Authors: Barbara Elsborg
Tags: #MM;m/m;romantic suspense
“What do you think? Someone knocks and you answer. That’s what doors are for.”
“You have no idea who it is.”
“I don’t think murderers knock.” Maybe they just lie on the doorstep and wait.
Archer moved to the hinged side of the door as Conrad opened it. He looked like a cobra, tense and coiled, ready to strike.
Christ, did I frighten him saying that someone was trying to kill me?
Though he didn’t seem the type to be frightened.
Conrad didn’t recognize the guy who stood on the step. He was short and plump, his brown hair thinning on top but lush at the sides. He looked nothing like a murderer and Conrad had seen a few of those in court, though the dangerous ones generally looked the most innocent.
“Mr. Black? I work for the
. I wanted to talk to you about rescuing the surfer. I understand you’re recovering from an accident. Do you—?”
Archer slammed the door shut.
“Damn,” came the quiet comment from the other side of the door. “In case you change your mind, I’ll slip my card through the letterbox.”
It landed on the mat. Archer picked it up and ripped it in half. A moment later came the sound of a car engine starting and pulling away.
That was interesting. Conrad had no intention of talking to the press but it seemed Archer was even less keen.
“I could have been on the front page.” Conrad huffed. “My fifteen minutes of fame. Probably in line for a medal.”
“And whoever tried to kill you would have seen it online, discovered your whereabouts and come to finish the job. They’ll have a Google alert running for your name. You want to take the risk?”
Archer seemed different, even more intense, and what he’d said was true. Though Conrad still didn’t understand why they hadn’t come for him while he’d been lying broken in the hospital. Even his suspicious mind told him he could be making this into far more than the simple slip of a foot onto the accelerator that it might have been. Then again…
“No, I don’t want to take the risk.” Conrad limped into his bedroom and lay down.
“We’re doing the same walk again this afternoon,” Archer called out from the door.
“No, I’m fucking not.”
Conrad gritted his teeth as he trudged along the sand, Deefor on one side, Archer on the other.
“Aren’t you supposed to be spouting words of encouragement?” Conrad asked.
“Do you care what I think?”
“So what’s the point?”
They reached the end of the beach and Conrad hoped for a rest but Archer turned and started off again.
“I’ll be too tired to fuck,” Conrad snapped.
“All you have to do is stick your arse in the air.”
“In your dreams.”
Archer shrugged and Conrad walked after him, trying to keep up. Even through his annoyance, he knew he was improving, his paces lengthening, his legs moving more freely, though the pain was getting worse, probably because he was pushing too hard. But a couple of days ago, he’d still been using the crutches, now he was a lot closer to running. A little closer.
“Shit,” Archer said and dropped back to his side.
“Keep walking. There’s a photographer in the dunes. I’m going after him. You go back to the house with the dog. Take my shoes.”
Archer kicked them off and sprinted away before Conrad could say anything. He couldn’t see anyone but it didn’t surprise him. There was no way he could stop an article appearing in a paper. Slamming a door in a reporter’s face was only going to make him curious.
Running up sand dunes was fucking difficult, even barefoot. Archer’s feet were constantly searching for pockets of stability to allow him to move forward. Standing still was not an option. If he paused, he’d slide back. Once he’d negotiated the first wall of sand using clumps of marram grass as stepping stones, he ran down the slope and powered up the next. As he reached the top of the dune, the guy wasn’t far away. He was wearing shoes that would be full of sand and also trying not to drop his camera. Both issues would allow Archer to catch him.
Archer’s speed took him halfway up the next dune and he brought the guy down so they sprawled on the slope and slid. The man was middle-aged. Another point against him. He was gasping for breath. Even if he’d been fit, Archer would have still caught him.
“What do you want?” The guy’s chest heaved.
“Why were you taking pictures of us?”
“I wasn’t. I was taking shots of the sea and the castle.”
“I want the memory card out of your camera.”
Archer wrapped his fingers around the collar of the guy’s jacket, squeezing tight enough to cut off much of his air supply. Even then, the guy didn’t let go of his camera. He tried to bring it up and hit Archer. It would have been so easy to snap his neck but instead, Archer thumped him in the gut and dragged the camera from his grip as the man slithered even farther down the slope.
He opened the flap at the base and pulled out the card.
“There’s other stuff on there I need,” the guy gasped.
“Tough.” Archer dropped the camera and walked away.
The memory card was still in his pocket when he got back to the house. He’d considered burying it in a sand dune but wanted to be certain it never turned up. Scissors were a more effective method of disposal.
Conrad sat at the kitchen table nursing a coffee. “Did you get him?”
“Yes.” Archer chopped up the card and tossed the pieces into the bin.
“So who is it you don’t want to see your face?”
Archer put on a puzzled look. “I was doing
the favor, not me.”
“The press can get my picture off Google.”
But not mine because I suspect you’ve checked.
“Right.” Archer cleaned the sand off his feet. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
He poured himself a coffee. This was the problem getting involved with someone who had a brain. Conrad didn’t trust him.
Archer sat opposite him. “I was thinking of you. If whoever tried to kill you is looking for you, you really don’t need your picture in a local paper. Too easy to find you. But you’re right. I don’t either. Sometimes I have to pretend to be an employee at the company. Doesn’t do for people I’m investigating to know what I’m up to. They’re far less likely to let me get close.”
Conrad looked satisfied with that, but Archer was aware he’d just spouted a load of crap to a guy who was a barrister.
“How are you feeling?” Archer asked.
“Like some sadistic fucker has made me walk up and down a beach. Twice.”
“Damn that dog.”
Conrad snorted and then groaned. “My back is killing me.”
“Think another massage would help?”
Wasn’t I going to leave?
“Are you offering?”
Conrad blanched as he pushed himself up. “I’d like that, thank you.”
Archer would like a lot more than that. He shut Deefor in the kitchen and followed Conrad. He didn’t need to leave right now. It would look more suspicious if he did. Did that matter? He snapped back to the issue in hand.
“Why don’t you take off your pants and T-shirt before you get on the bed?” Archer peeled off his sweater.
He watched Conrad’s fingers shaking as he undressed and suspected it wasn’t with excitement but fatigue. There was no tent in his pants but Archer had one in his. Conrad lay face down with a deep moan and closed his eyes. Archer repeated what he’d done the day before, pressing and squeezing, working his way up and down Conrad’s legs and arms and back while the guy groaned beneath him. Every sound fed the fire in Archer’s belly.
“Do I have to pay extra for the torture?” Conrad asked with a grunt.
“That’s free today.”
For some reason he became fixated on Conrad’s neck, particularly the point where it met his shoulder. A few touches there made Conrad squirm. He knelt between Conrad’s legs and leaned forward until his face was no more than an inch from his skin, then inhaled the scent of hair, sweat and man. When Conrad made a muffled noise and shuddered, Archer’s cock pulsed and pressed more firmly against his zipper.
One word grew in Archer’s head.
He ran the tip of his tongue across the back of Conrad’s neck, and as his mouth watered, he heard Conrad’s breathing falter. A hard nip with his teeth and Conrad gasped and bucked beneath him.
Oh yeah, he liked that.
He put his hands on Conrad’s arms to keep his upper body still, but the taut arse that humped his groin? He wanted more of that. He half-bit, half sucked at the junction of neck and shoulder and ground his cock against Conrad’s butt.
“Get the fuck off,” Conrad said, though that wasn’t what his body was saying.
Lust fueled lust. The more Conrad pushed back against him, the more Archer wanted him. But when he let go of one shoulder to unzip himself, Conrad fought like a wild cat to get from beneath him and Archer leaned into the middle of his back to keep him on the bed.
“Get off me,” Conrad gasped.
“No. You want this.”
“I’m not letting you fuck me. I don’t bottom.”
Archer managed to get his cock free of the constraints of his pants and shorts and flexed his hips against Conrad’s arse, the material covering it wrinkling between them. Archer risked letting go of Conrad’s shoulder just long enough to yank the guy’s shorts down to the top of his thighs, and the breath caught in his throat. Perfect smooth backside. Tight glutes. Dimples and a dark crease he was desperate to explore.
“Don’t.” Conrad battled to get from under him.
“Calm down. I’m not going to force you.”
Conrad’s struggles made him even harder.
“You’re not going to fuck me,” Conrad gasped.
Archer knew if he pushed too hard too soon, Conrad would close him out. When he rolled off, Conrad eased onto his side and Archer slammed back against him to lie face-to-face. He wrenched Conrad’s shorts down farther, pulled up his own T-shirt and took both their cocks in his hand. He didn’t want to look at what he held, wanted to save that pleasure. Instead he stared into Conrad’s face as he pressed and squeezed their dicks, Conrad’s fingers at first pulling and then dancing over his.
“Will this do instead?” Archer asked.
“Christ.” Conrad moaned, his eyelids fluttering.
Long slow strokes, fast short ones, they all led to the same place and Archer watched Conrad coming undone. He might not be looking at Conrad’s cock, but he could tell it was as long and thick as his, and not cut, just like his. Archer reached between them with his other hand, smeared his thumb over their crests, mixing their pre-come before he brought it to Conrad’s mouth. Conrad stared at him, then licked and sucked. He might just as well have licked Archer’s dick.
Desire raced through Archer like a hemorrhagic fever. Lust, need, want rampaging through his body until his breathing turned noisy. He dropped his hand to Conrad’s lower back and held him close. Conrad’s hand slid to Archer’s butt and they bucked together, shoved, banged, rutted, their hips clashing, their cocks kissing, their breathing ragged, while Archer’s heart pounded harder and harder.
For only the second time in his life he wanted to kiss another man. He’d been kissed when he was younger but had never liked it. As soon as he’d been strong enough to make his wishes count, he’d never locked lips with another man until… Now Conrad was testing his control.
Archer wanted more than bringing them both off with his hand. Part of his brain was telling him to push Conrad onto his stomach. Conrad was in no physical shape to fight him off. But if he did, that would be the end and he hadn’t had enough of Conrad yet. He wasn’t leaving until Conrad
him to fuck him. He moved his hand faster, pulled Conrad even closer so they were plastered together head to toe. Archer watched him come, observed the change in his face, the lost look in his eyes before they closed, the gap between his lips and the way they tightened as he fought not to cry out. Next time he wanted to hear Conrad lose it, see his eyes change color, feel him unravel.
Wet heat flooded his hand as Conrad convulsed against him and, tempting as it still was to spin him face down, instead Archer thought what it would be like when Conrad finally allowed it, begged for it, hopefully still resisting even as he submitted. It was enough to trigger his release and he spurted long and powerfully between them until their bellies were a hot sticky mess.
He’d not come so hard for a long while.
Which made him pleased.
Which alarmed him.
Before his breathing had returned to normal, before Conrad opened his eyes, Archer rolled to his feet, adjusted his clothes and walked out.
He wasn’t good for this man and Conrad wasn’t good for him. When Archer was around him, he couldn’t think straight.
Why haven’t I fucking left yet?
Conrad tried to move and couldn’t. He couldn’t moan or groan either. Breathing was as much as he could handle and whether he was doing that with any degree of competence was debatable. He
manage to open his eyes when Archer climbed off the bed but when he pulled up his pants and walked out without saying a word, Conrad’s heart sank and he closed his eyes again.
More than a year since he’d been with another man, since he’d had Malachi in his bed. More than a year since he’d lost him. Conrad thought when he finally got together with someone else he’d feel…guilt maybe, and he didn’t, which was good, a sign he was getting over it, whatever
was. But what he
feel was pissed off with Archer and even more pissed off with himself.
He’d known what a massage might lead to, known he was no match physically and he’d allowed this to happen. Both his come and Archer’s were smeared over his belly. He hadn’t wanted
wanted that to happen, but not like this. Maybe.
He heard the shower upstairs. This guy would use him. Was already using him. Conrad reached for the hoist and pulled himself to a sitting position. He had to rest for a while, he felt too shaky to risk standing.
Don’t think about what just happened. Don’t.
At least he’d not let Archer fuck him. But he’d come close to it. If Archer had pushed just that little bit harder…
He’d have broken me.
He sat with his shorts around his ankles, spunk drying all over his chest and belly and felt like a whore. Enough of an incentive to get to his feet
He yanked up his shorts and made his way to the bathroom. When he heard the back door slam, he jumped.
Has he gone, fucked off to wherever he came from? Good fucking riddance.
Except he didn’t mean that.
Tired, weak and exhausted, he stepped under the hot water and clung to the handrail. He realized too late he hadn’t remembered to take off his shorts, and pushed them down. No reason to feel humiliated but he did. He wished
could walk out, go home—back to London, forget everything. He tipped his head forward and let the hot water fall on his shoulders to scour the place that Archer had bitten him, and tried to scour his mind of how good it had felt.
Archer hadn’t lost control.
had. Part of him wished he’d let go of the rope altogether, let him fuck him, just to see what it was like.
He dried himself, dressed in shorts, T-shirt and climbed into bed. Mid-afternoon and he didn’t care. He didn’t want to be in the world for a while.
Archer ran to forget, and forgot the tide was coming in. The strip of flat sand he sprinted along was shrinking all the time, swallowed by the sea. He ran to forget but couldn’t stop thinking of Conrad, the look on his face as he came, the feel of his cock pulsing in his hand, the sensation of their cocks rubbing together, the hardness of their balls.
He’d wanted to look down,
down, wrap his mouth around Conrad’s dick, suck and tease until the guy cried out his name, until Conrad made him
He was struck by the notion of telling Conrad his real name before he dismissed the idea as idiotic. He had no papers to prove it. Quite an irony that to claim his real identity he’d have to pay a forger for the paperwork. Within a short period of time he’d be out of Marram Cottage, out of Conrad’s life and forgotten. He was tempted to leave him Deefor though, the little fucker liked Conrad better.
The light started to fade, but Archer kept running. He climbed over the rocks at the headland to reach the next bay while it was still accessible by that route, knowing he was being stupid because he’d have a hell of a trek back inland. But he wasn’t stupid enough to explore that fissure while the tide was rolling in.
He came to his senses a few hundred yards into the second bay and turned to go back the shorter route. The rocks he’d crossed a short while before were awash and slippery. The light was too bad to see where he was putting his feet and if he’d had any sense, he’d have taken the safer route via the dunes. He fumbled his way over the rocks, hands grabbing for purchase on slick stone, feet sliding on weed and algae. A wave washed him off his feet, tried to suck him into the sea and he scuttled forward on all fours before the next caught him.
Adrenaline flooded his body as he scrambled toward safety. He jumped down into shallow surf, ran up the beach to a point the sea hadn’t yet reached, and pumped his fist in defiance.
I’m not done yet.
But he was cold and soaking wet, and ran again to get warm.
As he approached the break in the dunes he saw a shadowy figure sitting on the sand, a familiar dog jumping around nearby. Archer slowed and walked the last few yards to Conrad’s side.
“You’re supposed to take your clothes off before you go for a swim.” Conrad pushed to his feet, shrugged out of his coat and offered it to Archer.
“I’m fine,” he snapped and hurried past him toward the cottage, shivers skittering over his skin.
He went straight up to the shower and stood under it until he was warm again. Everything was warm except his heart. He didn’t deserve it to be otherwise. Was he even incapable of accepting kindness?
I’m too broken to mend.
Conrad made enchiladas wondering if Archer would reappear and what sort of mood he’d be in if he did. He chopped onions, mushrooms, and fried the minced steak suspecting the guy would leave. He wanted and didn’t want him gone. This must have been what it had been like for Malachi. Wanting and not wanting, battling with reasons to stay or go. Conrad had driven him away by being too possessive, too controlling. No way could he control Archer. Instead, Conrad was the one who was needy and that disturbed him.
In a way, he felt as if he’d undergone a personality change. He’d spent so long being the tough guy he’d thought that was what he was. But he felt different with Archer. Maybe it was because he was free of work, of commitments, free of everything other than being himself. He wasn’t usually a funny guy and he suspected he was using humor to cover up his feelings, disguise how nervous he felt. And yet, he wasn’t so far consumed by lust that he didn’t see there was more to Archer than he’d revealed. The lawyer in him wanted the truth.
He didn’t want to eat. He wanted to fuck. But he didn’t want to
fucked. Would Archer really take turns? Was he that sort of guy or a liar? Conrad’s stomach clenched. If he had to come down on one side of the fence, he’d say that Archer was a liar. Experience as a barrister made him a good judge of people and Archer was hiding something. Lying.
know was what he was lying about. The issue about a photo in the paper? It was a fair point that someone might be looking for Conrad, but so what if someone spotted Archer’s photo? He wasn’t working up here. No one was actually looking for him. But then if he wanted to keep his image off Google, a photo in a newspaper would likely ruin that. Even so, something seemed off.
A sprinkling of cheese over the tomato sauce topping and Conrad slid the dish into the oven. He threw together a bowl of salad and made a French dressing. He’d lost his appetite again but he needed to eat to be stronger.
And he needed a drink.
They’d not finished the bottle from last night. Conrad tipped what remained into two glasses and put them on the table. The ache in his limbs had lessened to a dull throb. The ache in his groin was more of a problem.
He checked his emails while he waited for the enchiladas to cook. When Archer didn’t reappear, he Googled Harper Shaw and Malachi Jones. He ignored the sites about Harper being cleared of the crime he’d spent ten years inside for. The pair had set up H&M Advertising and it appeared to be doing well. He hoped they never found out he’d sent business their way. Conrad wanted them to succeed. He switched from web to images and tortured himself looking at pictures of Malachi before he switched off the laptop.
The oven timer buzzed, accompanied by a lurch in Conrad’s stomach when Archer walked in. Conrad started to get to his feet and Archer brushed his fingers over his shoulder to keep him down. “I’ll get it.”
He set the dish on the table between them and Conrad picked up the serving slice and put two filled tortillas on each plate.
No apology for walking out? No apology for snapping on the beach? Conrad wondered why he’d expected Archer to say anything. They barely knew each other. Why would Archer be interested in how he felt? Conrad wished he could bury his feelings on the beach. He’d kept them suppressed for so long and now they were crowded up in his heart, trying to push their way out. For what? A guy who clearly didn’t give a shit?
I’m an idiot.
Archer brought a forkful to his mouth, chewed and swallowed. “God, they’re good.”
“I’ll let you have the recipe. You might have a problem sourcing minced T-rex though.”
Archer snorted and then laughed. Conrad cursed himself.
He needed to keep his mouth shut.
They ate all the enchiladas and the salad, and finished off the wine. This time Archer cleaned the table and loaded the dishwasher.
“Want to open another bottle?” Conrad asked.
Archer shook his head. “Like to play chess?”
“It’s more comfortable.”
Conrad had to make things clear. “You’re not going to fuck me.”
Archer smiled in a way that said “oh yes I am” but Conrad wasn’t going to let it happen, not just like that.
“I mean it.”
Archer shrugged. “Fine.”
“I’ll come up and play chess.” Conrad pushed to his feet.
“If I win, you stay upstairs.”
“You won’t win.”
He managed to negotiate the stairs but his ascent was slow, his grip on the handrail tight. His eyes widened when he saw the lounge. Archer had lit lamps and the room looked cozy. He made his way to the wall of glass and stared out to sea. The full moon cast a silvery glow over the water. He could just hear the sea, waves crashing on the shore.
Archer put a board on the table, grabbed two pieces, put his hands behind his back and brought forward clenched fists. Conrad pointed to the left hand and sat on the couch, spreading his fingers on the soft leather. Archer opened the fist Conrad had chosen.
Archer’s turn first.
Conrad knew within a few moves that Archer was good, better than he’d expected. They both began to take longer over their decisions and Conrad’s confidence that he would win faded to thinking he probably would. Archer was intense, and as he talked less and less, Conrad began to wonder if the chess had been a good idea. He was tired and needed to sleep. If Archer made the move with his bishop he was pushing him toward, it could be over soon but Conrad could hardly keep his eyes open. Being tired meant
was more likely to make a mistake.
“What do I get if I win?” Archer asked.
“Not my arse.” Conrad took another of Archer’s pawns. “What do I get if I win?”
“Not my arse.”
“How about a blowjob?” Archer said. “I win, you give me one. You win, I give you one.”
“Agreed.” Now Conrad was wide awake again.
Archer made him work for it. He spotted the trap Conrad had laid and launched into a brilliant diversionary tactic. Conrad almost lost his queen. But a couple of moves later Archer sighed and knocked his king over. “Shit. You’re good.”
“Who do you usually play against?” Conrad asked.
“The blowjob must be tricky.”
Archer raised his eyebrows and lifted the coffee table out of the way. Conrad’s cock was rigid before Archer dropped to his knees in front of him. When he reached for the button on Conrad’s pants, Conrad put his hand on his and Archer jerked away. And didn’t
tell him everything.
“You don’t have to,” Conrad said. “Not if you don’t want to.”
“That’s not very alpha behavior.”
“I’m trying to do the right thing.”
“A deal’s a deal. You wouldn’t be worming your way out if you’d lost. Not that I’d let you.”
“I don’t want you to do it because you lost the game.”
Archer gave him a slow smile that almost made Conrad come on the spot. “Oh I’m not doing it because I lost the game.”
“When did you last give someone a blowjob?” Conrad asked.
Archer sighed. “I can’t remember.”
long ago?” Conrad pressed himself back into the couch. “Look. This is a bad idea. You don’t want to do it. That’s fine.”
“Did I say I didn’t want to?” Archer stared straight at him, his eyes glittering.
“You didn’t say you did.”
Like that isn’t needy, you twat?
Archer put his arms on either side of Conrad’s legs and leaned forward until his chest bumped Conrad’s knees. “You won. I give you a blowjob. We agreed. You’re a lawyer. We had a verbal contract. You don’t want it, negotiate your way out of it. You could give me one instead.”
Conrad hesitated. He didn’t understand the dynamics of what was happening, but his cock did and the ever-hopeful-for-sex part of his brain definitely did.
“I want you to suck me off,” Conrad said.
Archer frowned. “I thought I was blowing?”
Conrad rolled his eyes. “You can do that too. Pretty much anything you can do with your mouth will be fine. Except biting.”
Archer unbuttoned and unzipped him and Conrad fought to stop his knees shaking. His cock had tented his shorts but Archer stared into his face as he spread his hand over Conrad’s groin. Conrad could hear himself breathing heavily, tried to do it more quietly and failed. He dug his fingers into the couch.
“When did you last
a blowjob?” Archer asked.
“Over a year ago.” Fourteen months, one week and four days, but he managed to keep that detail in his head.
“When did you last
a blowjob?” Archer asked.