Also in AUDIO: COLLECTION #1
A short story featuring Bryan and Phiz, who first met in the book “Slap and Tickle”, one of a series of romance novellas based around the alcoholic ice cream shop in Soho called With A Kick. A joint-authored project with Sue Brown, each story has a self-contained romance, and follows the history of the shop throughout.
Phiz can’t always control his hyperactivity and propensity for chaos. But he no longer has to feel marginalised because of it, not now he has Bryan for a friend and lover. Bryan’s calm, ordered attitude is the perfect foil for Phiz: and Bryan’s private desire for kink is just what Phiz needs to keep him grounded. This Valentine’s Day, Phiz wants to give Bryan a special gift, but Bryan can’t be tempted away from his work. At least, not until he opens Phiz’s gift and realises love means… taking time away to play.
“Can’t you just take a look? If it’s no good, if you don’t like it, I can… well, I can’t send it back, you see, ’cos it’s… you know. Well, you don’t yet, that’s true, but it’s mine now—yours—and the small print says that’s it, no refunds, but that’s pretty obvious I guess, because it would have been… would have been used… well, anyway. Bloody hell.” With a frustrated huff of breath, Phiz came to a halt just before he banged his shins on the back of Bryan’s office chair. He scooped the last spoonful of ice cream into his mouth, perched the bowl on the top of Bryan’s filing cabinet, then swung around and started pacing again. Bryan’s home office wasn’t small, but there still wasn’t space for a restless human animal like his boyfriend Phiz. “Just need you to look, Bryan, that’s all. I mean, I know you’re up against a deadline and everything, and I’d help if I could, well, if you’d bloody well let me. I apologised about those files I deleted last week, didn’t I? Yes, okay, I knew I did, but I suppose this is partly to say sorry for all that trouble I caused, and partly because it’s, well, you know.”
No, Bryan didn’t know. But whereas when he first met Phiz, that stupid phrase had infuriated him, nowadays it just made him smile. To himself, that was. It meant Phiz was nervous and was therefore starting to ramble. Phiz so easily slid off the wagon of self-control and would soon be in dire need of reining in. They both knew that was how things went. They both knew that was how they liked it, too.
“Look, why don’t I just do some filing for you?” Phiz loomed rather alarmingly over the edge of Bryan’s desk. “Save you some time. Just have to bundle the stuff into the files, colour-coded aren’t they? Well, whatever system you use, I’m sure I’ll pick it up. I won’t touch anything electronic, of course I won’t, and anyway it’s not as if I know the passwords you set up for the clients’ records, though God knows what I’d make of all that maths mumbo-jumbo even if I did, never had a head for accounts at school. I wouldn’t be able to tell if anyone was shit-broke or washing millions through their accounts—”
“It’s called laundering,” Bryan broke in. “And don’t touch anything at all. Please.” He leaned back on his chair and sighed. “Show me, then.”
Phiz grinned broadly and dropped his bag down with a thump onto the pile of papers in front of Bryan. Maybe he didn’t see Bryan tense up, or the gritted-teeth way Bryan slid the papers out from underneath, to settle them more carefully to one side. Or maybe he did, because he nudged up behind Bryan and rested his hands on Bryan’s shoulders. “Thanks,” he murmured.
“I… what for?” Phiz’s fingers dug into the muscles at the nape of Bryan’s neck and began to knead them gently. God, that was good. Bryan felt the tension seeping out of him in a warm, sensual trickle.
“For listening to me. For accepting a gift, though God knows I try often enough to treat you, to find you new things, so we can both have fun, you know? But I know what a miserable old git you are about presents and celebrations, and just last Christmas you got really tight-arsed about that fake snow I put over the windows—”
“Only because it was all over the TV as well!”
“—but anyway, this is important. You’ve been bloody good to me, letting me study here, and putting me up almost every bloody night—”
“You make me sound like a hostel,” Bryan grumbled. “I want you here.”
“—because I’ve still got my room at the Crawford Close flat, I could stay there more often, well, that’s if Curtis and Sammy haven’t already converted it into a temporary warehouse. Last I heard, Curtis had taken delivery of twenty boxes of avocados, to say nothing of last January’s fitness DVDs, the crate of plastic daffodils he got for the price of a pint, and the vibrating cocktail swizzle sticks—”
All Bryan did was let the edge creep into his voice, but Phiz stilled. Immediately. And smiled. His body visibly relaxed: Bryan watched it happen.