Frost longs for the feeling of a warm body pressed against him. Someone who will cuddle close and never let go. Someone who will shamelessly wear matching flannel pajamas. Someone he cares for—he’d say someone he loves, but since he hasn’t found love in his thirty-eight years on this planet, the odds are pretty laughable at this point.
So, instead of being calm and contented and comforted, he settles for pretending. Pretends the naked blonde sleeping with his head pillowed on his shoulder isn’t a dumb, young barfly with more money than sense. Pretends he’s not just an ex-con turned bartender who’s desperate enough to pick up someone while he’s working. But when a mark throws money in your face, you can pretend all you want, but you’re an idiot if you pass it up. It’s a matter of survival.
Pretending suits him. It’s not like he deserves any better. Still, Sandra’s gonna have something to say when he shows up for his shift at her club, the Sapphire. Cleaning followed by another night behind the bar. He’s exhausted just thinking about it, but he makes peanuts compared to his coworkers. Not that he has a right to complain. He’s lucky Sandra gave a guy like him a job at all. Here’s hoping he can grit his teeth and bear today’s lecture.
Blondie shifts, his breath quickening in the darkness. Frost closes his eyes, slows down his breathing, prays Blondie isn’t stirring. But when feather light kisses trace across his shoulder, he startles. So much for feigning sleep. Blondie snuggles up against him, one leg pressing between his own, a hand worming toward his groin. At the first touch to his slow-to-wilt erection, Frost jerks back.
Chuckling like he’s just stumbled into a joke, Blondie curls closer to him and whispers, “You should’ve told me you didn’t finish. I get all self-centered when I’m coming. Lemme just…” He slides out of Frost’s arms, his trajectory decidedly southward.
No, thank you.
His arms tighten reflexively, pinning Blondie and stalling his descent. Maybe he’ll take the hint and let it go.
“C’mon, I do this great thing with my tongue.”
Frost stares up at the ceiling and bites off a groan. One day, he’ll learn. One day, he’ll stop letting strangers take him home because it beats sleeping behind a dumpster. One day, maybe. But not today.
Before he gets a chance to speak, Blondie starts kissing his neck. For a split second, his resolve falters, and he sighs under those gentle signs of affection. They’re almost enough to tether him to the bed so he can endure whatever “pleasure” Blondie is bound and determined to give him. He’d rather not. Release isn’t something he needs or wants. Just rest.
He lifts Blondie by his hips until their legs untangle and he can breathe again. But Blondie huffs and wriggles out of his grasp. “Trust me, it’s gonna feel awesome.”
Not likely. Frost can usually grin and bear the stimulation until his partner is sated. But that part of the night is long over, and now, he just wants to rest. And given Blondie’s determination, rest won’t find him here. So much for a couple hours sleep on a pillow-top mattress. Especially since home is non-existent and comfort a luxury he can’t afford.
He drops Blondie on the mattress and slinks out of bed, his toes curling on the cold bedroom carpet. He feels for his trousers and drags them up his legs. Cold fabric cups his balls, makes him shiver, but it’s a balm to his physical arousal.
As he zips up his pants, he catches a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror across from the bed. Too short for his wingspan. Streaks of gray lightening his corkscrew curls. Habitual frown lines wrinkling his dark skin. With a haircut, he might look mildly respectable. Mildly.
Uncertain hands palm his hips. “Where you going?” Blondie asks, pressing each word to the hollow of his back.
“Got an early shift.”
Fingertips sooth across his skin, wanting, welcoming. “Stay.”
He risks a glance over his shoulder. Blondie looks up at him, all wide-eyed innocence. Frost is tempted to call him a picture of sweetness except that his groin is tenting the bedsheets and his pupils are blown wide.
“We can go again if you want,” he goes on. “Something nice to remember me by. I’ve got an eight AM, but a friend will send me notes if I can’t get out of bed.”
Frost sighs and shakes his head. “You shouldn’t skip class chasing a stranger’s approval.”
Blondie’s hands tense on his hips. Probably the first time someone’s told him “no”. Frost regrets having to burst his bubble, but a clean break is safer. Besides, it’s not like Blondie cares; he was just looking for someone willing to rut against.
In tense silence, Frost follows his trail of clothes out of the bedroom and across an apartment no college student should be able to afford. He dresses quickly, pointedly ignoring the weight in the pocket of the too-big jacket he snagged out of the Sapphire’s lost and found. His stomach squirms regardless. He grits his teeth and steps into his boots. Just get out of here. You can deal with your guilty conscience later.
Bypassing the elevator, Frost takes the emergency stairs two at a time as he fishes Blondie’s wallet out of his pocket. There’s more cash in the billfold than most college students have to their name. Clearly someone’s bankrolling his education. Frost pockets the cash—enough for three weeks at a local motel or six months’ worth of peanut butter sandwiches—and checks Blondie’s ID: Caleb Miller, twenty-two years old, native to a zipcode that would bar folks like Frost entrance if they could get away with it. He drops the wallet in the dumpster out back before heading toward the main road.
Given the dark haze over the skyline, it must be pushing four. Since he’s got a cleaning shift scheduled for seven, he doesn’t really have time to bed down for some shuteye. Three hours to kill, including travel time. He needs food. Coffee. Maybe someone sympathetic enough to help him stay awake for those intervening hours. Vicky’s, a twenty-four hour diner he visits when he has the cash to spare, might just be the answer.
Frost murmurs a soft “huh” and turns south on 9th. What are the odds Max pulled another week of graveyard shifts?