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Sunlight found the spaces between the blinds. It pierced the protective darkness and burned its presence into Trent's eyelids like a brand. He was angry at himself before he was even half awake. He couldn't quite remember what he had done, but the weight of his headache alone was indication of some severe wrongdoing.
He watched the painful pulse of blood throb through his sunlit lids. His world was red and excruciating. He hated morning and sunshine and happy people everywhere. He hated himself for whatever the hell he had done to himself.
Trent rolled over. It was a monumental effort, but he couldn't stand the sun's glaring spotlight illuminating his mistakes. So without opening his eyes to this evil morning, he rolled right away from the window.
Sunlight hit him full force. It slapped him in the face with the open palm of reality. The truth easily outdid his headache. There was no window on the right side of Trent's bed, but that was not where he'd woken up. Trent opened his eyes. Nausea and nerves chilled his blood under the down comforter.
The room was bright and white and clean and glowing unpleasantly. The corners of the room seemed to be held down by dark, heavy furniture: a bureau, a nightstand, a dresser, even an armoire. They were big, masculine pieces, simple and solid.
Trent heard a door shut somewhere inside the house. He reminded himself that strange surroundings usually came with strangers. Suddenly his breath caught in frightened anticipation. Cold sweat jumped to his skin's surface. He listened for footsteps in the hall, but he couldn't hear anything. He closed his eyes and counted to ten. Then he opened them quickly, afraid someone wouldbe standing over him. Nothing.
Trent remembered the previous night in pieces. He remembered drinks and dancing and the way the night air swam around him as he walked. He remembered the man, or men. He remembered the mistake. But details escaped him. There was a long ride in a truck with someone he couldn't quite like. The name Santom rang in his head like a distant bell, like a memory that was part of his headache. He remembered rugged features and desire mingled with disgust. Like mixed liquors, the two flavors didn't combine well. They sloshed and collided and made him even more confused.
But all evidence pointed to the obvious. He had finally drowned himself in enough booze to jump into the inevitable. He had taken the plunge.
Trent snapped his head toward the nightstand. His headache made him pay the price, but he was rewarded by its empty surface. There were no crumpled bills lying there. Then out of the corner of his eye he caught the tips of his shoes, resting on white carpet. He lifted the covers quickly over his head, and he was immediately hit in the face with the stench of smoke and beer and everything that had seemed like a good idea the night before.
Somehow during the night, everything had turned sour and repulsive. Trent smelled himself, and he reeked of club gone wrong. This is what club trash smells like, he thought.
But for a moment he was almost glad to smell it, to be nauseated by his own filth. Every rancid shred of clothing was clinging to him like sweat. Every button was in place. He even had his socks on.
Well, at least he'd had the good sense to stop or pass out before he had sealed the deal. Relief rose within his nervousness and self-loathing. He breathed a painful sigh and let the covers fall back into place. The fluttering comforter blew the scent of last night and Trent's own stale breath over him like an ominous wind.
And outside the covers, there was Dan, standing cautiously inside the door. He would have looked polite and inquiring, but the entire scene was distracted by his outfit. He was wearing a towel.
"Sorry," Dan said, dripping and leaving dark footprints on the light carpet as he approached. "I just thought you might need these."
He held out a handful of aspirin. He'd even had the forethought to include a few extra tablets. It may have been more than the recommended dosage, but Trent's alcohol intake wasn't exactly what the doctor prescribed either.
"Thanks," Trent replied. His manners felt almost as out of place as he did.
Trent stole another look at Dan as he accepted the pills. Did this guy really need to pick up tricks along the river? Trent couldn't take his eyes off the wet torso above him. Dan set a glass of water on the nightstand, and droplets rolled down the curve of his shoulder into the crease where tricep met bicep. As he turned back, Trent could see the path of water from the hollow of Dan's throat through a swatch of chest hair between square muscles and then straight down the dark line that blazed the middle of his hard, flat stomach. Trent saw where the line ended and the water stopped at the moist knot of the towel. He wished he could see a little further. He wondered how much wetter and darker it was beneath that soggy waistline.
Trent had the sudden urge to retrace the water's path with his tongue, to lap the remaining moisture from navel to throat. He couldn't help imagining those wide shoulders above him, this man rubbing himself dry on Trent's own smooth skin.
Trent shook his aching head gently to clear the morning fog and fantasies. But the distraction was still standing right there in a towel. Trent reminded himself why he was here, what kind of man was standing above him. No matter what he looked like, this guy paid for sex. He'd fully intended to pay Trent for it.
Trent propped himself defiantly against the headboard and swallowed aspirin. Cold water coursed through him like a refreshing chill. He swore he could feel the icy liquid pumping through his veins. Hydration did more good than medication ever could.
"Thanks," he repeated. But now the harshness from last night had seeped back into his speech, as if the aspirin's bitterness had stuck in his throat.
Dan practically forgot he was standing there half-naked. The remnants of his shower clung to him coolly. His skin shivered slightly, and his nipples drew tight against his chest. But the warmth under his towel kept him from noticing, and he doubted the chill was really from the water at all. Dan was sure it had more to do with the sleepy-eyed man in his bed.
He watched Trent drink again thirstily, eyes closed, head tilted back. Dan watched the throat move with each gulp, Adam's apple bobbing smoothly between dark stubble and porcelain white. Trent's rumpled shirt fit even better this morning. The wrinkles tugged hems and sleeves upward, revealing glimpses of hard body and smooth skin. Trent had all the right pieces in all the right places. He had the flowing, firm curves of young muscle draped on delicate bones. His features were just sharp enough to give him an edge without detracting from his classically handsome face. Someone would want to paint those cheekbones, Dan thought. A mechanic, however, just wanted to run his hands over that body, admiring the angles and lines like a new sports car that was modeled on a classic automobile.
Anyone who looked this beautiful first thing in the morning with a hangover was dangerous. This kid must make a killing along that river, Dan thought. His admiration dipped as he reminded himself of the circumstances and reality of their situation. He couldn't let this happen. He couldn't let this gorgeous young man treat himself that way. He knew he couldn't change Trent's life, but he didn't have to contribute to his degradation.
It really was a waste. There must be more to Trent than those blue eyes and tight ass. Dan's body surged at the thought. His reaction to Trent could have easily caused his towel to pop open. It could cause him to lose his resolve. Dan couldn't trust himself this close to something so desirable.
"Would you like more water?" Dan reached for the empty glass.
Their hands met around the glass, heating its surface from either side. Trent didn't let go. He let their fingers linger there, touching, circling a glass of air. Dan's question went unanswered.
It was impossible to tell who pulled or pounced first. The glass tumbled safely and silently to the carpeted floor. Suddenly, Dan was on the bed, on top of the comforter. His mouth covered Trent's with warmth and desire. The kiss was eager but deep, pacing its hunger with savoring.