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Edward Nolan lowered his book and glanced at his watch. There was no good reason why anyone should knock on his door that close to midnight. Hell, there wasnâ€™t even a bad reason for anyone to call on him at that time. Rising from his chair next to the fireplace, he slipped his glasses into his book to keep his place and made his way out of the lounge.
His footsteps echoed on the tiled floor as he strode purposefully across his front hall. Heâ€™d already locked up for the night. He glanced through the narrow window alongside the door as he took his keys from his pocket. Two figures were discernible in the gloom.
He pulled open the door. The light from the hall shone over his shoulder, illuminating two familiar faces.
Edward looked from Denton Greenwood to Jerry, from the young dominant to the even younger submissive, then back. The possibility of them being there because something was wrong occurred to Edward, but it was quickly dismissed. A man didnâ€™t spend so many years on the leather scene as he had, without learning to read body language and expressions.
He studied each of his visitors in the full and certain knowledge that they were up to something. Denton did a marginally better job of hiding it than Jerry, but even soâ€”if theyâ€™d been in the dock, no jury with sense would have hesitated to find them guilty.
"We have a favour to ask you for," Denton began.
Edward narrowed his gaze, but he nodded once, granting him permission to continue.
"Itâ€™s a slightly delicate situation, sir," Denton hedged, with a not-so-subtle glance past him into the house.
Theyâ€™d earned that much for their friendship over the last two years. Edward stepped back to let them through.
"Would you mind if we brought someone in with us, sir?" Jerry asked, blinking big blue eyes at him. "Itâ€™s just that itâ€™s a bit cold to leave him in the car, sir..."
Edward glanced over Jerryâ€™s shoulder, into the 4 x 4, parked by the kerb at the end of his drive. A figure sat huddled in the back, but the tinted windows didnâ€™t allow him to make out any kind of detail.
Edwardâ€™s curiosity got the better of him. "You may."
A tilt of Dentonâ€™s head sent Jerry to the car. He opened the back door to reveal a well-built young man with dark, spiky hair. He certainly wasnâ€™t dressed suitably for the cold. His T-shirt was long-sleeved, but the fabric was ridiculously thinâ€”the stiff wind blew against it, and the lines of muscle on the boyâ€™s torso were clearly outlined through the material.
He evidently worked out, a lot. He carried serious muscle, and he obviously wasnâ€™t above showing that off in the clubs. His leather trousers clung to his crotch and legs, putting all his assets overtly on display. The only place he could have gone dressed that way, and not have looked like a cheap-rent boy, was a gay nightclub.
The boyâ€™s attention remained on the ground while he walked towards the front door. With his hands pushed awkwardly into pockets, his shoulders hunched up, causing him appear to be a turtle that would much rather retreat into its shell. He allowed Jerry to lead him forward, not attempting to take charge of the situation, even with someone as instinctively compliant as Jerry. Edwardâ€™s rapid assessment put a tick in the box indicating that the boy was a submissive.
A bit closer and Edward distinguished the silver piercing in his guestâ€™s eyebrow. When the boy stepped into the light, the tissue-thin nature of his shirt let it be obvious that his nipples were pierced too.
Edward was well aware that Denton studied his appraisal of the boy. If this was another one of their matchmaking attempts, they had at least changed tactics. If the last seven submissives theyâ€™d thrown at him had all been carbon copies of his previous submissive, Frank, then this boy was the exact opposite of all those pretty, delicate little blonds.
"Mr Nolan, with your permission, Iâ€™d like to introduce Mark Howells to you. Mark, this is Mr Nolan."
Mark kept his head down, making it difficult for Edward to see his face. Edward held out his hand. There was a quick flash of brilliant green eyes as Mark peeked up before dropping his gaze again.
A few more seconds passed. Edward kept his hand where it was.
Finally, Mark gave in and put his hand in Edwardâ€™s grip. The brief handshake was enough to inform Edward that the boy was nigh on freezing.
"Come in," he ordered. "Thereâ€™s a fire in the lounge. Youâ€™ll find it far warmer in there."
"Yes, sir." The words were so mumbled as to be damn near incoherent.
Edward bit back an automatic instinct to correct. It wasnâ€™t his place to comment on the boyâ€™s elocution. Instead, Edward opened the lounge door. The warmth from the room immediately seeped into the hall.