Jefferson scowled as he limped up the short, broad porch steps of 1514. Not a soul left in the yard. A few die-hard partiers still had one keg to go a few houses down, but they and their alcohol toxicity weren’t his problem. The debris left in Emmett and Noelani’s driveway might be. He made a note to wake up early and get down there with a few garbage bags in the morning. No reason for Emmett to worry about that too.
Noelani hadn’t said no, but she sure hadn’t said “yes” either. Not that Jefferson had seen. After the shit hit the fan and they’d dragged each other off who-knew-where for some serious talking, he’d tried to do them all a favor, give them some space, and made himself scarce. Got a double pepperoni slice and a glass of house red at the sleazy but student-friendly pizza place on the corner, then went two blocks up to a chain pharmacy for rubbing alcohol and—hope being eternal—a pocket-sized bottle of lube and a travel pack of condoms. All stocked up, he’d made it almost all the way back to his favorite campus sports bar, where he rarely failed to get lucky. Just before he went in, he’d realized that even if he did find a hookup, then getting naked only to display someone else’s bite mark on his left tit might be a turn off.
So back home it was. Jefferson glowered at his own chest and the imprint of teeth Teddy had left behind. Nothing said I am a party animal. Let me show you how
quite like battle wounds. Ah well. Sometimes you had to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em, yeah?
Damn good thing he’d gotten his house and apartment keys from Emmett before any of the shit hit the fan.
Jefferson tossed his key ring once, letting it jingle-smack against his palm, and tucked them in his hip pocket as he eased the front door of 1514 shut. Hmm.
The house felt empty. He tilted his head to listen for any sounds, but nope. Nada. He’d managed to kill a couple of hours, but it looked like that might be either not enough or way too much.
“They’re not here,” Teddy said from somewhere in the vicinity of “up.”
Would you not do that?” Jefferson asked as soon as he could be sure his heart wasn’t trying to escape laterally through his rib cage. He swept the room and finally found Teddy sitting on the top of the inner staircase, at the landing, dressed in a— “Is that Noelani’s bathrobe?”
Teddy tucked his chin against one lapel of the patchwork-stitched satin. “No, it’s mine. She bought it for me.” He must have just gotten out of the shower. Warm air from the open bathroom door drifted down the stairs, redolent with the scent of pink fruit. He held a jar of some kind of cream in one hand and pointed at Jefferson with a goopy finger. “Don’t start. It’s late, and I’m tired.”
“I wasn’t—” Jefferson stopped himself. “I’m not trying to start anything, and I’m tired too.”
Teddy made a hmm
noise but left it at that.
Tired or not, Jefferson couldn’t help noticing he wasn’t in a hurry to budge his butt off the landing. He would have liked to ask Teddy to move it along, but honestly, he’d already gotten bitten once. Jefferson leaned on the banister, preparing himself to wait. As he watched, Teddy smoothed his handful of lotion down one trim bare leg.
Jefferson’s eyebrows shot up. “Seriously?”
“I said, don’t start,” Teddy murmured. He paid careful attention to massaging the lotion in, all the way to his ankle and the arch of his foot. “I like smelling nice, and I don’t want to end up with terminal athlete’s foot like my brothers. Their toenails look like petrified sponge cake.”
Jefferson wrinkled his nose. He’d seen a few like that in the locker rooms. Never pretty. And Teddy did have pretty feet, didn’t he? He could give the guy that much.
Teddy shifted his weight from one narrow hip to the other and tugged his robe more closely around himself before giving Jefferson a wary look. “Did you need something?”
Jefferson bit back the a clear path to my room
that wanted to come out, because come to think of it, there were more important questions to ask. He leaned more heavily on the banister—seemed secure enough. “Any idea where Emmett and Noelani went?”
“Hubba Cuppa. On the east side of campus.”
“How do you know that?”
“I asked them. Funny how much you can learn that way.” Teddy spun the jar lid closed on his lotion. Still didn’t move. “They need to talk this out. If you’d just let me try and stop them—”
Jefferson dug in his heels too. “Explain.”
“Excuse me?” Teddy touched one hand to his chest.
Before the pretty boy could get redheaded about it—again—Jefferson put his foot down. “What the hell is the deal with Beau? I never actually met him. All I know is he and Emmett used to be friends before he dropped out, but that’s all. You say his name like he’s the Antichrist, and I missed the memo. Explain.”
“Oh.” Teddy’s cheeks pinkened slightly. He fussed with the edges of his robe and fidgeted. What, did he have to pee or something? At least he gave Jefferson his answer first. “Beau was before your time. I forgot that. Cliff’s Notes version—he and Noelani were freshman-year sweethearts. I liked Beau when I first met him, but the more I got to know him, the more I didn’t think he was good enough for her.”
Jefferson tapped his chin. Useful information so far, but he doubted Teddy thought Emmett was good enough for Noelani either. “Why?”
“A few reasons. He wasn’t the kind of guy you could count on. Always looking at the greener grass on the other side of the fence.”
“Only if you count his guitar.” Teddy stood, one hand at the top banister railing in mirror of Jefferson at the bottom. “Beau got it together long enough to propose, and then he took off for parts unknown without even saying good-bye. She’s better off, and she never, ever lets anyone see her hurting, but it broke her heart. Emmett’s too. They were as close as brothers. But Noelani… You know, the worst part is that if he showed back up tomorrow, I’m not sure she’d turn him away. He’s her Achilles heel.”
Jefferson gnawed thoughtfully at his lip. “Okay, but I don’t get why that makes it a bad thing for Emmett to stake his claim. Wouldn’t that make sure Beau knew she’d moved on, gotten over him, and that he should keep his hands off?”
Teddy’s mouth opened. In silence.
Jefferson did a double take. Was he seeing that right?
“I didn’t think of it that way,” Teddy said at last. The pink in his cheeks had deepened to a brilliant cranberry red. He collected his jar of cream in such a hurry that he nearly spilled its contents. “I’m in your way. Sorry. Excuse me, I’ll just—”
He fled, leaving Jefferson blinking at the foot of the steps, awash in a cloud of pink passionfruit and flowery lotion.
Wait. What the hell?
* * * *
Well. Of all the…
Teddy pressed the back of one chilly hand to his cheek. That man. Ooh!
But…damn it all, he wasn’t wrong.
Fair was fair. Teddy deposited the cold cream he’d saved weeks for onto a shelf near the door, took his phone out of the breast pocket of the robe—so soft, so silky, he loved that robe—and fired off a quick text for Noelani to pick up later.
Just saw a pig fly past the window. Details at breakfast.
There. That ought to make her laugh. Teddy worried like heck about Noelani at times like these, but she did better if you gave her a bit of time and space to collect herself. The best thing he could do right now, whether he liked it or not, was to back down—or as much as he could make himself, anyway.
The phone joined his cold cream on the shelf. Teddy smoothed down his robe, scowling at it when it didn’t lie flat. “Honestly,” he scolded his wayward dick. He gave his lower stomach a warning flick. “Some discretion, if you please?”
His dick failed to listen to him. It rarely did. Wouldn’t that be handy, though?
Well, dancing had that effect. Yes, that was it. Sensitizing his nerves, as it were. Teddy made a face. Or as Jefferson would probably put it, getting him horny enough to drive a hole through the mattress. And that was a nice mattress, no mysterious stains or anything. He didn’t want to ruin it.
The rumble of his stomach echoed through the apartment with a mighty growl. “Oh, thank God,” Teddy said. Too late to find someone to help with the sensitization, but food—that, he could take care of.
Hopefully. Rental units tended to have stray Cheez-Its hanging around in cabinet corners, and Teddy hadn’t gone poking through all of those yet. Optimism rebounding, he made for the kitchen. For a student apartment near a college, it really was nice. He admired the wee stove, stroking one corner of its scrubbed surface and, out of curiosity more than anything else, opened his minifridge door.
“Awww,” he said, going to one knee and reaching for the wrapped platter of shortbread cookies on the middle shelf. “See? This is why I would do anything for Noelani. Because she loves me.”
He bit into one of the cookies with an appreciative moan. Honey and lavender, oh sweet Lord, yes. And was that a new carton of half-and-half up top? It was
. Which meant…
Teddy opened the cabinet above the stove and crowed with triumph. An electric kettle and a new box of tea bags! He gathered them to his chest and told them, “I love you too. I will love you even more in the morning, you wait and see.”
A stray thought crossed his mind. Wonder what they left for Jefferson
? Instant coffee and a bacon sandwich, probably.
His stomach let out a loud, plaintive growl.
I keep telling you, discretion,” Teddy said, taking a sharp bite out of the shortbread to soak up any wayward drool at the thought of hot, salty bacon. “Behave and we’ll make a special trip to that Sichuan takeout with the crispy pork belly this weekend.”
Somehow the thought didn’t satisfy his grumbling tummy. And as if to applaud the general aura of dissatisfaction, Teddy’s groin pulsed warmer, imagining Jefferson biting into said sandwich. Look for his good points, Noelani had said. Well, he did have pretty eyes. Long lashes. A nice mouth. Warm lips. Not a messy kisser.
Teddy’s cock bobbed hopefully beneath his robe. He gave up, tucked a third shortbread cookie between his teeth, and shucked off the robe. Sometimes a man had no choice but to depend on his one true ally, his dearest of companions, the one who would never abandon him or embarrass the absolute hell out of him, pointing out things he should already have known—his right hand.
At least he’d made up the bed. Nothing could be finer than sliding naked, with freshly smooth legs, between clean new sheets. Mmm, heaven.
Teddy stretched full-length between the crisp cotton, flexing each toe and sighing with satisfaction.
He took his time reaching for his cock. Slow and steady, that was what got Big Little Teddy where he wanted to go. Hands on his chest first, stroking across the sleek but firm muscles he’d first earned at a gymnastics camp and worked hard to maintain. He liked the way they felt beneath his palms. Only a little hair, more like a soft red-gold down. He’d bet Jefferson had a pelt under those soccer jerseys of his. Thick enough to run his fingers through.
Teddy scowled and gave the sheets a flap. Focus.
His nipples had perked up with the attention and tingled at the kiss of cool air from the moving sheets. There we go. That’s the ticket.
He took both between thumbs and forefingers to pinch, then to gently roll the nubs until they stood up stiff and tingling. Oh yes.
Someday, when he could afford to get the good quality toys, he wanted a real set of clamps. Maybe with a chain to go between them. He’d tried clothespins once, and only once. Ouch. Never again. Just went to show you that quality mattered. Until then, he could take care of himself.
Jefferson had awfully rough, calloused hands. Kept his nails cut to the quick. Teddy wasn’t sure what he did to make them so work-hardened, but they looked strong too. The force he’d
be able to put into a pinch—
His cock jerked, and he felt a drop of wet warmth on his stomach.
Teddy lifted the sheet and glared down at his dick. “Seriously?”
For Pete’s sake. No matter what Noelani said, Teddy had more respect for himself than to get off to the thought of a man who obviously disdained him. Those comments about the robe and the lotion, for example!
he set those aside, Jefferson hadn’t been so bad tonight, actually…
Teddy spread his legs and let his hand drift downward, tucking the other arm behind his head to give the pillow some extra lift. Much better, he thought. He could feel the sweet burn in his groin, his thigh muscles clenching and relaxing in a slow, rolling rhythm. He let his fingertips dance lightly along the length of his cock, not squeezing just yet, still warming himself up.
He opened his eyes as he moved, letting his gaze drift around the apartment. Not a lot of furniture, but not a lot of space to put it in. His bed had been arranged facing the peculiar inner-window arrangement. Tsk.
He’d have to fix that tomorrow. At least the parchment shade between the panes was pretty to look at, a simple but attractive textured cream vellum.
Although it wasn’t exactly as effective as they might be. Teddy scooted up slightly in the bed, hand still working absently and biting his lip. With the light on in Jefferson’s bedroom, he could clearly make out the silhouette of a man moving around with a definite sort of step. He knew where he was going and how to get there and saw no reason to pretend otherwise. Very Jefferson of him.
Teddy mentally added “buy curtains” to his list of apartment fixes. He fought a brief internal debate over whether or not to drop a dime to his new neighbor, figuring that what Jefferson didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, but…yes, it’d be the decent thing to do. He’d let Jefferson know—discreetly, as an olive branch—that he might want to invest in some good blinds himself for an extra layer of privacy on his side. He doubted Jefferson would think of such a thing on his own.
Finding that he liked this position, half propped against the wall, Teddy let his thighs fall wider open. He closed his hand around his cock now, putting some wrist action into it now, and moaned with pleasure. Oh yes. Oh, he’d needed this. He’d grown almost too warm to bear, sweat slicking his skin beneath the sheets. Good.
He raised his hips, rocking into the push of cock through tunnel of slick fingers, and groaned deep in his throat.
Across the way, Jefferson’s solid silhouette turned. Teddy realized three things at once.
One, that Jefferson was bare as the day he’d been born.
Two, that even in silhouetted profile, he could see that God had been good
to Jefferson when it came to genitals. Which he could tell because, though he was good and busy working his own engorged cock, the man looked hard enough to make his way through an entire pep squad.
And three, that the acoustics in the shared air ducts between these apartments were fantastic. When he stopped to listen, Teddy could clearly hear the gruff rasp and growl of Jefferson’s self-care sex noises. Which meant that that nosey parker son of a goat was eavesdropping
, wasn’t he?
Yelping, Teddy sat up sharply and barely squeezed himself in time to stop his orgasm from bursting out.
He caught his breath too, wide-eyed and more confused than he’d been during his high school calculus exams. Wait. What?
And, growling sotto voce— Okay, then. If that’s how he wants to do this, then two can play at that game. It’s on.