The first rule of working the streets is not to get attached to any of the clients, but Sammy can't deny he's rather fond of John, who actually seems to be a decent guy, on top of being hot.
The first rule of paying for sex is not to get attached to the prostitutes, but John is willing to admit to himself that he wishes Sammy was more than the guy he occasionally pays for sex.
It's a good thing rules are meant to be broken.
Couples were enjoying the last of the day's warmth on the waterfront and he envied them as he headed toward his apartment complex. His pulse sped up as he neared the Morton Bridge. Though it was after nine, traffic still flowed heavily on the bridge and also along Nathaniel Parkway.
Passing under the bridge, he glanced down the bike path running alongside it, hoping to spot Sammy. His heart leaped to his throat on seeing the familiar figure huddled on the grass, arms wrapped around his knees, looking alone and dejected. John took a hesitant step toward him, but stopped. Would Sam want to talk to him? They weren't really friends. John paid for his company.
A soft sob floated on the night air and plunged straight into John's heart. He hurried over to Sam, then stood biting his lips, not sure what to say. Damn, he hated this awkwardness between them.
"What do you want?" Sammy's voice sounded tired, rough with tears.
"Do you need help? Can I do anything?"
Sam raised his head, blue eyes shimmering at him through wet lashes. Recognition sparked in the anguished depths, then they widened in dismay. "You." Sam struggled to his feet, hugging his bare arms across his chest against the chill creeping up from the river. "Sorry, I have to cancel on you. I'm closed for the night. Try again tomorrow."
He brushed past John and started down the bike path. John's heart thumped painfully.
Sam stopped and swiveled abruptly to him. The lamplight caught his expression, a hint of fear, anger; the light clearly showing a cut lip and the dark swelling of a bruise on his ivory cheek. John clamped his teeth shut on a murmur of pity, noting Sam held his left arm as if it hurt. He clenched his hand in sudden fury. He’d been taking self-defense classes for half a year. In that instant he could have used every tactic he’d learned on the guy who’d hurt Sammy.
He said instead, "Let me help you. I can make you a cup of coffee at least. And dinner, if you're interested. I make a great spaghetti."
Doubt crossed Sam's pretty face, and the end of his pink tongue nudged the cut on his lip, twisting John's heart.
Impulsively, he touched Sam's arm. "Someone hurt you, didn’t they?"
Sam stared at his hand, not answering, and John gave silent thanks he didn't yank his arm away. Finally Sam nodded.
Once again anger flashed through John, but he didn't want to scare Sam off with questions. "Come home with me," he urged softly. "I won't ask anything of you. I want to help and ... I could use the company tonight."
Blue eyes glanced upwards, vulnerable. But then Sam blinked and mischief curled his lips. John winced at his false bravado. "Whatever you say, hon." Sam hooked their arms and started along the wide path following the riverfront. After only a few steps in the chill evening air, John shrugged out of his coat and put it around Sam's shoulders. Sam looked amused, but pulled the coat tighter around his thin cotton shirt. "Thanks."
John's heart pattered. He liked Sam's arm linked with his. A few people gave them curious glances, but for the most part they were ignored. He wished the circumstances were better, that maybe Sam was his boyfriend and they were walking home from the movies.