Ethan woke with the heat of someone at his back, and he smiled. He’d recognise Joey’s soft snores anywhere. It took him a couple of minutes to get his bearings, especially when he opened his eyes and didn’t recognise the bedside table. Then the memories of that day and the previous night came back to him.
After receiving the message from Joey saying that he always needed him, Ethan had stared at the words for hours, pressing to light his screen every time it went dark. He’d not known what to do. Then something had clicked in his brain, and he’d jumped up, racing around to fill a bag and sending a message to Meredith to apologise for taking off with no notice. Surprisingly, she had replied almost instantly, saying it was okay and to take his time. He’d thrown his bag into the car and set off with barely a thought further than getting to Joey.
When he’d neared London, he’d had second thoughts. Would Joey truly want him there? Ethan had stopped at a service station to fill up the car with petrol and to try to find where Joey lived. He knew the name of Joey’s tattoo shop, which was easy enough to find, but he didn’t know where he lived. If Joey had mentioned it, Ethan couldn’t remember. But he did find an obituary about Elliott, which led him to the church and cemetery. It was pure chance he had been there at the right time.
Joey had looked distraught, though with a slight sense of peacefulness, as if he’d realised Elliott was in a good place now. But there were so many questions surrounding Elliott’s decision to end his life. Joey had been left with so much uncertainty, and Ethan wanted to help, but he didn’t know how.
One thing he did know was how to reassure Joey that he wasn’t going anywhere. At least not yet. And despite the act he was about to perform, their relationship wasn’t solely about sex. Or about the Dom/sub lifestyle. It was a way to show each other how they felt without saying the words, because Ethan had plenty of feelings bubbling at the surface, and it wouldn’t take long for them to burst free.
Carefully, he extricated himself from Joey’s arms without waking him—a feat in itself, but he assumed Joey was exhausted enough to sleep deeply. Ethan slid down the bed, keeping the covers from being disturbed as much as possible. Despite it being darker beneath the covers, he could still see the intricate black and coloured designs on Joey’s body. The black swirls on his upper thighs appeared to be directing him to where he wanted to be.
He took hold of Joey’s softened cock and licked his lips before sucking at the head and swiping his tongue across the tip. Making sure to get it nice and wet, he sucked more and more into his mouth, wanting Joey deep in his throat before he woke. Joey’s dick responded as expected, growing harder with Ethan’s ministrations. The head peeped out from behind the foreskin, something Ethan loved to watch, and he tasted the precome that was beginning to escape.
Joey breathed a moan, his hips twitching, but he still sounded asleep. Ethan continued, licking stripes up his cock, teasing the nerves and catching more precome. Then he sank down on the shaft, wrapping his hand around the part at the base he couldn’t swallow. Breathing through his nose, he swallowed around the tip, and Joey bucked, his hand coming to rest against Ethan’s head.
“Ethan…” Joey groaned. “Fuck.”
Not being able to see Joey’s expression was torture. He loved watching him, but the sounds he was making were enough to send fire licking through Ethan’s blood. He pushed at Joey’s upper leg, and Joey lifted it to give Ethan more room. Ethan took advantage of that, and with his free hand, he slid his finger back to Joey’s pucker, pressing but not entering. He pulled off, gasping for air as he stroked to keep Joey moving towards his climax. Then he swallowed him down again, massaging more firmly against his entrance. Ethan bobbed his head up and down, Joey using the hand on his head as a guide, and Ethan felt it when Joey hit the edge. His thigh muscles tensed, his grip tightened, and he groaned. Ethan filled his throat with Joey’s cock and swallowed.
“Ethan!” Joey shouted as he fell over the cliff and into his orgasm.
Ethan worked him through his release, stroking, sucking, fingering until Joey collapsed onto his back, his legs sinking to the bed. Ethan pulled off, breathing as heavily as Joey was and climbed up Joey’s body to peek his head out of the top of the covers. Joey’s gaze was already on him as he emerged, and Ethan smiled.
“Hello,” he said.
Joey raised his eyebrows, and Ethan chuckled. “That’s one way to wake up.” Joey’s voice was hoarse. From sleep or his orgasm, Ethan didn’t know, but it didn’t matter either.
“Only the best for you.”
Joey cupped Ethan’s jaw with his hands, brushing his thumbs over his cheeks. “Thank you for being here,” he whispered.
Joey sighed. “We have things to sort out, don’t we?”
“There’s no rush, Joey. You’ve had a draining day already. We don’t need to do this now.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to get it sorted, then we can either say goodbye or start now, depending on what we decide?”
It would be, but Ethan wasn’t sure he was ready if the conversation went in the direction he didn’t want it to go. On his drive down, he’d already been through the options he could see, and he’d decided that if he had to, he would move to London to be with Joey. It wasn’t his first choice, but he didn’t have a business like Joey did. Joey couldn’t just up and leave without considering a lot more things than Ethan had to.
Joey traced his lips, the soft sensation leaving prickles along the route, and Ethan could barely contain his need to scrape his teeth over it to rid himself of the tickle.
“Come on. Let’s shower, and we can talk while I make some food.”
Joey kissed him chastely and climbed from the bed, striding for the en suite without a backward glance. He didn’t need to, after all. Ethan would follow him wherever he went.
He stood, heading for the bathroom, when he heard a soft mewl at the door. “Joey, should I let Joelle in?”
Joey popped his head out of the doorway. “No, leave her for now. She’s just asking for food because she’s heard us moving around. I’ll get her something when we’re done.” He crooked a finger at Ethan.
The shower was a mutually beneficial arrangement, and Ethan’s knees were weak when Joey finally switched the water off.
“Do you want to borrow these until you grab your bag?” Joey asked, holding out joggers and a T-shirt.
“Thanks. I’ll grab my bag once I’m dressed.”
They dressed in silence, though their gazes roamed each other’s bodies, despite how many times they’d orgasmed in the shower. Ethan didn’t think he had another one in him. While Joey disappeared into the kitchen area, Ethan left to grab his bag. It was the only one he’d brought with him, and to be honest, he couldn’t guarantee what he’d put in there. As he grabbed it from the backseat, he heard shouting and glanced towards the road. The car park was behind the shop and apartment, but there was an alley from the road to allow cars entry. Several people stood on the path at the entrance to the alley, pointing and shouting towards him, although he couldn’t hear what they said. He nearly went closer when there was a flash of light. He blinked and realised they were reporters.
He blew out a breath, locked his car and ran back up the steps to the apartment. The car park was private property, and the reporters would be breaking the law should they come into it, which he was glad about. Some reporters probably wouldn’t care, but those seemed to be hesitant. For now, at least.
He didn’t mention it to Joey when he entered the house, just put his bag next to the door and headed into the kitchen to see if he could help with anything.
“No, I’ve got it.” He nodded to the counter where a glass of apple juice and a cup of tea sat. “I made you those to keep you going until the food is ready.”
“Thanks.” He sipped the tea, closing his eyes and enjoying the warmth. He knew what was coming.
“What do you want from this, Ethan?” Joey’s back was to him, so he couldn’t see Joey’s expression.
“Is this a good day to have this conversation?” Ethan said instead of answering.
Joey glanced over his shoulder. “If I’m going to lose you, I may as well grieve two losses at the same time.”
Ethan dropped onto a bar stool and closed his eyes. “I’m scared to lay it all out there in case it’s too much.”
“You’re not scared of anything,” Joey countered.
Ethan swallowed. “I’m scared of losing you.”
“Tell me what you want, Ethan. Please. Be as blunt as you need to be.”
Ethan took another sip of his tea, fortifying himself for laying himself bare. This could backfire spectacularly.
“I want to be with you. I don’t care about the media. I don’t care if I have to move. I don’t care if I’m making a mistake. I want you. However I need to change to have you.”
Joey moved the pan off the burner and switched it off before facing Ethan. He kept his hands on the counter behind him as he stared across the space at him. Ethan worried he had put too much on Joey until the sheen in Joey’s eyes spilt over and ran down his cheeks.
Ethan nodded. He couldn’t speak.
“I want you, too. I—” Joey sniffed and blew out a breath before meeting his gaze again. “I’m falling in love with you, Ethan.”
Emotion bubbled up inside Ethan, and he inhaled shakily, trying to calm his racing heart. “I’m falling for you, too,” he whispered.
Joey closed the distance between them, and his lips were on Ethan’s, almost sealing a deal they hadn’t yet made. Ethan didn’t mind, his brain misfiring as the admission sank deep inside him. When they pulled apart, they stared at each other.
“Now that’s out of the way, we need to talk about logistics. But we can do that over food. I made French toast.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ethan answered, trying not to sound like he’d stepped off Whitby’s West Cliff and streamed towards the ocean, only to stop a few inches short.
Joey kissed him again, then returned to the stove, plating the food. Ethan carried his drinks to the dining table and went back for Joey’s. They settled at a ninety-degree angle to each other, able to see the other person but able to look away if they needed a minute. Ethan’s stomach had so many butterflies filling it, he wasn’t sure he would be able to eat. But as they sat, knees bumping, Joey smiled, and Ethan’s nerves reduced a little.
“I’ll make a proper dinner for us later, but this will tide us over for a short time.”
“It smells delicious. It’s been a while since I’ve had it.” Ethan took a bite and hummed. “It tastes a lot better than I remember my version being.”
Joey chuckled. “A few added ingredients make it taste divine. In my opinion, of course.”
Ethan snorted, taking a sip of his apple juice. They ate in silence for a few minutes, then Joey rested his cheek on his fist, his elbow on the table and stared at Ethan. “You said you were willing to move. What if you didn’t have to?”
Ethan frowned and wiped a crumb from the corner of his mouth. “I don’t see how. You have a business to run.”
“A business I can run from anywhere as long as I have someone in the building during opening hours. I travel for business. I don’t have to be in one place all the time. I could use Whitby as my home base.”
“But don’t a lot of your clients live or work in London? You’d be travelling a lot more than if you lived here.”
Joey nodded. “I would. But I’m willing to. Can you see yourself living in this city?”
Ethan inhaled. “Not really. But I would. There are plenty of jobs I could find here.”
“You love Whitby.”
“I do. It’s in my blood. But I can still visit.”
Joey frowned, the crease between his eyebrows deepening. “I could change how I work. Not take as many London clients or get them to come to me.”
“Would those clients be happy about that, though? I don’t want you to lose business over something that’s easily changed.” Ethan would love to stay in Whitby, but he would live in London without hesitation if it meant he could stay with Joey.
Joey clicked his tongue. “Let’s speak with Ani and get her opinion on the best way to do this. She won’t decide for us, but she might have some more ideas or insight we can use to make the decision easier.”
Ethan nodded. “Sounds good.”
“The media will be a problem. It’ll never completely die down. There will always be someone who takes a picture of you in random places or in positions that could be twisted to seem like something else. You’ve probably seen the type of story in the news about celebrities who appear drunk when, in fact, they only had their picture taken as their eyes were closing. Or you could be photographed coming out of the supermarket, carrying a chocolate bar and then everyone who is everyone has an opinion about your weight. It’s horrible, but it’s true. Everything you do will be scrutinised to see if it could be used to sell a story, whether or not that story is true.”
Ethan nodded. “I can imagine it’s awful, but I will manage. I might need some talking down occasionally, but I’ll be fine.”
Joey threaded his fingers through Ethan’s, squeezing tightly. “There will also be celebrity events. Parties and premieres, you name it, I’ve had an invitation for it. Some I will have to go to. I need to show my face occasionally, but you don’t have to attend with me if you don’t want to.”
“Rub shoulders with celebrities? Sign me up,” Ethan joked. “Truthfully, though, that scares the lights out of me, but I’d still attend with you.” He shook his head. “You are a celebrity yourself, you know?”
Joey raised his eyebrows, his mouth twitching. “Not on their scale, I’m not. Some people know who I am if they’ve been to me for tattoos or if they’re interested in a celebrity’s life and know everything about them. But mainly, I’m below even a Z-lister.”
“I bet you’d be surprised how well-known you are.” Ethan cocked his head. “Have you ever tried searching for your name?”
Joey chuckled. “No.”
Ethan pulled his phone free and typed into the search with one hand. The immediate results were several pictures of Joey, some of the tattoo designs, and a link to his shop. Ethan turned the phone towards him, showing him the results.
“That proves nothing.”
“It proves that you’re more well-known than you think.”
Joey sighed. “Is that a game-changer?”
Ethan shook his head, grinning. “Nope.”
“I’ll introduce you to some artists in a bit. There are at least two downstairs today. Maybe more. It depends on what was in the diary.”
Joelle miaowed and twined between Ethan’s legs under the table, and he chuckled. “She’s finally come out to see me,” he said, scooting his chair back. The moment he did, Joelle jumped onto his lap, and he stroked her soft fur. He glanced at Joey, a small smile playing around Joey’s mouth as he watched the cat. “Has she been fed?”
Joey snorted. “Yes, though she would deny it if she could. If I didn’t feed her the second I came out of the bedroom, I wouldn’t hear the end of it. I remember one time, I had a phone call just as I’d left the room, and I needed to answer it because it was a client. As I was talking, Joelle wound between my legs, almost tripping me, and mewling as if I were torturing her. In the end, my client asked if everything was okay, and I had to explain about my cat needing to be fed as if she was the queen of the house. Luckily, the client was a nice one, instead of one who looked down on us peasants.”
Ethan cooed at the gorgeous cat. “You aren’t like that, are you?”
“She truly is.”
Ethan held Joelle to his chest and smiled at Joey. “So, we’re going to speak to Ani about location. I’m okay with the media thing. I’ll attend events with you if I can. It depends on the job situation. Anything else?”
“You need to meet my parents.”
Ethan’s heart skipped a beat, and he stopped breathing for a few seconds before resuming, as if the thought had already crossed his mind and he was okay with it. It hadn’t, and he wasn’t. Well, he was, but he was nervous. Now he understood how Joey felt about going to Ethan’s parents’ house for dinner.
“I’ll call them and sort out a day we can go.”
His voice sounded high-pitched even to his own ears, and a smile slowly spread across Joey’s face. “It’ll be fine.”
“Okay.” This time, his voice did crack, and he hid his face in Joelle’s fur, Joey’s laughter in his ears.
Joey’s phone rang, and he apologised as he glanced at the screen and answered it. “Hi, Ani.” Ethan watched the emotions play across Joey’s face as the low hum of Ani’s words filtered into Joey’s ear. Ethan couldn’t hear it, but he could see the anger cross Joey’s face. “Who?” he said, his voice hard. “Give him my number. I want to talk to him… I’ll be kind. Possibly… If he had anything to do with it…” Joey sighed and gritted his teeth. “Okay. Get him to call me. I want to know what happened that night.” He ended the call and stared at the screen, even as it went dark.
“Is everything okay?”
“A man just called the shop saying he was with Elliott the night before. At the party. Apparently, they hooked up, but the guy lost track of Elliott afterwards. I want to hear it all, and preferably without the police present. He’ll be more likely to answer truthfully around me.”