Authors: Ava March
And what the hell had gotten into Oscar tonight? It wasn’t as if Julian had done anything wrong. The purpose of a ball was to dance and socialize, for Christ’s sake.
Tamping down the fresh surge of irritation, he met Radcliffe’s gaze. “No need to fret, Radcliffe. I’ll match you.” As he hadn’t a shilling left in his pocket, he had nothing to throw into the center of the table. Until the end of the game. He had a pair of sevens. If Radcliffe was goading him, then that meant the man had a solid hand. Chances were Julian would come out the loser, and he’d end up writing yet another vowel to throw into the pot, this one to Radcliffe.
Small price to pay though, given the possible reward.
Four more rounds of betting, and Julian had a keen appreciation of the difference between playing brag against Oscar and Benjamin, and playing against Radcliffe. With each round, Radcliffe upped the bet by five pounds. Not shillings, but pounds. Clearly the man’s ruthlessness at cards extended beyond whist.
As Radcliffe stared at him, the dare clear in his blue eyes, Julian did a quick calculation. With the initial bet and the bet during the round Montgomery and Wright had folded, he was already in for fifty-four pounds. Add to that the vowels he’d written to Wright…
Julian’s pulse stuttered.
The hell with Radcliffe. Julian needed to bow out before his total reached one hundred pounds.
With a tip of his head, he tossed his cards onto the pile of coins and pound notes in the center of the table. “Your game.”
A smile spread across Radcliffe’s mouth. “And my pleasure.”
After writing the vowels to Radcliffe, Julian made his excuses and pushed from the table.
The ballroom was still full near to bursting, the musicians still playing, the chatter still lively, but the ball had lost its luster. The appeal, the excitement gone.
He shook his head. Might as well leave.
The Hunts’ butler closed the front door behind him. He headed toward one of the hackneys waiting along the street then stopped in his tracks.
He let out a short growl of frustration.
Bloody brilliant evening. Oscar had played the brat, Julian owed two men—and not just any two men—far more money than he had the means to repay, and now he would have to walk back to Oscar’s town house.
At least the Hunts’ home was but a handful of streets from Brook Street. He should also thank the heavens it wasn’t raining.
A thanks that clearly went unheard. A fat raindrop, one that held the promise of an imminent deluge, hit his cheek as he turned onto Brook Street. With another curse, he quickened his pace, coming as close as he dared to a run while keeping his strides to a walk.
One of the front double doors opened as he went up the steps, a hand on the iron rail, careful not to slip in his evening shoes on the wet stone. His rain-splattered trousers stuck to his legs, chilling his skin. He ducked inside, escaping the driving rain. The night butler shut the door behind him. Instead of the bright light of the chandelier overhead, a single candle on the console table lit the entrance hall.
“Good evening, Mr. Parker.”
No, not a good evening.
Holding back the surly retort, Julian wiped a gloved hand over his wet face, then tugged off his gloves and left them in the butler’s outstretched hand.
As he went up the grand staircase, he became acutely aware of the sounds of his footsteps echoing about him, disturbing the perfect quiet. Save for a pair of sconces at each floor’s landing, the house was dark, heavy shadows swallowing up the corridors.
A frisson of loneliness passed through him.
No wonder Oscar had his servants wait to retire until he returned home for the evening.
Rather than the fully stoked fire that had greeted Julian the last two nights, only glowing embers remained on the grate in his hearth, their meager warmth unable to keep the damp, spring chill from the air in his bedchamber. He lit a candle and stripped off his wet coat and trousers, throwing them into a bin. Hopefully neither was ruined beyond repair.
The habit already ingrained, his fingers had the gold chain unhooked and the watch pulled from his waistcoat pocket before he was aware of it. Halfway to the chest of drawers, he stopped. Looked down at the watch, at the inscription on the back.
The irritation and frustration drained out of him in one long exhale.
His shoulders slumped.
He’d been an arse. Had barely spoken to Oscar after they’d arrived at the ball. Tonight had been the first major function he’d attended where he had some confidence in his reception. The doubt, the fear of being cut reduced to minor levels, to the point where he could imagine himself fully welcome. Where he could walk up to a gentleman, extend a hand and not brace for rejection. Where gentlemen had actually walked up to him, extended a hand and appeared pleased to see him again. He’d been too caught up in himself, in cultivating the favor he had begun to establish with others. In the process, he had all but turned his back on the man who had been responsible for his first true taste of success.
Fine friend he was turning out to be.
He couldn’t blame Oscar for leaving him there. He had deserved it.
And Oscar had been upset with him. He couldn’t fool himself otherwise. That had definitely been hurt in his brown eyes the moment before he’d stepped away from Julian.
He carefully put the watch back in its case, finished undressing, dragged a towel over his wet hair, pulled on a dry pair of trousers and a shirt, then left his bedchamber and turned right, away from the sconces at the top of the stairs whose golden light just reached his door, and into heavy, dense shadows.
Nearing where he believed should be the end of the corridor, he stretched a hand out before him. His fingertips brushed a silk-papered wall, then slick painted wood and finally the cool metal of a door knob.
The light rap of his knuckles against wood filled the darkness around him. Tilting his ear to the door, he focused on listening.
Nothing but silence.
Trepidation filled his stomach.
No light seeped from under the door. Hopefully Oscar was asleep and not deliberately ignoring him.
Breath held, he tried the knob.
The door swung open.
The breath whooshed from his lungs.
He slipped inside the room then locked the door behind him. The drapes were drawn, muffling the rain slapping against the windows. Dark shapes of furniture were scattered along the walls, with a bed dominating one end of the room.
The bed was huge. Massive. On a scale with the spacious bedchamber and the immense town house. The four posters reaching into the shadowed ceiling, the mattress designed to hold more than one.
From the feeble light of the hearth, he could make out a shape under the coverlet. Oscar was curled up on the far side, the surrounding blankets undisturbed.
His chest tightened. Oscar should be in
bed right now, not all alone, his slight frame dwarfed by that massive bed.
On bare feet, he padded across the room to the nearest side of the bed, pulled off his shirt and trousers, and eased under the coverlet. The sheets were cool against his skin, without a hint of warmth from Oscar’s body. Another frisson of loneliness passed through him.
He scooted across the distance separating them, stopping just shy of touching Oscar. The man lay facing the hearth, away from Julian, face tucked into his pillow. He couldn’t see if Oscar’s eyes were open or closed, but judging from the undisturbed rhythm of his breaths, Julian had not woken him yet.
Slow and careful, he nudged the coverlet down enough to expose Oscar’s shoulder. Then he pressed his lips to that bared shoulder. Kept the kiss light and gentle, resisting the urge to lick the ginger freckles he knew were there.
“Oscar,” he whispered against his skin.
The man let out a little noise, part sleepy grunt, part question, part breath. “Julian?”
“Yes, it’s me.” He pressed another kiss to Oscar’s shoulder, dared to rest a hand on the man’s slim hip. Oscar didn’t move away from him, but nor did he turn his head toward Julian.
“Yes. Had a horrid evening without you.” And that was the absolute truth. Even though he had barely spoken to Oscar, Julian had known he had been there. Then Oscar had walked away from him and everything had gone to hell. The evening just hadn’t been the same without Oscar. “I missed you.”
Shifting closer, Julian wrapped an arm around Oscar’s waist, nuzzled the exposed nape of his neck. He felt the shiver pass through Oscar then the tension slid out of the man. Oscar’s back relaxed against his chest, body fitting perfectly against Julian’s, the round curves of his arse brushing Julian’s hardening cock, tempting him.
Yet he held back.
He pressed kisses to Oscar’s nape, nipped at the delicate skin there, took a deep breath. Took in the scent of Oscar. Of sleep-warmed skin and the faint hint of almond soap. Then he gave in to the urge and licked those ginger freckles on Oscar’s shoulder, the skin as soft and smooth as crushed velvet beneath his tongue.
Oscar turned his head toward Julian. Lips brushed Julian’s cheek, seeking his mouth. Shifting up slightly, Julian jumped to capture those lips.
The glide of Oscar’s lips beneath his own eased the fear he hadn’t fully realized had been there, in the pit of his stomach. The fear that Oscar would push him away, send him from his bedchamber, without gifting Julian with so much as a kiss.
Oscar’s tongue pushed into his mouth, jolting Julian to the present, to the wonderful man in his arms. Their tongues twining, Julian rocked his hips, rubbing his cock along the crease of Oscar’s arse. Oscar bumped back, clutched Julian’s hand at his waist, his breaths quickening, hitching with impatience. With the need for more.
Every touch, every moan rumbling Oscar’s throat made Julian desperate for another. Breaking the kiss, Julian pulled Oscar under him. Took a moment to revel in the press of skin against skin. In the way Oscar’s legs bracketed his hips and his arms looped about his neck in welcome.
Then he moved down, taking the coverlet and sheets with him, dragging kisses along Oscar’s chest. Wrapping a hand around Oscar’s prick, he lowered his head. Flicked his tongue over the crown.
Oscar moaned, hips lifting, asking for more. Julian opened, let the man push inside. Oscar shifted and wiggled beneath him. His fingers tangled in Julian’s hair, but there was no pressure to his grip. Just his fingers flexing against Julian’s scalp, as if no part of him could possibly remain still.
He tried to bob his head in counterpoint, but it was no use. Oscar moved to a rhythm all his own, one that would drive a conductor to Bedlam. Short of pressing his slim hips to the bed, overpowering him with greater strength—something Julian had no desire to do—Oscar was not going to lie still.
Not that Julian minded in the slightest.
He had never had a lover respond to him like Oscar. Never been with someone who was so eager for simply a touch. Who made him feel as though only
touch could rouse the passion within.
Pulling free, he splayed his hands on Oscar’s inner thighs. Oscar yielded to the pressure, pulling his knees up to bracket his chest. Julian pushed on the backs of his thighs, canting Oscar’s hips up, and licked that tight hole.
When he felt Oscar’s body begin to open for him, he slipped a finger inside him. Silken muscles clamped around the digit then relaxed. Julian growled. He should have thought to light a candle. He wanted to watch the puckered skin flex in a silent plea for more. There was nothing more erotic in all the world than a man’s arse. The light dusting of masculine hair, the smooth round globes of Oscar’s arse. And when Oscar offered himself up to him…
Another growl rumbled his chest.
After one last long lick, he lifted his head. With a finger lodged in Oscar’s arse, still stroking deep, Julian shifted full up onto his knees. “Oil?”
“Ah…” Oscar moaned, wiggled his hips. “Bedside table drawer.”
Too far away to reach without letting go of Oscar. Damn massive bed. Taking the quickest route, he hopped off the bed, grabbed the oil then settled back between Oscar’s thighs. All the while Oscar’s knees remained pulled up to his chest.
Julian slicked his length then, grabbing Oscar’s hip to steady him, pushed inside.
Oscar arched into Julian’s thrust, taking every last inch of his erection. “Oh
” The light from the hearth caught the length of Oscar’s long lashes flutter against his cheekbones.
Bracing his weight on a straight arm, Julian pulled all the way out then guided his cock back inside. Oscar’s grip tightened on his shoulders, fingers digging into his skin, a groan of purest lust slipping past his parted lips.
“Do you like that?” He needed to know. Needed to hear even more proof of Oscar’s need for him.
“Oh damn yes.” The words tumbled from Oscar’s mouth, so quickly they blended together.
Julian repeated the motion. Thrust and withdrawal. Again and again. He couldn’t see the details, but he could damn well feel them. The initial resistance, the instant when Oscar’s muscles gave in to him. The slick heat surrounding his length, caressing his skin, the sounds of Oscar’s moans filling his ears.
He dropped down onto his forearms, gave in to the need to thrust hard. To pound his cock into Oscar. To convince the man there was no possible way he would ever ignore him again.
Oscar’s panting breaths puffed against Julian’s neck, hands clutching his back. His prick was crushed between their bellies, the crown leaving a path of wetness on Julian’s skin.
With a little whimper, Oscar shoved a hand between them. Julian shifted his weight onto one elbow, reached between them, wrapped his hand around the head and milked Oscar’s cock. Their fists bumped together, completely out of synchronization yet somehow perfect.
“Come for me,” Julian whispered hoarsely against Oscar’s lips.
What felt like a fist clamped around Julian’s cock. Oscar let out a strangled shout, as hot seed coated Julian’s fingers. Oscar’s orgasm sparked his own. His ballocks drew up tight. Slanting his mouth across Oscar’s, he slammed his hips forward, ramming deep, the climax racing down his cock.