A Character Bleed / Leather and Tea crossover!
These days, Colby Kent-Mirelli is wonderfully happy. He loves being married to Jason, sharing a movie-star life and a happy ending on and off screen. But an invitation to a charity gala brings Colby and Jason back to London ... and face to face with a piece of Colby’s past.
Simon Ashley should apologize to Colby Kent. As teenagers, they weren’t friends, and Simon could be cruel. He’s trying hard to be a better person now: happier, kinder, believing in love, which he’s found with his husband Ben, a real-life former secret agent and massive Colby Kent fan. And this charity gala invitation might be Simon’s chance to finally make things right ... if Colby will listen.
Simon wants to apologize. Ben wants to support him ... and meet Colby. Colby just wants the evening to go smoothly. And Jason will always protect his husband.
But this glittering night might have a few surprises in store for them all ...
Simon finished explaining, about Colby, “And fucking flawless. It was awful. I knew he was judging me, so I made a point of inviting him to clubs, parties, underground raves, kinky sex shows -- or into threesomes in a coatroom -- just to see him panic and drop whatever book he was reading and run away. And then I’d make a joke about it. To other people. Which he knew.”
Ben said, still very very tactful about it, “Oh.”
“I’m terrible. I know. But it was like looking in a mirror, except the mirror was a better human being and despised me.”
“He’s probably different now. You’re different now.”
“I told him he was the most boring person I’d ever met and an absolute waste of perfect lips, as I recall.”
“Okay, so ... probably not great, no. But that was, what, twenty years ago?”
“Closer to fifteen,” Simon muttered. “I’m younger than you. So’s he. He’ll remember.”
“Do you want to not go to this gala? I’m fine with not going.” He eyed the invitation again. “We can just send them some money.”
“No, because it helps -- and yes, I’m being cynical about it -- if I show up in person. Celebrity. Visibility. And I’m not scared of Colby Kent.”
“You did just say you literally couldn’t go.”
“I just ...” Simon moved the arm, and managed to smack it into couch-cushions, and then his own stomach. Ben reached down, found his wrist, put his own hand around petite flyaway bones. A restraint, an anchor, an echo of cuffs and ties. Soothing, steadying. Simon exhaled. “I should apologize to him.”
“If you think you need to.”
“I’m trying to be a better person.” Simon looked at his wrist, Ben’s hand. “I want to be a better person. I like the person I am, now. I’m so much happier. I truly am.”
“He seems pretty nice,” Ben said. “In interviews, doing press. He’s married -- you know that, it was a whole big love story.” It had been. Falling in love on a film set, working on that gorgeous period drama Steadfast. Colby’s bubbly sweetness and action star Jason Mirelli’s muscles and their obvious sizzling chemistry. Colby’s injuries on set, and Jason’s devotion to staying at his side. The way they’d gazed at each other, touched each other, smiled like sunlight, at their movie premiere.
The shameless romantic in him had followed every drop of news, and had quietly cheered Colby and Jason on. “So he’s happy now, too. In love and being loved and all. He’ll probably listen, if you apologize and mean it.”
“He’ll hate me, and he’ll want revenge, and he’ll throw a plate of tiny fancy cheese at me, and I’ll deserve it, and the evening’ll be a disaster, and it’ll be my fault.”
“I really don’t think,” Ben said, “that Colby Kent is going to throw tiny cheese at anyone.”
“Well, I don’t want him to. Actually maybe I do. Maybe I’d feel better.”
“Would you like me to throw cheese at you? I think we’ve got cheddar.”
“Can you kill someone with a block of cheddar? You can, can’t you?”
“I’ve never personally tried.” He considered this, suggested, “There was a mission in Rome that ended in a shoot-out in a kitchen, and one of my team lost her weapon and then hit an enemy operative with an entire wheel of Parmesan cheese. And I never told you that.”
“Oh my God,” Simon said, staring at him. “I want that in a book. Some sort of contemporary action romance. The Spy who Came in from the Cold Kitchen. The Spy who Loved Parmesan. The Big Cheese. Please. Can I have that story?”
“No, because only four people know it. Ask me again in eight years. It might be declassified by then.”
“Eight whole years. When The Cheese Is Not Enough is right there as a sexy spy-and-chef adventure romance title.”
“At least eight years. We’ll see. Are we going to the gala, then?”
“Maybe,” Simon said, looking up at him with those fierce bright sapphire eyes, smile at the edge of his lips, wrist shifting a fraction in Ben’s grip. “Tell me it’ll be all right.”
“It will be.”
“Tell me it’ll be a good evening.”
“It will.” He’d make sure of that. “You’ll have fun. It’s a good cause. It’s nice that they asked you personally. And you like dressing up and being the center of attention.”
Simon grinned at him more for that. “I do. Could you, though ... right now ...”
“Put you over my lap, right here, and spank you until you’re sobbing my name?” He squeezed Simon’s wrist. Hard. “Because you know you need it, you want to feel it, and you also just like it, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Simon whispered. “Please.”
“I’ll punish you if you want -- not really, I mean, I know who you are, who you’ve been, and I know you’re a good person --” He tugged at the wrist until Simon sat up, and made sure their eyes met, for this. “It’s not about you having to take it, like penance, to feel better.”
“No,” Simon said. “I know. But I want that, right now -- like equilibrium. Relief.”
“Got it. And, hey -- you know I always like spanking you.” That made Simon laugh, though the sound came tinged with rue. Ben wanted to banish that part of it. He said, “Then I’m going to make you feel it.”