“We like things that are comfortable, don’t we, Ben?” Craig grinned and hugged Richie even more warmly. Richie wondered guiltily about personal space issues. But as his friends had made plenty of comments tonight about his reserve, he didn’t want to be the one to cause a fuss if they were now too close. And who was to say it was too close?
“Yes.” Ben agreed with Craig. “Those are the things that we like, indeed.” His eyes sparkled. “And we’d like to share them with you, Richie.”
“Share what?” Richie asked, rather rudely. He’d only just swallowed another mouthful of wine and was still enjoying the aftertaste on his tongue. But so was Ben, it seemed. He was sipping deeply from the same glass that he’d offered to Richie. His eyes shone at Richie over the rim as if they were sharing a secret, rather than a wine.
Richie sighed, leaning back in his chair. Craig’s arms tightened gently around him. It also felt as if Ben rested a hand at the back of his neck — an unusual place to comfort a friend, perhaps, even one facing bankruptcy and ruin.
“Got an investment to protect, eh, Ben?” Craig laughed softly. Richie could smell his warm, spicy cologne. Craig always smelled good — he exuded hot, sexy strength. Richie blinked, wondering where the hell that thought had come from. Or, even if he admitted he knew the answer to that, he didn’t know what had let it loose to frolic in the forefront of his mind. It must be the wine. Must be. His senses were in overload. Could he get drunk, just from a glass or so of quality wine? He’d never suspected his tolerance was that low. His shock must be much more severe than he imagined.
“I don’t need protection,” he said. His voice sounded rather weak.
Ben just smiled. “Sure, Richie. Craig still thinks you’re too skinny, though. Let’s eat first, then discuss anything else later, right?”
Richie was about to protest that there were no staff — that the soup was ruined — that the whole evening had collapsed into disaster and amazement around him — that Craig had already eaten most of the bread —
But his friends ignored him.
“So what do we have to tempt us?” Ben ran his eyes over the plate on the table beside him, full of the food Craig had brought out from the kitchen. Craig laughed softly, a lazy, sexy smile lighting up his face. He leant across Richie, and his long, slim fingers picked up a spear of asparagus, poached gently in butter. A drop of the warm, pale yellow coating dropped back into the dish with a plop.
Richie wriggled on his seat. He felt awkward, suddenly, squashed between them. Their bodies were both pressed against him and he could feel the two heartbeats, beating in different rhythms to his.
Craig pointed the asparagus across Richie and up towards Ben’s face, as if beckoning him. Their eyes met. Craig smiled and reached further forwards, the tip of the spear teasing at Ben’s mouth.
“Mmm.” Ben’s voice was like a purr. “My favourite.”
Richie watched the slim, green finger of food slide into Ben’s mouth. In fact, he couldn’t tear his eyes away. Ben was the only thing he could focus on. The generous lips were round and moist around the asparagus. Ben sucked, and the tip slipped in smoothly. It was a very messy food. Of course it was. Richie stared as a generous dribble of melted butter ran down on to Ben’s chin. He reached out instinctively, and wiped it off with his fingertips.
“Thanks.” Ben’s voice was very soft, the tone amused.
Richie flushed and clumsily snatched his hand back. Ben’s skin had been soft and very warm, with barely the hint of evening stubble. The small, still sane part of Richie’s mind was appalled at how intimate his gesture had been.
But Ben’s sigh was one of pleasure. He caught at Richie’s retreating hand, the fingers damp and glistening with the greasy traces of butter. “It’s very good,” he said. “You’re a brilliant chef. You produce the most perfect tastes. Is it surprising I want more?” He gently twisted Richie’s unresisting wrist, and brought Richie’s fingers back to his lips. Then he started to lick between the digits, slowly and lasciviously, lapping up the remains of the melted butter.
Oh good God. Richie’s mouth opened wide to protest, but no words came out. The caressing tongue was rough like a cat’s, yet smooth like the pure, slick muscle it was. He couldn’t believe how exciting this was. “English,” he said, the word popping out without any forethought. “It’s the best English asparagus I could afford.”
Ben nodded and smiled, and moved closer to him. His breath was now a seductive breeze against Richie’s cheek. “You should taste it yourself,” he murmured.
Richie watched Ben’s nimble fingers wipe the residue from the corners of his perfect mouth, and then those dampened fingertips were reaching for Richie’s mouth, and they were pressing firmly in, and Richie’s lips were closing around them, instinctively — hungrily.
“Suck them,” Ben whispered softly. “I want to see you lick them all.”