Colors of Love

Rhythm of the Night, Book 2

Jess Dee

Lullaby for Seth

To have it all you’ll need to wait

Until the day that seals your fate

While dreaming big may be your trait

Others may not share your faith.

~

When all is different then you’ll see

Just how strong your hearts can be

Though his love appears empty

She’ll change it all with colors plenty.

~

-Edna Pace’s Lullaby for Seth

Chapter 1

One more day,” Kaz Flaherty said into the phone. “One more, and then we finally get to see Speed live in concert!”

“I can’t wait. I swear I’ve been marking off the days on my calendar.” Her friend, Tasha, laughed in delight. “And I caved in this morning. I downloaded three more of their songs. Honestly, Kaz, I can’t stop. I can’t get enough of their music.”

“Me neither. And, uh, you’re not the only one who caved. I bought ‘Thunder ’n Rain’ yesterday.”

“How brilliant is that song?”

“Unbelievably brilliant.”

“Their best to date. For sure.” Tasha chuckled again. “Listen to us. We’re like a couple of teenage girls, mooning over famous rock stars.”

“I feel like a teenager. My stomach’s full of butterflies at the very thought of seeing Jordan Speed live.”

It took Tasha a few seconds before she responded, and when she did her voice had taken on a more serious tone. “You sure it’s Jordan Speed making your stomach flutter?”

“Well, I’ll tell you something, Jamie Speed has never rocked my boat, and neither has Jonah. Although I’d kill for a hug from the guy. You get a look at those shoulders of his?”

“Kaz?”

“Yep?”

“You’re changing the subject.”

“You’re right. I should focus on Jordan. Even though he’s a good few years younger than me, he’s the real reason I’m going to the concert—”

“Kaz!”

Kaz grinned. “Okay, so I’m changing the subject.”

“Are you standing by your window?”

“Yep.” She had been ever since arriving home about thirty minutes ago.

“The trees still talking to you?”

Kaz snorted. “You know, if anyone could hear that question they’d think I was mad. They’d think you were mad too, for asking. Trees don’t talk.”

“You’re avoiding the answer,” Tasha chastised.

Kaz stared at the branches swaying gracefully in the breeze, their leaves rippling together in a slow celebration of nature. “Yeah, the trees are still talking to me.” Even as she watched, they silently conveyed their message, sending pulses of color her way. Rich vibrations of carmine red.

She’d chosen to live here because of the forest bordering the property. The second she’d seen the house, she’d known it was perfect for her. Trees had always helped her feel connected to the earth, always given her a sense of balance in life. She found their green and yellow auras as comforting as others might find a hug from a mother. Here at home, with the trees her constant companions, she felt utterly at peace with herself and her life.

For the last few days, however, the golden glows of the flora had been eclipsed by the red hues. Not threatening hues, not even worrying. Just different from what she was used to.

“You figured out what they’re trying to say?” Tasha asked.

“Nope. And I’ve stopped trying. I’ve accepted the inevitable.”

“And that is?”

“Change is coming, Tash.”

“Coming?” Tasha gave a half laugh. “You mean the last month of your life hasn’t seen enough change already?”

Kaz shook her head, even though Tasha couldn’t see her. “That change has already happened.” She’d called off a three-year-long relationship that hadn’t been working for her and quit a job she’d hated. “This one hasn’t occurred yet.”

“So there’s more upheaval on your horizon?”

“There’s upheaval on the horizon, all right,” Kaz answered. “I’m just not sure it’s my horizon that’s going to be affected.”

* * * *

Seth Pace’s stomach curled in a delicious knot of anticipation. He settled back into the couch, stretched out his legs and crossed his feet, making himself comfortable. Watching Luke Struthers in action turned him on in ways a man should not get turned on while sitting in a room full of people. But he couldn’t help it. When Luke went into professional mode, he commanded an audience. Made people want to listen, want to do whatever he said. The man had a way about him, and that way was a powerful aphrodisiac to Seth.

Wasn’t any wonder he’d taken one look at Luke all those years ago and known he was the one. Now it was a matter of getting Luke to accept the inevitable. For a while now Luke had been pretty accepting of part of it. The part that involved long nights and sweaty bodies. What he hadn’t come to terms with was the forever kind of scenario Seth had long dreamed about.

Never mind, that would all change. Soon.

Because Seth was tired of waiting. It was time to show Luke that when Seth dreamed, he dreamed big. And nothing, not even a lifetime of Luke believing he’d never settle down, would interfere with Seth’s dreams now. It might take a while to convince him, but one thing Seth had was time. And he intended to use it to the best of his abilities.

*

Luke needed to look away. Needed to drag his gaze from the couch and stare anywhere but at that face.

Easier said than done. That face trapped his attention and reeled him in. Held him transfixed—almost to the exclusion of everyone else in the room.

He was stronger than this. He could ignore the attraction that crackled between them, ignore the electricity that snapped across the room, shocking everything in its path.

Yeah, right. He never had been able to ignore anything about Seth Pace, and that was the start, middle and end to every single one of his current problems.

Perhaps it was the eyes that held his focus. The slumberous, sexy appeal of them. While Seth appeared to be half asleep, Luke couldn’t miss the way Seth looked up at him with eyelids at half-mast, those baby blues of his peeking out from beneath a wealth of thick lashes, the invitation in them clear as day.

Or perhaps it was the fact that for the last five years, since Seth had turned eighteen, Luke had found himself unable to keep his hands off him. The kid had become something of a habit for Luke. More like an addiction, really. But Luke had to kick the habit, break the addiction—for Seth’s sake.

Or more specifically, for Seth’s safety.

Luke forced his thoughts back to the other people strewn across the hotel suite. Lingering jetlag, coupled with an intense five-hour practice session, had left most of the members of Speed bleary eyed. The internationally acclaimed rock sensations were exhausted.

Luke grinned, knowing the information he was about to hand them would deliver a good boost of adrenaline. “And in headline news back in the good old US of A…Nielsen data has rated ‘Thunder ’n Rain’ the most played song in America—again. It’s spent a third week at number one of the Billboard Top 100.”

Wild hooting and high-fives followed Luke’s announcement. Seth’s sleepy smile turned into a full-blown grin. The song was Seth’s baby, from start to finish. Not only had he worked on the lyrics, but he’d written the music for it too—a job he usually left to his brother, Zachary.

Seth’s grin was directed at Luke, and Luke couldn’t help but grin straight back. Couldn’t help but look deep into those baby blues as they silently celebrated together. This was a victory Seth would be incredibly proud of.

The intimate look went on a second too long, making the breath hitch in Luke’s chest. His balls tightened and blood rushed to his cock.

It happened every damn time he looked at the kid.

Nuh-uh. Not this time. This time he was backing off, moving away. This time he was finally going to do what he’d sworn he’d do at least the last fifteen or twenty times he and Seth had gotten naked: end things between them. Push Seth away.

Luke deliberately checked his watch. “On that final note, meeting is over. It’s midnight. Which means it’s bedtime, people. Go, get some sleep. We’ve got a big day ahead of us. Huge. First live concert in over a year, and I want you rested and ready for it. You’re gonna bring the house down on Sydney tomorrow.”

Luke needed to run through their schedule one last time. He needed to ensure the brothers knew where they needed to be and when, and what interviews he’d scheduled for them. But all that could wait. He’d deliberately left the good news for last, knowing it would motivate the band to give their all tomorrow night. “Morning and lunch are yours, but I want you in this here hotel suite at three thirty sharp. Don’t be late. Now, go.”

Nathan Pace, otherwise known as Jamie Speed, the band’s lead singer and the oldest of the three Pace brothers, was out the door before he’d finished saying goodnight. Not surprisingly, he was the only one who seemed to have even a modicum of energy left. He’d been walking on air ever since meeting his dream girl two days ago.

Tim, the bass guitarist, stumbled to his feet and pulled Bill, the synthesizer whiz kid into a barely conscious standing position. “Later,” Tim said, and Bill lifted his hand in a halfhearted attempt at a wave. Arnie, the saxophonist, trudged after them. They were tired, but they left smiling broadly. Every one of them.

Zachary, the middle Pace brother and Speed’s drummer, Jonah Speed, drained his beer, tossed it in the trash and slapped Luke affectionately on the shoulder. “You’re the man, Struthers. You know we could never hit number one without you?”

Luke grinned at his best buddy since their first year in college. “See you in the morning.” Luke had always thought him the most musically gifted of the three brothers, although Zachary would deny that sentiment with his dying breath. He could play any instrument you put in his hand, even one he’d never seen before. Earlier on today he’d blown a haunting rendition of “Loving Eyes” out from a didgeridoo. Until five minutes before that, he’d never picked up a damn didgeridoo.

Delilah and Devine, the two back-up singers, left with a nod and a sashay of their hips. They may be tired, but the news had given them the va-voom to strut their stuff.

The room emptied, leaving Luke looking at the one place he didn’t want to look, at the one face he couldn’t help staring at. He swallowed a sigh and pursed his lips, mentally bracing himself. “You planning on sleeping on the couch tonight?” Damn, he hoped not. The ways that would test his self-restraint…

The youngest Pace brother, known to the general public as genius guitarist and lyricist, Jordan Speed, looked at him, his sleepy blue gaze still sending out its silent invitation. “Only if you share it with me.”

Ah, hell. Turning Seth away was not going to be easy. “Seth, it’s late. The night before a concert. The first concert of a world tour. You don’t need me, you need sleep.”

“I always need you, Luke. It’s time you realized that.”

Damn idealist, so busy dreaming the impossible he had no idea that most of what he dreamed wasn’t realistic. “Correction. You always need sex, not me. Now go to bed.”

“I like sex. Often. You I need. Always.”

“Seth—”

Seth smiled. That sexy, drowsy smile that made Luke think of big beds and rumpled sheets. “Relax, big guy. I just wanna talk about something.”

“You wanna talk?” Yeah, right. He knew Seth too well to believe that one.

Seth nodded. “I was hoping to run something by you.”

Luke raised an eyebrow. “At midnight?” Not a good idea at all. The only thing Seth liked to run by Luke at midnight was his cock, and Luke needed to stop that practice if he had any hope of keeping Seth at arm’s length.

Seth shrugged. “It’s morning back in New York. My body hasn’t adjusted to Sydney time yet.”

Hard to argue with that one. Luke was also suffering the effects of the time change. He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked back to lean against the wall, deliberately increasing the distance between them. Standing too close to Seth made Luke want to do things to him he had no right doing. He’d never had a right to do them, but he’d never had the willpower to resist.

Hah, as if the three steps made any difference. Seth’s presence alone was enough to get a fire burning in all the right places. “Okay, shoot. What’s on your mind?”

Seth sat up, pulling his feet in close to the couch. Then he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees and his chin on his hands. “I’ve been working on a song, trying to find the right lyrics, but they’re not there. I need your help accessing them.”

Damn.

This could only spell trouble for Luke. He and Seth had worked on songs together. Often. And every time, the work had ended with Luke buried balls-deep inside Seth’s ass.

Luke shook his head. “You know I’m useless with words.” He couldn’t put a sentence together in any kind of lyrical or poetic way. Luke’s skills lay in understanding business and marketing, not in creativity and idealism, like Seth’s did.

“You know that’s never bothered me. Once I find the words, there’s no problem writing them. It’s finding them that I need your help with. Thrashing out ideas.”

Seth came to him often when he needed help with lyrics. When the words weren’t flowing like they usually did. And every time he came, they’d brainstorm ideas together and find a way past the block.

Seth liked to talk out his concerns. Focus on the parts that weren’t working and get Luke’s advice and thoughts.

Sometimes he liked to discuss a concept in general. Maybe an idea for the song that he couldn’t see from every angle. What blew Luke away was that when he finally got to hear the end product, there was always a verse featuring his viewpoint. Paraphrased by Seth, of course, so the sentiments came out sounding melodic and profound in a way Luke would never be able to voice them, but they’d be his sentiments nevertheless.

“You know what you need to do?” Luke asked, looking for a solution to Seth’s problem that did not involve himself. “Head on down to the bar, order a drink and find some of those paper napkins you’re so fond of. Remember ‘Sky’s the Limit’?” Seth had jotted down the first two verses of that song while he and Luke had sat around a table in a bar with the other two Pace brothers. He’d written them on red paper napkins. The next day he’d handed the napkins—with the completed song scrawled on them—to Zachary and told him to go compose the music. “A beer and a dim room. That’s all you need. The words will flow.”

Seth’s chuckle echoed through the room. “You think that’s what gets my creative juices flowing? A drink and a bar?”

“The song was a chart topper from day one.”

“It was. So give yourself a pat on the back. You were the motivation behind the lyrics.”

Luke frowned.

“You don’t remember the topic of conversation when I wrote those words?”

He shook his head.

“You were telling me, Nath and Zachary that we could go anywhere with Speed. Either take it all the way to the top internationally, or keep it focused on American soil. Your exact words were, ‘The sky’s the limit with this venture, and if anyone can reach those limits and push beyond them, it’s us.’”

Luke stared at Seth, dumbfounded. He had no recollection of ever saying that. It was usually Seth who put the big, vague dream on the table, not Luke.

“You’re always the inspiration for my songs. Don’t you know that by now?”

“Aw, kid, hell.” Luke scratched the back of his neck. “Jesus, don’t say things like that.”

“Why not? It’s the truth.”

“Because…” Luke let his words trail off. He’d been about to say because it makes it harder for me to break things off with you.

That would be a damned dumb thing to say now. At the start of a world tour. He needed the band members motivated. Not upset. Or pissed off.

“…Because it makes you underestimate the power of your own abilities. You’re a brilliant lyricist, regardless of your motivations.”

Seth grimaced, looking frustrated. “Then help me be brilliant now. Help me find the words again. This writer’s block is killing me.”

Luke shook his head, disgusted by his lack of willpower. Why did he even bother trying to refuse Seth anything? In the end he always gave in. “Okay. Hit me with the song. We can iron out the creases together.”

Seth’s face lit up. “You mean it?”

“You gonna leave without working on the lyrics?”

“Hell, no.”

“Then I don’t really have a choice, now do I?”

Seth’s lips curved into a smile of delight. Christ, he looked like a damn kid in a candy store.

But then Seth always reminded him of that kid. He was always seeing the delicious possibilities in any given scenario. “Tell me what you’ve got so far.”

Seth frowned. “Er, not very much.”

“That’s okay. Let me broaden the question a bit. Tell me about the theme of the song. Or the title.”

“It’s complicated,” Seth warned.

Luke stood quietly, waiting for Seth to gather his thoughts.

“And personal.”

No surprise there. Most of Seth’s songs were personal, relating to an event in his life, or a person. Or a mood.

“Now, forever and always,” Seth said eventually.

Luke raised an eyebrow. “The title?”

“The opening line.”

“Go on.”

“See, there’s the problem. I can’t. That’s all I’ve got.”

Luke snorted. “Not very much, is it?”

Seth stared at him drolly. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

Luke bit back his laughter. Seth didn’t need that now, he needed direction. “Okay, so how long have you been playing around with it?”

“A few months now. Maybe longer.” He nodded. “Definitely longer.”

“And what’s it about?”

“You.”

Whoa. “Pardon?”

“The song’s about you.”

Keep it simple. Keep impersonal. “You’re writing about a band manager?”

“No. I’m writing about you in my life. Now, forever and always.”

Oh, fuck.

“Because that’s my dream, Lucas. You in my life. Now, forever and always.”

Impersonal, Struthers! Make sure you remain aloof. “No problem there. As long as Speed exists, I’ll be in your life.” Heck, as long as the Pace family existed, Luke would be in his life. He loved that family like his own.

Correction, he loved that family better than he’d ever loved his own.

Seth shook his head. He eyed Luke intensely, not letting Luke drop his gaze for even a second. And in Seth’s expression he saw every bit of the adulation and adoration the kid had always held for him.

Damn kid. What did he know? Turning Luke into something he wasn’t. Into something he could never be—no matter how much he might want to be that something for Seth.

“This song has got nothing to do with Speed. It’s about us, Lucas. About where we’re going from here.”

Shit. So much for keeping it impersonal. “Maybe that’s why you’re blocked. I’ve told you a thousand times—we’re not going anywhere.” Every time he’d told Seth, Seth had simply disregarded his words, treating them as if they meant nothing. “This, what we have, that’s it.”

“Yeah, you know, I thought about that. Thought about the number of times you’d said as much, and how every time you said it, you made it sound like the gospel truth.”

Luke raised an eyebrow. That was more than Seth had ever acknowledged about Luke’s attempts to disillusion him.

“I even tried to write your sentiments into the first verse.”

“You did?”

Seth nodded and began to hum a tune Luke had never heard before. His fingers curled into position around an imaginary guitar, and he plucked out silent chords. Before Luke knew it, Seth was singing.

“Now, forever and always, we’re going nowhere.

“Quit dreaming, ’cause we’re already there.

“This is it, this will be all.

“If you think there’s more, you’re the fool.”

The words trailed off, leaving only silence.

Seth dropped his hands into his lap.

Luke stared at him, unsure what to say.

Seth shrugged. “It didn’t work. Still doesn’t. I need a different follow-on after the first four words.”

Luke began to sweat.

In the darkest hours of the night, when he lay awake with nothing but his thoughts for company, he’d admit the truth to himself. Then, and only then, when there was no one around to witness his deepest desires, he’d admit that if life had been different and if his legacy had been inherited from anyone other than his father, he and Seth could have had everything together. Could have gone anywhere together. Now, forever and always.

But now was not one of those private times. Now Seth was here, and Luke’s deepest wishes had to remain buried. For Seth’s sake. Now, as much as Seth wanted to change the lyrics, change the direction of the song, he couldn’t. Luke couldn’t let him.

“Actually, kid, I think the song has incredible potential.” Luke did think that. He wasn’t bullshitting Seth. He just knew Seth didn’t agree. “The tune’s good. It’s simple, catchy.” Zachary would improve on it. “And the start, well, it sets a tone. Tells me this isn’t going to be another ballad or another song of hope and love. And that will make it stand out from every other song out there.”

Seth remained expressionless. He didn’t laugh, didn’t smile, didn’t frown and didn’t sneer. “So you think I should carry on working with it? Add words to a concept I hate?”

“You could make a good song out of it. A great song. Hell, kid, you could write a great song about a stained coffee cup. You’re that good. Give it a go. Think of the next verse. Or if that’s too complicated, the next line.”

Seth looked at him for a long time without responding. A very long time.

It wasn’t the lengthy silence that bothered Luke. Seth often got lost in his thoughts, especially when he was working out lyrics. But when Seth was immersed in a song, in figuring out what word to use when and what tune to play it to, his fingers always worked too, like they had a moment ago. They played the chords of an imaginary guitar, strumming away to music only Seth could hear.

Luke had always found it sexy as hell. Always loved to watch as those fingers moved with an intuitive ease that came from a lifetime of playing. He always wished those fingers were playing him and not some imaginary stringed instrument.

Seth’s hands remained motionless now. His fingers didn’t even beat a rhythm on his legs as they sometimes did.

“Seth?”

Seth frowned.

“Talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking.”

Seth shrugged. “It’s not there.”

“What’s not there?”

“The song. The words. They’re all gone.” He shook his head. “I’ve got nothing.”

“It’s okay. Take your time. It’ll come back.”

Seth’s laugh was hollow. “Ya think?” He shook his head again. “The words only come when the song wants to be written. This song doesn’t want to be written.”

“You sound like your grandmother, making the song a real live being. It’s not, kid. It’s just a song.”

“My grandmother was right. The songs are alive. They live in my head, growing and developing all the time. But when circumstances beyond my control stop them from growing, they freeze. This particular song is frozen. It’s not going anywhere, because you won’t let it.”

“Don’t make this about me.”

“It’s always about you, Luke. It has been since I was fifteen years old.” Seth stood with a feline grace, his lean legs closing the distance between them in six loping strides, and poked Luke in the chest. “You’ve been my dream since the Christmas you came home from school with Zachary.”

Shit, the kid and his dreams. They might have been the birth of all things Speed, but for sure, they’d be the death of Luke. Seth spent his days lost in thought, lost in all the wonderful, magical possibilities of what could be. He imagined the ideal and then set about making it a reality. It was Seth who’d sat him, Nathan and Zachary down one evening and told them it was time to stop fucking around. Time to start dreaming big. To reach for the stars. Seth who’d described his vision for Speed and looked to his brothers and Luke to make it happen.

Luke pushed his hand away firmly, conscious that his chest tingled where Seth had poked it. “I was never your dream, kid. I was a childhood fantasy. Your big brother’s friend. The one who understood you, appreciated your unique needs. The one you could identify with. That’s all.”

“Bullshit.” Seth’s hand was back on his chest, this time holding a handful of Luke’s shirt. “Fantasies aren’t real, but dreams can always be realized, no matter how big they are. And you were my biggest dream of all. You still are.”

He’d stepped closer, and the lemony tang of his aftershave slipped into Luke’s consciousness. Seth was barely old enough to shave. No reason he should be wearing the damn stuff. Especially not when the scent made Luke hard as a rock.

Goddamn it. He was no good for Seth. No good at all. Couldn’t Seth sense that about him? Luke would taint his dreams and sour his fantasies. He’d take all that was good about him and blacken it with his dark heart, his volatile moods and his rotten genes.

He had to let go, had to push Seth away before he hurt him emotionally and physically—like his father had hurt his mother. And him.

“Step back, Seth. We’re not doing this now.”

Seth looked at him with heavy-lidded eyes. Eyes that brimmed with desire. “Not doing what, exactly?”

“Not doing the getting-naked thing. We’re talking song lyrics, that’s it.” It would help a whole hell of a lot if he actually believed what he’d said. But he’d never stood a chance against that look of Seth’s.

He was far too pretty for his own good. With his perpetual unshaven cheeks and low-slung jeans—which covered a prime, male ass—he was, quite simply put, beautiful. And when the beautiful kid looked at Luke with his eyes at half-mast and his face an open book of intent, Luke knew he was in big trouble.

His cock stiffened, making him squirm in discomfort.

Seth read his reactions all too easily. His gaze dropped to Luke’s groin, and he smiled.

Fuck. “Okay, so apparently we’re not talking lyrics anymore.” Luke sighed. “Go to bed, Seth. It’s way past your bedtime, and you have a concert in less than…” He glanced over at the clock on the DVD player. “Eighteen hours.”

Seth’s hand dropped to Luke’s waist. He gripped his belt. “Go to bed with me, Lucas. We can realize my dreams together. We can write a whole new set of lyrics together.”

Luke tried to regulate his breathing, tried to steel himself against his persistent craving for Seth. He shook his head. “I can’t help you change the words. I can’t give you what you need. You know that.”

“That’s what you always say, and then you kiss me, and suddenly I have everything I’ve ever needed, ever wanted, pressed against my lips.” Seth looked so deeply into Luke’s eyes, it took a second for Luke to realize his fingers had moved again. Now both of his hands were on Luke’s stomach, exploring beneath his T-shirt, making their way upwards, finding his nipples.

Luke tried to keep his distance. Tried not to give in to Seth’s words or his scent or his proximity. Holy fuck, he tried. But…Jesus, Seth knew how sensitive his nipples were.

Shivers tore up his spine.

Maybe aggression would work better. It always had for his old man. A good backhand across the cheek or a fast jab to the stomach and his father got whatever he wanted. “Seth—”

Fuck! Not so easy to speak between gritted teeth. He gave up trying and shoved Seth instead. Shoved him hard.

Or he attempted to, anyway. But the second his hands found Seth, instead of shoving, they grabbed, tightening around his shoulders and hauling him closer.

Seth groaned. “You’re all I’ve ever wanted, Lucas.” And with that, not in the least bit intimidated by Luke’s intended roughness, he raised his head, parted his lips and melded his mouth to Luke’s.

Chapter 2

All he’d ever wanted? Jesus. Couldn’t Seth see Luke was bad for him? Couldn’t he see how Luke had to restrain himself every time Seth came near?

Didn’t he know that if Luke even once lost his temper, really lost his temper, Seth would likely wind up in the hospital?

Wasn’t it possible—?

Damn. That mouth…

It did Luke’s head in. Did his resolve in. Made every decent thought in his head vanish. Every good intention.

The way Seth’s lips clung to his, rubbing against them, created the sweetest, headiest friction. Even as Luke tried to hold himself rigid—every muscle in his body tense and ready for the flight he knew he should take—his tongue sought entry into Seth’s mouth. It slipped hungrily over Seth’s tongue, consuming him like a starved man.

Luke fought the moment, fought Seth’s advances. He growled low in his throat and tried to pull away. But when Seth and Luke came together, when their mouths tangled and their bodies touched, rejecting the passion that flared between them was nothing short of a physical impossibility.

Seth kept his lips soft and pliant, inviting and enticing, designed to draw Luke in deeper. And man, was he ever drawn in deeper. So deep, he almost lost himself to Seth’s lemony scent, to the hard cock pressing against his own erection.

All the while Seth plucked at Luke’s nipples, teasing them into hard, aching points of pain and pleasure. Seth knew exactly when to stroke them gently for maximum pleasure and when to squeeze them to the point of pain.

Seth molded his erection to the shape of Luke’s with one sensual twist of his hips.

Luke had watched crowds of women scream hysterically when Seth twisted like that onstage. The kid knew exactly what effect the move had, and he damn well knew Luke responded as helplessly as any one of those screaming fans.

Christ, Luke wanted more. Seth’s erection bumping against his, grinding, wasn’t enough. Not even close. Not with two pairs of jeans between them. Luke was suddenly starving. Ravenous for more. He wanted nothing less than everything—starting with Seth draped over the back of the couch…

Luke growled viciously into Seth’s mouth and cupped his ass with one hand, pulling him closer, grinding harder, faster. With the other hand, he cupped Seth’s chin and forced his mouth away, breaking the kiss.

His body bucked in rebellion, wanting to see the kiss through to its natural conclusion. But there was no way he could think intelligently with Seth’s mouth on his, and right about now Luke needed to do some intelligent thinking.

“Don’t do this,” he warned. Or maybe begged.

Seth didn’t open his eyes. He just rubbed his chin up against Luke’s hand as though Luke had stroked his face, not broken a sultry kiss. “I have to do this, Lucas. You’re my now, forever and always. No matter how much you fight it. You always have been, and you always will be. Besides—” he ground his cock against Luke’s, “—you want this. As much as I do.”

Luke clenched his teeth. Seth was the only goddamned person alive who called him Lucas. “Wanting something and doing it are not the same.” If it were, he’d never let Seth out of his bed.

“They can be.” Seth looked at him. Lust had turned those baby blues a whole shade darker. They burned with a desire as fierce as Luke had ever seen. Seth rocked his hips, the natural rhythm of his movement tearing a hole through Luke’s gut. Seth could move, and when he did, it left Luke feeling like he had two left feet and a cock the size of a cannon.

“Listen, kid—”

Seth shook his head. “I’m not a kid anymore. You’ve known that for a long time now.”

Yeah, he had. Five years and counting. Every day. Even so, emphasizing their age difference helped Luke keep his relationship with Seth in perspective.

Luke shook his head, desperately trying to put obstacles between them, to get Seth to look at him differently. “I’m not your always, Seth. I never have been. You know that.”

Seth nodded. “I know you believe that. But you and I are right for each other. Perfect. And in time you’ll come to see as much.”

“You deserve better than I can give you. You deserve the best, someone who can give you everything.”

“You are the best.” Seth stroked Luke’s nipples, let the other man’s groan reverberate around the room. “No one else alive makes me burn like you do.”

“Not true,” Luke negated, seeking desperately to put anything between them. “The fire’s burned way stronger when we’ve had a third.” And they’d had plenty of thirds. Had indulged in many threesomes together. Luke had deliberately hauled in other people to maintain an emotional distance between himself and Seth.

Maybe next time he could be pickier about whom he hauled into bed…

The thought formed quickly, taking root in Luke’s mind, giving him an idea.

“That’s a sexual thing. A physical excitement. Watching you fucking someone else turns me on. Always has.” Seth’s gaze was liquid fire. “Just like you get all horny watching me with a woman. But you know what really makes a ménage such a winning deal for you and me?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “No matter how many other people we may fuck, when you and I are together, alone or with someone else, it’s not about fucking. It’s about making love.”

Luke shook his head, storing his idea away for further consideration at a later time. “We fuck. We mess around. That’s it. You’re reading more into it than there is.”

“Really?” Seth dipped his hand below the waistband of Luke’s jeans.

Luke almost jumped out of his skin. Seth’s hot, callused fingers stroked him, up and down his shaft, around and around, his movement restricted by the tightness of Luke’s jeans.

Fuck, he could come like this. Could blow his load right now.

Luke clenched his teeth and counted to ten, chasing down the urge.

“You think that’s all this is?” Seth showed no mercy. He scraped his nails over Luke’s right nipple while he traced his thumb over Luke’s slit, painting the head of his cock with precome. “A fuck and a laugh? Nothing more?” He leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to Luke’s lips. “I don’t think so, lover.”

“I do think so. An uncomplicated fuck and an easy lay. That’s all we can ever be to each other. It’s all I want from you, and it’s all I’ll ever be able to give you.” The way his balls had tightened into hard knots told him every word he uttered was a load of shit, just like they had been every time he’d uttered them before now. “If you’re on level with my way of thinking, then by all means stay, carry on doing what you’re doing, ’cause what you’re doing feels real damn good.” He sucked in a breath as Seth coaxed more precome from his dripping cock. “If you’re not, you need to take your hand out of my pants and leave.”

Seth stared at him, looked straight into his eyes, his gaze unwavering. Inch by agonizing inch, he pulled his hand away until the only things covering Luke’s erection were his boxers and jeans.

Just like that, grief slammed into Luke, wrenching his heart. Seth was leaving. Christ, he didn’t want him to go. He never wanted him to go.

He glared at Seth. The kid had to go. For his own good.

Seth bit his lower lip as he shook his head. “I can’t give you that, Luke. I can’t give you an easy lay. I won’t. You may not believe this, but I understand exactly what you want. And it’s not an uncomplicated fuck. It never was. Not between us.”

Seth slid slowly to his knees, grazing his teeth over Luke’s throat and chest on the way, nipping sharply at his aching nipple. He came to rest with his face buried in Luke’s groin.

Fuck! Just…fuck.

Not what Luke had expected. Not by a long shot. Not what he’d planned. “Damn it, Seth!”

Seth nuzzled Luke over his jeans.

Luke shuddered. “Y-you’re supposed to walk away from me. Supposed to be disappointed by what I can’t give you.”

“Why would I want to walk away?”

Luke swore Seth’s breath seared his throbbing cock as he spoke. His legs turned to Jell-O. Goose bumps erupted over every inch of his flesh.

“Because I’ll only hurt you if you stay.” Oh, shit. Too much information. He never wanted Seth to know what he was capable of. Problem was, with Seth’s mouth so close to his dick, he wasn’t monitoring his thoughts very well.

“The only way you can hurt me is by pushing me away.” He found Luke’s fly, undid his belt buckle and went to work on his button and zipper. His fingers were an exquisite form of torture against Luke’s cock, a mixture of soft flutters and intense pressure—each action a carefully measured ploy to get Luke as hard as steel.

Oh, man, Luke was in such deep shit. Seth’s hand on his groin? Nothing less than concentrated pain that stirred extreme lust and unmanageable hunger.

“You can tell me you can’t give me what I want, you can tell me I can do better, but you’re wrong, Lucas. Because when you’re with me, you give me everything I need.”

Luke should shove Seth away, turn around and walk off. But Seth had freed his erection from the constrictive prison of his jeans, and he’d punctuated his statement with a hot lick of his tongue over Luke’s cock.

The simple action had Luke rooted to the spot. Had his legs and arms locked in position, unable to shift even an inch.

Seth pushed Luke’s jeans and boxers down around his ankles, trapping him in place. If Luke took a step in any direction, he’d trip.

Seth wrapped his fingers around Luke’s balls, holding them firmly, stroking. He ran one finger over the tender spot behind his scrotum while he palmed Luke’s shaft in his other hand.

Luke saw stars.

“They’re back, Luke. The words and the music. I hear them,” Seth whispered in that husky, aroused voice as he pumped Luke’s dick. “But then I always hear them when I’m with you.”

Seth’s tongue swept a hot, wet path down his shaft and up again, and Luke’s hand tangled in Seth’s silky-soft hair, pulling him closer. His throat closed on a moan.

Luke was powerless. Couldn’t object. Couldn’t walk away. Didn’t want to.

Not when that same tongue laved his cock. Not when Seth slowly, torturously swallowed Luke down, taking him in all the way to the back of his throat before releasing him inch by heated inch, knowing the combination of his warm mouth and the air-conditioning would create all manner of conflicting sensations up the length of Luke’s shaft. Not when the melodious sounds of Seth’s moans echoed through his ears and the back of Seth’s throat hummed against the tip of his cock…

Shivers wracked Luke’s body, exposing the extent of his desire for the kid on his knees before him.

He was useless beneath Seth’s manipulations. Seth was an expert at blowjobs, and he used every one of his skills to drive Luke out of his mind.

If Seth had any idea how conflicted Luke was right now, he’d spit him out and close his mouth faster than Luke could blink. If the kid had any idea about the kind of fears running through Luke’s head, the fears of what he could do to Seth, with his fists and his bare feet, Seth’d run a mile in sheer terror. Actually, he probably wouldn’t. Seth was too damn stubborn for that. Too damn convinced of his love for Luke.

Seth had him enveloped in the heated cavern of his mouth. His tongue laved Luke’s leaking slit, and his fingers stroked wicked circles of torment around his balls. Luke flung his head back, emitted a silent groan and let the kid have his way.

Not that Seth was the aggressor in their relationship. Hell, no.

Luke was the aggressor. He had to be. It was in his blood.

Luke was the one who took control, the one who seduced while Seth responded. Even now, they both knew it was only a matter of minutes before the balance of power changed, before Seth pushed him too far and Luke became the one controlling the moves.

But every second until then…hell, Luke wasn’t moving a single muscle. Wasn’t doing anything but losing his mind to the sinful pleasure of Seth’s mouth. To the enticing strokes of his fingers, the velvety suction of his cheeks and the smooth, wet licking of his tongue. Wasn’t even breathing as Seth swallowed him down again, his throat muscles working around Luke’s cockhead, driving him closer and closer to orgasm.

Luke shoved his hands in Seth’s hair and tugged. Not hard enough to hurt—he made dead sure of that—but with enough force that Seth released him, pulling off his cock at leisure, savoring every last inch. His gluttonous moans and wordless protests hit Luke full in the stomach.

“Seth…” Vocalizing his needs was close to impossible. “Gotta… Need to… Bedroom. Now!” He’d have taken Seth on the floor, right there, but he had no condoms and no lube out here.

Seth was on his feet in a second, tugging impatiently on Luke’s hand as Luke kicked off his jeans. Last thing he needed now was to trip. He’d do himself permanent damage. He chased Seth into the bedroom and left him there to grab what he needed from the bathroom.

Luke had already donned a condom by the time he walked over to the bed where Seth sat, stripping off his jeans. Seth pushed them over his trim hips then leaned back to finish the job, tugging his shoes off in the process.

Luke clasped his cock tight, enjoying Seth’s strip show. He loved watching the guy get naked. Seth made undressing look like a sensual, inviting dance. And damn, Luke wanted to dance with Seth.

He primed his cock with long, tense sweeps of his hand, coating the condom with lube. But after a few steady strokes he had to squeeze the base of his shaft real hard.

Seth watched him with a hungry expression. “It’s always like this with us, Lucas. Every time is like the first time. A frantic rush to fuck. And you know why that is?”

“’Course I do.” Luke’s voice was about three tones lower than usual. “It’s called compatibility. You and me? We work together sexually.” He shrugged, striving to look casual when he felt anything but. “Always have. You make me hot, I make you sweat. We get each other off. That’s all it is, baby.”

Shit, he couldn’t look Seth in the face as he said that. Didn’t want to see the hurt in his eyes. So he stared at Seth’s cock instead. Then he had to pump his own cock again, because looking at Seth’s made him as horny as a goddamned teenager.

Erect, Seth’s dick curved ever-so slightly towards his stomach, pulsing enticingly. It left a tiny wet patch on his T-shirt. He tugged on it as he watched Luke stroke himself.

Seth laughed softly. “No, baby. That’s not all it is. It’s never just been about getting each other off, and you know it. Deny it all you want, but the urgency is there because you love me. Just like I love you.”

Luke was not getting into a word match with Seth. Especially not about love. He was focused on keeping this whole encounter as emotionless as possible. The only thing he was getting into…was Seth’s ass. “Take off your shirt, kid.”

Seth didn’t hesitate. He lost the shirt, exposing slim, washboard abs, defined arms and shoulders and a lean, beautiful torso. The very sight made Luke ache to hold him. Protect him.

“Ya know, Lucas, I stopped being a kid the first time you stuck your cock in me.”

Luke strongly suspected a part of him would always view Seth as a kid. Emotionally anyway. At fifteen, Seth had been Zachary’s little brother. A kid way too young for the advances he’d made on Luke—a then nineteen-year-old horny bastard who just wanted to get laid. At sixteen, Seth had still been too young, although even then Luke couldn’t deny his physical beauty. At seventeen, Seth had still not been old enough, but temptation had hung thick and inviting before Luke, making rejection difficult, but not impossible—yet.

Seth’s eighteenth birthday had changed everything. Luke had finally given up the fight to keep seeing him as a child. Physically, he wasn’t one anymore. But Luke had still avoided getting involved with him, still resisted temptation.

The Pace family had welcomed Luke into their hearts and home with open arms. Made him part of their family. He’d hated the idea of doing anything to displace the trust they’d put in him. And taking what Seth so generously offered would definitely count as abusing their trust.

But, Jesus, Seth had been persistent. Insistent. And so damn sexy. So pure.

Luke had tried. God help him, he’d tried. But he was no saint. And Seth had tested his restraint at every corner, in every minute, until finally he couldn’t say no anymore. Didn’t want to. He’d wanted Seth. Wanted him in ways a man like him shouldn’t want a kid like Seth. So he’d allowed himself a small, harmless taste. A kiss. Nothing more.

Unfortunately, that one taste hadn’t been enough. Not by a long shot. That one taste had morphed into an unquenchable thirst. A ravenous hunger, so he’d feasted on the kid. Long into the night and well into the next day. And the next week. And the next year. For close to five years he’d gorged on Seth, and still Luke’s appetite for him had not been satisfied.

But falling harder for Seth with every passing day did not take away from the destiny Luke had been born to. It didn’t minimize or obliterate the fact that he was a victim of what the state social worker had called the cycle of abuse. Where the abused becomes the abuser. At sixteen, Luke, the boy who’d both watched his mother repeatedly being beaten and had taken several backhands himself, had become the beater.

He’d laid into his father, thrashing him until the rotten excuse for a man lay bloodied on the floor. Until he’d ensured his father would never, ever consider lifting a hand to his mother again.

For the preceding three years he’d practiced kung fu. Learned the arts of self-defense and sparring. For three years he’d prepared himself for the day when he could stop cowering from his father and start fighting back. And when that day had come, when he’d finally achieved what he’d set out to—safety for his mother and himself—his entire plan had backfired.

His pride in his actions and abilities had lasted for all of two minutes. Until he’d seen his mother’s horrified face. Until her desperate crying had turned from incoherent moans into rational pleas for him to stop.

If his mother’s appalled look hadn’t been enough to tell him he’d done the wrong thing, the social worker’s comments had. “Too late for this one,” he’d heard her tell a colleague. “He’s already chosen the path of violence. There’ll be no saving him now.”

Luke had known, from that moment on, that he’d learned his father’s behavior all too well. That should he ever settle down, his significant other would forever be in danger—of him.

He refused to ever subject Seth to that kind of risk.

And yet he couldn’t stand firm against Seth. Found it impossible. Found his challenges irresistible.

Luke shook off his thoughts, focusing on the moment. “You ready for me, kid?”

Seth bit his lower lip. “I’m always ready for you.”

“Then roll over. Get up on your knees and show me that ass.”

From behind, Luke knew exactly how to fuck Seth, how to stroke into him to send him over the edge in a hurry. Plus, Luke had the added advantage of a free hand, which he could wrap around Seth’s dick and pump in time to the rhythm of his hips. Luke needed Seth in that position now. Needed the lack of intimacy. Needed to look anywhere but into those baby blues. With Seth on his knees, Luke could make it hard and fast. A sweaty, panting race to the finish line. An impersonal fuck that would leave them both sexually satisfied and Luke emotionally uninvolved. He hoped.

Seth smiled slowly and shook his head. “Nope. Not on my knees. Not tonight.” He lay on his back, stretching himself out on the bed and bending one knee.

Every muscle in Luke’s body tensed. Perspiration trickled down his spine. He should have guessed Seth would want it like this—face to face. Should have known the kid would take away every impersonal aspect of this encounter and make it profoundly intimate. He’d lie on his back so he could look into Luke’s eyes as they made love. And take Luke’s mouth in another one of his intoxicating kisses.

Shit, he should roll Seth onto his side and take him like that—to throw him off his game. Or better yet, even more impersonal, shove him up against the wall and let his front embrace nothing but cold, dried paint.

But the sight of Seth stroking himself, his leg bent in open invitation, his hole visible between his butt cheeks… It was more than Luke could bear. More than anything, he wanted Seth’s lips on his again. Seth’s tongue in his mouth. Wanted to taste another of the man’s sweet kisses.

And Christ, he wanted Seth staring into his eyes as he wrapped himself around Luke’s body, his arms smoothing up Luke’s back, his thighs clasping Luke’s waist. Wanted Seth’s cock brushing against his stomach as Luke pumped into him.

Who was he kidding? He just wanted Seth. Any time, any way, any how.

Luke climbed onto the bed, and Seth immediately spread his legs, making space for Luke to kneel between them. Another drop of sweat trickled down Luke’s back at the unimpeded sight.

“Fuck…Seth!” He couldn’t draw enough air into his lungs. “Tell me you’re ready for all of me.”

Seth drew his knees up and his feet off the mattress. He stared into Luke’s eyes and arched his back. “So ready…” The rest of his sentence was lost to a breathy moan.

Luke tore his gaze away from Seth’s. Refused to look at him. He focused instead on lining up his aching dick with Seth’s ass. He leaned over his lover, guided his cock into position and with as much control as he could muster, thrust once. He breached Seth’s hole, sliding smoothly inside him, like he knew he would.

With his cock buried halfway inside Seth, he stopped.

A wordless moan rent the air. Seth’s.

“Baby, that feels so good.” No. Don’t call him that. Keep your distance. Force yourself.

Perspiration broke out on his forehead.

Christ, how often had he and Seth done this before?

How was it that every damn time, with that first thrust, Luke felt like he’d found home?

Luke pulled out and drove back in. He knew exactly how to angle his cock for maximum penetration and exactly how fast he could go those first few thrusts. Not too fast, but not too slow. Keep a steady, sensual pace until Seth grew accustomed to his presence.

Another thrust, a little deeper this time but still not all the way. “So damn good.”

“Luke…”

Damn it, Luke didn’t mean to look up, didn’t mean to watch as Seth licked his lips then drew his teeth over his bottom lip and released it, leaving it plump and shiny and begging to be kissed.

And he sure as hell didn’t mean to let his gaze wander up to meet Seth’s.

“Lucas.” His name was a soft whisper.

Seth wrapped his arm around Luke’s neck, pulling his head down, closer.

Oh, Christ. Seth wanted a kiss. Wanted to touch those plump, shiny red lips to his.

Luke tensed, refused to budge, but Seth ignored his silent denial. He used Luke’s shoulders to pull himself up instead, to inch his face closer to Luke’s. Closer, closer, until Luke could no longer protest, no longer wanted to. Until their breaths merged and their lips touched. As Luke plunged into him again, he fused his mouth to Seth’s.

On a breathy sigh, Seth welcomed his tongue and raised his hips to meet Luke’s thrust, drawing him in all the way.

Hours later, or maybe it was just seconds—Luke tended to lose track of time when Seth kissed him—Seth rolled his hips, reminding Luke to pull out and stroke into him again.

Not his fault he’d forgotten. Seth fit around him like a snug, velvet glove. Nobody in his right mind would ever want to pull away once buried inside Seth. But then Luke was hardly in his right mind. If he was, he wouldn’t be doing this—again.

He nuzzled Seth’s jaw, enjoying the scrape of his half-beard against his lips. “Makes me crazy how damn hot you feel wrapped around me like this.”

Soft sounds of pleasure were Seth’s response. His hand was buried in Luke’s hair, massaging his scalp. He tugged at Luke’s shirt with his other, pushing it up and out of the way, so the next time Luke plunged into him, bare skin met bare skin.

“Gonna make you come so hard,” Luke promised. He loved the sight of come on Seth’s stomach. Loved how it pooled in the recesses of his muscles. Years of guitar playing had honed Seth’s torso into a lean, sculpted object of beauty.

Seth kissed him again. A deep, hot, penetrating kiss that matched the way Luke fucked him—with deep, hot, penetrating strokes.

Seth groaned. A soft sound that ricocheted straight through into Luke’s heart.

“Tell me about it, baby,” Luke encouraged, knowing he’d used that term he didn’t want to use but helpless to stop himself. Seth’s wordless noises inflamed him. “Tell me all about it.”

Another groan made him drive into Seth a little harder, a little faster, until a steady stream of precome leaked from Seth’s cock, wetting his stomach.

Luke balanced on one arm, using his free hand to draw a finger through the sticky substance. Then he held the finger to Seth’s mouth. “Suck it. Like you just sucked me.”

A hot, wet mouth closed around the digit, sucking it in deep, like Seth’s ass tugged Luke’s dick in deep.

It made Luke’s balls draw tight.

He pulled out, thrust in again, made sure to go deep, rub against Seth’s gland.

Seth released his finger in favor of his neck, sucking hard, but stopping short of leaving a mark. Then he kissed Luke again, making love to his lips and his mouth. Oh yeah, Seth was definitely in the mood for long, languid kisses, and God help him, Luke couldn’t complain. No longer wanted to. He just wanted to kiss Seth, taste his desire on his tongue, make love to him. Forget their history and his past and their lack of a future.

Every time Luke got inside Seth, and every time Seth kissed him, Luke lost a little more of his heart. Seth’s mouth on his, Seth’s ass around his dick, their nipples rubbing together…

Of course he loved him. How could Luke feel any differently?

No matter how wrong Luke was for Seth, no matter how much Luke fought against everything Seth dreamed about, every damn time he got close to Seth, he got caught up in loving the kid a little bit more.

Seth never made love to anyone else the way he made love to Luke. Seth responded, he gave his all to any sexual interlude, but he gave it physically. Emotionally, he held back. Except with Luke. When they were alone, he gave everything. His joy, his pleasure, his fears, his confusion. His trust.

His goddamned fucking trust.

Seth couldn’t trust him. Ever. History had proved that. His mother and the social worker had proved that. Anger sizzled through Luke, anger towards himself, for not being able to be the man Seth believed him to be.

He broke the kiss, rested his weight on his arms, which he planted on either side of Seth’s shoulders, and lifted his torso up. Then he began to fuck Seth in earnest. Maybe if he pounded hard enough, he’d pound the violence out of his blood.

He slammed into the welcoming depths of Seth’s body, buried himself deeper and deeper with each thrust. Christ, deep as he went, he couldn’t get deep enough. Couldn’t get so deep that he could hide from his fears.

God help him, he tried. He drove into Seth. Fucked him hard. Threw every bit of desire and anger and frustration and love he had into his thrusts. Still, his doubts haunted him.

Still, he feared hurting Seth. Feared it so much he suddenly realized the very act of fucking Seth this hard might hurt him, and immediately Luke lessened the attack, calmed his wild bucking.

Seth was having none of it. He groaned out a complaint the second Luke backed off, clung hard to Luke’s shoulders for support and slammed his ass onto Luke’s cock.

Both men moaned at the sensation. Seth clung, slammed, moaned and kissed Luke again. And again. Wouldn’t release his mouth, wouldn’t let Luke’s cock go for more than a millisecond at a time.

Luke angled his hips upward slightly, knowing that every time he thrust, he would hit Seth’s gland. Seth’s moans became louder. Breathless pants turned to rapturous gasps, spurring Luke on.

Luke shifted Seth’s leg so his foot hooked over Luke’s shoulder. Both men groaned as Luke went in deeper still.

Seth began to sweat. Moisture slickened his skin. His nipples stood up, beaded and erect, and once again he grabbed his dick, tugged on it. Luke leaned in, licked Seth’s nipple, tasting the salt on his skin.

Seth’s hand knocked against his stomach repeatedly as he pumped his erection.

Concentration was lost to Luke. He couldn’t focus properly, couldn’t get his mouth around Seth’s nipple. Not when he felt this damn good. Not when his dick was enveloped in raw, wet heat, and the sounds Seth emitted were guttural and raspy.

Not when every nerve in his body screamed for release.

He needed to come. Needed to let go of the orgasm building in his balls, in his prostate, in his throbbing cock. Needed to explode inside the man he loved—no matter how much he wished he didn’t.

Needed to come, but couldn’t. Wouldn’t. Not before Seth. Seth had to take his pleasure first, find his release before Luke. Because God knew if he didn’t, Luke wouldn’t have the energy to finish him off after.

Luke ached to whisper sweet nothings to Seth. Ached to tell him he loved him. Wanted to beg him to stay in his arms—now, forever and always. Wanted to tell him to stay the hell away, to stay safe. Wanted to tell him how much he hated himself for having the potential to hurt him.

But he didn’t. He shut up and fucked Seth. Fucked him deep and hard and fast, letting out every single iota of frustration and pain and love he felt in his thrusts.

Deeper, harder, faster.

Deeperharderfaster.

So goddamned deep he lost himself in Seth’s body.

So goddamned deep he almost missed Seth’s shameless cry of ecstasy. So damn deep he was hardly aware of the way Seth’s hand had angled his cock upward and ceased moving, and his back had arched into a blissful curve. So deep that when thick, white strands of come hit Luke’s chest then dripped onto Seth’s, he was almost oblivious to their significance.

Almost.

But Luke could never totally lose track of Seth’s actions. No matter how lost he was in Seth’s body.

So when the tangy scent of Seth’s come hit his nose and the glazed look of satisfaction and bliss pierced Luke’s addled brain, his reaction was gut-deep. He let go of every last bit of self-control and slammed into Seth’s body. Over and over, faster and faster until light became dark and dark became light, and he saw and felt nothing besides acute, all-consuming pleasure.

Luke’s orgasm blindsided him, wiping all conscious thought from his head.

He was a heaving mass of stimulated nerve-endings, and each nerve ending registered more gratification than the next.

By the time the whirlwind ended, Luke had not an iota of strength left in his arms. He collapsed atop Seth, breathless and boneless, conscious of only three things. The warm, wet remains of Seth’s orgasm squishing between them; strong, lean arms holding him tight; and the softly sung words of a song vibrating in his ear.

“Now, forever and always, we have each other.

“I am yours, and you’re my lover.

“This is it, you have my heart.

“We’ll build on it, it’s just the start.”

Shit.

Luke knew he had to act. Had to do something drastic. And he had to do it soon, before Seth had him believing in his goddamned concept of now, forever and always.

As he lay there, breathless, panting, and so sexually sated his cock seemed to silently hum its content as it shrank, the plan that had taken root earlier began to grow.

It was a brilliant plan. A foolproof plan. A plan that would work for him and Seth and the benefit of the entire band.

Seth had given him the idea when he’d mentioned their threesomes. Mentioned how no matter who joined them, the third person was always just a sexy fuck, a way of spicing up their sex life and nothing more.

But what if the third person wasn’t just a fuck? What if he or she was a perfect match for Seth? What if the next someone Luke found to bring into bed with them was the kind of someone Seth could fall in love with?

Initially, any sexual encounter would have to be between the three of them. If Luke refused to participate in the beginning, Seth would immediately be suspicious. But slowly over time, Luke could withdraw, leaving Seth and that third person alone more and more often, until finally he’d be able to pull away altogether.

It would be an ideal solution to every one of his problems. He’d be able to walk away from the kid without hurting him, because Seth would now love someone else.

Perfect plan, no?

Yes. Perfect.

The only difficulty would be finding someone good enough for Seth. Someone with dazzling characteristics, who’d sweep Seth up in his or her love and never let him go.

The search would not be simple. Nor would it be easy. Because, in the end, Seth truly did deserve the best, and where could Luke find that one ideal person?

Chapter 3

On the other side of the door where Kaz, Tasha and their friend Sophie stood, the voices of eighty thousand or so people filled the ANZ Stadium with a deafening roar. Women shrieked, and high whistles pierced the air. The crowd was restless and excited, anticipating the start of the concert. Demanding the start of the concert. It began a slow clap which increased in speed and sound until thunderous applause echoed through the door.

Not that it had any effect. The concert was not scheduled to begin for another ten minutes, and even then, it would be the supporting act walking onstage, not Speed.

Kaz was only vaguely aware of the noise, only vaguely aware that meters away from where they stood were three seats with their names on them. Three seats that they’d been denied access to.

Frustration and irritation should have shuddered through her. It had shuddered through her, violently—until the man had stepped into her vision. And then her mind had blanked, her irritation had floundered, and she’d found herself staring, spellbound, as he made his way over to them.

It wasn’t just his looks that had her head reeling, although those in themselves would set any woman’s heart on fire. It was the effervescent swirl of color vibrating around him that took her breath away.

The man’s aura was a multihued rainbow, his energy electrifying. It amazed Kaz that she was the only one who noticed it. With color that bright and that varied, the entire stadium should turn to look at him.

A halo of orange surrounded him, while turquoise streaks weaved their way through a cloud of viridian around his head. Varying shades of pink hovered near his chest and salmon seemed to pour from his hands. With every stride of his long legs, he emitted amber and caramel hues. And underneath that, wrapped in a very fine line around his entire being, was a charcoal-grey halo.

Brightest of all however, was the carmine red that encircled his chest. The exact shade of carmine red that had vibrated from the trees surrounding her home for the last week. The carmine red that told her change was a-coming.

Oh, my. What a vibrant mass of perfect male.

Lust hit Kaz smack in the middle of her lungs, leaving her winded. Surely it wasn’t legal for anyone to look that good? Especially someone with such a contradictory accumulation of color.

The closer he got to Kaz and her friends, the brighter the orange glowed, letting her know this was a man in charge. A born leader. The carmine seemed to fade ever so slightly.

He smiled when he reached them. “Ladies.” He spoke in an accented voice, either American or Canadian, Kaz couldn’t be sure. “I’m sorry to do this to you, but it seems there’s been a mix-up with your tickets.”

Kaz tried to concentrate on the problem at hand. It was a big one, and it needed to be cleared up. But holy heck! Up close, the guy wasn’t just good-looking, he was in-your-face, wicked-hot gorgeous. With a quadruple dose of oh-my-God sexy, to boot.

One glimpse at him didn’t just make her lose her train of thought, it made the walls of her pussy twitch and her breasts tighten. The confidence and poise that pulsed from him in that orange hue made her want to push up close and rub herself all over his tall, muscular frame. The charcoal-grey fence around him made her want to take him in her arms and comfort him. Something was upsetting him. More than upsetting him. Something he held very close to his person, so close Kaz was pretty sure no one else knew about it, had the potential to devastate his world.

Fortunately, Tasha spoke up, because Kaz seemed to have forgotten how to talk, and someone needed to challenge the man about the problem at hand.

“What kind of mix-up, exactly?” Tasha asked.

Yeah, focus, girl. There’s been a mix-up with your tickets. Don’t ya wanna know if you’re gonna get to see the Speed concert?

He looked at Tasha. “They were double-booked.”

Even the constant buzz of sound behind them could not mask Sophie’s horrified gasp.

Sophie should be horrified. Standing meters away from their assigned seats and being denied access was not Kaz’s idea of fun. Well, it hadn’t been—until he’d arrived. Now she’d be only too happy to spend the duration of the concert watching him instead of Speed.

“It’s not a problem.” His voice was so calm and so positive, Kaz couldn’t help but believe him. She couldn’t help but want to snuggle up in his arms either. “I’ll find you alternative seating. If you’ll follow me?”

Oh, yeah. Here was a guy used to being in charge. Used to ensuring everything ran smoothly. Here was a guy who was super-confident in most everything he did. His orange aura told Kaz that. It also told Kaz to trust him, because he wouldn’t disappoint her.

A moment’s silence followed his request. Sophie and Tasha seemed to be mulling over his offer. Kaz remained quiet because the power of speech still eluded her. Which wasn’t a bad thing—if she could talk, she strongly suspected she’d volunteer to follow him all the way to the ends of the earth if he so wished.

Then Tasha nodded, breaking the impasse. Kaz nodded too as she narrowed her eyes to take another look at the man, wondering about the grey strip around him. What had happened to cause the grief and sadness he held so close? And did it have anything to do with the change she knew was coming?

When her gaze settled on his eyes—his beautiful brown eyes—she had to catch her breath. He was looking back at her, with…well, with almost as much interest as she looked at him. And perhaps with a hint of surprise? Or maybe he was surprised to find her staring at him with such open curiosity. And what about the buttercup yellow that had snuck into his aura? She hadn’t noticed that the first time she’d looked at him.

The man blinked, his eyes widening as his gaze flickered down her body and back up again. It wasn’t a leisurely once-over—although Kaz felt it deep in her belly, which seemed to flutter with a million butterflies. It was a quick glance, almost imperceptible, except Kaz was staring at him so intently she couldn’t help but notice. And he knew it.

A magnetic pull danced between them, making her want to shuffle up close.

Had Tasha and Sophie not been standing beside her, she would have taken a step forward. As it was, she had to force herself to replace her foot on firm ground and not move.

But then he smiled, a smile so sexy it made Kaz smile too. And shiver. She couldn’t help herself. She stepped closer. She would have taken another step if he hadn’t blinked once again and then directed the full force of his beam at Sophie.

Lucky Sophie.

“This way, please.” With a gallant motion of his hands, he indicated they should follow him. He turned and led them halfway around the jam-packed stadium, the only place in the city big enough to hold all of Speed’s fans.

Tasha and Sophie trailed tentatively behind him, but Kaz felt no such compunction. She fully intended to keep pace with this man. She was going to talk to him if it killed her. Maybe he’d give her some clue as to the connection between the message from the trees and the carmine emanating from him.

When he noticed her beside him he shortened his strides to match hers.

Nice. A gentleman.

“So, does this happen often?” she asked as they walked. “Double-booked seats at concerts, I mean.”

This time when he smiled it was all for her, and it made her feel warm all over. “Honestly?” He shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I usually don’t get involved in seating issues.”

“You don’t?”

He shook his head, drawing her attention back to the turquoise and viridian shades there. Here was a man determined to become something better than he was, determined to rise above the situation he was born into. He was also a man who experienced strong emotion. Lord, but she wanted to get to know him better. So, so much better.

“It’s not part of my job description,” he said.

“Oh.” Yikes, that didn’t sound too reassuring. Lucky Sophie and Tasha hadn’t heard him. “If that’s the case, will you be able to find us other seats?”

“You have no concerns there—we already have. I think you’ll be happy with them. They’re much closer to the stage than your original ones.”

“Bonus.” Kaz grinned. Their original seats had been so far back the only way they’d have been able to see the band with any clarity was by looking up at the massive screens hanging above the platform. “Mind if I ask you a question?” She wanted to ask him a million questions. Find out everything she could about him. Wanted to understand all those colors in his aura.

She saw everyone in terms of color. Every single person. So why did this guy grab her attention? What was it about him that made her want to understand what it was he thought and felt that made his colors glow so enticingly? Or so concerningly.

“Not at all. Ask away.”

“If this isn’t part of your normal job description, then what is?”

He scratched his head and said in a slightly amused voice, “Well, let’s see. Speed members would probably call me their general workhorse and gopher, but I like to think of myself more as band manager.”

Kaz tripped over her own feet.

He caught her arm, steadying her before she could fall, and his hand burned about a hundred degrees on her bare skin.

Kaz’s jaw dangled open. She slammed it shut. What the…? “Y-you’re Luke Struthers?”

He raised an eyebrow. “You’ve heard of me?”

Heard of him? He was her brother’s idol. His role model. While Kaz had daydreamed about the cute-as-hell Jordan Speed, her brother had expounded the virtues of Luke Struthers. He’d spent hours explaining to her why the man was a legend. How he’d used his marketing and promo skills to take three unknown brothers and turn them into superstars.

Now that she thought about it, the man did look like the pictures Ollie had shown her. “Uh, yeah. Your name’s been mentioned once or twice around my parents’ house.”

“Once or twice is enough for me.” He grinned. “Usually it’s the Speed brothers who are mentioned by their fans. Not their band manager.”

“My brother’s just completed a course in marketing. He, er, wrote a term paper on you. You’re kind of his hero.”

“I’m flattered.” He was. Kaz could see it in his eyes. “Tell your brother I say hey.”

“I will.” She couldn’t wait to see Ollie’s reaction. He’d likely drop dead from jealousy. Demand to know every detail about their meeting. Kaz would tell him. She’d just leave out some important bits. Like the instant desire that had struck her. Like the way he made her heart race like crazy. Like the four bajillion goose bumps that had broken out over her skin.

She glanced at her arm, at the very place Luke held it. How intriguing that a stranger’s hand should feel so right wrapped around her forearm like that. So…seductive.

Luke glanced there too, then met her gaze. He didn’t drop his hand, and she didn’t ask him to. As if by mutual consent, they carried on walking, Kaz picking up the conversation as if nothing had happened. As if no silent communication had passed between them, and as if her arm weren’t burning up from his very touch.

“I’m surprised you’d be on this side of the arena,” Kaz mused. “I’d expect the band manager to be backstage now, handling any last-minute crises, ensuring everything flows smoothly.”

He nodded. “Usually I would be there. But someone asked that I personally look into the mess-up with the seats. I couldn’t refuse.”

“Someone? You mean the usher at the door?”

A heartbeat passed before he answered, and when he did, light twinkled in his eyes. “Yeah. Sure. The usher.”

Oooh, he so hadn’t told her the truth with that answer. She slowed to a stop and searched his aura for signs of lemony green, an indication that he might willfully be lying, but found nothing. He still vibrated in colors that inspired her confidence and trust. The only thing different about his aura was the brightening of the carmine and a small spot of scarlet that had appeared below his belly. A spot that wasn’t there before they’d begun talking.

Scarlet. The color of desire. And lust.

The same darn color that was swelling from her in waves.

He tugged gently on her arm, spurring her into a walk again. They headed down the same staircase she and her friends had ascended not ten minutes ago.

“It wasn’t the usher, was it?” Kaz pushed him.

“Who else would it have been?” His question was shrouded in innocence.

She frowned. The man was evading the question. “That’s what I’d like to know.”

“Know what I’d like to know?” He looked over at her as he asked, his mouth curved into a smile, his eyes still twinkling and his voice low and intimate.

At that point Kaz would have told him anything. Anything at all. Phone number, credentials, bank details. They were his. All he needed to do was ask. “No. What?”

“Your name.”

“Oh. Uh. Kaz. Kaz Flaherty.”

“Kaz? Unusual name.”

“It’s short for Karen.”

“Well, Kaz, you ready to see your new seats?” He stopped at a door clearly marked “No Entry”.

She blinked. Er, no. Not if it meant an end to their conversation. “You still haven’t told me who asked you to sort out the mess.”

“I know. And I will. Later.” He pushed the door open as Sophie and Tasha caught up. A wave of sound crashed over them. The sound of eighty thousand screaming voices.

Luke lifted his palm, indicating the three friends should walk through the door.

Kaz did as he asked—and gasped.

He turned to Sophie. “Front-row seats okay with you?”

Holy heck. Front-row seats at the Speed concert? Now, more than ever, Kaz wanted to know who’d asked Luke to sort out the mess.

Tasha laughed in delight. Sophie asked if he was kidding.

“We never kid about the front row.” Luke’s tone was solemn but loud enough to be heard over the roar around them. He led them past the massive crowds of people in the standing-room-only section, towards the VIP seats in the center of the floor. “See the three seats in the middle?” he half-yelled. “Those are yours.”

“But—”

Sophie’s objection was cut off with another of his beautiful smiles. “Look, the mistake was ours. We double-booked your tickets, and the concert is completely sold out. This is the only alternative seating we could come up with on the spur of the moment. Please, accept our apologies and take the seats.”

Sophie and Tasha stared at him, disbelieving.

He turned to Kaz, squeezing her arm gently. “The seats are yours,” he said into her ear, making sure she could hear. “Take them. Please.” His breath washed over her neck, giving her shivers.

“Okay.” Because what else could she say when Speed’s band manager offered her the best seats in the house while he held her arm in his hand and whispered in her ear?

He nodded his approval. “Good.”

Kaz wanted to angle her head to the side in the hopes he’d nibble her neck.

“Now tell your friends to sit in them.”

“Go.” Kaz shooed Sophie and Tasha towards the chairs. “Sit. Quickly. Before he changes his mind.”

Luke’s laugh told her he had no such intention. The low rumble in her ear vibrated through her chest, making her breasts tighten in awareness.

Looking as baffled as she felt, Sophie and Tash thanked Luke profusely and headed over to the three middle seats. Kaz would have scurried after them, but Luke still held her arm in a firm, pussy-wetting grasp. Besides, she couldn’t seem to drag her feet away from him. Plus, she wanted answers.

“Later?” she asked him.

He drew back to look at her in confusion.

“You said you’d answer my question later.”

The twinkle was back in his eye. “I will. I’ll answer all your questions. Because believe me, by then you’re going to have more than one.”

What the…? What else was there to ask? “Mate, the concert’s about to begin. There isn’t going to be a later.”

He looked at her with eyes as liquid and enticing as melted chocolate. “Yeah, there will be. After the concert.”

“After?”

“After,” he confirmed. “Sit tight here, and I’ll see you after the concert.”

Kaz laughed then. Yeah, right. Sure he would. Because band managers of world-famous rock bands always made sure they saw arbitrary audience members after a show.

Luke gave a low whistle as he regarded her. “Oh, ye of little faith.” Then he did something that shocked Kaz. He lifted the arm he still held to his mouth and kissed the palm of her hand—sending a flurry of goose bumps up her arm. “Trust me, sweet pea. I’ll see you after the show.”

And with Kaz’s jaw gaping open—again—Luke Struthers turned and walked out of the arena through the same door they’d walked through. The one with the neon sign hanging on it that said, “No Entry.”

* * * *

“He is not.” Kaz stared indignantly at Tasha, who’d just told her she thought Luke was gay.

Sophie surprised her by agreeing with Tasha. “Definitely gay. But gorgeous, nevertheless. With a beautiful smile. Still doesn’t explain why we’re in the front row.”

Kaz harrumphed but said no more. Like Sophie, she couldn’t understand why Luke had seated them there. Unlike Sophie, her ability to read colors had told her clearly that the band manager liked women. She had no idea how he felt about men, but there was a definite spark between her and him. A lovely scarlet red spark that even now pulsed from her, even though Luke had walked away.

Would he come back? Would she get to ask him any more questions?

Kaz, Tasha and Sophie chatted and laughed throughout the supporting act’s performance, but everything changed when Jordan and Jonah Speed walked onstage.

As Jordan strummed his first note on the guitar and Jonah sat behind him on drums, the crowd erupted into mayhem, and Kaz’s knees went weak. Jordan was even more beautiful in real life than all those glossy magazines had given him credit for. Even telly screens did not do him justice. He was smaller than his drummer brother. Slimmer and leaner. And utterly perfect. His jeans hugged his legs, his long, slim fingers plucked at the strings of his guitar, and Kaz melted.

He stood so close she imagined she could reach out and touch him. She desperately wanted to reach out and touch him. Run her hands over his unshaven cheeks, press her mouth to his full, luscious lips, stare into his startling green eyes and let him set his guitar down so he could pluck her instead of the strings.

For a few seconds she wished she could make out Jordan’s aura, but the smoke erupting from the stage made it impossible. Colors merged together in an unrecognizable smudge. The only hue she could identify was a touch of carmine red, pulsing from Jordan just like it had pulsed from Luke.

Or maybe that was her imagination. Her imagination was having a field day, letting her mind race free, giving her a chance to picture herself not only with Jordan’s long, slender fingers caressing her naked skin, but Luke’s as well.

What wasn’t her imagination was the way Jordan’s gaze kept returning to the front row where she, Tasha and Sophie sat. He was watching them?

Impossible, she told herself when Jordan looked at Jonah, and then the two brothers both looked over at the front row and grinned. Absolutely impossible. There was no way in hell they were looking at her and her friends. Even more impossible was what happened next. Jamie Speed walked onstage singing. Which would have been no surprise at all—considering this was a Speed concert—except he danced across the stage, came to stand directly in front of them and with his gaze pinned on Sophie, blew her a kiss.

The rest of the concert passed in a haze of fantasies come true. For Sophie anyway. Kaz simply stood on her feet, her legs moving naturally to the rhythm of the music pumping through the stadium, feeling nothing less than awed.

~

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