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"Johnny, look, that guy over there, look!" the kid says, nudging me in the arm. "He's eyeballing you like he wants to eat you alive!"

"Yeah?" I don't bother looking around. If there's one thing I've learned over the last few months, it's to take Tommy's running commentary on everything around us with a great big dose of salt. With him everything's dramatic and exciting, everything's a miracle or a catastrophe, everything's worth shouting about in block capitals. The kid's like a walking tabloid.

"Seriously, Johnny, he's—" Tommy stops dead and drops his voice a little lower, to about the level of a really bad stage whisper. "He's coming over here."

Odds are the kid's just spotted some barfly making his way past us en route to the next sucker, but I play along and look around anyway, and when I do, my eyes run smack into the kind of pretty face that should come with a warning. Its owner's no barfly, and he's heading right for us, alright. I guess for once Tommy was on the mark.

"See?" the kid says, nudging me again. "I told you."

Now, I know this boy's probably trouble, but I figure looking can't hurt, so I let my eyes keep on running, down over his face and across the length of body, enjoying the look of him like you'd admire the markings on a boa constrictor. There's a lot to enjoy. He's pale and thin, all cheekbones and eyelashes, with hair bleached so blond it's almost white, and the suit he's wearing is a rich, deep mauve that looks almost black under the neon. He looks like the kind of boy they hire to model furs in fancy department stores, the kind that'd give you the brush-off if you blanched at the price-tag.

"Do you mind if I sit with you?" the boy says, slipping into the seat opposite me before I have a chance to reply.

I shrug. "Feel free."

"Yeah, make yourself at home," Tommy says, grinning at the boy and then at me.

"You're very kind," the boy says, reaching across the table and putting a hand on my arm, staring up at me with big, dark eyes. "You're doing me quite a favour."

I leave his hand where it is. "How's that?"

"Well," the boy says, looking down at the table, lowering his voice enough that I have to lean forward to hear him. "There's a man—"

"There usually is," I laugh.

"He's been following me all night," the boy carries on, giving me a pained look. "He's over there right now, watching us."

Now I'm not laughing. The boy glances anxiously over my shoulder, and when I look round I have no trouble at all spotting the guy he's talking about. You couldn't miss him. Stocky, hard-faced, dressed all in black, and staring right at us, plain as day.

"It's giving me the creeps. Please, do you think you could—"

"Sure." I'm on my feet before I know it. Now, there's two things that occur to me, even as I'm making my way across the bar toward the guy. Firstly, this boy looks like he could afford to hire a dozen bodyguards, let alone one, so why does he need someone like me to step in on his behalf? And secondly, we're paying two very nice gorillas in very nice suits a lot of money to take care of exactly this kind of trouble, so why am I getting my hands dirty? I can't answer the first one, but the second—well, we all know the answer to that, don't we?

"Hey, buddy," I say, once I'm standing in front of the guy in black. "I know he's nice to look at, but if he's told you to get lost, then why don't you go ahead and get lost already? You're bothering him, and I can't have you bothering one of our customers, understand?"

"Perfectly, but you've got the wrong end of the stick." The guy glances at me, just for a second, and then goes right back to staring past me, over my shoulder to where the boy and Tommy are still sitting.

"Look, I'm telling you to knock it off." I grab hold of his arm, and even though getting a handful of muscle that hard doesn't exactly convince me that this is a good idea, I keep on going. "So knock it off right now."

"Yeah," Tommy says, popping up at the side of me out of nowhere. "Knock it off, mister, or you're gonna get hurt."

"Pipe down, kid." I snap at him. "I swear, if you used your brain half as much as you use that mouth of yours, you'd—"

"Damn it," the guy in black mutters, and for a moment I figure he's decided to give it up. Then he shoves me out of the way, knocking me over so hard that I fall backward onto the table next to us, and when I look up, it's just in time to see that blond disappearing through the far door. The guy in black chases after him, shoving people out the way left and right as he goes, but by the time I've gotten to my feet he's out the door too, and by the time me and Tommy get out into the street, the blond's nowhere in sight, and the guy in black's just standing there on the corner, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Hah!" Tommy shouts, as we catch up with him. "He gave you the slip, didn’t he? Like a thief in the night!"

"He's gone for now, but he'll be back," the guy in black says, turning to me and shaking his head. "He likes slumming it."

Then he reaches into his jacket pocket, and before I can stop the kid, Tommy's pulled his knife and pushed his way in front of me.

"What are you doing? Put that away," I bark, yanking him back by his collar and shoving him to one side.

The guy in black raises an eyebrow, and takes his hand out of his pocket. All he's got in it is a business card, but Tommy's still scowling up at the guy like he thinks it might go off in his hand.

"Look, he'll come back." the guy says, handing me the card. "When he does, call that number. My employer would be very grateful for your cooperation."

"Cooperation!" Tommy scoffs, edging forward again. "D'you know who this is? D'you even know who you're talking to?"

"Simmer down." I snap, pushing the kid back a few steps. I recognise the name on that card. It's one of those legit businessmen that the old man invites to his dinners sometimes, the kind that Miller says gives us a—what was it?—a veneer of respectability. No-one I need to be scared of, but he's got enough money he could probably make a stink in the papers if he got upset.

"Who's the boy?" I tuck the card into my pocket and give the guy in black a nice, casual smile. "Runaway son? Nephew? Reluctant heir to the empire?"

"Just a friend of my employer's."

"Yeah, only he's the kind of friend that draws a salary just like you do, isn't he?" I laugh. "The kind your employer doesn't want making a big splash, getting tangled up with my sort, right?"

The guy in black just looks at me, hard as granite.

"Maybe I'll keep an eye out for him." I shrug, putting my arm around Tommy as I turn to go. "If I spot him, maybe I'll give you a call."

"You do that." the guy says, and as he walks off down the street away from us, I can't help smirking. Maybe one day I'll be stuck with a job like that, chasing after one of the boss's boys, trying to stop some little confection half my age from giving me the runaround. It'd make a change from trying to house-train Tommy, anyway.

"Pity that chump didn't try anything." The kid grins up at me and smacks his fist against his palm. "I'd have given him a right pasting if he had!"

"Yeah, and right now I'd be scraping you up off the pavement." I laugh. "Which is still probably a better use of my time than chasing after slippery blonds."

"You think?" The kid leans against me, looking up at me with the same cocky smile he had on his lips the day I first met him. "You know, just cause that guy ran off, doesn't mean you've got to go home on your own, does it?"

"No, and I wasn't planning to." I give him a smile and a squeeze of the shoulder, and start looking for a taxi to flag down.

He might be a pain in the neck, but I'll say one thing for Tommy, if he wants a piece of you he doesn't waste any time letting you know. The first time he propositioned me, with Miller standing right there next to us, it seemed so out of the blue that it took me a minute to answer him. I remember Miller tutting and saying, I see your brazenness is rubbing off on him, and Tommy laughing and shaking his head, saying Nah, I was like this when he found me! loud enough the whole street must have heard. We've done this a dozen times now, and even now I still find myself a bit taken aback when he puts the moves on me. It's like being on one of those overseas holidays and suddenly hearing someone talking your language. Like finding a little bit of home, and suddenly everything's natural and easy where you were expecting it to be hard. I don't know, I'm not making any sense. I guess I must have had a few too many tonight.

The kid's all over me as soon as we get into the taxi, sliding one arm around my neck and pulling me into a kiss, while his other hand rests on my tie, stroking it, toying with it, making it so I can't think about anything except where I'd really like those hands to get busy. When I grab the back of his neck and give it a squeeze, he makes a happy little noise deep in his throat and pulls away just enough to speak.

"It's been ages," he says, leaning his head against my shoulder.

"It's been a week," I laugh.

He kisses me again, and the way his tongue flicks against mine, the way his arms wind around my neck, the way he arches his back when I pull him closer, all of it gets me so close to boiling point that if this was one of our cars, if it was one of our guys driving, I'd be an inch away from ordering him to pull into the nearest layby so I could get a piece of Tommy right here in the backseat. As it is, the trip seems to take forever, and when the taxi finally pulls up outside my place, I manhandle him out onto the pavement so roughly that the driver leans out of his window and says "You alright there, son?", like he thinks I'm about to mug the kid.

Tommy just rolls his eyes and laughs. "What's the matter, pops, ain't you seen a guy having a good time before? Or didn't they have fun back in the stone age?"

"You mind your manners," I say, cuffing him round the back of the head. "And you can keep that kind of talk for indoors."

"Sure thing, Johnny." The kid grins at me and then at the cab driver. "Sorry, pops."

The driver shrugs and takes the notes I'm holding out to him, and once he's driven off, I turn back to Tommy, grab hold of his jacket and pull him up close.

"You need to learn when to stop running that mouth."

"Yeah?" Tommy smirks and brings his hands up to rest on my lapels, like he's got any hope of pushing me away. "You gonna teach me a lesson, then?"

I can't help laughing, because that's definitely a line he's picked up from me. When I first met him he'd have given me a spicy look and said Well, I can’t talk with my mouth full, can I? But I guess my bad habits really have rubbed off on him, just like Miller said.

Once we're inside, Tommy shrugs off his leather jacket and slings it over the chair, but as soon as I take off my suit jacket, he takes it out of my hands and goes off to find a coathanger for it, just like clockwork. It feels funny to have someone fetching and carrying for me like this, but at the same time it does something to me, something I can't put into words. It's the same whenever the kid fetches a drink for me, the same when he opens doors for me, when he runs to answer the telephone for me. Feels funny every time, but it makes me want him, and right now the sight of him hanging that jacket up neatly makes me hotter for him than any smart line he's given me tonight.

"Come here," I say, grabbing him by the back of the neck and pulling him toward me.

"Or what?" he says, running his hands up between us, over my shirtfront and up to rest on my shoulders.

I grab his throat in one hand and bring the other one down to cup his crotch, squeezing him nice and tight. "Or I'll fuck you so hard tonight won't be able to walk straight when I'm done."

The kid groans softly and pushes forward to grind against my hand. "Who cares about walking?"

I grab hold of his t-shirt and yank it up over his head, and once I've thrown it aside, Tommy just stands there smirking at me, watching me looking him over. He's covered in bruises and scrapes, just like he always is, and only about half of them are from me. I can see the faded greyish purple marks on his arms where I held him down last time, the raw red grazes on his shoulders from the last fight he got into, and half a dozen fresh scratches running down the length of his chest.

I grab his arm and pull him close, running my free hand down across the new marks. "How d'you get these?"

The kid grins at me and starts unfastening my tie. "Same way you get yours."

"Is that right?" I laugh, and take the tie out of his hands. "I thought I told you to stay away from boys with claws."

"I am doing," he says, with a smirk. "Only they don't stay away from me!"

"I'll bet they don’t," I say, grabbing hold of his wrists, squeezing them tight until he gives a stifled little yelp and presses forward to grind against my leg.

"Harder," he groans, pulling away from me, tugging at my grip with what I reckon must be every bit of strength he's got. "Like last time."

I spin him around and shove him forward, so he stumbles against the big sofa opposite us. I thought we'd end up like this tonight, so I left my cuffs out on the coffee table, and Tommy spots them just as I'm about to pick them up.

"Those look like fun," he says, staying bent over the sofa where he landed. "You got anything else like that in here?"

"Maybe." I take hold of one wrist and snap a cuff around it. "Depends how well you behave yourself tonight."

As I'm fixing his other hand behind his back, it suddenly hits me how many times I've been in exactly this position, half-naked and cuffed and bent over some guy's sofa. So much of what I do with Tommy stirs up these echoes, it's like everything I give him gets sort of reflected back at me somehow, and I end up feeling both sides of it. It's a funny feeling, and you'd think I'd have had it before, but somehow it's only Tommy that does this to me.

"Come on," he says, grinding his ass against me as I lean over him. "Come on, Johnny, all this waiting's driving me mad…"

"You'll get yours, don't you worry." I sit down on the sofa and drag the kid down onto the floor at my feet. "But if you want my cock in your ass, you're going to be a good boy and suck it for me first."

He leans forward as soon as I start unbuttoning my fly, and by the time I press the head of my cock to his lips, he's staring up at me so desperately you'd think he hadn't been fucked for months. He's always like this, so eager and hungry for it, so full of energy, throwing himself into it headfirst every single time. He keeps his eyes on mine as I push him down, until his lips are stretched around the base of my cock and his throat is full of me, and when I grab a handful of his hair he groans around me so sweetly it's a wonder it doesn't finish me off then and there.

"That's right, take it," I say, trying to sound like I'm in control, but the words come out more like a groan, breathy and ragged. Tommy doesn't seem to care, though. He just keeps on sliding his lips up and down along the length of my cock, taking as much as he can each time, and his throat feels so hot and wet and soft that I couldn't resist thrusting up into it if I tried. It's too good, he's too good, like he was made for this, like that smart mouth of his was made to be fucked, and the only thing that stops me filling his throat with come right now is the knowledge that if Tommy's mouth is good, then his ass is perfect.

"Please, Johnny," the kid says, the minute my cock's out of his mouth. "Come on, please…"

I stand up and grab a handful of his hair, and he gives a desperate little groan. I shove him down, bending him over the sofa, and he stays where I put him, squirming a little against the seat like he can't keep still. I kneel down behind him and start unbuckling his belt, and he says "Please…" again, softer and quieter than you'd ever hear him talk in public. By the time I've lubed him up and pushed a couple of fingers inside him, the kid sounds like he's halfway to losing his mind. He's always so impatient, always begging me to fuck him right away. Probably thinks he could take it with no lube at all, and I bet if I told him to, he'd kneel there and grit his teeth and try his best to take it dry. The thought makes me chuckle, and Tommy twists around to look at me over his shoulder, with those mischievous eyes suddenly wide and pleading.

"Johnny, please, don't tease me, I can't take it…" he says, and he really does sound hurt. I've done a lot of nasty things in my time, I've had a lot to feel bad about, but somehow that makes me feel like more of a lowlife than any job I've pulled.

"You'll take it, alright." I stroke my free hand down along his side, petting him like a nervous dog, and when my hand comes to rest on his hip, the kid says "Please" again so sweetly that I couldn't resist even if I did want to tease him. I slide my fingers out of his ass and push my cock in, trying to go slow so I don't hurt him, but he's got no intention of letting me take it easy. He shoves himself back onto my cock, taking the whole lot of it in one quick push, like he thinks he's indestructible. He does this pretty much every time, too. Always so greedy and eager at the start, always determined to take it all right now this minute, even if it hurts, especially if it hurts. So I hold him down, keeping him still until he's stopped squirming and whimpering, until he's looking back over his shoulder at me and begging for it like he thinks I'm holding off just to torment him.

"Please…" the kid groans, as I start to move. "Please, Johnny, give it to me…"

Since he's asked so nicely, I can hardly refuse. I grab hold of his shoulder in one hand and his waist in the other, and I step the pace right up, slamming into him in short, hard thrusts that get him yelping and moaning right from the start. I've never known a boy who made so much noise and seemed so honest about it. Every bit of pain and every bit of pleasure, he lets you know about it loud and clear, and it never sounds put-on, not even a little bit. I don't think he even realises how much noise he makes, or what it does to me every time he cries out like I'm tearing him apart, every time he groans and whimpers and breathes so hard he can barely get a word out.

"Harder," he begs, spreading his legs a bit wider. "Harder, don't hold back, I can take it."

And he can, I know he can. He can take everything I've got to give and then some, but I still laugh and say "You can, can you? We'll see."

I haul him off the sofa and down onto the floor, gripping the chain of the cuffs in one hand and his hair in the other, shoving him over with his face down and his ass in the air, and the minute the kid's cheek grazes the carpet he groans so loud I can feel it vibrate through me.

"You'll give me—" he starts to say, only he runs out of breath halfway through and has to start again. "You'll give me a carpet burn if you keep going like that…"

"You can add it to the rest of your collection," I laugh, shoving his head down harder. I wonder if he knows what seeing all those bruises and marks does to me, how much it makes me want him. I wonder if he ever goes out of his way to pick up a few extra, when he knows we're going to get down to it. I would've done. I would've gotten myself beaten black and blue the day before, just to see the look on the other guy's face when I stripped off. But the kid's not me, and I don't know what he's thinking. I don't even know if he's thinking, and there's no point dwelling on it, so I push the thought out of my head and try to focus on what's in front of me.

"Look at you," I say, reaching down underneath him and taking hold of his cock. "Can't get enough, can you?"

The kid tenses up and makes a choked little noise in the back of his throat, and then he breathes out "Tighter," like I haven't done this often enough now to know exactly how he wants it. "Like that, just like that, don't stop…"

And now he's pushing back against me twice as hard, now he's tugging against the cuffs and thrusting forward into my fist, squirming underneath me and groaning desperately, and somehow everything he does drags me closer and closer to the edge, as if it's my own body I'm toying with. I work my hand over him, rubbing my thumb across the tip of his cock on each upstroke, tightening my grip on each downstroke, the same way he always does it himself, only I do it at my pace, not his. He takes his time over it when he's putting on a show, but tonight I don't want a performance. I want to see him lose control, and I want it now.

"Johnny, please, let me—" the kid pleads, tensing up underneath me. "I can't— I'm gonna—"

I grab hold of his hair and haul him upright, gripping him tight with both hands, and when I say "Come for me, then, you filthy little punk," he cries out so loud and ragged you'd think I was killing him. The way he shudders and arches his back as he comes, the way he clenches his fists and pulls against the cuffs, the way he tips his head back onto my shoulder and screws his eyes shut, every bit of it grinds away at my self-control so much I can barely hold off. It's like he was built for this, like he was custom-made just for me. He couldn't be any more perfect if I'd dreamed him up myself.

"Keep fucking me, don't stop," he says, and I can feel his breath against my cheek, heavy and hot. "Come inside me, like last time, please—"

If he keeps begging like that, he'll get what he wants a lot quicker than I want to give it to him, so I yank hard on his hair and bring my other hand up to his mouth. I only meant to gag him, to shut him up for a minute, but as soon as my fingers touch his lips the kid darts his tongue out and starts licking them clean, so I guess I shot myself right in the foot. He takes my fingers into his mouth, all the way up to the knuckle, and sucks on them so hungrily it might as well be my cock he's sucking on, for all the good it does my attempts to slow down. The wet heat of his tongue sliding against my fingers, the feeling of his ass gripping my cock, soft and tight and smooth around me, the sound of him still moaning and whimpering like he can't get enough, the whole lot adds together and makes it impossible for me to hold off. I yank my fingers out of his mouth and shove his face back down against the carpet where it can't cause any trouble, but it's too late for that. I'm done for. I hiss his name as I start to come, and he cries out again, yelping and whimpering every time I slam my cock into him, so loud and desperate you'd think he was ready to go again right now, and I have to stifle a laugh as the last few shudders die down, because knowing Tommy, he probably is.

"Told you I could take it," he says, twisting around to smirk at me while I pull out and unfasten the cuffs.

"Don't get cocky," I laugh, and give him a slap on the ass.

The kid just grins up at me, and when I get to my feet and start tidying myself up, he yawns and clambers up onto the sofa. "Hey, you were right, Johnny," he says, sprawling out face-down. "Don't think I could walk home now if I tried."

"Good job I'm nice enough to call you a taxi then, isn't it?" I go over to where he hung my jacket up, and get out my wallet. He's never got enough cash on him for the bus, let alone a cab, even now he's on a weekly wage. I don't know what he does with it. Probably all goes on comics and dice games the minute the money's in his hand. "And no cheeking off the cab driver this time, alright?"

Tommy doesn't reply. I turn around, ready to tell him off for sulking, but he's not sulking at all. He's fast asleep.

"Oh sure, make yourself at home," I mutter, putting the money back in my wallet. If Tommy was any other boy, I'd be waking him up with a glass of water in the face and telling him he could wait for his cab outside, but instead I find myself putting a blanket over the kid and turning off the light. I must be going soft in the head.

 


 

I spot him the minute I walk into the place. That white-blond hair's like a beacon all on its own, but with the matching suit he's wearing, he stands out a mile. He looks like one of those white marble statues, only statues don't drape themselves over bars like that. Statues don't laugh like that, soft and light and a little bit mocking, like everything around them's just a joke. Statues don't stroke their fingers over the stem of their wineglass like that, like they can't help toying with whatever's within reach. I stand there and watch him for a minute, but I've already made up my mind. I can hear the alarm bells ringing in my head, sure. I've been burned often enough to know I'm taking a risk even considering it. But I reckon it's a calculated risk. I know what I'm doing.

"Oh, hello again," he says, when I sit down on the stool next to him. "I'm sorry to have left so abruptly last time. You must think I'm very rude."

I laugh, and wave the bartender over. "I think you're a lot of things."

The boy gives me a crisp little smile. "Such as?"

"Spoiled." I say, watching that smile getting cooler and sharper. "Hot-headed."

"Go on," the boy says, leaning his chin on his hand.

"Flighty." I say, watching the bartender pouring out my usual. "And easily bored."

"Well," he says, with a soft laugh, "you seem to know all about me, but I don't know a thing about you. Isn't that unfair?"

 "You know enough to be going on with, I reckon. You know what kind of place this is, and by extension you know what kind of guy I am." I sip my drink, and watch as he takes out a cigarette case, a fancy little gold thing with a big showy 'F' engraved on the corner. "You knew that when you came over to me the other night."

"Did I?" he says, taking a cigarette out of the case.

"Sure you did." I smile, and watch him waiting for a light he's not going to get. "You were hoping I'd get tough with your friend, maybe get security to give him what for, get the guy out of your hair for a bit."

"Terrible of me, wasn't it?" he says, reaching into his jacket again and taking out a matching gold lighter. "Are you going to throw me out?"

I watch him light his cigarette, and I wonder if he's ever had to do it himself before. I'm surprised the lighter even works. Most likely, so's he.

"Only if you make trouble." I finish my drink, and stand up. "But I'd rather take you home."

"What a coincidence," he says, with another one of those silky laughs. "I'd rather you did, too."

He follows me out of the bar, onto the street, into the cab I flag down, all without saying another word. Even in the back of the taxi, he just sits there silently, looking out of the window and giving me the occasional chilly smile when I glance over at him. Maybe now he knows he's got his claws into me, he figures it's not worth wasting any more breath on cute lines. Maybe he's having second thoughts. Maybe he's just so used to travelling with that minder of his that he's slipped into frosty silence out of habit. Whatever it is, by the time we finally get up to my flat, my nerves are so raw from all the quiet that when he finally decides to speak to me, I'm almost grateful.

"It's a nice place," he says, glancing around the living room. "Very cosy."

Cosy. This flat is three times the size of the one I started off in, full of fancy furniture, lit up with enough of those jangly little glass chandeliers that it looks like I should have a celebrity here to switch on the lights every time I come home, and he calls it cosy. I guess no matter how comfortable I get, there'll always be a boy around who can make me feel like I'm right back in that bedsit. There's nothing I could say that wouldn't give him the upper hand, so I don't reply. I just watch him as he slips his jacket off and drapes it over the back of the chair, and that must be the right way to play this, because when he turns back to me, he's already started unbuttoning his shirt. The fabric's dark red like old blood, and his hands look even paler, even more delicate in comparison. He looks almost fragile, and maybe I should feel bad about it, but all that does is make me want to break him twice as hard.

"Come here."

He pouts a little, and folds his arms. "Aren't you going to offer me a drink first?"

"No." I grab hold of his wrist and pull him toward me, and he breathes in sharply like he's had just the right button pushed. When he looks up at me, there's a sharp little smile playing on his lips, and the kind of glint in his eyes I'd recognise a mile off. He's done this dance before, probably as many times as I have. Maybe more.

"You aren't very nice."

I tighten my grip on his wrist. "You didn't come here for nice."

He doesn't reply. He just keeps on looking up at me with those big, dark eyes, smiling that arch smile, leaning into my grip like a cat leans into being petted. He hasn't said a word, but I know an invitation when I see one.

"That big friend of yours said you like slumming it." I grab a handful of his hair and drag him close, twisting my fist nice and tight at the nape of his neck. "Maybe I should've taken you to a cheap hotel."

"This is cheap enough for me," he says, looking up at me with eyes so bright they almost sparkle. He's so close now that I can feel how turned on he is already, I can feel his cock jutting against my thigh, hard and hot and about as shameless as the look in his eyes. "And anyway, if you keep going like this, fairly soon I won't care in the slightest where we are."

He might look delicate, but the way he's lapping this up, I reckon I could go no holds barred with him and he'd still want more, so I yank his head back harder and bring my other hand up to his throat. "You were after this right from the start, weren't you?"

"Of course," he laughs, pushing forward into my grip. "Why else would I go home with someone like you?"

Someone like me. I've had a fair few of his type, and I knew what they thought of me, but I've never had one come right out and say it. I let go of his hair and shove him back by the throat. "Get those clothes off, before I tear them off."

"Alright," he says, but he takes his time over unfastening his shirt, and the whole time he's watching me with that sharp little smile on his lips. When he gets to the last few buttons, he slows right down, toying with them like he's just passing the time.

"I said, get those clothes off." I grab hold of his hair again, gripping it tight in one hand while I yank his shirt off with the other. His skin's pristine, just like you'd expect. No scrapes, no bruises, nothing. It makes me want to spoil that spotlessness, to leave my mark all over him, to beat him black and blue. I tighten my grip on his hair and give him a shake. "When I tell you to do something, you do it, understand?"

He groans quietly and puts a hand on my arm, not pushing me away, not even trying to stop me, just resting it lightly on the curve of the muscle. "What if I don't?"

"You'll get the back of my hand, and that pretty face'll have a bit more colour in it."

He gives another soft little groan, and brings his other hand up to rest on my lapel, stroking it with those delicate fingers.

"Well?" I say, yanking hard on his hair. "Are you going to do as you're told?"

He looks up at me with those dark eyes wide and full of fire. "Not yet."

I slap him once, hard, and when he groans I do it again, backhanding him so he's got a matching pink blush on both cheeks.

"You're horrible," he says, breathy and soft.

"Yeah," I laugh, throwing him down onto the sofa, "and you love it."

He opens his mouth to reply, but I don't let him get a word out. I drag him forward by the hair until his face is level with my groin, and when I unfasten my fly I can see him tensing up. I can hear the breath catch in his throat. When I yank his head back and shove my cock into his mouth, I can see a shiver rippling through him, and when I start to fuck his throat in short, hard strokes, he gives a muffled little groan and slips a hand down to unbuckle his belt.

"All that posturing, all that banter…" I laugh, thrusting deeper into his throat. "And at the end of the day you're just another cock-hungry little bitch, aren't you?"

He moans around me, and I can see his arm moving as he works his own cock a little faster. The rougher I fuck his mouth, the more wound up he seems to get, and after a couple of minutes he's hanging onto the leg of my trousers with his free hand and squirming underneath me like he's going to lose control any moment now.

"You love sucking it, don't you?" I say, sliding my cock out of his mouth and letting it rest against his cheek. "Dirty little slut."

He looks up and gives me a smile full of venom. "Someone like you is in no position to call me names."

I yank his head back and swing my other hand down across his cheek, hard enough to knock a yelp out of him, and this time I follow it up with another slap, and another, and I keep going until his cheeks are bright red and hot to the touch. When I stop, he smiles up at me and opens his mouth to speak, but I cut him off and push his head back down, sliding my cock between his lips again before he can even start to needle me.

"Only one thing a mouth like that's any good for," I taunt him, fucking his throat in long, deep strokes. "So you just kneel there and take it like a good little whore, and maybe if you do a good enough job, I'll give you what you really want."

He groans and starts working his hand over his cock again, matching my pace, thrusting up into his fist slow and steady as I fuck his mouth. Watching him enjoy himself just makes me want to treat him rougher, and the rougher I treat him the more he seems to enjoy himself, and before long I'm forcing his head down and making him choke on my cock, holding him there until he's coughing and shuddering, until his eyes are watering so much his cheeks are glistening with tears, and even then the boy just can't seem to get enough. When I finally haul him up by the hair and throw him across the coffee table, he gives a hungry little moan and looks back over his shoulder at me with eyes full of sour fire.

"Come on," he says, still arch even now, even with his voice hoarse and ragged. "All this waiting is beginning to bore me."

"You'll wait all night if I tell you to."

I kneel down behind him and put one hand on his back, holding him down while I start to lube him up, and the minute my fingertips stroke across his ass, the boy spreads his thighs a little wider and pushes back against my hand, shameless enough that I can't help laughing. "Oh yeah, you're bored, alright," I say, rubbing the tip of my cock against him. "You're so bored, you'd do anything right now for the chance to ride it."

"I don't like your attitude," the boy starts to say, but the rest of that sentence gets swallowed up in a long, low moan as I push forward and slide the first few inches into him.

"But you like this enough to put up with it."

I give him the rest in one hard thrust, and before I've even started to move inside him, the boy's already reached a hand down and started stroking his own cock again, working it at the kind of brisk pace that says he knows exactly what he wants out of this, and now he's getting it he's not going to waste a minute. As it happens, neither am I.

"Look at you," I taunt him, pulling back almost all the way and slamming back in again. "Filthy little bitch, you love it, don't you?"

He scowls at me over his shoulder, but that delicate hand keeps on working his cock. "Fuck me harder," he demands. "Like I'm one of the cheap sluts you usually bring back here."

The way he says it, it's like he thinks he knows me inside and out. I don't know whether to laugh at him or smack him or both, so I settle for yanking on his hair, hard enough to make him yelp. "Yeah? And what would you know about that?"

"I know enough," the boy says, trailing off into a little shuddering moan. "I know all about your type."

"My type? And what type's that?"

"Hoodlums," he groans. "You're savages, all of you. Violent. Ruthless. Bestial. And—"

"Not inclined to listen to a stuck-up little slut like you running his mouth all night."

I grab hold of his free arm and twist it up behind his back, wrenching his wrist up toward his shoulders until he's crying out in pain, until he's yelping and whimpering underneath me, and all the time he's still working his other hand steadily over his cock, like all of this is exactly what he was after, exactly what buttons he wanted pushing. Well, he can whimper and moan all he likes, but I'm not going to let him get another word out. Instead I keep talking, throwing insult after insult at him, calling him all the names under the sun while I fuck him, and every word I fling at him seems to get him more and more wound up. There's a bit of me that wants to just pull out and leave him there, high and dry, but it's nothing compared to the bit that wants to ream that delicate little ass until he's raw and bruised, until he's bucking helplessly underneath me as he comes, until I've fucked every last ounce of pleasure out of him.

"You—" he says suddenly, tensing and arching up away from the table so hard I have to shove him back down with all my strength. "You animal!"

I don't know what set him off, but whatever the magic word was, it must have been good because he goes off like a rocket, twisting and thrashing underneath me, crying out like I'm splitting him in two, pulling against the grip I've got on his wrist with about twice the force you'd think a fragile little confection like him would be capable of, and when he's finished he's trembling and panting so hard I feel like I should get him a glass of water.

With him already spent, that nasty streak of mine flares up like someone's poured oil on it, and I find myself twisting both of his arms up behind his back hard enough that it'd have a tough guy yelping and cursing, let alone this pampered little pet. He yelps, alright, and he squirms underneath me the whole time, making it so I have to lean hard on him to keep him held down. He knows just what to do to make me feel like I really am tearing him apart, like I really am the animal he said I was, and there's a little voice in the back of my head saying I should be ashamed of how easily this stuff gets to me, but it gets drowned out by all the whimpering and gasping and yelping. I don't whether I'm toying with him or he's toying with me, I don't know who's using who, who's in control. Then the boy cries out again, ragged and hoarse, and now I don't care anymore, I don't care if he's using me. All I care about is the heat of his ass swallowing up each inch of my cock as I drive it into him, the way his body grips me tight even now, the way his legs shake as I slam into him, the way his nails dig into those soft palms when he clenches his fists like he's feeling it too all over again, as hard and fierce and hot as I'm feeling it. I pull out at the last minute and let him have it across his ass and thighs, painting him with my come, and he keeps on making those breathy little noises until the last spray of it's splashed across his skin, until he's dripping with it. Then he gives a soft, silky laugh, just like he did in the bar, and it stings like a slap in the face. Wakes me up just the same way, too.

I could do with a minute to catch my breath, but I stand up and start straightening my suit right away. Sure, it's half because he's expecting me to be mean, but it's half because I don't want to touch this boy for a second longer than I have to. Somehow, now that I'm done, touching him seems about as appealing as sticking my hand in a wasp's nest. He doesn't seem to mind, though. Hell, the feeling's probably mutual.

"Well," he says, pushing himself up off the table and stretching like he's just getting out of bed, "I need a shower."

I point toward the bathroom. "Through there."

He leaves the door open, and I can hear him humming to himself, soft and light and about as pleasant to my ears as nails down a blackboard.

"You know," he calls out, "I think I'll stay with you for a while. No-one knows where I am, and as long as you're careful, I think I'll be safe for a few days at least."

Just like that. Like he's putting in a reservation at a hotel. No, not even that. Like he's doing me a favour by gracing me with his presence. I'm shaking my head as I dig that business card out of my wallet. If this boy's attitude is anything to go by, his keeper must be the softest old man you've ever seen. I don't think even Miller could get away with this kind of nonsense, and if it was me, the boss would have knocked me into next week before I'd finished my sentence.

I make the call from the bedroom, with the door shut. The phone only rings once before someone picks it up, so I guess the place must be on high alert. It's not that minder who answers, but whoever the guy is, when I tell him I've got some lost property that belongs to his boss, he sounds about fifty percent relieved and fifty percent ready to throttle the boy. Maybe I should feel bad about what I'm doing, but to be honest I'm not sure who's getting the worst end of it, the boy I'm handing over, or the guys I'm handing him over to. Maybe they deserve each other.

I head back into the living room and sit down to wait. I can hear the boy humming to himself again, even over the sound of the water running, loud and unrestrained like he's in his own house. I sit and listen to it, veering back and forth between feeling sorry for the boy and wanting to kick him out right now, between wanting to tip him off and wanting to drag him out by the hair and make him wait in the hallway. When did I get so soft?

The water stops, and there's a few minutes of silence, and then the boy comes sauntering into the living room wearing one of my bathrobes, the expensive one I got as a moving-in present, and all at once that little pang of sympathy I was having just fades away like a headache clearing up.

"I'll admit it's not the nicest place I've ever stayed, but I think it'll do," the boy says, light and casual, as if all this is perfectly natural. "Oh, and I'll have that drink now, if you don't mind."

"You're not staying long enough for a drink."

"Aren't I?" He gives me an arch smile. "Are you going to throw me out after all, when I've been so nice to you?"

And right on cue, the doorbell rings. I can see in his eyes he knows what's on the other side of that door. He stiffens up and gives me the kind of look that could curdle milk, but he's picking up his clothes and starting to get dressed before I've even reached for the handle. I guess he's done this dance before, too.

"Come in," I say, standing aside to let the minder and his two friends into the living room. "He's all yours."

The minder gives me a smile I can't quite read, and stays next to me by the door, while his lackeys go over to stand either side of the boy. They watch him like a couple of guard-dogs, like they think he might make a break for it any minute now.

"I bet you guys were running a book on how long it'd take me to call, weren't you?" I laugh, leaning against the doorframe and running a hand through my hair.

"I thought you might hold out a bit longer." The minder gives me another one of those smiles, and shrugs. "But they all make the call eventually. No-one puts up with him for long."

"Except your employer, right?"

The minder just looks at me, and I can almost hear that question bouncing right off him.

"We can go now," the boy says, draping his jacket over his arm. He sounds almost impatient, like we're holding up his evening.

"Take him down to the car." The minder nods at his friends, and the look on his face gets a bit harder and darker. "And keep hold of him, this time."

They herd the boy out of the door, with the minder following them a couple of steps behind, and it's only once he's out in the hallway that I realise I've almost missed my chance.

"That's a tough job you've got," I say, calling after the minder. "You ever feel like you need a bit of stress relief, you know where to find me."

He stops, but he doesn't look back. Maybe he's considering my offer, or maybe he's deliberating whether to turn around and give me a pasting, but either way it gives me a jolt of adrenaline that I didn't think I had left in me tonight. Then he walks off after his lackeys, not even bothering to look back at me, so I guess that's that. Maybe he's done me a favour. Getting shot of the lot of them's probably the luckiest break I've had all week.

I close the door, and it's only then that I realise I've been holding my breath. I shake my head and laugh at myself, and as I head into bedroom, the clock on the wall catches my eye. Only half past two. I wonder what Tommy's up to right now. I wonder what trouble he's gotten himself into tonight. I wonder all that, and then for the second time in as any minutes, I laugh at myself. Why should I care what the kid's doing? Yeah, I'm definitely going soft in the head.