Authors: Shira Anthony
Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #Contemporary, #Gay, #General
“That would be great.”
“Perhaps you like to use the telephone while I get it for you?”
Cary stared blankly at Antonio.
“You know,” Antonio continued, “if there is a person who might… ah—” He struggled to find the word. “—worry for you?”
“No,” Cary answered as understanding came. “I’m fine. There’s nobody.”
Worry about me?
Other than a geezer of an agent and a brother halfway around the world?
Justin would care. In fact, he would worry a lot. They were brothers, after all. But Cary didn’t want to bother him and his family. And Georges, Cary’s agent, would have a cow when he learned Cary had broken his wrist, but only because he’d need to cancel a few months of gigs while it healed. Yeah, he’d have to tell the idiot at some point, but why rush it?
He thought briefly of Roberta.
She’s your housekeeper. What does she care if you stay away for a few nights? It’s not like you haven’t before.
But he knew he was lying to himself. Roberta was far more than an employee. He’d call her after he’d had a chance to rest. He’d tell her he was spending the night out so she wouldn’t worry.
Something akin to compassion or maybe pity flashed through Antonio’s eyes, but he said only, “Please. Use the bed. I will bring you the medicine.”
Cary was almost asleep when Antonio came back into the room with a glass of water and a few pills. “This will help with pain,” he told Cary. “I will arouse you when dinner is ready.”
“Mmm,” Cary murmured, repressing a grin in response to Antonio’s faulty turn of phrase. It wasn’t all that difficult to control himself, since he was damn near asleep already and his wrist hurt like hell. Still, the thought made for some very sweet dreams.
Connor?” The voice was like chocolate. Better, maybe. Deep and sexy.
Cary kept his eyes closed. He wanted Antonio to say it again. Something like “Coh-noor,” only hotter. If his wrist didn’t hurt so fuck-shit-damn much, he’d definitely have flirted with the guy by now. Or at least attempted it.
As if he’d be interested.
“Signor Taylor? Dinner is prepared. Are you well enough to come to the table?”
Cary decided what he wanted, what he
, was to hear Antonio speaking Italian. Not that the guy’s English wasn’t good, but he could just imagine that sinful bass-baritone voice speaking the world’s sexiest language. It would mean tipping his hand a little, but he had a few cover stories he used at the bars, along with the phony name. He hadn’t planned on sharing more about himself than was absolutely necessary, but hearing Antonio speak to him in Italian was more than worth a bit of the truth.
. But I’m fine. Is there something I can help you with?” Cary answered in nearly flawless Italian.
Antonio’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, and he responded in kind. “I didn’t know you spoke Italian. And you speak it so well.”
Oh so worth it.
“My mom’s family was Italian, so I decided to come here after graduate school,” Cary said. “I liked it so much I decided to stay. I’ve been in Milan about five years now.”
It wasn’t that far from the truth. He had come here to study at twenty-four, the year his trust account had become his own, free from his attorneys’ control. The profits from several recordings had been enough to buy the apartment, and he earned enough from his performing gigs to pay for living expenses and Roberta’s salary and still put some money away for a rainy day. And with a broken wrist, he figured it was pouring right about now.
The thought made Cary’s stomach turn. He didn’t want to think about reality. Not yet, at least. He decided instead to focus on the attractive man standing by the bed, looking at him with concern.
Antonio offered him a hand as he sat up. There was nothing overtly sexual in the touch, but Cary liked the contact. His gaze tracked a line from Antonio’s hand to his bicep, visible beneath his silk shirt, and his mind wandered. He imagined trailing his lips over the taut skin and inhaling Antonio’s scent.
Stop it. You don’t even know if the guy’s gay, let alone interested.
A quick inventory of his aches and pains and Cary decided he felt pretty good, all things considered. The meds had tamed the pain beast in his arm, as well as his chin and back, where he had been kicked. Using the bed for support, he stood up. His head spun, and he instinctively reached for Antonio’s arm.
“Better?” Antonio asked after a moment.
“Better. Just a little dizzy.”
He continued to grip Antonio’s arm until he regained his bearings. This close, he could smell Antonio’s scent on the air. He breathed it in as he tried to place it. Fresh. Citrusy.
A small picture frame by the bed caught Cary’s eye. Antonio and another man, dark-haired, attractive, with a neatly trimmed beard. Arm in arm, smiling. Antonio looked very young—Cary guessed he couldn’t have been more than twenty-five in the photograph. In the background were colorful houses and water that looked almost green. The Mediterranean. Cary knew of no other place that looked quite like that.
“So,” Cary asked as he took a few more deep breaths, “were you coming from a bar when you found me the other night?” He knew full well the only places open in the area at three in the morning were gay bars.
Real subtle. Might as well ask him if he’s queer and just be done with it.
Antonio chuckled, and Cary felt his cheeks warm. “I was having drinks with friends at Uno. You know the place?”
Did he know the place? Of course he did. High-end gay bar. Expensive drinks. Good music.
“Sure. I’ve been there a few times. It’s a nice place.”
Just not for bathroom fucks.
“Yes,” Antonio said. “It’s a nice place.”
“I’m glad you were there.” Cary released Antonio’s arm. He didn’t really want to, but he wasn’t sure he could fight his body’s physical response if he stayed this close.
Antonio eyed Cary with concern, then asked, “Would you like to wash up before dinner? There’s soap and towels in the bathroom.”
“That’d be great, thanks.”
“If you’d like, I could go over to your apartment and pick up some clean clothing for you after we eat.” Antonio put his arm around Cary’s shoulder to steady him and switched on the bathroom light.
“That’s really not necessary.” Cary wasn’t sure how he’d explain the expensive apartment to Antonio, and he knew he wasn’t ready to face the new reality of his life. “I’m just going to be sleeping, anyhow. I’ll get some clean clothes tomorrow. Thanks, though.”
Antonio’s arm felt so good around him that Cary leaned into the broad chest without thinking.
God, he smells nice
, Cary thought again as Antonio helped him into the bathroom.
For a moment they just stood there in the doorway, Antonio clearly worried that Cary might pass out. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine, really. The dizziness is gone. I’m just a little tired, that’s all.”
“I’ll wait just outside. Let me know if you need me,” Antonio told him as he closed the door. He still spoke in Italian. Cary smiled at the realization that his Italian must have passed muster.
Cary walked over to the sink and caught a brief look at himself in the mirror above. He looked as bad, maybe worse than he had expected. His light-brown hair was greasy and his hazel eyes were bloodshot. He hummed to himself as he ran tentative fingers over the rainbow-colored bruise on his jaw, feeling a lump the size of his thumb.
He filled the sink with warm water and splashed it on his cheeks, then washed his face, a process made far more difficult with only one viable hand. (The doctor had given him strict orders not to get the cast wet.) Cary did his best to avoid his jaw, but it still hurt when he patted it with a towel a few minutes later. The soap smelled faintly of lime. Simple, understated. Much like the clothes Antonio wore—jeans with a powder-blue shirt.
Curious, he opened the mirrored cabinet. No fancy aftershaves, no medicine aside from a bottle of aspirin, a straight-edge razor and a package of blades, a badger-hair shaving brush, and a small container of shaving soap.
No-frills guy. Nice.
He liked his men that way: simple, straightforward, masculine. At least, when there
a choice. Lately, the pickings had been slim. He imagined wetting the brush and smearing soap all over Antonio’s jaw. He had never used an old-fashioned razor, but he pictured himself holding Antonio’s chin in one hand, the blade gliding over Antonio’s skin, the smell of lime in the air.
He emerged a few minutes later. Antonio stood up from the bed and offered him a clean shirt. “I thought you might like to change anyhow.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that. I’m not sure if I can manage it, though….” It would have been a great pickup line, but it was the truth—he really wasn’t sure he could pull his own close-fitting T-shirt off over the cast. It had been difficult enough for the nurse to help him put it back on at the hospital.
“Let me help you.” Antonio tossed the shirt onto his shoulder and helped Cary pull off the stained T-shirt. He held out a loose-fitting short-sleeved camp shirt much like the one he himself wore. “I thought this might be easier.”
The shirt was a bit large in the chest—Cary was leaner than Antonio, but at nearly six foot three, he was about the same height as Antonio—and the length was perfect. There was no doubt it was a better choice than a T-shirt, as it slid over the cast with ease. Cary allowed Antonio to button it closed. He couldn’t have done it anyhow, and the feel of Antonio’s fingers as they brushed his skin through the filmy fabric was wonderfully sensual.
Cary imagined those fingers on his chest, imagined Antonio taking one of his nipples between his thumb and forefinger and rolling it around. He shivered and looked up at Antonio’s face. Antonio’s jaw tightened, and Cary felt him pull abruptly away. He wondered if Antonio was feeling the same heat between them. But before Cary could respond, Antonio went to open the bedroom door and said, “Time for dinner.”
Dinner was a simple meal of pasta and chicken. “I love to cook,” Antonio admitted a bit sheepishly, “but I’m still learning. My mamma taught me the basics, but I’m nothing like she is.”
Cary watched as Antonio leaned over his plate and cut the chicken for him. For the second time that night, he felt the heat rise in his cheeks as he caught himself staring at the gap in the fabric of Antonio’s shirt in an effort to catch a glimpse of the skin beneath.
A broken wrist and you turn into a blushing Disney princess?
Antonio sat back down and waited for him to spear a piece of the meat. “Good?” he asked as Cary chewed.
It was horrible. Cary imagined how a bicycle tire might taste if it were doused in salt and butter and drowned in white wine. He did his best not to meet Antonio’s eager eyes and laughed to himself. The first Italian he had met who couldn’t cook.
So Mr. Perfect has an Achilles heel, after all.
“Delicious.” He tried to chew the rubbery meat without being too obvious. He was hardly going to complain, though. He was hungrier than he remembered having been in years.
“Really?” Antonio grinned.
Cary swallowed an overcooked pasta noodle, repressed a lust-inspired laugh, and hoped Antonio was better in bed than in the kitchen.
Now you’re really dreaming.
“So, Signor Taylor—”
“Please, call me Connor.”
“Connor, then,” Antonio said between sips of wine, “what do you do for a living?”
“Waiter. Not much else available for an unemployed musician to do in Milan.” Well, it was mostly true, Cary reasoned. He was definitely unemployed now. The thought scared him more than he’d admit.
Funny, Cary’s music had never been part of Connor. But Cary wanted Antonio to know about it. Of course, Connor had also never had a comfortable conversation with another man that didn’t revolve around sex.
“Music? Really? What instrument do you play?” Antonio’s interest seemed quite genuine.
“I studied composition.” This was true. Cary had majored in cello performance and minored in composition at New England Conservatory of Music, although he had never considered a career as a composer. He loved playing the cello too much.
The thought of the cello sitting in his apartment practice studio made Cary’s throat tighten. He wished he had some wine, but Antonio must have heard the doctor’s warnings about mixing the painkillers with alcohol, and had filled Cary’s glass with sparkling water instead.
“Do you like modern music, then?”
“Love it,” Cary answered. “Although I like the late romantic stuff just as much. I didn’t really discover modern music until I was in school. I love the challenge of it. You know, how it pushes the limits of what we’re used to hearing?”
This was also true. Cary’s friend and mentor, David Somers, had introduced Cary to modern music in his first year of college when he’d asked Cary to fill in on a new music program for the Chicago Symphony.