Ben was grateful his old bedroom was on the ground floor, just a few steps from the front entrance to his parents’ house. He didn’t want to wait the extra ten seconds it would take to climb the stairs.
“You slept in the library?” Evan asked, taking in the shelves and the fireplace as Ben dragged him inside his room.
“What can I say?” Ben pushed aside the hem of Evan’s poncho and hooked his fingers through his belt loops. “I love books.” He yanked Evan close and kissed him hard, slipping one hand down to stroke him through his jeans.
With a deep groan, Evan lifted him off his feet to pin him against the wall. Ben spread his legs and locked the heels of his cowboy boots around the back of Evan’s thighs, taking care not to stab him with the plastic spurs.
Evan had gone on to lose the final shootout to Sir Scallywag—the kindly bloke who’d lent him his spare gun—but the loss hadn’t dimmed Ben’s exhilaration. Watching Evan outdraw Tombstone Tim had been the highlight of his year thus far. The icy self-assurance, the warp-speed reflexes, and finally the raw, gleeful astonishment had taught Ben more about this man than all their hours of conversation had done. Here was a man who could take control without taking himself too seriously.
Also, it was hot as fuck.
Now, up against his wall, Ben had everything he’d been dying for. Every bit of Evan was crushing him: lips, hands, hips, cock. The mad grinding through their jeans was growing painful, but he wasn’t about to make it stop. Letting go of each other long enough to undress seemed ludicrous.
When Ben began to slide down the wall, Evan cupped his arse with both hands to support him. Feeling those fingers grip his cheeks, Ben imagined them fucking just like this, with Evan pounding him from below.
This mental picture, along with the insistent rhythm of Evan’s cock against his own, sent Ben spiraling toward orgasm. He gripped Evan’s shoulders and moaned.
Evan broke their kiss. “You okay?”
“Yes.” Ben strained against him. “I’m gonna come.”
Evan glanced at the bed. “Shall we—”
“No! Don’t stop. I need to.” He gasped for air. “Now.”
They pressed harder together, their thrusts turning ragged and desperate.
“Wait, you first.” Evan tightened his grip and took a step back from the wall. “Just ride me.”
Ben gave it his all, jerking his hips faster and faster, chasing the delicious friction, climbing a jagged peak that seemed to recede the higher he got. Clutching Evan’s back, he fixed his gaze on the fireplace against the opposite wall.
This’ll be so awkward if it doesn’t work. Also, I’m already so sore I want to scream. But he couldn’t stop, couldn’t stop, not for anything.
“I’ve got you, Ben.” Evan shifted his feet to widen his stance. “Come for me. Come for me now.”
“Yes!” Ben tried to say, but it came out as a strangled “Yeghuhgh!” as his orgasm swamped him, all the more intense for its momentary elusiveness. Stars danced before his eyes, sparking against the dark fireplace. “Now you.”
Evan pressed him to the wall again, burying his face in Ben’s shirt collar to muffle his groans. Ben noticed with gratitude he’d shifted slightly so he could drive himself against Ben’s hip rather than his now-aching cock.
Evan’s body buckled as he came. Still clinging to his back, Ben could feel the shudders rippling through Evan’s muscles and imagined how they would feel against his own bare skin.
Finally Evan lowered Ben to the floor. “I canna say…” he gasped out “…that was how I pictured…our first time.”
“Me neither.” Ben sagged against the wall, his shaky legs barely able to support his own weight. “I do so love surprises.”
“I don’t.” Evan stepped close again, and this time his touch was pure gentle as he cupped Ben’s face to kiss him. “But maybe you could teach me how.”
* * *
Evan wrapped a luxuriously soft towel round his waist—a much-needed bit of comfort after that ferocious journey to orgasm—then switched on the clothes dryer holding his rinsed-out pair of briefs. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d come in his pants like that, so desperate for release he’d practically injured himself.
Looking back, he was glad it had been so frenetic. If he’d not been drunk on lust and adrenaline, he might have had time to think. Time to remember. Time to panic.
He walked barefoot from the utility room, across the hallway’s cold tile into the kitchen, where Ben was arranging open containers of ice cream on the salmon-marble worktop. “Interesting choice for winter,” Evan said.
“Science says ice cream warms you up, just like eating spicy foods cools you down. At least, I hope that’s what science says.” Ben turned to Evan, his Dapper Dan T-shirt now paired with gray-and-black plaid sleep trousers and neon-green socks. “Ooh, check you.” He licked chocolate ice cream off his thumb as his gaze roamed Evan’s naked legs. “Are you as sore as I am from our mad wallbanger?”
“Aye, I think bruising might have occurred. Worth it, though.” He held out the boxer shorts and pajama trousers Ben had offered him. “These didn’t fit, but thanks.”
“Ooft, sorry.” Ben set the clothes on the nearest kitchen chair, then turned back to the ice cream. “On the bright side, our temporary injuries give us time to watch the film before bed.” He angled his head to look at Evan from the corner of his eye. “You’re staying the night, right?”
“If you like.” He’d left out extra food for Trent, just in case. “What about your mum?”
“She won’t be home until late tomorrow morning.” Ben held out the ice cream scoop. “You can leave before then.”
As Evan helped himself to an equal amount of each of the four flavors, he tried not to take it personally that Ben wanted to evict him at daybreak. “Your house is beautiful.”
“That means a lot, coming from an architect. All I know is it’s very red.”
“It’s cozy.” Given the home’s location in Bearsden—one of the UK’s wealthiest districts—Evan had expected something more palatial and ostentatious. But the Reids’ villa was human-size and understated, employing the warm colors and cool textures of the American Southwest.
As they carried their ice cream into the living room, Evan said, “When I first heard of Bearsden, I thought, ‘How convenient they’ve made it easy to find all the big hairy men.’”
Ben chuckled. “I’ve heard a hundred variations on that joke. I’ve made at least a dozen myself.”
“Sorry.” Evan sank onto the plush russet leather couch, his face flaring with embarrassment.
“Don’t be. It’s good we got it out of the way.” Ben knelt before the square wooden coffee table and opened both drawers. From one he withdrew the remote controls, and from the other a Blu-Ray box set. “I’m obviously not a bear, but I am an otter, FYI.”
“Erm…okay.” He watched Ben scoot over to the TV to insert the disc into the player.
Ben stood and turned to him. “I do shave some hair.” He put a hand to the small of his back. “And of course I trim other bits. But I don’t wax. I tried it once and nearly passed out from the pain.”
“Ah.” Evan’s Scandinavian heritage meant he’d never needed much manscaping himself.
“I only mention it,” Ben continued, “because a lot of guys see my slimness and assume I’m a twink. Then my top comes off and they’re disappointed, and sometimes it becomes a”—he lowered his gaze to his shifting feet—“a racial thing. Like they have a closer look and realize my tan doesn’t come from a bottle. One of them even said, ‘I’m not into—’ I won’t repeat the word.” Ben pushed his glasses up his nose, still not meeting Evan’s eyes. “It’s funny, cos one look at my Scottish dad shirtless proves I got my hairiness from him.”
“I’m sorry.” Evan set down his bowl of ice cream, harder than he’d intended.
Ben stepped back like he’d been slapped. “I can phone a taxi, or if you don’t want to wait, the Hillfoot train station is—”
“I meant, I’m sorry you had to go through that.” He stood and went to him, thinking of people like Jordan Lithgow who’d be happy to see Ben suffer. “Tell me who these racist pricks were, and I’ll—”
“What, shoot them with a cap gun?” Ben smiled up at him. “Thanks for the chivalry, but I wasn’t looking for sympathy. I just wanted to be forthcoming before we got naked. I wanted to be sure I was your body type.”
“I haven’t got a body type. I’m attracted to personality.” And a clean background check. “Specifically, your personality.” He kissed Ben softly. “And your mouth, to be perfectly forthcoming myself.”
“Ooh.” Ben tapped one of Evan’s shirt buttons. “You’re too good to be true, Mr. Hollister.”
Evan swallowed his dismay at these apt words. “I’m not.”
“Not good or not true?” Ben stepped back with a smirk. “Relax, I’m kidding. Mostly.” He headed for the five-panel bay window. “While I draw the blinds, want to turn off the big light? It’ll make a better viewing experience.”
Evan moved toward the switch near the living-room doorpost. When he reached it, he stopped, heart hammering his chest. “Put on the film first so I won’t trip on my way to the couch. My manager would have my head if I got injured in a freak Blu-Ray-watching accident.”
Ben gave him a curious look but did as he asked. In a moment the TV glowed with the bright desert sky of the disc’s main menu. Evan turned off the light, then returned to the couch as fast as he could without losing the towel round his waist.
Ben sat beside him and covered their legs with a thick black-and-white-plaid blanket. Then he pointed the remote at the TV. “Ready?”
Evan took a moment to gaze at Ben’s blue-lit face. “Fire.”
* * *
Ben had seen A Fistful of Dollars so many times, he’d grown immune to the mind-snapping tension of its opening sequence. Watching the Clint Eastwood classic with Evan was like reliving that first viewing.
When the Man with No Name (aka, the Stranger) confronted the Baxter gang—“My mule don’t like people laughing”—then gunned down all four before they could get off a single shot, Evan let out a spontaneous, “Wow.”
“Indeed. Now you see why your poncho turned me on.”
Evan eyed Ben’s bootlace tie, which he wore loosely fastened like a necklace. “This turned me on,” he said as he slipped his fingers beneath it, “because all night I wanted to do this.”
He tugged on the tie to pull Ben toward him. Their mouths meshed, cold and sweet with ice cream.
A loud buzz came from the back of the house.
Evan jumped, tightening his grip on the tie. “What was that?”
“Ow. It’s the clothes dryer.” Ben rubbed the back of his neck as Evan let go. “Your underwear’s ready.”
Evan blinked rapidly. “Right. Sorry.” He got up and moved into the hallway, switching on every light on his way to the utility room. Soon he returned, once again in his jeans and socks, his eyes comically wide. “Hot pants.”
As they continued watching the film, Ben found himself leaning into Evan, snuggling against his soft blue flannel shirt as though they were a real couple.
Wait, were they a real couple? It had felt like it tonight at times, like when Evan had put himself between Ben and Tombstone Tim. But their frantic cumfest against the wall had been like any other anonymous encounter, with a singular—sinful?—objective.
A sudden jolt broke through Ben’s contemplation. He turned to see Evan’s eyes fixed on the screen, where the Rojos gang were beating the crap out of the captive Stranger. Evan flinched at the sound of each blow, despite the cartoonish quality of 1964 sound effects.
When one of the villains offered the Stranger water to drink, then poured it over his head instead, Evan sat up straight. “Pause it. Now. Please.”
Ben fumbled for the remote control. “What’s wrong?”
Staring at the frozen screen, Evan swiped his tongue, then his teeth, over his top lip. “He gets out, right?”
“Of course.” Ben tried not to sound patronizing. “I promise you’ll love how he escapes.” He held out the remote, hoping Evan would feel better if he could control the experience. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Evan swallowed, then pressed play, but he kept the remote control. When Ben instinctively put his arm around his shoulders, Evan didn’t flinch, but he didn’t relax either.
As they watched the Rojos gang interrogate the Man with No Name, Ben stroked the back of Evan’s ice-cold hands and pondered his hypervigilance—how he’d hesitated to close his eyes at the restaurant, how he’d balked at turning off the living room light.
“I hate surprises.”
If Evan was a cop, he must have encountered the ugliest of human behavior. Ben prayed he’d been but a witness and not a victim himself.
As promised, the Man With No Name soon escaped by ambushing his captors with a giant rolling barrel of gunpowder. Evan’s body relaxed, and his hand warmed beneath Ben’s. The two of them snuggled closer on the couch, limbs intertwining, hands wandering beneath the blanket with no particular destination.
“This is my favorite part,” Ben whispered against Evan’s cheek as the Stranger emerged from the dynamite smoke to to rescue his innkeeper friend—as much as anyone could be a friend to the Man With No Name.
“Interesting,” Evan said, his fingers drawing maddening circles inside Ben’s thigh. “Usually it’s the villain who walks out of the fog when everyone thinks he’s dead. Here it’s the good guy.”
“He’s not a good guy.” Ben pressed his lips to Evan’s ear. “But he is a hero.”
Evan turned his head, and the look in his eyes made Ben feel like he’d just given a quiz show’s million-pound answer.
“I’m so sorry,” Evan said.
Ben’s heart pounded. Was Evan about to run away? “Sorry for what?”
“For interrupting the film again.” He took Ben’s face in his hands and kissed him.
Ben succumbed to this deluxe version of last week’s goodnight kiss. It wasn’t like the suffocating kisses they’d shared against his bedroom wall, but it stole his breath just the same.
When Evan’s mouth moved to his neck, Ben glanced at the TV, where the Stranger was about to have his final showdown. “We’re missing the best part.”
“No.” Evan’s lips against his ear made Ben shiver. “We’re not.”