Chapter One

 

 

“OH FUCK, yeah… fuck, Michael, yeah, right there….”

Josh closed his textbook with a sigh. Michael was obviously hitting something right because Sean was particularly vocal tonight. Usually, Josh filtered out the noises of their lovemaking from the room above, but not this evening—Josh swore he’d heard every cry as Michael nailed his husband. Josh glanced at the clock next to his bed. They’d been at it for an hour already, and the erotic soundtrack wasn’t exactly conducive to studying.

He looked down at the weighty anatomy textbook with a wry smile. Who was he trying to kid? The term didn’t start for another three weeks. His job at the hospital had finished two days previously, and he smiled as he looked up at the photo frame stuffed with pictures of his former colleagues, a present from them to remind him of his time as a nurse in Accident & Emergency at the Royal Infirmary. They’d taken him out for a celebration drink or three, and Becky Watson, the A&E staff nurse, had presented him with the photos as a reminder of “his last days with a steady paycheck for a while.” Yeah, that’d be right. The prospect of at least five years of medical school, at a cost of £9,000 per year, loomed before him. He glanced back at the photo, and the breath caught in his throat. What had he been thinking?

Josh gave himself a mental shake. He knew, once he’d got into the study habit, these momentary blues would be forgotten. It was important to keep his eyes on the prize—the prospect of becoming a pediatric doctor. He sighed once more as he glanced around his room, and then straightened up in his chair. He could do this. Becoming a student again was simply the starting point on his path to achieving his dream, and he couldn’t have picked a better location for kicking off this particular journey. Josh glanced at another photo, this one pinned to the notice board above his desk. It was of all the housemates, grinning for the camera. He smiled, the photo representing a happy memory of Evan’s birthday bash at Via Fossa. What a night.

His eyes lingered on Chris’s face, those beautiful green eyes with that dirty-blond hair, and his heart beat a little bit faster. Chris seemed blissfully unaware of the effect he had on Josh. He reached out to trace Chris’s face slowly with a single long, slim finger. He’d just about given up hope that maybe one day soon Chris would open his eyes and really see Josh—see the man who wanted to take him in his arms, instead of seeing his best mate, the rock he leaned on when he needed a friend. Josh remembered the first night they’d met and the brief touch of his lips as he’d impulsively kissed the nervous student in the gay club. He shivered at the memory but then shook his head once more. Chris appeared to have forgotten all about that night, and to be honest, Josh couldn’t blame him. Being on trial for grievous bodily harm would wipe a brief kiss from anyone’s memory, he supposed. He’d been there for Chris, supported him, comforted him, and it was as if time had completely erased those days. Josh slumped in his seat once more, his eyes staring, unseeing.

“Oh fuck… coming, I’m coming….”

Josh groaned, reaching down to stroke his half-hard cock through his sweatpants. It really had been too damned long since he’d had sex. He glanced toward the drawer of his bedside table, which contained his “toys,” reached toward it—and stopped. For the first time in a long while, Josh yearned for a pliant, warm body spread out under him. He ached to bury his cock in a tight ass instead of his right hand. Sean and Michael’s cries increased as they reached their climax, and Josh stood abruptly, pushing away from his desk. It was no use kidding himself. What he really needed right now was a good, hard fuck.

He glanced at the clock. Hell, it was only 10:00 p.m., still early for a Friday night in Manchester. The house was quiet, apart from the noises above. Chris’s room was silent, and the room next door to Josh was empty. Evan and Daniel were on holiday with Evan’s family in Spain, due back the following day. Josh bit his lip, his gaze coming to rest once more on Chris’s image. You don’t even know I’m alive, do you? His chest tightened. Fuck it. It was one brief kiss. And that was more than eight months ago. Josh caught sight of himself in the mirror, and his lips narrowed. You know what you want to do, so just do it.

Josh shucked off his sweatpants and reached into his wardrobe for his tightest pair of jeans.

 

 

FROM his position at the bar, Josh watched the men on the dance floor. He gazed appreciatively at the firm bodies, frankly enjoying the view. Sipping his bottled water, he closed his eyes briefly, shutting out the floor show and swaying to the music that pulsed through the club, losing himself in the sensual rhythm, the noise.

Suddenly, two hands snaked around him from behind, stroking up to his chest with light fingers. Josh tensed, fists clenched, until he heard the voice in his ear.

“Slumming it, are we, gorgeous?”

Delighted, Josh turned around slowly to look at his friend Ben, who gazed at him with clear blue eyes, shaking back dark-brown curls. Josh grinned. It had been far too long.

“Isn’t that a bit harsh?” he asked, arching his brows.

Ben smirked. “Oh, sweets, take a look around. Most of the men you see only come here for one thing.” Ben lowered his eyes to take in Josh’s lean body, packed into the low-slung, skintight jeans, which were leaving nothing to the imagination. The outline of Josh’s hard-on was clearly visible. “Mmmm, but you’re looking good, Josh baby.” Ben licked his lips. “And what brings you here? Last I heard, you and Eric were joined at the hip. Has he let you off the leash for the night?” Ben’s eyes held a wicked gleam.

Josh frowned. “Well, that tells me how long it’s been since I last saw you. We broke up about a year ago, actually.”

Ben raised his eyebrows in surprise. “What happened, Josh?”

Josh shook his head. Not going to think about him now. “Don’t really want to discuss it, okay?” Ben nodded. Josh looked his friend up and down, taking in the muscled arms, toned torso, and slim hips, before raising his eyes to meet Ben’s, not looking away as he stroked his fingers over Ben’s biceps, relishing the shiver that fluttered through his friend.

“Baby,” Ben murmured softly, “are you hungry?” Josh looked up sharply, his breath catching. Ben smirked. “And you know I’m not talking about food.” Josh gave him a slow, sexy smile, and Ben curled his hand at Josh’s nape, pulling him closer until their lips met. Josh gave a low moan as Ben kissed him, his tongue darting between Josh’s lips. Ben slid his hand down to cup Josh’s denim-encased erection, groaning appreciatively, murmuring into Josh’s mouth. “You in need of a friend right now? One with ‘benefits’?”

Josh couldn’t hold back his response. He devoured Ben’s soft mouth, moaning quietly. Fuck, how long has it been since someone kissed me? God, I’ve missed this. With a shock, he realized he couldn’t remember the last time someone had even touched him. His arms crept around Ben, and he stroked lightly up and down his spine. The resulting shudders that coursed through Ben spoke volumes.

Josh wasn’t the only one who was starving.

Ben broke off the kiss to turn Josh toward the dance floor.

“Look over there by the door, with his back to us.” Josh looked—and his breath caught in his throat. The slim young man with blond hair might have been Chris, the resemblance was so striking. Until he turned around, revealing a pair of blue eyes that sought out Ben.

“Who is he?” Josh asked, unable to drag his gaze away from the pretty boy.

“His name’s Peter.” Ben ogled Peter, who beamed delightedly back at them. “Ran into him here for the first time tonight.” Ben leered. “Just look at that sweet mouth. Think how hot it’s going to look, stretched around my dick.”

Josh shuddered, and Ben smiled widely, revealing his perfect white teeth. He leaned closer to Josh, whispering into his ear.

“But look at that tight ass. I bet that’s going to feel heavenly wrapped around your thick cock.” Josh gasped as Ben stroked his shaft through his jeans. Christ, he was so hard. “I thought about taking him home tonight. Want to join us and make it a threesome?”

Josh stilled. He and Ben had hooked up several times in the past, before Josh had met Eric, his ex, and neither of them had been under any illusions. There had been nothing between them beyond the simple need to fuck. He locked eyes with Ben, swallowing. He could always say no. He could turn around and leave, right now, but his traitorous body had other ideas. Josh stared for a moment before leaning in and attacking Ben’s mouth in a hungry kiss, pushing his hard prick against Ben’s hand and leaving his friend in no doubt as to his answer.

Ben grinned as he broke free from Josh’s enthusiastic response. “Let’s get out of here,” he said. “What do you say? Do I tell the twink?”

Josh was way past ready to say yes, but there were limits, even for him.

“Just us,” he murmured, nuzzling Ben’s neck, drinking in the warm, sexy aroma, pressing his lips against soft skin as he kissed down to the hollows of Ben’s collarbone. Ben shuddered, his lips parting as he thrust himself against Josh, their cocks grinding.

“Just us,” he agreed with a low moan, hips circling deliberately. “Oh, fuck, Josh, let’s get out of here. Right now.” Another full-body tremor rippled through him.

Josh grinned. His thoughts exactly.

 

 

“OH FUCK, that feels so fucking good.”

Ben braced himself against the tiles, arms outstretched and back arched, as Josh proceeded to fuck him, burying his cock deep inside him with powerful thrusts, nailing his gland with faultless accuracy. Hot water cascaded down onto their writhing bodies.

“Like that?” Josh demanded. He snapped his hips back and forth, the pace relentless as he shifted gears to bring Ben to orgasm. Josh was close. He gripped Ben’s hips tightly as he slammed into him, balls slapping loudly against Ben’s.

“Oh yeah. That’s it, Josh. Baby, don’t stop!”

Josh had no intention whatsoever of stopping.

“Josh, harder… fuck me harder!” Ben’s voice rose, his tone demanding.

Josh released Ben’s hip from his iron grip to slap his ass, grinning widely at Ben’s loud cry. “Pushy bottom.” He laughed as Ben tilted his ass higher, and slapped it again, his handprint bright red on Ben’s pale cheek. “You like that, don’t you?” Ben’s loud groans were answer enough. Josh reached around him to grab his cock, tugging it with firm strokes.

“Oh, fuck, yeah….” Ben pushed back, fucking himself on Josh’s cock, his cries intensifying as he rocked between cock and hand, pushing his cock through the tight tunnel of Josh’s fist. As Ben stiffened, Josh knew he was close.

“That’s it, Ben, come for me.” Josh pistoned into him, fucking him now with abandon as Ben’s hoarse cries signaled his climax, his tight ass gripping Josh’s cock. As Ben’s warm seed spilled over his fingers, Josh finally let go, giving vent to the pleasure coursing through him with soft cries of ecstasy as hot come filled the latex encasing his prick. Thrusting as deeply as was humanly possible, he lost himself in the sheer joy of orgasm that had eluded him for so long. Josh cried out, aware of nothing except the almost primeval urge to empty himself into Ben’s willing body. As he held Ben tightly, pumping the last of his come into the condom, Chris’s sweet face swam before his eyes for a brief moment. Josh’s heart gave a jolt. It was as if the image flipped a switch inside him. He felt hollow, and a huge wave of regret rolled over and through him, robbing him of all pleasure. What the fuck was he doing?

 

 

“WANT to talk about it?”

Josh looked up from his ten-minute contemplation of his mug of coffee and glanced at Ben. He’d accepted the drink out of politeness, but he itched to leave. He’d been unable to shake the feeling he’d betrayed Chris, which was stupid. They weren’t even in a relationship, for God’s sake. In fact, Chris showed no interest in being in a relationship with Josh. And it wasn’t as if he and Ben were about to declare their undying love for each other. The term fuck buddy described Ben perfectly.

Ben stared at him, a smirk playing around his lips.

“What?” Josh demanded harshly. He immediately regretted the harsh tone. He had no right to take out his internal struggles on Ben. “Sorry,” he apologized, his features softening.

“’S alright.” Ben shrugged, his expression not changing for an instant. “So who’s Chris?”

Josh looked at Ben with a start. How in God’s name….

Ben’s smirk morphed into an unexpectedly warm and understanding expression. “You called out his name as you came,” he explained in a hushed tone.

Josh groaned and lowered his head into his hands. Ben put down his own mug and got up, reaching to put his arms around Josh.

“Hey, come on, baby, talk to me.”

But Josh was in no mood to talk. He shook off Ben’s arms and stood, reaching for his jacket on the back of his chair.

“I need to go home,” he said simply.

Ben looked at him intently for a second and then nodded.

 

 

JOSH sat in the dark kitchen sipping a glass of water. It was nearly two in the morning, and the house was silent. He wasn’t the least bit tired. He couldn’t switch off the cascade of thoughts presently tumbling through his brain—and they weren’t pleasant thoughts. Right now, Josh didn’t like himself very much.

He tensed as he heard a noise at the kitchen door. Michael and Sean entered the kitchen quietly and switched on the light, both men starting in surprise to see him seated there.

“And where have you been?” whispered Sean with a grin as Michael went to pour two glasses of water. Josh debated lying for a moment, but then realized he needed to talk to someone, if only to get things off his chest.

“Stuffed Olives,” he replied, his eyes meeting Sean’s.

Sean’s eyes widened. “Why would you want to go to that dive?” he asked, his expression incredulous. “Guys only go to Stuffed Olives for two things, to fuck or be fucked.” Josh stiffened, and it was obvious from Sean’s pained expression that he immediately regretted his words. “Fuck, I’m sorry, Josh. That was uncalled for,” he murmured, taking Josh’s hand and squeezing it.

“So, do you feel better now you got your itch scratched?” asked Michael from his position at the sink, his eyes fixed on Josh. Josh slowly raised his head to stare at Michael, and to his dismay, tears pricked the corners of his eyes. Michael reacted swiftly, rushing across the room to take Josh in his arms. “Oh, Josh, no, please don’t cry,” he whispered, aghast. “I’m sorry, okay?”

Josh let himself be held, hot tears soaking into Michael’s cotton robe as Michael held him, stroking his hair. Sean watched them, concern etched into his expression, before drawing in a deep breath.

“Come on,” Sean said, rising from his chair and pulling at the two men.

“Where are we going?” sniffed Josh. Sean grabbed a piece of paper towel and wiped Josh’s eyes.

“Up to our room. We need to talk, and we can’t do it here. We’ll wake up Chris.” He stared at Josh, his jaw set. Josh sighed, stood, and allowed himself to be led from the kitchen, Michael trailing behind. The three men silently made their way up the stairs, past Josh’s room, and up the narrow staircase to the attic.

Once there, Michael led Josh to their bed and pulled him into the center, he and Sean taking up positions on either side of him. Sean held Josh’s right hand while Michael stroked his hair with gentle fingers. Josh took a moment to breathe, his eyes closed. The couple’s concern rolled off them in waves. Fresh tears welled, and Sean quickly kissed them away. Josh gave him a watery smile, surprised by the intimate gesture.

“So,” Sean began with a twinkle in his eye. “Are you upset because, a, you didn’t hook up and are, therefore, still sexually frustrated, or b, you did hook up, and it was an unmitigated disaster?”

Laughter rolled out before Josh could prevent it. “Neither,” he said, smiling, appreciating Sean’s efforts to lighten his mood. He told the couple about meeting up with Ben and the resultant activity. Josh tried not to catch their eyes as he spoke, swallowing hard. The memory still brought a sour taste to his mouth.

“Is Ben a student?” inquired Michael, stroking Josh’s hair with gentle movements. At last Josh let himself relax, leaning into the soft touches with a sigh.

“No,” he replied. “He’s a porter at Prestwich Children’s Hospital. We met when I was doing a stint there.” Josh was silent for a moment, and Michael stared at him thoughtfully.

“Josh, sweetheart, talk to us. What’s got you so upset?”

The floodgates opened, and all Josh’s self-loathing and fear came out in a deluge of emotion, accompanied by intermittent tears.

“Oh fuck… it’s been so long since someone made love to me.” The words came out in a plaintive wail as he sobbed uncontrollably. “I hadn’t even realized until Ben kissed me tonight just how long I’d been without someone simply touching me. And I felt so fucking cheap after I fucked him.” He hiccupped, his breath hitching as he tried to stave off the tears. “I didn’t plan to go there tonight. I was sitting in my room, and all I could hear was the two of you, fu—” He broke off, horrified.

Sean stared at him, mortification apparent in his expression. Michael gave his husband a knowing look.

“See, I said you were too loud tonight.” Sean’s cheeks reddened as Michael pulled Josh to him, wrapping his arms around him. “Shhh now, it’s okay, sweetheart,” he crooned, kissing Josh’s forehead tenderly. He waited until Josh’s tears subsided and then released him, gazing at him with concern.

“This is about Chris, isn’t it?” Michael said intuitively. Josh gaped numbly at him for a moment and then dipped his chin once toward his chest, his eyes full of misery.

Sean held Josh’s hand tightly. “Does Chris have any idea of how you feel about him, love?”

Josh shook his head. “No, and I’m not going to put pressure on him by telling him,” he insisted. Sean looked puzzled, so Josh let it all pour out of him: Chris’s reliance on him before and during the trial; how he’d comforted and supported Chris, only to have Chris pull back once they were living in the same house.

“He obviously doesn’t see me as a potential boyfriend,” Josh said, wiping at his eyes angrily. He was such an emotional basket case right now. “I don’t want to ask him out and make him feel like he has to say yes out of gratitude, or something dumb like that. I want him to want me.” He hiccupped again. “He has to make the first move.”

Michael shook his head. “But maybe he’s scared of making a move because he’s afraid of rejection. Let’s face it. You’ve been playing it very cool since you moved in. No wonder he has no idea of your true feelings.”

Josh became very still. “Do you think so?” he asked.

Michael nodded, his eyes locked on Josh’s face.

Sean tugged at Josh’s hand, claiming his attention.

“How long has it been since someone held you, loved you?” His eyes were troubled.

Josh shrugged. “Tonight was the first time I’d had sex since I broke up with Eric, well over a year ago,” he admitted. “And I can’t remember the last time someone held me.”

Michael stared at him. “Poor baby. You really have been starved for affection, haven’t you?”

The sympathetic tone in his voice was almost too much for Josh to bear. His breath caught as he tried to stop himself from crying once more. Michael caught Sean’s eye, and Josh felt as if some unspoken communication passed between them. Sure enough, Sean gave a tiny nod, and Michael looked down at Josh. Slowly, he pulled Josh to a sitting position.

“Let’s have this T-shirt off, then,” he said practically.

Josh’s eyes widened. “What… what for?” he asked, his tears forgotten. Michael sat back and met his shocked gaze.

“Because you’re sleeping with us tonight, in our bed,” he said simply. Josh shook his head, unable to say a word, but Michael took Josh’s face in his warm hands, staring intently into his eyes. “Josh, what you need right now is some TLC. And we’re not proposing having sex, so put that right out of your mind, all right? We don’t play with others. You know that—not since we got these.” He held aloft his left hand, his gold wedding band gleaming in the soft light of the bedside lamp. “We just want to hold you, love. We’re going to snuggle up, and you’re going to let us show you how much we care for you… how much we love you, Josh.” He declared this last statement with so much tenderness that for a moment, Josh was overwhelmed. These two men always managed to surprise him. He glanced at Sean, to be met with an equally firm but loving expression in his eyes.

Josh shook his head. “How… how do you do that?” he asked in wonder. When the couple looked at him in puzzlement, he fixed Sean with an intense gaze. “I mean, how did you know what Michael was thinking? What he was about to say?”

Sean smiled. “He’s half of me, love. I know how he thinks.” His eyes met his husband’s, and the love there was so evident, it made Josh’s heart ache to see it. “Besides, it’s not difficult to read Michael’s thoughts. He has such a large heart, and he can’t stand to see someone in pain. And you are in pain, Josh. Anyone can see that. I’m ashamed we didn’t spot it sooner. So please, let us help you, if only for tonight.” Sean’s eyes pleaded with Josh.

Josh looked at them both in silence, thinking hard, and then slowly pulled his T-shirt over his head, reaching down to unfasten and remove his jeans. Sean tugged them off his long legs and dropped them onto the floor. On the bed between them in nothing but his briefs, Josh suddenly felt vulnerable, until Michael stood up and removed his robe, Sean doing the same, and then both men drew back the duvet.

“Scoot down the bed, Josh,” instructed Michael. “You’re in the middle tonight.” Josh did as he was told, moving as though in a dream. He still didn’t believe he was really going to do this. Strangely enough, he was flaccid. He had always found the couple attractive, and here he was, about to join a very naked Michael and Sean in their bed, and yet he wasn’t aroused. This discovery caused him to breathe easier as Michael placed pillows under his head and then stretched out next to him, his arm across Josh’s waist. Sean lay down on his right and placed his head on Josh’s chest, his hand meeting Michael’s as they touched across Josh. As Michael pulled the lightweight duvet up to cover all three men, Sean kissed Josh’s cheek.

“Now go to sleep,” he told Josh firmly. His eyes gleamed wickedly. “And I promise to be really good in the morning and not wake up Michael with his customary blowjob.”

Josh glanced at Michael, who nodded, his eyes twinkling. “And no, he’s not kidding,” he admitted with an equally wicked grin.

Josh was unable to prevent his bemused smile. After kissing Josh on the cheek, Michael clicked off the bedside lamp, and Josh settled down, both men snuggling up to him. He let out a sigh. He would never have predicted this in a million years, although it had featured in a few fantasies, if he were totally honest—not that he would ever have acted on them. He shook himself mentally. Who was he trying to kid? As if he’d ever had the remotest chance in the first place. Not with these two, whose world clearly revolved around each other. He lay there in the darkness, listening to the regular breathing of the two men bracketing him. His thoughts turned to Chris. Josh didn’t have a clue what the future had in store for him, but he could hope his shy, beautiful housemate featured somewhere in Fate’s plans for him. He considered the couple in whose bed he lay and thought, They did it. They found each other. What’s to stop Chris and me from finding something similar? The thought comforted him for some reason, and for the first time in a long while, he felt at peace. Putting his arm around Sean and feeling Michael snuggle closer, Josh finally drifted off to sleep.