Victor Bronsen tapped his pen against his temple slowly.
The defense lawyer was speaking in a low, monotonous drone. He was new to this district, brought in from somewhere else by the family of the accused man, and he obviously didn’t know how short Judge Trammell’s temper was when it came to stalling or pontificating.
Vic glanced up at the bailiff, Owen Montgomery, who stood stock-still with his blue eyes narrowed, looking at the defense lawyer like he might like to hit him soon. Owen was a big guy, with thick blond hair, a full beard, and wide shoulders that made him look a little like a lion. He wasn’t the type of guy you wanted to piss off.
Vic saw Owen glance sideways at the judge and Vic tried to repress a smile. Owen’s patience was wearing thin, just like everyone else’s. Vic liked to think it was because the man had plans after the day was over, but he knew it was just because he was hot and tired. Just like everyone else.
The air conditioner was broken on the third floor. There weren’t even any windows in the courtroom to open, and the August heat was becoming oppressive as the day dragged on well past lunch.
Vic put his pen down on the table in front of him with a clank that reverberated through the courtroom. He was trying not to slump in his chair, trying not to fidget, trying not to look like he was a wilting prosecutor in a thousand-dollar Italian suit.
He knew he was failing miserably. His short, dark hair was already beginning to curl at the edges as the sweat dried on his neck and forehead. Soon it would be curly all over and he would look ten years younger. At 37, with dark green eyes and a thin, angular face, he was in good shape and had always looked younger than he was. But when his damn hair curled on him, he got carded ordering drinks.
He could feel the sweat running down his back, and he knew soon enough he’d have to get out a handkerchief and start wiping at his face, or the jury would see him as nervous every time he wiped the sweat from his eyes.
But at least he wasn’t wearing the heavy black robes the judge was. The heat might win him the case before he even had to say a word if the defense kept rambling on. The man must have one of those air-conditioned suits.
Vic’s eyes met Owen Montgomery’s and he rolled his eyes. The bailiff winked at him discreetly, his lips quirking but not forming a smile. Vic tried not to smile as he covered his mouth and looked away, forcing himself to concentrate as the heat bore down on the little courtroom.
Owen and everything that came with him would have to wait.
Vic’s chin tilted upward slightly each time his body was rocked with one of Owen’s slow thrusts, and every time Owen pushed into him he let out a little huff of air. Sometimes a moan from the back of his throat would join the huff and Owen would tighten his grip and thrust harder.
The breathy moans and the muted squeaks and groans of the bedsprings were the only sounds in the room. They weren’t fucking hard enough to make noise with the meeting of their damp bodies, not yet anyway, and Owen rarely made a sound when he topped. As a bottom he was as vocal as you could want, and his words and begging alone would make Vic come if he so desired, but as a top Owen was singularly focused on one thing and one thing alone. He simply held you down, pressed his face into the hollow of your neck, buried himself deep inside your body, and fucked you until he came.
If Vic was lucky he would come with him, clutching his body to his and writhing beneath him. If not, Owen would pull out of him, flop down beside him, and languidly caress him until he came all over himself, thrashing and crying out Owen’s name.
“Fuck… fuck yeah,” Owen gasped into Vic’s ear. “Come on, baby.”
That was another thing about Owen; he never said Vic’s name when they were together. Baby. Babe. Sweetheart. Doll. Darling. The occasional “come on, you bastard.” Just about any endearment Owen could think of. All except for Vic’s name.
Afterward, after Owen had gone back to whatever pressing engagement it was that made him leave Vic alone in bed once again, Vic would think back on their encounter and think that it had been good. Not wonderful. Not even particularly memorable. Simply good. Average, really.
If Vic was the one doing the fucking then it was often better in remembrance; he would still have Owen’s cries ringing in his ears and he would often have Owen’s drying come still on his skin, because Vic always made sure that he was inside the other man when Owen came. But when it was Owen topping, Vic would never remember anything special about it.
Just that it had been Owen.
And for Vic, that was enough. That was enough to keep him craving more. That was enough to make his heart stutter when he saw Owen’s name on the docket for the day. That was enough to make him drop whatever or whomever he was doing to run to a rendezvous when Owen called. That was enough to make him cry Owen’s name when he came, no matter whether it was Owen he was with or not.
“Owen,” Vic gasped as Owen’s arms tightened their grip on him. Vic came with a desperate cry.
Owen panted against his damp skin, thrusting through the spasms Vic’s body suffered, and soon Owen was panting and coming as well with a muffled groan.
Vic remained on his back, breathing heavily and keeping his eyes closed as he felt Owen roll off the bed and walk into the bathroom. Vic didn’t have to ask to know that Owen would be gone in the next thirty minutes. That was what always happened. Vic understood. Sort of. Owen was a sheriff’s deputy with a lot of responsibilities and numerous perfectly good reasons to leave.
It didn’t mean Vic had to like it.
“You all right?” Owen asked dubiously when he came back into the room and tossed a towel at Vic. It landed across Vic’s head and Vic simply reached up to slide it off and opened his eyes. There was no point in cleaning off; he could just lie there until Owen left and then hop in the shower.
“Yeah,” he answered flatly. “You leaving?” he asked, hating himself for asking but needing to know for sure anyway.
“Yeah,” Owen said casually as he pulled on his jeans and looked around for his shirt. He continued talking, telling Vic why he had to leave, what needed to be done, when he’d be leaving town to escort a prisoner somewhere to do something, but Vic found his mind wandering.
In the early days of their more intimate acquaintance, Vic had told himself that he wouldn’t allow it to happen again. He wouldn’t allow Owen to run off and leave him feeling somehow emptier than when he had started. Now, of course, five years later, he was past that.
Empty or not, Vic needed whatever Owen would give him. He supposed that was what happened when you loved someone who didn’t return the feeling. You wound up empty and needy.
Owen never lied to him, never plied him with wine and roses or told him he loved him in order to get him naked, so why should Vic lie to himself?
He had thought a lot about why he always allowed Owen to come back to him, and he had come to an unsettling conclusion. There were three levels of pleasure, so far as Vic could figure.
Physical pleasure—the first and most basic—was the feeling of pliant lips on yours. The sensation of warm hands on your body. A questing tongue. Burying yourself deep inside someone who was wrapped around you. That was what had kept Vic interested when he would have otherwise given up on the flighty younger man he’d met all those years ago when Owen had started taking shifts as bailiff at the courthouse. That, and the fact that work was all he had time to do lately. If it weren’t for Owen’s occasional flybys, Vic would never have time to get laid. He didn’t like one-night stands and he didn’t have time to date.
Emotional pleasure—the second level—that was when it got a little trickier. A hand questing silently across a mattress for yours in the middle of the night. Whispered words of affection. Sitting in silence and watching the sun set from the steps of the courthouse as the jury deliberated, knowing that words need not be spoken between you. Vic had experienced these things with Owen. Precious few times, though. These were the things that had kept Vic hoping through the years, allowing Owen to continue on his merrily oblivious way, hoping that Owen would one day realize what he could have, if he desired it.
The third level, though, that was where Vic found himself now. When the physical and emotional collided and the pleasure turned to pain. The pain of knowing that the bed he awoke in would be cold and empty and still smell of the other man. Knowing that when Owen called up in a week or a month or a year and asked him if he was free, that he would be there without question, without regard for what he needed to be doing. Knowing that whatever he felt for the younger man, the feelings were unreturned and probably always would be.
Physical love. Emotional love. Unrequited love.
Owen leaned over him and frowned as he looked down at him. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?” he whispered as Vic crossed his eyes to focus on him.
“No,” Vic managed with a smile.
Owen’s eyes brightened and he grinned. “You free for lunch tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” Vic whispered.
“I’ll call you,” Owen told him as he bent down and kissed Vic on the tip of his nose. Then just as quickly as they’d fallen into bed together, he was out the door and Vic was once again alone with his self-recriminations and regrets.