Three sexy lighthearted reads that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
An accident with a cardboard box is the start of a beautiful friendship—with benefits—between newly out Mark and gorgeous removal man Jamie. As Jamie initiates Mark into the joys of gay sex, “nothing serious” might turn into something important to both of them.
Noah’s nothing special. Average height, a bit on the skinny side, and cute but rather geeky, he’s relentlessly ordinary. He certainly doesn’t expect to be noticed by Sol, the gorgeous stranger Noah sees on his commute home most days. Noah’s friend, Dom, has a plan to get Sol’s attention—if Noah is willing to take the risk.
Aiden gets talked into joining a team for the Mad Mucker—a twelve-mile muddy slog over an obstacle course—and Matt agrees to be his training partner. Attraction flares, and they embark on an intense physical relationship. But keeping to their “no strings attached” agreement might prove as much of a challenge as the race.
“MARK… MARK!” The loud banging on the door and Rachel’s raised voice were just audible over the sound of the shower water. “They’re here!”
“Shit!” Mark cursed as he dropped the soap. Shampoo ran into his eyes while he crouched down and scrabbled around his feet trying to get a grip on it. He found it and stood up again, then turned the water off for a minute so he could hear Rachel properly. He scrunched his eyes shut against the burn of the shampoo. “They’re early,” he yelled back. “They weren’t supposed to be here till nine!”
“Well, that’s not my problem. I have to leave now or I’ll be late for work. I’ll just tell them to make a start. You’d better hurry up and get out, though, so you can make sure they don’t take anything of mine by mistake.”
“Okay,” Mark sighed. He turned the shower back on and let the warm water pour over him, washing the suds away until his eyes stopped stinging. “Bye, Rach!” he yelled as an afterthought, too late. She’d already gone.
They’d said their official good-byes the night before over a bottle of wine and a few shots of whiskey, but it was really more of an au revoir. They had too many friends in common not to keep in touch—even if it would be difficult for a while—and things were fairly amicable between them, given the circumstances.
Rachel had been pretty understanding about everything once she’d calmed down and recovered from her initial shock and disbelief. They’d talked for hours on that long and sleepless night a few weeks before when Mark had finally found the courage to tell her he was gay.
“But are you sure?” she’d said. “How do you know for sure, Mark?
He’d shrugged, finding it hard to meet her eyes. They were red from crying, and Mark could read the betrayal on her face. It hurt his heart to look at her. “I just know. I think I’ve always known, but I spent a long time lying to myself.”
Ending the relationship with Rachel wasn’t something Mark had taken lightly. They’d been together since their second year at Manchester University—for nine years—and living together for six, much to the horror of Mark’s mother back home in Ireland. Things had been easy between them for most of that time; they’d always got on well and enjoyed each other’s company. Mark had tried very hard to ignore the fact that they felt more like friends than lovers. He’d blamed his lack of interest in sex on work pressure and tiredness. He convinced himself it was normal for the spark to burn out in a long-term relationship—conveniently ignoring that there had never been much of a spark to start with. The pressure from his mother to propose and make an honest woman of her was what finally drove Mark out of his self-imposed closet and made him admit to himself he could never be happy with a woman. Not that he was totally out of the closet yet, by any means, but at least he’d finally admitted to Rachel why he didn’t want to marry her.
Rachel’s disbelief had turned to hurt and anger, but her anger had eventually shifted to resignation and acceptance. Mark didn’t think Rachel would be putting up rainbow flags for him anytime soon or setting him up on dates with other men, but he hoped their friendship would remain. Friendship was the bedrock their relationship had been built on, and Mark would never want to lose that.
He stepped out onto the bathmat and dried off, toweling his hair roughly before wrapping the towel around his slim hips. Mark wiped the condensation off a small patch of the mirror and grimaced at his reflection. His face looked pale and tired beneath its sprinkling of freckles from the late night with Rachel and too much booze. He ran his fingers through his messy red hair, darkened to chestnut by the water. He heard the heavy tread of feet on the stairs and the rumble of male voices outside the bathroom door.
Fucking removal men. Why were they so early?
“Ah, bollocks!” he cursed as he realized he hadn’t brought any clean clothes in with him. Oh, well. Nothing else for it. He gripped his towel with one hand and unlocked the bathroom door, venturing out onto the landing. All clear. He hurried down to the spare room he’d been sleeping in for the past few weeks, pushed the door open, and froze. There in front of him was the most outrageously perfect specimen of manhood Mark had ever seen outside porn or Men’s Health magazine.
Mark’s gaze started somewhere around chest level because the width of those shoulders just drew the eye. The man was wearing a dark blue T-shirt with the words RICK’S REMOVALS emblazoned on the front in large white letters. The shirt was stretched tightly over powerful muscles and only just covered the belt loops of the guy’s low-slung jeans. Mark’s eyes dropped instinctively lower, checking out the bulge at his groin. Nice, very nice indeed. It was around then that Mark’s brain came back online, and he realized he was staring blatantly at the crotch of a total stranger. A total stranger who was built like a brick shithouse and could probably break Mark in half one-handed.
Mark felt his face flame and the heat of his blush spread down his neck and chest in a sweeping tide of mortification. He dragged his gaze up to the man’s face—which was fucking gorgeous too: chiseled, square-jawed, and boyish—and found himself looking at gray-blue eyes that were staring at his nipples. “Um… hi there,” Mark said, feeling more than a little out of his depth.
The man’s eyes snapped up to his face. “Sorry, mate.” He smiled a little awkwardly. “Let me just grab a box and I’ll leave you in peace to… you know….” He gestured aimlessly at the clothes laid out on Mark’s bed. A tatty old pair of gray briefs that had seen better days sat in pride of place on top of the pile.
“Yeah, okay.” Mark’s eyes followed the man’s movement as he bent his knees and lifted up a huge box with ease. Mark knew for a fact that it contained nearly all his books about programming. He’d nearly ruptured himself just moving it from the bed to the floor last night when he’d finished packing it. The man’s biceps bulged, perfect curves beneath sleek golden skin. Mark swallowed hard and moved aside to let him out, turning his body away. He willed his cock to behave and not embarrass him further.
“Cheers.” As he squeezed past in the narrow space, the man’s arm brushed Mark’s shoulder blade and Mark felt the warm thrill of it tingle down his spine.
“I’ll be down in a minute.” Mark turned his head and watched the removal guy’s broad shoulders as he edged carefully through the doorway. He damn nearly filled the doorframe. Mark wasn’t a small man at six foot one, but this guy must be at least four inches taller than he was. Mark’s eyes slid down to check out his arse, safe in the knowledge he could ogle without discovery now that the guy’s back was turned. Those broad shoulders tapered beautifully down to slim hips and the generous curve of his arse filled his jeans out nicely.
Fuck. Mark’s cock swelled under his towel. Get a fucking grip.
ONCE MARK was dressed and had managed to persuade his prick to calm the fuck down, he made his way down to the kitchen and put the kettle on. He could hear voices outside, but the house seemed to be empty. He followed the sounds out to the street where the removal van was parked. Mark didn’t have loads of stuff to move so he hadn’t needed a lorry; a van and two men were what the removal firm had recommended. Most of the furniture was staying with Rachel, but as Mark was moving into an unfurnished flat, there were a few bits and pieces he was taking.
The guy from his bedroom was loading Mark’s desk into the van with another equally huge man.
“Hi,” Mark greeted them, thinking he’d start from scratch and try to pretend the embarrassing bedroom encounter had never happened. “Do you want a cup of tea or coffee?”
“That’d be grand.” The not-bedroom guy grinned at him. He jumped down out of the van, followed by the man Mark had already met. “Two white teas, thanks. No sugar for me, but my little brother, Jamie here, will have two. I’m Ryan, by the way.” He offered his hand to Mark.
“Mark O’Brien.” He had to look up to meet the man’s eyes—they were blue, like his brother’s, but his hair was brown instead of blond. Mark shook Jamie’s hand too, trying not to blush like a fucking schoolgirl when Jamie smiled at him. “I’ll go and make the tea.” He could still feel where Jamie’s warm skin had touched his palm.
“We’re to pack all the boxes, yeah?” Ryan asked. “You’re… uh…. The lady who let us in said everything that’s packed up is going to your new place?”
Mark wondered how many other couples they’d seen go through this. The dividing and separating of joint possessions, a life together taken apart and reduced to arguments about who gets which frying pan, armchair, or duvet.
“Yeah,” he confirmed. “But only pack the furniture that’s marked with stickers. The rest is to stay.”
MARK TRIED to stay out of their way as much as possible. He still had his last few odds and ends to pack up; some kitchen things, bathroom stuff he’d been using that morning, and some clothes in the room he’d been sleeping in. It was a small two-bedroom house and inevitably, he kept running into Ryan and Jamie in the hallway or on the landing as they went in and out with his boxes of stuff. Every time he saw Jamie, they’d exchange awkward smiles and Mark’s heart would go into overdrive, pounding against his rib cage. It was ridiculous, but he couldn’t help himself.
He was in the spare room, packing up a few clothes that were still lying around and checking the drawers to make sure he hadn’t left anything, when there was a knock on the door. It was standing open anyway, but someone obviously wasn’t taking any chances.
“Come in.” Mark lifted his head to see Jamie as he pushed the door wide to enter.
Jamie cleared his throat. “We’re nearly done downstairs now. Ryan’s just moving the last boxes from the kitchen, then there’s the TV and the armchair from the living room that are coming too. Can I take the rest of the stuff from in here now?”
“Sure.” Mark nodded. “There isn’t much left.”
Jamie stooped to lift a middle-sized box off the floor by the bed. As he swung it up and shifted his arms to get a better grip on it, the tape on the bottom of the box started to give way and Jamie swore, trying to hold it together as he went to place it back down.
Mark looked up and realized what was happening. He leapt up, reaching to support the bottom of the box, but he was too late. The contents spilled out all over Jamie’s feet and the bedroom floor.
Fuck, fuck, fuck-it-all! Of all the fucking boxes that could have split, it had to be this one!
“Oh bugger, sorry,” Jamie apologized. “I hope there was nothing breakable in here. Have you got some more tape so I can fix the box and pack it back up?”
“Uh… yeah, in the kitchen I think.” Please go and get it, please. Just go away and don’t look, because I’ve already embarrassed myself enough in front of you for one day.
Mark dropped to his knees and started frantically grabbing at the items on the floor, but he had nothing to put them into, nowhere to hide them. Jamie knelt down too, reaching out his huge hands to help. His fingers brushed Mark’s and then stilled as he obviously realized what he was seeing.
Mark froze, his whole body roasting with embarrassment as they both stared at the things that lay scattered over the floor. Along with a few more programming books, there were several gay porn magazines, a couple of porn DVDs, a bottle of lube, and—the icing on the cake of Mark’s mortification—a set of butt plugs in varying sizes.
Mark’s brain shut down. He literally had no idea what to say or do. He desperately tried to think of something funny to say because humor might help defuse the hideous awkwardness of this moment, but his usual banter had utterly deserted him. So he waited, like a rabbit caught in headlights, for the inevitable amusement—or worse, disgust—of the man in front of him.
But Jamie surprised him.
“I’ve seen that one. It’s really hot.” Jamie pointed to one of the DVDs. Then he picked up another one and looked at the cover. “Is this one any good?”
Mark paused for a moment before answering. His thoughts and assumptions slid around and slotted into completely different places, like one of those sliding block puzzles he’d loved as a kid.
“Um… yeah,” he finally managed. “Yeah. It was okay, I guess.” He raised his eyes to meet Jamie’s, and Jamie gave him a small, shy smile. His cheeks were pink too, but nothing like the sizzling scarlet Mark’s must be.
“I guess this is why you’re moving out, then?” Jamie waved the DVD. “Sorry… I know it’s none of my business.”
“No, it’s okay,” Mark blurted out. He suddenly realized he really wanted to talk about this with someone other than Rachel, even though it was someone he’d only just met. “And yeah. That’s why. There’s not much you can do to fix things when you work out that the person you’re with is the wrong sex.”
Mark reached for the holdall he’d been shoving his clothes into when the box disaster happened and started packing away the stuff on the floor. Jamie helped him; their hands touched again as they both reached for the butt plugs at the same time.
“I knew from when I was a kid,” Jamie said. His voice was matter-of-fact. “I always knew I didn’t like girls that way.”
“I think I just wanted to be what people expected me to be,” Mark admitted. “I had a strict Irish Catholic upbringing… I was taught homosexuality is a sin. I pushed those desires so far down that I managed to kid myself for a long time. But I couldn’t ignore it forever.”
“Does your family know yet?”
“I told my mum when I told her Rachel and I were splitting up.” Mark put the last few items from his porn stash into the bag and zipped it up tight, hiding the evidence. “I wasn’t planning on telling her like that, over the phone. But she kept pushing me, wanting to know why we couldn’t work things out.”
“How did she take it?” Jamie frowned.
Mark wrinkled his nose. “Better than I’d hoped, I guess. I mean… she didn’t like it, she didn’t understand it. But I’m not an outcast or anything. I have two older sisters and they’re fine with it. I think my mum’s just disappointed, you know? She really wanted me and Rachel to get married and have a family.” Mark remembered how his mum had cried while they’d talked on the phone, the ache in his chest as he’d tried to hold it together. “I’m hoping she’ll get used to the idea eventually.”
“And your dad?”
“He died a couple of years ago.” Mark avoided Jamie’s eyes, not wanting to see the sympathy he knew would be there. “Heart attack. But he would have found it harder.” The relief Mark felt at never having to have that conversation with his dad made him feel guilty every day.
“So… are you involved with anyone?” Jamie asked. “Like… was it meeting someone—a man—that made you work it out?”
“No.” Mark shook his head vehemently. “No way. I wouldn’t have done that to Rachel. No, it’s all academic—well, apart from a hand job from another boy at school when I was sixteen, which I tried really hard to forget about.” He grinned ruefully and blushed again. “I haven’t had a chance to test out the theory yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s a sound one.”
“It’d be a bit of a pisser if you’re wrong.” Jamie grinned back.
“I’m not wrong.” Mark let his gaze skim over the strong width of Jamie’s shoulders and chest before returning to his eyes. Definitely not wrong.
Jamie looked back at him and neither spoke for a moment. They were both still kneeling on the carpet, the programming books on the floor between them and the holdall clutched on Mark’s lap. Jamie’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully and then twinkled with mischief. “You could test it out on me if you like.”
Mark gaped at him, trying to decide whether he was joking or serious. He wasn’t sure how to respond either way. “I… I don’t….” He trailed off, lost for words.
“No big deal.” Jamie opened his hands in a “whatever” gesture and shrugged his shoulders. “I just thought you might want to fool around, experiment a bit. Sounds like you’ve got some catching up to do, and I could help you with that.”
Fuck, maybe he really is serious.
“Okay, yeah,” Mark blurted out before he could talk himself out of it. His heart was pounding and his palms were sweaty where they gripped the bag in his lap. “Yeah.”
Jamie’s face broke into a smile again. “Cool.”
Just then Ryan’s voice carried up the stairs. “Jamie, where the hell are you, you lazy bastard?” His tone was teasing rather than genuinely annoyed.
“Sorry, Ryan,” Jamie shouted back. “Just sorting out a box that split.” He winked at Mark, then stood up swiftly. He moved with remarkable agility considering his size, Mark noticed, as he scrambled up with much less grace. Jamie pulled his phone out of his back pocket and tapped at the screen. “What’s your number, then?”
Mark got his phone out too and they swapped contact details.
“Will it be okay for me to come over to your new place?” Jamie asked. “I still live at home because I’m at college—I just help out Ryan occasionally on a Saturday to earn a bit of extra cash, but I can’t afford a place of my own. My parents wouldn’t mind me bringing you home as long as we’re quiet, but I thought you might prefer….”
“Oh, God, yes. I’ll be living alone so you can come to mine.” Mark could only imagine the awkwardness of being paraded in front of someone’s parents as a booty call. And the thought of them overhearinganything that might go on made his dick want to crawl back into his body.
“Well, we can work out the details later.” Jamie pushed his phone back into his pocket and reached for another box to carry down. “I’d better get on with this before Ryan loses his cool.”
Jamie shouldered his way through the partially open door, and Mark listened to the heavy tread of his boots on the stairs as he descended.
What the fuck just happened?
Mark sat down on the edge of the bed and ran his hands through his messy curls of red hair. He was still running on adrenaline after being outed by a cardboard box and being propositioned by someone who looked like all his wank fantasies rolled into one.
Maybe this was just a dream and he’d wake up any minute to find that Friday hadn’t actually started yet. But it felt pretty damn real. He huffed out a bark of surprised laughter. Welcome to your new life, Mark O’Brien. Come on down! He could almost hear the audience applauding.