“God, you’re cruel!”
“She deserves it.”
“No one deserves to get dumped by text message, Kurt.”
Kurt Donaldson looked at his sister, who sat on the other side of his desk, her hands resting on a very pregnant belly. She’d gotten huge over the last couple of weeks, and Kurt was looking forward to having a little niece to hold and welcome into his family. However, that didn’t stop him from narrowing his glare.
“Rachael does. She’s stood me up too many times, Kennedy. No explanations, no apologies.” He sat forward in his chair, agitated at having to defend his actions to his well-meaning but overbearing sister.
“Okay, so maybe she forgot,” she said in support of the other woman.
Kurt’s chocolate-brown eyes narrowed in anger. Before he said something he’d regret, he stood up and strode over to the filing cabinet situated against the far wall of his office. He pulled out a folder at random, not caring what it was but needing something to give him time to come up with a more composed response. Holding the document to his chest, he turned to face Kennedy. She continued to sit serenely in the guest chair, not seeming to care in the least that she’d annoyed him. “It was a very important dinner meeting with a client. She knew I expected her to be there.”
Summer sunlight filtered through the floor-to-ceiling windows, highlighting the chestnut in Kennedy’s hair. “Expected, yes. Wanted, probably not,” Kennedy pointed out with an astuteness that began to worry Kurt.
“What do you mean?”
“Come on, Kurt! You don’t connect with the women you sleep with. You use them.”
Troubled by his sister’s accusations because they were closer to the truth than he was comfortable with, Kurt moved back to his desk and sat on the edge. He stared at her in consternation. “What makes you think that?”
“Your past history. Every woman you’ve gone out with the last couple of years has only lasted a month or so. You change them more often than a teenager changes his underwear.” Leaning forward, Kennedy laid her hand on Kurt’s knee, her gesture one of both concern and compassion.
Kurt’s lips twitched at the analogy, relieved she wasn’t looking too deeply into the reasons he changed women so frequently. Still he shook his head and gave her the answer he assumed she was expecting. “My relationships have been short because I’ve never found anyone that’s suitable.”
Kurt shrugged. “You know, someone who’s willing to accept me for who I am.”
“And who are you, Kurt?”
The question threw him, as did the way Kennedy was looking at him. There was no way she could have suspected. Yet the last few conversations with her had not been typical.
“I’m a man who’s trying to work,” he replied, attempting to put her off while also struggling to ignore the uneasiness sitting in the pit of his stomach.
“And that’s all you seem to do. No wonder you don’t keep women for long—none of them are willing to put up with you having no time for them.”
“That’s not how it is, Kennedy,” Kurt said, angry again at his sister’s allegation, though he realized it would be better if she thought of him as a jerk than if she figured out the truth.
“That’s how it looks to me.”
“Well, you’re wrong. If I found the right person, spending time with them wouldn’t be an issue, but I doubt there’s anyone out there that’s right for me.” Acknowledging he’d said more than he meant to, Kurt headed back to his chair, putting distance between Kennedy and himself. Her words were rubbing him raw in all the wrong places, and he was beginning to smart from them. It wasn’t that he didn’t want anyone in his life, but what he wanted and what he could have were two different things. He glanced at the silver frame on his desk. The image of his parents smiled up at him. They’d both been fun-loving and adventurous and very family focused, but had died in a car crash on his eighteenth birthday. He still missed them, but what he missed more was the family unit they had tried so hard to provide for him and his sister.
Kennedy glared at him. “Then you need to change who you date.”
And wasn’t that an understatement.
Closing his eyes to block out the dangerously knowledgeable glint in hers, Kurt wondered what he’d done to deserve being bullied like this. Just because his sister was the one person he trusted most in his life didn’t mean she had to tell him what to do in it. Looking back up at her, he could see she knew what he was thinking.
“So what do you want me to do about Rachael?” he asked, hoping the change of topic would stop her from asking any more probing questions.
Kennedy shrugged. “You should tell her personally.”
“How, when she keeps breaking our dates?”
“She probably keeps breaking them because you insist she meet you somewhere boring. Like last night. You figure she didn’t know she was just bling to sparkle up your business dinner?” With a casual air, Kennedy flicked open the file Kurt had left on his desk. Having no idea what was in it, Kurt ignored her amused expression.
“Yeah, you know, something pretty to dangle off your arm.”
Shit. When had Kennedy become so perceptive? Suddenly feeling way out of his depth and way more uncomfortable than he usually did when talking to her, Kurt struggled to find a response, but she jumped in and saved him from saying what could possibly do some serious damage.
“Why don’t you meet her at the new club that just opened around the corner? That’s her scene, right?”
Kurt knew too well Rachael’s fondness for loud music, fancy drinks, and late nights. Clubs were definitely her scene. They weren’t Kurt’s. “And what do I do once I get her there?”
“You’re asking me?” Kennedy slowly stood and picked up her bag, her movements graceful despite her large stomach. She headed toward the door, then turned and grinned at him. “You’re the one who’s dumped over ten women in the past two years. You figure it out.”
After Kennedy left, Kurt silently berated himself for not having the guts to admit to her the truth about why he never dated any one woman for long. But he wasn’t ready and wasn’t sure when he would be. He knew he would have to one day, when the inevitable reared its ugly head, but until then it was easier to pretend. Not just to her but to everyone—especially his business associates, which was why he went out with women like Rachael in the first place.
Flashy, flamboyant, assertive—they weren’t even the type of people he would normally mix with, but they were perfect for his needs, perfect for hiding behind. Or had been. Lately, however, Kurt had known he wasn’t giving them as much as they expected, and he was feeling guilty for using them without offering more in return. It wouldn’t hurt to give his time, but he just didn’t like the clubs and parties they wanted to frequent. In fact, he hated that scene.
* * * *
Kurt knew he never should have listened to his sister. He’d been at the club over an hour, and Rachael was a no-show. Frustrated that he’d wasted time when he could have been working, he pulled out his mobile and pushed away from the bar.
It was only after he’d angrily typed in a final message to Rachael, giving up on the woman and telling her in no uncertain terms she’d stood him up one time too many, that he noticed a large man hunched at the bar, his back to the room. Under normal circumstances Kurt probably wouldn’t have thought much about the guy, but antagonism was running through his veins right then, and something about the furtive way the guy was acting had Kurt inspecting him carefully.
The man seemed to be in his late twenties, just under six feet, broad shouldered and stocky. His hair was cut short, revealing a tattoo on the back of his thick neck. Dressed in a dark business suit, he stood out against the scantily clad patrons that frequented both the dance floor and the private booths on the other side of the club.
Kurt knew it wasn’t so much the guy’s appearance that set him apart, since Kurt was wearing a suit himself, but the way the other man kept glancing cautiously around him.
After a minute the bartender delivered two drinks to the waiting man. But instead of picking them up and moving away, the man checked over his shoulder, then reached into his pocket and dropped something into one of the drinks.
When Kurt realized what he’d witnessed, fury surged through him. He took a step toward the bastard, not actually sure what he was going to do but knowing he needed to do something. However, a group of revelers surged in front of him, pushing him back. For a moment Kurt lost sight of the man, and with growing concern and anger, he searched the area.
The music was deafening. Strobe lights flashed and pulsed in sickening vibes, and the press of bodies around him made finding the man impossible. Kurt pushed through the throng of sweat-slicked skin and found himself on the other side of the club, where small, intimate booths were situated. It was dimmer here, quieter, and with a lot fewer people. He spotted two security guards and quickly told them what he had seen, describing the man. They both assured him they would search the club, but after five frustrating minutes helping them, Kurt worried they would be too late.
Then he spotted the man he was looking for.
He had just moved away from one of the booths, and he no longer carried any drinks. Striding toward him, Kurt tried to see who was sitting in the booth, but the light was further muted here, and it was difficult to see. Reaching the man, Kurt put a firm hand on his shoulder, turning him around.
The man’s eyes widened, but he was quick to react. He violently shrugged his shoulder and knocked away Kurt’s grip. No doubt the illegal act he’d just committed made him tense and on edge, so as Kurt tried to stop him again, the man took a swing at him.
Kurt was expecting it and easily dodged the fist, but he wasn’t anticipating the man’s hard-line aggression. The man swung again, and as Kurt ducked out of the way, a woman screamed.
Instantly the area around them cleared, and out the corner of his eye, Kurt noticed the two security guards racing their way. Grappling with the heavyset guy, Kurt tried to maintain a grip so when security got there, they would be able to apprehend him. But his opponent had other ideas. With a vicious right hook, he caught Kurt on the jaw, knocking him backward. Stunning pain shot into Kurt’s skull, forcing him to let go. Taking advantage, the guy legged it, security hot on his heels, leaving Kurt to nurse a sore jaw and wonder what happened to the drink the guy had tampered with.
Remembering the booth the guy had just left, Kurt headed toward it, surprised when he found a young woman sitting there looking as if she hadn’t a care in the world and that the fight mere feet away meant nothing at all. It was as she was reaching for the glass in front of her that Kurt realized she’d already consumed more than half of her drink and was probably feeling the effects of the drug.
Cursing under his breath, he quickly slipped in beside her then grabbed the glass, checking its contents. He couldn’t detect the scent of alcohol; it looked and smelled like water, but it definitely looked like the glass the guy had carried from the bar. Kurt took another look at the woman, but it was so dark he couldn’t make out her coloring or features, though he noticed she was petite like his sister.
“Are you with someone?” he asked, raising his voice to be heard, but not so loud that he’d startle her.
Her blank stare didn’t bode well. Cursing again, he gazed out into the main area of the club, hoping the security guards were coming back. There was no one around other than those on the dance floor. Giving up, he glanced at the woman. He didn’t want to leave her alone, but he wasn’t sure what to do with her. Should she go to a doctor? Or had he been in time to stop her drinking too much?
Feeling helpless, Kurt reluctantly slid out of the booth, then, after a moment’s hesitation, reached back and gently coaxed her out. Holding her steady as she swayed slightly, Kurt decided it would be best if he found out where she lived and took her home. Hopefully there would be someone to look after her. If not… Opting not to think that far ahead, Kurt bundled her out of the club and toward his car, but that was when he ran into his first problem.
Fishing in his pocket for his keys, Kurt had to take a tighter grip on the woman in his arms, and felt something that shouldn’t have been there pressed against his thigh.
“You’re a man?” Shock almost had him dropping the guy. Instinct had Kurt pulling him closer.
“I’m Sasha.” The slurred response wasn’t an answer, but Kurt didn’t really need one, because that’s when he ran into his second problem. He surreptitiously checked out the guy’s tight leather pants, and found no identification that could tell Kurt who this guy was or where he lived.
With half a mind to take him back to the club—after all, it was their responsibility to look after their patrons—Kurt saw Sasha looking up at him, liquid eyes imploring. Cursing the common courtesy his parents had instilled in him, Kurt opened his car and carefully put Sasha in the passenger seat. After climbing into the driver's side, he turned to the young man slumped beside him.
Now was Kurt’s chance to get a proper look. Sasha was small, his features delicate and elf-like. His hair was long and worn loose down his back, the color an odd silvery gray. He also wore a glittery silver top, black pants, and flat ballet-type shoes. It was obvious Sasha was dressed to party, and though Kurt didn’t want to assume, it also didn’t take much for him to realize Sasha was gay.
Trying not to let that affect his judgment, Kurt shook Sasha’s shoulder to get his attention. “Are you okay?” he asked.
Kurt bit his lip, holding back the anger building inside. He knew this wasn’t Sasha’s fault—that Sasha had been victimized—but a small part of him wondered if it wouldn’t have happened if Sasha hadn’t been dressed the way he was. In that same instant, however, Kurt knew he was wrong to think that way. Sasha was a victim, plain and simple, no matter how he dressed or how he looked. At least he had the balls to look and dress the way he wanted.
“I think you should go to a hospital,” Kurt said, speaking slowly so Sasha would understand him, also hoping Sasha would agree with him.
“No, home,” he answered barely above a whisper.
“Sasha, you’ve been drugged, and I don’t know where you live,” Kurt carefully explained. He knew whatever Sasha had been slipped would limit his comprehension, but this was painful. When Sasha merely looked at him with big gray eyes, Kurt sighed. This wasn’t going to get him anywhere, and even as he was thinking of possible alternatives, Sasha closed his eyes and slid farther down into the seat. Kurt knew it was a mistake, but what choice did he have? With that thought, Kurt started his car and, after strapping himself and his uninvited guest in, set off for his apartment.
It was only when he got there that he realized how much of a mistake he was making. He’d had to stop once to allow Sasha to throw up, and when Kurt had again asked if he wanted to go to the hospital, Sasha had said he was fine. Now, however, Sasha was completely unresponsive, so Kurt had to lift him out of the car and carry him. He tried not to notice the light but firm body cradled in his arms or the long, silky hair that got caught in his fingers, but with each step it became more difficult until it was a relief to finally lay Sasha on the bed in his spare room.
Kurt looked down at him. His stomach clenched painfully. Damn, Sasha was beautiful. His high cheekbones and smooth skin coupled with his pretty pink lips and snub little nose made him look more like a girl than he had in the club. It was no wonder Kurt had mistaken him for such. And of course that stunning length of hair had been a big contributor to Kurt’s error. Distracted by it, he pushed it away from Sasha’s face, the backs of his fingers sliding gently against Sasha’s graceful neck.
Forcing himself to stop mauling the man, Kurt wondered what the hell he was supposed to do next. Was it safe to leave Sasha here alone, or was Kurt going to have to watch over him? Knowing what kind of strain that would put him under, Kurt decided to leave Sasha to his own devices. At least Sasha’s breathing seemed stable, which put Kurt at ease, but he lingered, unable to actually tear himself away.
The silent pull of desire he was trying hard to ignore almost had him reaching out to touch Sasha again. Instead Kurt grabbed the comforter to cover Sasha’s body, but Sasha chose that moment to open his eyes and grab Kurt’s hand.
“Don’t leave me.” His voice had a pleading edge to it, and his fingers clutched with a desperation Kurt was beginning to feel deep inside. “Sleep with me. I don’t want to be alone.”
The softly spoken words had an instant effect on Kurt’s body. His heart sped up, his breathing constricted, his cock thickened, and the want he hadn’t dared admit to having—even to himself—flashed through every nerve ending like a lightning bolt.
As if sensing Kurt’s reaction, Sasha tightened his grip. “Please.”
Kurt stared into those beautiful gray eyes and knew he couldn’t refuse, though he also knew it was going to kill him not to. It wasn’t possible to have someone like Sasha, he knew that, but God, looking down into those mesmerizing eyes had Kurt questioning every past assumption as to why.
Torn between backing away and helping Sasha out, Kurt sat beside him on the bed, hesitating a moment before gently tucking the quilt under his chin. Sasha sighed and closed his eyes, then rolled to his side, trapping Kurt’s hand beneath him. Suppressing a groan at the feel of warm, solid flesh, Kurt waited a couple of seconds before trying to pull free, but Sasha whimpered slightly and hugged his hand tighter.
Resigned to having to stay, Kurt settled himself on the edge of the bed, but the awkward way his hand was twisted made it uncomfortable. With careful, slow movements, Kurt stretched out beside the man who was testing every moral code he’d ever possessed. Sasha mumbled something, then opened his eyes once more. His gaze was direct, intense.
“Thank you,” he said. Then he slid his eyelids shut, and within seconds Kurt knew he was asleep.
Kurt lay there, knowing there was no chance of him following Sasha into slumber, not with his body more aroused than he ever remembered it being. Arousal, however, was not his main concern. The thoughts going through his mind plagued him more.
Living the life he’d set himself hadn’t been easy, but it hadn’t been all that difficult either. Mainly because he’d believed there wasn’t anyone out there who could lure him from the course he’d taken. Until he’d met Sasha. The fragility apparent in both his looks and tone of voice was something Kurt was attracted to. He couldn’t help the protectiveness that came over him whenever he met someone less physically capable than he was. Granted, that was a lot of people, but there were certain types that drew him, and Sasha couldn’t have been more his type if he’d tried. With his long hair and the soft makeup Kurt had spotted lining Sasha’s eyes, he created a package Kurt knew would be hard to resist. And that was his problem. How was he supposed to resist the temptation that had been thrust in his face like a dangling carrot?
That question remained his constant companion, along with Sasha’s pert little backside pushed up against him.
After Sasha had fallen asleep, Kurt tried to slip out of bed, but Sasha suddenly cried out and held on to him even tighter. Though worried about how this might look in the morning, Kurt comforted and soothed him, using soft words and even softer caresses. It seemed to work, because Sasha sighed and turned onto his side, putting his back to Kurt, which was all right for him. But Kurt was left with an aching cock and no way to relieve it.
By the time dawn invaded the bedroom, Kurt was at his wit’s end. He knew he had to get out of bed before Sasha woke, because there was no way he’d be able to explain what he was doing cuddling Sasha with a raging hard-on. Listening to Sasha’s soft breathing, Kurt picked up on a slight hitch that told him Sasha was not going to stay asleep for much longer. Desperate, he carefully eased back a little, and it was at that moment Sasha rolled onto his stomach. Taking advantage, Kurt quickly slid from beneath the covers, though some deep part of him felt like he was abandoning Sasha.
He paused beside the bed, the feeling even stronger as he took in how vulnerable Sasha looked. Eyes closed, mouth partially open, his long silver hair fanned across delicate cheekbones, Sasha seemed even more fragile than he had last night. Damning himself but unable to help it, Kurt tucked the loose strands behind Sasha’s ear, once again stroking along Sasha’s pale skin. Sasha sighed and stretched, and Kurt had to stop the impulse to climb back in bed with him. Not for comfort this time, but just for the pleasure of it.
Turning his back on the urge to make a complete fool of himself, Kurt quietly left, closing the door behind him and then heading to his own room. Intending to have a quick shower before starting breakfast, Kurt was stripped and wet in seconds. He wanted to be ready for when Sasha woke up but was only halfway through rinsing his hair when he heard a noise. Cursing, he quickly turned off the water and grabbed a towel, not even waiting to dry himself before going to investigate.
The scream that met him as he stepped into the hall almost had Kurt retreating. Instead he stood still, holding the towel in place around his hips while trying to look as nonthreatening as possible. Sasha’s soft eyes were wide as he took a step backward.
“Who are you, and where the fuck am I?” Despite the harshness of his words, Sasha’s voice was threaded with fear.
“You don’t remember?” Kurt asked, worried about how much the drug Sasha had been given had affected his memory of last night.
“Remember what?” Sasha replied, confirming Kurt’s suspicions.
“I found you at the club. You’d been drugged and were in no fit state to tell me where you lived, so I brought you home with me.”
“Drugged? You drugged me?” If Sasha hadn’t sounded fearful before, he certainly did now.
“No, of course not!” Kurt swiftly placated him. “Someone else did.”
Sasha moved closer to the room he’d recently vacated. “Who?”
“I don’t know. The security guards were chasing him down the last I saw.”
Sasha frowned and shook his head, his hair flowing loosely around his slim shoulders. “I don’t…”
Hating to see him so obviously confused but knowing there was nothing he could do about it while dressed in only a towel, Kurt retreated. “Let me get dressed, and then I’ll make us some coffee. I’ll explain everything then, okay?”
Sasha’s slight nod allowed Kurt to breathe a little easier.
“I won’t be long. In the meantime you can use my phone if you want to ring someone.” He indicated the receiver sitting on the timber table next to the wall. When Sasha nodded again, Kurt smiled, then wished he hadn’t when he noticed the way Sasha’s gaze flicked to his mouth before resting on his eyes. Gray eyes searched his as if trying to determine Kurt’s intentions. His assessment was frank and without guile, which was a little unsettling. What was more unsettling, however, was when Sasha’s appraisal traveled down the length of Kurt’s chest before stopping on the bulge at his groin.
It took Kurt a few seconds to pull some air into his lungs and gain a certain amount of equilibrium, but once he had, he forced his limbs into carrying him back to his room, where he slammed the door and leaned against it.
“Fuck.” Looking down, he wasn’t surprised to see his erection was back, causing him to curse even more. Being half-naked was not the right way to greet a man who had no recollection of what had recently transpired. Having a hard-on in front of him was even worse. Never having felt so damn self-conscious, Kurt wondered how the hell he was supposed to face Sasha now—or ever.
A soft knock startled him away from the door.
“Hello? I need to use the bathroom.”
“Next on your left,” Kurt yelled reflexively, cringing as he heard the crack in his voice.
Suppressing a groan, not sure if he deserved Sasha’s thanks, Kurt grabbed his clothes and threw them on before heading to the kitchen. Self-preservation dictated he get rid of Sasha as soon as possible, but he couldn’t just kick Sasha out on the curb without telling him about the guy who had caused all this mess in the first place.
With Sasha safely out of sight, Kurt busied himself making coffee. He waited until he heard Sasha return before carrying two mugs into the living room. Sasha hovered on the threshold, looking a little less scared than he had a few moments ago but no less anxious than Kurt would have expected.
“Did you get in contact with someone?” Kurt asked, holding out the mug so Sasha would have to come forward to take it.
“Yes, thanks.” Sasha accepted the mug, but he seemed to be more interested in his surroundings. His gaze darted around the room before he finally sat on the edge of a chair like a bird on a perch, ready to fly off at the slightest provocation. Kurt watched him before settling into the lounge and taking a sip of his coffee.
Though he knew it was rude, he stared, unable to stop himself as he once again took in the stunningly beautiful man in front of him. Petite was a word he generally would have used to describe a woman, but it suited Sasha, who looked as delicate as anyone Kurt had ever seen.
Pulling his gaze away, Kurt took another sip of coffee. “I’m Kurt Donaldson, by the way,” he said, trusting it would put Sasha at ease. It seemed to, because he smiled, a light, tentative smile that didn’t quite reach his astonishing eyes.
“Sasha.” The reply was hesitant, as if he expected Kurt to dispute it.
Unnerved by his reaction to Sasha, Kurt reminded himself that no matter how much he was tempted, there was nothing he could do about it, and anyway, Sasha was vulnerable right now, and he obviously had no idea what had happened last night. Well, at least Kurt hoped he didn’t.
“I know. You told me,” Kurt said, testing how much Sasha did remember.
Kurt nodded. “Do you remember anything about last night?” he asked, praying Sasha wouldn’t, especially the part where he’d wrapped most of his body around Kurt and held on tight.
Sasha looked at him for a moment, then shook his head. “No, nothing. I’ve been trying to, but I can’t seem to get past being in the club waiting for my friend.”
Kurt inwardly sighed in relief, knowing it was wrong but grateful he wouldn’t have to explain their sleeping arrangements. “I was at the club and spotted a guy slipping something into a drink. I suspected a drug of some sort and tried to follow him but lost him in the crowd. I spied him again coming out of the booth you were sitting at, but by the time I got to you, you’d already consumed half the drink.” Kurt decided not to mention the fight. There was no point in Sasha knowing Kurt hadn’t been able to stop the guy from getting away.
When Sasha frowned, Kurt could see he was trying to put the events in order in his head. “I don’t remember anyone giving me a drink. I don’t even remember ordering one.”
Kurt wasn’t surprised. He’d heard “date drugs” like Rohypnol could sometimes wipe out memories from before the drug was taken. “It wasn’t alcoholic, it was just water, but I’m sorry I couldn’t prevent you from drinking it,” Kurt apologized.
“Did you get a look at the man?”
Kurt nodded and gave a brief description of the bastard he’d fought with, trying to keep the indignation out of his voice. Some of it must have come through, because Sasha smiled again, and his body seemed to relax slightly.
“Thank you for trying to help. There aren’t many out there who would have bothered.”
Feeling guilty because there had been a moment when he hadn’t wanted to help, Kurt shook his head. “I would have taken you home last night, but I couldn’t find any identification.”
Sasha suddenly laughed, catching Kurt unawares. “I don’t normally carry identification. I don’t usually need it. And anyway, with these tight pants I wouldn’t have anywhere to put it.” With a slim, long-fingered hand, Sasha indicated the black leather encasing his legs.
Unfortunately Kurt’s gaze landed at Sasha’s groin, where he noticed the small but clearly defined bulge, a bulge he’d pointedly not peeked at last night.
Annoyed with himself, he looked away. “Why don’t you finish your coffee, and I’ll take you home on my way to work.” Anything to get Sasha out of his apartment and out of temptation’s reach. At his suggestion, Kurt thought he saw a flicker of panic cross Sasha’s face, but it was gone as he quickly stood up.
“No. I’ll call for a taxi.”