“I don’t, but I know guys like you,” Malik said in a hard tone. “You date women and sneak around with men when no one’s looking.”
“That’s not what I—I don’t do that,” he snapped. “I haven’t dated a man in two and a half years. I mean, I was in a relationship for a year and a half, and then he died in an accident.”
Malik took a swallow of his drink and then picked up the menu as if dismissing him.
“What an asshole,” he muttered under his breath. “You have an overinflated opinion of yourself.”
“Watch it, Collier. This is a play club despite appearances. You don’t see the stocks, but I can have you escorted to them where any Master who passes can give your ass a few lashes with a paddle.”
His eyes widened. Ross would never have even thought of humiliating him in such a way.
“Try me,” Malik challenged with a stare so dominant Collier couldn’t even hold it long.
Collier glared at him and then looked away.
This wasn’t going to work. The man was too far out of his depth. He’d drown or be consumed by his dominance.
“Maybe I should just go,” Collier said and was pushing his chair back.
“Go ahead, keep pretending his picture is all you need. Hang on to the illusion that he’s just out of town instead of reaching for something solid and real, but remember one thing. Illusions are very dangerous things.”
Collier met his gaze again, startled. The words cut him deep, opening an emotional vein. But they were dead on, as if the man had been reading his thoughts of the past twelve months.
“Shut up,” he whispered.
“I know love can cut you up inside and leave you bleeding and raw,” he said softly. “It can take everything, but it can also heal if you’re man enough to open your heart to something new, but I guess you’re not man enough to take your chances on another man.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Collier shouted and pushed to his feet and headed back the way they’d come.
Collier burst out the entrance into the crisp winter air and gasped in a breath with tears welling his eyes. He bent over the pain of reality slamming into him.
He was alone, and all the pictures he still had of Ross all over the house didn’t change it. He let out a sob as he straightened and stumbled toward his car.
“God,” he cried softly. He had dealt with his grief to a great degree, but the loneliness—he’d never really begun to deal with it. He just pretended Ross was keeping him company.
At his car, Collier slammed his fist into the door and leaned against as tears rained down his face.
“Collier, it’s going to be okay.” Malik’s voice was low and close to his ear as he pulled him back into his arms.
Collier tried to pull away, but muscle prevailed and Malik held him fast.
“Come on, baby boy,” he murmured. “Tell me a little bit about this love of yours.”
For a moment, he didn’t speak, and then he said, “Ross, his name was Ross.”
“And what did Ross do?” Malik asked, turning him to lean against his car.
Collier looked up at Malik finding his expression gentle, eyes warm. “He was part owner of a construction company, and he was an architect. He was smart, and he had a great sense of humor.”
“Yeah?” Malik asked. “What did you love about him?”
He laughed. “There were so many things. Ross couldn’t cook to save his life. He always burned dinner, but he’d go out and get something. He would get sidetracked talking to someone because he’s so friendly, and I’d be waiting and starving.”
“Baby, only a jackass would keep someone as cute as you waiting,” Malik told him lightly. “I’d take you with me. Better yet, I’d just bring you something so I could keep you all to myself.” He used his thumb to wipe away a tear.
Collier shivered, but it was the cold, not that hungry look in Malik’s eyes or the implication of his words.
“He couldn’t help it,” Collier said defensively. “He was just nice.”
“So am I, but I draw the line at keeping my baby waiting after a hard day, and I wouldn’t tolerate him keeping me waiting.” He reached into his back pocket and removed a white square and handed it to him. “You obviously loved him a great deal. Was he your first real love?”
Collier took it, noting how it smelled clean and fresh. He used the handkerchief to wipe away the rest of the tears.
“He was the first man I ever lived with, and we’d talked about getting married.”
Malik gave him a gentle smile. “I know it hurt losing him and moving on from that can seem like an impossible feat, but love is worth the risk every time, Collier,” he said, gripping his chin. “You know it can leave you bloody and broken when it’s done with you, but it’s a sweet caress you should never deny yourself.”
“That’s why you’re a member of the dating service? You’re looking for love?”
Malik’s expression became enigmatic. “Lust is someplace to start,” he murmured. “And it’s better than nothing until I find someone to give the best of me to.”
“Did he die?”
“No, but he ripped my heart apart just the same,” he admitted in a tight tone, his eyes dark with pain that quickly faded. “But there comes a time when you have to say good-bye to old ghosts and take a chance.”
Malik groaned. “Collier, if we don’t stop, honey, we’re going to have a later dinner than planned.”
“Is that a problem?” he asked, giving Malik a little pout. He wanted the man so bad he didn’t care if he didn’t eat dinner at all tonight.
Fuck, this was just too fast. Too fast and getting hotter by the moment.
It was never going to last beyond a few weeks. Things that got off to this hot a start always burned themselves out faster than they started, but he didn’t care.
By way of answer, Malik kissed him again as he tugged Collier’s shirt from his pants.
Malik deepened the kiss, moaning softly as Collier stoked his fingers over his arm and up to his nape. Collier scratched him lightly, and Malik pulled him closer.
Malik slowly ran his hands up Collier’s back and down to cup his ass as he tore his mouth from his to kiss the side of his neck.
Collier moaned and rubbed against Malik, his cock thickening in his pants as heat flared in his belly, a delicious flame burning its way through him.
Malik thrust his knee between Collier’s legs, and Collier ground his engorged cock against it as he tipped his head back.
“Malik,” he moaned his lover’s name.
Malik lightly nipped the side of Collier’s neck before grasping the edges of Collier’s sweater and tugging the garment up and over his head. He cast the sweater onto the counter and claimed Collier’s lips for another kiss.
They tasted each other slowly, stoking the fire in Collier so much his cock throbbed even as Malik moved a hand between them to work the belt of Collier’s pants free. Malik unfastened it and released the button before sliding the zipper down. He pushed Collier’s pants open.
Collier broke the kiss, sucking air into his lungs. “I need to touch you,” Collier said breathlessly and ran his fingers down the buttons of Malik’s shirt before working them free. He slipped his hand inside, caressing warm skin.
Malik groaned. “Your touch is so right, Collier.
“Damn you’re so sexy.” He jerked the tail of the shirt out of Malik’s pants and lowered his head to trace his tongue along the collarbone. He nipped the brown flesh, which was surprisingly soft, and sucked.
“Collier.” Malik said his name breathlessly.
Collier curled his tongue around one tiny point, tearing a hard groan from Malik. He flicked his tongue over the flat nipple again before scraping over it with his teeth.
Malik’s rough moan assured him he enjoyed it. So, Collier sucked the flat disk into his mouth while raking the man’s back lightly and felt Malik shudder.
Collier drew his tongue around the dark tip again, sucked it, and then moved to the twin.
Malik pushed one hand into Collier’s hair and clenched his fingers in the strands. “Yes. Fuck, yes.”
Collier flicked his tongue over the tight point and then blew over it.
Malik squeezed his ass. “Enough,” Malik growled and tugged Collier’s head up for a kiss before turning him to face the counter.
He kissed the back of Collier’s neck and brushed kisses over his shoulder as he pushed Collier’s pants down.
“Hands on the counter,” Malik ordered.
A hard hand landed on Collier’s ass. A rough groan tore through him as his nerve endings came roaring to life. A second tap stung over his skin, heating it. Pleasure bloomed in his belly, spreading out like waves of energy from a bomb detonation.
Malik landed another tap to his other check and back again in a firm cadence. Bliss rolled over Collier.
“Damn, Malik,” he said roughly. “You know how to get a man hot.” Hot? He was burning, on the verge of going up in flames.
Malik smoothed a hand over his ass and then landed another tap. Then, he kissed the back of Collier’s neck.
“I’m so turned on by you, Collier,” he murmured. “I can’t seem to stop thinking about you.” He bit the side of Collier’s neck lightly and sucked hard.
The man was going to leave him all marked up, but Collier couldn’t even muster the presence of mind to give a damn. It was the second time in over three years he’d felt like flying.
He started to reach back, and a hand landed sounded on his ass.
“Fuck.” He grimaced. The pain was a hard bite through him.
“Keep your hands right where they are, or you’re getting some serious lashes, little bitch,” Malik ordered, his tone hard. He landed another hard tap. “Can you do as you’re told, Collier?”
“Yes, Master.” He panted. Oh, fuck yeah. He could do anything it took to keep Malik’s hands on him making him crazy.
Malik glided his hand down the crease of his ass before lifting and lowering again. The pain was a kiss of pleasure that drew a low whimper from him.
“I need lube,” Malik said into his ear.
“Vegetable oil,” Collier said between pants. He glanced at the bottle just lounging on the counter where he’d put it after knocking it over a few days ago.