Waiting for Ethan to arrive home—and it would be his home from the moment he turned up—was pure torture for Joey. He’d been without him for two days already, and it was too much. He was sure, over the years to come, the need to be with him would wane slightly, but for the moment, he needed Ethan as much as he needed to breathe.
When his car pulled into the car park, Joey jumped up from his perch on the outer stairs and jogged down the rest of them and over to Ethan, opening his door before he’d even put the handbrake on. He leaned down and pressed his lips to his boyfriend’s, reacquainting himself with the taste he’d been sure he’d forgotten.
Finally letting Ethan up for air, Joey pulled back. Ethan exhaled with a lopsided grin. “Hello to you, too.” He climbed out and stretched his arms to the sky. Joey heard several cracks in his joints and winced.
“That is a long drive,” he said.
Ethan nodded. “But I’m back now.” He slid his arms around Joey’s back. “The stuff can wait until later. Take me to bed.” He lifted his head.
Joey took his mouth again, pushing him back against the car while he ravaged him. Ethan thrust his hips, their groins grinding together, and they moaned. Joey tore his mouth away.
“Upstairs. Bed. Now.”
Ethan slammed his car door shut, locked it and ran for the stairs. Joey took a more leisurely stroll, wanting Ethan to be waiting for him when he got there. He readjusted his groin and climbed the steps. A prickle of awareness lifted the hairs on the back of his neck, and he paused, studying his surroundings. No one was in the car park. He couldn’t see anyone at the windows overlooking the area. But still, that feeling of someone watching him was there. He took one last look and then climbed the rest of the way and locked the door behind him. Pushing the feeling aside, he headed for the bedroom, and just as he’d hoped, Ethan was lying naked on the bed.
Joey leaned against the doorframe and looked his fill. The muscular, tanned body waiting for him to explore. The squirming as Ethan tried to keep still under his perusal. The cock already pointing towards his stomach. A smile crept across Joey’s face. Two days was far too long.
He stepped closer, his fingers going to the hem of his T-shirt and yanking it over his head. As much as he wanted to explore the splayed body, he needed to feel Ethan around him. Submitting to him. His.
By the time he reached the bed, he was naked, but he stopped beside it, staring down at him. Ethan’s breathing increased, and precome leaked onto his stomach. Joey crawled onto the bed and over Ethan, bracing himself on his hands, before lowering himself on top of him. His restraint gone, he took Ethan’s mouth, licking into the cavern. He ground his cock against Ethan’s, and Ethan wrapped his legs around him, levering himself up in time with Joey’s moves.
“I missed you like mad,” he whispered when he briefly pulled back. Then he kissed down Ethan’s neck and chest, circling his tongue around his nipple and sucking hard, soothing it again with his tongue.
Their hips thrust in rhythm, the heads nudging each other and taking them closer to their destination.
“Fuck, Joey. I want you.”
“I’ve got you.” Joey pushed Ethan’s arm away and above his head. “Stay,” he ordered.
Ethan’s breath hitched. “Yes, Sir.”
Joey kissed and licked every part of Ethan’s body as if he was checking he was all in one piece and then lifted his ass, bending him in half while he attacked his hole. Sucking, licking, helping to prepare him for the invasion that was quickly coming.
“Oh, fuck. Oh, yes. That feels so good.”
Joey lost himself in the preparation, needing to make Ethan feel as good as he could before the slight bite of pain that always accompanied his entry. He lay Ethan back down and reached for the lube. Slicking Ethan with his fingers and then his own cock, he laid back between Ethan’s legs and held his cock at his hole. Ethan canted his hips, and the head nudged against the pucker, earning a gasp from them both.
He pushed forward, and Ethan froze, his mouth dropping open as Joey worked his way inside. Ethan’s hands clenched above his head, and Joey’s pride burst forward at him still listening to his orders even when his body was losing control.
Joey pressed inside, bit by bit, making sure to rub across his prostate as much as he could. Ethan lifted his legs again, crossing his ankles at Joey’s lower back, and Joey slid his arms around him, encouraging him to do the same. Wrapped around each other as they were, Joey couldn’t thrust as hard as he wanted, but by canting his hips back and forth, he was able to stroke inside Ethan in short bursts. The fire flamed between them.
“Yes, oh, please, Sir.”
Joey kept it up until Ethan was babbling, and then he lifted to his knees. He pushed Ethan’s legs back, bending him in half, and slammed his hips forward.
“Ah!” Ethan screamed, gripping the headboard.
Joey kept up a hard rhythm, not changing position or speed, just staying true to his course. The one thing he did add was a smack on either ass cheek. Then he rested his hand on Ethan’s lower stomach. What would it be like to feel his cock from the outside? His breath hitched. The idea of seeing and feeling his dick while it was inside Ethan was a heady thought.
Joey licked his lips and pushed Ethan’s legs together and to one side so he was almost on his side. Then he increased his speed, their bodies slapping together. Keeping the momentum going, Joey leaned down and kissed him, muffling the noises he made and swallowing them instead.
“Come for me,” Joey ordered as Ethan’s pulsed around him.
Ethan’s eyes rolled back, and his body reacted, constricting around Joey and sending him towards the edge. Joey thrust faster, chasing his release even as Ethan finished his own.
“Give it to me, Sir. Give me all of it.”
Joey’s cock throbbed, and he froze as his body flew. His vision dimmed until he could only see Ethan, and he focused on that pinprick of light while his body jerked and spasmed. He finally dragged in air and collapsed over Ethan, panting against his skin.
“I missed you, too,” Ethan whispered, and Joey could hear the smile in his voice. “I do think everyone probably heard us, though.”
Joey snorted and lifted his head, propping it in his hand. “Probably. I don’t care.”
Joey inhaled and exhaled, feeling like he could finally breathe again. “I’m glad you’re home.”
Ethan smiled. “I’m home.”
They spent another hour together before Joey begrudgingly acknowledged that he had work to do. When they descended the stairs into the shop, Ani waited for them with a roll of her eyes.
“Could you have been any louder?”
Ethan’s nose crinkled, and Joey slid his arm around him. “Possibly. We could try next time.”
Joey kissed Ethan’s temple and slipped behind the counter to check the diary. “What do I have?”
“Two so far. One is for Ade.”
Joey nodded. “He wants me to fill in some more of his arm. Who’s the other?”
Ani shrugged. “A new person under the name Greg. Said it’s his first tattoo.”
Joey gritted his teeth. “Which probably means he’ll chicken out.”
“Maybe.” Ani smiled and nudged his side. “You’ll bring him around.”
Joey faced Ethan. “Are you going to watch me work, or are you going to immerse yourself in the job already?” He knew his boyfriend well enough to know he was dying to get started. Ethan gave his lopsided grin, and Joey raised his eyebrows, shaking his head. “I’ll see you in a bit then.” He dropped a kiss on his lips and headed back up the stairs to his studio.
He made sure he had everything he needed and cleaned the area again to make sure, by which point Ade had arrived.
“Hey, man.” Ade shook his hand. “I’m sorry to hear what happened.”
Joey nodded his thanks. The subject, despite how sad, was getting easier to bear when people brought it up. “Are we continuing what we started?”
“Yeah. I’d like to get it covered over as soon as I can.”
Joey pointed to the chair. “Sure thing. Let’s get to it. It looks a lot better already. Even those first few lines have taken the design in a whole other direction.”
“I’ve got you to thank for that. I know I’ve said this before, but I don’t know what I was thinking of getting a name tattooed on me. Worst thing I ever did.”
Joey chuckled. “The only names worth putting on your skin are your kids’ names.”
He worked steadily, using the new design to cover the name Lisbeth. It would take another session to colour it in, but even though Joey designed it, he was still impressed that it had worked how he wanted it to. It took an hour and a half, and when he was done, they couldn’t see the name. Only if they really looked for it. Joey had created a mandala effect using swirls and sharp corners to intersect with the old name, making it indistinguishable.
“I can see why you’re the best,” Ade said, clapping his shoulder.
Joey laughed. “Don’t let Beck hear you say that.”
“He wouldn’t be able to dispute it.”
They headed down the stairs where Ani took Ade’s payment and Ethan booked his next session. Ade said goodbye and left just as someone came in.
Joey rose from his lean on the counter and frowned. “Everything okay, Grey?” To be honest, Grey was the last person he wanted to see that day.
Grey nodded. “I’m here for my tattoo.”
Joey’s heart calmed. “I have someone booked in right now. I can fit you in later, though.”
Grey pointed to himself. “I’m booked in. I booked it under Greg so no one would know.”
Joey failed to point out that by entering the shop using the front door as he had, if someone was following or watching, it wouldn’t matter what name he was booked in under, they would know.
He feigned interest. “Oh, really? Great. Come on up, then. Ethan, do you want to watch?”
Ethan nodded, which Joey had hoped he would. For some reason, being alone with Grey was not what he wanted right then. “Lead the way,” Ethan said.
They climbed the stairs in silence, and Joey opened his door, waving Grey forward. He met Ethan’s gaze, who looked as troubled as Joey probably did, but Ethan wiped his expression clear and stepped in with a smile.
“I’ve seen tattoos being done before, but not up close. Thanks for allowing me to watch,” Ethan said to Grey.
“No problem. I might need you to hold my hand,” Grey joked as he settled into the chair.
Joey busied himself getting things ready while they discussed what Grey was having done.
“I’d like Elliott’s name on my back, between my shoulder blades. Freehand if possible.”
Joey paused, letting himself get used to the idea. He had no problem writing the name, but why would Grey want that? If he was worried about Robert and others, why would he take the risk of them seeing it? There was more to him than met the eye, and Joey needed to figure out what it was.
“What about that tribal tattoo you showed me? I thought that was what you wanted.”
“I changed my mind.”
“That’s fine,” he said finally. “I will caution you about it, though. If you’re worried about Robert, having Elliott’s name on your back will make things worse.”
Grey shook his head, lowering his eyes. “I don’t care. It’s the least I can do for him. To remember him.”
Joey swallowed. “Okay. Straddle the chair, facing the back, and take off your shirt.”
While Grey got ready, Ethan sidled up beside Joey and lowered his voice. “What’s wrong?”
Joey studied Ethan’s face, wanting to tell him his concerns, but unable to do so at that moment. He shook his head. “Later,” he mouthed. He put everything on a tray and carried it to the table next to where Grey waited. “I’m just going to shave the area to make sure it’s free from hair,” he said to Grey.
Joey went through the motions, preparing the skin for tattooing. Knowing he couldn’t do the job in silence—only because he never usually did, and it might seem strange to not say anything during it—he said, “I wasn’t sure you’d gather the courage.”
Grey chuckled. “I wasn’t either. But then I thought about Elliott and everything he did for me. I want to remember him. I think it’s a fitting memorial.”
Joey frowned. Something was off. He shared a glance with Ethan, who was also frowning. “Yeah. I’ve seen others do similar,” he said, stretching the time out. He didn’t want to put Elliott’s name on Grey’s back, but he couldn’t think of a reason to decline. Shaking his head, he wiped the area once more. “Ready?”
“No.” Grey chuckled. “Yes. Go for it.”
Joey inhaled, exhaled and turned on the machine. The familiar buzz filled the air, and Joey relaxed. This was just another tattoo. There was nothing to worry about. Joey laid the needle down and started the name. It didn’t take long, but the moment he’d finished, he wanted to scrape it off, as if he could. Everything felt wrong about Grey now he knew he’d been at the party.
Taking a risk, he said, “I saw some pictures of the party the night Elliott died. I’d forgotten how many people were there. Faces I recognised. Faces I didn’t. It all merges together sometimes, but photos make it easier to remember.”
Grey had tensed when Joey had started talking. “Did you see anyone of interest?”
Ethan shook his head at Joey, and he heeded the advice. “No. Just the usual faces.”
Grey relaxed, and Joey finished covering it and talking through the aftercare.
“Thank you, Joey. I appreciate it.” He turned to Ethan. “How was your first tattoo experience?”
Ethan smiled, though Joey could see it was strained. “Good. Maybe one day, I’ll have one.”
Grey slipped his shirt back on and tucked it in. “Fingers crossed, this won’t be my last.”
It would be the only one Joey ever did for him. “If you head down the stairs, Ani will sort you out.”
Grey’s expression tightened and then eased, and he smiled. “Great. It was nice to see you again.” He headed for the door. “Did you have an enjoyable time in Cardiff?”
Joey schooled his expression, but a chill skated down his spine. He smiled. “Yes, all good. Same as always.”
Grey nodded. “See you later.” He closed the door behind him, and Joey leaned against the table, staring at the door.
“What’s wrong?” Ethan asked, closing the distance between them.
Joey collected his thoughts. “I never told him I was going to Cardiff. I told him I was going to Bath.” He met Ethan’s gaze. “What the fuck is going on?”
Ethan slid his arms around Joey, and Joey nestled his face into Ethan’s neck. “I don’t know, sweetheart, but I have a feeling it’s all coming to a head.”
Joey lifted his head. “Why?”
It was Ethan’s turn to stare at the door. “While you were tattooing him, Grey didn’t have a grimace or anything that I would expect a first-timer to have. He was almost…smirking.”
Joey’s stomach churned. “I knew I shouldn’t have done it. Something was telling me not to.”
Ethan sighed. “I don’t want to say it, but do you think Grey had something to do with Elliott’s death?”
Joey stared at him. “I really don’t know.”
“He’s hiding something.”
Joey nodded. “He is. But what?”
Neither spoke, and Joey pulled his phone from his pocket. “Detective Harmon? It’s Joey Reynolds. Can I ask a question?”
“You can ask, but I reserve the right to not answer.”
“Fair enough. Have you found out anything about Grey Kennedy?”
The detective was silent, and Joey thought he wouldn’t answer. “I have,” he said hesitantly. “Why do you ask?”
“He’s just been here for a tattoo, and he called me the other day.” He went on to describe the phone call, the tattoo and when Grey had asked about Cardiff.
Harmon sighed. “Keep this to yourself, all right? We have reason to believe Grey Kennedy is working with his father.”
Joey closed his eyes and dropped his head. “Why would he do that? Elliott had been trying to stop that from happening.”
“Who told you that?” Harmon asked.
Joey’s eyes sprung open, and he met Ethan’s gaze. “Grey,” he murmured.
“Hmm. I wouldn’t believe anything he says. Everything we’ve uncovered so far shows him as being part of Robert’s business.”
Harmon sighed. “Three years.”
“Fuck! Elliott was being taken for a fool. Grey said Elliott got in contact with him two years ago.” Heat built inside him. “But why? I don’t understand why Grey was playing that game if he was already in with his father. Why not cut ties with Elliott instead?”
“I don’t have an answer for you yet, Joey. We’re still working on it.”
Joey swallowed hard. “Do you think he was murdered?” Ethan tightened his hold on him.
“Not in so many words. It’s conclusive that Elliott took his own life, but what led him to it? That’s what we need to figure out.”