Harry Gill had seen a lot of strange things in his thirty years, and he'd done most of them, but he'd never witnessed such a sight. A naked man running from a church. He absentmindedly crossed himself with his free hand, mumbling aloud the verse his mum had taught him. “Spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch.”
He'd had the holiday spirit for days and had been cooking up a storm at O'Hanlon's Bar & Grill, which he managed for his partner, Morgan. He'd only arrived home an hour ago and had been enjoying a fresh cup of coffee when he'd looked out his kitchen window and seen the light in the church a kilometer or so from the house he and Morgan shared. He'd almost not gone, considering the weather, but then he'd spotted the small sports car and figured some poor bastard had been stranded.
Stranded was right. The bugger didn't even have his clothes. Thanks to me, Harry reminded himself.
He'd gone inside to see why the light was on, and when he couldn't find anyone, he'd found the soggy clothes lying on the floor. Fastidious as Father John Carmichael was, Harry knew the priest didn't know about the clothes littering and dampening his carpets. Christmas spirit filling him, Harry had thought he'd do the samaritan thing and clean up.
Well, now he knew who'd lost his clothing.
Harry opened his vehicle and tossed the clothing onto the floor in the back, then walked back toward the naked man. “Father John lock you in or something?” he asked upon approach.
The poor guy looked absolutely blue. “I-I...”
Harry thought quickly. The man looked as if he was already going into hypothermia. “Back inside with you,” he instructed. And when the fellow didn't budge, Harry picked him up and tossed him over his shoulder like a sack of Shepody potatoes and made for the church's front door.
Inside, he set the guy on his feet and looked around before releasing him. “Fuck, John. Where's your office?” Harry searched and didn't see anything but rows of benches in the back of the sanctuary. He took the man over to one and had him curl up on it. “Stay there--I'll be back in a second or two. Don't move.”
Harry took off his jacket and placed it over the man's shivering figure. He had an old blanket in his SUV that he'd used for his dog a time or two so Rascal's paws wouldn't muddy up the seat covers. Harry hated having nothing to offer but an unwashed blanket, but it was better than nothing.
Minutes later, he'd closed the church doors and had them both inside the SUV and motoring toward the house. His guest wasn't talkative, even though he'd tried a time or two to communicate.
“We'll be home in a jiff,” Harry told him, cranking up the heat. “Just don't pass out on me. I'm Harry, by the way. We're several kilometers from town, and nobody's open to take you anyway except the clinic on the far end of town.” He stared through the car's windshield. “Not that anyone's getting there for a couple of days. Not in this blizzard.”
Morgan O'Hanlon had driven up to the long driveway leading to his home just in time to see his lover traveling toward the church. He was too far behind to roll down the window and shout at Harry, and there was nothing at that end of the road for kilometers other than St. Finian's Church, although Morg couldn't think of a good reason Harry would be going in that direction unless he was headed for the priest's residence, a good kilometer on the other side.
“Crazy lad,” he muttered with a smile. He knew Harry, or Handsome Harry, as some of the villagers called him, had been cooking all day and that Father John's Christmas pageant had been that night. Harry was most likely taking a pot of stew and some fresh-baked bread to John. Probably was worried the priest hadn't eaten. John was a strange little queen who watched his weight like other men watched their wallets. Always afraid of gaining a kilogram or losing his hair. Vain creature, even though adorable.
Morg flexed his tired muscles. He'd been loading supplies from the truck that had shown up late at the pub, and he was blasted tired and in need of a good hot meal and a fuck. He sniffed his clothes as he shed them then turned on the water so it would be warm by the time he stepped inside. “Shit, man,” he said to himself, dropping the clothes on the floor and reaching for the soap.
Rascal came into the room to investigate. Morg rubbed the dog's muzzle and kissed him smack on the nose, then shooed him out of the bathroom.
He stepped inside the shower, shut the shower curtain, and lathered his hairy chest, then his armpits, ass, and cock. Thank Christ the holiday was only days away. The week before Christmas was always a busy time at the pub, and while he and Harry turned a good profit, Morg was always delighted to have a day or two off to enjoy his lover's company, eat Harry's home-cooked meals, and keep to himself.
He hummed as he showered, thinking of his lover and the delicious aromas that would soon be coming from their kitchen. He and Harry had met years earlier when both were knocking about Europe, wondering what to do with their lives. Once they found each other, it didn't really matter, as long as they were together. Morg's university degrees were in finance and business, while Harry's passions were cooking and basically just being himself, chatting it up with customers, and flashing those pearly white teeth. It had been only natural to buy the old pub and turn it into their livelihood.
He chuckled as he braced himself against the shower stall and let the spray cover him. “Oh, God, Harry, I've missed you today.” He cranked the heat on the shower until it blasted his back and buttocks with fiery finesse, and the tense muscles in his back and shoulders finally gave way to release.
Uptight Morg, who loved business but wanted to throttle most people, needed Harry's calm, cheerful moods to lift him. Not to mention that great ass, whose cheeks fit so perfectly into Morg's large hands. There wasn't a dog mean enough to bite Handsome Harry and not a man stupid enough to mess with Morgan O'Hanlon, so between the two of them they managed quite well.
Morg finished rinsing off and wrapped a large, fluffy bath sheet about his waist after he'd dried off. He heard Rascal barking, then thought he heard the front door open and trekked into the living room to find Harry depositing a man on a pallet beneath their Christmas tree. The fellow was naked except for their yellow heeler's car blanket, and he was damp from head to toe.
Rascal was going nuts, sniffing him, and the poor man on the floor looked terrified.
“Back, Rascal. Here. Come with me.” Harry took the dog by the collar and led him into a room down the hallway, then came back.
“Santa come early this year, Harry?” Morg asked, blinking as droplets of water he hadn't captured ran from his hair into his eyes.
Harry sent him a lopsided grin, but Morg could see the concern in Harry's eyes. “Found him stumbling out of the church,” Harry explained.
“You went to church?” Morg asked.
“I took his clothes.” Harry shucked his gloves and coat and stamped his feet on a mat near the door.
Morg blinked. “I'm sure there's a logical explanation why you went to church to steal a man's clothes, but...mightn't we get him a mug of coffee and cover his balls a little better before you tell me?”
Colin stared at both his rescuer and the biggest, burliest, sexiest beast he'd ever seen. When they stood side by side staring back at him, his mind registered that they were both a couple of inches above six feet and that their combined sex appeal made him wish to God he had something to cover his cock, which seemed to have thawed and risen like Lazarus from the dead.
“Has he spoken yet?” the big-chested man asked out of the corner of his mouth.
He'd set it in a fixed smile. Most likely in hopes, Colin thought, of not scaring the shit out of me. It's not working. The man's voice was a deep, rich baritone that sent shivers down Colin's spine.
The strawberry blond shook his head slowly, his deep blue eyes reflecting concern. “He tried a time or two, but I couldn't tell what he was saying.”
“Maybe he doesn't speak English.” The big guy shrugged. “All the better, I suppose, because we'll most likely be havin' some conversations about that face and those big brown eyes.”
The more-slender one elbowed his partner. “Don't be rude.”
“I'm just askin',” the bigger man said. “I mean, he's not a puppy you just brought home from the pound, even if he is all eyes and nose holes right now and parked under our tree like a new pup. I'm curious, ya know?”
Colin tried speaking, but his voice seemed to have deserted him. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Th-thank you. For rescuing me, I mean.”
“He speaks English!” Harry chortled, clapping his palms together once.
They both beamed, and the darker of the two leaned forward, squatting, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the terry wrap about his waist gaped, exposing his cock.
Colin blinked and tried not to stare, but it had to be the most massive weapon of sexual destruction he'd come across. He shifted his gaze upward to lock with a pair of light hazel eyes with gold flecks. They were almost hooded, thanks to his shaggy, dark brows.
“You'll frighten him,” cautioned the Good Samaritan, who still stood.
The big guy laughed. “He's not scared--he's horny. Look at him.” He nodded toward Colin's cock, which had leaped from between the folds of the blanket he wore. “Hmm. Nice.” He saw where Colin stared and winked. “Naughty boy. Wait till I know you better, and you can do whatever you want with it.”
Colin flushed from toes to forehead.
“Never mind him.” The blond nudged his friend aside, forcing him to stand and back away. Then he stuck out his hand. “In case you didn't hear me earlier, I'm Harry, and this is Morgan. Just call him Morg. Let's get you into the shower and find you something to wear.”
Colin accepted the help and rose. He didn't know whether to be offended or pleased at the looks in both their eyes. They eyed him as if he were some strange, cute animal they'd found.
“He's a bit shorter, with not much meat on his bones. I doubt anything of ours will fit 'im,” Morgan said. “If you don't mind me askin', where are
Harry slapped a hand to his forehead before Colin could speak. “I left them on the floorboard of the car. Be right back.” He picked up the coat he'd taken off. “Morg, take him to the shower?” Then he whispered something in Morgan's ear.
Morg nodded. “My pleasure. This way, little man.”
Colin set his jaw. Little man?
He might be shorter than the other two, but he'd never felt small until now. He reluctantly handed over the blanket, exposing himself, once they got to the shower.
Morg chuckled. “Might have a better time of it in there without the blanket, right?”
Colin stepped into the shower and watched as the big man set the knobs and closed the curtain. The first blast of water was cold, but almost immediately he felt a pulsing, hot spray enveloping him. He leaned into it, thankful he hadn't needed to spend the night in the church with only soggy clothes or a thin towel to cover him.
“You'll find a bar of soap up on the window ledge,” Morg said.
Colin jumped, realizing he wasn't alone. He looked for the soap, found it, and worked it back and forth in his hands, wondering if Morg could see through the shower curtain.
The bigger man was obviously nonplussed by Colin's nakedness or having a stranger in his home. In fact, he was quite chatty.
“We don't get many folks from out of town up this way,” Morg said. “What brings you here?”
Colin had lived in a dormitory during his university years for a spell, but it'd been a long time since he'd shared quarters with anyone, and he'd never talked to someone he didn't know through a thin shower curtain. His heart thundered against his ribs at both the probable impropriety and the possible danger. He supposed if one of them had wanted to harm him, however, they'd have done so by now.
“My older sister lives here. We grew up in Dublin before our parents died.”
“Oh, I'm sorry for your loss, lad.”
Colin felt the beginnings of a smile tickle the corners of his lips. Lad
. “Thanks. It was a long time ago. Anyway, she married and lives here with her husband and four children. I took a job in Brisbane once I graduated.”
“You're an Aussie, then? How marvelous. I love the Aussies.”
“I'm Irish,” Colin reminded him. “But I've lived in Oz for several years.”
“Then you're an Irish Aussie,” Morg said with a hint of satisfaction. “Nothin' wrong with spreadin' your talents elsewhere, as long as you don't forget where home is, right?”
Colin was beginning to warm to Morg's propensity for ending his sentences as questions. He was a big, lovable bear of a man, and while he looked like a virgin's nightmare, Colin was no virgin and rather liked bears. He had a thing for athletic blonds with runners' bodies too, come to think of it. His hands drifted to his cock and balls as he compared the two men in his mind. Then the thought that Morg might be able to see him, or at least his silhouette, through the curtain made him self-conscious, and he stopped before he started playing with himself.
“So you're from Dublin, eh? Harry's a Gill. They hail from County Armagh, on the east coast, only a short ways from Dublin. They have their own castle, ya know? Well, did. I mean, there are millions of the Gills now, so it's not like Harry can lay claim to it or anything, but I like to rib him about it, call him my rich boyfriend. Makes him happy.”
Colin listened to Morg chatter, envying the way he said boyfriend
and wishing he had someone who was so obviously in love with him. Not that he'd taken the time during the past few years to form any sort of close attachment.
“How long have the two of you been together?” Colin asked.
“Forever? Seems we met about ten years ago in Belgium, found out we were both of the Blarney persuasion, that we come by it naturally, that is. Bummed around Europe together a bit, ran out of money, and came home. I'm from here, and I had a place in town before I bought the pub. Well, I bought it, and then Harry came along. I consider it ours. You'll have to go with us tomorrow if, weather permits. We're having a Christmas party. Harry's our cook, and a better one you'll never meet. He loves this time of the year. I swear, he's part elf.”
Morg parted the shower curtain, exposing Colin to Morg's friendly face. “You wouldn't like a mug of coffee, would you?”
Colin nodded. “Love it. Thanks.” He smiled weakly. Did the big guy have no personal boundaries whatsoever?
Morg grinned, and Colin almost shot off a load just looking at him. If Harry had the face, Morg had the most sex appeal. All the man had to do was smile or lift an eyebrow expressively, and already Colin was willing to bow down and say yes, master
to anything Morg asked of him.
“Good God, man.” Morg stared at Colin's erection. “How long's it been since you had that thing serviced?”
“Since last Christmas.” The words were out before Colin could stop himself.
Morg nodded, but he didn't make fun of him. “We need to take care of that for you before you give yourself a coronary.” He closed the curtain, but Colin could tell he was still on the other side of it.
“Harry's gone back to the church to retrieve the rest of your belongings from your vehicle,” Morg told him. “Hope that's all right, because you won't be driving that car anytime soon.”
“Weather's that bad?” Colin asked.
“Let's put it this way. I have a four-wheel drive. Big fucker. And I'll be lucky if I make it to work tomorrow, much less throw a party. Don't have a choice, even if I have to walk. Need to do payroll and put up more of the supplies. I didn't quite finish before I came home.”
Colin didn't know what to say. Did that mean he'd be stranded? Not that the situation seemed so bad, considering the two men who would be accommodating him.
“I'll pay you for lodging me,” he said.
“Bullshit. You'll do no such thing. What else would we do, dry you off, only to send you back out in this miserable shit?”
Then Colin heard the big man leave. He didn't know whether to be relieved or irritated. It seemed ever since he'd left Oz, he'd been at the mercy of the weather or the kindness of strangers. He was beginning to feel like Blanche DuBois. Only Tennessee Williams's ditzy heroine had been raped and lost all her marbles. His marbles were intact, and he didn't figure he'd put up too much of a fuss if Harry or Morg wanted sex. Hardly. It was all he could do to keep from thinking of them. They'd be lucky if they weren't the ones assaulted.
Fucking weather. Fucking writer's block. Looked like he wouldn't make that deadline his editor had requested. Colin snorted. Demanded
was more like it. The short stories he'd been doing for the men's magazine where he worked were to be turned in six months in advance, and this time Rupert Evans, the managing editor, had instructed him to have a novel they could serialize.
“We're paying you well enough, Colin
,” Rupert had told him. “Give me something meaty. Something with real grit and emotion, something to make our readers sit on the edge of their seats. You can do it
Colin sagged against the shower wall, all the frustration over the evening's events evaporating. Whatever anger he'd felt at the kid who'd caused him to fall in the first place? Gone. His adrenaline rush at finding himself naked in church? Dissolved. He was somewhere in limbo between feeling peaceful and lethargic, hopeless and accepting. And he was hungry.
He was about to turn off the shower, when he realized he had no towel, only the musty blanket that had been wrapped about him, if it was even still in the room.
The shower curtain opened again, and Morg thrust a cup of steaming coffee at him. “Take a sip now before you get out. Better to have heat inside you--the air's a bit chill in the house.”
Colin gratefully did as he was told. The coffee was strong and laced with liquor. He stifled a sputter.
Morg laughed. “Irish coffee, yes? Best in the world, if I do say so.” He turned and came back with a towel much like the one he had on, only this one was folded and obviously clean.
Colin handed back the coffee, turned off the water, and grabbed the towel. “Thanks again.”
“You're welcome.” Morg still had the grin.
I am in such trouble, Colin thought.