Title: If It Flies (Market Garden Book #3)
Author: L. A. Witt, Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Author: L. A. Witt, Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
“Trust me, Spence,” Percy said during a mostly liquid lunch. “If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it’s always cheaper to rent it.” A few other restaurant patrons gave him disgusted looks.
Spencer laughed humourlessly over the rim of a Moscow Mule. “Yeah. A lot of good that philosophy did .”
“Now, now.” Percy wagged a finger at him. “It wasn’t the rentboy who cost me half of everything I own. It was the wife.”
“Mm-hmm. Because you rented something that fornicates, yes?” Married or not, Percy never could resist his penchant for rentboys, especially that gorgeous Jamaican guy he hadn’t managed to keep a secret.
“Wasn’t his fault. But her?” Percy shook his head. “Christ. With what that woman cost me, I could’ve thrown orgies with a pile of supermodels for years, snorting Class A drugs off the most expensive tits in London.” He shrugged, probably unaware he’d once again turned the heads of a few people at nearby tables. “Though you’ve got to admit, she does know how to skin a guy.”
The perverse, masochistic respect on his face gave Spencer pause, and he stabbed a bite of chicken. “There’s a dubious skill set.”
“And one of the biggest risks of the whole marriage trap.” Percy raised his glass as if in a toast. “That’s why you don’t , Spence. When you rent, you get all the good stuff and don’t set yourself up for a government-sanctioned bank account massacre.”
“Quite honestly,” Spencer muttered, keeping his voice down unlike his lunch companion, “I think I’d rather just find someone I didn’t feel the need to run around on.”
Percy waved a hand. “Just a fantasy, lad. Save yourself the trouble. You don’t need a relationship, you just need to get your arse into bed with someone who fucks off before dawn.”
“Charming.” Spencer eyed his own drink. It was way too early to be drinking, he knew that, but when Percy was buying, you didn’t say no, or a rumour might go round the firm that you couldn’t hold your liquor. Only problem was, his mouth was a little dry right now—these conversations never took long to get more personal than he liked—but his head was already light. Drink to wet the mouth? Or abstain to keep the head clear? Or maybe pick someone else to ask for advice to get out of this overstressed, undersexed rut he was stuck in? Percy was the only man at the firm who knew Spencer was gay, though, and Spencer wasn’t keen to let that information get around.
Unbidden, he wondered what crazy stuff Percy got up to—or off on—with his various rentboys, and quickly decided he couldn’t have lunch with the guy again if he knew. Bad enough he knew about Percy’s fetish for dark skin, which made their “friendship” a little bit awkward. He’d long go convinced himself that the man was not flirting, just loved riding his superiority complex with him, and left it at that.
“You need to loosen up.” Percy declared, and smacked the table with an open palm, rattling some cutlery and startling half the restaurant, Spencer included.
And on that note, drinking it was. Spencer picked up his glass and quickly sucked down two deep swallows of the Moscow Mule, a hellish concoction of ginger beer and vodka. Spencer’s eyes watered a little, and he coughed as he put the glass down again.
“Loosen up.” He held Percy’s gaze. “Which in this case means following your lead and finding a prostitute.”
“Why the hell not?” Percy asked like the idea made perfect sense. “You need to relax, mate. Every time I’ve seen you recently, you’re wound tighter than the time before, and you weren’t any better when you were still with that fuckwit boyfriend of yours.” He made a sharp, dismissive gesture, as if shooing away an apparition of Spencer’s ex. “Which further proves my point: Rent. Don’t buy. It’ll do you some good.” He winked, lowering his voice again to a conspiratorial whisper. “It’s worth the money, I promise.”
“It’s just not my thing. We’ve been over this.”
“Mm-hmm.” That damned eyebrow was like a fucking lie detector, and its current arch said. “It’s not your thing? And being on the fast track to ulcers and a heart attack is your thing? Come on.” He shrugged. “One night. One trip. It’ll do you some good. I promise.”
Spencer gnawed the inside of his lower lip. He was on that fast track, wasn’t he, what with the last few months of stress—
Even though he knew it was a bad idea—but then, there was more Moscow Mule in his gut than in his glass—he finished the last of his drink and flagged down the waitress for another. He’d be taking the afternoon off now, that was for sure. Or at least barricading himself in his office under the pretence of studying contracts.
Before the second drink came, he tapped his fingers on the rim of the empty one. “So, this place you go to . . .”
Immediately, the judgmental eyebrow returned to its launch position, and Percy’s eyes lit up. “That’s my boy!” He folded his arms and leaned in closer like they were planning a murder or some bloody thing. “What about it?”
Spencer swallowed. “I’ve heard things about those places. Human trafficking and—”
“Don’t worry about that shit.” Percy waved the concern away. “Trust me, I checked their background, foreground, underground, whatever. Probably the cleanest whorehouse in the city.”
“That’s not saying much, you know.”
Percy laughed. “Look, it’s not a bunch of underage kids working against their will. Most of them are jaded university students.”
Spencer blinked. “What?” Last thing he wanted was to walk into one of them as an intern in a year or so.
“Yeah. Crazy, isn’t it?” Percy picked up his own cocktail and took a drink, making Spencer’s mouth water. “Apparently, some of them start stripping between studying, and go on from there.”
Spencer couldn’t argue with that; it only made economic sense, sordid as it was.
“It’s ironic, you know?” Percy mused. “If the economy were better, we’d probably be working with these guys instead of fucking them.”
Spencer bit back the observation that he, as yet, hadn’t encountered a Jamaican lawyer—but who was he to judge? The banks were getting more “colourful,” even though the odd Indian or Pakistani were still assumed to be quantitative analysts rather than movers and shakers, and he himself still raised a few eyebrows as the one black corporate lawyer in the firm. Never mind he had the Oxbridge accent to prove that he belonged.
“Top talent always gets a place,” he muttered, trying to move the conversation elsewhere.
“I imagine it’s easier than working eighty-hour weeks to get onto the career ladder.” Percy was clearly enjoying himself way too much.
Thank God Spencer’s drink arrived.
He sipped the ginger-flavoured cocktail while Percy talked about whoring being the true equal-opportunity sector out there, though, in Percy’s typical way, even this romantic notion was distorted by a jaded lens. He cleared his throat. “Okay.”
“I’ll introduce you,” Percy said.
“Can’t I just go alone?”
“Na-ah.” Percy grinned at him. “I’d suggest getting a membership. It is quite classy—certainly a good variety, if you know what I mean. They even have a pair of shemales.”
Good God, this was something he needed to learn during lunch.
“I’ll . . . have the usual configuration.”
“What about after work today?” That gleam in Percy’s eyes was equal parts unnerving and intriguing. “I’ll introduce you, you get a membership, and after that you’re on your own, stud.”
This was getting too familiar way too fast. Kicked along by the Mule, no doubt. Their relationship was friendly enough, but Spencer still felt a bit weird. As ex-head of sales in an investment bank, Percy likely knew every high-class prostitute in the City, and had very likely covered the partying under “expenses” when he “entertained clients,” so his experience on that front could clearly be trusted. Spencer had just never expected to find himself at the receiving end of Percy’s magnanimity.
“So.” Percy set his drink down sharply, emphatically, like he’d just closed a deal. “What do you say we meet at the Market Garden tonight? Say, nine-thirty?”
But the Mule spoke before Spencer could: “I’ll be there.”
There was only one problem with a liquid lunch. Well, okay, besides the fact that it meant Spencer’s mouth had moved before his brain did and he’d wound up walking into a place like Market Garden at nine-thirty, hanging back behind Percy like that somehow made him safer. Yeah, right. Percy was enough of a troublemaker for both of them. Nobody was safe with that guy.
No, the problem was that after three drinks at lunch, Spencer was already a little hung-over when he followed Percy into the club. His temples throbbed, a clear reminder why drinking with Percy during the day was a bad idea. But what was done was done, and now they were here.
God, Market Garden really didn’t go to any great lengths to mask its purpose, did it? Signs warning against cameras. Disco lights flickering off the polished bald heads of the massive—and numerous—bouncers standing around to make sure no one got too frisky with the merchandise. Not without paying for it, anyway.
Obviously Percy wasn’t the only man who “entertained clients” here. There was no shortage of patrons in suits pawing at scantily clad women.
“Thought you said this place catered to guys like us,” he said to Percy.
The man glanced at him, eyes narrow and sly. “They do. But when you want top shelf, you have to for it.”
Spencer just followed Percy deeper into the club. They stopped at the bar, which was staffed by half a dozen men, any one of which Spencer would have emptied his wallet to—
He shook his head. Apparently he was getting used to this idea faster than he’d thought.
Percy leaned over the bar and exchanged a few brief, hushed words with one of the bartenders. Then came the nod, the head tilt, and when Spencer followed the trajectory of the tilt, he saw a door tucked into the shadows at one end of the bar. It had windows, but they’d been blacked out, and a couple of the bouncers loitered nearby.
“Let’s go.” Percy beckoned to Spencer and strolled towards that blacked-out door like he owned the place.
Now his heart quickened, and he wondered if he should grab Percy, ask him to wait, and order himself a glass of liquid courage before he started traipsing into guarded, darkened back rooms in a bar full of prostitutes.
One of the bouncers saw them coming and stepped in front of the door. A swell of panic almost stopped Spencer in his tracks, but instead of warning them away, the bouncer pulled open the door and gave them a “go on” gesture.
Even if the windows hadn’t been blacked out, there wouldn’t have been much light coming from the room on the other side. It looked like a huge, dark void, forbidding but attractive, pulling him in like the black hole it resembled.
The door shut heavily behind them. Percy pushed aside a thick curtain. And beyond the portal: the men of Market Garden. They all wore black leather in various configurations, though most went for leather trousers with either a skin-tight black T-shirt or a bondage harness. And no two guys were alike. Twinks. Bodybuilders. Girly boys. Guys who looked like they’d escaped a Goth convention with free mascara.
One guy in particular immediately caught his eyes. Slim, wearing low-riding leather trousers that revealed chiselled groin lines, and Spencer couldn’t decide what he wanted to touch more—the bulge in the guy’s trousers or the two pierced nipples that he displayed proudly without a T-shirt or so much as a harness.
“You look like you’re in a supermarket in front of fifty types of orange juice,” Percy whispered to him. “Definitely a membership for you. You can try them all.”
Spencer pulled at his tie. It was getting hot in here. “Not sure how I—” he managed to bite the rest of the sentence off before it escaped. But it didn’t really matter, did it? Would he rent a car that Percy had rented before him?
The guy in leather was just turning away with a laugh from a friend wearing a chainmail shirt.
“Drink?” Percy asked.
Best way to shed Percy, however briefly. The man’s peanut gallery comments were a serious distraction, never mind the potential for embarrassment. “Sure.”
Percy vanished in the gloom towards the bar, and Spencer watched the guy in leather for a minute or so. He must have been in his early twenties. Not quite a twink, but that lean build suggested a dancer or something. The guy couldn’t weigh more than sixty, sixty-five kilos. No, he hadn’t looked at profiles on Grindr too long. You could just tell the guy didn’t have a spare kilo on his frame. Maybe he was a go-go dancer rather than a rentboy?
The guy looked at him, and a smile curled the corner of his mouth.
And then he came walking over.
Not walking. Sauntering. Hell, he was strutting.
And looking Spencer up and down like was sizing up a rental instead of being the merchandise on display.
A little too close——he stopped. Spencer was almost a head taller, but couldn’t shake the feeling that the leather-clad almost-twink was looking down at . He wasn’t intimidating, per se, he just radiated a cockiness that tightened Spencer’s balls.
Spencer cleared his throat. “Um . . . hello.” Good thing nobody expected a client to come up with a pickup line. Though that one had been exceptionally lame.
“You got a name?” Direct. No surprise there.
He considered a fake name, but what the hell? Another quiet cough, and he said, “Spencer.”
“Nick.” With a faint smirk, Nick nodded towards the bar on the opposite end of the shadowy room. “You look like the kind of guy who could buy me a drink.”
Spencer’s breath tangled up somewhere in his airway. “I . . . excuse me?”
An eyebrow lifted. Not judgmental and telepathic like Percy’s always was. Purely challenging. A thin curve of “You heard me.”
“Look, I’m . . .” Guess this isn’t much different from the dating scene. “I’ll be honest here. I’m new to this.”
“I know. I’ve never seen you here before, and you look lost.” Nick quirked his eyebrow again. “Your dad didn’t bring you here to lose your virginity, did he?”
At that, Spencer laughed. Well, that was something: he was breathing now. “No. Not quite. But I’ve, um, never done . . . this.”
“What? Had an awkward conversation with a prostitute in a whorehouse?” No smile cracked his lips, but Spencer could tell Nick was enjoying this. Immensely.
“Something like that,” Spencer muttered. “So, how does this work, exactly?”
“Well.” Nick tossed his head to get that blond fringe out of his eyes. “You buy me a drink, it’s a fiver. You want to lick it off me? It’s a hundred.”
Nick brought up a hand—long, fine fingers—and arranged his unruly fringe as he casually added, “And it just goes up from there.”
“Based on the number of drinks?”
“Based on the number of licks.”
Spencer blinked. This kid really knew how to catch a man off-guard, didn’t he? Getting his wits about him, he said, “And if I want you to lick it off me?”
Nick sniffed derisively and smirked. “Then you’re talking to the wrong whore.”
Spencer looked around, but his gaze returned to Nick’s nipple piercings, light sparking off them, making them shine like diamonds. Maybe Nick was the right guy, though he’d always assumed prostitutes were more—accommodating. He’d never hired a prostitute. He could have one-night stands; until a few months ago, he’d even had a relationship, of sorts, if falling asleep together over paperwork was a relationship. Normally, these days he expended his last bit of energy on porn.
The thing that tipped him over the edge was—Nick wasn’t selling. He didn’t try to influence the decision one way or the other. Spencer couldn’t possibly put into words how refreshing it was to not be sold to or pressured. In a world of BUY THIS NEW PHONE and YOU’RE NOTHING WITHOUT THIS WATCH, encountering a guy who didn’t bend over backwards to close a deal felt like stepping into a calm spot he hadn’t known existed.
“All right,” he said, eventually.
Nick nodded. “Get me a drink.”
He turned and headed to the bar, then, remembering Percy had gone to get a drink, glanced around.
Percy had apparently forgotten about Spencer’s drink. He was sitting at a table with two prostitutes around him, one in each arm. From behind their backs, he gave him a double thumbs-up.
Spencer pushed through to the bar and bought two drinks. He tried for beers, but the bartender shook his head and handed him a beer and a cola, “For Nick.”
When he returned to Nick, he said, “Maybe we should sit down.”
Nick nodded and led the way to a somewhat more secluded booth at the far end. “I figure you’ll have less performance anxiety if your friend can’t see you.”
“Uh, yeah. Good idea.”
Nick glanced back in Percy’s direction, and said, “I’m sure he’ll keep them busy for at least . . . a minutes.” Then he turned away and slid into the booth, and Spencer couldn’t tell if he’d heard that little snicker or if he’d imagined it.
Nick moved far enough into the booth to leave space for Spencer, and in spite of his pounding heart and the “what the ever-loving fuck are you doing?” in the back of his brain, Spencer joined him. He wasn’t sure what the protocol was here. Treat it like a date? Arm around the shoulders leads to hand on the thigh leads to—
Spencer tensed, pressing back against the leather upholstery. “Oh. Wow.”
Nick snickered for real this time, and his breath tickled the side of Spencer’s neck. Spencer pulled in a gasp, but a firm-and-not-so-gentle squeeze below the belt knocked that air right back out.
“Fuck.” He put up a hand. “I . . . whoa. This is . . .”
Nick’s hand retreated to Spencer’s thigh. “You really are new at this, aren’t you?”
“Just . . . just a bit. Yeah.” He grabbed his drink and swallowed as much as it took to cool him off. Which was better than half the damned glass. “Sorry, I’m . . .”
“Relax.” Nick grinned. “I don’t bite.”
Spencer eyed him, waiting for the inevitable “. . . hard” or “. . . unless you want me to.” It didn’t come, though. In fact, Nick took his hand off Spencer’s leg and reached for his own drink.
It was quickly becoming apparent there wasn’t a thing Nick did that he couldn’t make sexy. Not overtly sexual, but sexy. Right down to the way his hand was arranged on the glass, like it was deliberate, even artful, every finger placed just so to make the simple gesture of picking up a drink look . . . elegant? Maybe it was just the fine bones of his wrist and hand. The black nail varnish didn’t hurt the effect, like staccato marks at the end of each finger.
With his other hand, he steadied the straw. No suggestive stroking or up-down motion, but he looked right at Spencer while he sucked some of his cola up into his mouth. His eyes—green, stunning pale green—locked on Spencer’s, narrowing just enough to make Spencer wonder what was going on in that mind of his.
Nick swallowed his drink, paused to run the tip of his tongue around the end of the straw. Spencer suddenly wanted to loosen his tie. He gulped, which only made the tie and collar tighter.
Nick’s eyes darted towards Spencer’s throat. “How can you even breathe in that thing?” Before Spencer could choke out a response, Nick’s glass clinked on the table and those slim, staccato-tipped fingers reached for his neck.
One finger hooked the knot of the tie and pulled. With a swift, precise gesture, Nick undid the top button. And for some reason, Spencer still couldn’t fucking breathe.
“There.” Nick drew back, smirking. “Much better.”
“Yeah. Thanks.” Spencer managed to grin. “Do I have to pay extra for that?”
Nick moistened his lips and turned his attention to the straw in his drink, which he’d pinched between his thumb and middle finger. “No. The first button’s complimentary.” He covered the end of the straw with his index finger and withdrew it from his glass. The vacuum held the cola inside the straw, and Nick paused, letting the opposite end drip for a second, before he brought that end up to his lips. “Any more than that? We’ll have to discuss prices.” He slid the tip of the straw under his tongue, and lifted his index finger so all the liquid slipped out and into his mouth.
Yeah. The tie and collar weren’t the problem. There wasn’t enough air in this room when Nick was around.
“So.” Nick slid the straw back into his drink. He sucked his index finger into his mouth and, watching Spencer’s eyes, slowly slipped it free. “What the hell is a man like you doing here?”
“Is that your way of asking what’s a nice guy like me doing in a place like this?”
“No.” He covered the end of his straw again and grinned at Spencer. “It’s me asking what exactly you’re looking for so I can decide how much you’ll pay me.”
God, but he was direct. Of course he wasn’t trying to sell anything or close the deal. It seemed that in Nick’s mind, the deal was already closed, and there was nothing left to do but sign on the dotted line, exchange money, and . . .
Holy fuck. He could afford it, that wasn’t a concern, but a night alone and naked with a man like this? Spencer would never have to give Percy details because there was no way he’d survive until morning. Or maybe Percy would have the good grace to leave him alone about it? Well, he could dream.
“Uhm.” He blew out a breath. “I’d be looking for a . . . a top.”
There, he’d said it. Somehow, his concept of male whores involved them getting it up the arse all night—which sounded like a pretty good deal, though it was likely humiliating.
Spencer clamped down on that thought quicker than he’d have stomped on a cockroach in his student accommodations—what, ten years ago?
Nick kept looking at him. “And?”
So that part of the deal was on. “I’m in charge.”
“You’re the customer. Of course you’re in charge.” Those lips quirked with the most devilish little grin that made Spencer grateful he could just sit here for a while. That way, nobody had a clear view of his trousers.
“After you’ve done the membership application, yes.” Nick nodded towards one of the guys at the bar. “There’s a background check, but they’re discreet.” The grin was still there, as if the whole thing was an elaborate prank.
“How quickly can they do it?”
“Pretty quickly.” Nick nodded over. “You can do that now.”
Spencer hesitated, then figured Nick would probably wait those five or ten minutes, so he stood and headed over to the bar.
It took twenty-five minutes altogether, and he grew more and more impatient. Nick wouldn’t wait this long, would he?
But he had, chasing melting ice cubes around in his drink with the straw.
Spencer rejoined him in the booth. “All right. Paperwork is taken care of. So how much are we talking?” The implication—obligation?—in his own words rattled him.
Naturally, Nick wasn’t fazed at all. “Want an hour, half a night, whole night?”
“When do I have to decide that?”
Nick ed. “Well, I need a baseline to give you a quote. Personally, I recommend more than an hour, so we can get to know each other better.” And how did he manage to be so suggestive without waggling his brows or giving him a wink? The inflection in his voice was so subtle the come-on was barely there.
Spencer exhaled. “Why don’t we start with two hours?”
Nick studied him for a little while. “Five hundred.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Two hours. Five hundred quid.”
Spencer grinned. “You’re charging partner rates.” Not quite. At his firm, partners didn’t get out of bed for any less than £650 an hour. Still, nice little student job if you could get it. Of course, Nick might have to pay off the establishment, possibly a pimp.
“You a lawyer?”
Spencer’s grin died. “Uh. Never mind. Five hundred quid is fine.” He’d hardly need dozens of hours—he wasn’t trying to solve a tricky legal problem. Besides, he did believe in paying specialists what they were worth, and Nick was making him hard just with his cocky arrogance. If he was any good at fucking—and he’d likely had the practise—that would be more than worth it. Spencer swallowed. “I’m assuming I can feed the meter if I want to go on longer?”
An incredibly subtle laugh curled Nick’s lips. There was no middle ground with this man: either everything was blatant and in your face, or subtle to the point that Spencer couldn’t always tell if it was really there.
“Feed the meter. Cute.” Nick dipped his straw in his drink and covered it with his finger again. After he’d released the liquid into his mouth, swallowed it—God, he could even make that sexy, the way he raised his chin to expose his entire throat—he put the straw back in his drink and said, “We can always negotiate extensions.”
This was strictly business to him, wasn’t it? He enjoyed it, got a charge out of it, but when it came to transactions, it was all black and white. Cash and sex. Nothing more.
“Two hours, then.” Spencer tried not to shift around, keeping both his nerves and impatience as far up his sleeve as he could. “What does two hours with Nick get me, anyway?”
Nick grinned. Nothing subtle this time, not even a little. “It gets you two hours with Nick.” The grin broadened a little more, pale green eyes narrowing like he could see right through to anything Spencer was trying to keep up his sleeve. “After all, Spencer, what more could you possibly want?”
He gulped. Nick laughed. So much for hiding a damned thing from him.
Nick drained his drink and pushed the glass away, sliding up next to Spencer so they were touching. “So. Two hours? Let’s go.”
“Does that two hours start now?” Spencer was already sliding out of the booth because according to Nick this was a done deal, and who was he to argue? “Or when we get to—” “—my place?”
Nick slid partway out of the booth, but didn’t get up. He pursed his lips and ran his gaze up and down Spencer’s body, a gesture that registered on his nerve endings like an actual touch. Their eyes met, and Nick pushed himself to his feet. “Assuming you’re local, we’ll start the clock when we get there.”
Spencer’s heart pounded. His wallet had hoped for that answer, but his body wasn’t entirely sure what to do with two solid hours of Nick.
He’d find out soon enough, though. Nick pulled a black leather jacket over his otherwise bare torso. Spencer got up and—oh God—Nick gave a nod to Percy, who gave him a two-fingered salute before he resumed making out with a blue-haired black twink, and they were out the door.
The back door, fortunately, rather than through the lounge where the female strippers did their thing, and then down an alley to a different road from where the cab had deposited Percy and him earlier. They had discretion down to a science in this place.