Joey had promised himself he wouldn’t touch Ethan again. He didn’t want to throw his help back in his face by assuming he could touch him, have him. But he wasn’t sure he could keep that promise. His cock was pressing against his jeans, and he could do nothing to ease the pressure. So, he kept drinking, although he alternated it with water—he didn’t want to be drunk drunk. Just a little tipsy.
His phone buzzed against his thigh where it lay snug in his pocket, but he ignored it, as he had been doing for the past few days. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t turned it off completely if he wasn’t going to answer anyone, but there was always that little niggle in the back of his head that he needed to keep it on—just in case. He made sure to check the names of those who’d rung and messaged him, but he didn’t listen or read them unless it was from Ani. Most of his family and friends knew they could send a message through her if they couldn’t contact him—it had been that way for years.
“What about you, Joey?”
Joey blinked at Kole. “Sorry. I missed that.”
“Would you like to come on a ghost tour? I have a few spaces left on the tour tomorrow, and Ethan here is too scared.”
Ethan pursed his lips and glared at Kole. “I’m not scared, and you know it. I hate it when people jump out at you. I’m sure my heart can’t take much more.”
Kole snorted. “If that’s not a textbook definition of scared, I don’t know what is.”
“I’ll come. What time is it?” Joey said, dragging Kole’s attention back to him and giving Ethan a break.
“Nine o’clock. At night, naturally.”
“I’ll be there.”
Ethan huffed and said, “I suppose I could join in.”
Kole lifted his glass towards them. “A toast to epic ghost adventures.”
Joey clinked their glasses together and hid his smile by taking a drink. Ethan didn’t look happy, and Joey made a note to ask him about it. It seemed like it was more than just because people jumped out at him.
They stayed for a couple of hours longer until Ethan yawned. “I’m done for. Gotta get some sleep.”
They bid goodnight to Ethan’s friends and headed out to the car.
“Do you want me to drive?” Joey asked, laughing when Ethan held out the keys without a word. “Will I end up pouring you into bed, too?” His voice tripped on the last word when the double meaning hit him. “I didn’t mean…” He hadn’t meant that, but now he had the idea in his head, he couldn’t stop it from running circles around his brain.
Ethan snorted. “In the unlikely event that I fall asleep in the car, yes, you will.” He paused while they climbed into the car. “I’ve never been able to sleep in cars. Even as a child.”
Joey started the car and clicked his seatbelt into place. Once he’d pulled out of the car park, he said, “I have no trouble sleeping anywhere if I’m tired enough.” He hesitated. “Under normal circumstances, anyway.”
Ethan didn’t say anything, and the quiet extended the entire trip. Had Joey said something to upset him? If he had, he had no idea what it could be. When the front door closed behind them, Ethan faced him.
“I have no idea what you’re going through, Joey, but if you need anything, let me know.”
Joey needed something, but he couldn’t voice it. It felt like he’d be taking advantage of Ethan’s hospitality and expecting something he had no right to expect. So, he nodded and stared at the man who had helped him with barely any questions asked.
Ethan’s lips curled at one side, and he stepped closer. “Or you could just stare at me like that. I can take a hint.”
His hands touched Joey’s chest, and Joey’s restraint snapped. He banded his arms around Ethan’s back while his mouth attacked. He crushed Ethan to him as he plundered and explored, using all his air supply until he dragged his mouth away to breathe. Ethan’s gasping inhales tugged at Joey’s cock, hardening it even more at the noises he made. He stepped forwards, herding Ethan towards the stairs, but once they got there, Joey didn’t make a move to climb them. Instead, he pushed Ethan to sit on a step and towered over him until he leaned back.
“Take my cock out,” he ordered.
Ethan’s hands trailed down his chest to his jeans, unfastened the buttons and dragged the material away from Joey’s body, allowing his cock to strain upwards once free. Ethan wrapped a hand around his length, and Joey hissed but pulled away.
“I didn’t say to touch.” Joey rested his hands on either side of Ethan’s head. “Take your cock out.”
He watched the bob of Ethan’s Adam’s apple as he did as Joey told him. Heat washed over him as the shaft appeared, red and swollen and reaching for Ethan’s stomach. Joey moved one of Ethan’s legs to rest on a step, then repeated it with his other leg, spreading him wide enough for Joey to press between them. And when he did, they both gasped when their cocks slid against each other.
“Hands above your head.” Joey waited until Ethan complied, one of his hands gripping hold of Joey’s wrist still pinned by his head. Then Joey wrapped his free hand around both their shafts and held still. “You want this?” Ethan nodded, and Joey raised his eyebrows.
“I want to hear everything. Understood?”
“Yes, sir.” Ethan’s nostrils flared and his pupils dilated.
Joey stroked from base to tip, and Ethan’s trembling exhale set Joey’s blood on fire. Ethan’s fingernails dug into Joey’s skin, and he enjoyed the bite of pain. He stared into Ethan’s eyes as he tortured them both with his hand. He thrust his hips as well, nudging the head of his cock against the underside of Ethan’s, and the sounds Ethan made were music to his ears.
“God, I’m so close already,” Ethan said, biting his lip, his chest heaving.
“You can come whenever you want to. But I want to hear it all.”
Ethan closed his eyes and moaned, his hips moving in time with Joey’s hands. He studied Ethan’s expressions and body language, noting everything. What made him moan. What made him gasp. What had him trembling so forcefully he couldn’t help but grip Joey’s arm harder. By the time Joey’s release sparked down his spine towards his cock, Ethan’s eyes rolled back in his head and his teeth latched onto his wrist as his dick spurted over Joey’s hand. The sights, sounds and feel of it sent Joey following, and afterwards, he rested his knees on the step between Ethan’s thighs, lowering his head to Ethan’s shoulder.
“Oh, fuck! I’m so sorry!” Ethan said, and Joey lifted his head, frowning.
Ethan stared at Joey’s wrist, and Joey followed his gaze, then grinned. He had a perfect set of teeth marks around his wrist, no broken skin, but the indents were complete.
“I didn’t mean to!”
Joey lifted his come-covered hand and turned Ethan’s face to his. “It’s fine, but as penance…” He held up his hand to Ethan’s mouth, and Ethan’s eyes darkened again before he licked Joey’s hand clean, a hum leaving him as he did.
When he was clean, he lifted off Ethan and held out a hand. Ethan winced when he moved.
“Are you okay?” Joey asked.
“Yeah. Maybe no sex on the stairs anymore.” Ethan gasped when Joey spun him around and lifted the back of his shirt.
There was a red line blooming across his back from where he had rested against the stairs. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I never thought.”
Ethan waved a hand. “I’m good. I doubt it’ll bruise because it’s not like you were pounding me into it. Anyway, it’s the least I deserve after marking you.”
Joey’s heart somersaulted at the words, but he tamped down on the words he wanted to admit—that he wouldn’t mind having his mark on him always—and chuckled. “I didn’t feel a thing.” He rotated his wrist. “It doesn’t hurt.”
“Even so. That wasn’t very…nice of me.”
Ethan’s lopsided grin appeared again, even as he turned to climb the stairs. “A little. It’s time for bed.”
Joey stared at his ass as he climbed but made no move to follow him. Ethan paused at the top, frowning down at him.
“Are you not coming?”
Joey smirked. “I thought I just had.” Ethan rolled his eyes. “Not yet. I’m not tired.”
Ethan narrowed his eyes. “Okay. Wake me if you need anything.”
Joey nodded, and Ethan disappeared into his room. Joey’s fingers traced over the teeth marks gently, not wanting them to disappear too quickly. Then, pushed by an urge he couldn’t explain—or didn’t want to—he raced out to his car and grabbed his box. Despite the risk of leaving such expensive items in his car, he hadn’t wanted to bring them into Ethan’s house. Not because he didn’t trust Ethan, but because he hadn’t wanted to explain.
Now, though, he couldn’t resist. He set the box on the dining room table and cleared a space, going through his usual motions of checking his tools and disinfecting everything he needed. Then he settled on a chair and prepared his skin. The marks were already disappearing, so he had to be quick. Hoping Ethan was already asleep, he switched on his tattoo gun, the low-level vibration settling something inside Joey he hadn’t realised was unsettled.
Thankful that the marks were on his left wrist, he carefully traced them with the needle, inking them permanently onto his skin to carry with him for the rest of his days. It didn’t take him long, and soon, the two semi-circles were completed. He couldn’t understand why he felt the need to keep them with him, but no matter. It was too late now.
He cleaned himself and his equipment and packed it all away again, taking the box back out to the car. Once he’d locked the front door behind him, he climbed the stairs and headed to the spare room. He didn’t want to wake Ethan, and he hadn’t even been given permission to join him, anyway.
As he lay staring at the ceiling, he remembered his phone and finally checked for messages. There were several from his family, as he’d expected, but only one from Ani.
ANI: Everything is fine. People are asking after you, but nothing urgent. I do have some news. The funeral is on Friday. Eleven o’clock. Let me know if you need anything.
Joey’s breathing stalled, and he stared at the words until they blurred. Then he closed his eyes and let the tears overflow down his temples and into his hair.
It was too soon. He couldn’t do it. Not yet.
He rolled over and buried his face in the pillow, praying sleep would come.
And it must have, because a knock on his door woke him.
“Joey? Are you in there?”
“Yes,” he croaked, clearing his throat before repeating his answer in a louder voice.
“Oh, good. I’ll be heading to work in half an hour if you want to come with me. You don’t have to, though. You can work whatever hours you want, according to Meredith.”
“I’ll be ready.”
Silence descended, but Joey didn’t hear Ethan move away for several long seconds. When he did, Joey flopped back onto the bed and sighed. He was exhausted. He rubbed his face and climbed out of bed, frowning when he saw his phone wasn’t on the bedside table. Then he remembered and fumbled around in his sheets until he found it. No more messages graced his screen, which was a blessing, but it was still early.
When he was decent enough—with his wrist covered by a long-sleeved shirt—he descended the stairs and met Ethan in the kitchen. Ethan’s eyebrows rose when he glanced at him, but he said nothing, which Joey was grateful for.
“Do you want anything to eat or drink before we go?”
Joey shook his head. “I’m good.”
Ethan didn’t look like he believed him but didn’t argue. “Okay. Let’s go.”
The day went quickly because Joey kept himself busy. This time, though, when Ethan finished his shift, Joey opted to stay longer. He wasn’t sure he could keep everything pushed down if he had some downtime. Too many thoughts crowding in his head, and he needed them to stay away, which would only happen if he kept himself busy.
“Are you sure?”
Joey nodded, fighting with the lightbulb that didn’t want to come out. “Yeah, I’m good. I can get a taxi or something.”
“Just call me when you’re done, and I’ll fetch you.”
“I know. But call me anyway.”
Ethan’s expression told him he needed to listen, and for once, it didn’t pull Joey’s dominant side to the front. Instead, all he wanted to do was go home with Ethan and relax in his arms for several hours. Which was exactly why he didn’t do it.
Joey stayed for another three hours, and as he put away the tools in the closet, someone cornered him.
“Hello, Joey,” David said.
Joey had experienced a few brief conversations with the assistant manager, but he couldn’t get a read on him. As always, he tried to keep his interactions with anyone as quick as possible.
“Hey. Anything wrong?”
David smiled. “Not at all. I just wanted to check-in. How are you doing with the list?”
Joey pulled it from the shelf he’d left it on and handed it over. “Not bad. There are several things I can’t do, but I’m making progress on the little things.”
David glanced over it and handed it back. “Good, good. I’m glad to have something nice to look at for a change.”
David murmured the words as he walked away, but not quiet enough for Joey not to hear them. He narrowed his gaze at David’s back. There was something about him that screamed smarmy and oily, but Joey couldn’t figure it out. He’d try to stay clear as much as possible.
“Ethan, what are you doing back?” he heard David say.
“Just picking up Joey.”
Joey closed his eyes as his body ached to get closer to the voice he wanted to hear every minute of the day. He resisted for as long as possible, then headed their way, frowning more as the conversation continued between Ethan and David.
“—didn’t know you were friends.”
“Yes, David. We are friends. I’m the one who brought him to Meredith.”
“Oh, really? I didn’t know that.” Joey rounded the corner in time to see David lay a hand on Ethan’s arm and lean closer. “He’s nice to look at, isn’t he?”
Joey’s eyes narrowed on the contact between the two men, and his heart raced. His nostrils flared as he tried to regulate his breathing, but he calmed when Ethan met his gaze.
“Ah, there you are,” Ethan said, moving closer, causing David to drop his hand. “I thought you were going to start living here.”
Joey couldn’t stop himself, even though he knew it was wrong. He grabbed Ethan’s arm and dragged him closer, sealing his lips over Ethan’s and holding his head in place while he ravaged his mouth. He wasn’t a caveman. He wasn’t. But he couldn’t help himself. Ethan didn’t fight him, just slid his arms around Joey’s waist and kissed him back. That, more than anything, helped settle Joey, and he pulled back, resting their foreheads together.
“Sorry,” he whispered.
Ethan smiled. “It’s okay. David’s an asshole.”
Ethan kissed him chastely and pulled away, threading their fingers together. Louder, he said, “Are you all finished?”
“Let’s go home, then.”
Joey liked the sound of home. Even though his home was much further away than Ethan’s house, the idea of Ethan’s being home was more enticing.
They wandered past David, neither taking any notice of the man, and out into the salt-scented air. Joey inhaled a lungful and exhaled, gazing out across the landscape.
“It never gets old,” Ethan said. Joey glanced at him. “The smell or the view. I love it here.”
“You never wanted to move?”
Ethan shook his head. “No. I don’t think I ever will.”
Joey swallowed down the denial because he had no right to argue with him. Just because Joey was getting all emotionally involved didn’t mean Ethan was.
“I can see why,” he made himself say.
Ethan pointed to the bench across the road. “I sometimes come and sit there when there’s a storm. I can watch the waves crash into the pier without getting caught in it. It’s beautiful.”
Joey wanted what he could hear in Ethan’s voice, though couldn’t identify it. Longing? Wistfulness? He didn’t know. But he liked the sound of it. He liked the idea that it could wash away his sadness, his loss. Maybe even those emotions he didn’t want to truly acknowledge, like anger and resentment. Because what man wanted to admit he was angry and resented the man who’d left Joey with no sign of what he’d been suffering through?
He inhaled and held it for as long as he could, pushing those thoughts and feelings down once more. When he exhaled, it was shaky, but he was able to smile at Ethan, who’d given him a worried look.
“Shall we get some dinner before the tour?” Joey asked.