For love or money . . .
Welcome to Market Garden, a London club that caters to the better-off. Businessmen and bankers come here to relax and indulge in their every whim and fantasy, and Market Garden offers it all in top-shelf quality: threesomes, voyeuristic pleasures, domination, ropes and camo and leather. Men of every stripe, colour, and nationality deliver these high-end services—everyone has their reasons to sell sex. And it’s the hottest sex in town.
And sometimes, it’s even served with a side of true love.
Quid Pro Quo #1
For the past six months, Jared’s been selling sex at Market Garden, a London club that caters to the better-off. But business is slow in the run-up to Christmas, when businessmen and bankers are too busy bickering over bonuses to rent themselves a little high-class action.
Though Jared’s wallet finds the downtime unnerving, the rest of him rather enjoys the opportunity it gives him to admire Tristan, an old hand in the club whose reputation usually sees him well-booked. Jared has been crushing on Tristan for months—he’s no more immune to Tristan’s cockiness and confidence than the johns, and those are just Tristan’s inner qualities.
Just as Jared’s about to chat Tristan up, a businessman asks for something a little different: he wants to book them both. They agree—and Jared finds himself going from crush to mind-bending lust as he’s made the pawn in a sexual power game. Tristan shows him how a pro handles a john while delivering the top-shelf sex for which the Market Garden is so rightly renowned.
Take it Off #2
Turnabout is foreplay.
High-end Market Garden rentboys Tristan and Jared have found their niche. Men are willing to pay good money to watch Tristan tease Jared, and the two of them seduce London’s elite with sex and power games.
Except Tristan is less and less interested in getting money out of the johns these days. He wants his partner in crime, and he wants the seduction to be real. But is Jared just in this for the pay?
When Rolex, the john who started it all, returns to Market Garden, the boys jump on the opportunity to service him—and each other—for a fresh pile of cash. Rolex isn’t the only one itching for a rematch, though. Jared’s been waiting for a chance to get back at Tristan for teasing him so mercilessly the first time.
And for a former stripper, revenge is a dish best served extra hot.
If it Flies #3
If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it’s cheaper to rent it.
Spencer is in a rut. Long hours at the law firm are sucking the life out of him, and he doesn’t have time or energy for a relationship. He’s lonely, horny, and itching for something new, so he tries the Market Garden, an exclusive—and expensive—brothel. Spencer isn’t in the door five minutes before a cocky rentboy makes his move.
Nick isn’t just any rentboy, though. He’s a Dom, he’s a sadist, and he’s everything Spencer didn’t know he was missing. One night turns into more, and before long, Spencer is one of Nick’s regular clients.
Both men think they’re just scratching each other’s backs: Spencer’s exploring a submissive, masochistic side he never knew he had, and Nick is getting off and getting paid. But as time goes on, it’s clear their strictly professional arrangement . . . isn’t, and if Nick has one hard limit, it’s that he doesn’t get romantically entangled with his johns. The problem is, while Nick doesn't want to be owned, Spencer’s no longer content with just renting.
If it Fornicates #4
If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it’s cheaper to rent it.
Nick is a top earner in the Market Garden, where rentboys fulfill their high-rolling clients’ every sexual fantasy. As a Dom and a sadist, he sets his own price and is experienced enough not to let any client get out of hand. He’s damn good at his job, and it’s easy money.
Or at least it used to be. But now he has a boyfriend. Spencer is a former client, a closeted corporate lawyer, and so beautifully submissive he’s perfect for Nick. He doesn’t even mind how Nick earns a living. He just wants to take care of Nick—something Nick isn’t quite sure how to handle.
In fact, Nick’s clearly off his game these days. Sure, he’s tired from his shift work and his studies, but mainly he’s bored by his clients and distracted by thoughts of Spencer—dangerous for everyone when he’s wielding a whip. Now Nick has to make a choice: give up his independence, or walk away from the only man he’s ever loved.
Capture & Surrender #5
Ever since his partner died, Frank has resigned himself to staying single. He wards off the loneliness by spending time with friends on the paintball field and running his high-end brothel, the Market Garden.
After one of his most lucrative rentboys quits, Frank is thrilled when a gorgeous replacement walks through the door. A former US soldier, Stefan is hot, bold, and perfect for the Market Garden’s clientele, especially those with a thing for camouflage and drill sergeants. He's perfect for Frank, too, except Frank has a rule about not getting involved with his own rentboys.
During a frisky game of paintball, Stefan makes it clear that he doesn't care about the rules. Not the rules of the game, and definitely not Frank's refusal to get involved. He captures Frank on the field using stealth and cunning, and makes it clear that he’ll do anything to keep a hold of him off the field too.
Tristan and Jared have got it made. When they aren’t raking in the cash together at Market Garden, they’re burning up their own sheets and getting closer by the day. But something isn’t right. Tristan’s on edge, and Jared doesn’t understand why.
Before they can hash things out, their services are requested by none other than Rolex. And Rolex doesn’t just want to be a bystander this time. He wants Jared while Tristan watches, and he’s more than willing to pay for it.
But Tristan’s reached a breaking point, and even that huge wad of cash might not be enough to keep tonight’s arrangement from crashing and burning.
If it Drives #7
If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it's cheaper to rent it.
After driving James Harcourt, his wealthy banker boss, around for a year and a half, Cal isn’t surprised by much anymore. Not even James’s regular trips to Market Garden, London’s most elite gay brothel.
But when James leaves the Garden alone one night and turns to Cal instead, Cal’s floored. After crushing on his boss for ages, it’s his wet dream come true . . . until the awkward morning after. Cal still has a job to do, but he wants to offer more. Yet James doesn’t take him up on it; he keeps Cal at arm’s length and continues his chauffeured jaunts to Market Garden.
As Cal learns what James needs from the rentboys, he tries to fill that need himself. But there’s more to James’s penchant for rentboys than Cal realizes, and it may be one role that Cal can’t fill without overstepping his duty.
On the Clock #8
When Blake Raleigh’s favorite rentboys retire from Market Garden, they’re sure their friend Jason will be a perfect replacement. Though Tristan and Jared are a tough act to follow, Blake returns to London to test out their recommendation.
Jason is right on the money. Negotiations turn him on. Getting paid turns him on. The higher the stakes, the hotter things get. Each trip to London is more expensive than the last, and the webcam sessions don’t run cheap, but Jason is well worth the sticker shock.
The more time they spend together, the more Blake wants, and not just sex and transactions. But Jason’s been burned before by men who thought they were in love with him, and he’s not making that mistake again. When the lines between personal and professional start to blur, it’s going to take more than money, jewelry, and sports cars to keep Jason from clocking out and walking away.
Nick & Spencer(#3 & 4)
If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it’s cheaper to rent it.
Spencer is in a rut. Long hours at the law firm leave him no time or energy for a relationship. When he tries the Market Garden, an exclusive brothel, it takes less than five minutes for a cocky rentboy to make his move.
Nick isn’t just any rentboy, though. He’s a Dom, he’s a sadist, and he’s everything Spencer didn’t know he was missing.
As time goes on, it’s clear their strictly professional arrangement . . . isn’t, and although Nick eventually agrees to be Spencer’s boyfriend, fitting love in with his job is a struggle. Sure, he’s tired from his shift work and his studies, but mainly he’s bored by his clients and distracted by thoughts of Spencer—dangerous for everyone when he’s wielding a whip. Now Nick has to make a choice: give up his independence, or walk away from the only man he’s ever loved.
This collection includes:
- If It Flies
- If It Fornicates
Tristan & Jared(#1, 2, & 6)
Tristan and Jared are rentboys at the Market Garden, a London club that caters to the better-off. Jared has been crushing on Tristan for months—he’s no more immune to Tristan’s cockiness and confidence than the johns, and those are just Tristan’s inner qualities.
Just as Jared’s about to chat Tristan up, a businessman asks for something a little different: he wants to book them both. They agree, and Jared finds himself going from crush to mind-bending lust as he’s made the pawn in a sexual power game.
After that first amazing—and lucrative—experience together, they find their niche as an exclusive double act. Except Tristan is less and less interested in getting money out of the johns these days. He wants his partner in crime, and he wants the seduction to be real. But is Jared just in this for the pay, or might he actually reciprocate Tristan’s feelings?
This collection includes:
- Quid Pro Quo
- Take It Off
“Feast or famine in this place, isn’t it?” Tristan sighed heavily. He wore his boredom as if he wondered how dare the universe not entertain him, and lounged as much as anyone could on a barstool. He was like a cat in that respect. He could stretch and bend to get comfortable -- at least, Jared assumed he was comfortable -- anywhere he damn well pleased. Right now, his arm seemed like the only solid piece of his body, his elbow on the bar and his hand against his face, holding up his head as the rest of him poured over the edge of the bar, onto the seat, and down the stool leg to where the toe of his boot touched the floor.
Jared wasn’t quite so comfortable. It was hard to relax when the wallet in the back pocket of his tight leather trousers was getting close to empty. Looking out at Market Garden’s mostly vacant lounge, where each of the few potential johns were already under the spells of at least one or two other rentboys, he said, “Does it get like this a lot in December?” It had been for two weeks. Almost three now.
Tristan shrugged. “Sometimes. Economy and all that.” He sighed again and waved his hand. “Apparently people think it’s a good idea to buy food before renting a cock or an arse for the evening.”
Jared would’ve laughed at the comment -- so very typically Tristan -- but it was hard to find the humour when he was in possession of a cock and an arse that desperately needed renting. After all, he needed to buy food. Never mind Christmas presents. And probably a new fridge.
“Relax.” Tristan smoothed a few long strands of ink-black hair out of his own face. “Payday’s coming up for most of them. They’ll be back.”
Question is, will they be back before rent’s due?
“Everything changes with bonus season. Guys’ll have money to burn, and they’ll celebrate not getting laid off before Christmas by getting laid.” Tristan’s boneless figure solidified one liquid joint at a time, and he sat up, rolling his shoulders under his slick, black shirt. “Well, as long as there’s some booths that aren’t occupied, we should go sit someplace more comfortable.”
Jared hesitated. “W-we?”
Tristan paused. “You don’t want to?”
“I didn’t say that. I just --” Didn’t think you’d . . . I mean, guys like you don’t usually . . . I’m me, and you’re you, and . . . Jared shook himself to life. “Sure. Yeah.”
Tristan gave him a puzzled look, but didn’t say anything and started across the lounge.
Jared picked up his drink. It was nonalcoholic, of course, since employees weren’t allowed anything else on the job. The rule was enforced too. There were a few guys who’d thought giving Raoul, the head bartender, a free blowjob would result in him breaking the rules and spiking their orange juices with vodka or the Coke with rum, but rumour had it all they got was a belly full of cum and, worst-case scenario, a swift and permanent dismissal from Market Garden.
Jared stood and followed his catlike colleague across the lounge, which was more crowded with tables and chairs than with anyone occupying them. Well, maybe tonight wasn’t all bad. He might not get paid, but it also didn’t cost him anything to look Tristan up and down as he walked. Tight leather, lithe body, slinking gait; God, it was no wonder he was in such high demand. Most of the time, anyway. Higher demand than a lot of the guys here, Jared included, but lower than food, heating, and mobile phones.
Jared reminded himself he just hadn’t been here long enough to be in demand like Tristan. He’d worked for Market Garden for about six months, ever since post-exam boredom had led him to search for more excitement than he’d found stripping on the weekends, which he’d done since his second semester of university. This was more enjoyable and much more profitable, so he’d stuck with it even after classes had started again.
He never imagined he’d ever be a rentboy. Might be something to leave off the CV, but he’d deal with that if there were any jobs available at all when he graduated. For now, he enjoyed it, especially with that thick wad of quid he had in his back pocket at the end of an evening.
At the end of most evenings. Before the past three weeks or so, anyway.
Part of him still thought a guy paying for sex was somewhat pathetic, even though he now understood that not everybody who did so was too ugly or too creepy to score on the open market, as it were. Some guys just considered it a legitimate shortcut past all the wining and dining or even getting onto Grindr and dealing with people who faked their profile pictures -- or total sexual incompatibility even if they hadn’t.
He could get behind that, he supposed, certainly with the income possibilities it opened up, though he was studying bloody hard for his exams and thus had cut back on the work. He didn’t need slow nights like this at all. He was too skint. And his landlord was an arsehole, one of those buy-to-let vampires that kept increasing rents at least every year but consistently failed to get even the most basic repairs done.
Though, it was really hard to think about broken fridges when he watched Tristan walk. Jared just hoped he looked even half as nonchalant when he planted himself down in the booth next to Tristan.
Take it Off #2
Tristan was bored.
At least business had been steadier lately at Market Garden, ever since the Christmas lull had ended. Apparently the wealthy elite had placated all the annual demands for gifts and family time, and could now spare money and evenings for expensive rentboys. Great for the wallet, but as far as Tristan was concerned, the only thing worse than no john was the same john every bloody night. Well, not the exact same guy. Just an endless stream of clones coming through the black curtain in search of a night’s entertainment. Every one of them wanted the same thing, and they all grinned and smirked like they were the first mugs ever to ask a rentboy to suck a cock or bend over. Yawn.
“I could use a refill.” Jared held up his empty glass. “You?”
Tristan looked into his own glass and realised he was almost to the bottom. “Sure. I’ll pick up the next one.” The drinks were free, but he and Jared took turns fighting the crowd to the bar for refills.
“Sounds good.” Jared slid out of the booth and headed for the bar.
Tristan watched him, and couldn’t help grinning. There was a sexy little strut in Jared’s step these days. Ever since the two of them had started working together and double-teaming johns, Jared had gained some much-needed confidence, and it showed. God, but he was both cute and mouth-watering, and that gorgeous little arse in those tight leather trousers was icing on the cake. He even flirted shamelessly with Raoul and the other bartenders now.
Johns and rentboys alike glanced at Jared, checking out his lithe body in all that gorgeous, tight leather. As Tristan watched them watch Jared, both pride and a hint of jealousy swelled in his chest.
Look all you want, lads. I get to fuck him.
Tristan shivered at the thought. Even if it was only for the sake of performing for their johns and making a few hundred quid, he enjoyed the hell out of being with Jared. With a body like that and a mouth that talented, who wouldn’t? Even if they didn’t know Jared was also sweet, funny, smart . . .
Jared came back a moment later, drinks in hand, and slid into the booth beside Tristan.
“Thanks,” Tristan said.
“Don’t mention it.”
Tristan slid his hand over Jared’s leather-clad thigh under the table in their shadowy booth. At least things had been more interesting since they’d started working together. Fucking a john while Jared watched, or—even better—fucking Jared while the john watched, that kept his interest. Most of the time, anyway. Lately, even that was getting repetitive.
Or rather, frustrating. They had to concentrate on pleasing their paying clients, and those clients nearly always wanted to get involved in more ways than just sitting back and watching, which meant Tristan never could focus exclusively on Jared. The more they did this, the more he wanted to do exactly that. What he wouldn’t have given to get Jared alone for a little while, away from the distraction and interference of the guys who kept their wallets nice and fat. The uptight kid had relaxed a lot recently. He’d been inching out of his shell ever since they’d partnered up, and Tristan wanted to know what else Jared had up his sleeve.
Except the more Jared came into his own, the less interested he seemed in Tristan. Lately, it’d been strictly business for him. A performance he could have put on with any other rentboy. He’d even gone back to taking a lot of johns on his own. As more men turned Jared’s head, Tristan desperately wanted to work up the nerve to suggest skipping out of work and spending a little time in his flat, doing what they wanted rather than what someone else wanted them to do. Jared seemed to enjoy working with him, but how would he feel about sleeping with Tristan for free? Or even just hanging out and having a conversation that didn’t include keeping an eye on the door for would-be clients? Tristan could’ve sworn there’d been a little crush going on in the beginning, and now he was kicking himself for not making his move before Jared’s interest in him cooled in favour of johns and money.
“You boys look bored.” Nick, one of the kinkier rentboys, appeared beside their booth with a characteristic smirk on his thin lips. “Slow night?”
“Night’s still young.” Tristan sipped his soft drink. “What about you?”
Nick shrugged, the gesture extra flippant in true Nick style. “Just waiting for a worthwhile victim to show up.” He shifted his always-predatory gaze towards Jared. “You sure you don’t want to play with some of the kinky customers?”
Tristan slid his hand further over Jared’s leg.
“I don’t know,” Jared said. “I’m having a pretty good time with the ones I get.”
Another shrug. “Suit yourself. But if you ever change your mind . . .”
“I’ll give it some thought.” Jared sounded sincere. Genuinely interested, not just being polite.
Nick grinned. Tristan said nothing, just ran his thumb back and forth over the inseam of Jared’s trousers. Funny, Jared used to squirm under Tristan’s touch, but now it was as routine as flirting with potential clients. Something to entice johns and establish that Jared and Tristan worked together with no implications that they were together.
Nick glanced at the door, and straightened. “Oh. Looks like tonight’s paycheque just arrived. I’ll talk to you guys later.” With that, he was gone.
“Think we’ll ever get a client like one of his?” Jared asked.
“You never know.”
“Could be fun.” Jared played with his straw. “Good money, too.”
“It could.” Jealousy flared in Tristan’s chest. He wasn’t into the same things Nick was. The bondage, the pain play, it was all fine and good, but it wasn’t his thing. He liked the power games, just not the implements and bloodshed. He hadn’t thought Jared was into that kind of thing either, but everyone knew Nick made a killing servicing the kinkier johns. There was nothing stopping Jared from partnering up with him and getting in on that action.
How the hell do I tell him I want him for myself?
“Hey.” Jared leaned closer, lips brushing Tristan’s ear. “You remember that guy who paid us to fool around while he watched? The first time, I mean?”
Tristan shivered and squeezed Jared’s leg. “How could I forget?”
“Yeah, well.” Jared tilted his head towards the door. “Look who just walked in.”
Tristan turned his head.
Well, fuck me.
There he was. Suited and booted, looking like he owned the place, flashy gold watch peeking out from the end of an expensively tailored suit.
Rolex. We meet again.
And he was coming right towards them, too.
“Looks like we might be making some money tonight,” Jared said with a grin.
Is that opportunity I hear knocking? Tristan ran his hand higher up Jared’s leg. “Hope he stopped at the bank on his way here.”
Rolex strolled up to their table. He gave Jared a long look, then Tristan. “I was hoping you boys would be here tonight.”
“We are.” Tristan offered a toothy grin. “And you found us. Now what are you going to do with us?”
Rolex seemed to think on it for a moment, as if thrown off his stride, then grinned. “Oh, I’ve got a little fantasy in mind.”
“How kinky are we talking?” Tristan asked. “The place has specialists for the weirder shit.” His teeth snapped shut. Best not to give Rolex—or Jared—any ideas that might subtract Tristan from the night’s equation.
Rolex glanced around. “Nothing weird. You guys know I like to watch.” He leaned closer, flattening his palms on the table. “And give some orders along the way.”
“Orders, eh?” Tristan flashed him a wide grin, and Rolex laughed, clearly picking up the challenge. Tristan reached for his drink. “It’s a rematch, then?”
Rolex pushed his tongue against his teeth. “Yeah. In a manner of speaking.”
Tristan was intrigued enough that he glanced at Jared, picking up the nod there. It might not be just watching, but by now they’d had enough experience to play basically any john who entered the Garden by ear. Oddly, two against one wasn’t fair—even if the other guy called the shots. Totally different to play this game as a team. And they were a bloody good team, especially when paired up with a john as hands-off as Rolex.
“You ready to spend some money?” Tristan asked. You ready to watch me seduce him for real?
Rolex didn’t flinch. “I think I’m over my sticker shock from the last time.”
“Good. Let’s go.”
If it Flies #3
“Trust me, Spence,” Percy said during a mostly liquid lunch. “If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it’s always cheaper to rent it.” A few other restaurant patrons gave him disgusted looks.
Spencer laughed humourlessly over the rim of a Moscow Mule. “Yeah. A lot of good that philosophy did you.”
“Now, now.” Percy wagged a finger at him. “It wasn’t the rentboy who cost me half of everything I own. It was the wife.”
“Mm-hmm. Because you rented something that fornicates, yes?” Married or not, Percy never could resist his penchant for rentboys, especially that gorgeous Jamaican guy he hadn’t managed to keep a secret.
“Wasn’t his fault. But her?” Percy shook his head. “Christ. With what that woman cost me, I could’ve thrown orgies with a pile of supermodels for years, snorting Class A drugs off the most expensive tits in London.” He shrugged, probably unaware he’d once again turned the heads of a few people at nearby tables. “Though you’ve got to admit, she does know how to skin a guy.”
The perverse, masochistic respect on his face gave Spencer pause, and he stabbed a bite of chicken. “There’s a dubious skill set.”
“And one of the biggest risks of the whole marriage trap.” Percy raised his glass as if in a toast. “That’s why you don’t buy, Spence. When you rent, you get all the good stuff and don’t set yourself up for a government-sanctioned bank account massacre.”
“Quite honestly,” Spencer muttered, keeping his voice down unlike his lunch companion, “I think I’d rather just find someone I didn’t feel the need to run around on.”
Percy waved a hand. “Just a fantasy, lad. Save yourself the trouble. You don’t need a relationship, you just need to get your arse into bed with someone who fucks off before dawn.”
“Charming.” Spencer eyed his own drink. It was way too early to be drinking, he knew that, but when Percy was buying, you didn’t say no, or a rumour might go round the firm that you couldn’t hold your liquor. Only problem was, his mouth was a little dry right now—these conversations never took long to get more personal than he liked—but his head was already light. Drink to wet the mouth? Or abstain to keep the head clear? Or maybe pick someone else to ask for advice to get out of this overstressed, undersexed rut he was stuck in? Percy was the only man at the firm who knew Spencer was gay, though, and Spencer wasn’t keen to let that information get around.
Unbidden, he wondered what crazy stuff Percy got up to—or off on—with his various rentboys, and quickly decided he couldn’t have lunch with the guy again if he knew. Bad enough he knew about Percy’s fetish for dark skin, which made their “friendship” a little bit awkward. He’d long go convinced himself that the man was not flirting, just loved riding his superiority complex with him, and left it at that.
“You need to loosen up.” Percy declared, and smacked the table with an open palm, rattling some cutlery and startling half the restaurant, Spencer included.
And on that note, drinking it was. Spencer picked up his glass and quickly sucked down two deep swallows of the Moscow Mule, a hellish concoction of ginger beer and vodka. Spencer’s eyes watered a little, and he coughed as he put the glass down again.
“Loosen up.” He held Percy’s gaze. “Which in this case means following your lead and finding a prostitute.”
“Why the hell not?” Percy asked like the idea made perfect sense. “You need to relax, mate. Every time I’ve seen you recently, you’re wound tighter than the time before, and you weren’t any better when you were still with that fuckwit boyfriend of yours.” He made a sharp, dismissive gesture, as if shooing away an apparition of Spencer’s ex. “Which further proves my point: Rent. Don’t buy. It’ll do you some good.” He winked, lowering his voice again to a conspiratorial whisper. “It’s worth the money, I promise.”
“It’s just not my thing. We’ve been over this.”
“Mm-hmm.” That damned eyebrow was like a fucking lie detector, and its current arch said bollocks. “It’s not your thing? And being on the fast track to ulcers and a heart attack is your thing? Come on.” He shrugged. “One night. One trip. It’ll do you some good. I promise.”
Spencer gnawed the inside of his lower lip. He was on that fast track, wasn’t he, what with the last few months of stress—mergers and job cuts and bollocks, oh my!
Even though he knew it was a bad idea—but then, there was more Moscow Mule in his gut than in his glass—he finished the last of his drink and flagged down the waitress for another. He’d be taking the afternoon off now, that was for sure. Or at least barricading himself in his office under the pretence of studying contracts.
Before the second drink came, he tapped his fingers on the rim of the empty one. “So, this place you go to . . .”
Immediately, the judgmental eyebrow returned to its launch position, and Percy’s eyes lit up. “That’s my boy!” He folded his arms and leaned in closer like they were planning a murder or some bloody thing. “What about it?”
Spencer swallowed. Where’s that drink? “I’ve heard things about those places. Human trafficking and—”
“Don’t worry about that shit.” Percy waved the concern away. “Trust me, I checked their background, foreground, underground, whatever. Probably the cleanest whorehouse in the city.”
Drink? Please? Now?
“That’s not saying much, you know.”
Percy laughed. “Look, it’s not a bunch of underage kids working against their will. Most of them are jaded university students.”
Spencer blinked. “What?” Last thing he wanted was to walk into one of them as an intern in a year or so.
“Yeah. Crazy, isn’t it?” Percy picked up his own cocktail and took a drink, making Spencer’s mouth water. “Apparently, some of them start stripping between studying, and go on from there.”
Spencer couldn’t argue with that; it only made economic sense, sordid as it was.
“It’s ironic, you know?” Percy mused. “If the economy were better, we’d probably be working with these guys instead of fucking them.”
Spencer bit back the observation that he, as yet, hadn’t encountered a Jamaican lawyer—but who was he to judge? The banks were getting more “colourful,” even though the odd Indian or Pakistani were still assumed to be quantitative analysts rather than movers and shakers, and he himself still raised a few eyebrows as the one black corporate lawyer in the firm. Never mind he had the Oxbridge accent to prove that he belonged.
“Top talent always gets a place,” he muttered, trying to move the conversation elsewhere.
“I imagine it’s easier than working eighty-hour weeks to get onto the career ladder.” Percy was clearly enjoying himself way too much.
Thank God Spencer’s drink arrived.
He sipped the ginger-flavoured cocktail while Percy talked about whoring being the true equal-opportunity sector out there, though, in Percy’s typical way, even this romantic notion was distorted by a jaded lens. He cleared his throat. “Okay.”
“I’ll introduce you,” Percy said.
“Can’t I just go alone?”
“Na-ah.” Percy grinned at him. “I’d suggest getting a membership. It is quite classy—certainly a good variety, if you know what I mean. They even have a pair of shemales.”
Good God, this was not something he needed to learn during lunch.
“I’ll . . . have the usual configuration.”
“What about after work today?” That gleam in Percy’s eyes was equal parts unnerving and intriguing. “I’ll introduce you, you get a membership, and after that you’re on your own, stud.”
This was getting too familiar way too fast. Kicked along by the Mule, no doubt. Their relationship was friendly enough, but Spencer still felt a bit weird. As ex-head of sales in an investment bank, Percy likely knew every high-class prostitute in the City, and had very likely covered the partying under “expenses” when he “entertained clients,” so his experience on that front could clearly be trusted. Spencer had just never expected to find himself at the receiving end of Percy’s magnanimity.
“So.” Percy set his drink down sharply, emphatically, like he’d just closed a deal. “What do you say we meet at the Market Garden tonight? Say, nine-thirty?”
Uh, no, mate. No way. I’m not . . . there’s no . . .
But the Mule spoke before Spencer could: “I’ll be there.”
If it Fornicates #4
“Oh, ow, that stings,” Richard hissed. His welt-covered back flinched away from Nick’s touch.
“I know it does.” Nick kept his voice gentle. “Just relax. It’ll help.” He continued smoothing lotion onto the sub’s scourged flesh.
Richard didn’t quite relax. He was still new at this, still hadn’t gotten used to that burn in his skin when he started coming out of subspace and his nerve endings remembered what they did for a living.
“Is that really necessary?”
“It is if you want to be able to wear a shirt or lean on anything tomorrow, yes.” Nick capped the lotion bottle and put it aside. Then he set his hands—lightly, of course—on the lotion-slicked skin, and made more smooth, gentle circles over the welts. He grinned over his handiwork; he always did love the cool patterns a cat-o’-nine-tails left on a sub’s back. Made his masochistic clients so much more fun and interesting than the regular “fuck me and I’ll pay you” johns.
His grin faded, and he kept rubbing the lotion on, but with less enthusiasm. His muscles ached a little from swinging the flogger, but mostly he was just tired. That kind of bone-deep tired that hit the mind harder than the body. Less like he’d fucked a businessman this afternoon and flogged Richard this evening, and more like he’d just spent days on end studying for an exam he couldn’t afford to fail. “Friday night at five” tired.
Just need a couple of nights off, that’s all.
“How do you feel?” he asked Richard.
“Good.” Fatigue weighed down the sub’s voice. “Feel good.”
“Doesn’t sting anymore?”
“A little. Isn’t bad.”
Nick smiled. Richard had come back down from subspace, returned to terra firma, and now was hitting that lethargic state that would eventually knock him out for the rest of the night. Mission accomplished.
Once Richard was all right for the evening, Nick took the folded bills off the bureau—they’d learned after the first or second night to have the money ready to go because Richard would be asleep before Nick left—and called a cab. He checked one last time to make sure Richard was in a good state, and then he was gone.
The night was cool, especially for someone wearing no shirt under a leather jacket, but the shock of evening air on bare skin helped centre Nick and return him to the real world while he waited for his cab.
He could have sworn there’d been a time when he was flying high after he left clients’ houses. He distinctly remembered feeling like he could take on the world, like he could move a mountain with nothing more than a glance. Maybe he was just burned out now. Who knew? But the last few times he’d stepped outside to wait for his ride, he’d felt a dull heaviness in the pit of his stomach. One he couldn’t quite explain.
He glanced back at Richard’s terraced house. His lack of enthusiasm was weird because this was one of the clients he actually liked, although he didn’t really know him. He didn’t even know if Richard was the guy’s real name. Most of his clients gave him fake names. Nick gave them his real one. He liked the in-your-face quality of it, the ballsiness of saying, “Yeah, my name is Nick, and I fuck men for a living.”
There was really nothing to be ashamed of. As far as some people were concerned, just being gay meant he fucked everything and everyone. Taking money for it was just the icing on the cake. The job suited him just fine. Or at least it had until recently.
The cab pulled up and Nick slipped into the back just as his mobile started buzzing in his pocket.
“Hang on a sec,” he told the driver, and pulled the phone out of his pocket.
Want to come by? I have roast chicken.
He had a sixth sense for timing, that guy. The prospect of roast chicken sounded great, especially when the alternative was collapsing in front of the TV for another two hours before he rolled into bed. And an evening with Spencer—a late night dinner followed by anything Nick wanted—was always tempting.
But Nick hesitated. He’d been doing that lately, ever since that night a couple of weeks ago when he hadn’t taken Spencer’s money. The night things had changed. Their relationship was on weird footing now, footing Nick hadn’t quite adapted to yet, and he caught himself hesitating like this every time he considered going over there. Of course he always went—over the last couple of weeks, he’d been at Spencer’s house every night he hadn’t stayed with a client—but the momentary hemming and hawing kept happening.
A second text came through: No strings attached. Just help me vanquish this bird.
Vanquish. Well, all right then . . .
Nick gave the driver Spencer’s address. After three months and a little, he didn’t have to check it anymore on the phone.
On my way, he texted back. They tended to text rather than speak on the phone—all romantic and clandestine, but the relationship was still very much up in the air. They were still settling into things.
It’ll work out, he reminded himself for the millionth time. He’d got used to being a prostitute. He could get used to being someone’s boyfriend.
En route to Spencer’s, Nick checked his emails. He’d recently set up a website and that thing needed work. For whatever reason, it attracted way too much spam. He also needed to get some professional photos. Maybe if he pushed harder into the D/s side of things, he could start his own studio and hire a couple people for the grunt work.
But that means you’ll be a fully professional, full-time whore.
Being unashamed of something and being stuck doing it forever were two very different things.
In front of Spencer’s house, Nick paid the cabbie, tipping well as usual, grabbed his bag, and stepped out.
Before Nick had even reached the front door, Spencer opened it, looking gorgeous in jeans and a dark red cashmere sweater, barely protected by an apron. He grinned wide as if Nick were the guy from the National Lottery. “Come on in.”
“Cheers.” Nick slid in and Spencer closed the door behind them.
The house smelled of rosemary and roasting bird. After the dark outside, the warm light squeezed oddly against his heart, and Nick dropped his bag beside the door.
“Glad you could make it.” Spencer’s hand was warm as he slid it beneath Nick’s jacket onto his bare waist.
“Thanks for the invite.” Nick drew Spencer down for a quick kiss that turned into a long one. They wrapped their arms around each other, Spencer’s sweater soft against Nick’s skin wherever the apron didn’t get in the way. Sometimes after he’d been with a client, the last thing Nick wanted was to be touched, but Spencer’s hands and his embrace and his tender kiss were exactly what he needed right then. An entire bottle of wine couldn’t relax Nick the way this did.
They separated, and when Nick swept the tip of his tongue across his lip, Spencer shivered. Then he let Nick go and gestured down the hall. “I should check on the bird. Come on in.”
In the kitchen, Nick leaned against one of the work surfaces.
“Tea?” Spencer asked after he’d checked on the chicken.
This was all so oddly domestic: Spencer pouring tea into a pair of matching mugs, offering cream and sugar, and the two of them quietly sipping it in the fragrant kitchen. If someone had peered in through a window, they might have mistaken the two of them for a respectable couple instead of a corporate lawyer and his prostitute boyfriend. With that gentle kiss still tingling on his lips, Nick might have made that mistake himself, and he didn’t know quite what to make of that.
He put down his mug. “You didn’t roast that bird yourself, did you?”
“I did. Stopped at Smithfield Market, came face-to-face, well, in a manner of speaking, with the biggest chicken I’ve ever seen. The butcher said it’s a capon. A castrated chicken. Told me how to cook it, too, but it took quite a while longer than he indicated.”
“Ahh,” Nick said. “That explains why it’s just about ready at this hour.”
Spencer laughed. “Tell me about it. I didn’t set out to eat at”—he glanced at the microwave clock—“ten thirty at night.” His laugh turned into a gentle smile. “But I’d say it worked out. Meant we could have a proper dinner together.”
“So we can.” Damn, but these fuzzy, romantic feelings were alien to Nick. He cleared his throat. “I, um, didn’t know you cooked. It’s been all restaurant deliveries so far.”
“Shoving some oranges and limes up a dead bird’s bottom and throwing him in an oven isn’t cooking,” Spencer insisted. “I was just . . . in the mood.”
Nick smiled and crossed his arms. “Next thing I know, you’ll bake gingerbread cookies.”
Spencer laughed again. Then he nodded at Nick’s chest, which was bare under his leather jacket. “Want a shirt?”
Hmm. Interesting. An attempt at domesticity. But having dinner half-naked might just be a bit weird.
“I probably should.” Nick uncrossed his arms. “But nothing of yours is going to fit me.”
“Just a sec.” Spencer rushed off, and Nick exhaled. Damn, nothing about this was as awkward or unnatural as he kept convincing himself it should be. He pulled down the zip and slipped out of his jacket, then hung that up in the corridor. The kitchen was plenty warm with the roast going.
“Here.” Spencer came back with a slinky running top in black that wouldn’t hang off him like he was trying on an older brother’s clothes. Nick pulled it on, gratified that Spencer stole a long glance at his chest.
“Thanks,” Nick said, and picked up his tea mug again.
Spencer watched him for a moment. “Long day?”
“Do I look it?”
Nick clasped his hands and stretched his arms out, trying to release some of the tension in his shoulders. “Why do I feel like I just put in a week at your job?”
Spencer laughed. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t even know, really.” Nick rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Just exhausted. And it’s less physical than mental. Which is weird.”
“Huh. That’s kind of—here, turn around.”
Nick eyed him. “What?”
Spencer gestured for him to do as he was told. Odd, the sub ordering the Dom, but right about then, Nick didn’t care about playing games. And besides, they weren’t in the bedroom. Equal footing out here in the kitchen between an oven full of roasting bird and a table set for two.
So he turned around.
Spencer’s hands materialized on his shoulders. He pressed his fingers and thumbs in, and Nick closed his eyes as Spencer kneaded the exhausted muscles.
“You okay?” Spencer asked. “You are really, really tense.”
Nick wanted to answer automatically with “I’m fine” or “I’m just tired,” but Spencer’s hands were like tactile truth serum. Gentle but firm pressure that completely destroyed Nick’s resolve—and maybe his ability—to bullshit his way out from under the conversation.
He exhaled, tilting his head forward so Spencer had more access to his neck. “I don’t know what it is. The last couple of weeks or so, I’ve just . . .” What? Approached everything, especially my job, with all the enthusiasm of a kid opening up a pack of socks and underwear on Christmas? He sighed and shook his head. “Maybe I just need a holiday.”
“You just took one a few weeks ago.”
Nick stiffened. Right. That “holiday to Spain” he’d supposedly taken. Guilt clawed at him; he still hadn’t been entirely truthful to Spencer about that. He cleared his throat. “I don’t think it was enough. Maybe I, um, need another.”
“Maybe you do.” Spencer’s hands slowly climbed Nick’s neck, sliding under his longish hair in search of the tension Nick obviously couldn’t keep hidden from him. “You’ve got a physically demanding job.”
“I’ve had a physically demanding job for a long . . . ooh.” He shivered as Spencer’s thumb pressed into a particularly tense spot.
“Yes,” he said through his teeth. “But keep doing it.” Man, he really was tense. He hated the feeling of someone massaging out a particularly knotted muscle, hated that persistent pain as muscle fought fingers before finally giving in and relaxing. Right now, though, that obnoxious sharp pain was the promise of relief, so he pressed back, pushing against Spencer’s fingers even though his eyes watered.
After some work on Spencer’s part and swearing on Nick’s, the muscle gave. The pain faded to a dull ache, and Spencer worked his way back down to Nick’s shoulders.
“Anyway.” Nick released a breath. He carefully tilted his newly relaxed neck to one side, then the other. “It’s not like I’m new to this job. After all this time, you’d think I’d be used to it.”
“Maybe you’re burned out.”
“I don’t know.” Nick had studied burnout in-depth at university, but was that what this was? He sighed. “I don’t know what it is. Like I said, it’s not my body that’s tired.” Nick turned his head as far as he could, just enough to bring Spencer into his peripheral vision. “That’s what I meant when I said it felt like I’d been at your job all day.”
“Brain stuffed with wet wool?”
Nick laughed, facing forward again. “Yeah. Exactly. I mean, maybe it is burnout. I just . . .” Feel like there’s more to it than that? Maybe he was overthinking it. Trying to self-diagnose something strange and obscure like every psych student eventually did.
He closed his eyes and enjoyed Spencer’s magic hands as they travelled down his back. Spencer’s thumbs pressed in on either side of his spine, and his fingers kneaded the outer muscles until they relaxed. Nick completely lost track of time, and very nearly forgot where he was until Spencer stopped.
Rolling his relaxed shoulders, Nick turned again. “Fuck, you’re good at that.”
“Thank you.” Nick realised right then how close they were, but just when Nick thought a kiss was inevitable, Spencer stepped back. He had a good sense of physical space. Nick couldn’t remember a time when he’d ever crowded him. And the man was bigger and taller than he was.
“Well, let’s see what our dinner guest looks like now.” Spencer grabbed two oven mitts again and opened the oven. A waft of oily, citrusy, rosemary-scented heat escaped. He took hold of the roasting pan, lifted it out of the oven, and put it down on two slate plates.
Nick eyed the immense bird. “I think they sold you a goose.”
“Looks like it, doesn’t it?” Spencer stabbed the alleged chicken with a two-pronged fork and moved it onto a carving plate. In short order, he’d cut and carved the monster and put plenty of white meat on two plates with honey-roasted carrots and green salad. “I’ll just get the wine.”
Nick lifted an eyebrow. “You sure about the wine?”
“It’s a good bottle. Gift from a client who’s investing in wines.”
No sex, then? Or at least no games. “I’m not that tired,” Nick defended.
“What? Oh. Well, we . . . we don’t have to do anything tonight.”
“If I’ve had more than a little to drink, we can’t. Anything more than a glass.”
“That’s all right. Tomorrow?” A hint of strain in his voice suggested that he very much hoped it would be tomorrow. But Spencer wasn’t pushing for it. He wasn’t a needy sub manipulating his way to a beating or sex.
“Okay.” Nick grabbed the plates. “You deal with the wine.”
With the chicken served and the wine poured, they took their seats at the table. Spencer gestured at the food. “Please, by all means.”
Nick nodded. “Thanks.”
The chicken was surprisingly moist and tender. “If I’d known you were this good a cook,” he said, “I’d have suggested this sooner.”
Spencer smiled over the rim of his wineglass. “We’ll have to do it again, then.”
How . . . domestic. There was just no other word for it. This wasn’t the first meal they’d shared, but the first that seemed so homey and normal. And for that matter, the first time a meal together hadn’t explicitly served as foreplay of some description. Eating together for the sake of eating together.
Nevertheless, looking at Spencer meant seeing sex. Meant seeing that unconditional surrender, that sweetness in him that surfaced when he overcame the pain, his brain stewed and softened in nature’s hormone cocktail.
Nick swallowed a sip of wine. “How was your week?”
“Finally closed the big deal. Paperwork is all signed and done. I’m taking a little time off. Tomorrow and Monday.” He paused to slice off another bite of chicken. “At least that’s the plan.”
“Sounds like I’m not the only one who needs a holiday.”
Spencer looked down at his plate and sighed. “I’m not even sure that’s enough, to be quite honest.”
“What do you mean?”
“If I go on a holiday,” Spencer said dryly, “I still have to go back to the firm when it’s over.”
“I thought you liked your job.”
“I thought so too,” Spencer said, almost more to himself than to Nick.
“So you . . . don’t like being a lawyer?” Nick looked at him over the rim of his wineglass. “Isn’t that what you always wanted to do?”
“It is. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer.” Spencer picked up his own wineglass, but just cradled it between his fingers. “I liked the idea of being one. But these days”—his gaze slid towards Nick, and his eyes echoed the exhaustion in his voice—“I’m not so sure I’m happy with the reality of it.”
“What don’t you like about it?”
“The hours, the stress, the office politics.” Spencer exhaled hard. “I’m still closeted at work because I’m afraid of the consequences if I come out.”
Nick quirked an eyebrow. “They can’t fire you for that, can they?”
“Not directly.” Bitterness laced the edge of Spencer’s tone. “But there are ways of persuading undesirable employees to seek employment elsewhere. Or put them on the chop list when there’s another round of downsizing.” He tilted his head to one side, then the other, as if some tension had crept up the back of his neck. “Sometimes I’m tempted to come out and just be done with it. I can’t imagine they can make me any more miserable than I already am.”
“Wow,” Nick said. “I hadn’t realised you hated it that much.”
“The actual job itself isn’t so bad. I enjoy what I do. It’s the atmosphere and everything else that comes with it that I hadn’t bargained for, you know? And it’ll be the same at any other firm, so I don’t . . .” He sighed and shook his head. “I really don’t know what to do.” He looked at Nick again, his expression mirroring the fatigue Nick felt. “You know my job is the whole reason I came to you in the first place?”
“It—” Nick paused, clearing his throat. He was amazed at how casually Spencer could bring Nick’s profession into a conversation, never seeming to bat an eye. “It is?”
“Percy convinced me I should give it a go.” Spencer sipped his wine, then put the glass down. “Said I was on a fast track to an ulcer and a heart attack, and I needed to blow off some steam. And what you did, it was . . . it was what I needed.” He smiled, and Nick returned it. The smile faded a little, and he added, “I feel better, and I’m happy with you, but the fact is I’m still on that fast track.”
Nick swallowed. “Have you thought about changing careers?”
“Seems like a waste of all the time and energy I spent getting this far.”
“Seems like an even bigger waste to me to spend your life doing something that makes you miserable.”
“Fair point.” Spencer cut off another piece of chicken.
Nick watched him for a moment. “Negotiating all that job stress and . . . me can’t have been easy. When we were still trying to figure things out, I mean.” And have we figured all those things out? “Sorry for adding to your pile.”
“No.” Spencer put down his fork and knife. “You’ve kept me sane, Nick. I was on the verge of burnout when we met. I still am, but you . . . gave me an outlet I didn’t even know existed. You helped recharge me.” He smiled. “Who knew pain was such a stress-buster?”
“It gives your body something to worry about besides the fight-or-flight adrenaline response.”
“Or office-related bollocks.”
Nick laughed. “That too.”
Spencer’s eyes lost focus. He slowly swirled his wineglass, but didn’t look at anything in particular, Nick included.
“Something wrong?” Nick asked.
The lack of focus remained for a moment, but then Spencer lifted his gaze and met Nick’s eyes. “Does this, what we’re doing, have anything to do with how you’re feeling?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re stressed and tired too. I mean, you’re a sex worker. And now we’re in a . . . I mean, we’re . . .”
“In a relationship.” Still felt so strange to say those words.
“Right.” Spencer stopped swirling the glass, but held onto it, like he needed some sort of concrete handle on the universe. “Does it bother you? What we’re doing along with your job?”
Nick’s normal knee-jerk response would have been to insist that their relationship had nothing to do with anything, but the words caught in his throat. Was it an issue? He’d been so relieved just to break the tension and be back in Spencer’s world after that long, silent gap that he hadn’t considered how all of this might affect him. Affect either of them, for that matter.
“If it’s an issue,” Spencer said quietly, “we don’t have to.”
Nick sipped from his glass and looked down at his plate as he rolled the dry wine around on his tongue. He swallowed it, wondering when his throat had gotten so tight. “Maybe it’s just an adjustment period.”
Spencer’s chair creaked, so Nick chanced a look. He’d leaned forward, resting his elbows beside his plate and loosely clasping his fingers together. “I don’t want to be a source of stress for you, though. You’ve done so much to reduce my stress, and I . . .” He shook his head. “I’m not doing that to you.”
Nick moistened his lips. “You’re not. But I’ve . . . Look, you and I are crossing some lines I’ve learned to be cautious about crossing. I haven’t had a boyfriend in ages, and getting involved with someone who started out as a client is particularly unnerving. It’s . . . it’s something I need to adapt to. Slowly. Figure out where the new lines are.” He paused. “Figure out where exactly this differs from all the other men who still pay me.”
He watched Spencer, waiting for the flinch, some indication that Spencer really didn’t like the idea of Nick having sex with other men, never mind for pay. But the flinch didn’t come. He just kept looking at Nick, calmly and quietly waiting for him to continue.
Nick took a breath. “I think we just—I just—need time to settle into this. That’s all.”
Spencer nodded. “I think we both do. I’m new at this too. I mean, I told you about my ex—the one who went to New York City and then claimed the time difference made everything impossible.”
“Him.” Spencer smiled, but he didn’t seem wistful. He was over the guy, though maybe not over having been treated like that and having made such a dog’s dinner out of something that must have started out good and right and hopeful once upon a time. Always interesting how that first blush of love could turn to shit if you weren’t careful. “I’m thinking, as long as we talk about things, we’ll be fine.”
The offer was clearly on the table: Let’s talk.
“You’ve never had a relationship with a Dom, Spencer. Of course you’re out at sea. But this can be whatever we make it. I’ll make sure your needs are met, and you’ll meet mine.”
Spencer shivered—just a hint, and Nick wouldn’t even have noticed if he didn’t know that man so well. Something in Spencer’s expression changed, and the submissive crept in. The man who looked up to his Dom and needed him to be in control. They were far from Spencer’s bedroom, surrounded by everything domestic and eerily normal—by society’s standards, not Nick’s—and still, in the space of a comment and its subsequent, unspoken response, the power balance was shifting.
“I still have to make a living.” Nick put it out there mostly to gauge Spencer’s reaction.
Really? Was Spencer really accepting it? And why? Obedience? Respect for lines Nick had drawn pretty much from day one? Tolerance? Resignation? He’d have to get underneath that and peel the façade away. It was the most likely weak point, the most natural breaking point.
“Are you really okay with what I do, Spencer?”
Spencer’s eyes lost focus for a moment, but then he nodded. “Yes. I am. What about you?”
Nick blinked. “What about me?”
“Are you okay with what you do?” Spencer cradled his wineglass between his fingers, and looked straight at Nick. “I mean, are you okay with your job alongside our relationship?”
“Of course I am,” Nick said quickly. “I’m maybe a bit burned out, but . . .”
Again, Spencer was quiet for a moment. “I think we need to acknowledge the fact that it’s unhealthy, the amount of stress on both of us right now, whether it’s because either of us needs to make a change in our professional lives or not.” Definitely the lawyer talking here, and he unflinchingly held Nick’s gaze. “I don’t want this”—he gestured at himself and then Nick—“to be the reason for that.”
Nick’s heart jumped. “Meaning?”
Spencer didn’t answer immediately. He took a deep breath, released it slowly, and only then did he say, “It means we need to take care of ourselves. And each other. And if it comes down to it, make some difficult decisions.”
The flutter of panic in Nick’s chest unsettled him; he didn’t like that feeling. That sense that he was rapidly losing control of a situation, which made him want to not just regain control, but grab it in a chokehold. He swallowed. “It’s way too early to be choosing between this and our jobs.”
Spencer nodded. “But sooner or later, something’s going to have to give, and I just think we ought to be aware of that.”
“Right,” Nick said with a nod. “As it stands right now, I don’t want to change a thing.” Especially this. Please, not this.
“Neither do I.” Spencer paused, still cradling his wineglass, and smiled a little. “I want to get rid of the stress, not the stress relief.” He winked, and laughed softly, which settled some of that fluttery feeling in Nick’s chest.
Nick managed a soft laugh himself. “I don’t want to change this either. We’ll . . . we’ll figure everything out.”
“I know. I just want to make sure it’s all out on the table. So we can figure it out together.”
“Agreed,” Nick said quietly. “And while we’re putting everything out on the table, I should mention that at times, I’ll have a bad day. Normally, I don’t really mingle right after a night like that. I need space when things go wrong. To regroup. It’s not to get away from you, though.”
Spencer nodded again. “Understood. That can happen in my job, too. And it doesn’t help that when things get intense in the office, I might not even come home. Hell, I have slept in my office some weekends.”
“I’ve heard stories like that. That’s fine. We both have demanding jobs.” Spencer traced the foot of his wineglass with a fingernail. “There’s no reason why this shouldn’t work, though. We manage . . . sexually.”
Not just manage. Sexually, they were hand in glove, Spencer so natural as his sub that Nick’s pulse sped up just thinking about that. Normal life, though? That was something entirely different.
“Well.” Nick drained his wineglass—there wasn’t much left by this point—and set it back on the table. “All we can do is take it one day at a time.”
A grin played at Spencer’s lips. “And the nights?”
Nick returned the grin. “If they ain’t broke . . .”
Capture & Surrender #5
On Friday night, Nick strolled into Market Garden for the first time in days, and Frank breathed a sigh of relief. Nick had looked awful the other night—more stressed, exhausted, even haunted than a Dom-for-hire ought to be, which was why Frank had sent him home. Now, Nick was smiling, which was unusual. His professional face hovered somewhere between a glare and feigned disinterest. Or the focused stare of a hunting hawk. But not tonight.
Frank was halfway through a coffee when Nick came by his table. Frank nodded to him. “Have a seat. How’s it going?”
Nick slid in opposite him and ran his long fingers through his hair, mussing the blond strands, then stared down at the table. “Got things sorted. Thanks. But . . . um . . .”
Frank tapped his mug with his thumb. “Something else?” A sense of please don’t let it be bad fluttered in Frank’s chest. Nick had needed time off; no doubt the new boyfriend’s fault. Remember, Frank, it can always get much, much worse.
Nick took a deep breath. “I’m not staying. I can’t do this anymore.” He gestured around the club, but Frank kept his gaze fixed on Nick, reading him for worse news. “Wish I could, but I’ve been sloppy and that’s not what the Garden is about, is it?” The slight lift at the end of the sentence was only for politeness’s sake. Nick had that very Dommish habit of making a sentence sound like a question, checking for consent, when the underlying decision was as good as made.
In this case, he’d made the decision to leave. A shame, that. The kid was amazing with anything that caused pain. A couple dozen clients gushing on the members-only internet forum attested to that.
“What’s the problem?” Frank took a sip from his coffee.
“To put it bluntly, I’ve fallen so hard for someone that I can’t concentrate on anybody else.”
Lucky bastard. “Congratulations.”
Nick smiled wryly. “Thanks.”
“I’m sorry to see you go.” Frank put his mug down. “But, I certainly won’t try to keep you. Especially if someone’s managed to tame the—”
“Tame?” Nick laughed. “Oh, I don’t think so.”
Frank chuckled. “Keep telling yourself that, kid.” He paused. “I, um, I don’t suppose I can talk you into coming back for some BDSM seminars? Yours are almost always standing room only, and if I’m going to lose the money you bring in, that would sure soften the blow.”
Nick tapped his black-painted nails on the table, then shrugged. “I’m not going to turn away the income. I just—” He stopped and looked away, his expression suddenly as serious as it had been when Frank had told him to take some time off.
Frank pushed his mug aside and leaned forwards, folding his arms on the table. “Something wrong?”
Nick met his eyes again. “Demonstrations and seminars are fine. But I can’t . . . I won’t be with anyone else. Flogging and bondage for a demo, fine. But I’m not fucking anyone.”
Nick’s adamancy didn’t surprise Frank, but his monogamy certainly did. “Well. Uh.” He cleared his throat. “That’s fine. I’m sure we can arrange for volunteers if you need anyone to demonstrate techniques you’re not comfortable performing.”
“Okay.” Nick nodded. “You have my email address and my mobile. Give me some warning, though. I’m not coming in on a moment’s notice.”
“Of course not.” Frank extended his hand across the table. “Good luck with everything else.”
Nick shook his hand, his long, slim fingers tiny compared to Frank’s, and smiled. “Thanks.”
They didn’t bother with small talk—Nick hated it and only used it when he was trying to get into a john’s wallet; and Frank wasn’t much of a conversationalist, either—and shortly after they broke the handshake, Nick left. Frank sat back and watched him go. There would be a dent in his wallet, that was for sure. But he still had moneymakers, of course. With the way word was getting around about Tristan and Jared, it wouldn’t be long before they were making up for the loss of Nick.
He fought the impulse to replace his coffee with a cocktail or a triple whiskey, but he’d quit drinking a long time ago because of the myriad medications he had to take a hundred times a day. Those had a tendency to turn the effects of alcohol very unpleasant. Didn’t mean there wasn’t the impulse every now and then, but these days, he mostly blew off tension in the gym. Maybe he could go do that tonight.
He checked his schedule on his phone and noted he was supposed to meet someone in half an hour. New guy. Raoul had said he checked out, had even spoken to the man’s clients. Private entrepreneur trying to get under a roof, from the sound of it, and Frank wondered why. Client acquisition too hard even in the days of social media? Attracted by Market Garden’s reputation? Not that it mattered; with Nick gone, he needed to recruit, and Raoul had said the guy had the assets. Frank would reserve judgement until he’d met the new guy in person.
He nursed his cold coffee for a while longer, until a bartender brought him a fresh one and nodded meaningfully towards the left. Frank half turned and saw a stranger facing Raoul across the bar. Tall, well built, even compared to Raoul, who was no small man himself. This man was built more like a bouncer than a rentboy, with a tight tee and black military-style trousers that held Frank’s gaze for a moment longer than necessary. Strong legs, slim waist, looked like he could bench-press his own body weight without much effort—a characteristic Frank found extremely alluring.
Raoul noticed he was watching them, lifted a questioning eyebrow, and Frank nodded. Raoul pointed in his direction and the stranger walked over. Not a saunter, but not a damn thing insecure about it, either.
Frank pointed at the bench opposite. “Please have a seat.”
“I understand you’re Frank?” He spoke with the slightest hint of a Southern American drawl and settled down like he had all the time in the world.
“I’m Frank, yes.”
Stefan? An unusual name for an American.
Stefan offered his hand. Frank shook it, and the grip was firm, almost challenging. He glanced up into the guy’s face. Hazel eyes, and pretty ones, with an even, confident stare.
Frank broke the grip and felt a moment’s hesitation on Stefan’s part. Frank frowned. “Keep that for the clients.”
Amusement curled the corners of Stefan’s mouth just slightly, and he drew back his hand. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Good call.” Frank folded his hands. “So you’re American.”
Stefan gestured at his dark, crew-cut hair. “It was the hair that gave me away, wasn’t it?”
Frank laughed. A dry sense of humour. That, he liked. “What brings you to this side of the pond?”
“Wanderlust.” There was no humour in that single word and just enough firmness to suggest that it was the only answer Frank was getting.
“I see. And now you want to work as a London rentboy?”
Some of the amusement returned to Stefan’s expression, crinkling the corners of his eyes. “Beats sitting behind a desk, don’t you think?”
“It does, yes.”
“And I figure”—Stefan’s shoulder rose slightly—“I’m going to get fucked up the ass one way or the other, so I might as well enjoy it.”
Frank laughed. “You’re a bottom, then?”
“Can be.” Something else glittered in Stefan’s eyes. “I can be whatever someone wants me to be.”
“What’s your preference?”
“Top.” He said it quickly, without a second thought. “Definitely top.”
“Great.” Frank grinned. “Especially since we have a vacancy for someone like you. Though there’s a difference between a top and a Dom.” He arched an eyebrow.
Stefan returned the grin. “Yes, I’m well aware of the difference.”
“And where would you say you fall on that spectrum? Only a top? Or more of a Dom?”
“Well.” Stefan chuckled as he sat up straighter. He leaned on the table, closing some of the distance between them. “I definitely wouldn’t call myself ‘only’ a top.”
Frank resisted the urge to gulp. Cocky son of a bitch. Pity he didn’t allow himself to get involved with the men on his payroll. An arrogant motherfucker with a military look and a penchant for topping? Bloody hell. Though he doubted a hot kid like this would want anything to do with a grizzled ex-con.
Frank cleared his throat. “What kind of top would you call yourself?”
Stefan’s broadening grin did crazy shit to Frank’s blood pressure. “You ever seen Full Metal Jacket?”
This time, Frank did gulp. “I have.”
“I thought about being a drill instructor before I got out.” Stefan ran the tip of his tongue along his upper lip. “And I would’ve made R. Lee Ermey’s character drop to his knees and beg me for permission to suck my dick.”
Oh. Bloody. Hell.
Frank needed a moment to collect his thoughts. Prime piece of American beefcake with a military fetish, a cocky attitude, and a malicious playfulness that he didn’t doubt even for a moment could turn scary in a very good way. He shot Raoul a nasty glare. The fucker had known. He must have. The only argument against his sneaking suspicion was that Raoul had once upon a time tried to get into Frank’s pants, so why would he dig up a guy who he knew Frank would find damn near irresistible?
“So what brings you to Market Garden? There’s a military scene in and around London.”
“I like to pay rent.”
“Yeah. Fair enough.” Frank leaned back and crossed his arms. “Well, looking at you, I think you should be popular.”
“We can hope, right? When can I start?”
“Your background checked out.” Frank never read the background info or paperwork with his guys’ personal info on them. He didn’t want to mistakenly call someone by their real name. He trusted Raoul, and Raoul said Stefan checked out, so that was good enough. He eyed Stefan’s clothes. “There is a dress code.”
Stefan nodded. “I was hoping to wear camos, though.”
And I’d like to see you in those.
“I like my guys to be in uniform. That way clients know who’s staff and who isn’t. Though . . .” He paused. “Know what, we’ll widen the scope. Normal guys wear leather; you’ll start the camo trend. Maybe it’ll catch on.”
“I was surprised you didn’t have anyone dressed like this already, considering the name of the place.” Stefan winked at him.
Frank laughed. “Yeah, well.” Few people ever caught the reference. No new hire had ever asked, and johns didn’t tend to come in with World War II trivia on the brain, but it wasn’t surprising that it didn’t get past a bona fide military guy. Damn, but Frank liked this one already.
Clients will, too.
Frank sobered a bit. “If it’s a success, we’ll get a couple more in. Unless you can cope with the demand.”
Stefan nodded. “Great. I can start right away.”
“No plans for a Friday evening?”
“Not unless you’re free.”
Good thing Frank wasn’t taking a drink just then. Holding Stefan’s gaze, he couldn’t tell if the man was being a smart-arse or . . . not. He coughed into his fist. “Well, I’m probably the only man in this club who’ll tell you no.”
Stefan’s eyebrow rose, and his expression had “Is that a challenge?” written all over it.
Frank smirked. “I don’t do my employees.”
Stefan leaned forwards, mirroring Frank’s smirk. “I can always start tomorrow.”
You son of a bitch. Frank laughed to get his breath moving. “I’ll have someone show you around the club.” He glanced at the bar. “In fact, since Raoul isn’t busy . . .” He beckoned Raoul over to the table, and when the bartender wandered over, looking a little too proud of himself—oh, you fucker, you brought this one to me on purpose—Frank nodded towards Stefan. “How about showing our newest employee around the Garden?”
Raoul and Stefan exchanged grins. Then Raoul nodded at Frank. “You got it, boss.”
Frank just smiled and let the two men leave to tour the building. He’d kill Raoul later. Slowly. Painfully.
Chuckling to himself, he shook his head and reached for his coffee again. At least he had someone to fill the vacancy Nick had left. If Stefan didn’t have much experience as an actual Dom, he could learn. He certainly had the attitude for it. If nothing else, he’d be perfect for those corporate bastards who wandered in here needing some roughing up and a cock up the arse.
Which reminded him, he hadn’t given Stefan’s package much of a look. And usually, he didn’t hire rentboys without someone vouching for the size and functionality of their equipment, but once in a while, he could tell he was facing off with someone whose dick was plenty big enough and definitely worked. He’d been in this business long enough. He’d made the assumption with Nick and with Tristan, and from everything their clients said on the forum, he was quite right about both of them.
What he wouldn’t have given to be the one to verify if he was right about Stefan. That thought made him shiver. Tempting. Very tempting.
But Frank had his reasons for keeping his dick out of the rentboys, and not just because he was their employer. He wasn’t bending his own rules.
Not even for this guy.
Within a week, Stefan was pulling clients regularly. He had some strong endorsements on the forum, too. People either called him the drill sarge or the Yank or both, and Frank read the raving from the clientele with a weird flutter in his stomach. Seemed all was fine with the equipment. C0ckl0ver said he was a fan.
Stefan put in the work, was reliable and clean and polite—until the scene started and he unleashed the Dom. Frank could imagine it, but tried not to. The man was easily fifteen years his junior. And the flirting the other night had likely only been in his mind.
Frank checked his emails; his paintballers were meeting this weekend. For the first time in several weeks, he actually felt like going. Even he needed to blow off some steam every now and then, and the companionship was nice, too. They’d laugh at him if they knew that running a sex club wasn’t at all about free arse and blowjobs.
Game this weekend, usual place/time. If you know anyone who wants to join in, bring them along! Geoff and Mike.
He let the message sit in his inbox awhile to think about it. It was Thursday, and still somewhat early, and when he came down from the office, a few of his best people were still in the bar instead of off to hotels and flats and manor bedrooms.
Frank checked in with Raoul, who gave him the “Everything’s under control, boss” thumbs-up. Once he was up-to-date, he headed for his usual booth in the back. On the way, he stopped at Stefan’s table. “How are you getting on?”
Stefan nodded and smiled wryly. “Getting it on.”
“That’s what I like hearing.” Frank felt the urge to pat the man on the shoulder but didn’t; he barely touched anybody else, so that would look odd. And he certainly wasn’t going to stare at the camo trousers clinging tightly in all the right places, so he forced himself to look at the man’s face. Uniforms did things to him, and even worse when the man knew how to wear it and brought the attitude that came with it. Stefan was naturally at ease—he’d definitely been armed forces of some description.
Frank was about to continue to his booth but paused. “You into playing privately, too? Outside of this place?”
“Absolutely.” No hesitation.
“I have an invite. A group of guys, no money changing hands. Secluded area. Starts as a paintball match, but it can and usually does turn into more for guys who’re interested. Everybody’s into rough play. Crowd’s mixed, from bankers to social workers, most guys in their thirties, a couple falling either way of that. Been going well the last few times I went there.”
“It’s essentially capture kink.”
Stefan’s eyes were bright.
Frank went on. “Basically, you capture someone on the field, he’s yours. Capture a team’s flag? Your team gets the spoils.”
“Spoils of war.” Stefan beamed. “I like it.”
“Figured you might.”
“Sounds like fun. When?”
“Saturday afternoon. There’s the safety instruction and the guided tour, but we have the area for the whole day and into the night.”
“Sweet.” Frank did pat him on the shoulder now. No harm done, right? “It’ll be fun seeing you get your arse handed to you.”
“Well, if I win”—Stefan had the slyest grin imaginable—“I might be doing more to your ass than handing it to you.”
You won’t. Frank laughed, which kept him from choking on his own breath. “May the best man win, then.”
Stefan said nothing, just fucking grinned at Frank.
Frank left him to the johns and went back into his office for a few minutes. To deal with paperwork, of course. Not collect his thoughts or catch his breath or anything. Which was why he didn’t get any further than leaning against the closed door, thinking about this weekend.
Stefan knew the rules. Frank didn’t get involved with employees. And besides, Frank had neglected to mention that he didn’t usually get out on the field himself. Or if he did, it was as a referee. Oh, he’d play a few rounds now and then, but most of the guys were younger than him, and he couldn’t sustain that kind of intense play for round after round like they did. He was in damned good shape for forty-one, but by the time these younger guys were breaking a sweat, he’d be ready to sit one out.
Sit one out and watch Stefan play. Frank shivered. Few things could make a cocky son of a bitch in camouflage hotter than a paintball marker and mask. And maybe some mud on his uniform. A few leaves from crawling through the underbrush. Sweat mixing with dirt on his skin. The odd smear of paint and occasionally a little blood. Even better? A captured player kneeling at his feet.
Frank shook his head. Paperwork. Definitely time to do some paperwork. Otherwise he was going to have to jerk off back here. That would inevitably happen some evening or another, but Frank wasn’t giving in yet.
Maybe after this weekend.
After he had actual memories of a sweaty, dirty, camouflaged—
Work. Focus on work.
The damage was done, though. He’d extended the invitation, and this weekend, his fantasy would become reality. Even if he couldn’t touch the man—and he wouldn’t—he’d still get to watch him. And with the crowd that came to the paintball field, he’d seen plenty of hot, hot things play out right there in front of him, so it didn’t take much to superimpose Stefan’s face and body into those memories.
Closing his eyes, he felt around blindly for the doorknob. When he found it, he turned the lock. The click echoed through the small room like a starter pistol, and in an instant, thoughts of camouflaged men flooded his mind.
They weren’t technically supposed to fool around on the field, especially not if it involved taking off their masks, but sometimes men got caught up in the moment, and it happened. And Frank had witnessed it a time or two.
Pressing his teeth into his lower lip, he fumbled with his zipper as his mind’s eye showed him that time last spring when one guy dragged another down into a ravine. They were far enough from most of the action to be safe from enemy fire, but kept their masks on anyway, one pinning the other. Frank shivered at the memory of a paintball gun falling forgotten to the ground as a gloved, armoured hand restrained a camouflage-sleeved arm. Tactical vests brushed against each other, scratching and hissing like tearing Velcro, and a mask muffled a groan.
Leaning against his office door, Frank stroked himself, eyes screwed shut, recalling the way the pinned man had squirmed and groaned as the victor stroked him, shielding his exposed cock with his body in case enemy fire came their way. It was fast, furious, almost violent, two soldiers stealing a moment before they ran back out into the war zone.
Frank had only moved closer to keep an eye on things, ready to disqualify or give warnings, and instead watched those frantic moments. He hadn’t known at the time if one had captured the other or if they were lovers, but they were hot together. Though against the rule, he’d kept watch, hard in his own camo trousers, imagining the rasp of the gloved hand on his own dick, imagining struggling against the other man’s weight, breath caught loudly in the mask.
In his office in the present, Frank imagined it was Stefan pinning him down, stroking him forcefully on a hillside in the woods until he had no choice but to come, and he bit back on the groan as he came into his hand.
Frank wiped his face with his dry hand and cleaned up with a towel he kept with his sweaty clothes from the gym. Fuck. And the man he’d fantasised about was downstairs, pulling in clients that liked the exact same thing, making money for him.
Thank God the weekend was only another two nights away. He confirmed the invite for himself and a “friend,” and Geoff wrote back asking whether he’d be judging and whether his “friend” was playing. Frank confirmed both.
A night of fun and games, even if Frank merely tended to watch, making sure that rough post-competition play didn’t get rougher than people were okay with. Always keeping his eyes open, always making sure nobody got hurt more than they wanted to. Seemed he couldn’t switch that off, not even in his downtime.
He caught his breath, did some paperwork, and hoped Stefan would be gone when he headed back downstairs.
But Stefan was still there an hour later, picking up a drink (water?) at the bar when their eyes met. Frank got a little flustered. He’d just jerked off to the man’s image. But Stefan didn’t know that, right? It wasn’t like Frank had been taking something he should have been paying for, either.
He composed himself and approached the bar. “Got the confirmation about the paintball game. It’s a go.”
“Where do they meet?”
“Do you drive?”
“In London? Hell no.”
Frank smiled. “Come by my place and I’ll take you along. It’s in the countryside. No buses, and we’ve lost a cab driver or two in the area.”
Stefan whistled. “What did you do to them?”
“Ah. That would be telling.” Frank patted him on the arm. “See you Saturday at noon. Raoul has my address.”
Tristan’s gaze was fixed on the door, but Jared suspected he was less interested in the traffic coming into Market Garden’s lounge area and more focused on not looking at Jared.
They’d been sitting in their usual booth for almost an hour, and had barely said a word to each other. Ice melted in their drinks. Music thumped all around them. Ever since Jared had come back from a short—thank God—session with a john earlier this evening, Tristan had been quiet.
“You’re staying?” Tristan had asked.
Jared had shrugged and offered a playful grin. “I’ve got plenty left.”
And that had been the end of the conversation.
Jared picked up his glass and tilted it to slide an ice cube into his mouth. As he set the glass down beside Tristan’s, he crushed the ice with his back teeth. He ground the tiny shards into nothing, letting the ice take the brunt of his quiet frustration.
Maddeningly oblivious, Tristan took a sip of his own drink, but kept his attention on the door. On not looking at the man he’d fucked so tenderly just last night.
What is your problem? Jared wanted to ask, but concentrated on pulverizing the rest of the melting ice. This wasn’t Tristan’s first cold silence. In fact, Jared was starting to expect it whenever he went out with a john on his own. Every damned time, he came back to forced smiles and awkward silences.
Jared rolled his eyes and went for another ice cube. If Tristan didn’t like him going out solo, then he could man up and say something, but he’d insisted time and again that they didn’t have to only work together. That this was business, and he wasn’t about to prevent Jared from earning a living. Though Jared had noticed that Tristan had all but stopped going out alone, which was weird. It wasn’t like guys didn’t fall all over themselves for Tristan—he was easily as popular as Nick had been—so he could’ve made a killing with or without Jared.
If Tristan was upset or unhappy, the least he could do was fucking say something. Except if he said something, it might be “this isn’t working” or “we shouldn’t see each other anymore,” and Jared couldn’t stomach either option. He wanted more, not less.
But maybe it would be less painful if Tristan just ripped off the bandage and—
Get your head in game, idiot.
Jared cleared his throat. “Slow night.”
Tristan turned towards him, an eyebrow up. “You’ve already made some money this evening.”
Yeah. Sure. It’s about the money, isn’t it?
Jared broke eye contact and searched his glass for yet another ice cube. The two of them had been chatty and playful in Tristan’s bed this morning. Nothing out of place, nothing wrong at all. Now this again. And fuck this. Jesus. He was not in the mood to play mind games.
“Holy shit.” Tristan’s eyes were again fixed on the door. “Look who just walked in.”
Jared craned his neck and almost spit out an ice cube when he recognised the john.
Jared couldn’t help grinning. Back for more, was he? “Wonder if the third time’s the charm.”
“Eh?” Tristan eyed him. “You think he’s got a glass slipper for you or something?”
Jared glanced at Tristan, surprised at his tone. This morning, in bed, it would have been friendly teasing, but there was an edge of acid in his voice that Jared didn’t like at all. “Not a glass slipper, but I do expect some easy money.”
Tristan gave a noncommittal shrug.
Well, suit yourself, then.
Jared sat up a bit straighter, and—bingo, eye contact.
Rolex smiled at him and walked over, looking quite in control of himself (for the moment). “You gentlemen free?”
Jared grinned. “We’re hardly gentlemen, and we’re never free. You know that.”
Chuckling, Rolex nodded. “And you’re well worth it. Maybe I should’ve asked if you’re available, then.”
“We are.” Jared leaned forwards on his elbows, waited for Tristan to make some space in the booth opposite. Seriously, how could such a skinny guy take up so much room? “Haven’t seen you in a while.”
Rolex smirked. “You remember me. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one.”
“In your case, it’s a good one.” Jared’s eyes flicked towards Tristan, but he didn’t get a response. Clearing his throat, he faced Rolex again. “Just got into town?”
“Yep. Even with all my luggage, no thanks to Heathrow.” Rolex settled onto the bench beside Tristan, though he didn’t fully relax. He was keen to be going already, probably wound tight from a day of flying and chasing up his luggage and meetings and whatever else he spent his time on. “And you guys? Still working together?”
Right into the negotiations. Jared did prefer johns who didn’t hem and haw. The quicker they could start making money, the quicker the night would be over and he could go home. Luxury hotel rooms were starting to get old, though he still remembered the excitement of five-stars that he’d never have been able to afford and had never expected to see from the inside. By now, he knew quite a few of the hotel staff, if not by name then by personality. Always good to know who might refer him more clients and who might get unpleasant.
“Yes, still working together.” Tristan stretched and rolled his shoulders, then inched closer. Game face on. He went from mildly annoyed to seductive in his blasé way that Jared envied but still hadn’t managed to copy. “What’s your budget?”
Rolex gave a quiet laugh, eyes narrow as he met Tristan’s. “My budget isn’t an issue. It’s a question of what I want. The price”—he waved a hand—“is a minor detail. I’m just thinking of something a little different than the last couple of times.”
Jared gulped. The first time, Rolex had wanted to watch Tristan fuck Jared. Second time, he’d had Jared give Tristan a lap dance. What the hell did he have in mind tonight?
“All right,” Tristan said, still locking eyes with Rolex. “What’s your pleasure, then?”
“Something I thought about all the way across the Atlantic.” Rolex’s gaze slid towards Jared, then back towards Tristan. “Watching you guys is hot, but I think I’m in the mood to be watched tonight.”
Jared’s heart sped up. Tristan didn’t give any outward reaction. As always, he seemed bored by the discussion, but Jared had long ago learnt that was just part of his game. He played johns with the most skilled poker face Jared had ever seen.
“Watched?” Tristan casually picked up his drink. “Doing . . .?”
Rolex nodded towards Jared. “Him.”
And Tristan choked on his soda.
Jared blinked, more at Tristan’s reaction than Rolex’s declaration. Tristan was always cool and collected in front of johns, even when he was in one of these moods. His aloof, blasé persona was part of what intrigued these men so much, and Jared didn’t know what to make of him breaking character. It wasn’t like this was the first time someone had asked to fuck Jared while Tristan watched, though it had been a while. Or, rather, it had been a while since someone had been able or willing to pay the price Tristan commanded.
What the hell, Tristan?
Jared cleared his throat and returned his attention to the john. “So you want to fuck me while he watches.”
Tristan coughed into his leather-covered arm a few times before schooling his expression, though he couldn’t do much about the red in his cheeks. “That’ll be more expensive than the last couple of times.”
Oh, will it? Jared always deferred to Tristan when it came to pricing out their services, but this didn’t strike him as something that should cost more than their eye-wateringly expensive previous sessions with Rolex.
“I know the routine with you two.” Rolex locked eyes with Tristan. “Hundred pounds every time I want to turn up the heat.”
“Depends on how high you want to turn it up.” Tristan’s voice was flat, almost cold. “Fucking one of us while the other watches? That’s going—”
“I’m not worried about the price, to be honest.” Rolex reached into his inside pocket and pulled a wad of cash out far enough for them to see that he had more than enough. For what he had in that pocket, he could probably have every man in the building blow him. Including some of the other johns.
Tristan eyed the money, and when it disappeared into Rolex’s pocket again, he glanced at Jared for a split second before he shifted his gaze back to his drink. He took a long swallow, then set the glass on the table and pushed it away. “Well. Let’s go.”
Rolex immediately stood. Tristan followed.
Jared hesitated for a moment, watching his partner slide out of the booth. Tristan was moving slowly. No, reluctantly. He was clearly back to his earlier weird attitude. Right about now, he’d usually offer Jared a quick “we’re about to score some serious cash” grin while the john wasn’t looking. This time? Shoulders down. Gaze down.
They needed to talk, Jared decided. Even if the conversation ended on a painful note, it had to happen. Soon. Tonight. After Rolex was finished with them, assuming Tristan still wanted to go back to one of their flats as planned. Wherever they wound up tonight, they needed to hash things out.
But first, they had a job to do.
Tristan didn’t like this. At all.
But why? Rolex was a safe and sane john. He was also loaded and more than happy to pay through the nose for the smallest service.
And Jared was . . .
Tristan stole a glance at him, then swallowed hard and focused on Rolex, watching the man’s back as the three of them headed out of Market Garden. All night long, he’d been chastising himself and telling himself to get it together. So what if Jared had been out with another john? They were rentboys. This was what they did. Tristan himself had sucked off a good-looking lawyer in the back of a limo parked in front of the Garden while Jared was out. Not that he’d been able to focus very well, considering his mind had been on Jared and wherever he’d gone, but the john had seemed satisfied. He’d given him a fifty-quid tip, but Tristan’s heart hadn’t been in it.
His heart hadn’t been in any of this. Not for a while.
Things weren’t quite right between him and Jared, and it was getting worse. Every time they woke up together, the knot in Tristan’s gut tightened, despite his best efforts to ignore it. Something had to give. He’d been pondering getting Jared out of the city for a week or two—they had enough money between them to go on holiday somewhere cheap and preferably warm. Maybe talk things through, figure out where the problem was, and see what they could do about it. It wasn’t something Tristan could tackle on his own.
Rolex’s driver opened the limo door. Jared got in first, then Tristan opposite, feeling oddly sticky in his leather trousers on the leather seats. More friction than normal.
Rolex joined them, sitting next to Jared on the backseat. And Jared slid closer, giving him one of those coy glances while he pressed up against him. Rolex glanced at Tristan first, winked, then lifted Jared’s chin with two fingers and kissed him. Jared had always said the man was a decent kisser, and that was obvious just by watching him—not timid, not sloppy, not the type of freaky john who’d be slobbering all over Jared’s face. The quiet little moans coming from Jared were anything but fake. Rolex knew exactly how to kiss him. Bastard.
The car began to roll forwards, which disoriented Tristan. He’d been too caught up there for a moment in how their lips moved, their tongues. Jared had been the very picture of a boy with his sugar daddy, his fingers tightening on the john’s thigh as Rolex’s fingers splayed possessively on Jared’s shoulder.
It might have been hot.
It should have been.
In different circumstances, it would have been.
In fact, it had been hot the first time. And the second time. When Tristan had finally had the chance to get his hands on Jared, it had been a thrill to touch him and taste him and fuck him, and having another man to watch there had just made it hotter. The lap dance? Bloody hell. Tristan still got shivers thinking about that. Jared would have been stunned if he knew how many times Tristan had jerked off thinking about that night. Though he’d done a lot less of that over the last few months because he didn’t need to jerk off with Jared in his bed.
Leather squeaked softly as Jared draped his leg across Rolex’s lap. His hand was on the front of the john’s shirt, a couple of buttons undone now, and Tristan’s heart skipped a little as he remembered Jared touching him that way.
Does he think of me the same way he thinks of the johns?
Tristan quickly banished that thought. Not here. Not now.
He swore he could feel Jared’s fingers drifting lower, catching on each button on the way down the front of that crisp, white shirt. As Jared’s hand slid over the front of Rolex’s trousers, the contact hidden from Tristan’s view by Jared’s slim, leather-clad leg, Rolex wasn’t the only one whose breath caught.
Tristan swallowed. He was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to push Rolex out of the way and grab Jared for himself. He wanted Jared’s hands on his dick. He wanted to be the one kissing him like that, especially as he watched Jared playfully nipping Rolex’s lower lip. God, he loved it when Jared did that.
The thought of sitting back and watching Rolex fuck Jared was simultaneously the hottest thing Tristan could imagine, and the most frustrating. He wanted to be the one moving inside Jared while Rolex watched. Or to hell with Rolex. He wanted Jared.
Jared and no one else.
If it Drives #7
That was a first.
Callum sat up straighter, watching in the limo’s side mirror as his employer headed down the sidewalk towards the car . . . alone. James never left Market Garden alone. Oh, no . . .
Cal tossed aside his spiral notebook and pen, grabbed his black cap off the passenger seat, put it on, and got out. At this point in the evening, he was usually biting down on some red-hot jealousy while a sexy, leather-clad rentboy slid into the back of the car with James, but he couldn’t even find any relief that it hadn’t happened tonight. It took every shred of self-control he had not to jog across the pavement and put his arms around his boss. He schooled his expression and posture, refusing to let his concern or surprise show.
Not that James would have noticed, and that in itself was weird. He was usually outgoing and exuberant—well, as much as any dignified British man could be—but he was strangely subdued tonight. Shoulders down, eyes down; even his customary scarlet tie seemed to sag, the knot lower than usual. He was definitely not himself. He was always tense and sometimes even a little depressed when he asked Cal to take him to Market Garden, but never when he left.
“Ready to leave, Mr. Harcourt?” Cal asked cautiously.
James’s eyes flicked up, briefly meeting Cal’s, and he grunted an affirmative. Definitely not himself.
What’s wrong? Talk to me!
But Cal said nothing. That fantasy of being James’s confidant and source of comfort was just that, a fantasy. In the real world, Cal was the help, and that meant he couldn’t help James the way he ached to.
With his heart in his throat, he pulled open the door and stood aside while James climbed into the back of the car. No way had he been knocked back by any of the guys. If his jaw-dropping good looks didn’t attract the rentboys to him—and Cal couldn’t begin to fathom that—the contents of his wallet surely would.
Cal shut the door and went back to the driver’s seat. He looked in the rearview and said over his shoulder, “Home, sir?”
“Yeah.” James’s gaze was fixed on something outside the window. And not Market Garden, either. “Let’s go home.”
This wouldn’t be a late night, then. Thank God. Market Garden nights usually weren’t—Cal would be dismissed shortly after dropping James and his rentboy du jour at the house—but some nights, James met colleagues from the office or entertained clients, and partied into the early hours of the morning before arriving home in the grey predawn. By that point, Cal would be shattered and James would be drunk or already asleep. Getting him out of the car, through the door, and up the stairs into bed was a whole operation. Many times in the year—had it been that long?—since the man’s wife had left, Cal had been the one to take James upstairs, pull off his suit, and put him to bed after those liquored-up outings. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly in his job description, but he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving James to show himself to bed when he was in that state. A little bit of awkwardness and frustration were a small price to pay so James could maintain his dignity.
On the way home tonight, James left the privacy screen open. Cal was used to that except on Market Garden nights. If they were heading home from the brothel, that screen was invariably up, leaving Cal’s fertile imagination to provide the details. Sometimes Cal heard things—leather creaking, a groan, and once in a while a laugh so sadistic he wondered if James had Loki himself back there—but he never saw anything. Whenever James emerged from the car with one of his rentboys, he’d be flustered, visibly hard, and sometimes already sweating a little. What Cal wouldn’t have given to know what exactly the rentboys did to him during that thirty-minute drive.
What I wouldn’t give to join them.
He shivered and gripped the wheel a little tighter, focusing on manoeuvring down the narrow streets on the route back to the house. A route he’d driven so many times, he could almost do it in his sleep. But tonight, with that screen open and James just sitting there, alone and staring off into space, Cal struggled to concentrate on the road.
Glancing in the rearview again, he cleared his throat. “Is, um, everything all right, sir?”
Leather creaked softly behind him. James sighed. “Everything’s fine, Callum. Don’t worry about it.”
Cal gnawed his lip, but didn’t say anything more. Sometimes, when he wasn’t preoccupied with business, James chattered endlessly from the backseat, going on about anything—a client’s antics, whatever he and the children had done during their visit the previous weekend, something in the news—and at least appeared happy to have Cal’s full attention. It didn’t seem to bother him that Cal was paid to be there and it was only professional for an employee to listen politely to his employer and comment when asked. Then again, that didn’t bother James about the rentboys, either. It took a lonely, lonely man to ignore the fact that someone was being paid to give him their undivided attention.
Other times, James was like this. Quiet. Withdrawn. Except that was always before a visit to Market Garden. Never after.
The drive tonight felt like it took three times as long as usual, but finally, Cal pulled up the long driveway that wound around to the front of James’s lavish home. He parked, left the engine idling, and went around to James’s door.
It seemed to take all the energy James had to extract himself from the car and stand. He was sober, that much Cal could tell—he rarely drank all that much at Market Garden—but he looked exhausted.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Cal asked.
“Yes.” James faced him and smiled, but it was thin lipped and didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m fine.”
Cal nodded silently. He closed the door after James had stepped away from the car, and waited.
James looked up at his house, and Cal watched him silently, wondering what was going through the man’s head as he stared at his massive, empty house and its closed front door. His gaze was distant. Gravel crunched and his dress shoes creaked softly as he rocked back and forth from his heels to the balls of his feet.
Again, Cal fought the urge to put his arms around James and comfort him. Something was off, and whatever it was, Cal desperately wanted to fix it. Change it. Help him somehow. Hell, just hold him the way he’d imagined doing so many times.
Cal tried to force that thought out of his mind. Maybe that was one fantasy that needed to stop. Imagining himself having sex with a man who was out of his league was one thing, but imagining himself consoling someone who was standing right there, looking that lost and that vulnerable . . . it wouldn’t take much for the line between fantasy and reality to blur. And if that line did blur, he’d probably realise it one awkward hug too late.
Eyes still fixed on the house, James broke the silence. “Would you like to come in for a drink?”
Cal’s heart skipped. Really? This night just kept getting stranger.
James turned his head, and a weak smile appeared on his lips. “Yes. A drink.”
“I . . .” Shouldn’t. No way. Cal, don’t . . . “I should park the car.”
“Just leave it outside the door.” James fiddled his keys from his pocket. “Not like I’m expecting visitors.”
Cal glanced up at the overcast sky, but London weather was all over the place, and though it didn’t look like rain, it might very well rain tonight. He really didn’t want to leave the car out in case the weather turned nasty, and putting it away would give him a moment to come to his senses and—
“Don’t worry about the car,” James said quietly.
“All right.” Bad idea. Very bad idea. But Cal took off his cap and placed it on the driver’s seat, then killed the engine and locked the doors. Heart racing, he followed his boss through the front door and into the enormous living room.
James always left several lights on when he headed into the city, which made the house less empty and forlorn, but that illusion didn’t last for very long.
“I could put on the fire.” James sounded undecided, certainly not quite there.
“If you like, sir.”
“I love the flickering. Do you?” He looked at Cal, hazel eyes brownish in the warm light.
Cal had never lived anywhere that had a live fireplace; they seemed unnecessary and inefficient. The house wasn’t cold, but maybe James found it comforting. Cal nodded. “I do, sir.”
“Good.” James took off his jacket, walked over to the fireplace and crouched down to start the fire with paper and kindling. Cal found himself staring at the man’s fine white shirt pulled taut over his body, and the small, trim arse just hovering over the heel of his polished black shoes.
Snap out of it, Cal. You shouldn’t even be here.
This was a mistake. It wasn’t a good idea to do social time, but now that he was here, he couldn’t really bow out without being impolite. He’d have to make up some kind of excuse to vanish into the tiny cottage behind the house. The living quarters were one of the main perks of the job, even if they seemed a little too close tonight.
“What are you drinking, Callum? Wine?”
Wine, whatever. He’d drink what the boss was drinking, but not much. Just enough to be sociable. “Yes, sir.”
“I’ll grab a couple of bottles from the wine cellar.”
“Actually, I—” His last-ditch attempt to bail and get the fuck out of there halted when James looked into his eyes again. Cal swallowed. “Uh, I can get the wine.”
“Are you sure?”
No. God, what am I doing? But something was wrong, and Cal couldn’t walk away from James and just leave him here with whatever was on his mind, and if company and a glass of wine were what he needed, then maybe Cal could give him that much. “I’m sure. Any, um, preference?”
James smiled, and some tension seemed to melt out of his shoulders. “It’s downstairs. Past the game room, second door on the left. Get us a couple bottles of red, if you would? The French ones are all favourites. Pick whatever you like.”
“Sure.” Cal followed James’s instructions, and peered at the extensive collection of bottles. Pick whatever you like? Some of those bottles were five hundred a pop. Others just fifty or so. Did it make a difference if he went for the cheap ones or the expensive ones? He chose blindly, picking out two bottles of French reds.
He returned with the bottles, one in each hand, and the fire was flickering, James standing back.
Cal swallowed. “Should I, um . . .” He nodded towards the kitchen as he set the bottles on the coffee table. “Get a couple of glasses, sir?”
For the first time all evening, James smiled. Not broadly, but genuinely, as if the fire had warmed something in him during Cal’s brief absence.
“You don’t have to call me ‘sir’ anymore tonight. James is fine.”
“All right.” Cal swallowed again. “Uh, James. The . . .” He’d asked a question, hadn’t he? Had James answered him?
James gestured at the couch. “Make yourself comfortable. I’ll get the glasses.”
James brushed past him, not quite touching him but almost, and then Cal was alone in the massive living room with two bottles of wine, a crackling fire, and a few million questions on his mind. But he sat at one end of the couch, leaning his elbow on the armrest and trying not to fidget or chew his thumbnail or otherwise let on that he was nervous.
And why the hell was he nervous, anyway? Just because this was out of the ordinary and perhaps a little too close to how his most delicious fantasies had begun didn’t mean a thing. Maybe James was just lonely tonight. That was probably why he’d gone to Market Garden in the first place—he’d been in an exceptionally depressed mood when they’d left the house, Cal realised now—and maybe he just wanted some company without the leather and the—
Oh, God, don’t think about all that. He squirmed on the cushion, forcing himself to think unpleasant thoughts to keep from physically reacting to those fleeting images.
James returned with two glasses. He put them on the table, opened one of the bottles, and poured them each half a glass. As he handed one to Cal, he smiled. “I hope I’m not keeping you from any other plans.”
“No, s—uh, I mean, no. No plans.” He took the glass and swirled it slowly. “I’d expected to be on duty for a couple more hours, so I hadn’t made any.”
James’s smile faltered briefly, and his gaze turned distant as he lifted his own glass. “Well, you’ll still be paid for the same hours. I hope this is all right?”
“Of course.” Cal sipped the wine. The heady, sweet flavour made his head spin a little, as if he’d already drunk an entire bottle or two. Maybe it wasn’t the wine. With James sitting this close to him, barely a couch cushion between them and without the safety of a privacy screen, Cal probably didn’t need to drink anything at all to get his head spinning.
“How do you like the wine?” James asked.
Cal swirled it slowly. “It’s, uh, it’s nice.”
“It is.” James smiled. “Château Margaux is always nice. Good choice, Callum.”
“Thank you.” He wasn’t sure what else to say. In response to James’s comment or, well, at all. Why the hell am I here? He lifted his gaze and met James’s eyes. And why aren’t you yourself tonight? But those weren’t questions he could make himself ask. James’s personal life was off limits, and Cal wasn’t sure he wanted to know exactly why he was here and a Market Garden rentboy wasn’t.
“Callum?” James tilted his head slightly. “You’re awfully quiet.”
Cal took another drink and then put his glass down. “Forgive me if I’m out of line, but are you sure everything’s all right? You’ve been a little, uh, out of sorts all evening.”
James shrugged. He was better than two-thirds of the way through his glass already. “Could just use a little company, that’s all.”
Isn’t that why I took you to Market Garden?
Cal bit down on that question. This degree of intimacy was disconcerting enough without probing into James’s unusual sex life.
James swallowed the last of his wine. He put the glass between the bottles, but made no move to pour himself any more. Sitting back, he slung one arm across the top of the couch, his hand dangerously close to Cal’s shoulder. Cal struggled to breathe. He was tempted to reach for his wine, but was afraid he’d drop the glass. Not that a splash of red wine on the white sofa and pale carpet would be any more mortifying than saying or doing the wrong thing right now. Like moving closer to that casually draped arm. Or moving away from it. He was certain any movement at all, even a millimeter in either direction, would be the body language equivalent of a scream of “get the fuck away from me” or a bright red neon sign buzzing with “please, please touch me.” So he stayed completely still.
Apparently oblivious, James absently loosened that rich red tie with his finger. “Do you recall that one rentboy I brought home not long ago?”
One? Yeah, which one?
Cal cleared his throat. “I’m not sure.”
“The blond kid. Nick.”
Nick. Oh yes. He’d only come home with James once, but Cal remembered him well. He’d had a commanding air about him, like well-earned arrogance, that was hard to forget. Not that he’d interacted with him much, just letting him in and out of the car, and then offering coffee the next morning before driving him back into town as he sometimes did while James slept off the night before. And he remembered feeling the need—which he’d managed to resist—to subtly encourage Nick to get out and stay out.
Cal coughed again and lifted his glass to his lips. “I think I remember him, yes.”
James sighed. “I was hoping he’d be there tonight.”
Something tightened in Cal’s chest, and he gritted his teeth. “Wasn’t he?”
James shook his head.
What a shame. “Is that why . . .”
“I was hoping to hire him tonight.” James smiled, gaze distant, but then he shook himself and lifted his arm off the back of the couch. He reached for the bottle again. “Anyway. He’s not there anymore, apparently. Moved on to bigger and better things, I suppose.”
“You, um, liked him, then?” Of course he did. Come on, Cal. Don’t be stupid.
James laughed softly. “You could say that. I’ll have to find someone else who can do the things he did. Was only that one time, but there was just something about him that . . .” He glanced at Cal, and his cheeks darkened a little as if he’d suddenly remembered who he was talking to. “More wine?”
Give me the whole fucking bottle. “Please.”
Cal waited for James to stop pouring and resisted the urge to toss the Château Margaux back like vodka or some medicinal tonic that might blur his mind so it would stop taunting him with those images: James’s body, how he looked and moved when he staggered out of the car with one of his rentboys. How he’d refocus, usually just long enough to tell Cal he’d have the rest of the night off. James had no idea how many hours Cal would spend after leaving them, imagining himself in the rentboy’s place. Not that Cal believed he could really do whatever it was those guys did. James had a thing for the cocky, arrogant rentboys, the ones who radiated attitude from their pores. Controlled, sometimes bossy. No, usually bossy. What they did when they were alone, Cal could only imagine—and often did imagine—but he doubted they turned passive or obedient once they were behind closed doors.
And the next day, James would sleep like the dead and be in a great mood for the next few days. What Cal wouldn’t have given to be the reason for James’s relaxed good spirits.
He took a mouthful of the wine and swallowed, then glanced at James. What was going on here? Was James trying to get him to relax, perhaps so he could take advantage? Considering the calibre James sought, Cal wasn’t in the same class. He was all right, he figured, but nothing like those leather-clad men from Market Garden. James could do much better and usually did.
James sat back with his topped-off wineglass, laying his arm across the back of the couch again. “It’s never occurred to me until now, but . . .” He met Cal’s gaze, and paused for a long moment, eyes narrowed just slightly as if he were looking for something in Cal’s expression. “Does it— The night jobs. The trips to Market Garden.” He tilted his head. “Does it bother you that I’m . . .” He paused again, breaking eye contact and absently swirling his wine as if trying to find the right words. “That I’m involving you?”
“N-no, sir. James.” Cal swallowed most of the contents of his glass in one go. “I’m only here to drive you from place to place. Beyond that isn’t my business.”
“You would object if I had you drive me somewhere to commit a crime, wouldn’t you?”
“Well, you do work in the financial sector.” Cal laughed cautiously. “And I still drive you to work, don’t I?”
His boss stared at him. Cal’s throat tightened. Too far. Shit. Way too—
James snorted, wagging a finger at him. “Touché, Callum. Touché.”
Relieved, Cal laughed softly. “To answer your question, though, it doesn’t bother me. It’s your business. Not mine.”
“Perhaps it isn’t. But should it ever become an issue, you can speak up.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Cal drained his glass. He was tempted to refill it, but resisted. Two glasses that fast and his head was definitely getting light; any more than that and he was liable to put his foot in his mouth. Again. The finance joke had been uncharacteristically risky for him. Thank God James had seen the humour and not taken offence, but Cal silently chastised himself for it. He’d definitely had enough alcohol, so he left the wine well enough alone.
He sat back. A split second too late, he remembered James’s arm behind him. His shoulder blade bumped James’s hand, and Cal sat up sharply as James jerked it back.
“Sorry,” they both muttered.
This was definitely a bad idea. Social hour with the boss was fine and dandy when it didn’t reduce them both to inarticulate schoolboys. Though they had recovered from more awkward moments. Like the time when a very, very drunk James had slid a hand over the front of Cal’s trousers while Cal had been helping him into bed. Over a year later, Cal still heard that hiss of breath and the groaned “oh my God, Callum” in his dreams, and he still felt that clumsy but very deliberate squeeze. That had only made things awkward for a day or so. Mostly because Cal wasn’t entirely certain how much James remembered.
Cal chanced a look at James. His usually confident boss met his eyes.
“Sorry,” James muttered again.
“Don’t worry about it. My fault.”
More silence. More eye contact. There was no hope of pretending one or both of them wouldn’t remember this tomorrow. They were both relatively sober tonight.
Cal’s eyes flicked towards the open wine bottle and the empty glasses. They were both relatively sober tonight so far.
He faced James again. That uncertainty was still there, but strangely mixed with renewed confidence. Determination, maybe. A decision made, but not quite enough bravado to go through with it.
Cal cleared his throat.
James put his glass on the table. Then he casually rested his arm on the back of the couch again, relaxing a little as he returned to the position he’d been in when they’d made that unexpected contact a moment ago. He held Cal’s gaze, and the decisiveness still lingered in his expression.
“Do you remember, oh, a couple of months ago? When I hired that pair from Market Garden?”
Cal shifted, trying to get comfortable without leaning back against his boss’s arm. How the hell could he forget those two? That cocky kid and his slightly shier—but strangely cocky in his own way—partner. Maybe it had been part of their gimmick, but Cal thought they might’ve been a couple. “I remember them, yes.”
A knowing smile pulled at James’s lips. “You weren’t fond of them, were you?”
“What?” Cal sat up a little straighter. “What do you mean?”
James lifted one shoulder in a barely noticeable shrug. “Am I wrong?”
Cal gulped. “I barely saw them. Just on the way in and out of the car.” And he’d heard devilish laughter through the privacy screen. Caught the scent of sweat and leather when they got out of the car. He hadn’t missed the way James’s cheeks had been flushed and the slightly quieter rentboy had wiped at his lips just before stepping out of the car. Cal had ground his teeth until long after the three of them had gone into the house, and had fantasised about letting them find their own bloody ride back into—
James chuckled quietly. “That’s what I thought.”
Cal’s face burned. “What exactly are you getting at?”
“You tell me.”
Fuck. James wasn’t as out of sorts as he’d been earlier, that much was for sure. Two glasses of wine? Really? That was all it took?
“I’m just curious.” James’s hand rustled softly on the couch behind Cal. “Was there something about them that you didn’t like?”
Besides the fact that I knew they were teasing, tormenting, pleasing, fucking you all bloody night? And I wanted to—
He cleared his throat. “They just gave me an odd vibe, I guess.”
“Care to elaborate?”
Cal’s mouth went dry. His boss’s scrutiny unsettled him, but he couldn’t make himself look anywhere but right at James. “I. Um.”
Cal? Not Callum? That was a switch.
“I’m . . .” Cal took a breath. “Why exactly are we having this conversation?”
James opened his mouth as if he were about to speak, but hesitated.
Movement drew Cal’s attention to the back of the couch, and he shifted his gaze just in time to see James lift his arm. He held his breath, watching James’s hand hover in his peripheral vision for a couple of seconds.
And then his hand was on Cal’s shoulder. Warm. Heavy. Undeniably there.
He looked James in the eyes, and that confidence in James’s expression faltered.
Should I be doing this? Should we be doing this? What the fuck are we doing?
Cal’s heart pounded. James swallowed hard. His hand lightened slightly on Cal’s shoulder.
To hell with it. They’d already crossed the line, hadn’t they?
James took a breath. “Cal, I—”
Cal grabbed the loosened red tie, dragged James across the cushion between them, and kissed him. He did have the wine as an excuse. James had telegraphed what he wanted, and the fact that James didn’t jerk away, didn’t push him off or so much as protest, gave him confidence.
Instead, James opened up to him almost immediately, tasting of wine and need, and all Cal’s restraint just went out of the window. He grabbed James by the shoulder, pulled him closer, sensing all the coiled strength in that body, as if he were ready to fight, because that was what those damned alpha males did all day, anyway, right? But James didn’t fight him. Didn’t seem intent on fighting him at all.
The kiss made Cal’s head spin. He pushed James down across the cushions with his own body weight, worried that James would tell him to stop, or to loosen his grip, but James let himself be pressed against the cushions. Cal let go of his shoulder and ran his fingers down the man’s chest, brushing a hard nipple almost by accident on his way down, then reconsidered and twisted it. James gave a muffled sound into the kiss, and Cal twisted it harder, then rubbed it. God, this was hot, but he wanted skin.
Except that meant getting undressed, which meant letting go.
Maybe skin was overrated.
He moved further down, felt James breathe hard, felt the muscles under his touch with nothing but a fine white tailored shirt between skin and skin. The heat bled through, and the rest was visual memory, of his chest and abs, that body from running and weightlifting. He wrecked himself every morning in his own damned gym—Cal had seen him through the window a few times, and what had really turned him on was the sweat, the exertion, and those grunts that came through the open window when James battled on despite the pain.
Cal ran his hand up the front of James’s shirt, feeling those toned abs quivering under his touch. Though he’d been a little alarmed when James had thrown himself extra hard into his gym routine right after the divorce, the man hadn’t injured himself, and the results—fuck, the results. He curled his fingers and ran them downwards, nails trailing across James’s shirt with a soft hiss.
James broke the kiss, arching his spine and tilting his head back. “Cal . . .”
Cal dived for James’s neck. He kissed the exposed flesh from the stubbly jaw all the way down to the collar of his shirt, and damn it, now he needed that skin to skin contact, even if it meant letting go.
He pushed himself up, and as he hooked his finger in the knot of James’s tie, their eyes met. James’s gleamed with the same hunger Cal felt. No, not quite the same. He was somehow more subdued than earlier. Heavy-lidded eyes, blissed-out smile; he was calmer, whereas Cal was getting more and more wound up by the second.
As Cal pulled the tie loose and the knot disintegrated into a slightly wrinkled ribbon of silk, James started unbuttoning his own shirt, his hand brushing Cal’s. He struggled with the buttons, but managed to get two, three, four undone.
“You should . . .” He licked his lips. “Yours . . .”
Cal glanced down, suddenly aware that he was still dressed. He pushed himself up, and with equally unsteady hands, started stripping off his own shirt. He tried not to think about the fact that he was now straddling James, who was lying across the couch, because then he couldn’t concentrate on buttons and getting his arms out of sleeves and complicated things like that.
Ignoring James’s hard-on wasn’t easy, though, not when it was so close to Cal’s that the slightest movement made their cocks brush through their trousers. He’d think about that in a moment. He’d focus completely on that and get lost in that and get all these fucking clothes out of the way—are we really doing this?—but not until he’d figured out how to get these damned buttons to—
James tugged at Cal’s shirt, pulling it free from his waistband. His hands slid under the shirt, and Cal forgot what he was doing. His fingers were still on a button that was halfway through the buttonhole, but all he could think about was those warm hands sliding up his abs. He closed his eyes and pushed out a long breath, which only made things worse—better?—because his muscles moved under James’s gentle, exploring touch.
“Before we get too carried away,” James whispered, out of breath already, “maybe we should move this into the bedroom.”
Cal opened his eyes and looked down at him. “The bedroom?”
James nodded slowly.
Cal pushed the button through its buttonhole. As far as he knew, James never took any of his “companions” into his own bedroom. The morning after, they always emerged from one of the guest rooms.
Something told Cal they were too carried away already.
Cal forced himself to break the contact and get up, still worried that James would tell him this was a terrible idea. He offered James a hand, and James took it, and the worry just evaporated because James kissed him again—first time he did it, too.
Bad idea or not, they were already in over their heads, so why the hell not? Cal nudged James back a step. “Upstairs.”
James didn’t let go of his hand as they headed upstairs, still touching, the current still going strong. One floor up, and the other one, too, to the bedroom that took over half the loft, exposed beams almost rustic up here. It was a bit more bare than the rest of the house—just a bureau, a bedside table, and a big old wooden bed.
James let his hand go as he moved backwards to the bed. “Should I get naked?”
Don’t mind if you do.
“Uh, sure.” Cal swallowed when James kicked his shoes off and pulled his trousers down, showing off the erection tenting his boxers. What Cal would give to mouth it through the fabric, tease him and make him come undone.
Better get undressed, too. While James got rid of his boxers and socks, and pulled back the duvet, Cal shed his own clothes, dropping them where he stood, too eager to feel and fuck and kiss than to worry about things such as clothes and graceful exits.
James waved him forwards to the bed, and Cal got on it, on top of James who’d lain down in the center. He straddled James again, but this time, there was nothing between their cocks but friction and heat.
He lowered himself to kiss James again. James opened his legs, lifted them, but pushed up against him, rubbing and teasing. James’s hips seemed to be encouraging Cal’s to move, as if he wanted him to take over and thrust.
He wants me to fuck him.
Cal broke the kiss. “You—”
“Fuck me.” James looked up at him, half-grinning, and it felt very much like an order. “As hard as you can. Fuck me all night.”
Cal narrowed his eyes. He pressed his cock against James’s hard enough to make him close his eyes and groan, and as James shuddered, Cal leaned down and whispered, “I’m not sure I like your tone.”
James’s eyes flew open. Disbelief. Confusion. “I . . .”
“Maybe I want you to do something for me first.”
A soft whimper slipped past James’s lips. “Anything.”
Cal grinned. Now this he liked. He lifted himself off James and moved onto his side. “I’m going to fuck you. No doubt about that.” He moved his hand slowly, and James watched it, focusing intently, not even breathing. His lips parted when Cal closed his fingers around his own cock and stroked slowly, watching James’s eyes trace the movements.
“Before I fuck you,” Cal said, his voice seeming to startle James out of a near trance, “I want you to suck my—”
James moved before Cal could even finish the sentence, and suddenly Cal was on his back with James’s lips around his dick. He stared up at the ceiling for a moment, trying to get his head around the amazing sensation, the hot, eager mouth working at his cock with more enthusiasm than anyone had ever had while sucking him.
He pushed himself up onto his elbows and looked down. James’s eyes flicked up, eyebrows raised as if to ask, Is this what you wanted?
Cal couldn’t even articulate that yes, yes, this was definitely what he wanted. He stroked James’s hair, hoping to convey his approval, and though Cal hadn’t thought it was possible, James gave him even more, groaning softly and taking Cal’s dick deeper into his throat.
James rested his weight on one arm and stroked Cal with his other hand, moving it in time with his mouth and holy fuck, if he kept this up, Cal wouldn’t last long enough to fuck him. Oh well. He’d recover. He’d definitely recover.
And he didn’t want this to stop. God, the way James teased him with his tongue in between nearly swallowing every inch, Cal was in heaven.
In his mind, he ordered James to stop and get him a condom. And still in that fantasy, he put James on his knees, bent him over until his toned arse was in the air and his face was in the pillows, and he could hear him begging, almost sobbing, for Cal to fuck him.
He grasped James’s hair, his spine lifting off the bed as James sucked his cock. Between the physical pleasure and the fantasy of forcing his dick into James, burying himself completely and fucking him hard, Cal was about to go insane.
The only words he could form were the same ones he’d imagined James whimpering helplessly: “Don’t stop. Please, don’t stop.”
James didn’t stop. Cal gripped his hair tighter and thrust against James, fucking his mouth, and damn it he wanted to turn James over and really fuck him but this felt so incredible and he couldn’t . . . he couldn’t . . .
“Oh . . . fuck.” His eyes rolled back. His entire body lifted off the bed, and he thrust erratically into James’s mouth as he came so hard he saw white. James backed off a little, not gripping so tight or stroking so hard, and drew out Cal’s orgasm without painfully overstimulating him, and it went on and on until Cal finally pushed him away.
As he sank back down to the bed, fingers relaxing in James’s hair and breath coming in short, uneven gasps, Cal heard himself curse a few times.
James released him, the sudden break in contact taking Cal’s breath away.
“I’m still . . .” Cal was slurring now, and panting. “I’m still going to fuck you tonight.”
James smiled at him, maybe a bit too pleased with himself, but God, that had been bloody amazing. Not something he’d have even expected James to be so good at. “Takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?”
“Sure does.” Cal wiped over his face, still trying to catch his breath. He should have had more control. Should have been stronger than that, but damn, he’d deserved getting off, right? For eighteen months of faithful service, though his uncle would most definitely frown on that particular bonus.
He pulled himself up. James was on his haunches, looking down at him, still turned on and smug. Was that how he was with . . . No, don’t think about it. “What . . . do you like? Apart from getting fucked?”
James gazed around, clearly filtering what he’d say. It was transparent as all hell, that gesture. “The usual things.”
Thanks, that’ll work just fine. Cal fought the sarcasm. Of course James wouldn’t disclose everything. So he’d have to find out. Or go with the first thing—the fucking.
He sat up enough to grab James’s neck and pulled him down on the bed again, kissing him deeply, chasing the taste of himself, and pushing hard enough against James that the man’s cock was rubbing his hip with every breath and small movement. He couldn’t help running his free hand over the smooth grooves that defined James’s flawlessly contoured muscles. He marveled at the physique of a man far fitter than someone in his forties had any right to be. James had an amazing body, the vain bastard, and he knew it.
Cal wrapped his hand around James’s cock, just held it, adding a bit more friction, but not nearly enough to let him come. A good size, too, long and thick, and the man was so deliciously eager. “Roll over.”
James obeyed and turned onto his stomach, arms around the pillow, legs open.
Cal gazed at him—broad shoulders, tanned skin, the curve of his spine and the swell of his arse. He was tense, no doubt feeling the pressure of the mattress against his cock, but he didn’t push or thrust or grind.
Cal placed an open hand between James’s shoulders, traced downwards with a mellow, gentle stroke, then, when James opened his legs wider, pressed his fingers into the strong glutes.
He shifted his weight and moved on top again, kneading the muscles and then digging his fingernails in, making James gasp into the pillow. He ran his thumbs into the crack and brushed the hole, causing James to open his legs wider and push up against the touch.
Cal dropped a kiss in the small of James’s back, then stretched to reach for the nightstand. In the drawer, he found plenty of lube and condoms, thank God, and he didn’t let himself think about why they were here and so abundant as he placed them on the bed within reach. He’d need those sooner rather than later.
The sound of the cap electrified him, as did the pleasant slippery feeling of the lube on his fingers. With one hand braced against James’s lower back, he ran his lubed fingers against that hot little hole, rubbing against the muscle and feeling it give a little, responding to his touch.
When he breached James with a thumb, the man shuddered, so Cal pulled back and amused himself by repeating the movement. In and out against the slippery resistance of the muscle that clearly wanted him deeper inside, wanted something more substantial.
He ran his fingers down the crack, rubbed against the perineum, pushing hard from the outside against the sweet spot, which made James open his legs wider and almost get up on his knees, offering Cal as much play and space as he wanted. Only then did Cal push two fingers inside him, curled them and found James’s prostate.
James moaned, a low, needy sound he likely wasn’t even aware of. Cal slid in and out, moving his body deliberately to mimic fucking, letting James feel his weight, his closeness, while fingerfucking him. James’s moans did well to recharge him, too—he loved how readily and easily James responded to him, to every touch, and he was tempted to dive down between his legs and suck on that beautiful, still very hard cock.
James whimpered again. “Cal . . .”
“Hmm? Something wrong?” He grinned and curled his fingers again, rubbing against James’s prostate, and whatever James was trying to say came out as a moan. “You’re having trouble speaking, aren’t you?” Cal asked, still grinning. “Why is that?”
Another groan, this one just as incomprehensible but with a distinct note of “fuck you.”
“Now, now.” Cal slowly withdrew his fingers. “You have to play nice to get what you want.” A voice in the back of his mind warned him against speaking to his boss this way, but he ignored it. This wasn’t his boss. James, yes, but . . . not.
“I want—” James moaned again as Cal pushed his fingers back in. “Fuck . . .”
Cal chuckled. “James, James, James. You’re usually so much more”—he withdrew a little, added a third finger—“articulate than this.”
James gripped the pillow beside his head, tension rippling down his forearm. “You’re a . . . tease.”
“Mm-hmm.” Cal fucked him slowly with his fingers. “Do you want me to stop?”
James tensed a little, as if sensing a trick question. “N-no. I want you to fuck me.”
“I am.” Cal slid his fingers all the way in just for emphasis.
“Really fuck me.”
“Hmm. You might have to explain that a little—”
“Put on a goddamned condom and fuck me.” The words came out as a growled demand, but as soon as he’d spoken, James tensed again. He turned his head, and added over his shoulder, “Please, Cal. Please.”
Cal swept his tongue across his lips. Oh, wow. He’d never imagined this side of James, and he loved it. Loved the pleading even when he was so frustrated he forgot himself and gave an order.
“Oh, I’ll fuck you. Don’t worry.” He started withdrawing his fingers slowly, and when he sensed the oh God, finally in James, he pressed them in again. “When I’m absolutely sure you’re ready for me.”
The groan—mostly frustration mixed with plenty of pleasure—gave Cal a sadistic thrill. He liked teasing men, always had, but this? This was fun. This was absolutely amazing. He’d never experienced anything quite like turning James into a trembling, inarticulate mess.
“Cal.” James was shaking now, clawing at the pillow and moving his hips, trying to get Cal to fuck him harder and faster with his hand. “Please. I need . . . I need you to fuck me.”
Cal slid his hand free and reached for a condom. When he tore it off the strip, the sound made James shiver, and goose bumps appeared all over the man’s flesh.
“Please,” James begged. “Cal . . .”
Teasing was fine and good, but now Cal couldn’t get the condom on fast enough. He glanced at the lube bottle. He’d used plenty on his fingers. Maybe . . .
“Cal. Fuck me. Please, Cal.”
Just to be on the safe side—and maybe to torment James for a moment longer—he put some lube on the condom. Then he positioned himself on top, and from the way James gripped the sides of the pillow and squirmed underneath him, Cal wondered if the man would last at all once he was finally getting what he wanted.
He guided himself to James’s well-prepped arse, and teased him a little, but didn’t push in. James swore and moaned, lifting his hips and trying to work Cal into him.
Cal leaned down and brushed his lips across the back of James’s neck. “One little thing, James.”
James turned his head to the side, just enough that Cal could see his brow starting to furrow. “Hmm?”
“You don’t get to come until I say so.” Another thrill rushed through him. Giving orders? To James?
“Not until . . .”
“Not until I say so.” Cal pressed the head of his cock into James, giving him just enough to make him shiver. “If you come, you’ll get too sensitive.” He withdrew a little. “And if you get too sensitive, then I can’t”—he thrust nearly all the way in—“fuck you as hard as I want to.”
“Oh God.” James shivered again, and shoved back against Cal, driving him the rest of the way inside. “Fuck me. Hard.”
Cal forced him back down onto the bed, hilting himself inside James and pinning him to the mattress at the same time. “You going to do as I say? Not going to come until I tell you to?”
James nodded, stubble hissing across the pillowcase.
“Sure about that?” Cal moved just a little, withdrawing and pushing back in. “You’ll do as you’re told?”
That word was a jolt of electricity right down to his toes. There it was, his fantasy—James, surrendered, underneath him, all around him, his gorgeous arse pressed against him, tight but ready, hungry for it, and Cal on top, inside. He wanted to savour it, to go slow, but James really couldn’t deal with slow anymore, so Cal thrust and held him tight by the shoulders, using his weight and every bit of strength to drive himself deeper and harder while keeping that death grip on James so he couldn’t get away. The fucking was nothing short of savage, unbridled lust, and really the only thing he cared about was—
For all the need and the desire to have him, for all the delicious thrill of touching that body, that man, his fucking boss, at his mercy, he was still keenly aware of James’s lust, how he responded, every groan that sounded like he was in the most delicious pain imaginable. He loved vocal guys. This? Porn material. The wordless begging with every movement, pushing back like he needed this more than life itself.
Cal clutched him harder, thought he wouldn’t last long, thought about changing to a position that would give him more control and allow them to take their time, but then it all bled away in an orgasm so powerful his vision tunnelled. When he came, he thrust hard, desperately, and he felt—knew—that James was coming too. The man reached back and clutched his hand, arching, making a sound that was nearly a sob, so primal, so freeing, and it gave Cal goose bumps.
Bloody hell. They’d actually come together. It didn’t even matter that James hadn’t managed to hold on, that he’d broken the promise. That had been in his own best interest anyway.
Cal ground against him a few more times, but personally, he hated a top overstaying his welcome on the rare occasions that he bottomed, so he pulled out. He was dizzy now, and not very coherent, but he managed to get up and head for the en suite. In spite of his unsteady hands, he did away with the condom and cleaned up. Then he looked at himself in the mirror—
Boy, you’re looking well fucked
—and grabbed a towel, put it under warm water, squeezed out the excess and returned to the bedroom.
James still lay there, limp like he’d been slaughtered. Cal wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been asleep, but when he nudged him, James turned over. Cal cleaned him up and dried him off with the dry part of the towel. He tossed it into the laundry hamper, and as he sat down on the bed, he looked at his hands. They were still shaking. Hell, what part of him wasn’t shaking?
And . . . now what?
As the dust settled and he caught his breath, keenly aware of James starting to drift off beside him, some of the apprehension from earlier slipped back in. What had they done? Was this a good idea? What the hell had he been thinking?
Slowly, he turned towards James. The man was still awake, eyelids heavy but partly open, and he was watching Cal, a serene smile across his lips.
Cal pulled the rumpled duvet up and tenderly laid it across James’s body, covering him up to the shoulder. James slid his arm out from under it and rested it on top. They held each other’s gazes, neither speaking; Cal had no idea what to say just then, and even less clue what to do. In the heat of the moment, he’d been in charge and in control and had known exactly what to do and when, but now . . .
God. I’m like Dr. Jekyll and Master Hyde.
The thought made him chuckle, which released a little tension.
Twin crevices appeared between James’s eyebrows. What’s so funny?
Cal shook his head. He lifted his hand, started to reach for James’s arm, but then drew it back. Physical contact seemed weird now. Unprofessional.
Unprofessional? He could still feel the aftershocks of an orgasm, one he’d had while fucking the hell out of this man’s arse. Unprofessional had become a moot point two orgasms and a bottle of wine ago.
He could think of a hundred reasons he ought to get dressed and get the hell out of here, but looking into James’s eyes, he had one pretty damned compelling reason to stay: he wanted to.
And besides, James was still his employer. Neither of them could make a fast but awkward escape—morning after or not—if they couldn’t actually get away from each other. Why not just stay the rest of the night?
Because the longer I stay, the harder it’ll be to look him in the eye tomorrow.
He chewed his lip. “I should go.”
“I know.” The admission was quiet, but matter of fact. The resigned tone that meant James agreed that this had been a mistake. An incredibly hot and long overdue mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.
Cal shivered, this time because the room’s cool air was settling in on his bare, sweaty skin. He wanted nothing more than to crawl under the duvet with James and let the covers and body heat warm him back up.
Calling on every reserve of professionalism he had left, he patted James’s hand and stood. Neither of them spoke as Cal gathered the clothes he’d left in a rumpled heap on the floor.
As he dressed, slipping back into the trousers and shirt he wore on duty, the clothes that meant he was James’s hired driver, certainly not his lover—hired or otherwise—James didn’t look at him. By the time Cal was halfway through buttoning his shirt, he couldn’t look at James either. His nerve endings still tingled from pleasure that had now cooled, and his muscles ached a little from exertion, and every physical reminder that this fantasy-come-to-life had really happened . . . God, what had he been thinking?
Shoes in hand, he finally made himself turn to James. “I’ll, um, see myself out. Am I needed tomorrow morning?”
James met his eyes, and Cal thought he saw, or at least wanted to see, You’re needed tonight. But James shook his head. “I’m not planning to go out until the evening. Six o’clock?”
Cal nodded. “Six o’clock.” He started towards the door.
“Good night, Cal.”
“Good night, sir.”
Cal rebuked himself all the way out of the house and as he parked the car in the garage like he should have done hours ago. That would have been the normal thing to do, put the car away like he was supposed to. A much more normal thing, than, say, fucking one’s boss.
It also served as another reminder of who he was and what he was here for. It reminded him of his place.
He made sure the car was locked and then walked down the meticulously kept gravel path to one of the outbuildings. His cottage used to be servants’ accommodation when the house had been built. He loved the tiny place, it was much nicer than anything he could have afforded elsewhere in London. Old trees surrounded it, and sometimes he sat on the porch and listened to the wind rushing through the leaves. He thought that sounded like ocean surf. The privacy was another boon. He could do pretty much whatever he wanted—with anyone he wanted—in the little cottage and nobody would disturb him. Good luck finding something like that in London on a budget.
He slipped through the door, glanced at the intercom. James could easily have called him back, but the grey box stayed quiet. Cal shed his clothes on the way to the bathroom for a much-needed shower. He was sweaty, still tingling, certain he still felt the heat and tightness around his cock, remembered those sounds.
Fuck me all night.
Well, once would have to do. He wouldn’t survive another night like that. Certainly his resolve wouldn’t. What little he had left, anyway.
He glanced at the computer desk up against the white wall, the folders of copies, the stack of books, and while he’d hoped to get some work done, that was it, he was exhausted. His stomach was roiling from what he’d done.
And how much he wanted to do it again.
His uncle would be absolutely livid, but then, he didn’t really have to know. Unless, of course, James told him and why.
Damn, I’m in league with a finance guy trying to keep a secret.
He stepped under the spray and washed himself, the hot water mellowing him. For the few minutes of showering, life was good and straightforward, and he could wash their sweat off his skin, and maybe eventually this would just be a one-night stand, ill-advised, Chateau Margaux–powered and nothing more.
He dropped into bed, checked his mail on his phone, and then stretched out.
Once he’d switched off the light, he was awake again, thinking of the other lonely guy in his large empty bed, and he hated himself for being professional when James clearly needed something from him tonight.
On the other hand, he was living in a servants’ cottage, and that was all he was ever going to be in James’s world. A damned servant. He’d better not forget that. He had gotten used to it. His job was to drive him from A to B. Nothing more.
“His firm is paying for a chauffeur on call because the time he saves commuting and the work he does in the back of the car easily pays for it anyway. The guy is some kind of finance wunderkind, so don’t distract him. Do your job and keep your head down.”
His uncle had made a great amount of sense. Getting paid to drive a really nice car and idle in between? It had sounded brilliant, especially when the alternative had been slinging lattes or working in a call centre.
He didn’t sleep so well. In the morning, he dragged himself out of bed and dressed—he owned a whole pile of those black trousers and white shirts that were his main uniform on the job—then left the cottage and took the car out again. If he was not needed until 6 pm, he had plenty of time to get the car serviced and cleaned.
So much for a long, leisurely day to regroup and collect his thoughts. The hours flew by, and he’d barely finished a late lunch before he had to head back towards James’s place, and suddenly he was somehow needing to hurry the hell up and bring the car around.
At five minutes to six, he stood beside the car door and looked up at the house, waiting for James. His stomach was wound in knots, heart pounding in his ears. Had James realised what a mistake last night was? Or was he angry with Cal for leaving before the sheets had even cooled? Could they both pretend it had never happened and just move on? They’d managed after the night James had drunkenly groped Cal. Though he supposed he couldn’t expect James to have forgotten last night the way he’d forgotten that incident.
He closed his eyes and exhaled. If James didn’t want to be constantly reminded of his mistake, he’d probably fire Cal and be done with it. Then Cal would have to find a place to live and another job—reason for leaving previous employer? Uh . . .—but at least the awkwardness would no longer be an issue.
At exactly six o’clock, the front door opened. Cal held his breath. Part of that was nerves, and part of it, well, this wasn’t exactly the first time his heart had fluttered upon seeing James exit the house. He had to be meeting clients tonight. He was wearing the navy blue suit, the most perfectly tailored one he owned. His polished dress shoes clicked sharply on the walkway. Cal could only imagine how long James had taken to make sure every hair was precisely in place and that the dimples in his tie—navy blue as well this time—were flawless.
“Callum,” he said with a slight nod.
Their eyes met. James was all businessman bravado tonight, but that wavered just a little as the eye contact lingered. He lowered his gaze and cleared his throat.
“I have an appointment in London. Seven thirty, probably ending around midnight.”
Cal nodded. He pulled open the car door. The long meetings didn’t bother him. He kept a notebook in the car and could spend the evening writing. On the clock, no less.
James glanced at the open door, but didn’t move. “Uh, about last night . . .”
Fuck. Here we go.
Cal resisted the urge to let his nerves show. “Yes, sir?”
“I’m, um . . .” James cleared his throat again. “I wanted to apologise for keeping you past your shift for, uh, inappropriate . . .”
“It’s all right, sir. Water under the bridge.” He gestured at the car. “Your meeting?”
James still didn’t move. He slid his hand into his coat. As he withdrew a white envelope, Cal gulped. His walking papers? Severance pay? Oh fuck, he really was getting fired.
“I didn’t feel it was right to keep you so late without compensation.” He held out the envelope. “This should cover it.”
“Oh. Uh.” Uncertain what else to do, Cal took the envelope. “Thank you, sir.”
“Right.” James gave a sharp nod, and then slid into the car.
Cal closed the door, and for a second, just stared at the envelope. He could see through the semitransparent white paper and made out the shapes of a few bank notes. More than one, judging by the thickness. Hush money? No, that couldn’t be it. Who would possibly care? Unless James didn’t want his ex-wife finding out he had a thing for men, hired or otherwise; he barely saw his kids as it was, and she didn’t need any ammunition to get his visitation reduced.
Shaking his head, he went around to the driver’s side and got in the car. He put his cap on his notebook on the passenger seat, and tossed the envelope on top. As he drove away from the house, thankful the privacy screen was still up, he glanced at the envelope a couple of times.
Was it hush money? It couldn’t really be compensation for his time.
Well, you’ll still be paid for the same hours, James had said last night.
After all, Cal had been on the clock. He’d already been scheduled to be on duty until late last night because he’d taken James to—
Cal’s heart stopped.
His gaze slid towards the envelope again before he quickly shifted it back to the road.
He’d been on duty. Already fully compensated for an evening that included taking James to Market fucking Garden. Had he just been paid . . . for sex?
Cal gripped the wheel tighter, a weird feeling coiling in his gut. Holy shit. He couldn’t interpret it any other way: James had just paid him for being a substitute for one of the rentboys who usually took care of his needs.
Oh my God. Did he just pay me to be his whore?
He quickly glanced at the privacy screen and wished he could see James and demand an answer to that question.
Breathe, Cal. Getting upset about this won’t get him safely where he has to go.
He focused on the traffic, though people around him usually drove extra carefully. He suspected they were worried they couldn’t afford what it would cost to fix the limo—but there were pushy cabbies and of course the occasional oblivious cyclist with a death wish, especially in London, and the financial district had a number of dangerous spots. Hell, hadn’t Goldman Sachs recently closed down a road because a number of cyclists had ended up dead there? He’d read something like that in the papers.
Talking of papers—James had carried his briefcase, so he was likely working. Distracting the financial wizard before a meeting important enough to be held on the weekend? Hell no. Whatever had happened between them, and whatever the cash-stuffed envelope actually meant, Cal would not be unprofessional about it.
The address was a posh French restaurant in Kensington, and after dropping James off, Cal busied himself with searching for a parking place. He found one several streets away from the restaurant. It wasn’t as close as he’d have preferred, but he had four-and-a-half hours to prowl closer. He spent the evening scribbling in the notebook propped against the wheel and looking for a better position every now and then, dashing out of his parking space when he saw an opening, and fending off other hopeful parkers trying to take it.
By midnight, he was just twenty meters away from the restaurant. He was checking his watch now, and keeping an eye on his phone, too, but the meeting was clearly overrunning. He didn’t like that at all. It happened on occasion and always made him nervous. Cal told himself this had to be important if James allowed them to keep him, but late dinner meetings usually meant less dining and more drinking, which meant a good possibility of Cal pouring James into bed at the end of the night. Or at least, that would be what was expected of him. Tonight, he had a mind to leave James on his own. If that meant letting him pass out in the living room and rumple his expensive suit? Fine.
He put the notebook away and kept looking at the restaurant’s entrance.
He looked at the envelope again, weighed it. Felt like maybe five, six bills? A hundred quid? It was a nice round sum. Fifty or so, if it was tenners. Damn. He opened the envelope; it wasn’t closed properly anyway, just the flap tucked in.
Fifties. He didn’t see a lot of those. Shops didn’t like them and reacted suspiciously.
That was way, way too much money for compensation for a couple hours. It was even too much for a tip or thank-you. This? That amount bought sex, and probably pretty good sex, too.
Now he wished he hadn’t looked. The nervous feeling in his stomach had turned into full-blown nausea. Here he’d been worried he’d left James high and dry when he’d needed something from him, but he hadn’t expected to be a bloody commodity. His paycheque was for his arse in the driver’s seat, not in James’s bed.
Was this how much James paid the rentboys at Market Garden? Had this money been earmarked for . . . who was it he’d been looking for last night? Nick? Or maybe Nick earned more than that. He was a professional, after all. Not the afterthought hooker waiting on the kerb when James couldn’t find what he’d wanted in the—
Stop. Just stop.
He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. He silently begged James’s colleagues or clients or whoever the fuck he’d been meeting to just wrap this up, finish the nightcaps, and go.
At a quarter past one, the restaurant’s glass doors opened for the hundredth time. Cal sat straighter as three men emerged, jackets over their arms, one of them gesturing animatedly while James and the other guy laughed. They were all steady on their feet, but had enough of a swagger to tell Cal they’d been drinking. Big surprise.
At least James wasn’t shitfaced. Not that he would’ve been Cal’s problem anyway. He could sleep it off in the goddamned foyer. Or the back of the car, for that matter, since he wasn’t prone to being sick when he was drunk.
The men shook hands and parted ways as Cal pulled up beside the kerb. He put the car in park, grabbed his cap, and after a moment’s hesitation, picked up the envelope as well.
“Right on time, Callum.” James grinned. His steps were a little uneven, and his eyes were red and glazed; yeah, he’d definitely put a few away tonight.
Cal offered an icy smile. Instead of opening the car door, though, he held out the envelope. “I believe this is yours.”
James eyed the envelope. “What is—isn’t that what I gave you earlier?” He waved a hand. “It’s yours, Cal.”
Don’t fucking call me that.
Cal gritted his teeth and thrust the envelope at James. “No, it’s not. I don’t want it.”
James didn’t take it. He locked eyes with Cal. “But it’s—”
“I am not your whore,” Cal snarled before he could stop himself. “Take back your fucking money.”
James’s eyes widened. He drew back as if sobering up right there and then. “My . . . no, that’s not . . .”
Cal took James’s wrist, shoved the envelope into his hand, and let go. He turned away and opened the door. “Home, sir?”
“I, uh . . .” James glanced back and forth from the envelope to Cal, but Cal refused to look him in the eye. He’d felt ill about the money all evening, but standing here now in front of James, he was furious.
Just get in the goddamned car before I say anything else and get myself fired.
Or I fucking quit.
Without a word, James slid into the car. Cal slammed the door with more force than was necessary. Petty, perhaps, but it meant less anger that would come out as road rage.
All the way home, he kept throwing glances at the privacy screen. At first, he just kept looking to make sure it was still closed. God, please, let it stay closed. Then he was trying to shoot daggers through it with his eyes. Three hundred quid? Fucking really? And then he was back to hoping the thing stayed closed.
He pulled up in front of the house, stomach still knotted with that queasy-angry feeling. He put the car in park, but didn’t get out immediately. Closing his eyes, he gave himself a quick pep talk: Get out, see him out of the car, put the car away, and go home. Fast and easy. Just like—
He took a deep breath, put his shoulders back, and stepped out of the car. When he opened James’s door, he kept his gaze straight ahead, not looking right at James and sure as fuck not staring at his own feet like a scolded kid. He had nothing to be ashamed of.
L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn't lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies.
She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don't tell Lauren. And definitely don't tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut...
Aleksandr has been published for twenty years, both in print and ebook. He has ten years’ experience as a writing coach, book doctor, and writing teacher, and until recently worked as an editor in financial services.
After co-authoring the M/M military cult classic Special Forces, Aleksandr embarked on a quest to write gritty, edgy, sometimes literary M/M and gay fiction (much of which is romance/erotica)—the only way he can use his American Literature degree these days.
He’s been published with Heyne/Random House, Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, and others, and is an EPIC Awards winner and a Lambda Awards finalist.
EMAIL : firstname.lastname@example.org
Quid Pro Quo #1
Take it Off #2
If it Flies #3
If it Fornicates #4
Capture & Surrender #5
If it Drives #7
On the Clock #8(Available July 13)
Nick & Spencer (#3 & #4)
Tristan & Jared(#1, #2, & #6)