“Start with the Buns,” Said the Spider to the Fly

Adrenaline still simmered inside Hollis as he parked behind Ian’s car in their driveway. He’d taken another freelance job with Shane’s private investigative firm and this one had been a bitch. It had started with him spotting a group of thieves who’d been burglarizing homes and ended with him being questioned by his former coworkers. The crazy mix of jubilation over catching someone in the act didn’t mix well with the resentment he’d felt at not being able to arrest the man himself.

And being on the other side of the questions had left a sour taste in his mouth.

After the cops left, Shane had talked him into stopping for pie. And because Ian worked nights, Hollis had taken him up on it. Shane was fast becoming a good friend, but Hollis had been floored by the permanent job offer.

It was a good one.

He’d earn enough to make him feel a lot less worried about his future with a celebrated chef. Ian’s restaurant had grown even more popular and a recent write-up in the papers had made getting a reservation at Rialto a challenge. He wouldn’t be making near the kind of money Ian would be, but it was more than enough to take care of half the bills they already had with a nice chunk left over for work on his old house.

Hollis looked up at the condo he shared with Ian and anticipation made his heart pick up when he saw faint light coming from the windows. He was used to arriving home to an empty place and feeling Ian climbing into bed after two in the morning. Not that he was complaining, no. He lived for that time of night when they talked in the dark about their days. More often than not, that talk morphed into the hottest fucking sex of his life. Ian liked it every way it could come—vanilla and not so vanilla. He wanted to try everything but more often than not, they ended up just going at each other like sex had just been invented.

An image of the sweaty, sticky mess they’d made of the bed the night before had him adjusting himself in his jeans. And Ian was already home.

Amused at his eagerness, Hollis got out of his car and walked to the front door. The scent of cooked beef hit him before he had his key in the lock. He glanced at his watch, surprised Ian was making food so close to midnight.

He recognized the low voices and music as he closed the door behind him. Ian had one of their favorite superhero movies playing on his laptop as he cooked. Hollis stomach rumbled despite the pie he’d just eaten. The only downside to living with a chef was having to hit the gym twice as hard.

Their condo had an open floor plan so he could see Ian puttering about in the kitchen, wearing one of his silly aprons that Hollis loved.

“Hey you!” Ian called out over his shoulder. “Will you come into the kitchen?”

“Said the sexy spider to the horny fly,” Hollis said under his breath as he walked around the breakfast bar and smacked a noisy kiss on the back of Ian’s neck.

Ian turned his head and gave him the blinding smile that melted Hollis’s knees into butter. “Did you know that the hundreds of hairs on a spider each act as individual ears?” Ian winked. “Spiders have excellent hearing.”

Hollis wrapped his arms around Ian and pulled him back so he could slowly grind against him, smiling into his hair when Ian moaned. “Why are you cooking so late?” Hollis asked.

“Tomorrow’s steak sauce needs a bit of tweaking. Feel like being my guinea pig?”

“Always.” He opened his mouth over the back of Ian’s neck and bit down. Fuck, he smelled good. Like food and light, spicy cologne…and Ian. The man had a scent that had burrowed under Hollis’s skin until he just wanted to wallow in Ian. All of the time.

He slid one hand under the side of the apron to spread his fingers over Ian’s chest, the thud of his heartbeat welcome against his palm. Hollis smiled to feel it getting faster. He used his teeth again, this time on the muscle where his neck met his shoulder. He slowly ground his hips side to side against Ian’s ass.

The spoon Ian had been using clattered to the granite before Ian gripped the edge of the counter and thrust his ass back into Hollis. “As much as I want to continue this now—” He broke off with another shuddering moan before straightening and turning around to face Hollis. He cupped his hands on either side of Hollis’s face and stretched up to kiss him. “I have to get this right because I’ve already got it on tomorrow night’s menu and it needs to be perfect.”

“You and your sauces,” Hollis muttered, though he made sure to put amusement into his tone.

“You love my sauces, so don’t even think of complaining.”

“I do. I love all of your sauces.” He let his southern drawl lace his words. He usually got his way when he laid on the Georgia charm.

Ian snorted and pushed him away. “Playing dirty, I see. Stop before I make you kneel on this hard floor and swallow one.”

“Is that supposed to be a threat?” He cupped his hand over Ian’s crotch, resenting the slacks and the apron between him and all that hot flesh. Then he got a good look at the dark red apron and cracked up.

Kiss the cook. Start with the buns.

“Rowe got me this one,” Ian said, looking down at it. “I’m surprised he didn’t keep it for himself.”

“Oh, he bought two. Trust me.” Hollis noticed that Ian hadn’t removed his hand. He tightened his grip a little, loving the way Ian sucked in a deep breath.

“Go sit at the breakfast bar. I’m not going to be able to finish this until you’re on the other side of it.”

Eh, he could give him a few more minutes. Then Hollis planned to cart him up to their bedroom for some athletic fun. Or maybe he’d just bend him over the table. Ian loved being manhandled and carried around, so Hollis knew he could take him anywhere he wanted in this house. And he was so wonderfully… bendy. He eyed Ian’s slim, tight ass in his gray slacks when he turned back to bowl on the counter.

Ian turned off the movie, then gave him a quick glance as he moved to whatever was simmering in a pan on the stove. The corner of his mouth crept up in a half grin. He picked up a wine bottle next to the stove and poured some into the pan. “I made this Cabernet myself.”

“You make wine? How did I not know that?”

Ian shrugged. “It’s been awhile since I did it. It’s not hard because most everything is in a kit. But it was time consuming and the condo always smelled like yeast.”

“So a lot of the bottles in the wine cabinet are yours?”

He nodded. “It was just a hobby. I can’t serve the wine in the sauce in my restaurant, but this is close to the one being delivered tomorrow, so it’s great for cooking.” He moved to the chopping block and took out small onions—shallots, Hollis could remember that.

But he didn’t know what the thin mushrooms were called. Ian’s moves were smooth, fluid, and fast and Hollis found his gaze drawn to his slim, talented hands. He loved having those hands on his body. Last night, Ian had used them long and well, digging into his back, clenching in his hair…

He swallowed back a groan, watching as always did as Ian moved around the kitchen. His confidence in his own skills was hot as hell.

Ian poured a little more wine into the sizzling pan, stirring with his left hand. He worked the sauce while adding something that looked like butter with herbs already in it.

“Oh fuck,” Hollis groaned out the words. The heady aroma of beef joined the other odors in the kitchen as Ian slid a massive rib eye onto the indoor grill. “I just ate apple pie with Shane. I shouldn’t want to eat that.”

“It’s just one steak and we’ll share.” He stirred his sauce again. “You went out for pie this late?”

“I didn’t know you were home or I wouldn’t have.” Hollis crossed his arms on the granite counter and leaned forward. He watched as Ian added a spice to his sauce, tasted it, then wrote something down on the pad of paper he kept on the counter. That pad was always scribbled with notes. “I’m glad I went. He offered me a full time job.”

“He’s done that before.”

“He upped the offer.”

“Oh yeah?” Ian’s slow grin did something wicked to Hollis’s insides. “You going to really consider it this time?”

Hollis nodded. “I think I’m going to take it. Even if I could get my old job back, I’m not sure I want it anymore.”

“I know that’s not true,” Ian murmured. He checked the sizzling steak, then flipped it. Every time he used the indoor grill, their place smelled of food for days. Not that that was any different than normal, but something about grilled meat scents made Hollis feel perpetually hungry.

And he was always that way just from living around Ian—even without the food.

Hollis knew Ian felt guilty about the loss of his career and he wished he could convince him that he only blamed himself. And that he wouldn’t go back and change a thing. Actually finding kids, after so many years of failures…it had given him a sense of needed closure. He’d probably never learn what had happened to his best friend in high school, but a lot of families had been reunited and he would never, ever, feel anything but good about that.

“I do miss some things about the job, I won’t lie. And I’m pissed that it was taken so far and completely out of my control. But in working for Shane, I’ll still be doing a lot of the same kind of grunt work I did before. I won’t have as much authority, but I also won’t be as restricted in what I can and can’t do.”

“And with your knowledge of the law, you’ll know how far you can push without getting arrested.”

Hollis chuckled. “Best part.”

Ian lifted an eyebrow before checking on their steak again. “You sure you don’t want to work for Rowe?”

“Positive. Ian, I like your friends a lot but they are in our lives a lot, too.”

Ian’s light brown hair flopped over his forehead when he lifted his chin abruptly to look at Hollis.

Hollis held up his hand to try and ward off the mix of worry and defensiveness he caught in his boyfriend’s expression. “Like I said, I like them a lot. I do, Ian. They are a great group of men—even Lucas, though it pains me to admit that.”

“I won’t tell him,” Ian said with a soft smile.

“I know better than that.” Hollis chuckled. “I knew what I was getting into with all those arrogant assholes, knew they were a family to you. So don’t ever worry about that. I want you exactly as you are and you happen to come with a group of nosy, over-protective men and that’s fine.”

“At least they’re not bad to look at.”

“True.” Hollis nodded. “But I didn’t really see them anymore once I spotted you.”

Heat crawled up the back of his neck when he realized what kind of sap had just flopped out of his mouth. But that embarrassment fled in the wake of the look he received from Ian. Warmth and affection and something more spilled from those earnest, brown eyes. Something solid and real and unlike anything he’d ever received in his life. That look—every time he got it, his heart swelled too big for his chest and heat filled his gut. He curled his hands into fists because he wanted them on Ian right then. So badly.

Ian stared at him for long, taut, moments before he turned off the stove and grill. He slid the steak on a plate, covered it in sauce and handed Hollis a knife and fork. “You start. I’ll be right back.”

With heat still filling his cheeks, Hollis cut a bit of the steak and put it into his mouth. “Holy shit,” he groaned as the most fantastic flavor hit his taste buds. He slowly ate another piece, wanting to savor this as long as possible. He didn’t even look up when he felt Ian standing behind him.

“Is it good?”

“Incredible. And you know it is.” He cut a piece for Ian and turned to feed it to him, then forgot what he was doing.

Ian had taken off everything but the silly apron.

“Do you remember the next part of that poem?” Ian asked as he helped guide Hollis’s stalled fork to his mouth. He slowly wrapped his lips around the fork and pulled off the bite of meat.

“Poem?” Hollis wasn’t capable of thought in that moment as he stared at Ian’s mouth.

“When I asked you into the kitchen, you quoted a poem. Leave the rest of the steak.” Ian turned and started walking away. The back view of nothing-but-apron was even better. He stopped at the foot of the stairs. “The next stanza of that poem starts with “Will you rest upon my little bed,” said the spider to the fly.” He licked his lips and Hollis dropped the fork on the plate, best steak in the world forgotten as he surged to his feet.

“I don’t want rest,” Ian continued as he started up the stairs. “I want your mouth. You can start with the buns.”

Hope you enjoyed this second free short story featuring Ian and Hollis! If you haven’t already, you can read their story in Devour. And also, we had another fun book release this week featuring Rowe and Noah! For more details on that one, click herecover