Authors: Alex Jace
by Alex Jace
Cover art ©
Table of Contents
As the wail of a police siren rose above the Saturday night crowds, Max dropped his cigarette on the pavement, ground it out with his heel and sauntered into the bar like he owned it.
The moment he stepped inside the heat hit him like a wall. The bar was crammed to the rafters. It was a smoky world of seething crowds; coloured lights swung across the crush of bodies, painting everything in vivid hues. Pounding music shook the floorboards underfoot.
Max took a deep breath, tasting perfume and smoke, and smiled. This was his hunting ground, as familiar to him as the streets where he’d grown up. Going out was the way he always blew off steam after work. He stretched lazily, letting the day’s tension melt away, and headed for the bar.
Thirty seconds into the crowd, a woman was already trying to catch his eyes. “Maybe later, sweetheart,” said Max as he deftly manoeuvred around the blonde. He smiled at her as he passed. There was nothing wrong with her; she was pretty enough, if you liked women. He was just getting bored with people giving him their numbers.
Max was good-looking and he knew it. He’d won the lottery for tall, blond and square-jawed. His smile could stop traffic at a hundred yards. He’d perfected his approach, his technique. He never had to go home alone. Which wasn’t as exciting as it should be. There was no fun in it any more—it was too easy. Tonight, he was looking for something a little more challenging.
He hit the bar for his first shot of the night, burning fire down his throat, and looked around to figure out his next score.
He must be getting jaded, because everyone looked the same to him: plastic people with plastic bodies, sipping plastic drinks from plastic glasses. Armies of women in short dresses and men in dress shirts. Forests of little cocktail umbrellas. All scattered among drifting smoke and heaving crowds. Max leaned his elbows on the bar, choosing to ignore the bartender checking him out, and wondered when he’d changed. When this had stopped doing it for him. Maybe he was getting old.
His eyes stopped on somebody. A guy at a table, waiting for a girl to return. Cute. Definitely cute. He was one of those brooding types, dark and sharp and lean, folded arms forbidding anybody to approach. Here with a girl, who—Max followed his gaze—was getting drinks at the bar.
The cute guy glanced at Max. Looked him up and down for a tingling moment that dragged on a fraction too long, a fraction too hot. Their eyes locked.
It hit Max then—that primal spark of attraction, the caveman urge to throw him down and fuck him. His grip tightened around his glass, his breath catching in his throat.
Then the cute guy looked away. His jaw clenched slightly. He kept his eyes resolutely off Max.
Max knew exactly what that was. It was a quickly stifled flash of desire.
When Max set his sights on getting somebody into bed he usually succeeded. He had a feeling this one might be trickier than usual. He downed his second shot with a grin and headed over.
Up close, his new friend was even more sharply handsome than Max had realised. He had bold cheekbones. Short dark hair. Striking dark eyes. Max would have put him somewhere in his twenties. He was all buttoned up in a way that just begged to be unbuttoned; seeing him so crisply pressed made Max want to rumple him up. He must be at least four inches shorter than Max, but he lifted his chin as Max approached, not intimidated, only the tightening of his folded arms betraying any reaction.
Max smiled, slow and warm. “I’m Max.”
Anybody else would have swooned. The cute guy said curtly, “She’s not interested.”
Max paused, stumped. “She’s not?” Then he remembered the girl at the bar. Oh. Right. He moved closer, deliberately looming over him, dragging those dark eyes up to his. “No, sweetheart. I’m not here for her—”
The eyes narrowed. “Don’t call me sweetheart.”
“—I’m here for you.”
“Me?” The cute guy stared at him.
Max couldn’t help smiling. It was hard to believe that nobody had ever told him how cute he was; maybe he just wasn’t used to other men getting this bold with him. “Yes. You. The one with the pretty eyes. The one who was checking me out.”
“I wasn’t—” The cute guy clamped his mouth shut and glared at him. The colour was rising in his face. Max grinned. “I was not checking you out.”
“Admit it. You were.” Max slid into the seat opposite. “Because you think I’m hot.”
“I don’t!” He was turning a fascinating shade of red. “I don’t—I’m not gay.”
“Sure you’re not. That’s why you just can’t take your eyes off me.” Max dragged his eyes slowly, deliberately up and down him, letting his gaze linger.
The cute guy reddened even more, shifting in his seat. “That’s not true.”
He was in serious denial. Max was certain he’d been checking him out; Max was good at knowing when people wanted him. “Hey, it’s okay. I get that all the time.” Max gave a casual shrug as the guy sputtered. “What’s your name?”
“That’s none of your business.” The cute guy scowled.
“Uh-huh.” This one was going to take persistence. “I get it. You don’t want anybody to know. That doesn’t have to be a problem. I can take you home and fuck you and nobody will ever find out. That way you get what you want with no consequences.”
“F—” His voice went up an octave. “I told you I’m not interested.”
Max’s smile grew. “In fact, we never have to see each other again afterward, so you can keep pretending you don’t want this. Which you obviously do.”
“I—” He was starting to stammer. Max almost felt sorry for him.
Footsteps behind him warned him that the girl from the bar was coming back with drinks. She looked cool and elegant in a simple white dress, her hair a chocolate colour. She put their drinks down, raised one eyebrow as she looked him over, then said, “Friend of yours, Arjen?”
Max grinned. Success. His mystery man had a name. “Actually, I was just telling Arjen that I think he’s—”
“We’re friends from work,” Arjen said hastily.
Oho. Arjen did not want his lady friend to know that Max was trying to pick him up. “Absolutely,” said Max. “Great friends.” He winked at Arjen, who smouldered steadily. “Arjen, buddy, you never told me—is that name German?”
“Dutch,” said Arjen through his teeth. “My family is Dutch.” He glared at Max, which Max shrugged off; he shouldn’t have lied, it had backed him into a corner. Now he couldn’t get rid of Max.
The brunette completed her inspection of Max, and decided to smile. “I’m Cate Kelly. It’s nice to meet you. So you’re another new solicitor?”
Arjen put his head in his hands. His lie was backfiring; Max was enjoying every moment. “I’m Max,” said Max cheerfully. “And yes, I am. Just like Arjen.”
He seized on this opportunity to find out all about Arjen—he even managed to get Cate to tell him Arjen’s birthday while Arjen simmered in silence. Max touched him once or twice, passing it off as nothing, and enjoyed the sharp intakes of breath, the glances away.
When Cate went to sit down, Max took that excuse to shift closer to Arjen to make room for her. Close enough to put his hand on Arjen’s under the table.
Arjen stiffened, his whole body rigid with tension. When Max stroked the back of his hand with his thumb, Arjen’s breath caught. The touch was brief but intense; it made Max tingle all over, so God knew what it was doing to Arjen. Arjen stayed frozen as Max coaxed his fingers to uncurl so Max could take his hand.
His hand was warm. Tempting. An unexpected shiver ran through Max, the illicit thrill of holding Arjen’s hand under the table while Cate was oblivious. He was getting the strong impression that Arjen had never held hands with another man before. It was sweet.
Arjen seemed to remember then that he wasn’t supposed to like this; he tugged his hand away. Encouraged, Max boldly ran a hand up his thigh and squeezed.
He was unprepared for the surge of lust that hit him. The feel of hard, lean muscle under his palm riveted his attention. He suddenly and intensely pictured that muscle flexing under his hands as he held his thighs apart and drove into him. The way Arjen would tighten around him, the sounds Arjen would make. His temperature rose and for a second he teetered on the brink of just throwing Arjen down and fucking him right here on the table.
Arjen jumped under his hand with an undignified squeak. Max took his hand back, not at all fazed. Scoring was about pushing boundaries, always testing to see what he could get away with. He bet he’d be feeling Arjen up a lot more by the end of the night.
Arjen was totally flustered now; he couldn’t look at Cate. “I’m—I’m going to call it a night.”
“Everything all right?” Cate reached out and touched his arm, her dark head bent toward his.
“Yes. Fine. Just not in the mood.”
Max waited with a smug smile as the two parted outside the bar. Arjen fidgeted the whole time he was saying goodbye. Cate kissed him on the cheek, pulled her white coat around her and melted into the shadows of the street, leaving him alone with Max.
The night had turned crisp as the hour ticked past midnight. The bar stood high above the rest of the city, and the hollow beneath them cupped a million tiny lights in its hands. Far above them the stars were out in force.
“Is she your girlfriend?” Max had been wondering. He hadn’t picked up on any attraction between them, but it would explain why Arjen was trying so desperately to resist temptation.
“Housemate.” Arjen kept sneaking looks at him, half afraid, half hopeful. He was really testing Max’s self-control.
“Anybody else in the picture?”
“So there’s absolutely no reason not to do this. We’re both single. You want this. I want this.”
“I don’t…” Arjen trailed off and swallowed hard. He just needed a little bit more of a push.
“I get it. It’s scary when you’ve been hiding so long. It means facing up to everything you’ve always been afraid of. There’s no going back.”
“Yeah,” Arjen said, a little uneven.
“But you want it.”
Arjen drew in a sharp breath. Max stepped into his space; Arjen took a reflex step back and hit the wall. Max closed in ruthlessly and trapped him with a hand against the brick either side of his head. There. No escape.
Cornered, Arjen froze, his breathing quick and shallow. “I’m not—” He stopped to swallow, his eyes riveted to Max’s mouth. “I’m not gay.”
“Course not,” Max murmured, leaning in, his mouth just a fraction above his. It would be so easy to take that first taste. “So you’re not going to let me kiss you.”
“No.” His breath hitched in his throat. His eyes were so dark they were the same colour as the night.
Max tipped up his chin with his thumb, angling his face just right, and ghosted his mouth lightly across his, barely a touch at all. Arjen stopped breathing; his hands tightened into fists. Max bit that tempting lower lip ever so lightly, catching it briefly between his teeth. A promise and an invitation. Arjen made a tiny sound of hunger, his eyes fluttering shut, overcome.
“I’m going to kiss you now,” Max whispered against his mouth. “And you’re going to let me.” Arjen gave the tiniest of nods, eyes still shut.
Max dipped his head that last inch and captured his mouth. And gloriously, Arjen melted for him like he’d been made for it—he caught Max’s collar and kissed him back, eager, even desperate, mouth opening under his.
The sheer intensity of that first kiss took Max’s breath away. His heart hammered and he had to press closer, one hand fisting in Arjen’s shirt to keep him still. Arjen pulled him tighter against him, into a deeper kiss, and Max’s self-control short-circuited there and then. Max leaned into him and ground against him, wanting him to feel every inch of his hardness.
Arjen made a helpless sound of need. That was it; Max’s hunger surged so hot it tightened the pit of his stomach and all he could think of was getting his hands on him. Max slid a hand down between them and palmed the front of his jeans boldly, making him yelp, squeezed and stroked him until he had Arjen exactly where he wanted him, panting and desperate. Max wanted him so fucking badly he couldn’t get enough of him, his ragged breathing, the frantic beat of his heart, the way he kept clutching at Max. Max bit down on his throat as he squeezed hard, and Arjen arched into him with a stifled cry.
Oh, he was more than ready. The way Arjen was holding onto him it wouldn’t take much effort to persuade him to come home with him. Spend one sweet night giving him what he craved. Then never see him again.
No. As badly as Max wanted to push inside him, to feel his body clench tight around him, he couldn’t rush this. Max had learned that from experience. Always leave them wanting more.
It took a monumental effort of will, but Max let go. Stepped back. Left Arjen breathless and trembling, the colour high in his face.
Max had to swallow before he could speak. He was nearly as shaken as Arjen. “I’ll be back here tomorrow night. If I find you here, I’m going to suck you off, and I don’t want to hear a word out of you. Don’t want that? Don’t show up.”
Of course Max had to go home alone that night, but it was worth the anticipation of leaving Arjen there, dazed, a perfect setup for next time.