If It Drives (A Market Garden Tale)
This title is part of the Market Garden universe.
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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 realises, and it may be one role that Cal can’t fill without overstepping his duty.
This title comes with no special warnings.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.
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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.
James stopped when he was out of the car, and he stood just behind the door, making it impossible for Cal to close it without hitting him. Which, Cal had to admit, was mildly tempting.
And in his hands was that damned envelope.
“Callum.” There was a hint of last night’s James in his voice. Subdued, a little uncertain. “I, um, wanted to apologise.”
“You did earlier,” Cal growled. “When you gave me the money.”
“Right. Yes. I did.” James exhaled. “But I didn’t realise what I was implying when I gave it to you. I didn’t . . . that wasn’t my intention at all.”
Cal narrowed his eyes and looked right at James. “You paid me for a night of sex. What was your intention if not to pay me for—”
“I didn’t mean it that way at all.” James shook his head. “Look, I’m sorry. I felt like I’d taken advantage of you last night. Like I’d abused my position, and I didn’t know how else . . .” He trailed off, lowering his gaze and biting his lip. “I’m sorry, Callum. That’s really all I can say. I never intended to make you feel like a whore, and I’m sorry for that.”
The anger in Cal slowly simmered down, and it was replaced by a flurry of emotions he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Much as he’d known last night had been a mistake—one apparently worth apologising for with cash—part of him wanted to believe James hadn’t thought it was a mistake after all. That Cal really had done something or been something that James needed, not something he regretted.
That complicated things. A lot. Cal wanted to believe last night had been a good thing, but if it was, then what? Did they dare do it again? Did he dare hope they would?
Avoiding James’s eyes, he cleared his throat. “Will you be needing me any more tonight, sir?” Immediately, he cringed.
Right. That was the best question to ask right then.
“No, you can go.” James stepped out of the way of the door. “Good night, Callum.”
Cal shut the door, wondering when it had become so fucking heavy, and heard himself repeat what he’d said on the way out of James’s bedroom last night: “Good night, sir.”
[I] loved it from beginning to end.
I highly recommend.
The writing is superb, seamless, and captures the reader with each scene.
Voinov and Witt are two of the best M/M authors I’ve ever read.
This is my favorite Market Garden installment yet.