Although Tarin's long-term relationship ended recently, he still decides to go on the long-planned camping trip with his ex. Since the relationship had been comfortable but nothing earthshaking, they both enjoyed camping, and they'd moved back to just friends easily enough, there was no reason not to.
But when he wakes up after an argument about sharing a bed, he finds his ex gone -- with the car -- leaving him miles from the nearest bus route back to Auckland and only his two feet to get him there. Despite detailed instructions from his hostess, Tarin gets lost on the unsigned, unpaved roads.
With the approaching night shrouded in a thick, creepy mist, Tarin can't believe his luck when he stumbles upon a nameless hamlet. But are the friendly, gorgeous men who live there his saviours or his downfall?
"Good evening. I hope you are enjoying Martha's hospitality?"
The newcomer rendered Tarin temporarily speechless. The man's long, light brown hair was tied back in a ponytail high on the crown of his head. Most men wore them lower but somehow that wouldn't have suited him as well, or revealed the small, blue rose tattoo on his neck that was almost but not quite hidden by his earlobe. Tall, broad, and clean-shaven, the man was handsome all right, especially with that tattoo, but his eyes ... Tarin could happily drown in the deep blue, oceanic depths. Is there something in the water that makes the men around here so drop dead gorgeous? It's two for two, so far.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." The stranger's voice was soft and melodic but strength seemed to hide just beneath the surface. It was the voice of a natural leader, and sexy as hell, much more appealing than Anton's.
What the fuck am I thinking? Is there an aphrodisiac in the air, too? Or maybe it's having just eaten rabbit, as in fuck like bunnies. Down, boy.
"No --" Tarin coughed slightly to get rid of the squeak. "No problem."
Martha bustled into the room, replacing the emptied dinner plate with a large bowl of stewed apple dusted with cinnamon. "Anton met him first, sir."
The man's voice darkened. "I see." Then he turned back to Tarin and his smile reminded Tarin of sunlight after a storm: warm and welcoming. "My name is Boyce, Boyce French. Welcome."
"Thank you. I'm Tarin Medway. Your guest house is very nice. I love the antique style you have. It's a nice touch."
"I'm glad you like it." Tarin thought he spotted a glimpse of ... something: pain, or maybe regret, but then Boyce's smile widened, heating more than just Tarin's cheeks.
Tarin quickly looked down at his dessert to hide his blush. The apple and cinnamon smelled delicious but as much as he wanted to, there was no way Tarin could take a bite while Boyce remained close. Knowing his luck, he'd drop it all over his shirt in front of the sexy man.
Taking a seat at the table opposite Tarin, Boyce asked, "Do you happen to play chess?"
"Actually, yes I do." Tarin nodded, probably way too eagerly. Chess. Chess is good. Safe.
"Good. We don't have a bar of any kind around here, unfortunately, however my home is not far away -- behind Martha's, in fact. My orchard backs onto her property. I have some excellent brandy and a chessboard I will probably have to dust off to use, if you are interested. It would be my pleasure to have you spend the night in my home as my personal guest in exchange for a game or two of chess."
"I ... that would be ... yes, yes I'd like that." Tarin stuttered, caught off-guard. His libido cheered the unexpected turn of events, and he willed it to behave. He did not sleep with someone on a first date -- that only invited trouble.
But there's always tomorrow.
"Excellent. I will get one of my le ... one of my other servants to bring my car around. After all, it's dark and there are no street lights. There's no need for you to walk. I'm sure you've already done enough of that. The car doesn't get enough use these days, and it will be nice to give her a little outing. We can collect your belongings and drive over after you finish your meal. Please, take your time to enjoy your dessert while I make the necessary arrangements. The apples are fresh from my orchard, so I'm sure it's delicious."
I'd hop there on one leg playing a ukulele if he asked. "That's great. Thank you." The offer of an evening in Boyce's company was a more-than-tempting carrot, not that he needed the added incentive, so Tarin quickly demolished his dessert then raced upstairs to shove his things into his pack.
As she walked him to the door, Martha patted Tarin's arm. "Have a good night, Tarin. The master doesn't have much company. It's good of you to visit with him." There was an odd, wistful tone to her voice but Tarin focused more on the fact that Martha didn't seem at all concerned about losing a guest. Maybe they have some kind of reciprocal arrangement over fees?
"I meant to ask you, why do you call him ma --? Oh. My. God." Tarin forgot everything as he got his first look at Boyce's car. It wasn't just a car; it was a pristine 1920 Rolls Royce Phantom. Tarin loved vintage cars, and this one was immaculate. Plus, as if that weren't enough, a red-blond of Herculean proportions sat in the driver's seat. Fuck! Boyce even has a proper chauffeur? Why would someone with this kind of money hide himself away in some remote Hicksville village? This has to be some kind of a weekend getaway home for him, at least I'm praying it is. 'Cos if his main home town has an airport, it would make a long distance relationship way more feasible. Aw, man, just what am I thinking? Way to get ahead of yourself, Tarin. You don't even know for sure if the man is gay or bi. Behave.
Shaking off his thoughts, Tarin focused his attention on the car. "She's a beauty, Boyce."
"I'm glad you like her. I hardly use her, so she's easy to maintain." Boyce slid out of the car and ran a hand over the roof as if caressing a lover.
His hand hovering over the car's chassis, Tarin hesitated, and glanced over his shoulder at Boyce for permission. For a second or two, there was so much warmth and affection in Boyce's gaze that Tarin almost forgot to breathe.
Boyce looked away, as if aware he had revealed too much of himself. "You may drive her if you wish, Tarin.”