Authors: Kay Ellis
Devon opened his mouth to object, to point out he had never paid Jesse for anything, but what came out was, “What do you mean, his usual type?”
“What? You think you're the only one? There's been others. I'm not stupid. I know what he does with them. Thin ceiling, you see. I hear the bed creaking and banging against the wall. Seen them pay him, too, when they're leaving.” He saw the stricken look on Devon's face and shook his head in pity. “You didn't know he was on the game, did you?”
“I don't believe you.”
“Believe what you like, mate. I know what I heard and saw,” he called after Devon as he ran down the stairs and out into the street. “What about my rent?”
Wheels spinning, Devon pulled away from the kerb. He was sick to the pit of his stomach. And angry. So angry it was hard to breathe. A few days ago, Antonio had called Jesse a common rent boy. Had he known? Did he assume Devon knew, too? Was that why Antonio felt Jesse was fair game when it came to sex?
Devon slapped the palm of his hand against the steering wheel and swore vehemently. He refused to believe it. For the past six months, he had spent almost every day with Jesse. If the boy was selling himself, he would have known. Fuck, how was he supposed to know what to think anymore?
Abruptly, he pulled the car into a side street and killed the engine. Pulling his phone from his jacket pocket, he dialled Antonio's number, barely giving the man a chance to speak before he asked his question.
“Did you know what he was from the start?”
Antonio sighed. “Assuming we're talking about your slutty little boyfriend and his willingness to spread his legs for anyone with a few quid in their pocket, then, yes, I knew. Darling, everyone knew except you.”
Shaking his head in denial, Devon hung up and dialled a different number. Just as he thought it was going to answerphone, Jesse picked up. Devon heard the hope in the boy's voice when he spoke.
“Do you sleep with men for money?”
The long silence spoke volumes. Devon knew Jesse would be thinking fast, wondering how he found out, trying to find a way out, deciding whether or not to lie. “Dev... it's not....”
Devon cut him off and tossed his phone onto the passenger seat. A few moments later it beeped, alerting him to a text message. Reluctantly, he picked it up and looked at the screen, not surprised to see Jesse's name. He opened the message and read,
I was desperate. It was before we met.
The words altered nothing. It didn't matter if it happened before they were together. Jesse was admitting he had prostituted himself. In a way, he was still doing so by accepting all the handouts Devon offered.
Devon felt such an idiot, one of the richest men in the country and he had allowed himself to be taken in by a teenage rent boy. If the press found out, they'd have a field day. There had already been several stories in the papers about his relationship with a man half his age. He would be a public laughingstock and Erica would probably disown him altogether. Promising himself that, this time, it was really over and Jesse was out of his life for good, he started the engine and eased back into the late-afternoon traffic.
A FORTNIGHT passed, filled with working late, microwave dinners for one, and sleepless nights. Two weeks of wondering where Jesse was, if he was okay. Fourteen days of resisting the urge to pick up the phone and ask. At least Erica was keeping her distance for the time being, no doubt still sulking over their argument. To begin with Antonio had tried calling, and even turned up at the office one lunchtime, but he had finally gotten the message and was giving Devon time and space to get his head straight.
Actually, Devon wasn't sure his head would ever be straight again. The truth was, he missed having Jesse around so much the pain was unbearable. He hadn't realized how much the damn kid had gotten under his skin until he wasn't there anymore. Part of him hoped Jesse was missing him, too, proving their relationship had been more than a convenient source of cash.
His big bed was suddenly a cold and lonely place. Devon lay there at night, his hand sneaking beneath the waistband of his pyjama bottoms, eyes closed, pretending it was Jesse's fingers wrapped around his cock rather than his own. His hips lifted from the mattress as he thrust into the palm of his own hand, his breath coming in ragged gasps. In his mind, he could see Jesse rising above him, could
his tightness, smell his cum.
On the bedside cabinet, Devon's phone rang, the shrill tone interrupting his momentum. He managed a couple more strokes, but his need to climax had gone, along with his concentration. Cursing, he pulled his hand free and rolled over, reaching for the phone. The caller's name flashed on the screen and he frowned. Why would Antonio be calling at two in the morning?
“What do you want, Antonio?” he asked gruffly, hoping Antonio would put his breathlessness down to being woken in the middle of the night rather than a desperate bout of masturbation.
“Your boy's here. Come and get him or I'm calling the police.”
Devon stared blankly at the phone as Antonio abruptly rang off. What the hell? It came to him in a flash of blinding clarity and he rolled out of bed in a panic. Antonio was talking about Jesse. His mind raced as he pulled on a pair of loose-fitting sweats over his pyjama pants and slipped trainers onto his bare feet. It made no sense for Jesse to be at Antonio's house. Devon tugged a T-shirt over his head and headed for the door, grabbing his car keys from the top of the dresser. What the hell had happened to make Antonio even think about involving the police?
“Everything okay, Mr. Alexander?” the night security guard called out as he hurried through the foyer of the building.
Devon shook his head, not trusting himself to answer. He broke into a run as he crossed the underground garage to his car. Was he more worried about Jesse or Antonio? Damn it, Antonio, would it have been too much to take a minute to explain what was going on?
Twenty minutes later, he screeched to a halt in the photographer's driveway and leapt from his car. Antonio met him at the door, wearing black silk pyjamas and a lurid red robe. He stepped back to allow Devon into the house and Devon's eyes swept the marble-floored entrance hall before turning to Antonio with a scowl.
“What the fuck is going on?” he demanded. “Where is he?”
“Little shit showed up here drunk,” Antonio told him. “Shouting and swearing at me for cancelling his shoot.”
“Right. And why did you do that?”
“Darling, I only offered it to him in the first place because you were fucking him. Now you're no longer together, I've no reason to give him anything. I should have known he'd handle it with all the finesse of the common little guttersnipe he is.”
“Where is he?” Devon asked again. It was no surprise to hear Jesse was upset. He had pinned all his hopes on his first photo shoot, even if it was with Antonio. Devon just wished he had been adult enough to take the rejection better.
“Through there.” Antonio nodded toward his study.
Cautiously, Devon pushed open the door, half expecting Jesse to hurl himself across the room with fists flying. The room was in darkness, illuminated only by the glow of light from the hallway. It was also utterly silent. Where was the violent, drunk teenager he had been summoned for? He shot Antonio a confused look.
“Over by the bookcase,” Antonio said, looking decidedly more nervous than he should.
Devon went farther into the room and saw Jesse seated on the floor, back to the wall, knees drawn tightly up to his chest. Dropping to his haunches in front of him, Devon tried to pull Jesse's arms away from his face. Jesse jerked away from him, curling even tighter into himself.
“Jess, come on,” Devon coaxed gently. “I'm taking you home.”
At the sound of his voice, Jesse raised his head, giving Devon a glimpse of his split lip and bruised cheek. Devon's mouth tightened into a thin line of anger. It looked as though Antonio had done a capable job of defending himself. More than capable, given that the photographer had no visible injuries and Jesse was the one cowering in a corner.
Jesse's lips quivered. “He cancelled my shoot.”
“I know. Don't worry about it. We'll sort something out.”
“He... he....” Jesse's voice trailed off and he looked at Devon helplessly.
“Can you stand up for me, Jesse?” Whatever Jesse wanted to tell him would have to wait until the kid sobered up. The priority was to get him away from Antonio before the photographer followed through on his threat to call the police. “Come on, get up. Let's get out of here.”
He held Jesse's arms, steadying him as he stumbled to his feet. Devon's eyes narrowed when he saw Jesse's jeans were hanging open, the zip undone, the top button missing altogether. Jesse leaned against him and he could feel the tremors running through his young body. Tightening his grip, Devon guided him from the room. As soon as Jesse saw Antonio in the entrance hall, he shrank back with a low moan.
“It's okay, baby. Nothing can happen while I'm here.”
He gave Antonio a questioning look as he guided Jesse out the front door. The older man stared back and said nothing, just watched from the top of the steps as Devon gently eased Jesse into the passenger seat of the car. Leaning over, he slotted the seatbelt into place. Jesse whimpered, trying to hold his fly together with shaking hands. Tenderly, Devon stroked sweat-drenched hair from his forehead.
“I'm not going to hurt you, Jess. You're safe now.” Unchecked tears spilled down Jesse's cheeks and he drew up his long legs, hugging them to his chest again. Devon closed the car door and rounded on Antonio angrily. “What the fuck did you do to him?”
Antonio smirked. “Nothing he didn't want me to.”
“Stay away from him,” Devon warned, striding around the car to the driver's side. “And stay away from me. Come near either of us again and I'll make sure he presses rape charges.”
The smug look faded from Antonio's face. “You wouldn't.”
Devon drove back to the apartment with one eye on the road and the other on the young man curled in the seat beside him. Jesse shed silent tears for the whole of the short journey. Until that moment, Devon had not realized it was possible for someone to break their heart so completely without making a sound.
If the night guard had an opinion on seeing one of the residents return in the early hours of the morning with a sobbing boy half his age clinging to him, he had the sense to keep it to himself. They rode the lift up to Devon's floor in silence, Jesse unresisting as Devon let him into the apartment and steered him toward the spare bedroom. Seated on the edge of the bed, Jesse began to shake uncontrollably, and Devon quickly stepped backward, trying not to crowd him.
“Jesse, nothing is going to happen. Try and get some sleep. I'll be next door if you need me.”
He backed out of the room, leaving the door ajar, and stood for a few minutes, his heart aching as he listened to Jesse cry himself to sleep. If things had seemed bad before, they were suddenly ten times worse. Jesse was already messed up before Antonio got hold of him. Would he ever get over this latest incident of abuse? And what did it mean for them? Devon had dropped everything to go running the moment Jesse needed him. What if Jesse thought it meant they were back together? Or, worse still, what if he thought the opposite and he didn't want to be with Devon anymore? Devon wasn't even sure what he wanted to happen next. How could he expect Jesse to know considering the state he was in?
He rubbed a hand over tired eyes. Too many questions and not enough sleep. He undressed and climbed into bed, praying for sleep to come, and praying even harder that things would seem better in the morning.
TWO HOURS later, Devon sat bolt upright, his heart pounding. The sound that had woken him came again and he leapt from his bed, running as soon as his feet hit the floor. In the next room, Jesse was screaming. His hands twisted in the sheet, his body arching and contorting as he battled the demons in his nightmare. He gave another anguished howl.
Devon was suddenly thankful for neighbours who were either absent or deaf. He crossed the room and leaned over the bed, grasping Jesse's wrists. Jesse cried out in terror, struggling to break free.
Not knowing what else to do, Devon dropped on top of him, using his weight to pin Jesse's thrashing body to the mattress. Cupping the boy's face in both hands, he pressed their foreheads together, whispering soothing words until Jesse went limp beneath him. Using his thumbs to brush away the fresh tears on Jesse's cheeks, Devon rolled to one side, pulling Jesse into his arms. The teenager nestled against him. Eventually, his sobs subsided.
“He hurt me.” His voice was a broken whisper. Devon hugged him closer.
“I know, baby. I'll take you to the hospital if that's what you want. Or the police?”
“No. They... they won't believe me. Nobody will.”
Devon wriggled down the bed until he was lying face to face with Jesse. “
believe you. Now, try and go back to sleep.”
“Will you stay? Please?”
“Just try getting rid of me.”
They spent the rest of the day in bed. Devon thought about moving to his room, but Jesse seemed comfortable where he was and Devon was reluctant to disturb him more than he had to. For a while he worked on his laptop, one hand on the keyboard, the other stroking Jesse's hair as he slept. Late in the afternoon, he got up to make sandwiches and took them back to the bedroom. Jesse couldn't face eating, but he sat up and sipped gratefully at the steaming mug of coffee Devon handed him.
Devon linked his fingers through Jesse's and ate his sandwich with his left hand. The simple gesture made Jesse cry again, and Devon set his plate aside and held him. It was a repeated pattern throughout the day. Jesse slept, and when he woke, he cried. Devon worried about him, resolving to make him see a doctor if there was no improvement by morning, but at least there were no more nightmares to contend with.