Freeman’s return to the city is quiet, without fuss. Another client: another case. He’ll source what they need and be on his way. But he’s been missed by more people than he thought: his ex-wife, his ex-lover, and his ex-business partner. And at least one of them wants him the hell gone again.
Freeman — private, controlled – just does his job. But when he strikes up an unusual friendship with the young runaway Kit, trouble comes looking for both men, ready to expose secrets that can destroy their fragile trust. Yet, for Kit, Freeman’s more than ready for the challenge.
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© Clare London
I listened carefully for any undertone in his words, knowing I’d get no more explanation if I pushed him now. He sounded honest; he sounded bitter. Whoever and whatever other people might think he was, Kit himself thought he was no-one special. I lifted my hand off his and stepped back. Reluctance tugged at me like something sticky. I looked over to my coat, hanging on the back of the couch.
“You’re going out?” Kit followed my gaze and frowned. Maybe he was still nervous; maybe suspicious of me.
I nodded. “I’ve got work to do today.”
He let out a short breath, like he’d been holding it. He looked restless again. “I thought… you might be… you know. Going back there.”
“Work,” I repeated, calmly. “Just work.”
Kit smiled, brightly. “I’ll come with you. Help you out with…” For a second he looked sheepish. “…your work. Whatever.”
“No, you won’t,” I said. “You need to rest. I’ll give you my mobile number and you’ll be safe enough here until I get back.” I regretted using the word ‘safe’ even as it escaped my mouth – and the implication that he might not be – but he didn’t seem to notice.
“I can stay?”
“Yes, of course.” The pleasure in his face lit up his eyes and broadened his smile. I walked over to the couch and pulled on my coat.
“Freeman?” I turned back to face him. He’d moved behind a chair, as if he needed distance between us. Protection. “The sex business… you know? The parties. With George. It’s over.”
He bit his lip as I’d so often seen him do. “After… well, last time you were in the club. After that party, I told him I didn’t want it anymore. Didn’t want him fucking me.” He rushed on, maybe afraid that I’d say something provocative about George. “He didn’t seem bothered, actually. Just sent me off to work as usual.” He shook his head gently: a different kind of confusion. “Don’t know why he didn’t ask me to return the keys to my room right then. But he let me stay on, regardless.”
I let out my breath, quietly. I was imagining his conversation with George, delivering his terms. His simple, bold bravery.
“I want to clean up my act, Freeman.” He sounded belligerent but his eyes pleaded with me to understand. “Want to start again.”
I nodded. “That’s good. Good for you.”
He moved out from behind the chair and started to close the distance between us again. “Not doing it just for me. I’m doing it for you, too.”
“Freeman, I don’t just want to be here, I want to be here with you.”
I think I was shaking my head, though I wasn’t moving out of his path. “It’s your decision what you do with your life, Kit.”
He laughed, still walking across the room, only a couple of feet from the couch by now. His slim body swayed with easy, graceful movements. “Yeah, seems like that’s your style. Don’t tell a person what to do, but when you don’t approve, your face looks like you swallowed a wasp and won’t tell anyone it stings like fuck.”
I laughed aloud, then.
He seemed pleased. “That’s true, right?”
“Yes, maybe,” I agreed.
“I know it’s my life, my decision.” We were laughing together as he came close enough to put an arm out to me. “Hell, if I wanted to, I could fuck a different man every one of the twelve days of Christmas, right?” I was still laughing when he slipped both arms back around my waist and pressed his belly against mine. He looked up into my face. “But none of them would be you, Freeman. I want you.”
I was silent – the laughter dried in my throat. I looked down into his face and all I could see were those dark, wide eyes. His expression was an equal mix of terror and determination. He looked like the fragile Kit I’d seen in the club on the first night I met him – like the aggressive Kit who’d argue with me whenever he felt like it – like the surprisingly mature Kit who’d grin at me without prompt and talk to me without pretension or suspicion. They were all there, challenging me. I could hear his soft panting breath – I could smell him, smell the body wash from his shower and the freshness of my clean linen and every small, warm, human, bodily pulse that I’d come to recognise from him.
He lifted his chin with both defiance and nervousness. “I don’t know how to get you, Freeman. Don’t laugh at me. Don’t get mad. I think you want me too, but you won’t make a move. I just don’t know what to do.” He flushed, and then before I could answer him, he leant up and forwards, and with a slow, hushed inevitability he kissed me.
My heart may not have stopped physiologically but it did emotionally. I felt the pressure of the soft, damp lips and the bold, hot tongue licking at mine. I opened my mouth because I was startled, and his tongue slipped in greedily to explore me. No – I was lying to myself, the worst sin of all. I opened my mouth because I wanted him, inside me. I wanted to taste him – to plunder him – to explore him, too. My hands darted up to grasp his shoulders – to push him away – but somehow they lost their way and became entangled in the hair at the back of his neck. It slipped through my fingers but I got enough of a hold to tug his head nearer, to tilt him so that we fit better together. It didn’t take much. I felt as if we breathed the same breath, shared the same gasp.
“Freeman…” His murmur was in my ear, his delighted laugh like a caress. “Fuck, you taste good.”
We kissed some more, because now it truly was a mutual pleasure. I pressed his head back as I leaned in to him, ran my fingers along the line of his jaw, watched the convulsive jerk of his throat as he swallowed. His eyes were half-closed and so he didn’t see me as I gazed at his face, following each line, each stretched muscle, each flickering eyelid. I kissed the sides of his mouth; I kissed the rich, full softness of the middle; I kissed the skin of his cheek, just below his ear. He tasted just as I’d imagined he would – cool and hot; sweet and piquant. Remarkable. He kissed me back, hot and eager and clumsy, his fingers stroking the tendons in my neck, his lips sucking at mine. I could feel his heartbeat speeding up, thudding against my torso. He made soft, gasping noises as his mouth moved against mine.
We broke for air, long before I had any trouble breathing but long after we could have called it a momentary distraction and laughed it off. Kit’s eyes were gleaming. I saw his chest heaving underneath his thin shirt. His fingers played with the hem as if he were getting ready to peel it off. “Wow,” he whispered.
“Kit,” I murmured. His name sounded different to me, somehow.
“Wow,” he repeated, and laughed shakily. “Shit. It’s so different. You. This. I wanted to do it – but it’s not what I thought.” I frowned and he flushed. “No, Freeman, I mean it’s good! So very, very good. Better. But it’s like an ache… inside. Hurts me.” He laughed again, his hand against his chest, his voice shaky and self-conscious. He looked like he was searching for something more articulate, but whatever he said, I already understood.
“I won’t hurt you,” I said. My voice sounded different, too. Hoarser… richer.
“I know you won’t,” he replied quickly, grinning. He was shivering again, but he seemed pleased about it. He started to pull up his shirt, like before.
“No,” I said, gently. I slid my hands down from his shoulders and grasped his wrists. “No, Kit.”