A younger man darted out from what must have been the living room, clutching a leather jacket to his chest as if in protection. He saw Aidan, glanced at Tanya with widening eyes, then back at Aidan. Then he thrust out his hand and said perfectly cheerily, “I’m Eric. He threatens to kill me on a daily basis.”
Aidan just shook hands and nodded. He had no idea what to say to that, or even what it meant.
Tanya frowned at Eric. “Whatever. We’re just going. The car will come for you at seven. In the meantime, if you’d like a drink?”
But Eric took her arm and guided her toward the front door. “They can cope with that themselves, Tanya. Come on.”
And Aidan was left on his own in the hallway.
He took a deep breath to center himself. The house wasn’t huge, but it was in a very fashionable area of Ladbroke Grove and far more luxurious than his own small flat. That said, there wasn’t much furniture and the decoration wasn’t modern. The hallway walls were painted in plain, cool colours. No pictures hung on the walls, and there was only a single bureau and hat stand, albeit in quality wood. Eric had left the living room door ajar behind him, and Aidan took a quick peek inside before announcing himself. From what he could see, again the walls were plain and the furniture sparse. It was as if the owner was in the process of moving out—or had never really settled in.
A male figure paused in front of the half-open door. He was distracted by something on the other side of the room, so Aidan got a first secret glimpse of the man he’d been told so much about.
He was much more handsome in real life than on TV, though in most of the documentaries, he was wrapped up in furry parkas or oilskins with his face more than half-hidden with a scarf and balaclava. Today he was wearing a very smart pair of dark trousers, a startlingly white dress shirt—which had to be brand-new to still have that sheen—and a well-cut suit jacket that settled comfortably across an impressive set of shoulders. His hair was a fabulous thatch of dark curls, and he had a dark beard and mustache to match. Guiltily Aidan recalled Zeb’s mischievous nickname: Hairy Guy. But that conjured up a Wild Man of Borneo kind of image, and H-G was far from that. The hair was naturally unruly but had been styled to a level just off his shoulders, and the beard was well trimmed.
Aidan had never been attracted to hairy bears, not that he’d ever had much of a choice. As Zeb had gleefully pointed out more than once, Aidan seemed to attract needy and spiteful wankers who got off on bleeding him dry of any compassion and care. Oh, and his money too.
Okay. Self-pity over, right now. I’m not Loser Aidan now. I’m the charismatic and disgustingly fascinating Zeb Z.
For the first time in this bizarre performance, Aidan felt the tickle of mischief. This just might be fun after all. He pushed the door fully open, walked into the room, and cleared his throat.
H-G turned slowly around to face Aidan fully. His gaze ranged over Aidan’s body, and his eyes widened. “Well. They didn’t lie.”
“Who didn’t? What about?”
H-G raised his eyebrows. “Well, firstly, they said you were a bit feisty.”
Feisty? Aidan hadn’t heard that word outside of romance-novel blurbs.
“And you wouldn’t be fazed by… you know.”
“No, I don’t know. By what?” Aidan bit his lip to stop a laugh escaping.
Jesus. Zeb was right. The man was one big blob of arrogance. “No,” Aidan said coolly. “I’m not.”
“That’s from working in the business, I suppose.”
“Business?” Oh, right, he was meant to be Zeb. “Yes, of course. When you’ve seen so many guys without the spray tan and makeup,” he gabbled without thinking first, “you soon realise they’ve got the same equipment under it all.”
H-G blinked twice, hard. And then he laughed—a loud, bold sound, echoing warmly in the bleak room.
Aidan wanted to laugh with him, but maintained his cool stare. “What’s so funny?” Had he blown it already? He hadn’t even left the house with the man yet.
“They didn’t tell me you were witty, Zeb. I may call you Zeb?”
Why? “Oh yes, right. Of course.”
Dom’s language was quaintly old-fashioned, but Aidan found it rather charming, especially after the theatrical bickering of the Dreamweavers and his brother’s exuberant and affected chatter.
“And secondly?” Aidan prompted.
“I’m sorry?” H-G frowned at him.
God, what a scowl he has. “You said they didn’t lie, and then you gave the first reason.”
H-G raised his eyebrows. “You have a good memory.”
Yes, he does have lovely eyes. “Yes, I do. Especially when I’m listening.”
H-G’s mouth twisted as if he were trying not to smirk. “Secondly, they didn’t lie about your looks, and that you were even better-looking in real life. I concur. You’re bloody gorgeous.”
Aidan wondered whom H-G was talking about. Zeb was the one who’d made a career based on his looks. Aidan made his on ignoring his own. So obviously H-G was talking about Zeb—or Aidan-as-Zeb. Aidan tugged self-consciously at the skintight jeans. His briefs felt uncomfortable between the cheeks of his arse and the hairs on his lower belly had snagged under the buttons of the fly. How the hell did Zeb manage to walk straight in these on a daily basis? “And you’re bloody blunt,” he returned smartly.
H-G tilted his head. He was smiling openly now as if he was enjoying the banter. “I’ve never seen any reason to be otherwise.”
H-G’s gaze didn’t make Aidan entirely comfortable. “Like what you see?” he said rather too snappily.
But H-G just laughed again. “You’re not as androgynous as you look in the magazines either.”
“What does that mean?”
“You look all man to me.” H-G’s eyes darkened, and for a moment his gaze grazed over Aidan’s groin area.
Aha! “So you’ve seen me in magazines?”
H-G flushed. “Now and then. Dentist’s waiting room, you know?”
Aidan felt he’d scored a point there but wasn’t sure how to follow up any advantage. This was turning into an odd kind of tennis match.
H-G cleared his throat. “Look, let’s both be frank about this, okay? I know this is just a promotional exercise. The sponsor is very committed to equality issues, and to have a gay couple approaching them is apparently a good PR thing.”
“You’re doing this solely for the money?”
“Not to the extent of turning gay for it, no,” H-G snapped back.
For the first time, Aidan saw a flicker of the real emotions inside the man. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it that way.”
“No, I’m the one who’s sorry.” H-G seemed to make a conscious effort to get his temper back under control. “I know you didn’t. It’s just one thing I never compromised on. I know who I am, what I feel, and what I like.”
“That’s good,” Aidan said more gently. “I suppose you might have trouble with it sometimes.”
H-G gave an angry shake of his head. “Anyone doesn’t like who I am isn’t worth being with. That’s always worked for me.”
Apart from having to hire a date for this evening. But then, Aidan didn’t have a boyfriend either, did he? And he was the complete opposite to the aggressive H-G. Aidan didn’t keep his sexuality hidden, but he didn’t go broadcasting it around either. Unlike my outrageous twin. Could this outfit be any more obvious? The jeans squished his balls back and pushed his cock forward. The electric blue sweater had slipped off his shoulder again so that he felt like a provocative 1950s starlet, and it was itching his neck on the other side. It made his mood just as scratchy. He wondered briefly whose approach would be more successful in finding a soul mate—his, H-G’s, or Zeb’s.