Came Upon a Midnight Clear
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Up-and-coming film producer Kyle Wakefield lives in the closet rather than risk the wrath of his influential, conservative parents. The only time he took a chance on love was a tempestuous teenage affair with Nathan Carnes. But when Nathan proved himself hell-bent on self-destruction and wound up in prison, Kyle closed off his heart.
Almost a decade later, Kyle’s production partner hires Nathan’s stunt company, Second Chances, to work on a big-budget action film in London. Nate is floored by his explosive reunion with Kyle. But he sure as hell isn’t surprised that Kyle still treats their mutual needs—and Nate—like dirty little secrets.
As the London holiday season casts its dazzling spell, the two men find themselves falling in love again. Kyle is one breathless kiss away from declaring himself to Nate—and to the world—but they cannot ignore secrets borne of youthful mistakes. To protect their bright new future, Kyle and Nathan will need all their passion and trust . . . and a little Christmas magic.
Publisher's note: This is a lightly edited reprint of a previously published novel.
20% of all proceeds from this title will be donated to the Russian LGBT Network.
Each year, Riptide Publishing releases a holiday collection in support of an LGBTQ charity. Twenty percent of the proceeds from this year’s collection will be donated to the Russian LGBT Network.
The Russian LGBT network was founded in April 2006. It is an interregional, non-governmental human rights organization that promotes equal rights and respect for human dignity, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. They unite and develop regional initiatives, advocacy groups (at both national and international levels), and provide social and legal services.
To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit their website: https://lgbtnet.org/en.
This collection would not be possible without the talent and generosity of its authors, who have brought us the following holiday stories:
- Cecilia Tan, Watch Point
- Roan Parrish, The Remaking of Corbin Wale
- Katie Porter, Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Pre-ordering this collection will allow you to download each story two days prior to its official release date, as well as save 20% off the list price of the individual books.
This title comes with no special warnings.
reference to drug use
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.
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“Hey, Christmas cheer, remember?”
Kyle Wakefield looked up from his pint of Carlsberg and smiled at Steph. She was an extreme people person, at times almost obnoxiously cheerful. She even wore a pair of colorful jingle bell earrings.
Steph and her can-do attitude were very good for him and a million times better for their fledgling production company. He knew that on a profound, logical level, which was probably why they’d been business partners since undergrad days at Yale.
But that evening, Kyle was going to have trouble maintaining a happy face to match fifty percent of her enthusiasm.
“I know.” He smiled. “But you know how much tomorrow means.”
“Sure.” She shrugged, then sipped Red Bull and vodka as if she needed external energy. “All the more reason to enjoy tonight. ‘The calm before the storm’ does not mean dwelling on the storm. It means having a pint and breathing. You remember how to breathe, yes?”
Triggered by her reminder, Kyle inhaled deeply. She was a wonder, helping him to let go of the bad stuff. But not when their future depended on how well the next four weeks panned out.
“Okay, you’re in that sort of mood,” Steph said. “Spill it and we’ll clear it out of your head. Then you shut it down and have another pint. That one is depressingly full.”
Kyle looked her in the eye. Beautiful blue eyes, with blonde hair she kept in old-time-movie-starlet waves. He’d never seen her less than meticulous, but then the same applied to him.
He took another sip of the pale lager and exhaled. “To shoot the Christmas portion of Fast Money during the actual season was my idea. You know Peter wanted a decked-out set later in the winter.”
“Only to accommodate his holiday skiing schedule. Snow bunny number three was very disappointed. That isn’t our problem. Your reasons were sound; otherwise I wouldn’t have agreed. You know that.”
“Right. What was my bullshit? Something about the ready-made magic of Christmas in London?”
She chuckled. “Something like that. It’ll save money. Thousands of dollars on artificial sets saved. You wanting an excuse to get out of your parents’ official holiday events was just a bonus. Plus there’s the crew—look at them. I mean it. Look.”
Kyle settled back against his leather-padded chair and ignored Steph’s too-true assessment of his family as he took in the sights. A regular pub with a long, long bar turned at ninety degrees on either end. Glasses hung from the ceiling, with stout on tap. Lush booths, tons of tables, and a fireplace ringed by couches were the final touch. The BBC evening news, soccer games, and some prime-time talk show scrolled in closed caption on flat-screens, while Slade’s ubiquitous “Merry Xmas Everybody” added to the noise.
Why were the British so obsessed with that damn annoying song?
More than the details, the pub possessed an unnamable English atmosphere. Modern, and in the midst of an unabashedly urban setting, yet friendly in a small-town way. A warm haven against the damp cold of early December.
The pub had the extra advantage of an upstairs all-purpose function room, where he and Steph had set up shop for their roster of employees. The hotel was fine for sleeping and taking official meetings, but they needed a quiet space to escape when actual work—and the occasional emergency—popped up. The pub was also directly across the street from the boutique hotel they’d entirely booked for the crew.
Not that anyone seemed to mind the hotel’s economy accommodations. Kyle recognized maybe fifty faces out of the eighty crammed inside, all smiling and drinking. Three harried bartenders jumped and hustled to serve so many. Kyle had covered that detail, making sure the pub and the hotel staff were prepared for such an influx of patrons, most of whom would keep ridiculously weird hours because of several night shoots.
“They look happy,” he said with a wistful smile. “Probably because Peter isn’t here.”
That made Steph laugh. “Cheeky man. I’ve always liked that about you.” She lifted her glass in mock salute. “We’ve done well, Kyle. I need you to relax now. Babysitting your anxieties hamstrings me.”
“Yup. Promise.” He nodded to her empty glass. “Just water, though, Miss Three Minimum. I need you on your game too.”
“Not water. Diet Coke. I’m on it.”
Kyle watched her weave through the crowd. Men stopped talking to stare at her shapely ass wiggle past while she strutted on banana heel pumps. More of the ’40s retro she adored.
It would’ve been so much easier. So much easier. Why not fall in love with Stephanie Penn, his closest friend for the last eight years? His life would’ve been as orderly as his closets.
But not the one he still hid in.
His body simply didn’t work that way.
He caught his fingernails in a coarse gouge on the table’s varnished wooden surface. Apprehension that had only a little to do with his business ventures, here on the brink of embarking on Pennfield’s third big-budget film, settled like a bonfire under his breastbone. Hiring Second Chances—a fearless stunt crew comprised of ex-cons on the hunt for another shot at life—had been his decision too.
When shooting started, he would see Nate again.
Nathan Carnes. His name didn’t waft through Kyle’s brain like a ghost, although the man did haunt him. No, it slammed against him like cannon fire. Always did. It was inevitably followed by regret and desire, nostalgia and pain. And a hot, bone-shaking anger that wore away at the best memories of their two years as high school lovers.
Nate had run scared like the fucking stubborn asshole he’d always been. Kyle had left for Yale. End of story.
He needed to get out of this suddenly claustrophobic place. But Steph returned to the table. She wiggled her fingers toward a smokin’ guy in a tight black T-shirt.
“Waving up the wrong tree,” Kyle said as she sat down.
“What was that?”
“Gay as I am.”
She blinked. “Shit. What a waste.”
He grinned down at his lager, then tipped her a glance from under his brows. “I wouldn’t say so.”
“No, I insist. A waste. Because you sure as shit won’t go— What is it they say here? Chat him up? I’d cheer you on if you did.” She leaned over, hands flat on the table.
Other than past lovers, Steph was the only person who knew Kyle’s sexual orientation. It was something he’d needed to reveal to her. Couldn’t be helped. They split an LA apartment, an office, and sometimes twenty hours a day of one another’s time.
He wasn’t in the mood for the cute stranger. Thoughts of Nathan, what they’d shared, what they’d thrown away with both hands, would not leave him be. Kyle had roughly eight hours to get his shit together before a 6 a.m. shoot—before he’d see Nate again.
Steph took his hand. “Kyle. This isn’t Virginia. This isn’t someplace where your parents will stroll in and turn your life to shit with their goddamn issues.”
“Not that they’d deign coming in here in the first place.”
Andrew and Vanessa Wakefield were a power couple of the first order. Kyle’s dad was a DC lobbyist. His mother tracked her lineage to one of the First Families of Virginia. They traveled to London regularly, but Kyle would bet cash that they’d never been in an actual pub.
His parents weren’t the only problem, either. While there were more and more openly gay Hollywood players, few had the success Kyle craved: owning a large-scale production company that operated at the top level, making giant, famous pictures. He refused to settle for anything less than a blockbuster career. If he ever wanted to be free of his parents’ looming influence, he couldn’t settle. That meant he couldn’t gamble his future on the whims of an industry that ought to know better than to judge anyone’s sexuality.
“That’s totally true. But my point stands. This is England. It’s nearly Europe. Sometimes. Look, no one’s giving those guys a second glance. No fuss.”
He nodded. “I know.”
“But . . . still no go.” She sighed. “I hear you, my dear.”
“Slumming it with the rabble, I see,” came a voice that would make nails scraping down a chalkboard sound like Beethoven’s Fifth.
In tandem, Kyle and Steph looked up to find Peter Upton, boy-wonder director, standing beside their table. Fabulous. How about layering ouch on shit on worry? Perfect for an evening meant to be full of holiday cheer.
“Slumming it,” Kyle muttered, “would be if we let you sit down with us.”
“Shut it,” Steph hissed under her breath.
The dull roar in the pub kept their exchange private. Then again, Upton wasn’t known for being particularly observant of others’ moods. Being so wrapped up by one’s ego must be rather smothering.
“Good to see you, Peter.” Steph was the master of quick recoveries. Otherwise Pennfield would’ve collapsed in something like 2014. “And not slumming it, making sure we have the whole crew on board. We’re stoked for tomorrow.”
“Glad you are. But there’s a problem in the hotel. Robert is having a meltdown. He’s too drunk. The tabloids will have a field day. Again.” His thin face was exceedingly tan, as if holding on to the USC film school vibe he’d perfected to a T. He hid his receding hairline under an ever-present red baseball cap. Only twenty-seven, he was the lucky-ass prodigy of Hollywood—for now. He had as much hinging on this project as anyone. Many banked that his blockbuster success wouldn’t last, that he was too young and too full of himself. And enjoyed a little too much cocaine.
Steph took a gulp of her Diet Coke that only Kyle interpreted as a tiny sign of nerves. “Robert Durant has three assistants. Aren’t they holding his hand?”
“I want one of you to handle it.” Peter was in full-on pout mode. “I don’t want him hungover on the first day. He’s a fucking prima donna, and his shit is the last thing we need.”
We. An interesting word, Kyle thought.
Prima donna. That was interesting too.
What an asshole.
He leaned away from the table, one arm hitched over the back of his chair. “We’ll handle it,” he said calmly. Steph was the public face, but Kyle was the money. And the heavy.
Peter looked down at Kyle with a tiny smirk. “If you don’t, losing Durant could shut this whole show down. I won’t work without him.”
“You won’t work without our cash either.” Pennfield was a relatively new production company, but Kyle’s money helped, as did the backers he brought in through his family connections.
Steph flashed a grin as bright as the Christmas lights strung along the ceiling in a checkerboard pattern. “I think what my crabby-as-hell partner means is, I’ll take care of it. Rest easy, Peter.”
The man glared at such an undeniable dismissal, but he left anyway.
“You could’ve handled that with a little more tact.”
“Nah. Score one for being rude. I don’t like it, but you know how the game is played. One half smooth as cream, one half flaming gasoline.” He finished his beer. “You’re the cream, Miss Penn.”
“You’re full of shit. You do like it. It’s the only time you let loose.” The laugh in her voice took the sting out of the accusation. “Just . . . watch it. We need him too.”
Kyle offered her a chagrined nod. He stretched his aching neck and happened to glance toward the front door of the pub.
And froze. Solid. Except for his heart, which kicked up speed like a jet barreling down a runway.
Steph caught the direction of his gaze and turned. “Oh, cool. The stunt team. Maybe at least one of them won’t be gay. You may be a complete stick-in-the-mud, but I’d at least like second base tonight.”
“Bull,” he said past a desert-dry throat. “You never go to bat without scoring.”
“Quippy gay man with his sports lingo. Nice.”
“C’mon. Let’s go introduce ourselves. Talking on the phone isn’t the same.”
Kyle followed her lead, standing. His legs were like barn-door hinges left too long without oil. “Sure.”
Across the crowded pub, his gaze locked with Nate’s. Shock registered on that nearly familiar face as plainly as a volcano bursting. Nate hadn’t known who backed Pennfield Productions. He’d only ever dealt with Stephanie during negotiations.
Closely shorn dark-blond hair with short, neat sideburns. Canny blue eyes so pale as to be almost silver. Rough features, but classically proportioned, with a brawny bruiser’s body suited to a Special Ops stud.
Or an ex-con who made his living defying death.
He wore a midnight-blue wool coat over a white shirt, open to reveal the lean, toned muscle of his neck. Dark jeans clung to thick thighs, and Doc Martens boots added to his bad-boy cool. Only when Kyle and Steph wove closer, pulse slamming in his ears, did he see a new tattoo. Pure black, it climbed like fire to lick beneath Nate’s right ear—like an intentional arrow pointing toward his small diamond stud.
He’d never been afraid of wielding his sexuality like a machete.
Kyle swallowed. They stood close enough that he could smell a hint of aftershave. And the scent of the boy he’d once known—the angry, clever boy who’d matured into such a toughened man.
A golden-blond man with a distinct resemblance to Robert Durant stood next to him. Probably the stunt double. Kyle only noticed him when Steph shook his hand.
She turned toward Nate next. “Mr. Carnes. I recognize you from your stunt reel. So good to meet you in person. Let me introduce my business partner, Kyle Wakefield.”
“What the fuck are you doing here?”
The minute the words left Nate’s mouth, he knew how goddamned rude they sounded. It’d be pretty hard to miss. Kyle Wakefield was more than a ghost from Nate’s past. He was a demon. Someone he’d thought himself well quit of.
Confronting that demon meant all bets were off.
Jesus, the man had always known how to wear a suit. Charcoal pinstripe, complete with a slim, narrow-collared vest. Tailored. Of course it was tailored. Showing off the body Nate had once known intimately.
Nate sure as hell hadn’t expected to see Kyle in London.
Then it dawned. Cold and trickling, like the growing realization of a bad, bad day when things just kept getting worse. Wakefield. Pennfield. The way Stephanie Penn, with whom Nate had conducted three teleconferences, was looking back and forth between Nate and Kyle. Her partner.
Odds and ratios. The distance to the door. How fucking fast could he be up on the tables? The entire densely packed crowd of genial people calculated into how quickly he could jet. He’d be gone. Betraying, hiding Kyle Wakefield would see no more than the soles of Nate’s DMs.
Except Second Chances needed this gig. Ethan Raney, Nate’s closest friend since prison, stood at his side, heading up their small crew. Doing stunts for a Peter Upton picture would make them once and for all. There was no other reason Nate would drag his team all the way to merry fucking England.
Kyle smiled. He’d never been exactly handsome. His features were bluntly rounded, with lines carving around his mouth. Those full lips though—they were enough to plant dirty ideas in a man’s mind. Especially when he knew what pleasure Kyle was capable of offering.
“Nice to see you too, Nathan.”
Stephanie’s eyes narrowed. She was an attractive woman, if one went in for the overdone look. And women. “You two know each other?”
“Well now, that’s a matter of interpretation,” Nate drawled. He flicked his jacket back, which was rapidly becoming too warm in the closely packed pub. The fireplace at the far end didn’t help. “I used to know someone named Kyle Wakefield. Turned out I knew someone entirely different than the rest of the world.”
Kyle’s eyes were brown. Just brown. Not rich or fathomless. But once, they’d been so special. Nate couldn’t look away.
“Is that really at issue right now?” Kyle asked with the same everybody please love me geniality he’d had all those years ago.
Nate ground his teeth. “You tell me. Does Ms. Penn know you like dropping to your knees and—”
“That’s more than enough,” Kyle said. “If you don’t mind, Steph, apparently we need to adjourn to my office and discuss a few things.”
The blonde looked stunned. “Apparently you do. I’ll fix things with Robert and wardrobe.”
Kyle nodded, then wrapped his hand around Nate’s upper arm. Raney tweaked his chin toward the door in a silent inquiry, but Nate waved him off.
Through the dark-paneled pub, up a narrow stairwell, and down to a single door, Nate let himself be herded. Upstairs, the large multi-use space stretched the entire length of the narrow building. A pool table at one end contrasted with three tables pushed together piled with papers and half a dozen computers. Midway along the room was a grouping of couches that faced a seven-foot screen, probably for running dailies.
Most of all, it was private. Quiet. Through the wooden floorboards and scattered rugs came the muted hum of patrons downstairs. Up here, there was no one except him and Kyle. No sound but their breathing.
Nate curled his fingers into fists at the small of his back. “Your partner. In business?”
Edgy, still stunned, Nate ranged toward the front of the room. Two slender windows pointed toward the hotel where he’d agreed to stay for the next month. Most importantly, he wasn’t looking at Kyle. That moment to recover his bearings was priceless. But he could feel the weight of the other man’s gaze on his nape.
“Have you broadened your horizons, then? Used to be you had very narrow tastes.”
“Still do.” Kyle’s voice was hoarse. Almost as if he gave a shit.
Nate had been with plenty of guys over the years—only one in the joint, despite prison’s reputation. Didn’t mean he’d ever forgotten Kyle’s mouth, neither those lips nor the wet heat. More than that, though. The way he’d made Nate feel like the center of the world.
“I need this job,” he found himself saying unwillingly. “I’ve got five of my best drivers, our parkour specialists, and Jimmy, our pyro guy. We turned down two other jobs. The outlay in time alone . . .”
“You’ve got the job.”
“Then why the hiding?”
There were a few quiet footsteps. The shifting of cloth and fine wool. “Would you have taken it if you knew I was involved?”
Nate turned. A punch to the gut all over again. Kyle had stripped his jacket. A slim gray vest hugged his trim waist. His shoulders had filled out, wider and thicker. The crisp white dress shirt gleamed in the low light.
Out of Nate’s league. He had been, even when they were in school. That had been a hard lesson learned, but Nate had never thought himself dumb. Slow, maybe. Yet he’d been stupidly deluded by Kyle’s insistence that so long as they were together, everything would be fine.
His feet moved him toward Kyle, who held his ground. When they were alone, he held firm. They’d come together like two boxers going toe to toe. Not making love.
“I don’t much care for working with two-faced assholes,” Nate said quietly.
Kyle lifted his chin. He never smelled like anything so simple as soap. Expensive cologne made of musk and spice. “Nine years is a long time.”
“You’re right.” Nate nodded with mock understanding. He was close enough that the small movement brought his mouth in line with Kyle’s. The wash of breath over lips made him think of how hot they used to burn. “So maybe I should check in first. Downstairs, did you cut me off because I was rude as fuck? Or does everyone else think the pretty blonde bounces on your dick every night?”
“Stephanie has her own partners.”
“That’s not an answer.”
Kyle licked his lips. Pink tongue, pink lips. Brown eyes, however, remained steady. “I keep my private life private.”
Nate understood keeping things quiet sometimes, when necessary. But when a man had a trust fund, a Yale education, and all the privileges available in life . . . he didn’t understand. His top lip peeled back from his teeth. “Yeah,” Nate said. “If that’s what you want to call it.”
“I’m trying to do you a favor here, to make the right impression.” Kyle’s wide shoulders were tense beneath the pristine cloth. “Don’t be like this.”
“You led me around by the dick in high school, but I’m not your little bitch.” He framed Kyle’s jaw. The sharp bristle of evening growth abraded his palm. The tender flesh under Kyle’s chin was meant for the press of a man’s fingers. “Or maybe you can convince me that your financial beneficence is completely unlike your parents’ methods of buying the world.”
Kyle’s tendons twitched, but he didn’t pull away. “We each have a job to do here.”
“You’re playing an angle.”
“It’s called being a professional. And you’re doing really good work with your company.”
Nate locked down against the greedy impulse to take that as a real compliment. He’d learned after three years on the inside that ex-cons didn’t always get good breaks. Not only did future employers look on a record with disdain, it was a different kind of life. Freer. No regimen to keep the restlessness at bay. Adjustment was slow. People who didn’t understand failed to provide the necessary help, which meant more offenders back behind bars.
So Nate had combined the adrenaline he used to get from boosting cars with a better purpose. Stunts. Then he’d set out to hire as many cons as he could reasonably train. They turned out to be excellent stunt people.
Having little to lose helped.
Nate had Second Chances, which meant that pushing made no sense. He couldn’t risk this gig.
Well, shouldn’t risk it. Kyle went to his head. His cock too.
Nate set his jaw. “That’s not an answer.”
“I need a Maserati to barrel past Big Ben. It’s not a bullshit stunt, and neither are the others. They’re big. The whole project is big. I need the best.” Kyle’s dark eyes narrowed. “Steph thought you were it too. It wasn’t just me. If we were wrong, say the word. We’ll find someone new.”
“Don’t you dare.”
Kyle lifted his eyebrows, carving lines across his forehead. “Or what?”
Jesus, Nate knew that look. That challenge. They’d spent two years hiding in Kyle’s fancy, so-huge bedroom. Sweaty and sticky, wrapped up in each other’s bodies. All because of challenges thrown down and picked up again. Seeing it repeated, now all grown up, punched Nate in the small of his back. Tense pleasure.
He took Kyle’s mouth. The lips he’d missed were soft under his. He couldn’t call it a kiss because it was all explosion. They stroked together, all teeth and tongues and taste. Kyle was bitter beer and memories. Kissing him was like taking back a piece of his youth, when Nate still thought he could be everything Kyle had hoped.
Before Nate had figured out he had a hard-on for self-sabotage.
Which had to be why he was pressing Kyle back toward the center of the long, open room. His hands folded around the other man’s face. Abrading and harsh and rough. They bumped against a leather couch.
Leather against Kyle’s ass.
Nate drove his fingers into rich honey-brown hair. Pulled his mouth back. “Is this what you want? Is this what you were after?”
“Really?” He stroked his knuckles down Kyle’s body. Warm cloth. Probably not cotton, but something fancier than Nate knew. He was tending to more important matters, like unfastening cool buttons and Kyle’s belt. “Because you feel like you’re ready.”
Kyle’s cock was hard—more than hard, swelling against the inside of his fancy trousers. A kiss of precome already dampened the material. But the elegant man didn’t bow. His spine didn’t curve. “It’s been a while. Apparently my prick isn’t very particular.”
Nate curled his fingers around that girth. “You always did like dark alleys.”
Kyle only raised an eyebrow.
In his mind, Nate cussed at his idiocy. He was a fucking idiot, because he’d hoped Kyle would deny slumming. Kyle only shoved his hands up the back of Nate’s shirt and kissed him.
That was Kyle Wakefield, stubborn to the damn end.
Wrong. So much of this was a bad idea. Mixing business and pleasure rarely worked, even before Nate added the fact that he was kissing his ex-boyfriend—and dropping to his knees before his ex-boyfriend.
Belt and zipper parted.
Dumb, stupid, idiotic moron.
Moron with his hands full of cock.
Kyle had the fattest cock Nate had ever gotten his hands on, made for filling a man’s mouth and taking over his airway. The slit welled with a drop of pre-come that Nate licked away. He looked up Kyle’s body. Bulky and brutal while dressed in what remained of that fine, well-cut suit.
Nate might be in the supplicant’s position, but one glance at Kyle’s face revealed that the man was lost. His brown eyes were dark and wide. Shell-shocked. His hands shook the slightest bit as he held them out above Nate’s head.
For a moment he thought Kyle might pull away. Push him off. An interesting test of wills. Then Kyle’s shaft twitched upward, toward where Nate’s mouth hovered over the fat, plum-shaped head.
Nate licked, starting at Kyle’s base, with the tip of his tongue in the short-trimmed pubic hair. He traveled all the way up to the defined ridge and line beneath the slit. His mouth filled with the salty taste of skin and man. Smooth hands came down on the back of his head. Gently. Tentatively.
Win. So much made of win that Nate thought he could come in his own jeans.
Not happening though. He’d hold off to the very last, because he had to report to Kyle the next day. On the set, producers were more like gods than bosses.
No way was Nate showing up for work without the fresh memory of his cock up Kyle’s ass.
For about three seconds, Kyle was able to filter the situation through some semblance of logic. It shouldn’t feel this powerful or this insanely special. Not after nine years apart. Other lovers should’ve been able to erase—
Then Nate sucked. His cheeks hollowed as he pulled the head of Kyle’s cock between his lips. He swirled his tongue in powerful strokes and flicks, paying special attention to the sensitive ridge underneath.
Kyle couldn’t help tightening his hands. He speared into short, silky dark-blond hair. Gripped. Kneaded. He didn’t so much intend to guide Nathan, although it might have read that way. He took more and more of Kyle’s hard-on into the hot, unforgiving pleasure of his mouth. No, Kyle held tight in order to stay standing, to stay in control of emotions that had erupted upon seeing the lover he’d never been able to forget.
The ending he’d never stopped regretting.
He grabbed harder.
With his hands clutching the backs of Kyle’s thighs, Nate rolled his eyes closed. Kyle had been waiting for this moment. The attitude and hesitation slipped away—all the distrust they’d never been able to get past. When his eyes closed and his throat relaxed, Nate meant it. Meant to shatter Kyle’s mind.
Maybe that was why, back in high school, Kyle always believed they had a chance. There were times when Nate let him in, and not just sexually.
Old anger made Kyle rougher. He pushed ferociously. His prick hit the back of Nate’s throat. Both moaned. Kyle dropped his head back. He knew the ceiling was up there, but he saw nothing. Felt nothing other than Nate’s viselike hands and his mouth, poised in that gorgeous middle ground between slack and gripping intent.
Nate popped off. “I’m going to swallow your come, Kyle. You’ll give it to me and I’ll suck it into me.” His icy blue gaze reached up, all mocking arrogance. “You want that.”
“Yes,” Kyle hissed.
He tried to drag that tempting mouth back, but Nate’s strength of will was equal to his. Fucking hell. The thin, eager partner of his youth had matured into a man of brawn and power.
“Tell me.” Nate licked his lower lip.
“I want to come in your mouth. God, I want you to taste my come.”
“But you’re not going to return the favor,” he said, still stroking Kyle’s slick, engorged cock.
He would’ve been disappointed. Maybe Nate intended this as punishment or a power play. Yet Kyle recognized dirty fire and the telling smirk that made silent promises. Silent, beautiful threats. “I’m not?”
“No. I’m going to fuck your ass.”
Kyle sucked in a breath. Nate took the opportunity to increase the pace of his strokes. His fist was viciously tight. The prospect of coming in his mouth was slipping away. If Kyle didn’t hold it together, he’d jerk the fists of hair he held, expose Nate’s neck roped with tendons, and come all over that mysterious new tattoo.
“You think I’ll let you do that?”
“You will,” Nate said. “You’ll be begging for it by the time I have you stretched across that pool table. I want to fuck you while you wear that five-grand suit.” His grip eased a little. “Goddamn, you could always wear the hell out of a suit.”
Kyle only nodded. How was he supposed to take that almost offhanded remark? Compliment? Insult? The tone of Nate’s voice sank it right between the two.
“Now lean back.” He pushed Kyle to arch his spine against the couch back. To offer support. To thrust Kyle’s dick out like a spear. Nate, still on his knees, resumed the dizzying blowjob. He was ferocious now. Licking, sucking, ringing his fingers and stroking.
Kyle was losing it. Especially as his mind floated on the promise of Nate’s fat prick up his ass. Mere moments away.
“Jesus.” He stretched his arms along the back of the couch for balance. “Take it, Nate. Deeper. I need it all. Everything you can wring out of me. Let me fuck your beautiful face. I want you so goddamn stiff when you push into my ass. I want to feel how much this affects you. I can see it in your eyes. Take it.”
He jerked his hips. Thrusting hard. No mercy. No fear that Nate couldn’t handle the force. He always had, like a dare. A test of their wills. That made it better. The complete freedom to take what he wanted. No politeness or reserve. Each drive hit the back of Nate’s throat, jolting Kyle’s swollen, aching head. Every ridge and vein disappeared between his lover’s taut lips.
“Now, Nate. Now. Swallow me. Take it all. Ah, fuck . . .”
He exploded in a rush of pleasure. The edges of his vision dimmed to black. All he could see was the clear, wicked blue of Nate’s eyes. Kyle focused on that color. It was that or lose his goddamn mind. Come spurted from his dick, and just as he’d promised and taunted, Nate gulped it all. His throat worked over a single swallow. He gagged a little, which shot an extra burst through Kyle’s brain.
As if he’d won.
Nate surged off his knees. “My turn.”
Kyle couldn’t resist being dragged toward the pool table, having been blasted by one of the best orgasms of his life. Nate’s arms were more robust with muscle, fueled by the unspent desire blazing in his eyes.
He found himself pushed face-first onto green felt. Breathless. Lungs hot. Anticipating all over again, despite the release that had ripped out his spine. He wanted Nate’s power. That same lack of mercy.
“Arms out,” Nate said sharply. “Grab the sides of the table. Don’t you fucking let go. Understand?”
“I want ‘yes, sir’ out of you while I’m pounding your ass. That’s what you get to give me. Big, bad producer calling the ex-con ‘sir.’”
Kyle suppressed the unease that scraped in his stomach. Not about calling Nate “sir.” They’d played that way before, so long ago. Master and servant. Top and bottom. The truth remained that they’d loved the switch. Power given and power relinquished. No, his unease came because of how angrily Nate had issued his command.
Logic rocketed away again. Nate yanked Kyle’s trousers and boxer briefs down to his knees. Shirttails tickled his low back. But it was his ass, naked and exposed, that claimed Kyle’s attention.
Nate’s hands roamed over and around, under tense hips. “Relax,” came a soothing whisper. “Relax, Kyle.”
It was the first time all night Nate had used his name, and so quietly. Kyle exhaled slowly and eased into the supporting strength of the pool table.
“Yes, sir,” he breathed.
“Oh, God, that’s good. And your ass. So good.” Nate slipped his fingers up the line between Kyle’s cheeks, then grabbed, then pulled them apart. “This rosebud is mine, isn’t it?”
For a second Kyle was bereft as Nate fished through his pockets for a condom—a harsh reminder of other lovers. Other casual fucks. Squeezing his eyes shut, Kyle forced himself to stay in the moment. This was a one-time thing, an explosion of passion to cap off nine years of anger. Give it a little vent, if only so they could work together.
“Lube?” Nate asked. “Anywhere?”
“Steph’s desk is there, closest. Maybe lotion or Vaseline.”
Nate strode across the room. He was still fully clothed, leaving Kyle in such a deliberately vulnerable position. He rifled through Steph’s drawers and made a sound of approval. “You’ll have to buy her a new tube of lip balm.”
Nate grinned, so filthy and lovely. “Watch yourself, Kyle. You’ll slip on set tomorrow. I’ll have you well-trained in a manner of minutes.”
A quick swat to his ass broke the shimmering silence. “Watch it, rich boy. No one approves of language like that.”
Nate took position behind him. Jeans rubbed against Kyle’s bare ass in a slow grind. “Yes, I do. I bring out the worst in you. Always have. Just . . . look at you.”
There. Definite wonder. No condescension or mockery. Nate petted from thighs to low back, softly, while Kyle soaked in that unexpected tenderness.
That pause amid the storm ended with the sound of a zipper yanked down. Kyle looked back as Nate slipped on the condom, then squeezed the tube of gel lip balm along his huge prick.
“You’re bigger,” he said, unable to hide his aroused awe.
“Hell yes, I am. Can you take it?”
“Hell yes. Sir.”
A nudge. Prick against anus. Just a hello. Just like their reunion down in the pub, the niceties were brief. Nate shoved two lubed fingers into Kyle’s tight opening. He gasped and curled his hands around the edges of the billiard table. He looked back, however, not wanting to miss a glimpse of Nate’s face. He gave Kyle so little, but he would give him the expressions that couldn’t be stifled.
Nate took no time in establishing a quick rhythm. He thrust so fast and hard, his forearm taut with power, that Kyle cried out. Quick. Quick. Quick. Nate bared his teeth. His lids narrowed to slits where the ice blue of his eyes had darkened. Pain and pleasure fused in Kyle’s nerves as each of those ramming drives stroked his prostate.
The dazzling agony stopped short. Fingers gone in such a rush. Kyle moaned against his shoulder. But Nate wasn’t gone, not by any means. His prick took the place of his fingers. No hello this time. A sleek thrust that rocked Kyle’s hips against the table and his cheek against the felt. Another gasping cry as his body attempted to compensate for the sudden violation.
“So, rich man.” Nate’s plunging force accelerated. “You always loved a bit of rough. Slumming it again.”
Unprompted. Nothing mattered other than the gritting bliss of being what Nate needed. Kyle would rather hack off his own foot than cry mercy as his lover fucked him with complete abandon.
Nate’s breath rasped. His face had contorted around a grimace of need. His fingers pinched the flesh of Kyle’s ass. Digging. Holding him in place.
“The windows are open, Kyle. We’re right here. Do you think anyone in the hotel across the street can see us? Two bodies humping like animals. Would you like that?”
Another grim, sharp smack. “Tell the truth. Here, at least. You owe me that.”
Kyle closed his eyes. To be that free. To flip the bird to the whole world and let Nate ravish him without shame. Good God, what would that be like? A release more total than the one he’d shot down Nate’s throat.
“Yes, sir. I want them to see you fuck me.”
Nate groaned as if Kyle had said the right thing. “You always took cock like a goddamn pro. How does my big prick feel? Am I hurting you?”
That wasn’t a question of concern. It was gloating. Teasing. Kyle lifted his head from the green felt and angled his gaze back. Nate watched him with an avid intensity that stirred up too many emotions.
“You feel amazing, sir.” He grunted at one particular stab of that massive cock. “You’re as hard as I’d hoped when you were on your knees. Ready to own me.”
“Yes,” Nate hissed. “Own you.”
The pace picked up until their lower bodies slapped in a sharp, sweaty rhythm that blended with grunts and force. Nate bowed closer, ripped at Kyle’s shirt. Buttons flew free. Tense fingers dug into the meat of his pecs. Nate held on as his prick swelled and gathered bursting energy.
Kyle never opened his hands, although he wanted to wrap his arms back around Nate’s neck. He wanted another kiss. Not the way of it, though. They were the detonation of a grenade.
But Nate arched him anyway. He pulled Kyle back, bending his spine. “Don’t let go,” he whispered, breathless now. “I own you, remember. Anything I want . . . as I fuck you. I’ll bend you in half if I want to. Are you . . . Shit, Kyle . . . are you hard again?”
Nate swallowed roughly. “Another orgasm and your come will be . . . all over this pool table. You won’t be able to look at it without . . . remembering how I rode you. Me . . . Oh fuck. Hear me, Kyle?”
“Yes, sir. You. Please, make me come again.”
Nate released his grip and twitched Kyle’s hips back from the table to get enough room. With both hands he grabbed Kyle’s prick and yanked, stroked, slapped that full flesh—in perfect time with his blasting thrusts.
“You first,” he rasped. “I want to know I won twice.”
“No, sir. I win. Jesus . . . I’m going again.” Kyle’s mind fizzled as another climax shuddered through his body. Despite its weakness, it was no less amazing. He hadn’t been able to come back-to-back like that since he was a teenager.
Nate’s grinding intensity bordered on pain now. His face was a mess of need before his lips parted on a strangled gasp. He forced one last unrelenting push, so greedy and merciless that Kyle bit his lower lip to keep from revealing how much it cost him. In the best way, he craved that sharp, searing sting. He’d given his all to scramble Nate’s brains, to provide a release he wouldn’t be able to forget when their gazes met the next morning.
Nate shuddered and collapsed across Kyle’s limp body. Both of them breathed as if they’d run five miles flat out. Sweat soaked the back of Kyle’s shirt.
He chuckled. “Can I let go now?”
To his surprise, Nate smiled and nuzzled his neck. “Yes, sir.”
Laughter shook from one panting chest into the other. Back and forth. That trade of satisfaction that never got old.
Kyle released the pool table and stretched his fingers. He did what he’d wanted to do in the midst of their wild time. He looped his arm back around Nate’s neck and pulled him around for a kiss. Gentler now, spent, but powerful in different ways. They’d always been their most vulnerable in these moments after the passion was sated. That was when they’d made quiet, nighttime promises.
Those promises never quite made it to the light of day.
Before Kyle could travel too far down that dark road, Nate swept damp hair back from his temple. “But now the party’s over.”
He stood and withdrew, quickly ditching the condom in a covered trash can. At least he had that much consideration for Kyle’s life. He zipped up, ran fingers through his hair once again, and grinned. “Nice one, boss. Worth writing home about.” His lips curled into a sneer. “Oh, wait. I forgot that’s not your thing.”
Kyle pushed off the table, making some attempt to neaten his appearance. “You had to fuck up something good, didn’t you? Christ, Nate. Some things never change.”
Nate flipped him off, then blew a kiss before turning toward the door.
A sharp, impatient knock stopped them both cold.
“Kyle?” came Steph’s voice. “Hey, you in here?”
Without so much as a blink, Nate didn’t hesitate when he opened the door. “Miss Penn. Great to see you again.” He glanced back toward Kyle. “We were finishing up. Have a good time sorting this one out, boss.”
With Nate gone, Kyle thought he might be able to exhale. No such luck. Steph’s expression was dark and angry, so at odds with her usually sunny personality.
She eyed him from head to toe. Kyle knew exactly what she’d see: a guy who’d been fucked well.
“Tell me that wasn’t him,” she said. “The him. And tell me you didn’t know it was him from the start. Because those are the sorts of things a trusted friend and partner would be able to tell me.”
“I couldn’t. I can’t.”
Graceful steps were made rigid as she met him face-to-face. “For years I’ve encouraged you to find guys to hook up with. So yay. I’m glad you got your rocks off. Finally.” Her blue eyes narrowed. “But you pick now? With the head of a stunt crew everyone already thinks is risky? Don’t ruin this for both of us, Kyle. We’ve worked too hard.”
The tightness in his chest had eased briefly in those gasping, laughing moments after his spectacular finish with Nate. It was back now, sharp and clawing.
No one has it all.
“It’s done, Steph.” His voice was rough, laced with that same tightness. “It’s been done for nine years.”
“Doesn’t look it.”
He straightened his tie and smoothed a hand over his hair. “Believe me. This was just the proof I needed.”
Came Upon a Midnight Clear is my favorite MM Romance story. . . . [T]he authors did an excellent job developing the characters, creating an interesting supporting cast, and making Kyle’s and Nathan’s love believable. As a reader, we get to cheer for them until the very end.
It’s kind of a different take on a fluffy, feel good Christmas story, and it’s worth a read.