He pressed a second finger inside his mate, scissoring and twisting his fingers, opening his lover ready to accept him. He moved lower, laying a trail of open-mouthed kisses as he reached his lover’s erection.
“It’s just two nights, love,” he said softly. “He’s lost Cam to caring for a relative as well as his cook with the flu. He’s got a cousin to do the backroom work.” Ryan moved so he was now rubbing his taut buttocks against a rapidly growing erection. “He’ll do the cooking himself from Friday.”
“Not safe,” James murmured, then moaned softly as his hands were directed to his mate’s furry chest and the nipple ring that still fascinated him.
“Won’t be there past 2 a.m. You or Tim could keep me company if it’ll make you feel better.” Ryan now reached back to pull James’ hips rhythmically against him in counterpoint to his own undulations. He gave an appreciative moan as the nipple ring was tugged and twisted.
“Maybe,” James conceded, his mind beginning to fog, all his blood seemed to be pooling in the one area that Ryan was rubbing so erotically.
“Let’s go upstairs and talk,” Ryan said. He turned and pulled his lover down into a deep kiss and then led him towards the stairs.
From his hiding place Tim grinned. If James’ workforce knew how easily the small, auburn beauty had his no-nonsense big brother wrapped around his little finger they would be stunned. Tim was certain by the time Ryan and James had finished ‘talking’ James would be saying yes to anything the other man wanted.
Ryan was covering Wednesday and Thursday for Tony, with James staying to keep an eye on things and Tony coming in between midnight and 1 a.m. to check what was happening. If it was dead, they would close early. The first night had a slow trickle of customers and they shut just after 12.30. Tim came to pick the lovers up in his cab to take them home. He grinned to himself at the way James now seemed to be taking credit for thinking of ways to protect Ryan and at the affectionate smirk Ryan wore that told a different story.
The Thursday night was much busier and Ryan assured Tony there was no problem in keeping open till the advertised time. James was delighted when Ryan came to give him an impromptu kiss and cuddle when there was a break in serving.
“I’m glad you agreed to have me here,” he murmured, wishing it was the sweet-smelling tresses he could nuzzle, but appreciating Ryan had to keep his hair restrained. “We’ve only known each other such a short time, but I feel like I’ve always known you. I couldn’t bear to lose you, babe.”
“You’re stuck with me,” Ryan said emphatically. “I love you, too and I’m not letting you go.” Giving his lover a final kiss to seal the deal, Ryan disappeared into the back to get some additional supplies. When he came back out he froze. Lank-hair was there with friends. Two held James, whilst a third brandished a knife, keeping the bigger man from struggling. The other stood, a lewd grin decorating an ugly visage.
“Come here, pretty, or we start carving up the boyfriend,” Lank-hair leered.
Ryan was shoved into the fourth man’s grip and the knife wielder went through to the back to keep the cleaner quiet.
“Much better to deal with big, clever-arses this way,” Lank-hair grinned. He rammed a fist into James’ unprotected stomach, causing the older man to try and double over, but he was held securely in place.
“Leave him alone,” Ryan screamed. But his plea just received cold laughter.
“You’ll get yours when I’ve finished with him,” Lank-hair growled. This time the fist went into James’ face and came away bloodied.
“No,” yelled Ryan. There was no way the young man was going to let his lover be beaten. He kicked back with all the fury that was racing through his veins and slammed an elbow into the face of the man holding him as his grip slackened. Not hesitating, Ryan launched himself at Lank-hair, driving him away from the man he loved. They crashed to the ground but, despite all Ryan’s attempts to prevent it, Lank-hair quickly had the smaller man pinned beneath him, grinning at the ineffectual squirming. To Ryan’s horror, he felt hard evidence of Lank-hair’s enjoyment of his struggles and then he was backhanded so hard he saw stars. As he tried to clear his head, he felt his shirt ripped open.
“Very nice,” was growled in his ear.
Ryan cried out as a rough, unwanted hand pawed and twisted brutally at his nipple ring. Ryan was convinced Lank-hair was trying to pull it off. He whimpered as another blow robbed him of strength as he continued his futile resistance. This time the unwelcome hand was unfastening his pants as he flailed weakly at his assailant. With a grunt of annoyance, Lank-hair fisted Ryan’s tresses as they came free from their tie and banged the young man’s head against unforgiving floor. Ryan gave a moan of pain and despair. It was hard to breathe with the full weight of his attacker on his chest. The other sounds in the café receded as he felt his zipper pulled down and Lank-hair trying to reach inside, rumbling impatiently.
“You’re a dead man.”
Ryan heard the words, but they made no sense in his light-headed and terrified state. All he knew was the weight was lifted and he could breathe again. His first thought was for James and he moaned his lover’s name as he tried to move. Fresh pains made themselves known as he did and he sobbed helplessly. As a large figure bent over him, he tried to move away.
“Don’t hurt James. Don’t touch me,” he cried softly.
“It’s me, babe. It’s James. Can you look at me, love?”
Ryan tried to focus on the face of the older man as he was cradled to James’ chest.
“Hurt,” he whispered. “Bleeding.” He tried to reach out to James, but the older man tucked away the shaking hand.
“Lucky blow,” he said. “It’s all over. Try and relax. Police and ambulance are on their way and so is Tony if I understand my Italian. He glanced around the cafe. He had managed to hit speed dial on his cellphone as their attackers had come into the shop. With them armed, he had not been able to defend himself. Once the knife threat was removed and Lank-hair had started hurting Ryan, James had fought and fought hard. The gold rings he, and his doormen, wore were as good as knuckle-dusters in a fight, but he had two men to take down before he could reach Ryan.
It had been Tim, arriving like an avenging angel, who had saved his lover. Hauling the would-be rapist off, the furious blond had used his fists and feet with ruthless efficiency. The younger man now stood, hovering protectively, fists clenching and unclenching, As they had been dealing with those in the café, the cleaner had barreled out of the back a meat cleaver raised and ready. He now stood in a similar pose as Tim, as if hoping one of the defeated men would try something.
Emergency services and Tony all arrived simultaneously. Tony, as proprietor, was vocal in eschewing Lank-hair and his cronies, calling them trouble-causers, amongst other, more colorful names. He heaped praise on his staff, vouching for their honesty and bravery. He fussed especially over the still-stunned Ryan.
Ambulance staff checked out the injured parties. However, it was quickly apparent that it was only James and Ryan who needed medical attention away from the scene. James turned pleading eyes on his brother as an insistent medic made him leave the younger man who immediately called out for him.
“Don’t leave him alone for anything or anyone,” he begged, relieved to see Ryan burrow against Tim as the blond took his brother’s place.
“I swear, James,” Tim said, holding Ryan’s shaking form tightly. He knew that at the very least Ryan was suffering from shock.
“J…James,” Ryan whimpered against Tim’s chest.
“He’s ok, kid. You just gotta put up with me for a while.”
“H…hurt him,” Ryan persisted.
“They hurt you worse, Ryan,” Tim said softly. “James said you tried to save him. I owe you big time.”
“I think he’s a little concussed,” a female paramedic offered. She turned Ryan towards her and saw the glazed expression. Carefully fingering the skull, she noted the bump on the back of the attractive young man’s head. “Are you family? Do you want to come with him in the ambulance?” She looked at the big blond.
“Yes and yes, miss,” Tim said, offering his best, winning smile. He would crawl on broken glass to stay at Ryan’s side.
As Ryan was x-rayed, Tim paced like a caged lion. He clung tenaciously to Ryan’s nipple ring as though it was a talisman. The Consultant looking after the younger man had removed it as carefully as possible when cleaning and tending to the bruised and damaged flesh. Tim intended to give it to his brother, but for the moment it was his source of reassurance.
A movement had Tim whirling immediately. He could see the small, fragile figure, in a hospital gown, immediately searching for Tim’s presence as he re-emerged from x-ray. Almost instantly the blond was at his side, holding tightly to a shaking, bruised hand. They were left in a cubicle whilst a bed was found for Ryan who was going to be spending the night. He was concussed, although the blond had been reassured it was mild, and the overnight stay was precautionary given the events. As the doctor walked out, two police officers stepped inside. Tim was immediately protective of his charge.
“Can’t this wait? The kid’s been through enough.”
“We really need Ryan’s versions of events. Mr Leeman, the one with the long, dark hair, has said that Ryan had agreed to see him tonight and that Mr Ross arrived and began the trouble. He,” she gave a cough, “suggests that Ryan enjoys ‘rough-play.'”
“No, no, they h…hurt James,” Ryan said. ‘Wanted to… to hurt …” He was enveloped in a hug and let his tears fall.
“Bottom line of it, miss,” Tim said, not relinquishing his hold on the fragile and precious young man. “Leeman tried once before to assault my brother’s domestic partner and failed. Thanks to James. This time they beat him and assaulted Ryan. Anything else is crap.”
“Mr Ballentine *is* your *brother’s* partner then?” the male officer asked, watching the way the blond held tight to the slighter man.
Tim heard the inflection and could see the look in the man’s eyes and growled angrily.
“Ryan is family to me and where I come from we take care of our own. Leeman and his men attacked James and tried to rape Ryan. This kid did nothing. He never encouraged Leeman and was never in a relationship with him.”
“Why don’t you check whether Mr Ross has completed a statement?” the female officer asked her colleague. She had a distinct feeling there would be problems if she did not get him and the big blond apart.
Tim glowered as the male officer stepped outside. Then James was racing into the cubicle. Tim took in the dressing that suggested James’ nose had been broken, but apart from which his brother seemed fine.
“Tim, is he ok?” James asked, worry coloring his voice.
“James?” Ryan leant a little from Tim’s embrace as he recognized the beloved voice. He was only released by Tim as James’ arms encircled the smaller body. He tried to burrow as deep into his mate’s embrace as humanly possible.
“Please,” James begged. “Can’t you speak to him when he’s less upset?”
“I think that would be for the best, officer,” came an authoritative female voice. The Consultant smiled benignly at the officer as she strode past to examine her patient. “He’s not going to be terribly coherent after what he’s endured and especially with a head injury. I would suggest you come back after midday. Let him have time to recover.” She turned with her patented, ‘I am a Consultant and you will obey me’, face securely in place. “I’m sure you don’t want any inaccuracies for the sake of a few hours rest.” She smiled more coyly at Tim. “Ryan’s bed is ready. I have a couple of porters to move him now.”
“Please, can I stay with him a little longer?” James asked, turning begging eyes at the woman who seemed to have so much authority.
“This must be your brother,” she smiled at Tim. “I can see the resemblance.”
“Yes, Doctor,” the blond said. “I’m sure Ryan would settle faster if James could spend a few minutes with him once he’s reached his ward.”
“I’m sure he would,” the Doctor all but purred. “In that case, if you would like to follow me, we can get things moving. I’m sure we’ll see you later, officer,” she added more professionally, opening the door and indicating the officer should precede them all.
Tim sat nursing a large glass of Scotch whisky. He had tucked his brother up in bed, after the older man had cried in his arms. The night’s events, with the reality of what had happened, had hit James hard. Tim stared at the small nipple ring. It somehow seemed symbolic to the blond. It was a little damaged, slightly bent out of its normal perfect circle. However, it had survived. He unfastened a gold chain and hung the small charm on it. He would ensure James bought Ryan something to replace it, as a fresh start.
Now he had a call to make. He had not always been on the right side of the law. They had been orphaned when he was fifteen and he had made James’ life hell, running wild with a crowd much older than himself. However, by the grace of fortune, he had been absent when his friends had been arrested. James had made him follow the trial and sit in the court. More than seeing his friends in the dock, it had been the look on James’ face that had turned Tim around. If Tim had been with his friends, his brother could have done nothing to save him. He saw that, and the fear, in James’ eyes. From that day, he had worked hard and both men had reaped the rewards.
Tim’s fingers caressed the phone as he picked it up. He still knew how to contact some of his old friends, although he no longer associated with most of them. James had helped some, others they steered clear of. Both he and his brother had good names and were well known locally. He would not have to even make a direct call. He dialed and spoke into the receiver, then replaced it. He took another mouthful of scotch.
He thought back to when they were leaving the hospital and they had bumped into Tony. Tim gave a grim smile as he remembered how the excitable Italian had reacted on hearing what had been said by the attackers. The older man had stormed off back to the shop. He had told the brothers that he always had CCTV cameras running and he would prove to the police who were the transgressors. Although that had been a relief to both men, Tim had no intention of leaving everything in police hands.
Fifteen minutes later, he got the return call he wanted. He was neither proud of, nor sorry for, his actions. Mr. Lank-hair Leeming would be receiving a visit. One where he would be advised, most strongly, to admit his wrongdoings and accept whatever punishment befell him from the court. The alternative would be spelt out very implicitly, as was the retribution he could expect if there was any attempt at reprisal for Ryan or James. At the end of the call, Tim tossed back the last of his whisky. He went upstairs, checked his brother was still asleep, and opted for the bedroom across the hall leaving both doors open. He had a feeling he would need to check on James for his own peace of mind that night.
Epilogue: Six months later.
Ryan sat at a potter’s wheel, throwing and randomly shaping the clay over and over. He was waiting for inspiration and relaxing. Even late in the afternoon, there was still enough natural light to work. His eyes turned to regard a bronze piece that had pride of place on a pedestal in the center of the spacious studio. It was a male torso, the toned pecs and washboard abs so realistic, that even Ryan found himself caressing the piece occasionally as if it were flesh and blood. He had taken a wax imprint of James’ chest and made it into a cast from which he had created his bronze masterpiece. He was often called upon to display it when his work featured in a gallery, but no amount of money would entice him to part with it. He had made it when recovering from his attack. Even now, so many months later, it still acted as a reminder of his lover’s strength and beauty and both comforted and inspired him. He smiled lovingly at it and then a sound had him look away.
The breath caught in his throat as he saw the living muse for the piece amble into the studio. James wore loose jeans that rode low on his hips, inviting Ryan’s eyes to follow the prominent treasure trail that disappeared enticingly out of sight. Ryan’s smile widened.
James had slipped quietly into the room and stood silently for a moment gazing appreciatively at the auburn beauty who shared his life. Ryan had his hair in a loose pony tail and was dressed in one of his old shirts, sleeves and collar torn off. It was all he wore and James’ eyes had roamed up the expanse of bare, lightly furred leg. The shirt was just long enough to deny the older man a glimpse of anything further. He’d seen the way the younger man had stared at the bronze and he had decided he wanted that look for himself. As Ryan’s eyes had met his, James had been certain he would drown in the depths of love they conveyed. Within a few strides, he had taken his place at his lover’s side and was deeply kissing the smaller man.
“Can I join you?” James purred, his hand sliding to caress his lover’s furred tummy.
“Bit too ‘Ghost’, man,” Ryan laughed. “And I am *so* not ready to lose you,” he added as he rose to his feet and wrapped his arms possessively around James’ neck. “Not for a long, long time,” he whispered.
“Me either, babe,” James vowed, as he took possession of Ryan’s lips once more. “Bed,” he growled, as they broke apart, panting heavily, their foreheads touching.
“Mattress is closer,” Ryan insisted, pulling his lover towards a large, sheet covered, double mattress. As they sank to their knees, their mouths fused together once more and each man’s tongue vied for dominance in a battle neither could lose. As they separated briefly, James’ fingers reverently unfastened the few buttons keeping his lover’s body from his sight and touch. He removed the offending garment and threw it to one side. His eyes ravenously devoured the sight of his naked beloved.
A twinkling in his lover’s opulent chest fur caught his attention and he tenderly caressed the diamond-set nipple bar that had been his engagement present two months after the café incident. Their wedding was rapidly approaching. Tim was their joint best man and his own fiancée, the Consultant who had cared for Ryan, was also helping with the arrangements. The house had been professionally redesigned and split into two distinct living spaces to cater for the two couples and James had never been happier. He looked up and smiled. The look of love in Ryan’s smoldering oceanic depths almost took his breath away.
“Make love with me, James,” Ryan whispered, as he reached to touch the older man’s cheek.
“Always, babe,” James promised. He removed his jeans quickly as Ryan lay back on the mattress, his arms and legs opening in silent invitation as James disrobed. He gazed with undisguised adoration at the younger man. “I love you so much,” he murmured hoarsely.
“Love you, too,” Ryan replied. “Show me,” he commanded gently.
James knelt between the wide-flung thighs and leant to kiss Ryan once more as he delved under the mattress for the lube they kept there. He kissed his way down his lover’s jaw and throat as a single, slick finger circled the small, tight opening and then pushed inside Ryan’s body. He sucked at one cinnamon nub that peeked shyly through Ryan’s furry chest until it was hard and then turned his attention to its bejewelled twin. As he pushed the bar with his tongue, or tugged gently on the highly sensitive flesh, he pressed a second finger inside his mate, scissoring and twisting his fingers, opening his lover ready to accept him. He moved lower, laying a trail of open-mouthed kisses as he reached his lover’s erect sex. He nuzzled the thick nest of curls, scenting Ryan’s musk and savouring his lover’s building arousal.