Nude except for the dangling silver chain holding woven, vivid blue beads that fell between his nipples, Sahara Blue Drummond leaned in front of his floor-to-ceiling windows, looking out at sea.
He’d opened one of them so the salt air breeze, so familiar to him, could soothe his senses, but it had so far failed, leaving him to prowl his living room… restless.
His body was aching for the teasing body of one man—Lotus, the enigmatic blogger who put up alluring stories online that stirred Sahara.
“He’s just a fantasy,” Sahara muttered to himself. But he smiled as he remembered a recent exchange they’d shared on the blog when Lotus had teased him about his name—Sahara Blue. It did sound made-up, but it was what his hippie late-seventies mom had come up with.
He sighed. There were moments when he felt close to Lotus, as if they had a real connection, but then there were times like this when Sahara was confronted with how alone he was. He needed more. He needed a man in the flesh, not an online crush.
Sahara touched a palm to cool glass, his gaze unfocused but his body ready, always ready for the unexpected. He whirled around suddenly, left leg going up with enough force to break someone’s neck. With perfect control, he lowered it, hands fisted at his sides.
He was keyed up tonight, riding adrenaline the way he had when he’d been an active SEAL. For some reason, the past few days, he’d felt as if someone was watching him. It was giving him an itch between the shoulders and making him want to go out hunting for the reason his nerves were buzzing; it better not be someone planning on hurting Toby and Jared again, friends who lived in a floating home nearby, because he was a man of his word and he’d warned Toby’s ex to leave them both alone.
But his restlessness was more than his tingling spider senses. After reading another of Lotus’s scorching stories, all Sahara had was his right hand for relief, something all too common. When was the last time he’d thrust into a tight ass, fucking a trick in an alley somewhere? And even that wasn’t satisfying because as much as he yearned to bury his face against someone’s neck, to talk to him, he was always silent, unable to say the right thing.
His body burned for relief, yet he didn’t want only that. Being around Toby and Jared lately was turning him into a grump. He could see the love flowing free between them, could practically feel the heat wave when they looked at each other. Sometimes he was allowed a little taste of play with them, but lately it had only made it harder for him, making him ache for familiar arms around him. He wanted someone in his bed, not just to take his cock, but to be there so he could nestle his head into a warm neck and listen to the throb of a beating heart.
On nights like tonight, when he had the shakes, it was worse. He felt hollowed out, unable to sleep. But he never wanted anyone to see him, to touch him, when he was this wired. Maybe that was part of why Lotus had become his obsession; he was safe.
Sahara returned to his study to open a file a computer-savvy friend of his had made of specially enhanced photographs taken from Lotus’s blog. He’d become convinced some time ago that Lotus actually put up pictures of himself on his blog. It seemed that of all Lotus’s myriad admirers, only Sahara had sensed this. Sometimes, late at night, it seemed as if it were some kind of message meant for him alone, as if Lotus’s true reason for writing in his online diary was to attract Sahara’s attention.
“Yeah, right.” Sahara shook his head now, dismissing the idea. That had to be nuts, as well as somewhat arrogant on his part. But his bones, his body, felt some kind of primal tie to Lotus, as if the man were meant to be his. Even knowing how crazy it was, he couldn’t seem to shake the feeling.
He looked at a picture, creased from his touch, of a young man with a thick, beautiful cock, partially erect, tied with rough hemp rope to a tree. His soft, brown, curly hair obscured his face, tilted away from the camera, but his sad, bowed lips were visible.
How often had Sahara stared at those lips, imagining them on his nipples while he cried out and clenched his hands in that tumbled hair? Lotus wouldn’t be sad if he were in Sahara’s bed. He’d be hot, sweaty, satisfied… smiling.
Sahara remembered a few months ago when he’d first gotten the guts to finally comment on Lotus’s blog, typing, Are you as lonely as I am?
And Lotus had replied, I am very lonely.
“Huh,” Sahara grunted now. “Aren’t we a pair?” Abandoning the photos, Sahara returned to his living room. If he had been the one to take that picture of Lotus tied to a tree, he would have kissed him while he was trussed up, taking his time to lick and savor. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually kissed anyone! And his hand would be wrapped around Lotus’s trapped cock, playing with it until Lotus begged Sahara to let him come.
Shit, they’d both enjoy it, and he’d know Lotus was his when his come spattered against Sahara’s legs.
He wanted Lotus. He wanted him under him, in his bed, looking into Sahara’s eyes as Sahara kissed him, mounted him.
Wearing an Ikat-patterned sarong and nothing else, Seth Hollis rolled his shoulders to release the day’s tension as he walked around his darkened shop. It was late, but he was restless, his body aching for touch.
He sighed. What else was new?
As he puttered, morose, he retouched the display of natural dyes his shop specialized in, madder, logwood, cutch, cochineal…. The custom tins he had made up for his supply store sounded like exotic spices in a marketplace, and that always brought on daydreams of living in another time and being owned by some kind of pasha, of being summoned at night to please him. Of course, Seth would be his favorite, would love lying under him night after night….
Shaking his head at his vivid daydream, he turned each mustard tag-covered product so it was best displayed and then stepped back, pushing his longish brown hair out of his eyes. As he did so, he was caught for a moment by his own very ordinary reflection in a hand-hammered, Mexican, tin-framed mirror. He met his somber brown eyes, only remarkable to some because they hinted at his Japanese grandmother, but the rest of him was merely pale, brown and brown, nondescript like a plain sparrow.
He glanced away, thinking that Sahara Blue, the man who prodded him on his blog, would never go for such a mousy boy-next-door type. He probably expected someone really cut, with blond good looks—someone teasing and confident and sexy… like Lotus.
Seth burned in the sun, so he enjoyed it safely under an awning or a hat. And he was far from sexually experienced. All his adventures were in his head; at twenty-five, the embarrassing truth was that he was a virgin.
In fact, other than his passion for collecting things from around the world to bring to his shop and selling dyes and various supplies for textile artists, the only interesting thing about him was his alter ego, Lotus.
He looked over at his laptop, sitting on a battered table made of a door from India, one of the furniture products of fair trade he offered in his shop, and wished, not for the first time, that he could somehow make some real contact. At times, he felt like he might have it with Sahara Blue, but he knew he was kidding himself; it was only the illusion of intimacy that came from sharing things he’d never have the courage to share in real life.
And in real life, a blond, untamed cougar of a man would not take one look at him.
Seth knew this for certain, since he’d sought out his mystery man. There weren’t any other men with that strange name in the San Diego area, which Sahara Blue had assured him was real, so it hadn’t been hard to find him. In fact, Seth had wondered if Sahara had somehow been daring Lotus to come get him. It would be like the man, who often wrote about how he wanted Lotus.
Sahara Blue Drummond had a floating home a mile from where Seth had his small shop. Seth had waited once by the local wharf market, which sold wraps and other fast foods, and spotted him, vivid blue eyes, tall, muscled, with some kind of azure bead thing hanging around his neck.
He was hot as fuck, stirring Seth’s fantasies into high gear. God, what would it be like to belong to such a man?
But no way he’d be interested in a pale, brown sparrow. Seth’s stupid ideas about somehow finding a way to approach him evaporated. He was stuck in the persona of Lotus, the only way he’d ever appeal to a man like Sahara.
Seth caught a pathetic mew sound from the back door and roused from his apathy. He emptied some of the cream he’d brought in for his coffee that morning into a Japanese bowl and opened the door out back, facing the dumpster. The kitten’s green eyes blinked at him from across the width of the narrow alley. Seth put down the bowl and wished the little creature would trust him enough to come inside. “Well, at least someone needs me,” he whispered.
Suddenly a dark man-shape loomed. The kitten fled—
“Oh!” Seth relaxed. “Rudy, you scared me!”
Rudy looked around. “The k-kitten gone, Seth?” He was a tall man with a dark mustache and goatee who worked a few shops down in the grocery where Seth got his fresh fruits and vegetables. According to local shopkeepers’ gossip, Rudy had spent some time in South America, and when he’d come back, he hadn’t been the same person. He worked hard but was shy around people. Seth had always felt a kinship with him.
His friend Karen referred to him as another of Seth’s strays, as much as the kitten.
“No, I’m afraid he’s gone, but I’ll leave the milk, Rudy,” Seth reassured. “He’ll come back.”
Rudy’s pale eyes fell from Seth’s. He nodded before continuing down the alley, hands dug deep in his pockets.
Seth waited a few more minutes for the kitten to possibly make another appearance but when it didn’t return he returned to his shop, closing and locking the back door behind him.
Giving up on sleep, Sahara decided to go for a run. He did it often, uphill on beach dunes being one of his favorite ways to keep in shape. He could still run like the wind, though with his head injuries, he’d never be what he had been again.
In fact, his head was pounding now from one of his damned headaches. He paused, wearing a T-shirt and shorts in preparation for his workout, and debated taking something for it. But he hated to admit any weakness. He could live with pain. How else could he have become a SEAL in the first place?
He headed out, deciding to run past some of the shops in the streets above where he lived. Maybe he’d find something for his home so it wouldn’t be so barren. Jared and Toby’s nest was like a jewel case, and sometimes he found himself wishing he had a few nice things in his own place… but he was fucking useless at that kind of thing, almost as bad as when he tried to open up and say something to pick up some cute guy. Instead, he found himself treating his dates like prey, pulling them into the shadows behind a club when his body was screaming for release and burning out his passion inside them.
Now, lacking the sex his body ached for, lacking any kind of partner, he ran down the pier, seeing that Toby and Jared’s bedroom light was on. His throat tightened. He wondered what they were doing together. Was Jared teaching Toby more about meditation? Or were they making slow love with the sea air touching their sweating bodies as they kissed and moved together? Shit. It was tough being the single dude around that pair.
Finally, Seth decided he needed to head upstairs to bed. Tomorrow was Saturday, and it could be busy, so he’d have to be alert for his customers, both on the website he maintained and in his shop. Plus, now that Thanksgiving was over, the holiday shoppers would begin to show up. He’d have to give some thought to displays to showcase gift-giving.
Yet he knew he probably wouldn’t sleep right away. Instead, he’d lie awake and imagine yet another scenario where he met his dream man, Sahara Blue, and somehow Sahara wanted him, despite Seth’s mundane looks and shy personality.
Feeling rather wistful, he imagined a storyline in which he was a slave in a pirate’s space ship and Sahara Blue was an intergalactic cop who intercepted illegal cargo. When he came across the ship where slave-Seth was a prisoner, he freed everyone, of course, since he was a hero, but Seth would be too traumatized after his experiences to be left on his own, so Sahara kept him on his ship, and of course Seth would have trouble sleeping through the night so the hot futuristic cop let him into his bed, holding him close to his hard body, keeping him safe.
Seth took a deep breath, since it didn’t take much to arouse him, thinking of Sahara. He really had to get over his crush on the other man. It wasn’t real. It could never be real.
Heart pounding, Seth whirled around, seeing in the light from the street a spiderweb of splintered shards glinting in the center of his shop window.
Someone had broken it!
He hesitated, wanting to investigate but suddenly afraid. Should he go upstairs and call someone? His hand clenched on the stair rail. Sometimes at night, tough characters roamed this part of town, which was partly why the rent was so reasonable, allowing Seth to live above his shop.
As he watched, a tall figure moved in front of his window.
Sahara Blue had reached a good pace, body on autopilot as his mind roamed free. His muscles had a burn going, and he liked the feel of the air pumping through his lungs, of how strong his arms and legs felt. He knew he could keep this pace up for another half-hour before his body would start to shake and he’d have to ease down.
His face blurred past him in shop windows. Lingerie, leather belts and jackets, some strangely shaped lamps in a lighting store that reminded him of one of the futuristic worlds imaginative Lotus sometimes wrote about.
Lotus…. The thought of the man haunting him made Sahara’s pace slow, so he was walking, hands on his hips, his shirt and shorts sticking to his hot, damp body despite the cooler, early December night air.
Something ahead caught his eye. A dark figure ran past a shop window ahead, and glass shattered.
Heart pounding, Sahara dropped, checking out the gray outlines of buildings until this reality slowly righted itself over his instinctive one.
No. No, this wasn’t his past, which he couldn’t remember except in sunshine and shadow patchwork. This was just some punk who broke a window.
Shaking, Sahara regained his feet, seeing that in the time it had taken him to fight off the flashback, the figure had disappeared.
He had to make sure no one was hurt by the glass, call it in to the cops…. He fished out his BlackBerry and headed for the vandalized shop.
Seth was frozen by the stairs when a soft voice called out, “Are you all right in there?”
Shit! Whoever it was had to have eyes like a cat, to make him out. He took a deep breath, still hesitant to move forward into the light from the street.
“Look, I can see you back there. I just called the cops.” The figure raised a BlackBerry. “I’ll stay out here until they get here.”
The voice was strong, male, concerned. Seth was lured a little closer, so he eased to the front of his shop.
The man had his back turned now, his head down. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt that clung to lean muscle and a high, perfect ass. His legs had sandy hairs, and his running shoes were black pull-ons.
As if feeling Seth’s gaze, the stranger looked up, and familiar, killer blue eyes stabbed into the shadows, looking into Seth.
It was Sahara Blue.