WHITE BALANCE – PART ONE (Chapters 1-6)
On the way to the restaurant Jeremy’s phone binged. He checked it.
“It’s Abby. She wants to know if we want to come for afternoon tea on Tuesday.”
I smiled. “I’m up for it if you are.”
“Hey, I’ll take free food and good company whenever it’s offered. Especially in a foreign country.”
He texted her back and her reply came quickly. “Why do women use so many emoji’s?” Jeremy asked, laughing and turning his phone to vibrate only.
“Make sure she texts you her address and we can google map it later.”
“Yeah, she did. I just hope her husband’s as nice as she and Rupert are. Otherwise it could make for an uncomfortable afternoon.”
I shrugged. “I’m sure he will be. She wouldn’t invite us if she thought he’d be uncomfortable.”
But Jeremy was right. It was really hard to know, until you’d actually met someone, whether the whole gay thing would be an issue. We could only hope it wouldn’t.
Our Uber let us off in front of the restaurant in Knightsbridge. We were about ten minutes late but, since we were in a strange city and didn’t have a car at our disposal, there wasn’t much we could do about it.
The small space was tucked into a narrow alley off the main Street. I was glad we’d googled it or we would have been a bit lost. Jeremy had texted Felix that we were running late and Felix had let us know he’d already arrived and had reserved a table.
When we walked inside the small restaurant, my eyes were first drawn to the geometric wall of wine bottles facing the direction from which we had entered. Then I glanced around the room and noticed an imposing presence at one of the larger tables.
Jeremy had already seen the man and now approached him with his hand extended. “So sorry we’re late.”
The man, Felix Kureck, I presumed, stood and regarded Jeremy with instant approval in his vivid blue eyes. He glanced briefly at me but turned back to Jeremy and took his hand.
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person, Mr. Trask,” he said in a measured voice with a hint of an unidentifiable accent. It wasn’t British. French, perhaps?
“This is my partner, well, my fiancé actually, Martin Lewis,” Jeremy said, introducing me.
I held out my hand and Mr. Kureck shook it, smiling at me with a little less warmth than he’d directed towards Jeremy. “Mr. Lewis.”
“Mr. Kureck. How are you?”
Felix shrugged. “Quite hungry, my friend. I’m afraid I neglected to breakfast.”
“We didn’t have much either,” Jeremy said quickly. “We’re eager to try this place. The online reviews were excellent. Thank you so much for suggesting it.”
He was babbling, eager and excited to make a good impression. I’d never seem him quite like this before and it threw me. Usually, he was so confident and at ease with people. But I knew he thought this Kureck guy was a huge deal. I wasn’t so ready to be impressed or intimidated.
“I know you offered to treat the both of us to lunch, Mr. Kureck, but it seems only fair that I pay for myself,” I said graciously, needing to be independent of his goodwill until I had gotten more of a sense of his character.
“Felix, please. And that’s very considerate of you, Mr. Lewis. I had intended to treat Jeremy but I don’t mind extending the offer to anyone of importance to him.”
I nodded. “Thank you. That’s very kind. But I’ll feel better paying for my own lunch.” I smiled, trying to indicate I meant no ill will. I just didn’t want to owe Felix anything. Not at this point anyway.
Felix inclined his head politely. “As you wish. The food here is pricey but worth every penny.” He turned to Jeremy, who had picked up one of the menus. “I’m so pleased you agreed to travel so far to be involved in this project, Mr. Trask.”
Jeremy blushed. “Of course. As soon as my agent said you wanted me I booked my ticket.”
Felix smiled wide as his eyes drifted over Jeremy’s face and down along his arms and torso. “Well, I wanted a particular, youthful energy for this shoot. And may I just say, Mr. Trask, that you don’t disappoint.”
Jeremy squirmed in his seat. “You can call me Jeremy, you know. That would make me more comfortable.”
Strangely that didn’t make me more comfortable at all.
“Of course. You are aware I’m creating a hardcover book called The New Man, Jeremy?”
Jeremy nodded. “Yes. I hope I can rise to that challenge.”
Felix stared at Jeremy, surprised. “My dear boy, you are the epitome of what I want to represent in my book.”
“Yes. Young, stylish, smart and very attractive.”
Jeremy blushed, smiled and looked over at me.
I gave him a tight smile. “Of course you are,” I said.
Felix gave me a measured smile and seemed to take me seriously for the first time. He shrugged. “Have you seen any of my work, Mr. Lewis?”
Jeremy had shown me some stuff — very artistic and moody representations of men in various states of undress. No nudity though. At least from what I had seen.
“Yes,” I admitted. “You have a good eye for composition and light.”
“Thank you. Do you have an interest in photography?”
“Martin is a nature photographer. He’s actually here on assignment for Outside Magazine,” Jeremy offered, pride in his voice.
Felix appeared suitably impressed. “Is that so? Well, it’s wonderful meeting another photographer. I would love to have a look at your work, Mr. Lewis.”
“Actually, Martin and I met through his photography. Although at that time he was in the commercial photography business,” Jeremy said.
Felix made an unpleasant face. “A tricky business, commercial photography. Thankless most of the time.”
I nodded. “That’s an understatement. But then Jeremy showed up for a portfolio shoot.”
Jeremy and I exchanged a glance, remembering our first encounter. I’d been so overcome by the instant attraction I’d felt, but so nervous to do anything about it. Jeremy had finally made the first bold move at our second appointment and things had escalated quickly.
Felix smiled, but the expression didn’t seem to reach his eyes. “How nice. Such a romantic story. But now you are photographing what? Trees, rocks, rivers?”
“Yeah, that kind of thing. I’m writing an article about the New Forest while I’m here.”
“Hmm. I always found nature photography so extremely uninspiring. I’m much more attracted to the human form.” He glanced at Jeremy, then quickly at the server who had approached with an offer to take our drink order.
Something about the comment rubbed me the wrong way. Probably the fact that he said it while trying not to ogle my fiancé. I was not getting a great vibe from this guy and our lunch had only begun. I’m not sure I was too happy that Jeremy would be alone with this man for two days this week.
However, Felix Kureck was a world renowned photographer with a great reputation. I’d Googled him of course, and I hadn’t seen anything indicating inappropriate behaviour with models, thank goodness. I was worldly enough to know that this didn’t guarantee it hadn’t happened, or that he wouldn’t try something with Jeremy.
Of all people, I was aware of Jeremy’s appeal. Maybe that’s where the unease was originating. I remembered how I’d felt when I’d photographed him for the first time. How could I expect this man not to have the same inappropriate feelings for Jeremy that I’d had? Or at least, not to act on them. Like I had. But I hadn’t acted on them until Jeremy demonstrated the feeling was mutual. And he’d already told the guy we were engaged.
The whole thing was starting to make me very uneasy. But this was a big deal for Jeremy and he was a grown man who could make his own decisions. I was not going to ruin it for him but I really wasn’t looking forward to this meal. Maybe I should have let Jeremy meet Felix on his own.
“Martin? What are you going to have?” Jeremy said.
I looked up to notice a lovely young woman in black pants and white blouse waiting to take our order.
“Hmm?” I snapped out of my reverie. “What?”
“I’m having the gnocchi with black truffle to start and the lamb chops for an entrée,” Jeremy said to the server.
“I’ll uh, I’ll just have the spaghetti carbonara. No starter.”
“Are you sure?” Felix said. “The gnocchi is quite something.”
“It’s fine. I’ll try Jeremy’s.”
Felix didn’t seem to approve of that idea but I didn’t give a shit. I closed the menu I’d just opened.
The meal continued in this vein, with Felix and Jeremy getting along fine but with me bristling at almost everything Felix said. I knew I was being unreasonable but I couldn’t help it. I was jealous. Because I knew Jeremy thought a lot of him, and the guy was good looking, educated and sophisticated.
It took everything I had to be polite and pretend to be friendly all the way through that torturous meal when what I really wanted to do was drag Jeremy out of there and tell him to cancel the shoot.
Hi, I’m Martin Lewis, modern day nature photographer and closet caveman, apparently.
I was very quiet on the ride home.
“Martin, what’s the matter? I can tell something’s bothering you,” Jeremy said.
I shrugged. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Well, that’s a fucking cop out. Of course it matters.”
“No, it doesn’t. Because this is your thing and it doesn’t matter what I think.”
He stared at me, then he got very quiet. We didn’t speak for the rest of the trip back to the hotel.
When we keyed into the room, I took off my suit jacket, loosened my tie and went right to the small sitting area, grabbing my laptop. I needed to unwind and settle myself down. Doing some preparatory research on the New Forest should do the trick.
Jeremy stood just inside the door, staring at me. “Martin.”
I didn’t answer him. I pretended I hadn’t heard him.
“Martin,” he said louder.
I glanced up. “What?”
“What is your fucking problem all of a sudden?” He sounded angry and frustrated and I really couldn’t blame him. But all the careful restraint I’d imposed on myself for the past couple of hours disintegrated.
“My fucking problem is you’re going to be photographed by this creep of a guy and I have no power over what happens during that shoot.”
Jeremy dropped his satchel so that it made a loud sound hitting the floor. “What?”
“I didn’t like him.”
“Yeah, that’s obvious.”
“Me too. Because I’m really looking forward to what comes out of this shoot, Martin.”
I nodded, my left leg starting to jiggle with excess energy. “I know that. And I’m worried that might color your judgement.”
“What the fuck do you mean by that?”
“Nothing. Forget it.”
Jeremy picked up his bag and placed it on the edge of the bed. Then he walked over and sat down beside me. He took the laptop from me and put it on the table.
I still felt angry, but he was speaking calmly and it helped to settle me down somewhat. “What?”
“You cannot be jealous of Felix Kureck.”
Then Jeremy laughed. “Seriously? Come on! You’re fucking jealous.”
“Yeah, I’m jealous. Why is that funny?” I was starting to get mad again.
Jeremy laughed harder. “Because, for one thing, the guy is ancient. Yeah, maybe he dresses well and he’s got that whole artistic genius thing going for him, but I’m not even remotely attracted to him.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “You’re not?”
“Fuck, Martin. No.”
I felt some relief at that assertion. A little.
“Well, that’s something.”
“Isn’t it everything?”
I shook my head. “What if he tries something with you during the shoot?”
Jeremy stared at me, and I could see the wheels spinning. Quickly, realization dawned. “So that’s what this is about.”
“You’re worried he’s gonna feel like you did when I came to your studio that first time. And the second time. And, hell, that third time.”
I couldn’t sit still anymore. I stood up and walked over to the window, gazing out at the rainy day that was beginning to brighten slightly.
“Don’t,” I said.
Jeremy stood and walked over to me. He moved close and his arms came around me. “Martin, what happened back then was fate. There was an instant attraction, remember? I know you remember. I definitely remember.”
I shuddered. “Jeremy…”
My voice went quiet. “I was perving on you before I even knew if you were interested in me.” I remembered looking at the photos I’d taken that first session.
“You may not have known but I knew. I knew from the moment I walked into your place.”
I made a noise of frustration. He didn’t get it. “But I didn’t know. In fact I assumed someone like you would never be interested in me. And I still… I still…”
“You still what, Martin?”
God this was so embarrassing. But I had to tell him. “I jerked off to one of the photos I took of you that first day.” My voice was so quiet I wasn’t sure he’d heard me.
“Shit, Martin, really?” He whispered, his hand starting to make soothing motions on my belly over my shirt.
I nodded. “Yeah. Classy, huh?”
His breath hitched but I couldn’t tell if he was mad or…
“That is so, fucking, hot. I wished I’d known you were that out of control. I’d have taken advantage sooner.”
I let out a long sigh and felt my anger and unease dissipate.
“You didn’t take advantage of me. I was the one perving on you.”
Jeremy started to gently pull the fabric of my dress shirt out of my pants. “Oh no, Martin. I believe there was an equal amount of perving going on. You just weren’t privy to it until I called you over to that chaise where you had me pose.”
He’d completely untucked my shirt and now unbuckled my belt. Then his right hand slid beneath the waistband of my pants.
“I made the first move, Martin, remember? I told you I’d been hard for you since I got there.”
I made a small sound, remembering that moment as his hand found my semi hard cock and stroked it.
“You would never have said or done anything inappropriate if I hadn’t told you that.”
His fingers felt so good on my cock. I tried to turn but he wouldn’t let me.
“No. Stay still.”
“How do you know?”
“How do I know what?”
“That I wouldn’t have taken advantage of you.”
He kissed me softly on my neck and I could feel his smile. “Oh, Martin. Don’t you see? I was in control of everything from the start,” he murmured. “I saw something I wanted and I took it.”
He wrapped his fingers around my cock and squeezed, making me groan.
“Martin. You didn’t lay a hand on me until I told you to do whatever you wanted to me.”
I gasped, closing my eyes, remembering so vividly. “And then I…then I…”
“Fuck Martin. You gave me the best blowjob I’d ever had.”
Oh yeah, I remembered that. I remembered worshipping Jeremy’s beautiful cock for the first time like it was yesterday.
“Oh, fuck,” I groaned, as he withdrew his hand and unzipped me.
I did as I was told, turning to face him. He took my chin in his hand, holding me still as he attacked my willing mouth with his own. It was raw and assertive and it took my breath away. I shuddered under his assault and let his tongue plunder my mouth, licking inside and pushing into me with a desperate insistence. When he pulled away my dick was hard as fuck and I couldn’t say a word.
“I was the aggressor, Martin. You did nothing wrong. You did everything fucking right.”
I nodded, completely at his mercy as he slid down my body and grabbed the top of my pants, jerking everything down to my thighs with one motion. I hissed as the air hit my arching cock.
“Oh fuck yes,” Jeremy hissed, grabbing the base of it with one hand and giving me a look that could melt steel. “Come to Daddy.”
I would have laughed except I was going to combust into flames at any moment. He’d brought me right back to our first sexual encounter. After I’d sucked him off on the chaise he’d pinned me against the wall just like he was pinning me against the window now, and he’d taken my cock in his mouth, just like he was about to do now.
“Can I blow you, Martin?” He asked me with a saucy look. “Since we’re being polite and all I’m supposed to get your consent first.”
I nodded frantically, pushing my hips forward. “Fuck yes. Oh God, Jeremy…”
This was exactly what I needed. I needed Jeremy to blow my fucking head off. If anything would settle me down after that tortuous lunch I knew this would. I’d almost forgotten why I was so worked up in the first place.
I gripped the window sill and felt it pressing into my naked ass as Jeremy’s tongue licked up my cock from base to tip, again and again, making me squirm and beg.
“Oh, please. Please.”
But Jeremy was a master of delayed gratification, at least when it came to me. He nuzzled into my ball sack and licked at my thigh, causing delightful sensations. When he sucked my whole sack into his mouth I just about fainted.
His fingers teased my cock as he tongued and sucked my balls, then he grabbed the base again and scraped his tongue up the whole length only to swirl it around the crown and go back to his ball teasing.
I panted and squirmed, listening to the muted sounds of the London traffic outside and thinking there was no better place to be at that moment than in this hotel room, with Jeremy on his knees in front of me.
“Oh GOD!” I shouted as he finally engulfed me in his hot mouth. “Oh fuck!”
He glanced up and when our eyes met a jolt of electricity shot through me and I felt my balls tighten. “Gonna…come…” I said, barely able to get the words out as the orgasm ripped through me and my cock erupted in Jeremy’s willing mouth.
He tried to swallow it all. I watched, entranced, as a bit of my semen dribbled from his lips while he continued to suck me, humming with contentment.
I closed my eyes, enjoying the diminishing pleasure while Jeremy kept me warm in his mouth.
Finally, he released me with a satisfied grunt, licking his lips. When I opened my eyes he looked up at me with adoration and satisfaction. “Mmm. You taste so good.”
“Jeremy, I — “
He held up his hand. “I know. It’s okay.”
He stood up, pressing his still-clothed body against my partly undressed one. “You can trust me. I’m not gonna let anything happen during the shoot. It’s not the same thing. Because Felix isn’t you. And you’ve already got me. Forever, remember?”
I nodded, and opened my mouth as he kissed me hard, rubbing his erection against me. I tasted myself on him and that made me crazy.
“Want to suck you,” I murmured, trying to catch my breath.
“You can do anything you want to me, Martin.”