“Isn’t this the best Christmas day ever? And wasn’t that the best Christmas dinner?” Angel said.
Ruffling his boy’s light blond hair, Kael said, “You sound like Tiny Tim. And you said that last year.”
With care Angel tucked glasses into the top rack of the dishwasher. “Yes, and this year is even better. I can’t wait for next year.”
Placing a couple of plates carefully in the dishwasher, Kael reached for another. “Daddy, you don’t have to do dishes. That’s my job.” Angel looked up at him, his beautiful gray eyes bright with happiness.
Angel and Sharon had cooked their Christmas dinner while Kael wandered about trying to make himself useful, and they had done themselves proud. Even the sprouts, which Kael normally hated, were good. Angel had made them to a special recipe with chestnuts and a wine sauce. Sharon had looked tired after the meal was eaten, and Angel ordered her to sit with her feet up, insisting he would take care of everything.
Kael leaned his buttocks against the counter and crossed his arms. “So do you like your presents?” It was a stupid question. When Angel had opened his gifts that morning and had seen the latest Xbox, he had stared at it in disbelief and pure joy.
“Are you kidding? I love my presents. I still can’t believe you got me an Xbox.”
“I knew how much you wanted it. And you’ve been working so hard in school and at the firing range and all the other things I expect of you. You deserve a treat, but when we’re home, you make sure everything else is in order before you play with it.”
“Yes, Sir. I’ll consider it off-limits unless I have nothing else to do.”
“Good boy. But I’ve been meaning to ask you.” Kael lifted the stylish, heart-shaped gold pendant on the short gold chain hanging around his neck. He never wore jewelry, especially not necklaces, though this one was masculine despite being a heart. He had been both surprised and touched when he opened the beribboned gold box. “How did you afford this?” The only money Angel had was his monthly allowance from Kael, and he could not have saved that much. It was an expensive necklace.
Angel put the last plate in the dishwasher and tossed in a soap cube. “I sold the Rolex watch my mom gave me.” The boy hadn’t mentioned his mum in months, and he had never worn the watch. “When she didn’t get in touch with me on my birthday or even send me a card, I guessed I probably wouldn’t see her again for a long time. I never liked that watch anyway, and I wanted to get you something special.”
Love surging through him, Kael pulled the slender young man into his arms, pressing him close to his chest. “I’ve already got something special. I’ve got you. I love you, sweetheart.”
Slipping his arms around Kael’s chest, Angel tilted his chin for a kiss. “My Daddy,” he said quietly.
The doorbell rang, and a moment later, Sharon called, “Kael, come and see who’s here.”
Holding Angel’s hand, he walked into the living room and stopped dead. A man he had not seen in ten years took several steps toward him with his hand stuck out to shake. “All right, Kael. How are you, mate?”
Shocked to see Shawn standing in his mum’s living room, Kael stared for half a minute before remembering himself. He shook Shawn’s hand briefly and reluctantly. “I’m fine.”
“Who’s this?” Shawn asked. “Your boyfriend?”
Sharon ruffled Angel’s hair. “Didn’t I tell you Kael is gay?”
“Yeah, I think I knew,” Shawn said. If anyone knew, Shawn definitely did.
Kael hated the word boyfriend
. It sounded sissy. Worse still, it sounded casual, as if they weren’t an actual couple but just dating. “This is Angel. He’s my partner. He lives with me.”
“Domestic partners? Isn’t that what they call gay couples these days?” Shawn had always had a warm, intimate smile, a smile that had caused Kael’s heart to beat faster when he was fourteen years old. Shawn had been thirty-five when they had an affair that summer, two years older than Kael was now. He still had the same sparkly blue eyes and boyish grin. He wasn’t any taller, though being shorter than Angel’s five feet ten by three inches. Kael’s boy had gained two inches in the last year.
Shawn shook hands with Angel, but he looked at Kael. “You like them young, Kael?”
“Not as young as you like them,” Kael said under his breath. Angel’s hearing was as acute as his own. With a question in his eyes, he looked up at Kael.
Sharon had gone to the kitchen and could not have heard. She returned a moment later with a bottle of beer. “There you go, Shawn.”
The only reason Shawn could be back in his mum’s life was if he was at a loose end and looking for a woman to cadge off. Kael wanted to smack the fucker. Shawn went over to the big easy chair and threw himself down, looking very comfortable, which told Kael that he had been there before and probably spent the night.
Angel stood at the couch waiting for Kael to sit down first. It was a small, unobvious gesture of submission. That they were a gay couple was never hidden. Kael had been out and openabout his sexuality from the age of fifteen. But when it came to Angel’s submission, Kael had told him when strangers were present to behave as he thought appropriate depending on the situation.
Kael sat, stretching his long legs out in front of him. Angel sat beside him, tucking his legs under himself and leaning into Kael’s side as he always did.
“So what have you been up to, Kael?” Shawn asked.
Completely unaware of the tension between them, Sharon said, “He teaches languages in London. Don’t you, Kael?”
Though he had not taught languages since early in the year, Kael had neglected to tell his mum, and while he hated lying to her, he could not tell her that he worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service. He looked directly at her when he said, “Yes. I teach languages. I also translate.”
“What do you do, Angel?” Shawn asked.
Quickly and briefly, Angel caught Kael’s eyes, asking permission to speak. With people they knew well, he spoke freely, but with strangers he always asked permission. The smallest nod from Kael was sufficient consent. Sometimes Angel picked up such subtle cues that Kael wondered if he was psychic. Or perhaps it was that couple thing of reading each other’s thoughts. “I go to college. I’m taking A levels,” Angel said, his tone carefully polite.
“He passed all his GCSEs in June, didn’t you, love?” Sharon was as proud of Angel as if he truly was her son. “He’s clever, like Kael.”
“What are you going to do with yourself after that?” Shawn asked.
The way Shawn was watching Angel made Kael want to leap up and smack him. It was the way Shawn had looked at him all those years ago, intimate and engaging. Angel smiled. “I’m not sure yet.”
“He’ll take Daddy’s advice,” Kael said, claiming ownership of his boy.
“Daddy?” Shawn half laughed, looking confused.
“Yes, Daddy. That’s me,” Kael said. “He calls me Daddy.” Angel glanced up at him, slightly surprised but pleased that Kael had acknowledged the depth of their intimacy.
To Shawn Angel said, “I always take Daddy’s advice.”
“Whatever turns your crank,” Shawn said, draining his beer. “When did you start shaving your head, Kael?”
“About six or seven years ago.” Less chance of leaving evidence at a kill.
“Kael had lovely hair when he was little, all blond and curly,” Sharon said.
Sudden laughter broke from Angel, and he looked at Kael. “You had curly hair, Daddy? I can’t imagine you as a baby.”
“I was adorable, wasn’t I, Mum?” He grinned at her.
“You certainly were. And you still are.”
“You spoiled him rotten from what I saw when he was a teenager,” Shawn said to Sharon with what appeared to be a touch of resentment creasing his forehead. “I’ll just go outside for a smoke.”
Rising with him, Kael said, “I’ll come out with you for some air.”
“Do you smoke now?” Shawn asked.
“I’d never do anything so disgusting, but I’ll keep you company.” He looked at Angel. “You stay there, boy.” Kael grabbed his leather jacket from the hall cupboard and followed Shawn outside. As they walked down the stairs and outside the building, he watched Shawn with renewed wonder that he had ever loved and admired this man.
The moon sailed high in a black sky, reflecting on the water of the Mersey. The red tip of Shawn’s cigarette went back and forth to his mouth in the darkness.
“What do you want, Shawn?” Kael asked.
“I’m seeing your mum again,” he said.
Involuntarily Kael’s fists clenched, but he kept them at his side. It had been a couple of years since his mum had had a boyfriend, and Kael wanted her to find someone new. He’d just hoped her standards had improved and she would find a man who was not a user like all the other useless wankers she’d been with over the years. “For how long?”
“Just the last few weeks. She said you bought her the flat.” The area outside the building was dark, but Kael, with his exceptional eyesight, easily saw the skepticism in Shawn’s face. “A place like this on a teacher’s wages? Either you got into crime--because you were clever enough to make a success of being a big-time criminal--or...”
Kael cut him off as much to distract him from his train of thought as anything. “As opposed to a petty criminal like you? Have you been in jail recently?”
Shawn gave a small laugh. “Yeah, I was actually. Possession of stolen goods. But you either got into crime big-time or you do something as well as teaching.”
“I teach government people how to speak other languages. Politicians, people like that. And I translate for foreign dignitaries,” Kael lied. “That’s why I get paid so well. And just so you know, I kept the flat in my name in case Mum got involved with any bums. She always had a knack for picking useless dickheads.” It wasn’t true. The flat was his mum’s, lock, stock, and barrel, but Shawn didn’t need to know that.
Shawn took a long pull on his cigarette and blew hard through his nostrils, forcing Kael to take a step back to avoid inhaling the smoke. “Don’t be like that, Kael. We got along great when you were a kid.”
“You were fucking me when I was fourteen.”
“You wanted it as much as I did. You were taller and stronger than me even then. You could have stopped it at any time. Don’t play the victim now.”
It was true. He’d been head over heels in love that summer. “It doesn’t matter what I wanted. I was still a kid, and it was illegal. What if I told my mum? Think she’d still want you around?”
A flicker of nervousness crossed Shawn’s face, and he looked up at Kael. “You’d hurt Sharon just to get back at me?”
No. Kael would not hurt his mum just to get rid of Shawn. He had betrayed her by having sex with this loser during that summer holiday. She had been out working her arse off all day to support them while Kael was enjoying a summer of love with a man who should have known better and was old enough to be his dad. But he wanted Shawn gone from his mum’s life, so he would use it as a threat.
Very calmly he said, “I might have to. I might have to report you to the police as well. I was underage. How do I know you haven’t been with other underage boys, before or since?” The last thing on earth he would do was tell the police. Even if he wanted to, which he didn’t, he couldn’t with his job. But he had to do something, and the threat would likely be enough.
“There was no one else, Kael, just you. You were as big as a man anyway, and you acted like one.”
“But I was a kid.” No grown man would have fallen for Shawn’s uncertain charms, not even when he’d been younger and better looking. “And you committed a crime.”
“What about when I met you in Piccadilly Circus ten years ago? You were old enough then and you still wanted me.”
“I didn’t want you. I just wanted an arse to fuck,” Kael said. What he had wanted that day was to rid himself of the hurt and disappointment he had felt when Shawn had rejected him at the end of that summer.
“You can fuck me now if you want. We could go over there.” With his cigarette he indicated a darkened doorway along the building.
The very thought of sex with Shawn made Kael feel queasy. “Err...no thanks,” he said, his voice heavy with sarcasm. “Why would I want you when I’ve got a handsome boy waiting upstairs for me?”
For a long moment, Shawn remained still, looking up at him, apparently gauging his intent. Finally he dropped his cigarette and ground it under his toe. “What do you want?”
“I want you to get lost and leave my mum alone.” He paused. “Or I’ll make you.”
Without another word, Shawn walked away, past the Tate Liverpool art gallery, around Canning Dock, and across the road into the downtown area.
When Kael walked into the flat a few minutes later, his mum looked up, surprised. “Where’s Shawn?”
“He had to go,” Kael said. “Do you want some wine?”
“Yeah, go on, why not.” The disappointment in her face rocked him with momentary guilt. But he could not let that piece of crap back into her life.
Angel jumped up. “I’ll get it, Daddy.” He raced to the kitchen ahead of Kael and grabbed a bottle of white wine from the fridge while Kael took three glasses from the cupboard. “Did that man leave, or did you tell him to take a hike?” Angel whispered.
“I told him to take a hike,” Kael said. “Why were you so friendly with him?”
Angel leveled a questioning look at him. “Because I’ve got a daddy who insists I be polite to everyone and not make him ashamed of me. I always try to make you proud, Daddy.”
“Yes, I know you do. I’m sorry,” Kael said quietly.
“Oh God! You didn’t think I fancied him, did you?” The look of horror on Angel’s face was testament to the fact that Shawn did not interest him even in passing. “He stunk of cigarettes. He had nicotine stains on his fingers. And he’s old!”
“I’m old compared to you,” Kael said.
“Daddy, thirty-three is not old. That guy must be seventy.”
This time Kael laughed out loud. “He’s fifty-four, but I suppose compared to nineteen, that’s old.”
From the living room, Sharon shouted, “Where’s that wine? And there’s a box of chocolates on top of the fridge.”
Kael grabbed the chocolates, and they joined Sharon in the living room. They drank wine, ate chocolates, and chatted until it was late. Angel lay stretched out on the couch with his head on a pillow in Kael’s lap. All the while they chatted, Kael ran his fingers through Angel’s long, soft, beautiful hair. He still had not taken the boy for the buzz cut he kept threatening him with, and it trailed well past Angel’s shoulders, enhancing the beauty of his pale skin and delicate features.
“I love the Christmas tree, Sharon,” Angel said happily. “Purple ornaments. Who woulda thunk it? Daddy says Christmas trees just make a mess and gather dust.” He was not being sarcastic, but simply repeating what Kael had told him when Angel had asked if they could have a tree. Sometimes when Angel remarked casually on Kael’s restrictions, he felt like Scrooge. No Christmas tree. No computer games. A least now he had the Xbox.
“It’s not a real one, but it’s nice, isn’t it?” Sharon said. “We always had an artificial tree, didn’t we, Kael?”
“We did,” he agreed.
“You loved it when you were a kid.”
It was true. He had loved it. He’d forgotten that.
When he noticed Angel’s eyes drifting shut, he said, “Go and get ready for bed, sweetheart.” Angel rose drowsily and wandered off.
“He’s such a good boy. He always does what you tell him.” Smiling, Sharon watched Angel go.
“Mum, don’t let Shawn back into your life,” Kael said.
“Why? You liked him when I went out with him years ago. He was like a dad to you that summer, taking you all over the place, spending all that time with you. Were you disappointed when he left?”
Avoiding the question, Kael said, “I just want you to be happy, Mum.”
“I am happy,” she said. “I’m the luckiest woman in the world. I’ve got you and Angel. Look, luv, I know Shawn’s nothing special and he’s lazy, but he’s a decent fella deep down. He’s a good laugh.”
“Did he tell you he’d been in jail recently?”
“As a matter of fact he did. Stolen goods or something.” Sharon got up from her chair and sat on the couch beside him, tucking her arm through his. “You’re such a good son. But I can look after myself. I haven’t seen anyone in a couple of years, and I’m lonely. You’ve got your lovely Angel now. Don’t you want me to have someone?”
“Of course I do, but what about the flower shop? Men come in and out of there all the time.” When his mum had finally given up working in the old peoples’ homes and the launderette, it had been at Kael’s insistence. But he was glad when she got the job in the flower shop near Marks and Spencer. She was like him: always had to be doing something.
“I love that job, but the only men who come in there are buying flowers for some other woman.” She smiled. “Shawn’s not that bad. He’s good company.”
“He’s not good enough for you,” Kael said.
“At least he never laid a hand on me, not like the others.”
Leaning down, Kael kissed the top of her head. “It’s up to you, Mum. But please don’t let him use you like he did last time.”
He carried the empty glasses to the kitchen while his mum turned out the lights. In the hallway to the bedrooms, she kissed him good night. “I’m going to have a nice hot shower and have a good night’s sleep. Do you have anything special you want to do tomorrow?”
“Angel loves it here. He loves the yellow submarine outside the Beatles Museum, and he wants to get the ferry across to Birkenhead. But first thing we’re going to run to Otterspool.” He pulled her into a hug. “Mum, will you come to London for New Year? Stephen Conran invited you to a New Year party with Angel and me. You enjoyed it last year.”
“You hated him at school, and now you’re friends. Funny how things work out like that.” She laughed. “But all them posh people, Kael. I don’t belong there.”
“You belong anywhere. You’re better than all of them. Most of those women have never done a hand’s turn in their lives.”
“I don’t think so, love, not this year. You go to bed now and kiss Angel good night for me.”
Kael entered the bedroom to find Angel naked and bent at the waist, picking up his socks, his long hair falling forward over his shoulders. His slender body looked vulnerable and very sexy. “Stand up straight, boy, and remain where you are.”
Obeying instantly, Angel tossed the socks into the wash basket and remained on the spot while Kael went to the wardrobe and took the paddle from the shelf. His boy did not speak, but his eyes opened wide in question. “Mum’s getting in the shower. She won’t hear a thing. Are you fully awake again?”
“Good. Brace yourself.”
His cock already growing hard, Angel spread his feet to about ten inches and joined his hands at the back of his head.
“Good boy. Are you solid on your feet?”
“Yes, Sir.” Angel’s voice was low and breathy, his eyes already unfocused and hazy. He was heading for subspace without so much as a crack across his backside.
“Stay present,” Kael said. “We don’t have much time for warm-up.” Quickly Kael threw off his clothes. He preferred to be naked during a scene, enjoying the freedom and sensuality of it. Standing to Angel’s side, he waited, listening intently for the rush of water from the bathroom on the other side of the wall. The second it started, Kael raised the paddle and landed it hard across Angel’s buttocks. Though he held back, the blow was sufficiently forceful to cause Angel to lose his footing and take a step forward while a small cry escaped his throat. The boy quickly corrected himself, and Kael continued.
“Speak to me.”
“Green, Sir. More please.”
Still holding back somewhat, Kael let fly with the paddle, releasing one hard stroke after the next, fast and perfectly timed. Angel moaned long and slowly each time he released a breath, a technique Kael had taught him to prevent him from crying out under the pain of the whip or paddle. “Good boy, Angel. You’re doing wonderfully.”
With his usual attention to detail, Kael scanned his boy for signs of fatigue and stress. Every part of Angel’s body was tensed. The muscles of his long, lean thighs stood out, clearly visible. His buttocks were tightly clenched and bright scarlet from the blows. Even the tendons in the beautiful, slender neck stood out.
Kael did not pause in his ministrations when he asked, “What are you feeling, Angel?” The silence told Kael he was spacing. “Boy, I know it’s fun to take a trip, but I want you present.”
Angel moaned between clamped lips.
Without pause Kael altered the rhythm of his flogging, disrupting the timing and interspersing a light spank with a heavy one. With a predictable rhythm gone, Angel had no choice but to come back and focus. “Are you with me, boy?”
“Yes, Sir.” The words spilled out on a labored breath.
Listening carefully for the noise of rushing water, Kael threw all his strength behind the paddle, flogging hard for a full minute. Abruptly the water stopped, forcing him to bring the paddling to a fast halt. Panting hard, his heart slowing while his cock remained rigid and blood filled, Kael stepped in front of Angel and held the paddle to the boy’s lips. Angel kissed it, the tension leaving his face and body as he did so. Without permission Angel sank to his knees, laying his cheek on Kael’s feet, encircling Kael’s ankles with his arms. His upper body rested on the hardwood floor, his buttocks in the air. After a long moment during which Kael felt the intensity of Angel’s gratitude, the boy kissed Kael’s feet repeatedly.
The deep, powerful love Kael felt for his sweet boy flooded his being. He reached down, taking Angel’s upper arms, and pulled him to his feet. Angel fell against his chest, wrapping his arms around him. He ran his big hands over Angel’s inflamed arse, rubbing vigorously, making his boy moan again.
“Sir, I love it when you rub my ass like that after a flogging. It’s weird because it hurts more and yet it gives me relief as well.”
“You’re a strong, brave boy. Now get on the bed, on your hands and knees. Feet hanging off the edge.” His eyes hazy with pleasure, Angel smiled up at Kael before obeying.
From the pocket of the carryall bag in the wardrobe, Kael pulled a single glove of very thin latex. “Do you go anywhere without those gloves, Sir?” Angel asked, watching over his shoulder, humor in his tone.
“I do not,” Kael said. “I never know when I might have to kill someone. Now drop your shoulders to the bed, arse high in the air--and be silent.”
“Yes, Sir.” Angel obeyed.