Nic Gerrard is this year’s brightest young entrepreneur, charming and charismatic, with time for everyone. Aidan West is his cleverest programmer, fiercely committed to his work and with little time for friendship or socializing. Together they created the successful dating agency, Sparks, with a new and refreshing approach to matching people.
A year later, their lives are very different–Nic has all the trappings of success and as much company as he wants; Aidan is solitary and disapproving of such a lifestyle. When Nic decides to update the agency’s unique matching program, he and Aidan must work together again. Getting along gets harder as they deal with a malicious hacker and face a crisis at the agency. It will take both of them to make the agency work, and somehow they have to find a way to put their differences aside. Nic and Aiden have secrets to keep, and whether they’ll admit it or not, they each need something–or someone–to help Sparks fly.
© Clare London
Aidan stood outside the bar as Nic came striding out after him. Nic looked relieved that Aidan was still there, but his expression turned to shock at Aidan’s next words.
“You kiss strangers in bars a lot? Or let them kiss you?”
Nic almost laughed aloud, this scene was farcical! “He’s not a stranger. He’s an acquaintance. Was an acquaintance.” Don’t be such an asshole, Aidan, he thought to himself.
“More than an acquaintance, I think. A friend?”
Nic stared at Aidan. What the fuck was going on? Why was Aidan nagging away at this? “Okay, he was more than an acquaintance, if you want to know. But less than a friend.”
“How do you measure that?”
“What – you want to write a program for it?” Nic couldn’t believe the tone of his voice, the bickering in it, the hostility. But he couldn’t hold himself back. He could feel his anger rising in the face of Aidan’s aggression.
“No, just interested.”
“I knew him closely for a month or so.”
“So … an acquaintance might be known – let’s say – for a week, a friend for much longer. People like that kid come somewhere in between. So let’s look at the other parameters. At what stage does the kiss come in? And how many weeks for a quick fuck? I assume that’s what he was?”
Nic was shocked at the crude language from Aidan. He didn’t think he’d ever heard him swear much, and somehow it didn’t sit comfortably with him. He was amazed that his companion was disturbed enough to use it. The sidewalk was quiet outside the bar, there were very few people around at this time of the morning, and luckily none of them seemed interested in a sudden altercation between two young men. But Nic was damned angry, as well. What had happened to the comfortable mood of just a short while ago? “Jesus, Aidan, you are so damned offensive! How dare you talk to me like that?”
Aidan felt something harden inside of him; a sharp spike of pain in his gut. “It’s an unforgivable abuse of people, Nic. You’re in the spotlight, it’s only natural that they come to you, but then you use them –”
“What? What sort of guy do you think I am?”
“Am I wrong?” Aidan’s face was flushed. He felt the pain again, and it was all mixed up with the anger. The destructive, white-hot anger that he knew would consume him; that would leave him panting and alone, and plunge him back into the maelstrom of his miserable, broken nights. “When they come fawning over you? Do you send them home before or after you’ve had your fun?”
“If it’s offered, why not?” Nic snapped back. “They’re adults – they can make their own decisions, can’t they?” And that’s not what he meant to say, because it wasn’t strictly true, he did care about the people he came into contact with, but, boy, did he hate people who made him lose his temper!
And Aidan was relentless. “That’s your philosophy in life, is it? Take anything and everything that comes your way?”
“Is this because you have a problem with me and guys? How dare you!”
“No – not that –” Aidan’s anger faltered for a second, but his words continued to spill out. He was sickeningly fearful of going too far – but he couldn’t stop himself. “I don’t care who you fuck. It’s your promiscuity that’s so disgusting.”
Nic gasped. He couldn’t believe the bolt of pain that shot through him. “Who the fuck do you think you are, saying that? What if I am promiscuous? At least I’m connecting with people, not always hiding away behind a damned screen, judging things you have no real fucking knowledge of!”
Aidan’s eyes flashed in anger. Nic couldn’t help himself, either, or his reaction to this man; he saw the gold glints inside the deep brown irises, and he felt a rush of fury to his brain, of desire to his groin – he’d never known such conflict inside himself. Aidan’s sharp voice cut through all of it, harsh and low. “Connecting? That’s what you call it? Fucking everything in sight?”
“Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!”
Aidan drew a deep breath, but it didn’t calm him at all. “So you say I should try it?”
“Maybe you should, then you wouldn’t be so fucking holier than thou –”
Nic’s next words were lost as his breath was crushed under Aidan’s hands, hands that pressed hard on his chest, pushing him back against the wall. He was shocked at Aidan’s strength – the muscles he’d guessed at under the shirt were tight and perfectly controlled. Aidan bent his arm across Nic’s chest, forcing him back against the cold brick, and the other hand gripped his chin.
And then he kissed him.
It wasn’t just a kiss – it was like a declaration of war! Nic didn’t know how someone could kiss so passionately and yet so damned aggressively! He was paralyzed, and for that moment, totally submissive. The whole smell, the whole feel of Aidan was suddenly swamping him, his face pressed against Nic’s, the mouth moist and sweet but hard at the same time, his tongue forcing through Nic’s shocked lips, to probe at his own, to run fiercely around inside his mouth, seeking out the corners, the curves, the taste. Aidan’s hand moved from his chin and gripped him by the shoulder, hard. The other hand released the hold on Nic’s chest and thrust behind his neck, tangling into his hair, tugging Nic’s head forward into Aidan’s embrace.
Nic could do nothing but respond. Fuck, he wanted to do nothing but respond. He’d never had a kiss like it, from man or woman! Almost shamefully, he felt his erection pressing hard against his leg, and knew that Aidan would feel it too. He felt an answering pressure from the other man’s thighs, but before he could find out if Aidan was as aroused as he was, the invading mouth wrenched away.
“Jesus…” gasped Nic. The movement of his fingers to his lips was completely unconscious. He thanked God he was still propped against the wall, doubting his legs would hold him up otherwise. His cock was swelling and aching beyond belief, straining against the front of his pants.
Aidan’s gaze darted down to Nic’s groin then back up to his face. “You want to fuck me?” he hissed. His lips were swelled with the kiss, his eyes bright like ice in sunlight. Like a reflection in a sharpened knife, Nic thought, his mind still reeling. Aidan stepped back, away from Nic, swaying slightly.
Nic’s voice wouldn’t work, though he knew that his body screamed its own answer. Aidan never gave him any chance to reply, anyway.
“You do, don’t you? Well, why wouldn’t you? I’m just another employee to you, another body, another consumable! But you can just get over it. Because – unlike all those other bodies – I don’t want to fuck you!”
Aidan was very pale and shaking, as if he wasn’t quite sure of his control – Nic could see a tremor in the pulse at his throat. He turned around abruptly and started to walk away. Nic watched him in complete, stunned amazement; the straight back, the finely shaped legs, the most perfect ass he’d ever seen … and the fists, clenched so tightly at Aidan’s sides that the knuckles were white.
Nic stood slumped against the wall, gulping in the early morning air like a drowning man and trying to calm his racing heartbeat.
And what the hell had all that meant?