“I thought that’s what you wanted,” Gavin argued.
“You’re not ready.” His mother stood there with her hands on her hips, her lips pressed into a thin line, her brows furrowed.
If it were up to her, Gavin would never leave the house. He totally understood her fear. He’d been kidnapped by a Sebastian lookalike, taken to a lab, and… Gavin closed his eyes, refusing to think about those memories.
“I’ve been in the house for two months. I got a job. It’s not like I’m moving away.”
In truth, it had taken him an entire month just to step outside the house. Two weeks to make it off the front porch. After that, Gavin had finally gotten the nerve to get into his brother’s car and drive a few blocks onto Main Street, where he’d found a job at the local grocery store.
His first job ever, and today was his first day.
“You can’t go,” his mother said. “I won’t let you.”
She rounded the kitchen table, but Gavin dodged out of her way and held up a finger. “Watch this.”
He spun and walked out the front door. Outside, Gavin momentarily froze, like he always did, scanning the streets, making sure no one was watching him before he shoved his fists into his front pockets, hunched his shoulders, and hurried toward Main Street.
Every car that passed made Gavin’s heart beat a little faster. Every person who looked his way made him uneasy. And he’d gotten a job in a grocery store where he’d be dealing with the public. Had he gone completely mental?
But he was also proud of himself. He was finally standing on his own two feet after being a mooch for the past few years. He’d already decided that when he saved up enough, he’d get his own place.
Gavin’s spine went stiff when an SUV pulled to the curb across the street from him.
“Don’t freak out.” He kept repeating those words under his breath until he realized the driver was Uriel. And it wasn’t an SUV. It was Uriel’s burnt-orange Jeep Wrangler.
“Need a lift?”
The ball of tension unraveled as Gavin stopped walking and looked both ways before crossing. He’d known that Uriel was his mate since the night he’d been rescued from that facility. Uriel had been at Gavin’s side through it all, but Gavin wasn’t ready for them to bond.
He still had a ton of issues to work out before he could even think of a relationship. The old Gavin would’ve jumped in feetfirst and considered the consequences later.
But not anymore. Not after his world had been turned upside down. All he did was overthink now, weighing the pros and cons of every situation. His own brain was starting to drive him crazy.
“I’m heading to my new job.”
Uriel smiled. “I heard you were hired at Hick’s.”
Gavin rolled his eyes. Freaking small towns. Nothing was ever kept a secret. “Yeah, so I gotta get moving. Can’t be late on my first day.”
“No, wouldn’t want that to happen.” Uriel cleared his throat. He did that when he wanted to say something but was afraid Gavin would freak out. Since hanging around his mate, Gavin had learned a lot of Uriel’s idiosyncrasies.
“Spit it out,” Gavin said. “I gotta get moving.”
“I’m just glad to see your progression. It’s good to see you out of the house.”
Since his rescue, everyone walked around Gavin as if he’d shatter at any second. He hated the pity in their eyes. Including Uriel’s. He didn’t need their pity. What he needed was his life to get back on track and for everyone to stop reminding him that he’d been naïve enough to be kidnapped in the first place.
He’d always been too trusting, seeing the good in everyone instead of the bad that lurked in the darkness. Those rose-colored glasses had been shattered, and Gavin hated the fact he felt so jaded and cynical now. He didn’t want to be that type of person. He wanted to go back to the way he’d always looked at life.
But those doctors had cut that part of him right out of Gavin.
“Tell that to my mom. She thinks I should live in my room and stay up under her all day.”
“She’s just trying to protect you.”
“More like smother me.” Gavin took a step back. “I have to get going.”
He could’ve taken the ride. The only time he felt truly safe was when he was with his mate. But he had to do this on his own, to prove to everyone that the bad guys hadn’t won—even if they had stolen his innocence.
“I’ll be by later,” Uriel called out as Gavin hurried down the street.
He turned and walked backward. “I get off at six.”
Just because he wasn’t ready for a relationship didn’t mean he didn’t want to spend time with Uriel. The need to be around Uriel was more than a sexual urge, a desire to be taken by the handsome man. He had never told Uriel that he was the solid rock in Gavin’s life, that just being around him had helped Gavin want his independence.
Uriel nodded. “I’ll pick you up at six, if that’s all right with you.”
“That’s fine,” Gavin called out. When Uriel pulled away Gavin fisted his hands tighter, scanning the streets for any perceived threat as he made his way to work.
Gavin tossed and turned as he tried to fall asleep. The room was dark, except for the television—which he had insisted stay on, though the sound had been muted.
His attempt at seduction had failed miserably. He’d tried everything he could think of to lure Uriel to bed, but his mate hadn’t budged. He’d been drawn in by some stupid documentary about apes, and had completely ignored Gavin’s obvious exaggerated way of lotioning his body.
Gavin had never used lotion before. But he’d thought the trick would work. He turned over, giving Uriel his back as he stared at the open window, the lacey curtains slightly billowing as the moon rose higher in the night sky.
He wasn’t sure if Uriel was truly a saint, or if his mate really wasn’t interested in having sex with him. From the comment about flat surfaces, Gavin had been positive his clumsy attempt at seduction would work.
“Something wrong?” Uriel’s voice sounded drugged with sleep as his hand slid over Gavin’s side. “You’re restless.”
That was because Gavin was hot with need and Uriel had done nothing to alleviate his frustrations. He was torn between begging and pummeling Uriel with his fists. “Too many thoughts chasing around in my head.”
Gavin shivered when Uriel’s closely shaven beard scraped along his bare shoulder. Gavin had gone to bed wearing nothing but boxers in the hope he could change Uriel’s mind.
Instead of opening Gavin’s eyes to man-on-man sex, his mate had fallen asleep. To make matters worse, all Gavin could smell as he lay there was Uriel’s dark, rich, masculine scent, and it made his blood surge.
Uriel pulled him closer, their thighs aligning, his backside pressed firmly against the crook of Uriel’s groin. His hard, muscled chest was flat against Gavin’s back, and his chin rested on the top of Gavin’s head. “I’m right here, hon. Nothing’s going to happen to you. Try to get some sleep.”
Sleep? Was Uriel serious? An inferno of need burned inside of him and sleep was the last thing on his mind. A good, hard fucking was what he needed. What he craved.
With a throaty growl of irritation, Gavin pulled away and flipped to his stomach.
“Talk to me, Gavin.” The bed dipped and Gavin had a feeling Uriel was now sitting up.
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Keeping things bottled up isn’t healthy. Tell me what’s bothering you.”
Gavin glanced over his shoulder. Uriel wasn’t sitting up, but he was leaning on one elbow, his head resting on his hand, looking so damn sexy that Gavin nearly whimpered. He wanted to run his hands over Uriel’s muscled chest and through his sleep-roughened hair. To taste his salty skin as he kissed his way from Uriel’s neck to that trail of hair that started at his navel and disappeared beneath his waistband.
Gavin’s body throbbed from the images.
Biting his lower lip, Gavin turned onto his back. He waved a hand at his tented boxers. “This is the problem.”
Uriel’s gaze dropped to Gavin’s erection, then snapped to his face. Uncertainty strained his eyes. Gavin wished like hell he could read his mate’s thoughts, because Uriel’s silence made him want to scream.
Uriel’s bicep bulged as he ran a hand over Gavin’s bare chest. The contact made Gavin slightly jump as his breathing became ragged. “I’m trying to give you the room you need to focus on getting better.”
“But I’m on edge.” Gavin fisted his hands. “I can’t think straight, can’t sleep while I’m so…wired.”
Gavin drew in a shuddering breath and let it out slowly. Uriel’s gaze never wavered. He stared deep into Gavin’s eyes. “I’m only trying to take care of you.”
“Then take care of me.” Gavin spread his legs. “I’ll take whatever you want to give.”
“Don’t sound like you’re begging for breadcrumbs.” Uriel’s jaw tightened. “It’s me who’s the lucky one.”
Gavin was taken aback by the simmering heat in Uriel’s tone. “I didn’t…that wasn’t what I was implying.”
Uriel closed his eyes and shook his head. “You’re killing me, Gavin.”
“Then you know how I feel.”
Uriel’s eyes flashed open. There was raw need and a touch of indecision in their light brown depths. He slid his hand from Gavin’s chest to the waistband of his boxers.
Gavin stopped breathing as he waited to see what Uriel would do. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the look on Uriel’s face, couldn’t string two thoughts together. Uriel’s strong, warm hand slid past the waistband, his knuckles grazing the head of Gavin’s cock.
Gavin moaned, his eyelids fluttering closed.
“Do you know how sexy that sounds?” Uriel’s voice went deep, dark, adding to the pleasure already building inside Gavin. His cock pulsed with the beat of his heart, his balls quickly drawing close to his body.
“Please, Uriel.” Gavin felt tortured as he lay there waiting for Uriel to do…something.
Uriel dipped his head, nudging Gavin’s lips apart with his own. Gavin’s hand drifted to Uriel’s chest, traced over his ribs, then hooked into the waistband of his pajama bottoms.
Lightning fast, Uriel grabbed Gavin’s wrist. “This is about you, not me.”
“That doesn’t sound fair,” Gavin said against Uriel’s lips. Besides, he was dying to feel Uriel’s cock in his hand.
Uriel deepened the kiss, his fingers tightening as he lowered Gavin’s hand to the bed. Gavin’s eyes sank shut as their tongues entwined. This was his first kiss from Uriel, and Gavin nearly came from Uriel’s taste alone. It didn’t matter to him that Uriel’s beard scraped his skin. The abrasiveness only added to the thrill.
With a nip to his bottom lip, Uriel pulled back. “I want you to stay exactly where you are, and keep your hands by your head.”
Unsure what Uriel was up to, Gavin nodded.
He sucked in a breath when Uriel gripped Gavin’s cock, giving the hard length slow strokes. “Just knocking the edge off.”