sides that, Sinclair Tower is like its own corrupt country. Given how much money they've cheated and stolen from Dad, I think this one time, I'll be the dirty cop and look the other way," he added snidely.
There was the scrape of a key in the lock again, but this time it took some loud fumbling noises before the door finally swung open.
"Hey Ira," Wesley called, a smirk on his face as a less than awake Ira stumbled blearily into Gino's apartment. Not for the first time, Gino wondered why it was that Ira even had an apartment. All he ever did was work at the hospital or sleep at Gino's. Occasionally, if they got together and bitched at him enough, Ira would go to the bar with them, but it was a rare occurrence. "Gino broke into Sinclair Tower."
"Good job, Gino," Ira mumbled, dumping his stuff on Gino's kitchen table before he started shedding clothing.
Grinning wryly, Gino kicked back the footrest and got up, picking up Ira's discarded scrubs as his eldest brother shed them and headed for Gino's bedroom. "Samuel's giving up lawyering so that he can become a male stripper and shake his bits for the ladies in Vegas," he called as Ira fumbled with the doorknob to his bedroom.
"Good job, Samuel," Ira added.
"I'd say he's out for the night," Gino concluded, turning back to his brothers. For his words though, he got a wad of paper to the face from an irritated Samuel.
"Roberto's more likely to become a stripper," Samuel grumbled around his pencil. Really, it was amazing that someone who'd grown up with them for brothers had ended up so prudish. "According to the info, Sin's real name is Tobin Sinclair. He's from an estranged branch of the Sinclair family. A long lost cousin."
"One who apparently hit the genetic jackpot," Wesley called as he dug through Gino's fridge. "Well, if you actually wanted to win a genetic link to that cold fish bastard of a cheat."
"No, tell us how you really feel," Gino laughed, swatting Wes away from the fridge. They all had apartments of their own. Hell, Wesley even had a maid that came in cleaned, stocked his cupboards and fridge, and did his laundry. Yet, the bastard was always here eating Gino's left over pizza.
"I can't help it if Sinclair is code for Satan." Wesley shrugged, a cold slice in hand as he stepped over Samuel's legs to make himself comfortable on the couch.
"I think he's got Sin under his control, too." Gino finally decided on a cold beer and shut the fridge door. "He didn't seem thrilled about staying, but he was adamant that he couldn't leave."
"His funeral," Roberto said, grabbing the remote and clicking on the plasma Dad had gotten for him last Christmas. Maybe that's why they all congregated here.
Sighing, he made his way back to his recliner and tried to relax as Roberto flipped the channel to something obnoxious.
Tobin Sinclair, huh? He liked the name Sin better. For whatever reason, it suited him. He'd never seen someone that young with hair that white. Instead of being creepy, he had an ethereal beauty. Expressive eyes, and a willowy build only added to that impression. Pissing him off had been a little fun, he'd admit. But the only downside to the whole thing that he could see, was that Sin was definitely too good to be wasted on the Sinclairs.
But, Marshalls stuck together, and it probably wouldn't be in his father's best interest if he allowed himself to be seduced by the new Sinclair heir.
"Here," Os said with a grin as he shoved the box he'd brought towards Sin. "Open it."
Confused, Sin gingerly picked it up and looked closely at it before glancing up at Os. "What's this for? My birthday isn't until next week."
Os rolled his eyes. "It's not necessarily a birthday present. It's just a present. C'mon. Open it!" It was sad really, that he was more excited about Sin getting this present than Sin seemed to be in opening it. On the other hand, Os couldn't really blame him. He'd seen the presents that Sin had gotten for his last birthday.
Diamond encrusted cufflinks just hadn't really screamed 'Sin' to him. The silk tie, tuxedo, and leather appointment book had been even more underwhelming. In fact, the only things that had actually been given with the real Sin in mind was the paint set Frank had given him and the set of charcoals from Miriam. Well, and of course, the six newest not-on-the-shelf-yet releases from ten of Sin's favorite graphic novelists.
Cautiously, Sin pulled off the ribbon and pried the lid up. Os grinned broadly as Sin peered into the box, his entire expression changing as he reached in a pulled out a kitten.
"You," Sin started, and then his mouth moved without making a sound for a little, "this?" He looked up at Os, completely dumbfound.
"Cats don't need to go outside," he shrugged, but couldn't keep the happy goofy smile off his face. It did good things to his heart to see Sin happy. The kid deserved to be happy after having spent so much time living in this ivory tower filled with corporate cold fishes.
He'd been a Sin St. Clair fan from the very first, amateur graphic novel. The stories were intricate and complex, funny and heartbreaking and gorgeously drawn. It was just pure damned luck that Sin had responded to his fan email, that the two of them had struck up a friendship and that he'd become something of Sin's editor/agent.
"I can't take her," Sin said softly, drawing Os's attention. He looked miserable as he said it, though, holding the kitten close and cradling it in his hands.
"I just can't." Sin tried to hand her back, but Os was having none of it. If he had to, he'd pitch a fit worthy of Lucian Sinclair himself if he had to.
"You can," he returned with more calm than he felt, pulling a black mesh bag from behind him. "You can carrier her around in this."
Well, whatever the problem was, the bag seemed to solve it as Sin got a happier gleam to his eye. "Os?"
"Do you think I could make it out there?" The words were barely whispered, but Os heard them all the same.
"I think you could make it anywhere." Seriously, maybe the proceeds from the novels and the movie deal were a drop in the bucket compared to the Sinclair family fortune, but they were definitely enough to live on comfortably if Sin chose. "Why?"
"Grandfather told me yesterday that as of my birthday, I'm becoming an active member of the Sinclair Financial family. I think he's planning on sticking me in marketing. They're going to announce it at a bash held in my honor."
"Fuck," Os blurted out, startling Sin into looking up at him. Taking off his glasses he rubbed his eyes as he tried to process it. Sin lived for his art. As far as Os could tell, it was the one thing in this whole damn hellhole that actually made Sin happy. Lucian Sinclair had not orchestrated this in Sin's best interests or with even Sin as the person in mind. The bastard, Os surmised, could care less about Sin the person wanted. All that mattered was that Sin the Heir was there to move like a chess piece.
"Keep the cat," he growled. It wouldn't do to let Sin know just exactly what he was thinking. He wouldn't want to get Sin's hopes up. "What are you gonna name her?" he tried again after unclenching his jaw.
Deep in thought, Sin looked at her, and then turned her slowly, smiling when she meowed. "Puppy."
Os let out a surprised bark of laughter. "Well, I suppose if that makes you happy. You're going to confuse everyone with it, though." Sin shrugged as if to say 'what else is new'. "Puppy aside, we do have some business to discuss. We'll just have to keep plugging at it and hope if flies under Sinclair's radar."
Many, many hours later, in the security of his own car on a cell phone that Sinclair hadn't managed to tap, Os dialed a familiar number. "Gino? I need a favor."