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Authors: Madelynn Ellis

Tags: #Romance

Enticement (4 page)

BOOK: Enticement
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A fractured glimpse of another pretty woman peeped briefly out of the mirrored wardrobe door at him before he pressed his forehead to the cool surface. He chased the thoughts of her as best as he could from his head. Maybe it had been a mistake coming back here so soon. Six years had seemed an eon on the flight from Japan, but it really wasn’t that long at all.

Working in Kabukicho, he’d been isolated. No close friends, no real relationships and no troubles, just a nice, safe cocoon. The only demons he’d faced wore designer skirt suits and stiletto heels. If there were dark memories lurking in the shadows they were only of pointless fucks in dingy alleyways, nothing more hurtful than being paid to screw, even if it was in a round-about way. Here, time hadn’t moved on. Kirkley was as it was the day he left. Same people, same chocolate-box façade, same red phone box nestled beside an overgrown hedge on the corner of the green.

“Hey, in there.” Ross, unlike his girlfriend didn’t bother to knock. He just barged in and struggled past the wall of boxes. His gaze swept Kit’s body in one smooth glance and settled upon his face. Okay, Ross had changed. That his friend had lost about a foot of hair was the most obvious one. He’d filled out too, no longer a lanky youth who didn’t quite have control of his limbs. Ross’s increased bulk suited him well, especially as it appeared to be all muscle.

Gone was the rumpled sex-stained work suit, and in its place he wore a pair of faded black jeans and a tired grey jumper, mended at the cuff with silver embroidery thread and still familiar from six years ago. He sensed Ross’s gaze too, probably ringing all the changes in him. There weren’t many; it was just polish mostly, a nice glossy shine designed to win favour in the bar he’d worked.

“Thought I’d better come up and make sure she hadn’t left any marks. Evie can be wicked cruel if you rub her the wrong way,” Ross said.

Kit rubbed the melancholy film from his eyes. Too many times he’d wished that things had turned out differently. “Women were never my strong point.”

“Yeah, right!” Ross gave an explosive snort. He sagged onto the bed and rested his elbow upon his knees. “As I recall, they were your only strong point. And looking at you I’m guessing that hasn’t changed. Any chance of you slumming it, so I look a bit less of a tramp?”

“I suppose.” Kit stripped off his green shirt and rummaged in the topmost suitcase for T-shirt. The one he pulled on was black, ripped at the neck and had “Sukebe 69” emblazoned across the front in white. He pulled a leather thong from a pocket too, and dangled a pewter skull pendant around his neck so it lay in the space where the T-shirt was torn.

“So, are you gonna come down and eat? I’m cooking,” Ross said.

“Depends—I think I should tell you what I’ve been doing first. See if you still want me around.”

“Kit, I know what you’ve been doing. Who’d you think told the probate people where to find you? I live in Yorkshire, not on the moon. I’ve seen your ugly mug plastered all over YouTube. It doesn’t matter. I’m glad to see you.”

Ross stood and clapped a hand on Kit’s shoulder. He gave him a gentle shove towards the door. “I bet you were raking it in.”

“I did okay.” Kit allowed himself to be guided onto the landing. He’d kind of suspected that Ross knew he’d been working as a host. It might have been mostly innocent, but that didn’t mean that people here wouldn’t get the wrong end of the stick and think he’d been prostituting himself. He sighed. It was just something else they could hate him for.

“Yeah, well get downstairs and work your schmoozy host bar tricks on Evie, so I don’t have to spend the next millennia apologizing for saying you could crash here,” said Ross.

“I can get a room at the pub. As for the tricks—they involve alcohol and a hell of a lot of flirting.”

“We have beer and wine. Alcohol isn’t an issue.”

Kit turned his head and gave Ross a shrewd glance. “Anyone would think you wanted me to seduce your girlfriend?”

“I don’t think there’s much chance of that, Mr. Intruder Man.”

“She’s already seen my cock. Twice,” said Kit.

Ross just smiled at the admission. There wasn’t even a momentary furrowing of his brow. Instead, he calmly leaned against the banister and gently shook his head. “I’m not giving you an excuse, Kit. It’s up to you if you stick around or go. I just hope you realize that the only bogeyman here is the one that lurks in your head. No one ever blamed you…”

Shutting his ears to the sound, Kit continued down the stairs. It didn’t really matter if no one else blamed him. He blamed himself. He should have been a gentleman that night, not a sod.

“Oh, for crying out loud, let it go,” said Ross. “It’s ancient history. Time to move on.”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” Kit retorted. He snapped his mouth closed without saying anything else as Evie appeared at the bottom of the stairs.

“I was just coming to get you,” she said to Ross, completely ignoring Kit. “The water’s boiling and I assume you want to put something in it. Oh, and I think the kitten’s hungry. He’s meowing a lot.”

“She,” corrected Ross.

“What kitten?” Kit asked. He’d swear there hadn’t been a cat earlier. He wasn’t so good with animals.

“The one you clearly didn’t notice cause you were too busy staring at my butt,” Evie snapped, although she broke into a smile immediately afterwards, flashing a hint of teeth and a smidgen of a challenge. That spark jolted him out of his looming doldrums. She hadn’t forgiven him yet for spying or being overly suggestive, but she was open to accepting him.

“I brought her home from the practice,” Ross explained. He prodded Kit in the back again, urging him down the last few steps, whereupon he pushed past him and headed for the kitchen door. “There are some kitten pouches in my workbag.”

Kit shadowed him into the kitchen.

“Is pasta okay with everyone?” Ross asked as he rummaged through the pantry. “It’d better be, because it’s all we’ve got.”

 

“So, what happens once you’ve done up the house?” Evie asked. Dinner had dragged on into late evening, followed by coffee and now several whisky chasers, as they lay sprawled across the living room furniture. She lifted her head from Ross’s lap to peer at Kit. He’d taken the sofa by the window that she and Ross had made out on earlier, leaving her and Ross the joy of the threadbare, foldout sofa bed, which groaned like a banshee every time anyone moved near it. “Will you be sticking around or moving on?”

Although there remained a part of her that resented Kit’s intrusion into their lives, she’d warmed to him over the course of dinner. Unlike most of Ross’s mates, he grasped the fact that conversation was a two-way thing, and he didn’t insist on putting vinegar and ketchup on everything.

Kit rested his chin in the palm of his hand, his elbow propped upon the arm of the sofa. “It’s a lot of effort to go to, to just sell up.”

“So, you’ll be sticking around.”

Kit pulled his eyebrows down low over his dark eyes. “Suppose. I haven’t really thought that far.”

“Leave him be. He’s just got into town, Evie.” Ross stroked a hand through the front of her hair. “Not everyone has their life mapped out the way you do.”

“I just like to be organized,” she retaliated. Her pursed lipped smile elongated into a yawn. “Think I’d better call it a night soon.”

“Why don’t you go on up to bed?” said Ross, giving her a friendly bump up off the sofa. “Kit and I can handle the dishes.”

She glanced between the two men and clapped her hands. “I’m not arguing with that. Okay, goodnight.” Having ensured the kitten was comfortable in the basket they normally used for kindling, by lining it with one of Ross’s old fleece jackets, Evie left the two men to the washing up. She could still hear the low purr of the contented kitten and the rumble of the men’s voices as she trekked up the stairs to bed.

 

Tea towel in hand, Ross lingered by the kitchen table, listening for the sound of Evie’s footsteps upon the stairs. His gaze remained fastened upon the broad expanse of Kit’s shoulders. Above the torn neckline of his friend’s T-shirt lay the smooth expanse of his neck. The ends of his jet-black hair were shorn close, probably razor cut. The remainder of his hair was thicker, and of course, the front remained long enough to cover half his face.

“Get tired of brushing the back?” Ross asked.

Kit reached a soapsuds-covered hand out of the washing up bowl and rubbed the back of his neck, leaving behind a film of white bubbles. “You’ve lost a bit yourself,” he retaliated. Not turning, but meeting the gaze of Ross’s reflection in the kitchen window.

For a moment, they just looked at one another, then Kit put his hands back in the washing up water and started scrubbing again. Ross drew closer and began drying a plate. “So, why did you really scuttle back from the pub so fast?”

Kit’s head remained tilted downwards towards the sink. “Why do you think? I never even reached the place. I got halfway across the green and saw Tony go in the door. That’s one reunion I can live without.”

“It’s a long…” He was going to say time ago, but Kit turned and gripped the front of his jumper, leaving it wet, with several rivulets running towards his waistband and puddle of dishwater between them on the floor.

“It’ll never be long enough. Don’t pretend any different. I didn’t come back because I thought everything would have blown over. I came back because…” Kit paused; he tilted his head upwards slightly, so that he was staring at Ross’s mouth. “Because…” He licked his lips. “There are things that need to be said.”

“What things?” The muscles of Ross’s stomach cramped in anticipation of the reply. He placed his hand over Kit’s fist, but his friend’s grip didn’t loosen.

“We left things at an awkward point.”

“You mean, you did.”

Kit jerked away at the accusation, and stalked across the kitchen. He paused by the pantry door and snatched up a towel with which to dry his hands. “Maybe I could have handled things better, but it seemed best not to embroil you in the media circus.”

“But leaving without so much as a goodbye, let alone a postal address. That was uncalled for.”

“Call it guilt. I had to, Ross. I couldn’t stay.”

“I’d have left with you.”

“Gone into exile. That would just have made us both look guilty.”

Dark storm clouds billowed across the coal-dark surface of Kit’s eyes. Ross chucked aside the tea-towel and closed the gap between them again. He touched Kit’s arm, where his bicep peeked from beneath his sleeve.

“You were training, Ross. You’ve a practice now. This place is right for you. Always has been. I couldn’t steal you away from that.”

Ross prodded him slightly with two fingers and felt the tension in the muscle. “You’re still making excuses. Deal with it, instead of running.” He turned away and opened the fridge. Kit’s gaze never left him as he gulped down mouthful after mouthful of tart cranberry juice. Ross ignored him, focused instead on the explosion upon his taste buds. Neither of them could alter the past. The difference between them was that he’d moved on. Kit hadn’t. Kit had lost himself in a cornfield six years and never found his way out. The shadow of that golden valley still clung to his skin.

Kit moved so fast, he was on Ross before he’d had a chance to react. “You want me to deal with it?” Kit was right in his face, so close there wasn’t room for a whisper to pass between them without it raising hairs. Hard fingers dug into Ross’s upper arms. The cold metal of the fridge door buzzed against his back. Nerves across his loins and torso jumped when he felt Kit’s hips meet his own.

“What are you doing?” he barked, unintentionally showering Kit in vibrant red drops of juice, which clung to his pale skin and rolled down his cheeks like blood tears.

“Dealing with it. This is what I came back for. You, Ross. Not Flora’s legacy, not to apologize, or face their continued suspicions, but to see you. You’re right. We left things undone. I don’t intend to make that mistake again.”

Cold washed up Ross’s spine as he stiffened. Heat washed down to his loins just moments later. “I’m with Evie now,” he protested, clinging to the juice carton so that the cardboard crumpled beneath his fingertips.

“And I was with Sammie then.”

Ross felt his skin drain of warmth and colour at the mention of Kit’s ex. Hard enough to hear her name, let alone hear it spoken with the growled note of possession Kit had produced. Ross knew the facts. Told himself he knew the truth, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t lain awake on numerous nights past, picking over events, and letting the darkest reaches of his soul mount suspicions. Kit’s reassurance, his denial, should have been enough. Most of the time it was, just every now and then the demon imp of suspicion roused itself and crowed, “what if?”

“Kit, no,” he whispered, but he wasn’t sure if his protest was real. It certainly carried no weight with Kit. His friend leaned closer, stretching and pressing his body against Ross’s. Ross sensed the hardness of him, smelled the natural scent of his body beneath the lingering trace of aftershave. “Evie—she could come back down.”

“One kiss, Ross, that’s all I’m asking. I don’t intend to break you apart. I like Evie. She suits you.”

Ross shook his head, but even as he did so, he tilted forward, bringing his lips closer to Kit’s.

One kiss!
The tremble in his loins told him he wanted more.

BOOK: Enticement
3.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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