As Andrei unlocked Lucas’s front door, he swore that this time he’d give the key back. His boss had insisted that he have a copy when he’d been assigned to protect Lucas, but that was weeks ago. Now they were dating — not that either of them had been brave enough to actually use that word — and he really shouldn’t have a key. It was just way too early for that.
But the issue was forgotten when he stepped into the massive penthouse with the open floorplan and his eyes fell on what looked to be two dozen pumpkins of various size spread across the island in the center of the kitchen.
“This is not my fault,” Lucas announced, breaking Andrei’s shocked stare. Cincinnati’s top property mogul stood at the edge of the kitchen with one hand shoved in the pocket of his designer slacks while holding a tumbler of bourbon in his other hand. The sleeves of his dark navy sweater had been push up to his elbows, making him look as if he were posing for a fashion magazine. Andrei really should feel like a bum, standing there in his worn jeans, gray and blue U.K. wildcats T-shirt, and leather jacket, but looking at Lucas, all he could think about was pulling those designer clothes off the man.
Andrei smirked and he slid off his jacket. “Go for it. How is this not your fault?” he taunted, tossing the jacket over the back of the sofa.
Lucas rolled his eyes. “Ian was with me.”
“Uh-huh.” Andrei prowled closer, stopping when he was just inches from Lucas. He could hear the other man’s breath catch and his chin tipped up slightly, offering his mouth up for a kiss. But Andrei just smiled and took the tumbler of alcohol out of Lucas’s hand. “Ian was there,” he prompted before taking a drink.
“I told him that we were going to carve pumpkins — which I still think is ridiculous — and Ian wanted to help find the perfect pumpkin.” Lucas paused, glaring at the pumpkins spread across the granite-topped island. “Apparently he’s done this before.”
“So he found twenty perfect pumpkins you had to get?”
A low growl escaped Lucas before he snatched back his drink and downed the last of the warm, burning liquid. “No. But he was taking too long. They were all too small or too big or lopsided or … too orange. I don’t know. I just started filling a cart. I figured that a couple of them had to be right.”
“And what do you plan to do with all the others that don’t become jack-o-lanterns?”
Lucas shrugged. “I told Ian he could have them for bread or pie or to decorate Rialto if he wanted,” he said, mentioning the Italian restaurant where Ian was the head chef and part owner.
Andrei started to step away when Lucas’s free hand shot out and wrapped in Andrei’s T-shirt, pulling him back so that their chests bumped. He captured Andrei’s mouth in a searing kiss that had Andrei sliding his arms around Lucas’s waist while a low moan rumbled up his throat. God, how he missed this. Their schedules had become difficult to match and he found himself longing for moments just like this more often.
Pulling away, Lucas pressed his nose into Andrei’s cheek as he nibbled along his jaw. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather…?”
“No.” Andrei stepped back from Lucas and gave a little shake of his head as if to clear it. “We’re carving pumpkins. It’s not Halloween until you make jack-o-lanterns and watch some slasher flicks.”
His smirk returned. “Then we screw each other’s brains out.”
“Oh yeah, because nothing turns me on like gutting harmless vegetables and playing in their entrails,” Lucas mocked, but Andrei didn’t miss his smile. There was something shining in his hypnotic green-gray eyes that convinced Andrei that Lucas was actually excited but simply didn’t want to admit to it.
“Why don’t you go get some newspaper while I set up?” Lucas grunted but started for the staircase leading to the second floor and his office. “And change out of your runway clothes,” Andrei called after him.
Once he was alone, Andrei made quick work of selecting two moderate-sized pumpkins before placing the rest on the floor near the entrance. He and Lucas could haul them down to the parking garage later and load them into Lucas’s Mercedes for delivery. He selected a couple of knives they’d be able to use for carving and some spoons for scooping out the interior.
Staring at the pumpkins, Andrei tamped down a groan. This really was a stupid idea. He hadn’t carved a pumpkin in a few years. The last time was during a visit to see his parents down in Kentucky and they’d had fun designing silly expressions. The truth was that he wanted to do something mundane with Lucas. After a fire, car chase, being shot at, and nearly dying, Andrei was just looking for something that was … normal. But then he was dating Lucas Vallois, self-made millionaire and owner of the hottest nightclubs in the city. Lucas was used to charity fundraisers and the ballet.
Andrei looked up at the sound of bare feet across hardwood and smiled. Lucas had changed clothes … sort of. He was wearing jeans that rode low on his hips and nothing else. Not that he had a problem with the view. Lucas might spend his day behind a desk, but the muscles in his wide chest spoke of a man who knew his way around a gym. That wasn’t going to be a distraction at all.
Dropping the stack of newspapers on the counter, Lucas held up his phone displaying a picture of complicated haunted house and spooky trees carved into a pumpkin. “I want to do something like that.”
Andrei couldn’t stop the laugh that rose in his throat. “Do you know how to make that?” he demanded, ignoring Lucas’s glare.
Andrei snatched the phone out of his hand and flipped through pictures until he came to the classic design with triangle eyes and large, grinning mouth. “You’re making that,” he said, showing him the picture.
“No buts. Jack-o-lantern virgins start there. You make that successfully and then you can move on to something more complicated.”
“Who made you the pumpkin police?”
Andrei shoved Lucas’s phone in his back pocket and picked up the newspapers, spreading them out to cover the island. “Experience. Now are you ready to get dirty?”
“With you?” Lucas’s smile turned wicked and his voice dropped to a seductive growl. “Always.”
Andrei just grinned back as he dropped a pumpkin in front of Lucas and handed him a pencil he’d dug out of drawer. For a breath it looked as if Lucas would argue, but he accepted the pencil and set about lightly drawing the face on the pumpkin. Andrei watched him for a moment, swallowing back teasing words about Lucas’s own need for perfection, before he started on his own design.
“You do this every year?” Lucas asked when he was pleased with his design.
“Yep. My dad loves Halloween.” He paused and flashed Lucas a crooked grin. “Of course, my parents grew up in the country that gave birth to Dracula.”
“You dress up?”
Andrei stopped Lucas when he tried to cut out the eyes first. “Lid first. You gotta pull out the guts first,” he instructed, picking up his own knife. “I dressed up most of the time. There was always a Halloween part somewhere. You?”
Lucas gave a brief shake of his head but refused to elaborate. Of course, that was just kind of par for the course. Lucas didn’t talk about his past, not that it seemed like he had many good memories to share.
“Oh my god! Lucas suddenly groaned as he stuck his hand into the pumpkin. “This is disgusting!”
“Big baby,” Andrei chuckled, pulling the lid off his own pumpkin.
Lucas looked into the pumpkin, horror drawing lines in his handsome face. “How much of this stuff needs to come out?”
“All of it.”
“What?” he gasped.
“All. Of. It.”
“This is repulsive.”
“I had no idea you were such a prima donna. Should we have hired someone to gut your pumpkin so you didn’t get your hands dirty?”
Lucas flicked his pumpkin-covered fingers at Andrei, flinging it across the counter to smack on Andrei’s cheek.
“Guess you should have dressed appropriately.” A smug smile slid across Lucas’s lips as he dug his hand back into the pumpkin. “This is messy.”
With a grin, Andrei reached over his shoulder and grabbed his T-shirt, pulling it off in one smooth move before tossing it over near the couch. There was no missing the way Lucas’s hungry gaze swept down his bare chest, making Andrei wonder if he’d spoken too soon when he put carving ahead of other activities.
“That’s a good start,” Lucas murmured with a wicked grin. Andrei didn’t have a chance to comment. Lucas pulled his fist out of the pumpkin and flung the guts at Andrei with a laugh. Andrei twisted and dove for the opposite counter, but there wasn’t enough room to move. The cold, sticky goo splatted across his shoulder and back.
Andrei hissed at the sudden chill but didn’t hesitate as he lunged for his own pumpkin. He grabbed a stringy, seed-filled glob and threw it at Lucas who was attempting to pull out a second handful, catching him across the chest. Lucas’s dark laughter filled the penthouse as he threw more at Andrei, getting half of it in his hair.
Abandoning his pumpkin, Andrei stalked Lucas around the island, both of them holding globs of pumpkin in their hands. “You know you’re not getting away from me,” Andrei growled, bringing a light to Lucas’s bright eyes.
“Why escape? We’re both armed and I think I’ve gotten the better of you so far,” Lucas teased. He took a step back, his foot landing on some of the splattered pumpkin, and started to slide. Andrei closed the distance in an instant, catching him and slamming him against the refrigerator before he could fall.
Their bare chests pressed close, both men were oblivious to the bits of pumpkin caught between them as they kissed. There was only the heat and the biting need to be closer. It was only when Andrei felt Lucas smear his pumpkin-filled hand across his back that he lifted his head, laughing.
“Hell. I’m going to be picking pumpkin seeds out of my ass, aren’t I?”
Lucas licked along Andrei’s lower lip before giving it a sharp bite. “Don’t worry. I’ll get those.”
“You’re the only person who could possibly make pumpkin carving sexy.”
Something shifted in Lucas’s eyes and some of the hunger dimmed, changing the light that played there into something softer. “Thank you for this,” Lucas said, his deep voice barely more than a whisper. “I know from now on when I see a pumpkin, I’ll always think of this moment.”
Andrei kissed him, letting himself drown in the heat and the need so he didn’t have to think about the ache that rose in his chest at Lucas’s words or the fact that he wanted to give Lucas more moments just like this. Pulling back, Andrei flashed Lucas a wicked grin. “Then let’s see about giving you a memory that’ll make you blush when you see a pumpkin.”
If you are interested in reading Lucas and Andrei’s story, pick up a copy of Shiver (Book 1 of the Unbreakable Bonds series) now. You can also pre-order Shatter, the second book in the Unbreakable Bonds series, now by clicking here. You can also read more free short stories here.
This short story was originally published for Halloween Flash Fiction on Books Make Me Happy Reviews.