Chapter One

“What? I can’t just take off for two weeks,” I said, trying to wrap my head around what was happening.

“Why not? It’s not like you have a regular nine-to-five job. What do you have booked for the next little while?”

He was practically bursting with excitement and optimism and I couldn’t blame him. This was a BIG DEAL.

“Well, I — “

He stood up and approached me, grabbing my shoulders and staring into my eyes with an intense energy. “Come to London with me. Please.”

My head filled with excuses as to why I couldn’t or shouldn’t, but my mouth said, “Okay.”

He let out a whoosh of air that smelled like cinnamon. Perks of working at Starbucks. “Really?”

I nodded. “Sure, why not? I can just take out a second mortgage on this place.”

His face fell and I felt like I’d kicked my pet dog.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” I took his chin and kissed him softly. “It’s going to be expensive that’s all. But I’m just about to pitch a spread to Outside Magazine. If I can convince them a story about the New Forest would be timely, this just might work.”

“Oh shit, I forgot you had that meeting. What time?” His smile was back.

“An hour. Can you help me get some information together?”

“Of course.”

“And tell me what to wear?”

“Always.”

*****

Jeremy and I spent thirty minutes printing pages of information on The New Forest in England — weather patterns, indigenous animals and fauna, acreage, human encroachment. It would be a hastily put together pitch, but one I hoped would at least pique their interest enough to tell me to go for it. And pay some of my way.

After dressing in the outfit Jeremy picked out — dark jeans, leather oxfords, a white button-up and casual blazer — I kissed him at the door and left him to dream about modelling for a famous artist in one of the biggest metropolitan cities of the world and walked three blocks to the Lieutenant’s Pump.

I felt nervous because I had prepared a completely different pitch and now I needed to beg them to send me to England. I’d only been doing gigs for this magazine for a year and I didn’t know if I had enough of a reputation yet to snag myself an overseas trip. But the motivation to spend time in London with Jeremy drove me.

The editor from Outside, a Mr. Clarence Twomes, was already seated at a table in the corner of the pub. He stood when he saw me approach.

“Hey, Martin, it’s great to see you again,” he said with genuine warmth, shaking my hand enthusiastically.

“Mr. Twomes,” I smiled.

“Call me Clarence. I loved your piece on Gatineau Park, by the way. The images were incredible.”

I blushed, not used to so much admiration and respect. It bode well for my mission. “Thank you. It was something I’d worked on for awhile. I’m so grateful that Outside Magazine was interested.”

Clarence flagged the server. “What’ll you have, Martin? It’s on me. Well, it’s on the magazine, that is.”

“Oh? Great. Guiness please.”

The server left and in a few moments brought my beer. Clarence and I made small talk about the weather and then he toasted our meeting and asked what I was up to lately.

“Well, actually, that’s why I called you. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”

“Anytime, Martin. Do you have another spread for us?”

I fiddled with the edge of the coaster. “Well, that’s the thing. I have an idea for one. But I don’t know if it fits your mandate or what kind of advance you can offer me.”

Clarence sat back in his chair. “Hit me.”

All right. Here goes.

“I want to do a piece on the New Forest in England.”

One, two, three, four — I counted silently to ten before launching into a rambling justification as I reached for my satchel. “I mean, there are — “

“I like it. The New Forest. That’s near London, isn’t it?”

Had he figured out this was all a ploy to go to London? Well, not really, because what nature photographer wouldn’t want to do a story about the New Forest?

“Well, yes, but —“

“I’ll check with the executive editor but I don’t see a problem. What’s your timeline and what do you need?”

I stared at him, speechless. How could it be this easy? I had expected to have to convince him. I left my satchel leaning against my leg.

“Um, well, I think, I’d like to go as soon as possible. Maybe the end of the month?” Jeremy’s photo shoot was on the 28th. Only a few weeks away.

“Okay. If you can submit something by the end of next month we can probably fit it into the fall issue. You’ll want your flight and accommodations taken care of I assume?”

I nodded, still a little out of it. This was not how I’d thought the meeting would go. I took a big swallow of beer.

“I can email you the forms and we can get this started. If you can get them filled out and back to me by tomorrow or Wednesday I can probably get you something by the weekend. Either an advance or a travel voucher.”

I blinked. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.” I didn’t really know what to say.

He seemed suddenly to be aware of my surprise. “Martin, you’re very talented. And intelligent and well written. We’re pretty much interested in anything you want to put together, as long as it goes along with what we like to publish. A story about The New Forest falls perfectly within our interests. If it costs us a bit of money to get you over there, we’ll pay it.”

*****

When I got home, after a great chat with Clarence about the prospects of my trip and my excitement to shoot overseas, I raced upstairs and keyed open the door with enthusiasm. Jeremy, in faded skinny jeans and a t-shirt, turned from the stove, where he was stirring a pot of what smelled like pasta sauce.

I stopped dead, experiencing a strange, surrealistic moment of gratitude and disbelief that this man was mine. When I saw him like this, suddenly after a brief or long absence, in all his laid back, sexy splendour, I was reminded how lucky I was to have him. I stood there dumbly, my eyes raking over him as if I’d forgotten what he looked like. Which was ridiculous because the way he looked, the way he smelled, all the little habitual gestures, every nook and cranny of his exemplary body was indelibly etched in my memory.

“Hey. How did it go?” He asked, as if he hadn’t just given my eyes an orgasm.

“Good,” I said, walking into the living room and putting down my satchel. “Great.”

He raised his eyebrows, pausing his stirring. “You mean — “

I smiled. “They’re paying me to go to England with you.”

“Really?” He dropped the spoon and walked over to me, eyes wide with excitement and disbelief.

I nodded. “Well, I’ll have to take some pictures.”

He stopped in front of me, raising his eyebrows again and lifting up his t-shirt slowly to reveal his fine abdomen with its soft covering of hair. He moved his other hand teasingly across skin of his belly. “Oh, yes you will, Martin. Lots and lots of pictures.”

I laughed. “Of the landscape, dumb nuts.” I said with affection, although my eyes appreciated his nakedness. So did my cock. “Of trees and greenery and ponies.”

He smirked. “I can be a pony. I’d make a cute pony.”

My cock twitched. “I don’t think that’s what Outside magazine is looking for. However,” I said, assessing him. “I’m not dismissing the idea out of hand.”

He grinned. “Seriously? We’re going to England together?”

I nodded.

“For two weeks?”

“For two whole weeks.”

He reached out, grabbed my shirt and pulled me in, kissing my neck and ear and finding his way to my mouth. I tasted his excitement and that particular flavour that was Jeremy. When we parted he looked at me with some concern.

“We have to fly you know.”

I swallowed down the flare of fear that lit inside me. “Uh huh.”

“You’re scared to fly.”

I cleared my throat, looking down. “I’m not scared. I just don’t like to.”

“But you’ll do it for me.”

I looked back up, gazing into his brown eyes. “I’ll do anything for you.”

*****

By early the following week we had plane tickets and a hotel room booked for eight days on the magazine’s ticket, opting for a luxury King Suite and agreeing to pay any extra fee out of pocket. Then I booked us a campsite in the middle of The New Forest for the remaining four days. Jeremy’s shoot would be over and I could spend some time immersed in nature and take as many photos as possible. We could rent everything we needed for the same price as staying at a hotel for the duration.

I also booked an appointment with my doctor.

“Martin, what’s the problem today?” Dr. Acevitos asked in his usual, get-to-the-point-I-have-other-patients way.

“I, uh, I need something for my nerves,” I said, rubbing my hand on my pants. Just the thought of boarding that plane in a week sent me into a panic.

He raised his eyebrows. “Sit down. Let’s talk.”

I sat in the chair beside the examination table. “I’m going to England next week,” I said, looking him in the eyes. “And I’m terrified of flying.”

His expression softened. “Ah. I see. Will you be travelling alone?”

I shook my head. “No. My partner’s going with me.”

“Jeremy,” Dr. Acevitos said, and I remembered that Jeremy was his patient as well.

“Yes. But he doesn’t know how fucking scared I am.”

Dr. Acevitos nodded, straightening up. “You’re not alone, Martin. A lot of people are afraid to fly. Especially these days, what with all the terrorist atta —“ He stopped talking abruptly when my eyes went wide. He continued, “uh, never mind. I mean, it’s a common thing.”

“Is there something I can take before I get on the plane? Something that won’t knock me right out but will make me kind of forget why I’m scared? Or something?”

He smiled reassuringly. “Absolutely.”

He keyed something into his computer and the printer spat out a paper. He handed it to me. “This is a script for Xanax. Please read the information packet carefully and take only the recommended dose and only on the morning of the flight. Too much of this stuff is going to make you really loopy, and you don’t want that.”

Oh, hell, yeah I did. I wanted to be looped out of my fucking mind. I didn’t tell him that.

“Thank you,” I said with real gratitude.

“And think about telling Jeremy how you’re feeling. Sometimes talking honestly with someone who cares can help just as much as the meds.”

I doubted that. Jeremy loved to fly. He wouldn’t understand my fear at all. He was the bravest person I knew.

On Monday morning, four days before our flight, I watched Jeremy sit down at the kitchen table and unzip the blue nylon bag that contained his daily needles. He took one out and examined it, checking for tiny particles before removing it from the plastic and setting it on a clean towel in front of him.

“I guess you’ll have to remember to pack enough of those,” I said, nodding toward the syringe.

He gave me a reassuring smile. “You bet. I’m not risking even a day without taking this stuff.”

I nodded. “Good.”

Jeremy had Multiple Sclerosis, a fact he’d neglected to tell me when we’d met and experienced an instant attraction. A few weeks later, after a very stimulating and somewhat kinky encounter, he’d woken up in the middle of the night barely able to walk. I’d found him on the floor of my living room and he’d told me after several long moments during which I was imagining the worst that it was the MS. In the following days his doctor had put him on this daily injectable and he’d taken it religiously. He’d needed to use a cane for a few weeks but eventually recovered and had been well ever since, taking naps when he felt tired, eating healthy and exercising within reason.

I watched as he injected himself in the upper thigh, without a wince or a hiss or any sound of distress because he was so used to it. Afterwards he stood up, disposed of the needle in the Sharps container under the sink and threw away the cotton ball.

When he saw me looking he raised his eyebrows. “What?”

“I love you.” It was a simple statement of my pride and affection for him. Not schmalzy or sentimental, just a fact.

He smirked and pulled out a Star Wars reference. “I know.”

I cleared my throat, suddenly realizing Jeremy was in nothing but a pair of white boxer briefs that outlined his gorgeous ass and thighs and showed off the bulge in front. Okay, who am I kidding, I noticed that when I entered the kitchen.

“When do you have to work today?” I asked, running my finger along the counter, trying to look nonchalant.

“Not ‘till four. You?”

“I don’t have any bookings today.”

Our eyes met as Jeremy straightened. “Well. Isn’t that interesting,” he said, pretending to stretch and moving in a way that caused my mouth to go dry.

“You, uh, wanna go back to bed?” I asked with a small, hopeful smile.

“I should probably shower,” he said, sniffing at his pits, which also made my dick twitch.

I shook my head. “Uh uh. No point getting clean just to get…dirty.”

Jeremy couldn’t help but smile. “Well, if you say so.”

I gestured to the bedroom. “I’ll meet you on the bed in a second.”

Jeremy lounged on the bed, on his belly, still in his boxer briefs, looking at one of my Photo Lens back issues. I took a few moments to admire him before placing the bottle of honey I’d brought from the kitchen onto the bedside table with a soft thunk.

He looked over at it, then back at the magazine. “Hungry?”

I gulped. I loved the way he teased me. “Famished.”

I got up onto the bed on my knees between his spread legs and placed a hand on the sole of each of his feet, tracing up his legs very slowly as his breathing hitched and quickened. Continuing, I got to the edge of his white boxer briefs and pushed underneath, sliding my fingers to the crease of his buttocks.

He turned a page of the magazine, probably to cover up a quiet gasp, as if my actions hardly affected him at all.

I stroked my fingers along the edge of the crease for a few moments, then withdrew them and reached for the waistband of his undershorts.

“Martin,” he said calmly.

“Yes?” I breathed.

“I like where you’re going with this.”

I grinned, pulling his boxer briefs slowly down over the twin globes of his perfect ass. “Me too.”

He made a small noise when I bent my lips to kiss one, then the other. He smelled of soap and water. “Did you wash your ass?”

He giggled. “Maybe.”

“That’s a bit presumptuous, isn’t it?”

He snorted. “Not really. I know you can’t resist it.”

I grinned. “That’s fair. But now I’ll have to dirty it up again.” I stretched over him and grabbed the bottle of honey.

“Oh, God, no,” he said in mock protest. “Whatever will I do?”

I sat back in a comfortable stance and slapped his ass gently. “You’ll be quiet and take it, like a good boy.”

He groaned, and I knew I had his attention.

He didn’t say anything, just shoved the magazine aside as I placed a hand on his ass, spreading his cheeks with my fingers. I tipped the bottle of honey over him and squeezed, watching the amber liquid drip onto his pink hole and ooze down the crack of his ass, my dick hardening and leaking at the sight.

“Oh fuck,” he said.

“Yum,” I replied.

He whimpered as I bent my head and licked at the honey, my tongue a soft counterpoint to the stubble on my chin. I smiled against him as he squirmed and moaned, my technique having been perfected over the past few years. I’d only ever done this to one person and that was Jeremy.

And I loved doing this to him. I used my tongue and even my teeth on the tender skin there, causing him to make the most delicious noises and motions of desperation. His frantic pants, moans and whimpers spurred me on and I ate his ass like I was born to it. I brought my finger down to circle his sweet hole. He cried out. I did it again, jabbing my tongue at the same time.

He arched his back and stuttered my name. “Martin!”

“Mmmph, what?” I didn’t want to stop in order to answer.

“I’m gonna come if you keep doing that,” he panted.

I laughed, causing him to moan again. “No, you’re not,” I said. “You never come from just this.”

He groaned again and reached behind to grab my free hand, pulling it underneath him to his cock. I kept tonguing his ass while I wrapped my hand around him. He was hard as fuck and leaking like crazy onto the bed.

“Fuck,” I said.

“See?” He said in a hoarse, desperate voice.

“Yeah,” I gave him another swipe with my tongue and felt his dick jerk in my hand. “Okay. I’ll stop. Maybe.” I jabbed my tongue at his hole one more time and then sat up, dizzy with arousal. My own cock was so hard it was painful.

I let my hand slide from underneath him and grabbed some lube from the drawer, almost knocking the bottle of honey off the table. I slapped his left cheek again. “Up.”

He quickly obeyed my request, lifting his ass as he got up on hands and knees before me. He couldn’t keep still. “Hurry up. Fuck.”

“Would you hold on a minute.” Luckily I had licked most of the honey off so now concentrated on slicking him up with the water-based lube. At least I had his full attention.

“Oh, fuck, Martin, shit. I need you so bad.”

“This wasn’t even your idea. What if I’d left for an appointment or something?” I teased, using my fingers to prep him.

“What do you mean it wasn’t my idea? Why do you think I was prancing around half naked in the kitchen? You give me too little credit.” He moaned and shuddered as my fingers pushed deeper.

I shook my head. He was always one step ahead of me.

“Would you please fuck me already?” he whined.

“Say pretty please,” I told him as I withdrew my fingers and slicked my cock, moaning at the sensation of my own hand. I was so ready.

“Pretty please, Martin. Pretty please with a fucking cherry on top.”

I spread his cheeks and leaned forward, guiding my cock to his entrance. In one well placed thrust I was in.

He cried out in pleasure, his arms flexing and his hands fisting the sheets. I thrust in deeper, my eyes rolling back.

“Yes,” he moaned, “Yes. Go deep. Fuck me hard.”

Now I couldn’t keep still. My quick breaths scraped my throat dry as I fucked him, deep and hard, just like he wanted. Like we both wanted.

Soon I had him gasping and all but crying. I knew his sounds like they were my own. In fact I was pretty much doing the same thing. He felt so good and so right and I was almost there.

“Come inside me. Come inside me,” he groaned, arching his back and pushing back against my thrusts. “I want to feel you come…”

And that did it. With one more thrust I shuddered and emptied into him, waves of pure pleasure washing over me as I kept moving, knowing he was close too. I reached beneath him and grabbed his thrusting cock.

“Ah! Fuck! Jesus!” he yelled as he exploded, covering my hand with his wet spunk. Now he was crying softly and saying my name over and over.

“I’m here, I’m here,” I said soothingly, as I withdrew and gathered him to me. He did this sometimes, so overcome by the raw emotions of our coupling. And I loved it. I loved that it shook him so deeply and I felt it too, even though I was able to control my tears. “Shhhhh, I’m here.”