MILES WINTER sat back in the limo as it idled in the heavy traffic and opened the briefcase on his lap. He wondered how many rainforests had been destroyed for the sole purpose of stuffing his mail full of unnecessary, uninteresting, and poorly spelled documents. He suspected there’d be more on his assistant’s desk as soon as he got back into the office to check up on it. And that was in addition to the virtual correspondence on email that he had to review daily or risk being smothered by it. He’d been away from the office for only a week, and this was the result. Biting back a sigh, he riffled through the top documents, looking to prioritize or hopefully mark some for shredding….
A throaty chuckle came from a couple of feet away. “That’s not the look I was hoping for, y’know?”
Miles glanced up, startled. “I’m sorry?”
Zeke Roswell just smiled at him. He was sitting on the other half of the limo seat, though it was more like a folding exercise, one leg bent up under his ass, his shoulder pressed against the closed door. On his lap was a large pad of paper, and he’d already sketched out a few sweeping pencil lines, the beginnings of what looked like a head and shoulders.
Miles smiled too. He knew that tone in Zeke’s voice, one of teasing, of speculative desire. He pulled out more of the papers from the bottom of the case, but he knew his attention had already started to wander. “Real life has to go on, you know. These won’t take me long to clear. I brought them with me from the airport to check whether any need action over the weekend. I don’t really want to go back into the office, but we’re finalizing the due diligence on that takeover, and I may have to access some of the accounting files.”
Zeke reached over and ran his hand down Miles’s arm. “It’s okay. I get it. At least I get to see you for dinner and a careless grope in the back of the limo, even if I have to surrender you to your damned filing. We’ll drop you off, and I’ll go back to the gallery. It’s been a long day—guess I need my sleep.” He leaned back in the seat, stretching his neck one way then the other, easing some stiffness. “It’s sort of fun, actually, to see your professional side kick into action.”
“Oh yes,” Zeke repeated mockingly, his smile turning wicked. “Kind of cute to see you in your Mr. Executive Suit mode, when the last time we were alone together—just before I saw you drive off to the airport—you were gasping in the shower, naked as the day you were born, while I crouched at your feet and fingered you to one hell of an orgasm.”
“Hell.” Miles felt the shudder of excitement through the whole of his body. He laughed, but his fingers trembled on the edge of a file.
“Don’t mind me,” Zeke said, settling the pad back on his lap and not even trying to hide his grin. “Just pretend I’m not here.”
And how likely was that? Miles was more aware of his lover than of himself. At the end of his business trip, he’d rushed to meet Zeke as soon as possible. They’d only been back together for a few hours, but already Zeke’s scent clung to his clothes, and the taste of Zeke’s lips lingered on his tongue. The restaurant where they’d gone for supper had been discreet, but not to the extent Miles could touch Zeke in the way he wanted. Often, when they were apart, he found his mind held the memory of Zeke’s touch very vividly, as if Zeke were actually with him on the trip: lying beside him in his hotel bed, walking with him on the unfamiliar city street, nudging up to him beside yet another generic office water cooler. Vivid, yes, but nowhere near as satisfactory as the real thing. The pleasure trickled slowly and seductively through his body. He had the real thing now—Zeke beside him, happy, smiling, joking, waiting to go where Miles needed.
Zeke shifted on the seat, changing the leg bent under him. Miles had opened another file but caught the movement out of the corner of his eye. Tonight they’d both been at the opening of Zeke’s new art show. Then a leisurely supper together and now back in the limo for… the end of the night. Looked like he’d be in the office for a few more hours, and it made sense for Zeke to go back to the gallery. It was on the same route, and Zeke inevitably had things to wrap up from the exhibition. Miles wondered if he’d have time to join him later, depending on when he finished his work.
One of the papers slipped out of the file, and he only just caught it before it fell to the floor. He felt clumsy tonight. Maybe jetlag, maybe the excitement of being with Zeke again. It didn’t seem like that feeling was ever going to wear off.
Zeke gave a casual yawn. His hand was still busy on his sketch. “Come back to the gallery when you’re done, man.” He glanced up quickly; his eyes glittered with something that looked ridiculously like nervousness. “I mean it. Any time. If the lights are off and I’m asleep, just let yourself in.”
“I may be late. I don’t want to disturb you.”
“You won’t.” Zeke sounded quite harsh. “Listen to me. I want you back for the night, Miles, whether it’s for ten or two hours.” He flushed, as if embarrassed, but Zeke Roswell didn’t often do embarrassment, did he? “I'd kind of like to find you there in the morning. I’ve missed that.”
Miles could empathize with that. That was one of his favorite times too. Always an early riser, he was learning to love waking before Zeke, then spending a few minutes savoring the familiarity of the man in his bed. He liked to trace the curves of Zeke’s sleeping body with his eyes—and then his hands. Cupping Zeke’s buttocks and feeling the muscles tense up as the other man eased into wakefulness. Then rolling Zeke on to his belly and spreading his legs—
Damn. Another batch of papers had nearly slipped through his fingers.
“Nearly there,” Zeke said, peering out the limo window. “Damned traffic moves like glue this time of night.” The lights on the street and buildings outside glinted on the glass, reflecting flickers of flame in Zeke’s pupils, white and yellow and neon. Miles was far more fascinated by that than by his business agenda for the weekend.
“Will you be okay back at the gallery? The press may still be there.”
Zeke shrugged, still looking out at the slowly passing scenery. “Malia’s got my back. She’ll have moved them on by now, bleary from my free booze, cameras full of pictures, notebooks full of who attended and whose spouse they were with. Some of them may even get my name spelled right. Red said he’d stay behind as well, and if anyone knows what to say to a pack of journalists, it’s Red de Vere. Thrives on it, I reckon. Whereas I apparently can’t be trusted not to tell ’em where to go, what to do, and how hard to twist the stick involved.” He turned back to face Miles. “But I can play that eccentric artist card, right? It’s not as if I haven’t had enough real experience in the past.”
Miles looked at Zeke’s face, wondering if the public smile would ever mask the deeper, more vulnerable look that sometimes flickered in his eyes. “I don’t think there’s any worry about them spelling your name right. Zeke Roswell has been a star of the art world for quite a while now.” At Zeke’s frown, he continued, “In your new incarnation, I mean. Not as the young artist in his brother Jacky’s shadow. You’ve shown your own colors quite boldly and well by now, Zeke.”
Zeke held his pencil loosely in one hand and used the other to flick a stray lock of hair back off his forehead. “We should both be used to it, I guess.”
Miles shrugged. In his professional career, he’d always been subject to media interest, but this intrusive pursuit of his personal life was a different matter. Every time Zeke organized a show, it seemed to resurrect the interest in them both. It was encouraging for sales of Zeke’s art and the promise of future commissions, but it was extremely annoying when Miles just wanted to pursue business as usual. Zeke’s love of secrecy before every show didn’t help, either. The paparazzi had been camping out on a selection of doorsteps for the last week, including those of Miles’s staff, on the chance of an advance scoop. “I think our strategy works well enough, keeping a low profile while you’re working and using my press office to release the official news at sensible intervals.”
Zeke laughed, loudly and rather too uninhibitedly for Miles’s comfort. Maybe he knew the taste—or distaste—of the popular media better than Miles. After all, his life had been rather more outrageous and newsworthy. “Official news? Man, they don’t want to know what your plans are for a new investment in a telecom conglomerate, or whether I’m basing the next show on a pastiche of Renaissance masters or dogs in vests playing pool. What they really want is gossip. Ideally, they’re waiting for me to roll you on the pavement then and there and fuck you in full view of their cameras.”
Miles shivered. Desire rippled through him at the outrageous vision conjured up. “You’re the one who chose the theme, Zeke. Bondage was always going to be provocative. Don’t pretend that’s not the image you like to project.”
Zeke grimaced. “Yeah, okay. I’m just sorry to drag you in on it too.”
“I assure you I’m fine….”
But Zeke’s gaze had dropped to his sketch pad. “It’ll die down eventually. The attention, that is. There’ll be other news, more interesting than me—than us.”
Not to me, Miles thought. He slipped all the papers back in his briefcase and quietly locked it shut. The movement of Zeke’s hands caught his eye again, also Zeke’s quick glance up to Miles’s face, then back to the paper on his lap. “Zeke, are you sketching me?”
Zeke’s hand stilled on top of the pad. “That a problem?”
For a second, they stared at each other. Miles wasn’t sure how he felt. Zeke had often drawn Miles’s hands, ever since that first astonishing and beautiful portrait Zeke had unveiled at his Connection show, the one that had brought them so much closer at last. But Zeke’s work had always been interpretive, not a direct portrait. Or so Miles imagined. He’d always found it fascinating to watch Zeke draw; it delighted him too. He sat beside Zeke as often as he could, following the progress of his work—following Zeke himself. It didn’t seem to distract his lover, and it was a rich thrill for Miles. But… a portrait of him?
“It’s just a study.” Zeke looked hesitant. Miles knew that when Zeke started to draw, it was anguish for him to have to stop. Even now, he was back to sketching, his hand moving swiftly but lightly, the strokes covering the paper with no more than a gentle brush. “Just some thoughts of mine. Got to follow the muse.” He flushed. “No need to feel threatened.”
“I don’t. It’s just… an odd feeling.”
Zeke’s concentration was still on his pad, but he smiled. It was soft, as if it matched the caress of his pencil strokes. “Promise not to display anything of you in the gallery. You’d look pretty odd beside those dogs in vests.”
“Why me?” Miles asked abruptly. He hadn’t meant to say it, but the words burst out. He’d never thought of himself as truly a part of Zeke’s art. He was in Zeke’s life, of course, although he felt that was something still new and surprisingly tender; it was to be carefully nurtured. But the man’s creativity was something else—something contained within Zeke’s volatile, passionate personality alone. Wasn’t it? He’d rarely seen any of Zeke’s rough sketches finished, and if he were honest, he didn’t always pay attention to the subject matter.
Zeke stared back at him, his eyes suddenly, strangely wild. “I need it,” he said. “It’s how I express things. I need to capture you… here.” He gestured at the paper with one hand: his other hand wavered somewhere near his chest.
“Capture me?” Miles couldn’t believe Zeke would ever doubt he had Miles in entirety, both captivated and caught.
Zeke’s words spilled from him now. “Like I’m still getting used to sharing the plans with you. My art—the gallery. Like I haven’t had time to talk to you about what I want to draw in the future, what thoughts and dreams take over my hands.” He frowned. “What I want in the future. Yeah, I talk all the damned time, but some things… I’m not too good at talking about, period.”
Miles put his hand over Zeke’s, his fingers brushing the smooth surface of the paper. “I need it too.”
“Yeah?” Zeke turned his hand so that Miles’s fingers rested in his palm. He laughed softly. “I know all about your need, man. The handcuffs … the secret, seductive orders. The way you play with yourself….” He took a deep breath. “You’re fantastic.”
“Not just the sex,” Miles said quickly, breathlessly. He needed to make it clear to Zeke. “I need you, Zeke Roswell.”
Zeke’s eyes darkened, and a soft flush covered his cheeks. “So maybe I use different ways to tell you I feel the same. But you know what? I don’t need to read anything in the newspapers to know it for the truth.”
Miles started to laugh. The limo gave a sudden lurch as it pulled up outside his office building, but he barely registered it. His eyes were on Zeke. He felt he’d been away for a month, not just a week. The feelings from being back with Zeke were as sharp and painful and deliriously wonderful as they’d always been. Maybe ridiculous… but true. Miles was excited to think he was part of everything Zeke did—but it was Zeke himself Miles loved and wanted. Appreciation of Zeke's talent came second. The emotion flowed through him as thickly as his own blood. He couldn’t take his eyes off Zeke: everything else in life was filed far, far away.
Zeke was peering at him, his head tilted to one side. He gripped the side of his pad, his pencil urgent on the paper. “Yeah,” he muttered, his voice shaking with what Miles knew as excitement. “That’s exactly the look I wanted.”
“Sir?” The driver turned his head toward his passengers in the back. “I can’t park here. Do you want me to drive around to the back or just drop you off?”
“No.” Miles didn’t hesitate, leaning forward to reply. “We’re not stopping here. Can you take us on uptown, please?”
Zeke moved on the seat beside him, surprised. “It’s no problem, Miles. If you want to keep the limo, I can get a cab from here. You’ve had a hell of a flight, and there’ll be stuff I need to get done after the show—”
“No.” Miles grasped Zeke’s arm. His heart had suddenly started to beat more quickly. He turned his back to the driver again to regain some privacy. “I’m not going into the office tonight. I’m sorry I even considered it. I want us to go back to my place.”
“The gallery’s nearer….”
“My apartment,” Miles said, firmly. Why didn’t Zeke listen? “I want us both there. Soon.”
Zeke was still looking bemused. “We can just—”
“I said I needed you, Zeke. I want you too, in every damned way I can. If you still want it too.”
Zeke’s eyes widened. “Excuse me being stupid here, Miles, but are you saying…?”
“Now,” Miles repeated, keeping his voice low so he wasn’t overheard by the driver, but unable—and unwilling—to hide the urgency. “I want you to fuck me. Tonight.”