Ethan’s alarm woke him the next morning with its usual incessant beeping. So annoying, but that was the point. He also charged the thing on top of his chest of drawers across the room, so he had to get out of bed to turn it off. It’s the only way he would get up in the morning.
Bleary-eyed, he stumbled into the bathroom and under the shower, letting the shock of the initial freezing spray wake him up before the warmth could send him back to sleep again. He washed, dried, brushed his teeth and dressed in his uniform before descending the stairs, pausing when he heard sounds from the kitchen. It took him far too long to calm his racing heart and to remember he’d invited Joey to stay with him.
Entering the kitchen, Joey stood at the counter, pouring beans on top of toast on two plates. Ethan didn’t eat that early in the morning, but he hadn’t told Joey that, and he refused to deny him.
“Morning,” he said.
“Morning,” Joey replied, a hint of a smile on his lips. “I’ve made coffee as well.”
Ethan frowned. “I don’t have any coffee.”
Joey put the pan back on the hob. “I went for a jog this morning and bought a few things. You mentioned not having had caffeine yesterday, so I thought I’d make you some. And breakfast.” Joey frowned. “I hope that’s okay?”
Ethan blinked. “Yes. That’s…fine.”
Joey handed him a plate and some cutlery, and Ethan settled at the small dining table. His new friend brought their mugs over to them before going back for his own plate.
“You don’t have to cook for me,” Ethan said. “I was only joking.”
“I don’t mind. I’m usually up early, anyway. But today…more so.”
Ethan cut up his toast and paused. “You didn’t sleep well?”
Joey sighed. “I haven’t for a while. It’ll get better.” He glanced at Ethan. “You’re not an early bird, I take it?”
“God, no. Whoever invented time should have the early hours of a day shoved up their ass until it hits their throat.”
Joey laughed. “Quite a visual.”
Ethan shrugged and finished his mouthful. “I have a way with words.”
“That you do.”
They finished their breakfast in silence, and Ethan carried their used dishes to the kitchen, leaving them in the sink. “I’ll clean them when we get back,” he murmured. “I’ll drive.”
Joey nodded, and they headed for the door. As they passed the hook where Ethan kept his keys, he grabbed the spare key to the house and handed it to Joey.
“In case you need to get in when I’m not here.”
Joey shook his head. “I don’t want to be here when you’re not here.”
Ethan glared at him. “I trust you, Joey. Mother help me, but I do. You need this for any time that I won’t be home, for whatever reason that might be. Take it.”
Joey sighed and curled his hand around the key. “Okay, thanks.”
They parted ways when they reached the hotel, Joey going for the handyman’s closet, Ethan to the reception desk to relieve the night receptionist.
“Hey, Thomas. How were things?” Ethan asked, squeezing the man’s shoulder.
“Morning. All good. No issues, except for the couple in room 406. They called down a couple of times to say their TV kept cutting out. I took them through the usual, but in the end, they said they’d go to bed and not watch it. Might be something we need someone to look at.”
Ethan pressed a few keys on the computer. “They’re checking out today, and no one is scheduled to book into that room. It’ll give Joey the chance to have a look at it.”
“Joey?” Thomas asked, collecting his jacket.
“Our stand-in handyman for a bit,” Ethan explained. “He’s a friend of mine.”
Thomas nodded and yawned. “Right, I’m off.”
“Have a good sleep.” Ethan smiled, focusing on the computer and starting up his morning checklist.
He worked through nearly all the morning paperwork before Charly arrived. The manager believed that having staggered start times worked best for the hotel rush times, so there were always two receptionists working at the hotel except between midnight and six a.m.
“Who’s this new handyman I’ve heard about?” Charly asked, smirking at Ethan. “I’ve been told he’s your tattooed best friend. You kept that quiet.”
Ethan snorted. “He’s a friend, not my best friend. But yes, he’s tattooed.”
“Where’s he from? Why haven’t you told us about him? Is he single? Is he straight?” Charly popped off a dozen questions Ethan refused to answer. “You’re no fun.”
“It’s nunya beeswax,” he said.
Charly frowned. “What?”
Ethan grinned. “It’s nunya beeswax. None of your business.”
Charly huffed but couldn’t respond because their first guests arrived to check out. From then on, time flew. He saw Joey a couple of times, once when he found him to compare a list of empty rooms to Joey’s list of repairs, in case he could do anything before the rooms were occupied again. He found him again at the end of their shift and drove them towards home.
“I’m having dinner at my parents’ house tonight. Would you like to come?”
Joey shook his head. “You don’t need me hanging on. I’ll be fine on my own.”
“I’d like you to come. I think you’ll like them. Especially Dad. You can compare tattoos.” Ethan chuckled.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.”
Ethan sighed. “I know you will, Joey. I’d still like you to come. I like your company.”
Joey stayed quiet until Ethan parked outside the house. “Why can’t I say no to you?” Joey whispered.
“You say no plenty,” Ethan said. “I just don’t enjoy taking that as your final answer.” He smirked at Joey and climbed out of the car. “Dinner is at five o’clock, so I’m going to shower and decompress first.”
“Yoga,” Ethan explained. “How else can I keep this giant body limber?”
Joey licked his lips, his gaze travelling down Ethan’s body and back up again, making a wave of heat consume Ethan. “It obviously works.”
Ethan rested his hand on his cocked hip. “Want to join me?”
Joey shook his head slowly. “I can guarantee I wouldn’t be able to do any of it. Jogging and weights are about my limits.”
“You could just watch.”
Ethan winked and climbed the stairs, dressing in some leggings and a vest before descending the stairs again. He grabbed a glass of water and found Joey in the living room. Ethan hid his smirk and ignored the man, setting up his usual video. It would take him an hour, but by the end, he would be relaxed and ready for anything.
He ignored Joey and rolled out his mat, settling down with crossed legs before he hit play. Closing his eyes, he followed the instructions. He could probably do it all from memory by now, but he enjoyed listening to it.
An hour later, he was sweaty but as relaxed as he ever was. He opened his eyes from his final pose and blinked a few times to reorientate himself. When he sat upright, Joey stared at him, his face red, his breathing shallow.
“You should’ve joined in,” Ethan said, sipping his water.
“I think you did just fine on your own.” Joey’s voice was like gravel, and a shiver worked down Ethan’s spine.
“Maybe next time.” He rose, rolling up his mat and storing it next to the TV. “We’ll be leaving in about half an hour.”
Joey nodded, licking his lips, but didn’t say anything. Ethan readjusted himself as he climbed the stairs again, the heat in Joey’s eyes searing him even though he couldn’t see him. He stripped and climbed into the shower, letting it warm up first this time. Unable to help himself, he encircled his cock straight away, needing to get the release out of his system. He pressed a hand against the cool tiles, bowed his head and closed his eyes. He brought up an image of him doing “downward dog”—an inverted V shape, which basically meant his ass was up in the air—and Joey sliding into him, gripping his hips to ensure he didn’t fall. The blood would rush to Ethan’s head as well as his cock while Joey pounded into him.
Ethan’s hand pumped faster, twisting a little at the head, and he gasped as tingles flowed down his spine and into his groin. With every thrust of Joey’s hips, he would yank Ethan back to stop him from overbalancing, sending Joey’s dick right into Ethan’s prostate.
He growled his release beneath the spray, stroking until he hissed at the sensitivity, and let go. Leaning a shoulder against the cold tiled wall, he waited until his breathing returned to normal before finishing his shower. He wrapped a towel around his waist and wiped a hand over the steam-covered mirror. His eyes sparkled with a need that no amount of jacking off would appease. He needed the real thing, but he refused to take advantage of the fact that Joey was staying with him. Joey might not want more than that one night, anyway.
He descended the stairs to silence and wondered if Joey had run off instead of wanting to have dinner with his parents. Ethan wouldn’t blame him. It wasn’t like they were in a relationship, so there was no need for it, but Ethan didn’t want Joey wallowing in whatever hell he was living in. If Ethan could distract him, he would.
Though why he felt the need to, he had no idea.
He found Joey in the kitchen, staring out into the garden, two travel mugs beside him on the counter. “Joey?”
Joey gazed at him, eyes sad, and Ethan wanted to wrap his arms around him and protect him from the world. But he didn’t have a clue what he would be protecting him from.
“Ready?” he asked instead.
Joey nodded and picked up the mugs. “I made coffee for the journey.”
For once in his life, Ethan didn’t know what to say as they drove. He always had some quirky words to knife through the quiet, but not this time. But it wasn’t uncomfortable. When he pulled up outside his parents’ house, Joey broke the silence.
“Anything I need to know about them?”
Ethan exhaled. “They won’t invade your privacy. They may ask questions, but they’ll respect it, without question, if you don’t answer. Their names are Bridget and Alan, both are retired, and they hate that I don’t live with them anymore.”
Joey huffed a laugh like Ethan wanted him to, and they climbed out of the car. Ethan had sent a message to his mum earlier to warn her of an additional guest and to ask her not to pry too much. He knocked on the door and opened it, calling, “Mum! Dad! We’re here.”
Joey closed the door behind them and stood, tense and alert, as Ethan’s mother came bustling into the hallway.
“Sweetheart!” She hugged him, and he kissed her cheek.
“Hi, Mum.” He pulled back. “This is Joey.”
Bridget shook his hand and smiled. “Nice to meet you, Joey. I’m glad you could join us for dinner.”
“Thanks for having me.”
“I’m just about to dish up. Go wash up and it’ll be ready.”
Ethan led the way to the small downstairs bathroom, letting Joey wash his hands first. “I promise, they’re harmless,” he whispered. Joey didn’t relax. Had he made a mistake in asking?
They settled down at the table, side by side, and Joey stood again to shake his father’s hand.
“We don’t stand on ceremony here. Tuck in,” his dad said.
They hadn’t even picked up their cutlery before his mother said, “So, Joey, what do you do?”
Joey froze for a second, then smiled. “I’m a tattoo artist.”
Ethan stared at his plate, tucking that titbit of information away for later. His dad, however, perked up. “You are? How fantastic! I have a few tattoos myself. Got them when I was a hot-headed twenty-something, but I still like them now.”
Joey smiled. “I’m glad you do. There are far too many people who regret them.”
Alan nodded. “I can imagine most of those are the ones who chose their designs unwisely.” He chuckled, and Joey joined in. Alan nudged Bridget. “Do you remember me telling you Richard had his wife’s name tattooed on him?” Bridget nodded. “He’s trying to get it removed now they’ve got divorced.” He snorted. “Even more expensive than the tattoo itself.”
Alan asked Joey about the tattoos he did, and it seemed to be a topic Joey didn’t mind talking about. Until his father asked whether Joey worked for himself or owned a business.
Joey hesitated before answering. “I have my own business in London.”
His mother seemed to hear the reluctance in his answer, and she focused on Ethan. “How’s Christi doing with that woman at work?”
Ethan smiled at her, trying to thank her with his expression and not his words. “She’s struggling. I keep telling her, if she stopped antagonising the woman, she’d stop trying to take her clients, but she won’t listen. Hopefully, it won’t matter soon. She nearly has enough for her deposit.”
“That’s good. I can’t believe she’s nearly there. She’s done so well.”
Ethan nodded. “She has. With all the problems she’d encountered at that salon, I didn’t expect her to stick it out.”
Bridget laughed. “She’s stubborn, if nothing else.”
“That she is.”
The conversation continued, but Joey remained mainly silent unless a question was asked of him. Ethan’s parents kept the questions to mundane topics that didn’t ask for personal information, and Ethan watched Joey slowly relax throughout dinner. Ethan helped his mother clear the dishes when they’d finished, leaving Joey and Alan talking about tattoos again.
“He seems nice, sweetie.”
“He is,” he said, filling the dishwasher.
“How long have you known him?”
“A few days,” he hedged.
He could feel her eyes boring into him, so he stood and leaned back against the counter. “I don’t know him that well, Mum. But there’s something about him… Something happened, and he won’t talk about it, so I’m going to help distract him until he can deal with it.” He shrugged.
“And when he goes back to London,” she murmured, and he could see the worry on her face.
“Then he goes back, hopefully, strong enough to deal with it.”
Bridget stepped closer, cupping his cheek. “You are such a generous soul, Ethan. Just be careful with this…” She tapped the left side of his chest.
Ethan nodded. He would do everything he could to protect himself—and his heart—during the time Joey was with him. He knew Joey wouldn’t stay there forever, and London wasn’t exactly down the road. It was two hundred and fifty miles away. A good six-hour journey if he didn’t take any breaks. Not that he’d checked or anything.
They said goodbye to his parents, and Ethan drove them back towards the centre of town. “Would you like to go out for a drink? We could call Christi and Kole to join us.”
“Kole?” Joey asked.
“My other friend. He’s a tour guide and works weird hours.”
“I don’t know…”
Ethan shrugged. “It’s okay. We can stay home.”
Joey stared out of the window for a while before sighing. “Okay, but can we go somewhere quiet and less likely for me to be noticed?”
“We can go back to the pub we met at. You must’ve chosen that one for a reason.” He asked without asking, or at least tried to.
Joey nodded. “It seemed out of the way. Not too busy.”
“We can do that. Do you need to go home for anything first?” Joey shook his head. “Okay, then. Let’s go. I’ll call Christi and Kole when we get there.”
Within the hour, they settled at a booth and downed their second round of drinks. Christi and Kole had joined them shortly after they’d arrived, and Kole had gushed over Joey until Ethan had levelled a look at him. Ethan sat beside Joey, keeping people away from him until he blanched.
He glanced at Joey and licked his lips. “Am I cockblocking you? Because I can stop. I just thought you wanted some space.”
Joey shook his head. “Nah, I’m not interested in them.”
Their gazes met and held, and a frisson of heat pooled in Ethan’s stomach, sinking lower and lower until his cock pressed against his zip. Would they end up in Ethan’s bed again? Ethan could only hope because their first night was imprinted in his brain, and he wanted more of it. They’d barely scratched the surface of what Joey could do to dominant Ethan, and Ethan wanted to know. Desperately. Though he wouldn’t admit it because he didn’t want Joey to feel pressured.
But the thought of Joey’s cock spearing him open again was almost more than he could bear. He swallowed hard.
“I’ll just keep…doing it then.”
He tore his eyes away and tried to keep his breathing even while he regained some control of his body. He could ruin everything if he jumped Joey the minute they got home, but he might not have a choice. His body had a mind of its own sometimes.