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"Feast or famine in this place, isn't it?" Tristan sighed heavily. He wore his boredom as if he wondered how dare the universe not entertain him, and lounged as much as anyone could on a barstool. He was like a cat in that respect. He could stretch and bend to get comfortable—at least, Jared assumed he was comfortable—anywhere he damn well pleased. Right now, his arm seemed like the only solid piece of his body, his elbow on the bar and his hand against his face, holding up his head as the rest of him poured over the edge of the bar, onto the seat, and down the stool leg to where the toe of his boot touched the floor.
Jared wasn't quite so comfortable. It was hard to relax when the wallet in the back pocket of his tight leather trousers was getting close to empty. Looking out at Market Garden's mostly vacant lounge, where each of the few potential johns were already under the spells of at least one or two other rentboys, he said, "Does it get like this a lot in December?" It had been for two weeks. Almost three now.
Tristan shrugged. "Sometimes. Economy and all that." He sighed again and waved his hand. "Apparently people think it's a good idea to buy food before renting a cock or an arse for the evening."
Jared would've laughed at the comment—so very typically Tristan—but it was hard to find the humour when he was in possession of a cock and an arse that desperately needed renting. After all, he needed to buy food. Never mind Christmas presents. And probably a new fridge.
"Relax." Tristan smoothed a few long strands of ink-black hair out of his own face. "Payday's coming up for most of them. They'll be back."
Question is, will they be back before rent's due?
"Everything changes with bonus season. Guys'll have money to burn, and they'll celebrate not getting laid off before Christmas by getting laid." Tristan's boneless figure solidified one liquid joint at a time, and he sat up, rolling his shoulders under his slick, black shirt. "Well, as long as there's some booths that aren't occupied, we should go sit someplace more comfortable."
Jared hesitated. "W-we?"
Tristan paused. "You don't want to?"
"I didn't say that. I just—"Didn't think you'd ... I mean, guys like you don't usually ... I'm me, and you're you, and ... Jared shook himself to life. "Sure. Yeah."
Tristan gave him a puzzled look, but didn't say anything and started across the lounge.
Jared picked up his drink. It was nonalcoholic, of course, since employees weren't allowed anything else on the job. The rule was enforced too. There were a few guys who'd thought giving Raoul, the head bartender, a free blowjob would result in him breaking the rules and spiking their orange juices with vodka or the Coke with rum, but rumour had it all they got was a belly full of cum and, worst-case scenario, a swift and permanent dismissal from Market Garden.
Jared stood and followed his catlike colleague across the lounge, which was more crowded with tables and chairs than with anyone occupying them. Well, maybe tonight wasn't all bad. He might not get paid, but it also didn't cost him anything to look Tristan up and down as he walked. Tight leather, lithe body, slinking gait; God, it was no wonder he was in such high demand. Most of the time, anyway. Higher demand than a lot of the guys here, Jared included, but lower than food, heating, and mobile phones.
Jared reminded himself he just hadn't been here long enough to be in demand like Tristan. He'd worked for Market Garden for about six months, ever since post-exam boredom had led him to search for more excitement than he'd found stripping on the weekends, which he'd done since his second semester of university. This was more enjoyable and much more profitable, so he'd stuck with it even after classes had started again.
He never imagined he'd ever be a rentboy. Might be something to leave off the CV, but he'd deal with that if there were any jobs available at all when he graduated. For now, he enjoyed it, especially with that thick wad of quid he had in his back pocket at the end of an evening.
At the end of most evenings. Before the past three weeks or so, anyway.
Part of him still thought a guy paying for sex was somewhat pathetic, even though he now understood that not everybody who did so was too ugly or too creepy to score on the open market, as it were. Some guys just considered it a legitimate shortcut past all the wining and dining or even getting onto Grindr and dealing with people who faked their profile pictures—or total sexual incompatibility even if they hadn't.
He could get behind that, he supposed, certainly with the income possibilities it opened up, though he was studying bloody hard for his exams and thus had cut back on the work. He didn't need slow nights like this at all. He was too skint. And his landlord was an arsehole, one of those buy-to-let vampires that kept increasing rents at least every year but consistently failed to get even the most basic repairs done.
Though, it was really hard to think about broken fridges when he watched Tristan walk. Jared just hoped he looked even half as nonchalant when he planted himself down in the booth next to Tristan.
Well, if there was a silver lining to all this boredom, it was that it did create an opportunity for Jared to get to know Tristan. Usually work didn't leave enough time for more than the most superficial socialising with the other employees, so he knew nothing about the guy. Except that he was hot and popular. Tristan might not even be his real name. The only thing he could safely assume was that Tristan's slouching petulance likely meant he had never managed to hold down a minimum-wage job at Tesco. They tended to like people more eager and awake in those pathetic cashier jobs. Tristan would probably just turn around and saunter off if he got shit from a customer. And jobs like that bred boredom, something for which Tristan obviously had no tolerance.
Jared toyed with his straw. He still couldn't quite believe he was sitting here next to Tristan. At Tristan's invitation, no less. He tried not to flatter himself; Tristan hadn't sought him out in a crowd. Jared had just been the nearest bendable ear without a john trying to climb into his lap.
Jared chased an ice cube around in his glass. "So. Um. Doing anything for Christmas?"
Tristan shrugged as he leaned back in the booth. He slung one arm across the back of the seat, almost touching Jared's goose bump--covered shoulders. "Probably working here." He grinned, and his wink fucked with Jared's blood pressure. "You might want to do the same."
"On Christmas?" Jared shook his head. "No way. My family would string me up."
"If you didn't show up? Or if they knew you were here?"
"Both. God. I can just see that. 'Sorry, Mum and Dad, I'll be sucking cock on Christmas Eve.'"
Tristan laughed, slim lips pulling across perfect teeth. "But think of the lovely gifts you could buy them! They'd just be a little ... late."
"I'll pass," Jared said. "Maybe next year."
"Well, you'll be missing out. This place gets busy as fuck on Christmas."
"You're shitting me."
"Not at all." Tristan paused to sip his drink. "All those bankers and traders and managers who've worked so hard their wives have left them?" He waved a hand at their surroundings. "We ought to hang up stockings on the bar, put up a bloody tree, and have Saint Fucking Nick show up."
Jared laughed. "Can you imagine a Christmas party in this place?"
Tristan chuckled, his mood lightening a little. "Wrap all of us lads in garland, paint candy cane stripes on our cocks. Wouldn't that be a sight?"
"Could hang ornaments off all the boys with piercings." Jared nodded towards Nick, one of the Dominants currently working his way into some john's wallet. "I could see him with a couple of coloured balls hanging off his nipples."
Tristan choked on his drink.
"Sorry," Jared said, laughing behind his hand.
"Well played." Tristan coughed a couple of times. "And I dare you to suggest that to Nick."
Jared started to speak, but movement beside him caught his attention—a john, maybe? He turned, and leather creaking behind him told him Tristan had shifted a little. Maybe not sat up, but moved.
The john was in his late thirties, Jared guessed. Good looking. Short hair, probably light brown, though it was hard to tell with the dim lights. Well off, judging by the bespoke pinstripe suit, not to mention his choice of whorehouses and especially that gold Rolex around his wrist.
Behind Jared, leather creaked again. Tristan had noticed the watch, no doubt.
Jared was about to get up and get out of the way so Tristan could get to work on his potential client, but the way the guy looked back and forth between them made him stay still.
"You two work together?" So he was American, though Jared couldn't put a finger on a regional accent.
Jared glanced at Tristan, who had in fact sat up straighter now, and raised an eyebrow. Do we?
Tristan's eyes were fixed on the potential client. "Depends on what you want, and how much you're willing to pay."
Oh God. Jared always expected the unexpected in this place, but the idea of working with Tristan? Oh fuck. Ooh fuck. He would pay top money for that shit.
He turned back to Mr. Gold Rolex. The guy's lips quirked in an odd smile, and he slid—uninvited, but not unwelcome—into the booth across from them. "I'm willing to pay for good quality," he said. "But ... I don't buy anything sight unseen, so before we start talking about throwing down cash, I need to see the two of you in action."
Tristan snorted derisively. "You think there's a free preview?"
"Not necessarily free." The guy shrugged as he pulled out his wallet and set it on the table. The cash-stuffed gauntlet thrown. "But perhaps a sample of sorts. And if I like what I see? Then maybe we can negotiate from there."
It's one step closer to making rent, Jared told himself, suppressing the flutter of nerves. With Tristan involved, he suddenly wasn't quite sure his bag of tricks was enough.
"Twenty quid apiece," Tristan declared. "And you get a kiss. Or, well, he does."
Jared's breath got lost somewhere in his throat. His heart beat faster as the john reached for the wallet and pulled out the money. Rolex laid the notes beside the wallet, dead centre on the table, and then gave both of them an expectant look.
Jared gave Tristan a short nod, because Tristan was now arching that eyebrow at him. Whatever, Jared hoped his half-shrug said. Money's on the table, and I'm game if you are. Though "whatever" didn't begin to cover what he felt when Tristan leaned over and touched his lips to his. Jared jolted a little, thinking only, Oh shit, I didn't know he was a kisser.
Of course, the kiss had been discussed, negotiated, bought and paid for, but it was nevertheless a surprise. And a hot one. Not tender —the john didn't want to see a seduction. Much like somebody dialling into a porn camera, he wanted to see something juicier than banter or a flash of skin. But that kiss counted as both: seduction and foreplay. It started gently enough, a teasing brush of lips, Tristan's fingers splayed on Jared's cheek, and Jared had to remind himself to do something, so he opened up a bit and pretended he wasn't surprised and also thathe was a kisser. Okay, so he loved to kiss lovers and boyfriends, but not johns. That would just feel too weird. Too intimate. But now Tristan had kissed him, so would Rolex expect to be kissed too?
Nasty thought, one that almost made Jared's skin crawl, but right then Tristan's tongue invaded his mouth and swept along his teeth, and that thought popped out of existence. He dug his fingers into Tristan's shoulder, felt the muscle shift under his grip, and pretended this was anything like a work assignment.
No, the john wanted something more than that, and the art was to make the fake more real than the reality. Johns bought a particular idea of sex—perfection at every level—so now Jared and Tristan delivered the same in the form of a kiss. No banging noses or clashing teeth. He and Tristan were too good at this, and besides, hell, he wanted to kiss Tristan. More than he had any other guy in a long time, actually, and even though it was only a twenty-quid kiss, he let himself get into it. Really into it.
And just when he had gotten much too far into it, it ended. Abruptly, as if a timer had gone off and a bell had rung, Tristan broke the kiss and turned to the john. "Like that?"
The man smirked and nodded. "I do, yes. So do you both fuck and get fucked? Because I will happily pay for both."
Be still my heart, Jared thought, lips still tingling. A real charmer.
"I go both ways." Tristan looked at Jared, that eyebrow arched again.
Jared nodded. "Same." For you, anything.
Tristan winked, the blood pressure–altering motherfucker, and faced the john again. "You just gonna watch? Or you gonna join in?"
"Just watching." The customer's smirk turned into a devilish grin that rivalled Tristan's. "Unless I really like what I see."
"Which all depends on if we like what we see." Tristan gestured at the leather wallet on the table. "One of us isn't cheap. Both of us will cost you."
"I'm willing to pay for the finer things in life." The john stroked his chin with his index finger. "How much?"
"Eight hundred for an hour." Tristan didn't flinch, but Jared's heart skipped. That much? Shit. Tristan had been here long enough that he was allowed to negotiate his own prices as long as Market Garden got its cut, but eight hundred? That was more than double what Jared usually got paid. Significantly more.
Rolex balked, sitting up a little straighter. "Not sure I'm willing to pay that much."
Tristan's arm slid around Jared's shoulders. "Well, that's to see us both fuck and get fucked. Twenty for a kiss, four hundred for a fuck. We can negotiate the steps in between."
Fuck, mate. If this guy bails, can we go somewhere and do all those steps anyway?
The john's eyes flicked back and forth between them. "Tell you what. I'll start at two hundred. If I like what that gets me, I'll pay for more."
Tristan pursed his lips. His fingers drummed on Jared's shoulder, and he focused on the wallet on the table. Jared's heart beat faster and faster. At this point, he didn't give a fuck about the money. He'd had a thing for Tristan for, God, how long now? Shit, whatever Rolex wouldn't pay, Jared was tempted to pony up himself. He had a little bit of money left, even if it was dog-eared for inconsequential things like rent. Damn, Market Garden really needed to issue store cards or something.
Finally, Tristan looked at him. "This sound good to you?"
To the john, Tristan said, "All right. Two hundred, and we'll go up in one hundred quid increments from there."
"How much does two hundred get me?" the john asked.
"What you just saw, ramped up," Tristan said. "No clothes off, nothing below the belt."
Rolex chewed the inside of his cheek, watching Tristan and Jared silently for a moment. Jared could already see the mental porno playing inside the man's head, and he desperately hoped it was as hot as it was in his own mind. And that it became a reality in very, very short order.
Finally, the john spoke. "All right. You have a deal." He opened his wallet and took out four fifties. As he slid them across the table, he said, "I have a room at the Meridian Star Hotel. Shall we?"
Tristan didn't move. "You been here before?"
The john shook his head.
Tristan gestured at the bar. "Quick background check and all of that. Just a basic one. It won't take long."
Rolex eyed the bar, and Jared was afraid the inconvenience might put him off and send him on his way, but then the man nodded, and picked up his fifties. "Excuse me a moment, then. You'll wait here for me?"
Tristan lifted his mostly empty drink in a mock salute. "Consider us yours for the night. We'll be right here."
While the john went up to the bar to complete the background check, Tristan leaned in close enough to kiss Jared's neck.
Excerpted from Quid Pro Quo by L. A. Witt, Aleksandr Voinov, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Rachel Haimowitz. Copyright © 2013 L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov. Excerpted by permission of Riptide Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted January 7, 2013
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