Ink, Sweat, and Tears (MM)
[Siren Classic ManLove: Erotic Alternative Romance, M/M, HEA]
Can you find your one true love in the remains of two failed relationships?
When tax accountant Dean Fowler moves into a new home after wasting six years in an unfulfilling relationship, he finds the man of his dreams on his doorstep—literally. His new neighbour, gorgeous tattoo artist Caelan Stokes, has just become available after putting up with an unfaithful lover for too long. Opposites attract and an intimate evening of comparing notes on what it's like to find your hopes and expectations shattered leads them to share an even more intimate night of sexual pleasures.
Caelan's wounds might run deeper than it seems at first, though, and Dean resorts to unusual measures to create something that lasts, but are the sparks—and the ink—that fly between them enough to build a new love on the ruins of their pasts?
A Siren Erotic Romance
4 DELIGHTFUL DIVAS: "Occasionally, I review a book which contains no angst, no drama and just gives the reader the perfect combination of romance and drama. Ink, Sweat and Tears is that book. When Dean Fowler moves into his new apartment after breaking up with his boyfriend of six years, he doesn’t expect to jump head first into a new relationship with his neighbor, Caelan Stokes. But the two men are immediately drawn to each other despite the fact Caelan just dumped his cheating boyfriend. Both are afraid of their new feelings and try to push each other away, but love keeps pulling them back together. What I enjoyed about Ink, Sweat and Tears was the fact that it’s a fun, light read. The heat and romance between Caelan and Dean is palpable from the first page, and better yet, the relative angst-free plot was a welcome distraction from the dark and brooding shapeshifters I’ve been reading about lately. So, if you are looking for a good book to read at the beach, look no farther, Ink, Sweat and Tears is a cool delight for those hot summer days!" -- Lasha, Dark Divas Reviews
“Do you want a hand with that?”
“Huh?” Spinning around at the sound of the unfamiliar but rather pleasant voice, Dean unexpectedly found himself face to face with a hallucination. Well, not quite, but the man who stood before him did look like the ones that his brain could usually conjure up only in some of his more elaborate fantasies.
“I said do you want a hand with that?” Repeating his offer patiently, the gorgeous blond jerked his head at the heap of assorted things Dean called his own.
“Um, that’s very nice of you,” Dean said, baffled.
“Well, I’m a nice guy.”
I’m sure you are. Dean bit the thought back before it could tumble out of his mouth and instead explained rather lamely, “I’m just moving in.” Yeah. Right. As if the big moving van that blocked half of the road wasn’t a clear indication of what he was doing. It was probably a good thing that the shop which occupied the basement was closed. The owner would not be too happy about being shielded from view—and business—by a very big, very ugly, very green vehicle.
“I thought so.” A cute dimple showed in the stranger’s left cheek as he held out his hand. “So you’re the new tenant, huh? I’m Caelan Stokes, nice to meet you.”
“Dean Fowler, new tenant.” Dean returned the smile, minus the dimple, and shook Caelan’s hand. “My pleasure.”
Caelan held his gaze for just as long as it took Dean to notice that he had the most beautiful, grey-green eyes. They were dappled with tiny black specks and glittered with the kind of underlying mischief that held a promise of interesting things to come. Intriguing. Something he could definitely stand to investigate further.
Caelan shifted the focus of his beautiful eyes to the van’s open belly. “So what about your stuff?”
“Oh, yes. That.” Dean sighed. “I was hoping for two of my friends to show up, but they’re running a bit late. About half a day late, to be precise, so if you’re serious about your offer, you could help me with the things that require two people to carry. I should be good with the rest then. I just really hope I get it all done by tonight. I don’t suppose that shop’s owner would be too pleased with me if I blocked him for another day.” Frowning, he looked at the dark windows of the basement. A tattoo studio, no less. It had made him waver a little over the decision to move into the building. After all, you never knew what kind of clientele a tattoo studio attracted. Identifying the thought as exactly the kind of narrow-minded, prejudiced notion Phil would come up with, Dean had cast it aside and signed the lease.
“Sure. No problem. The studio’s closed today, so technically you’d only be blocking it for one day, but you’re right. It would be better if you were done by tonight. What d’you wanna start with?”
Ogling his belongings sceptically, Dean tried to assess the task ahead. And once again, he regretted having insisted on taking everything with him that he was entitled to. “How about the sofa? Then at least we get the worst part over with soonest.”
It was a lot easier said than done, but in the end they managed to get the huge but very comfortable sofa up the first set of stairs. Staring at the door to the flat on the first floor, Dean wasted some of his breath on saying, “Maybe I should have tried to get this one. That would have spared us a lot of sweat.”
“Ah, well, that flat’s taken.” Caelan panted and raised his arms over his head to stretch his back.
“Too bad. I hope whoever lives there doesn’t mind us parking that sofa in their hall for a while.”
Caelan flashed a cute grin. “Not at all. We can park here all day if you want. It’s mine,” he explained in answer to Dean’s doubtful glance.
“Oh. Care to swap?”
“Ah well, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Ready to go on?”
“Are you sure you want to help me with the rest, too?” Dean asked some time later when they had recovered sufficiently from carrying the sofa.
“So far, yes, but stop asking me or I might change my mind.” Seemingly untroubled and with a crooked grin on his face, Caelan bounced downstairs where he inspected the van’s contents while he waited for Dean to catch up.
“Got dumped, huh?” he asked sympathetically and jerked his head at the pile of assembled furniture, moving boxes, and other titbits.
“Uh, no, not quite.”
“Oops, sorry. I just thought it looks a lot like you ended up with half a household.”
Glancing at his belongings, Dean realised that he was right. Apart from the items that were uniquely personal things like clothes, books, and his beloved CD collection, he had indeed ended up with half of what had been bought jointly.
“It’s that obvious, is it?”
“I suppose anyone who’s been there and done that knows what the remains of a relationship look like.”
“Hmm, probably,” Dean admitted with a grin, suddenly cheerful as he once again reminded himself of his newly established freedom and all the possibilities it offered. Or rather, the possibilities he was allowed to accept now. “You’re right about this being the remains of a relationship. It was me who did the dumping though.”
“Oh.” For the fragment of a second a scowl flickered across Caelan’s features, but he quickly chased it away with a lopsided smile. “Well, I guess in that case I don’t need to offer my condolences, do I?”
“Not really. Congratulations would be more appropriate. And appreciated.”
“Okay. Congrats,” Caelan said smoothly, although he did not sound entirely convinced.
They both knew that it was going to happen, that it had just become entirely unavoidable and yet, in that sweet moment of anticipation right before their first ever kiss, Caelan looked scared and vulnerable. Slowly raising his hand, Dean cupped the side of his face and pulled him close for a first, tentative brush of lips. Caelan let out a soft moan, and when Dean looked at him through his lashes, his eyes were closed. A tiny frown line wrinkled the skin between his eyebrows, but the anxiousness had gone.
“You’re so fucking beautiful,” Dean whispered, still close enough to feel Caelan’s breath on his skin, and then he tightened his grip and leaned in again.
He touched Caelan’s lips with his own, gently parted them with his tongue, and dipped into the sweet warmth of that tempting mouth. His groin started to tingle at Caelan’s shy and somewhat contradictory responses of tilting his body forward to intensify the contact while his mouth remained passive, allowing Dean to explore him. Caelan tasted nice, in spite of beer and pizza, which Dean knew made up most of his own taste, too.
Caelan’s hands came up, blindly searching for something to hold on to. They found Dean’s chest, and after a brief moment of hesitation, Caelan stroked and touched him back just as his tongue became more involved in the kiss. He moaned again, more urgent this time, and his fingers sneaked underneath Dean’s jumper, hesitated at the waistband of his jeans, then determinedly untucked his T-shirt to get at the bare skin underneath. Dean sighed. This was nice. Caelan had lovely hands, as he had noticed before. Long, sensual but strong fingers that skilfully explored his body, roaming in the confined space to reach every part of him they could get at. And Caelan seemingly was determined to get at every part of him.
Tugging and pushing, he freed Dean of his T-shirt and sweater, breaking the kiss just for the second it took to pull both over Dean’s head before he latched back onto his mouth with unconcealed greed. His hands were back again, touching, caressing, exploring. They found a nipple, squeezed it cautiously, then harder until Dean winced. The same with the other one. Caelan was testing his reactions, carefully mapping his body to find out what he liked. It was sweet. It wasn’t what a guy did just to bring another off, not these gentle, cherishing touches that had Dean quiver and turn to pudding in Caelan’s hands.
Far sooner than he’d expected, he longed to feel those hands lower, needed to feel those strong fingers wrapped around his rapidly filling dick. Reading his mind, Caelan undid the buttons on his fly and touched Dean’s hard length. Dean groaned. “Yes, baby,” he panted and pushed into the touch eagerly. He felt Caelan smile against his lips as he carefully pulled out Dean’s cock, fortunately not bothering with platitudes anymore. He curled his fingers around Dean’s shaft and stroked down and back up and…
“Oh, fuck, yes!” Dean moaned, but resisted the urge to thrust into Caelan’s hand in favour of simply enjoying what his lover treated him to until it was time to return the attentions. He undid Caelan’s fly, and Caelan’s handsome cock leapt at him, clearly happy to be released. Dean welcomed it with a gentle squeeze around the head. He tightened it until Caelan sucked in a breath and tilted his hips forward. No point denying, they were both horny and ready for it.
There was a short moment of confusion as they tried to sort out how to do it without breaking the kiss, but Dean solved it by simply pushing Caelan back on the sofa and climbing on top of him. It wasn’t even so much a decision as what his instincts told him, and the way Caelan sank back willingly and spread his legs had him believe that they were probably even better compatible than he had hoped for. How perfect could things get? Caelan arched his back, urging him on and…
“Shit!” Dean groaned. “I, uh, I haven’t got any condoms, I’m afraid.”
Caelan sounded faintly amused as he whispered, “Shh, it’s okay. I’ve got some.”
“Sorry, I haven’t needed one in a long time.”
“I haven’t stopped needing one,” Caelan said grimly as he reached down and pulled two foil packages from the pocket of his discarded jeans. “Never wanted to take the risk, certainly not with me bottoming most of the time.” He frowned as he held the condom and lube out to Dean. “You still know how to use them though, right?”
“Oh, I believe I do.” Leaning forward, Dean kissed the frown away and took the lube from Caelan’s hand. He ripped it open, gathered some on his fingertip and gently massaged it into that tight little opening to Caelan’s body, feeling the muscles relax under his caresses.
“How’s that?” he teased quietly when Caelan’s breath started coming in fast, irregular gasps.
“It’s… Oh, uh, oh yes… Um, you certainly knowhow to use that. I was…oh, unghh…talking about the condom though.”
“Hm. I think I should be all right with that, too, but if you want to make sure I got it right, you can put it on me.”
A lascivious smile appeared on Caelan’s face. “You know what? I think I’ll do just that.”