Authors: Kay Ellis
“You know, I thought the four of us were alike: you and Johnny, me and Jesse. But we're not, are we?” Mark threw his napkin down and got to his feet. “You're just going to let him go. At least Johnny fought for me.” He ignored the other diners at their table who stared at him, bemused by his little outburst. “I'm going to the bar. Do you want anything?”
“I'll make do with the wine,” Devon said stiffly, indicating the open bottle on the table.
He watched in disbelief as Mark walked away. Who did Mark think he was? One minute saying Devon and Jesse would only hurt each other if they got back together again, and then that he should fight for him in the next. Mark was wrong to think they were alike. Maybe Devon and Johnny had both been wealthy, older men involved with much younger men than themselves, and maybe Jesse and Mark had been penniless wastrels who got lucky, but that was where the similarities ended. Devon doubted Mark had done half the things Jesse was guilty of.
With a pained sigh, he excused himself from the table and headed to the bar to find Mark. The man was still grieving for his partner. He was lonely, probably trying to relive his relationship with Johnny through Devon and Jesse. As his friend, Devon owed it to him to offer some small degree of comfort.
The bar was crowded and noisy as he weaved his way through the mass of bodies searching for Mark. A gap opened up ahead of him. Devon stepped into it and found himself face to face with Jesse. Both of them came to an abrupt halt and Devon knew the hunger he saw in Jesse's brown eyes was reflected in his hazel ones. He felt a warm glow of satisfaction as he realized it could only mean one thing: Jesse missed him as much as he missed Jesse.
“You look amazing,” Jesse said softly, closing the distance between them.
“You don't look so bad yourself. Armani suits you.”
“This old thing?” Jesse mumbled awkwardly. His eyes raked Devon over from head to foot and back again, making no attempt to hide his desire. “How are you, Dev?”
“I'm good,” Devon answered, uncomfortably aware of the heat flooding through his body and pooling in his groin from being so close to Jesse. If Jesse kept looking at him the way he was, Devon was close to dragging him to the floor, ripping his clothes off, and fucking him right there. From the expression on Jesse's handsome face, he was unlikely to object. “You?”
“I'm good, too.” Jesse looked embarrassed. “They're making a programme about me.”
“I heard. Congratulations. You've got everything you ever wanted.”
“Not everything,” Jesse said pointedly. “Listen, about what happened on my birthday....”
“Jesse, you don't have to explain.”
“I know, but I want to. I just....” He suddenly fell silent, paling visibly.
“Hello, Devon, you look ravishing.” Antonio came up behind Devon, slipping one arm around his waist. He kissed Devon's cheek warmly before addressing Jesse, who was rooted to the spot, shaking with fear. “And you look adorable, young man. In fact, you look most fuckable. Don't you just want to fuck him hard, Devon? I know I do.”
“I... um... I should get back to my date,” Jesse mumbled.
He pushed his way past, unable to look either of them in the eye, the confident, self-assured young man replaced once again by the abused, frightened teenager Devon had rescued from Antonio's study a few short months ago. But why should he react so badly? Antonio promised time and time again that his sex with Jesse had been consensual. Yet the very sight of him reduced Jesse to a quivering wreck. Jesse was terrified. That much was clear.
Devon rounded on Antonio angrily, the question stilling on his lips as the other man threw his hands up in defence.
“Please, let's not start all that nonsense again. I did
rape him. Look at me, darling. I'm fabulously rich and utterly gorgeous. I hardly need to use force to get what I want.”
“I know. I'm sorry.” Devon sighed. “But he's scared of you. I'd like to know why.”
“Because I see him for the common little tramp he really is,” Antonio snapped. “That's the only reason he hates me. Now.” He was instantly all smiles and insincerity again. “Introduce me to your handsome companion. I don't suppose he's gay, by any chance?”
MARK hated Antonio on sight. The warm, amiable person Devon had come to know suddenly became a cold, hostile one, spitting ice with every grudging word that left his mouth. They endured an awkward, uncomfortable ten minutes endeavouring to make polite but forced conversation before Antonio conceded defeat and made his excuses, heading back to his date. Devon arched a questioning eyebrow in Mark's direction, wondering exactly what his problem was with the man who had been his best friend for years.
“I hate guys like that.” Mark shrugged unapologetically. “He's a predator. I bet he's the kind of guy who goes around taking what he wants from who he wants, whenever he wants.”
Devon found his observation hard to deny. Antonio was everything Mark said and more. He thought his money and looks entitled him to take whatever he wanted in life. No explanation. No consequences. And now Devon was doubting him again, afraid that one of the things Antonio believed he had the God-given right to take was Jesse.
“Jesse doesn't like him either,” he admitted. “He's scared of him.”
“I know. I was watching before. I saw the kid's reaction when Antonio showed up.”
“They slept together. Antonio says it was consensual. Jesse says it wasn't.”
“Is that right?” Mark scowled in the direction Antonio had gone. “Well, I know who I'd believe.”
If only it were that easy, Devon thought. Jesse and Antonio were both equally convincing, and he knew it made him appear weak, but he couldn't help believing whichever one he was with at the time. When he saw how hurt Jesse had been, Devon had no doubt something awful had happened to him that night at Antonio's. But when he was with Antonio, it was hard to believe him capable of the things he was accused of. As Antonio was so fond of saying, what need did he have to use force when he had a long list of willing bodies waiting to jump into his bed? Would Devon ever know the truth of what happened? Did he want to know? Either way, he would be hurt to find out for sure one of them had lied.
“Do you mind if I go and find Jesse?” he asked. “Just to make sure he's okay?”
“Go for it.” Mark grinned his approval. “There are plenty of people here I can talk to.”
Impulsively, Devon hugged him before wheeling away and returning to the main dining room. Now that so many of the guests had retreated to the bar, he moved easily between the tables, but there was no sign of Jesse. Devon hoped the run-in with Antonio hadn't frightened Jesse into leaving, but then he saw the Van Rooyen woman was still at her table and he doubted she would have missed a photo opportunity by allowing her hot, young date to leave without her.
But then again, given that the delightful Stella was currently draped across the lap of an aging soap star, it was possible she wouldn't notice if Jesse walked out on her.
She blinked up at him in a drunken haze. “Who?”
“Jesse, the man you came here with tonight.”
“Oh, him.” She straightened up with difficulty. “Do you know what that little shit said to me? He said it would be inappropriate for me to appear on his crappy show.
! Can you believe that?”
“Hard to imagine, I'm sure,” Devon said dryly. The soap star, who was not as drunk as Ms. Van Rooyen, smirked. “But, going back to my original question, where is he?”
The woman shrugged, falling back into the soap lothario's lap. “No idea. Some producer guy wanted to talk to him. Bastard wouldn't even introduce me. I should be the one with my own show. Not Jesse bloody Young.”
Turning away, Devon left the soap star to his fate, and continued his search. Leaving the dining hall, he went out into the foyer. Plenty of people were milling around, but he found no sign of Jesse among them. Was Devon wasting his time looking for him when he had already left? Stella said he had gone off with some producer, but where? A charity dinner seemed an unlikely place to hold a business meeting, but then what did he know about the workings of television? Perhaps disappearing for impromptu meetings was the norm in such circles.
He went to his left, down a corridor he knew from previous visits to the hotel was home to a number of meeting rooms. Cautiously, he tried the handles of couple of doors, finding them locked. He was about to try a third when he heard voices on the other side. It was impossible to make out what they were saying, but Devon recognized Jesse's voice instantly. From his agitated tone it sounded like he was arguing with someone.
As quietly as he could, Devon eased the door open and peered into the dimly lit room. In an all-too-familiar scene, he saw Jesse pinned against the wall by an older man who was intent on unzipping his fly and guiding Jesse's hand inside his trousers. He rubbed his dick frantically against the palm of Jesse's hand and pressed fleshy lips to the younger man's neck.
“That feels so good,” he groaned, his free hand scrabbling at the waistband of Jesse's trousers. “Fuck me, sweetheart. I'll make you famous.”
Devon pulled the door closed and stood for a moment, breathing deeply. Jesse would never change. Devon didn't know why he kept holding out hope he would. Not so long ago Jesse had admitted he would do whatever it took to get by. From what Devon had just seen, he was still doing whatever and
in order to get what he wanted. Only....
Devon hesitated. What
he just seen? True, he had walked in on Jesse in what one could call a compromising position, but Jesse hadn't looked happy about it. He looked trapped, held in place by a man who was bigger and stronger. And while Devon had clearly seen Jesse's hand wrapped around the other man's cock, he had also seen how tightly Mr. Television Producer had gripped Jesse's wrist, making sure he couldn't pull away.
Jesse would never pull away, Devon realized with sudden clarity. He was a rape victim, if not by Antonio, then by his foster brother all those years ago. Jesse wouldn't fight in the face of a personal threat. He would submit, and hope that in doing so he wouldn't be hurt any more than necessary. That was why Antonio didn't see fucking Jesse as rape. Jesse hadn't struggled. He'd let Antonio do what he wanted, and Antonio, in his arrogance, had taken submission as consent.
Devon threw open the door and strode into the meeting room. He snapped on the overhead lighting and the man jumped back from Jesse, desperately trying to cover his erection with his hands. Devon ignored him.
“Jesse, I need to speak to you. Now.”
“He's busy,” the other man growled, letting go of his dick long enough to snatch at Jesse's arm before he could escape.
“I can see,” Devon snapped back, delivering a scathing look. “I just don't care. Jesse, are you coming?”
“You walk away and I'll finish you. You can forget the show. Nobody will touch you. I'll make sure of it.” The producer released Jesse's arm and shoved him toward the door. “Make your choice.”
“I choose Devon,” Jesse said, sounding more determined than he looked. “I always choose Devon.”
Devon took his hand and pulled him quickly from the room before the other man had the chance to change his mind about letting Jesse leave. Unsurprisingly, the teenager was trembling uncontrollably as they hurried back along the corridor, looking like a lost little boy who'd found himself some place he didn't belong, dressed in a fancy suit that was suddenly too big for him.
“Thank you,” Jesse said quietly as Devon led him through the busy foyer. “For coming after me.”
“In case you hadn't noticed,” Devon halted halfway across the foyer and turned to face him, “I always come after you eventually.”
“Why?” Jesse was close to tears, his voice a whisper. “Why do you even bother?”
“You know why. Come on, let's get out of here.”
“What about the guy you're with?”
“He'll understand.” Devon tilted his head. “Do you want to say goodbye to Stella?”
“God, no!” Jesse said emphatically and there was the slightest hint of a smile on his lips, despite the tears that still shimmered in his eyes.
They left the hotel together, without stopping to tell anyone goodbye. Devon was sure Mark would forgive him once he knew the reason. He would text him as soon as he was able, but for the moment getting Jesse somewhere safe was his priority.
A couple of streets away from the hotel, they found a secluded wine bar that was fairly empty for the time of night. They took a table in a quiet corner and Devon barely glanced at the wine list before ordering a bottle of pinot gris. Jesse slumped in a chair, folded his arms on the table, and buried his face in the crook of his elbow. Devon resisted the urge to reach across and stroke his dark hair.
“Why me?” Jesse asked plaintively, lifting his head just enough to peer at Devon around the curve of his bicep. “What is it about me that makes people think they can do that?”
“I don't know, baby.” This time, Devon did reach over and gently lift a lock of dark hair from his forehead. Jesse closed his eyes and sighed, leaning into the touch. “But you have to stop putting yourself in these situations. What if I hadn't been there tonight? Would you have stopped him?”
Jesse heaved one shoulder and looked miserable. “I don't know. I tried, but... I was scared. I didn't want him to hurt me.”
The waiter returned with their wine and Jesse straightened up in his chair. Mesmerized, Devon watched him toy with the stem of his glass, his mind drifting to thoughts of other things those long fingers could be playing with. His gut twisted in a sudden surge of pleasure as he remembered how it felt to have Jesse's fingers inside him. Blushing, he dragged his mind out of his underwear and glanced across the table at the cause of his distraction, the beautiful young man sitting there with a hint of a smile on his lips.