A Deleted Chapter from Rialto
Hollis shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket as he strolled across the parking lot. Only a few other cars dotted the lot, and there seemed to be even fewer cars on the street despite the relatively early hour. A crisp chill was starting to blanket the city, bringing with it the threat of the first frost.
He welcomed the colder weather. While Hollis could do without the early morning window-scraping and the eventual digging out of his car before work, the colder weather always resulted in a snuggly Ian. Not that his husband wasn’t normally snuggly, but the fall and winter coolness seemed to have Ian regularly burrowing against Hollis like he wanted to wear his husband as a bulky sweater.
There was a part of him that felt uneasy about going out and leaving Ian home alone, but his lover had been adamant about him taking a night with friends. Ian argued that he deserved a break from the worry, but Hollis was just as quick to counter that Ian deserved a night off too.
Of course, Ian’s night off could be getting Hollis out of the house so that he’d stop hovering for a little while.
Reaching for the door, Hollis halted when someone shouted for him.
Hollis rolled his eyes and turned around to see Noah briskly walking to catch up with him, a wide grin on his handsome face. His curly dirty blond hair was loose about his head and brushing against his shoulders.
“Running late, surfer boy,” Hollis called back.
Noah’s grin widened. “My boyfriend wanted to make sure I left the house with a big grin on my face.”
“Be nice. Some of us haven’t seen our better halves since this morning.”
Noah clapped him on the shoulder while Hollis pulled open the door to the sports bar. Stepping inside, they were greeted by the smell of wings, beer, and fried foods. Hollis almost groaned aloud. He loved Ian and he loved his cooking, but it wasn’t often that Hollis was able to treat himself to something greasy, fried, and oh-so bad for him. And he was planning to be so damn bad tonight. Wings. Mozzarella sticks. Fried pickles. French fries. Nachos. All the bad things.
Fewer than half the tables were occupied in the restaurant, so it was easy to spot Jude and Andrei at a high-top pub table not too far from the bar. Around them, TVs flashed various sporting events or commentators talking about sporting events. It was mostly college football, but there were a couple with the most recent MMA fight.
A smirk teased Hollis’s lips as he spotted his two friends. He could tell they were already deep in discussion about some heavy topic simply by the fact that Andrei’s eyes were not straying to the fight. No matter how perfect his life was, the former fighter was still drawn to MMA, but there was less wistfulness in his gaze now.
But then, having a perfect little girl like Daciana put things into perspective.
Hollis reached the table first, slapping Andrei on the back. The two men looked up and grinned. Greetings were exchanged while Hollis slipped off his jacket and dropped it on one of the chairs. A server quickly appeared and took his and Noah’s drink orders before disappearing again.
“Another meeting of the ‘No Boyfriends Allowed’ club has been called to order,” Jude announced with a wide grin.
“Thank God,” Andrei groaned softly before picking up his beer and taking a healthy drink.
“Trouble in paradise?” Hollis asked as he picked up the laminated menu. “Baby, husband, or the move?”
Andrei snorted. “Try managing a baby, husband, parents, and multi-million-dollar business during a move.”
All three men winced at Andrei’s exhausted tone. Hollis looked down, eyes skimming the menu and mentally prioritizing all the delicious and bad things he was dying to put in his mouth.
“First, anyone want to split any appetizers?” Hollis asked.
“Really? You want this stuff when you get Ian’s cooking every night.” Jude’s tone was teasing, and Hollis nearly smacked the paramedic on the head with his menu.
“Love Ian’s cooking, but sometimes a guy wants something fried and slathered with cheese.”
“Mmmm…I’ll take that too,” Noah moaned.
“Jude and I ordered a bunch of appetizers to split. Should be out soon,” Andrei said.
Hollis wasn’t surprised. After dating Ian for less than a month, Hollis quickly learned that Lucas was the caretaker of the group, the organized one. It was no surprise that the man had married someone who had a similar streak. Whenever the “No Boyfriends Allowed” club met, Andrei was the one who arrived first, secured a good table, and ordered appetizers before anyone else arrived.
“Salads?” Hollis said.
Andrei smirked. “Not a fucking one.”
“Good. I’ve earned a cheat day,” Jude said with a chuckle.
“So…back to this move,” Noah interjected now that it was settled that the first round of food was covered. “I thought Lucas would have it all handled. You know, with movers and packers and such.”
“Oh, he did. He hired the movers. They’ve got most of our things boxed and prepared. There’s just no one to hire to handle Lucas. He’s up to his eyeballs in some new business he’s looking to launch next year, but he’s also trying to spend time with us and buy new furniture and start looking for a new surrogate. Of course, he wants my parents to move up at the same time as we move into the house, even though their cottage won’t be done for at least another month. It’s like he’s forgotten what it’s like to just kick back and watch a movie. Just do nothing for a while.”
“Whoa…there is a lot in that I didn’t get,” Noah admitted.
“Yeah, starting with a surrogate,” Jude chimed in. “You’re looking to have another already?”
Andrei nodded and some of the tension slipped from his handsome face. “We’re so happy with Daci in our lives. She’s going to be one this December, and we’d like another. If we start the process now, when the second child is born, he or she will be only two or maybe three years apart from Daci. That’s a good spacing for siblings. Of course, now Lucas is saying he doesn’t want to be the biological father, even though it’s what we agreed upon when we got the first surrogate.”
“And the parents?”
“We’re building them a cottage on the property so that they have their own space but are close. Lucas wants them to move up from their house down in Kentucky when we move. Just get it all done at the same time. But it means them moving into our house at least temporarily. My parents don’t want to. Say they are afraid of cramping us.”
Hollis snorted. “Have they not seen the new house plans?” The house was freaking enormous. Multiple families could live in it and never see each other.
“Yes, but I don’t think they understand how much room there is. Regardless, I’m playing middleman between Lucas and my mother.”
“You need a break,” Noah said. He paused and winked at the server as she delivered beers for him and Hollis while another dropped off several plates of food. “You just give li’l Daci to her Uncle Rowe and Uncle Noah for a few days. You and Captain Industry hop a plane for New York, Chicago, or Miami. Relax for a few days. No work. No moving. No parents. Just sex, sleep, and good food.”
“He’s right,” Hollis added. “You need to relax. Both you and Lucas are running on fumes.”
Andrei nodded. “After the move. It’s only a week or so away.” Reaching over his drink, he snagged a fried cheese stick and dunked it in the marinara sauce. “How are you and Ian doing?”
Hollis took a deep breath, his eyes on the food in front of him. “Good. Scared. Worried. We’ve talked to this guy who was held by Jagger, same as Ian. We think he’s the one who’s been harassing Ian and causing the problems. Ian looks at him and just wants to save him. But…” Hollis let his voice trail off, unwilling to continue the thought.
Jude’s strong hand clamped down on his shoulder. “Go ahead and say it. Safe space.”
Hollis huffed a little laugh and looked over at the dark-eyed paramedic who just saw too much. But Jude was right. He needed to say it out loud so it would stop festering.
“I want to hand him over to the cops. Let him get locked up and the key fucking thrown away. I get that he had it bad. Maybe even worse than Ian in a lot of ways, but he also attacked Ian, and I can’t get my brain to move past that. I know that makes me a horrible person and I wish I wasn’t.”
“It makes you human,” Jude murmured.
Noah picked up a fried pickle spear and pointed it at him. “A human who loves his fucking husband. I was there when Hanna and Kyle Fogle were going after Rowe, trying to kill him and ruin his business. I felt bad for them, but I also wanted to put a couple of caps in them and drop their bodies in the woods for the vultures.”
Hollis barely held back a smile when he looked over at Noah. The guy was so damn easygoing that it was sometimes hard to remember he was a highly trained former Army Ranger. No one messed with his Rowe.
“Remind me to never go into the woods with you again,” Jude joked.
“I’ve seen it. Him and Rowe, fucking scary as shit,” Hollis said, earning a wide grin from Noah that wiped away all former seriousness.
They laughed and took a moment to dig into the food before them. The server brought another round and took some additional food orders. At this rate, Hollis was pretty sure it would take a forklift to get him out the door, but he didn’t care. He so fucking needed this night off. Already, he was feeling lighter. Hanging out with the “boyfriends” gave him a sense of normalcy that day-to-day life tended to blot out.
“On the plus side,” Hollis started when the server walked away, “we are finally talking about Jagger. Not a lot, but the walls have come down.”
His friends made enthusiastic noises of approval, and Hollis beamed his relief. It had been a problem he’d brought up more than once while dating Ian, and they’d never really tackled it until now. And it felt so damn good to have that last wall removed between them. They still had a long way to go, but progress was being made. He’d happily take the baby steps.
“So that covers Andrei and Hollis,” Noah said, turning his gaze on Jude. “What about you? How’s that wedding going?”
Jude groaned and shook his head. “I don’t…I don’t even want to talk about it.”
A heavy silence descended on the table, and Hollis’s heart gave a little jolt to see Jude’s despondent look. The man had seemed a little quieter than normal when he sat down, the circles darker under his eyes, but Hollis had attributed it to a busy work schedule.
This was so very wrong. The wedding should be a happy event for Jude and Snow. While the planning for his own had been exhausting—even though Ian had handled most of the work—he’d enjoyed being a part of every step of it with Ian.
Noah’s hand shot up in the air and he caught the attention of their server. She started over toward them when Noah motioned to all four of them. “Shots. Stat. Fireball.”
“Shots?” Andrei asked.
“Seriously? Fireball? What are you? Some—” Hollis’s words were cut off when Noah pointed a finger at him.
“Hey! Don’t shot-shame. Some of us are getting older. My tummy can’t handle the tequila like the old days,” Noah countered.
“Jude, what’s going on?” Andrei asked, seeming to ignore Hollis and Noah.
“I don’t think he wants to get married,” Jude said, his voice barely over a whisper.
“No!” Hollis and Noah said in unison.
“Snow fucking loves you,” Hollis continued.
Jude nodded. “I know, but I feel like I’ve guilted him into this marriage because it’s important to me. I don’t want to be tied to someone who feels like they’ve been forced into it. I want him to be excited about it too.” Jude looked down at the table and rapidly blinked his eyes as if he were fighting tears.
Hollis reached across and clamped his hand down on his friend’s forearm. A part of him wanted to track down Snow and shake some sense into the man. Ian had his fair share of emotional baggage, but Snow took the cake. Hollis didn’t envy Jude’s position when it came to navigating that minefield.
“He loves you,” Hollis repeated.
Jude took a deep breath and when he spoke again, his voice was calmer and more even. “I know. I’ve told him that we don’t have to get married to be happy, but he won’t back down from this idea. He also won’t make any decisions for the wedding either. We’re just kind of trapped in this limbo of indecision. And there’s no explaining this to my mother, who is constantly asking questions.”
“I’ve got one word for you, Jude,” Noah said, drawing all their eyes to him. “Elope.”
Jude automatically shook his head. “Our families. My mother. Ian. They all expect…”
“Actually, it’s a good idea,” Andrei chimed in.
Jude blinked at him as if he’d lost his mind. “You’re joking.”
Andrei shook his head. “Snow doesn’t like being the center of attention. He doesn’t like big parties. No matter what kind of wedding plan you come up with, he’s going to be overwhelmed and indecisive. He’s trying to make you and everyone else happy. That’s gonna drive you both insane. Elope.”
“Ian and I did a big wedding because he loves parties and planning big events. But when the day finally arrived, the only thing that mattered was us.” Hollis squeezed Jude’s arm. “You and Snow on a beach somewhere with an officiant and a photographer. Send us some great pics. That’s all we ask.”
“It does sound great. But my mom…”
“She’ll understand,” Andrei said.
“And if she doesn’t…blame it on Noah and Rowe,” Hollis added.
“No!” Noah shouted. “Momma Anna will stop bringing us treats because she thinks we have no one to take care of us.”
Laughter rang out and they accepted the shots from the server. Raising them up, they toasted the idea of eloping before throwing them back. The liquor burned down Hollis’s throat and chest. Mentally, he reminded himself not to let Noah talk them into any more shots, or he was going to have to call for a ride.
The conversation for the rest of the evening was decidedly less serious, though Noah admitted that he was dreading the coming holiday season. The holidays always reminded Rowe of his dead wife, making him moodier and gloomier than usual while filling Noah with a feeling of helplessness. But Noah knew that he had a solid safety net with his unique family. They were all there and ready to help him and Rowe get through the holidays.
When the rest of the food arrived, Hollis switched to iced tea from beer so that he could be sure he was sober enough to drive. They joked about random nonsense and talked about the outlook for the Cincinnati Bengals—which was still poor—and the latest bridge construction—which sucked.
Shuffling out of the bar a few hours later, Hollis waved to his friends and smiled to himself. The world was a little lighter now. The weight he’d been carrying on his shoulders seemed less than it had been. Sure, he was still worried about Ian, Rialto, and whether Max was going to attack again, but it all seemed more manageable after spending a night out with Andrei, Noah, and Jude.
But then, those three men were quickly turning into the closest friends he’d ever had. They understood what it was like being in this family, particularly when their husbands were all so damn close with very dark pasts. They were there for each other at the drop of a hat. No questions. No indecision. No delays. Right fucking there.
It made him feel a part of something truly special, and he treasured that.
The clock was just striking midnight when he strolled into the house to find Ian curled up on the couch with his e-reader. Only a couple of lamps were lit in the living room, and there was a fire crackling in the fireplace. It definitely wasn’t cold enough for a fire, which was why Ian was wearing a pair of soft cotton shorts and a T-shirt, but it created a cozy mood. An empty wineglass was on the coffee table, just inside Ian’s reach.
Ian lowered his e-reader and smiled, causing Hollis’s heart to speed up a little. He’d do anything to see that warm smile every day.
“Have a good time?”
“Always do.” Hollis dropped his keys into the bowl by the door and slid off his jacket. He paused long enough to hang it in the closet before crossing the living room to Ian’s side. “How was your night?”
“Quiet,” Ian said with a happy sigh. “Good book and a glass of wine.”
Placing one hand on the back of the couch and the other on the arm, Hollis leaned down and brushed his lips across Ian’s. “No drama?”
“No drama,” Ian confirmed. He pressed his mouth to Hollis, stretching to add more pressure.
“No disasters?” Hollis pulled away enough to let his teeth scrape across Ian’s lower lip.
“Not even a wedding-related text from Snow.”
Hollis hummed as he kissed Ian again. “Mmm…that is a quiet night.”
“Yep. You gonna tell me what you guys talked about?”
Hollis smiled. “Nope,” he said with a pop.
Ian grinned as he set aside his e-reader and ran his hands up Hollis’s chest. “I bet I can convince you to talk to me.”
“I’d love for you to try.”
Ian’s eyes flared and he rose up on his knees, allowing him better access to Hollis’s body and lips. The kiss deepened and Hollis welcomed Ian’s tongue into his mouth. He loved when Ian was feeling sexy and aggressive, loved his confidence. A moan rumbled up Hollis’s throat as those long, nimble fingers slid under his shirt and pinched at his nipples until they hardened to tiny points.
“Baby, need to move upstairs,” Hollis panted against Ian’s lips.
“Nope,” Ian said with a wicked grin, popping his “p” the same as Hollis did. “Want you right here. Right now.”
Moving around Hollis, Ian put one foot on the floor and grabbed the edge of the coffee table, shoving it away from the couch. Hollis’s heart sped up at Ian’s eagerness and helped to reposition the coffee table so that it was halfway across the room, leaving a swath of open floor space in front of the couch.
When Hollis turned back, he found Ian standing and slowly drawing his shirt over his head, revealing flawless soft skin, one inch at a time. The smile on his lips was so confident, so devilish, it took Hollis’s breath away. Ian tossed his shirt aside, but Hollis didn’t see where it landed. He couldn’t take his eyes off Ian. They traveled down Ian’s lean frame to where his hard cock was already tenting his shorts.
Hollis started to grab for his long-sleeved shirt and pull it off, but Ian slapped his hands away from the fabric.
“Not yet. Sit on the floor.”
Hollis quirked one eyebrow at the command that sent an unexpected pulse of pleasure to his dick. He couldn’t begin to guess what Ian had in mind, but he was looking forward to every second of it.
Leaning his back against the couch with his legs spread, knees bent before him, Hollis stared up at his husband. He wanted to reach down and open his pants to relieve some of his discomfort, but Ian apparently wanted him to remain dressed for now, and he was happy to let Ian take the lead.
Ian placed one foot between Hollis’s legs and stood over him. He stared at Hollis, shadows caressing his handsome face while his eyes glittered in the flickering firelight. His hair was slightly mussed and threatening to fall in front of those hungry eyes. Sucking in his bottom lip, Ian bit down and smiled for a second before releasing it.
“You gonna tell me what you talked about?” Ian asked in a low voice.
Hollis slowly smiled. Ian didn’t really care what they talked about. This was just an excuse for a little fun, and Hollis was so willing to play.
“Nope,” he repeated, but it was getting harder to find his voice.
Ian ran those elegant hands down his chest and across his flat stomach before diving into his shorts. His hands moved inside the soft, thin material. Hollis could so easily see in his head the way Ian wrapped his fingers around his cock while the others cupped his balls. Head falling back, Ian moaned softly and closed his eyes, but Hollis wanted to see it for real. Not imagine it. His dick throbbed and ached. His skin felt too hot and tight. He wanted to touch, to taste, to feel everything he couldn’t fucking see.
Smiling his wicked little grin, Ian lifted his other foot and placed it between Hollis’s legs before turning his back to him. “Remove my shorts,” Ian instructed with a little pant.
Hollis lifted shaking hands, carefully slipped his fingers inside the elastic waistband so that he caught both Ian’s shorts and briefs, and slowly pulled them down his long legs. He leaned forward and pressed one kiss on a perfect pale globe, letting the day’s growth of whiskers lightly scratch across the soft flesh.
“Yesss,” Ian hissed in pleasure. The sound urged Hollis to kiss the other cheek while his hands lightly glided up Ian’s legs to massage the trembling muscles in his thighs.
“So sexy. So perfect,” Hollis growled. His teeth brushed and nipped at Ian’s ass while his fingers moved up to dig into both cheeks, spreading them. Just a lick. Just a quick taste to make his man cry out.
“You want to fuck me?” Ian asked. His voice was strained with need, shaking and breathless.
“God, yes.” Hollis exhaled, sending a puff of hot air across that perfect tight rosebud.
But before Hollis could do anything more, Ian took a step forward, forcing Hollis to release him. Ian turned around to face him so that Hollis could see his hand wrapped tight around his flushed dick while the fingers of his other hand were fondling his balls.
Ian placed a foot on either side of Hollis’s hips. Hollis tilted his head back until it was practically touching the couch so that he could look up into Ian’s dark eyes, the pupils blown wide with desire. There was something so dirty, so wicked about sitting there completely dressed, while Ian stood over him, beautifully naked. Like the god of sex was towering over him, ready to fuck his brains out. Hollis could nearly come just from the image.
His grin widening, Ian rubbed the shiny head of his cock over Hollis’s upper lip and across his lower. Hollis couldn’t stop his tongue from darting out to capture the salty taste of Ian’s pre-cum.
“If you want to fuck me, you’re gonna have to suck me,” Ian taunted.
Hollis instantly opened his mouth, allowing Ian to push inside. They both moaned with a mix of ecstasy and relief. Hollis curled his lips over his teeth and swiped his tongue around the head of Ian’s dick while Ian slowly pressed inside. He loosened his jaw and followed the thick vein with his tongue. It took only a couple of thrusts before Ian finally let go. Fingers from both hands threaded through his hair and tightly gripped, holding him in place while Ian fucked his mouth.
To keep his hands off his own dick, Hollis grabbed Ian’s ass, fingers sneaking between the cheeks to brush again and again over that hole. Fuck, he wanted to fill him. To stretch him.
Desperate, needy sounds left Ian’s damp, parted lips, each cry of pleasure shoving Hollis closer to the edge.
“Find…find the lube,” Ian panted. Taking a step backward, Ian released Hollis’s hair and grabbed his own. His face was flushed red, and his eyes were dazed with hunger. Hollis lunged for the drawer in the side table, shoving odds and ends around until his fingers finally brushed against the bottle they’d left in there from their last living room adventure. They were definitely going to need to move that before the first foster care home visit.
Ian held out a shaking hand, and Hollis squeezed some lube onto it before dropping the bottle to attack his damn pants. What had been so sexy minutes ago was now annoying. He wanted his clothes gone, so he could feel his body pressed against Ian’s.
Turning so that his back was to Hollis again, Ian dropped to his knees and started working the lube into his hole. Hollis’s fingers fumbled with his belt and fly, Ian’s moans of pleasure scrambling his brains.
“Don’t take off all your clothes. Show me how desperate you are to fuck me.”
With a little more struggle, Hollis managed to get his pants open. He shoved them and his briefs down his thighs and quickly slicked up his cock. His belt buckle jingled softly over Ian’s panting as Hollis moved into position behind Ian. Brushing Ian’s hand aside, he rubbed the head of his dick across Ian’s greedy hole.
“Don’t tease me!” Ian howled. “Now! Fuck me now!”
With one hand tightly gripping Ian’s hip, Hollis slowly pressed forward, hanging on to the shreds of self-control. Ian tried to push backward, impaling himself on Hollis’s cock, but Hollis wouldn’t let him move more than an inch.
He’d barely gotten more than the head in when he started to withdraw. Ian cried out in frustration, his hand working fast on his own cock.
Hollis pushed forward again in one long, steady stroke. He didn’t stop until his trimmed pubic hair was brushing Ian’s ass. They both groaned. Nothing felt so good in this world. Muscles twitched and clenched, squeezing his dick tighter and tighter. This race had started the second Ian had touched him, and now Hollis could see the finish line. It was so damn close, and all he wanted to do was start over again. Never wanted this to end.
“Please,” Ian pleaded. “Hard. Fuck me so hard.”
With a grin, Hollis obliged. They both weren’t going to last long, but it didn’t matter. Hollis pulled back and thrust forward again, slamming into Ian. Ian was gasping and begging for more, harder, faster. His demands were so loud that Hollis was convinced the neighbors could hear them and still, he hammered into that soft, welcoming body.
Ian went over first. Muscles tensed and a sob of ecstasy broke from his throat, shoving Hollis over behind him. His orgasm barreled through his body, knocking the air from his lungs as he emptied himself into Ian’s hot channel.
The world swayed and Hollis blinked, trying to get his brain back online. Almost by instinct, Hollis wrapped one arm across Ian’s chest and pulled him in as he stretched out on his side. He hugged Ian as tightly as he could. He hated the clothing that separated him from Ian’s warm flesh, but he couldn’t complain about the sex that had gotten them to that state.
“Let’s never move again,” Hollis said on a sigh. He scraped together enough energy to brush a kiss against Ian’s shoulder, loving the feel of his husband tucked against him, his dick still lodged in his ass.
“You gonna tell me what you talked about now?” Ian asked.
Hollis’s laughter rang out in the relatively silent room. He’d completely forgotten that he was being seduced for information. “Nope.”
Ian extravagantly sighed and Hollis could imagine the playful smile stretched across his wet lips. “I guess I’ll just have to work on my interrogation technique.”
Hollis tightened his arm around Ian and kissed his neck. “No, baby. Don’t you dare change a thing.”