Travis took his face in his hands, pulling him in close for a lingering kiss. Ethan’s mouth opened on instinct, allowing Travis’ questing tongue inside. He slid the palms of his hands along the length of Travis’ arms, from wrists to shoulders, ending with his fingers interlocked behind his neck. Tightening his arms around Travis, Ethan slowly closed the gap between their bodies.
“You taste so damn good,” Travis murmured. He punctuated each word with a playful kiss.
“It’s all the alcohol you filled me with,” Ethan offered. “But I can’t deny you taste awfully damn good, too.”
His hands left Ethan’s face, descending down his chest and winding their way around his waist. Travis removed the last few inches separating their bodies, bringing them chest to chest and hip to hip. “Much better, there was too much space between us.”
Ethan groaned his agreement, kissing Travis eagerly. His fingers plucked at Travis’ shirt, tugging to release it from where he’d tucked it. “Your belt’s too tight, I can’t get your shirt out.”
Chuckling, Travis put a few inches of space between them. “Let’s take this back to my room first. It’s too cold out here to get naked.”
“Lead the way,” he replied, anxious to be back in his arms.
Travis’ room was much as he expected it. Dark wood furniture lined two walls. A king sized bed covered in a rust colored down comforter poked out from a third wall. Two tasteful pieces of artwork adorned the walls, leaving everything else bare and stark in contrast. Somehow it was perfectly Travis.
He was back in Travis’ embrace moments later, feeling the heat of his skin through his clothes. The need that he’d been denying all this time had reared its head and demanded to be noticed. Even if they didn’t make it any farther than just this one night, he was ready to give Travis everything.
“Mm, baby,” Travis crooned, “you are eager aren’t you?” One hand slipped from Ethan’s waist and trailed down to cup his ass.
Ethan arched his hips against Travis’, encouraging his bad behavior. “You have no idea.”
“Sadly, I have a pretty damn good idea,” he sighed, rubbing his aching cock against Ethan’s thigh.
“Ahh,” Ethan groaned, adoring the feel of a man against him again. “So it seems you do know.”
“Yeah, and let me prove it to you,” he said, words gentle in Ethan’s ears.
Despite the desperate urges building within them both, Travis forced himself to take it slow, to treat Ethan like he was a fragile doll liable to break at any moment. He timed his touches so they would have the greatest effect and bring the most pleasure. Taking cues from his lover, he played into Ethan’s every want and need, allowing his body to guide them both.
He was astounded that Ethan was so willing to let him take the lead. Under normal circumstances, Travis always allowed his partner to be that guy, the one that had to be in control, the one that always had to top. It seemed to be what worked for him the best, letting someone else have the upper hand. This was different somehow. Ethan hadn’t let him be that guy, they’d sort of fallen into these roles on their own. It was different and fascinating and the biggest damn turn on he’d ever experienced.
This could be the beginning of something very, very exciting for them both. Travis promised himself that he wouldn’t screw it up like he always did.
Focus, Murphy, he scolded himself. Pay attention to the beautiful creature beneath your fingertips. You can dwell on your past when he’s gone.
Based on the sounds coming from his lover, his focus had been appropriately redirected. Travis grinned, he loved the sound of that word – lover. This time, he had one worth keeping around. Even knowing that his big mouth and loner tendencies always ran his boyfriends off, he refused to let it deter him. Ethan had a tenacity and willingness to look beyond the surface, something that gave him hope.
Stretching, Ethan felt the kinks in his body loosen. The acrobatics of the night before had given him aches in places he hadn’t even realized he’d had muscles until now. He rolled onto his side and looked at the sleeping form beside him. Travis’ wild waves were stuck to his face in places and generally stuck out helter-skelter. With a finger, he lifted a dark kink of hair from a caramel colored cheek.
Travis lashes fluttered, revealing two misty blue eyes. “Hey you,” he said, voice thick with sleep.
“Good morning, sleeping beauty.” Ethan leaned down and pressed a kiss to his lips. “Have to admit, I’m offended that you’re not already up and making me breakfast.”
“Hah,” Travis barked. He gave a long stretch and settled onto his back, looking up at Ethan beside him. “That was just for when we were strangers. Now you get the real me, go fix your own breakfast.”
Ethan grinned and kissed him again. “You’d better be kidding because I’m pretty much helpless in the kitchen.”
“That is not what we discovered around midnight,” Travis hinted, teasing at Ethan’s chest hair with his fingers.
“That’s not what I meant,” he said, flushing slightly.
“I know it wasn’t, but it doesn’t make it any less true, does it?” He pressed his lips against Ethan’s mouth, tugging at his lower lip with his teeth. “Wanna make a deal?”
“Sure,” he agreed, tangling his tongue with Travis’. “Lay it on me.”
“I’ll make you breakfast… later.” He deepened the kiss, drawing a whimper out of Ethan.
“Later,” he asked around a mouthful of Travis’ tongue.
“Yeah,” he said suggestively, pushing Ethan onto his back. “Much, much later.”
It was well past lunchtime by the time Travis made it into the kitchen. Ethan had run for the shower, claiming it was the only way Travis was going to let him out of bed for any length of time. Travis had argued the point, even knowing Ethan was right. How could he blame him though? No man in his right mind would have let Ethan get farther than arm’s length from him.
His mother had sent home enough leftovers to feed an army, which meant Travis might not have to cook for several days. Digging around until he found his favorite part of Christmas dinner leftovers – a full pan of his mother’s famous tamales – he pulled them out of the refrigerator, followed by beans, rice and tortillas. He was in the middle of reheating it all when Ethan emerged from his bedroom, hair still wet.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t find anything that fit better,” Travis apologized.
“No biggie,” Ethan assured him. “I doubt you’ll let me stay in them for long anyway. What smells so good?”
“Mama sent home a truckload of food. Thought I’d reheat some tamales. That okay?” He suddenly wondered if he should have asked first.
“Sounds delicious,” he admitted. “I never really liked tamales until last night. Your mother’s are amazing.”
Travis beamed, pride showing on his face. “I’ll be sure to let her know. She already likes you, but that will make her love you.”
“No higher compliment than telling someone’s mother they’re a good cook,” he agreed. “In this case, it’s true. Got any coffee?”
“Fresh pot just finished.” Travis retrieved a mug for him and filled it to the top.
The timer on the oven sounded and Travis removed the tamales from within. Placing a couple on each plate, he scooped heaping ladles of rice and black beans alongside them. He carried the plates to the counter where Ethan had seated himself and returned for the tortilla warmer.
“I almost broke out the tequila,” Travis said, sitting down with Ethan, “but I thought that it was still a bit too early.”
“Just a little,” Ethan agreed. “Besides, you start plying me with tequila now, I might never go home.”
Travis looked at him for a second and then got up.
“Trav? Where you going?”
“To get the tequila, duh.” His laughter followed him into the kitchen.
“And to think, I figured you’d be hinting I needed to get lost by now.” He pushed some rice around his plate.
“You’re joking, right? Travis looked around the corner at him, face serious.
“Only partly. You’re really not tired of me yet?”
Travis’ heart clenched at the aching sound of hope in Ethan’s voice. Some asshole had done just that – screwed him and kicked him to the curb – it seemed. “Of course not. I was going to wait until later for this, but I think I need to ask you now, just to prove my point.”
“Oh? Ask me what?” Ethan’s brilliant green eyes focused on his face, anticipation and fear clearly showing.
“Be my date for New Year’s Eve. My parents have a little get together early in the evening, but I always ring in the new year alone. Come to the party and then come back home with me.”
A surprised smile appeared on Ethan’s face. “You want to bring me around your family again?”
“Yeah, of course. They liked you. I like you. They might as well get used to you. What do you say?”
“I think I say yes.”
Travis sealed the deal with a kiss.
They spent the rest of the day curled up on the couch, old movies playing on the TV with the sound turned down. Travis had finally admitted he had a deadline to meet or he’d insist Ethan stayed another night. Ethan had taken the news well, saying he had to pull a night shift as it was. Saying goodnight hadn’t been easy, but somehow they’d managed to do it and still keep their clothes on. That, in itself, was a post-Christmas miracle.
Travis watched him leave with mixed feelings. Being apart was becoming more difficult every time they separated. On the other hand, looking forward to their next encounter kept him moving forward. He stood in the doorway until Ethan pulled out of the driveway and disappeared down the darkening road. He stood there for a while longer, unable to let go of the moment.
The chill of the winter wind began to work its way through his sweatshirt, chasing Travis back inside finally. Rubbing his hands along his arms, he stepped inside, shutting the door behind him. Even though Ethan’s presence lingered in the living room, the fact that he was alone began to press in on him again.
“Pull it together, Murph,” he scolded himself. “You should be used to this by now. Matter of fact, didn’t you choose this life you jerk?” He rolled his eyes at himself, realizing that while some things really are changing in his life, there were a few that never would. Like the incessant conversations he held with himself while on deadline. “Speaking of which, you lazy ass wannabe writer, you have one to meet. Now, let’s go visit your fictional friends again, shall we?”
It was times like this when he wished he did have a cat. Getting a resounding ‘meow’ right about now would have done him an awful lot of good.
Grabbing a mug full of coffee, topped off with a splash of whiskey, Travis locked himself inside his office for the duration. He had half a novel to finish in approximately eighteen hours. It might have sounded impossible, but Travis had done more in less time before.
“It’s crunch time, baby, we gotta focus.”
He didn’t look up again until his phone startled him out of his creative fog. Blinking, it took a second ring before he understood what he was hearing.
“Hello?” His voice croaked a bit, causing him to glance at the clock to check the time. A bit past one AM. He’d been writing for a little over seven hours.
“I didn’t wake you, did I?” Ethan’s voice warmed his insides, sliding in his ears and settling in his belly.
“Naw, man, I haven’t even thought about bed yet. Made a lot of headway so far though.” Travis fiddled with his mouse, phone pressed to his ear.
“Good, I was afraid you might be asleep. Wanted to hear your voice one last time,” he admitted.
“Here it is, baby,” he chuckled. “Slow night?”
“The slowest,” Ethan groaned. “I shouldn’t complain, really. Back in the city, the late nights were always the worst. People wrecking their cars, jacking other people’s wallets, murders and all the rest. I don’t miss any of it, not really.”
“But the boredom sucks, eh?” Travis grinned into the mouthpiece, wishing he could see Ethan’s face.
“Yeah it does. Damn near finished my book it’s been so quiet.” He heard something over the line that sounded like feet landing on a desk.
“I never would have pegged you for a reader either,” Travis confessed. “Can’t deny it makes me happy.”
“I go in spurts,” he explained. “When I was younger, I read voraciously. But once I became a detective in the city, I had no time for anything but work and sleep. Now, well, let’s just say I have more free time now.”
Travis laughed. “I don’t doubt that. Look up ‘sleepy little town’ in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of White Pine I’m certain.”
“I’m coming to accept that there’s nothing wrong with that,” he agreed.
“So, what are you reading? I picture you with a military thriller or an old-fashioned fifties-era police procedural, am I right?” Travis leaned back in his chair, propping his feet on his own desk.
“You’re close,” Ethan hinted. “It is a police procedural, but definitely more recent than the fifties.”
“Oh?” He was intrigued. “Patterson? I can see you relating to Alex Cross a bit.”
“Not quite,” Ethan said, mirth filling his voice. “Try something more… local.”
Travis opened his mouth but no words came out. Was it possible? There were a few copies of his books in the local library but would he have thought to look there? Wait. Maybe he was reading more into this than he should. There was another big name author that lived in the big city Ethan had just migrated from, maybe that’s who he was talking about. Yeah, he’d start there.
“Ah, you’re reading Spiegel, aren’t you?” There. That didn’t sound too needy.
Ethan barked a laugh. “No, you nitwit, I’m not. I’m reading your last novel.”
Travis’ heart stopped. Taking a deep breath, he asked the one word question he feared the most. “And?”
“And?” Ethan laughed again, his deep, rumbling amusement rolling through the phone line. “And I think you’re amazing. Why didn’t I know about your books before now?”
“Well,” he hedged, trying not to preen too much at the praise, “you said you were busy and…”
“And nothing. Amazon is my friend. I have the other four in this series on the way. I hope that’s not weird for you.”
Travis’ stomach unclenched, muscles relaxing again. “While it is a bit weird, it tickles me to no end that you like them. Hey, and thanks, those royalties might just buy my groceries next week.”
“Minus the night or two I take you to dinner,” he suggested. “Of course I like the books, Trav. They’re a part of you and we both know how much I like you, right?
“Right,” he agreed. “Now, you need to go finish your book so I can get back to finishing mine. I’ll expect a full report in the morning, okay?”
“Okay. I think I can do that. Sleep well, Travis.”
“Sleep well, Ethan.” Travis hung up and grinned at his computer monitor. “He likes my books. How the hell did that happen?”
It was nearing eight o’clock when Travis woke up, face stuck to the desktop. He had no idea when he’d actually fallen asleep, making the ache in his neck seem that much worse. Stretching, he looked at his laptop and scanned his progress.
“Not too shabby for no sleep the night before and pulling a mostly all-nighter.” He figured another hour or two of hard work and he’d be done. After a shower and a bit of food, he could proofread what he’d written last night and ship it off to his editor. On time even.
Ethan must’ve been his lucky charm. Or the push he needed to get his ass in gear and take this gig seriously again. Either way, he owed it all to that lonely detective and a bit of encouragement from Mother Nature.