Simon Banks loved this time of day. He stood in front of his stables, enjoying the first rays of sun as it bathed his fields in early morning light, enjoyed the mists, swirling low to the ground, the flurry of activity in front of him, as his trainers and horses headed out for their morning excercises, enjoyed the sounds of hoofs hitting wet grass,
the snorts of the magnificent animals, tails switching, the steam of their breaths hanging on the air......
He watched as his favorite and newest acquisition, Little Stogie, trotted past, but then his eyes widened in disbelief as he noted who rode atop the steed. Blair Sandburg.
His best jockey? Doing routine morning excercises? One of racing's youngest and "winningest" jockey's in the sport today, taking a horse out at five in the morning?
The jockey in question turned back and spotted his boss. He smiled, waved and guided the horse back to where Banks stood.
"Mind telling me why the number one jockey in the world is out taking Little Stogie through his AM paces?"
"You *do* want to win this Saturday, right?"
"Well, it would be nice, yeah."
Both men were smiling, their easy banter a testament to their respect for each other and their long friendship.
"So, stop asking questions and let me get to work. Stogie is chomping at the bit and raring to go. And by the way, isn't that movie crew due any minute?"
"Damn. I completely forgot. You *will* be available later? The producer wants the cast and crew to meet you."
"I'll be here, Simon", then the young man wiggled his eyebrows and let his body shake and added, "Gosh, Simon, I just caaaan't wait, ooooh.....".
The sarcasm wasn't lost on the bigger man as he chuckled and gave Little Stogie a swat on the rump and waved both man and beast away, Blair's laughter floating back to him.
By eight o'clock, the movie crew had indeed appeared and were already set up down at the practise track and were in the middle of filming a crucial scene.
Simon was one of the wealthiest men in Cascade, Washington. In fact, one of the wealthiest men in the nation, and he certainly didn't need the money received from allowing his home, Banks Folly, to be used in filming. But one of the producers, David Tilson, was a good friend and Simon hadn't been able to turn his request down. Not to mention the charities that would benefit from his generosity. And truth be told? He found the process of movie making to be fascinating.
He stood now, next to David, watching the filming.
The scene called for a confrontation between the hero and the bad guy but just as things were really heating up and it looked as though the two men would be coming to blows, the director, Tom Van Parton, yelled
out, "Cut!". The action ceased, the actors parted, smiling, and the director asked that everything be set up for the stuntmen.
David caught the attention of the film's star and waved him over.
"Jimmy! Join us, there's someone here I'd like you to meet."
James Ellison, academy award winning actor, and number one at the box office for the last five years, smiled his famous five thousand mega watt, ticket selling, popcorn buying smile and strolled over to the two men.
"Simon, I'd like you to meet Jim Ellison, our star, and Jim, this is my old friend, Simon Banks."
The two men shook hands as they appraised each other and recognized kindred spirits.
"Mr. Banks, I've been looking forward to meeting you, your ranch is spectacular."
"Thank you, but it's "Simon", please."
"And I'm Jim. How do you like filmaking so far?"
"I'm enjoying myself immensely. But I'd no idea how much waiting around you all do....."
Both Jim and David laughed heartily at that and David answered back.
"Simon, we have a saying in this business, "Hurray up and wait." And that pretty much describes what we do on a daily basis. But when those camera's do role, there is no one I'd rather have in front of them than Jim, here."
"That's what you say this week, but next week you'll be extolling the virtues of Leonardo."
Jim smiled with affection at his producer and turned his attention back to Simon.
"Simon, I'm not going to be needed for quite awhile, would it be possible to get a tour? And a glimpse of Little Stogie? I've heard a great deal about this new wonder horse of yours."
Even if Simon had wanted to refuse, and he most certainly did not, he wouldn't have. You don't refuse a personality like the legendary Jim Ellison. His magnetism on screen was famous, but off screen it was almost a living presence. If Simon wasn't already in a committed relationship....well, Jim Ellison would have been more than he could have resisted.
Simon gave his watch a quick glance, mentally reviewed his daily schedule, then nodded.
"I'd be honored to give you the grand tour myself. If we start up at the house, Little Stogie will be back and stabled by the time we're finished. I'll also be able to keep a promise."
Banks had his own version of a megawatt smile and he flashed it now.
"Yes, I promised my partner, Joel, that I'd make sure he'd have the chance to meet you. He's one of your biggest fans."
"Well, I certainly wouldn't want you to break a promise, lead on."
It took the better part of thirty minutes for the two men to make their way up to the white, two story, Georgian house, what with Simon showing off his grounds, including his rose garden, the arbor and the vegetable and herb garden.
It was from the latter that Simon led the way to what he called his "play area".
Jim was wealthy in his own right, having parlayed his success into sound investments, but even he was impressed by all that he'd seen of Banks Folly.
And now, gazing at the Olympic sized swimming pool and the jacuzzi, which was the size of a *regular* swimming pool, taking in the massive brick BBQ, and the flagstone walk that meandered throughout the "play area" and again, the incredible landscaping that emphasized the natural beauty of the Cascade mountains that formed the backdrop for Simon's home he felt nothing short of complete awe and wonder.
"I'm truly impressed, Simon. Who is the landscape artist?"
Simon grinned at the compliment even as he was lifting a hand to wave at someone coming from the house.
"You're about to meet him, Jim."
Ellison followed his host's gaze to see a man, at least as tall as Banks, striding toward them. As he reached Simon, he was pulled in close for a hug and a kiss, then released with Simon's arm remaining around his waist.
"Jim, I'd like to introduce you to your biggest fan, the creator of Bank's Folly and my life partner, Joel Taggert. Joel, this is Jim Ellison."
Joel reminded Jim of a big, cuddly bear and as they shook hands he realized that he already liked this man.
"Mr. Ellison, it's a real pleasure to meet you in person. I'm not ashamed to admit that I've got to be your biggest follower."
"Please, it's Jim. And after what I've seen of this beautiful home, I'm now one of *your* most ardent fans."
'You like our home then?"
Simon gave Joel's waist another squeeze, his pride clearly evident.
"But of course, Joel, he hasn't actually seen our *home* yet, only the grounds. But we can remedy that now."
"Simon, we might want to put the tour of the house on hold a bit, the horses should be back by now and this is the perfect chance for Jim to see our real pride and joy."
"You're right. Jim? Do you mind a slight change of plan?"
Ellison shook his head, "Not at all. I understand Blair Sandburg will be riding Little Stogie in the Cascade Aspen Sweepstakes this weekend?"
"I wouldn't let anyone else ride him *but* Blair. In my humble opinion, he's the greatest jockey of our time."
Jim laughed and jokingly held up both hands in supplication.
"Hey, I believe you. I even agree with you. I was curious though as the rumors of Sandburg going free lance have been making the rounds."
The three men had been making their way back down to the stables as they talked and now Joel answered.
"That's just wishful thinking on the part of some very jealous owners. Blair is like a son to both of us."
Simon added, "Blair's mother, Naomi, died when he was only ten. She was the original flower child, free spritited, gifted, loving. But she always had to be on the move. And while she usually took Blair with
her, there were a few summers when she left him with me and my sister, Joan. She and Joan were best friends and went to high school together. Even back then, Blair loved horses, loved riding. And I encouraged that love. When Naomi was diagnosed with cancer, she insisted that if anything happened to her, I was to raise Blair.
He's been with us ever since. And a greater gift we could never have been given."
"I can see why the rumors are just that; rumors."
The sounds of hooves plopping down on soft dirt alerted the men to the arrival of the racing string.
Jim watched in fascination, as the parade of horse flesh moved away. He scanned each rider, looking for one face. A face he'd seen over two years ago, gracing the cover of People Magazine. He was disappointed when that face didn't appear.
Simon must have read his thoughts.
"Blair must have come back early, which means Little Stogie did well this morning. We'll find them over at the large stable."
Simon once again led the way, as they crossed over to the stable in question.
Inside, the smell of horse and hay permeated the cool air. Gentle snuffling noises and the occassional hoof pawing indicated several occupied stalls.
Simon came to a halt in front of the largest stall. And Jim got his first look at Little Stogie. And of Blair Sandburg.
The young rider had his back to the three men and was in the process of scrubbing down the great horse.
He was tall for a jockey and certainly taller than Jim expected. He appeared to be about 5'7. He wore riding boots, faded blue jeans that hugged his slender frame, and a blue pullover sweater with suede elbow patches. His unusually long, curly hair was tied back into a ponytail.
Jim Ellison was used to being admired and sought after. He was propostioned on an almost daily basis and had even been the victim of a stalker early in his career. He was used to the beautiful people and worked in a business where beauty was the norm. And not once in fifteen years had he ever been touched by any of them.....he'd never felt anything for anyone, other than friendship.
But now, in a stable in Cascade, Washington, he watched a young man groom a horse. And he felt a stirring in the pit of his stomach, a nervous excitement that seemed to grab hold of him, to shake him to his very foundation. And he was overwhelmed by the agonizing desire, the *need*, to touch this flesh.......
Eyes the color of the purest cornflower, widened as they connected with Ellison's own famous blue's.
How many times had Ellison heard or read the phase, "Time stood still"?
And never believed?
Time didn't stand still for anyone. At least that was what he'd believed. Until now.
For time really did freeze as the two men looked at each other. And if not for Simon, the world very well may have stayed frozen.
"Blair, this is Jim Ellison. Jim, Blair Sandburg."
Blair slowly rubbed his right hand down his leg, then, eyes still locked on the handsome man in front of him, he extended the hand and the Jim's grasped the younger man's and the electricity seemed to explode between
Without releasing Blair's hand, Jim Ellison said, "Blair."
And equally reluctant to release the larger, warm hand, Blair said, "Jim."