Actions

Work Header

Room at the Edge

Chapter Text

Chapter One

Jay blinked, his vision blurry. Time to take a break. He set down the tiny flogger he’d been working on, each thin strand tipped with a touch of silver paint to mimic steel, and leaned back in his chair. The change of position had him wincing as cramped muscles protested. Why didn’t it hurt when he was doing it, but it did when he stopped? How did that make sense?

He massaged not the small of his back—Austin would do that for him later—but his hands, flexing and rubbing them together to loosen his stiff fingers. He needed his hands to be flexible enough for the detailed work on the floggers and cuffs, but the ache radiating from his wrists was a sign he’d reached his limit for the day.

Damn.

The small diorama, a dungeon scene, with a Dom and his two subs having one hell of a good time, was intended as a Christmas present for Liam. The figures were capable of being posed, so Liam could play with them if he wanted to—tie them to the Saint Andrew’s cross or over a spanking bench, suspend them from a ceiling hook, make them kneel… It was a Dom’s version of a Barbie Dreamhouse, though Jay didn’t intend to even think that in Liam’s presence.

It was only mid-October, so there was no rush, but Jay wanted it to be perfect, and perfect took time.

The creak of the stairs told him Austin was coming up to join him. “Hey,” Austin said. “How it’s going? I was thinking about starting dinner, but I wanted to check in with you first.”

“Dinner sounds good. I definitely need a break.” Jay didn’t get up because Austin was already behind him, hands settling on his shoulders and beginning a massage. “God. Just do that for the next hour, huh?”

“Bet you didn’t even know your shoulders were tight too,” Austin said sympathetically, digging his thumbs into the base of Jay’s neck until Jay was whimpering with appreciation. “You’re really working hard.”

“I want it to be done by early December. Don’t want to be stressing about it.” Jay let his head fall forward and closed his eyes as Austin massaged his shoulders. “Forget dinner. Let’s just do this instead.”

“You know if we do, we’ll want to take it further.” Austin sounded as regretful as Jay felt.

Liam had laid down the law about what they were allowed to do when he wasn’t there, and it didn’t include orgasms. They could touch each other, sure. They could kiss, exchange frustratingly incomplete blowjobs, and sleep naked, but they couldn’t come, not unless Liam was there.

Liam had demonstrated what would happen if they broke that rule, and it wasn’t something Jay wanted to relive. He’d asked what the penalty would be, thinking it might be worth it. Losing the ability to have sex with Austin was a huge sacrifice, and if he had to pay for a climax with a hard spanking, he was willing to do it.

That was until Liam had brought him to the edge of orgasm dozens of times over the course of a weekend but never let him come. Jay had ended up with the worst case of blue balls he’d ever had, to the point where he hadn’t been able to piss for half a day because his damned cock wouldn’t go down. He’d barely slept the whole time, just lain there staring at the ceiling with his dick hard as a rock and his balls aching.

Having his cock inside the wet heat of Austin’s mouth felt incredible. Pulling his cock out quickly, yelping with pain as it scraped across Austin’s teeth because he was fighting off a climax as inevitable as a sneeze, was less fun.

Jay complained more about that rule than any of the others put together, but he got no sympathy from Liam.

You’re mine. I get to say when you come, and it’s always going to be with me watching. Get used to the idea, Jay, or I’ll extend the no-coming rule to the next few sessions.

For me too?” Austin had asked, eyes wide with shock as Jay spluttered with outrage.

Oh yes.” Liam’s smile had been wicked, his blue eyes lit with enjoyment. “Don’t think I won’t use you to shut him up, because I will.

Now Austin’s fingers worked at a tight muscle in Jay’s shoulder, the mix of pleasure and pain as they dug in sending a ripple of mild arousal through Jay. He asked, “Do you mind him controlling us like this? It doesn’t bother you at all going a week without sex?”

Austin laughed. “You love it. Deep down you get off on it as much as I do.”

“Do not!”

Austin leaned in, brushed a kiss over Jay’s cheek, and murmured in his ear, “Yeah, you do. It’s like he’s put you in cuffs. Like he’s watching you suffer. Tell me that doesn’t get you going.”

Jay exhaled slowly. “Yeah. Yeah, it does. I…I think about it, you know? What it’s going to feel like when he finally lets me come. If it’s going to be his hand or your mouth.” He shivered as Austin slid a hand across his collarbone and over his chest. He was wearing one of the thin T-shirts he saved for working on his dioramas and knew the smooth skin of Austin’s palm was catching on the smears of dried paint that didn’t wash out. Jay wondered what it would be like to paint on Austin’s bare skin. Not the craft paint—that would be a bitch to scrape off afterward—but body paint might be fun to play with.

Austin’s hand slid over to put steady, arousing pressure on Jay’s nipple through the worn fabric. “Should I tease you? At least it won’t last days.” They had plans with Liam that night.

Jay considered the idea, then sighed and shook his head. “Liam will be pissed if we don’t have time to eat before we go over there.”

“Yeah.” Austin patted his shoulders and stepped back to give him room to stand. “So what do you think for dinner? Chicken or salmon?”

“Salmon if we have that teriyaki glaze,” Jay said as they started downstairs.

Another of Liam’s rules was that they eat a light meal before a session so they’d have energy but not be loaded down by too many calories. “Yeah, we’ve got some. And there’s that leftover rice we could split. If we don’t eat it tonight, we should throw it out—it’s been in there a couple of days.”

“But no dessert allowed,” Jay said with a pout. “God, I’m starving too.”

“No, you’re whining.” Austin gave him a sidelong glance. “You’re not working tomorrow?”

Jay shook his head. “I’ve got Saturday off. Sorry, thought I’d told you.”

“No, you got in and went straight upstairs to work on your diorama.” Austin gave him a forgiving smile. “I’ll take you to Pattycakes for breakfast if you behave tonight. Coffee and one of those giant cinnamon rolls with the raisins and inch-thick frosting.”

Jay adored those rolls, and he liked Pat, the owner of the café, who often dropped in to the library in search of the kind of murder mysteries that made Jay’s stomach lurch. Serial killers freaked him out. The prospect of a sugar rush didn’t mean he was going to let Austin’s comment pass unchallenged, though. “Sure, but I always behave. Liam doesn’t give me any choice.”

He didn’t add that he loved it when Liam went all sternly inflexible on him. Austin knew. Liam knew. Hell, he might as well wear it on his T-shirt and tell the world he’d lick Liam’s Italian leather shoes without being asked. Not that Liam ever would, because it’d ruin their polish.

Austin headed for the fridge. “Set the table. And there’s behaving and behaving. When you two go head-to-head, Liam takes it out on me too, and he’s been working out or something. That last paddling I got hurt.”

“It’s supposed to.” That paddling had been hot as hell. Liam had put Austin over Jay’s lap and told him to hold Austin in place, then stood over them, giving himself plenty of room to swing the paddle. Jay had felt every shudder running through Austin, watched the pale skin of Austin’s ass and thighs blush pink, then flame bright and hot. His forearm had been wet from Austin’s tears by the time the paddling was over, and he’d been so turned on he’d come close to crying himself when he had to wait for release until Austin had sucked Liam off.

Because that had been hot too, with Austin’s breath hitching, his hands behind him on his bruised, stinging ass, Liam fucking his mouth with arrogant assurance, completely in control of the scene.

Jay had slid from the chair to his knees, desperate to join Austin, but Liam had shot him a glance that promised retribution if he moved another inch. Obedience had been worth it, though. Liam had pulled out of Austin’s mouth and snapped his fingers, beckoning Jay over. Jay hadn’t even gotten to part his lips before Liam had jerked off over him, the first warm splash of spunk on his cheek triggering Jay’s climax as much as Liam’s snapped-out word of permission.

Austin closed the fridge with a nudge from his shoulder, the packaged salmon in one hand, the bowl of rice in the other. “I don’t like it when it hurts that much.”

“I do.” Jay didn’t always speak so bluntly, but not because he worried about how Austin might react. More because Austin already knew him, inside and out, so there was little need to say certain things out loud.

“You always want to take it further,” Austin agreed. He turned on the broiler and adjusted the level of the oven shelf.

Jay opened the freezer and started shifting stuff around. Brick of frozen chicken, brick of frozen hamburger, brick of frozen ground turkey. A bag of some kind of premade stir-fry thing that had looked good at the grocery store months ago but terrible in their freezer ever since. “Oh, here. Green beans? Or these carrots with cranberries?”

“Beans,” Austin said. “April called.”

Jay knew immediately that Austin had tried to slip that in casually, anticipating the reaction it would get. “Nice try. Did you hang up on her?”

“I considered it.” Austin slipped the salmon under the broiler and straightened. “But no. I was curious to hear what she had to say.”

“I hate to ask,” Jay said. He sorted through April’s usual demand list—wish lists were for losers as far as she was concerned—and picked the most likely. “Did she want money?”

Austin shook his head. “Shockingly, no. I don’t know what she wanted. Just to talk, I guess, but the whole time we were on the phone I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.” He leaned against the counter, and Jay studied his face, trying to figure out what was going on in his head. “She was nice.”

“Which means she wants something.”

“I know, right? But if she did, she never asked for it. And she’s not usually that subtle.”

No, subtle wasn’t a word Jay would have used to describe Austin’s sister, who was the baby of the Fisher family and had been spoiled beyond words. It had been a weight off Austin’s shoulders when she’d gone away to college at the beginning of September. “Maybe she was drunk?”

Austin laughed. “She didn’t sound it. She sounded happy. She met someone.”

If he’d been drinking, Jay would have choked. “Met someone as in more than another sucker to use as a cab and walking bank account?” April’s boyfriends were numerous and short-lived; even the serious ones were more accessories than love interests.

“I got that impression, yeah. Weird, huh?”

“I don’t want to think about who she’d pick as a real boyfriend. Or who’d be into her.” April was such a selfish, amoral bitch that Jay couldn’t picture anyone taking her on long-term unless they were terminally stupid. Or as much of a masochist as he was, except that was different.

The pain April dealt out was emotional and left scars.

“He’s a year ahead of her and wants to be a pediatrician. His name’s Ryan and—brace yourself.” Austin widened his eyes and said dramatically, “He goes to all his classes.”

The green beans were making his hand go numb, but Jay was snickering too much to care. “Is he an alien? He’s got to be. Into studying and April? Those things just don’t go together. And since when did she go for the geeks? I’m not sure her last one could even read. When I said I worked at the library, he thought it meant I’d read every single book on the shelves.”

“I know! It’s really weird. But it sounded like she admires him. She’s going to all her classes too because she doesn’t want him to think she’s lazy.” Austin finished filling a pot with water and put it on the stove. “And he asked her to go home with him for Thanksgiving. She’s e-mailing me some links so I can help her pick out clothes.”

There we go.” Jay knew April had some ulterior motive. “And she wants you to pay for them.”

“Nope. Apparently she got a job on campus, and she’s saving her money.”

“Okay, so maybe she’s the alien. Or some faeries came and stole her and left a changeling in her place.”

“I thought that was just babies.”

“She can be kind of an infant sometimes,” Jay said and giggled. That made Austin laugh, and they spent the next ten minutes finishing dinner and poking fun at April. It was so hard to imagine her changing her life around that Jay couldn’t manage it.

“Eat fast,” Austin told him as they picked up their forks. “I’ll drag you out the door with half your meal still on your plate if I have to.”

“Are you going to tell Liam about April?”

Austin shrugged. “Sure, why not?”

Even after four or five months with the three of them working on building a relationship outside their sessions, it was difficult for Jay to accept that Liam was interested in the mundane details of their lives and not just being polite. Austin’s job at the doctor’s office and Jay’s at the library weren’t boring to them, but why would Liam care that the near-mythical Alison Brearton, who’d had a book checked out for twelve years, the fines building until they’d reached the maximum the library could impose, had finally wandered in one day and returned The Murder of Roger Ackroyd?

April, though… Liam didn’t like April at all. Bringing her up would probably sour the mood before the session started.

“Because you want Liam in a good mood. Tell him afterward but not before. Or in the morning right before we leave.”

The Friday sessions used to end with Liam shooing them out the door, their asses glowing, but now they usually slept over, keeping a few clothes in one of Liam’s closets and a complete set of toiletries in the spare bathroom.

Liam hadn’t gone that far with them, but he didn’t stay over at their apartment often. The three of them in a queen-size bed was a tight fit; Liam’s king-size worked much better. Jay sometimes wished he could have an out-of-body experience and float up to the ceiling to watch them use every inch of that bed. The logistics of them all trying to get off could be complicated, physically and emotionally. Liam had once strained his shoulder trying to fuck Austin and get his mouth on Jay’s cock at the same time, and there were inevitably moments when someone felt left out of the action. That was an ongoing issue they didn’t discuss as much as push past it.

Complicated, yes, but when it worked, the three of them joining to create something passionate, tender, or just erotic as hell, it left Jay feeling as euphoric as a whipping would.

“It’s not even that much to tell,” Austin protested. “I mean, it’s good news more than anything. But yeah, you’re probably right.”

“Probably?” Jay pouted and fluttered his eyelashes, resting his chin on his hand. “Probably? I’m offended. Of course I’m right. I know exactly what I’m talking about, and you should be hanging on my every word.”

Austin gave him an amused look. “Okay.”

“I mean it,” Jay told him. “In fact, you should just let me make all your decisions forever.”

“Are you on crack?” Austin asked, his grin wide enough that Jay felt his own face mirroring it. “You would hate that so much.”

“Yeah.” Jay snickered. “Guess my chances of becoming a famous actor are pretty low. I’d better stick to being a librarian.”

“Good. Now eat your fish.” Austin pointed his fork at Jay’s plate. “You mean you aren’t going to start taking acting classes?”

“In my copious free time?” Jay quickly took a big bite of salmon before Austin could comment again. After swallowing, he added, “I like dioramas. Plus I think there’s something to be said for playing to your strengths.”

That got him a wink. “You’ll be able to do that plenty tonight. No one begs for more the way you do when you think Liam’s about to ease up and you’re desperate. You babble. It’s sweet.”

There were plenty of times when Jay had done just that, longing for one more slash of a strap against his ass, another minute with weighted clamps crushing and tugging at his nipples until the pure, hot agony burned away everything holding him back and set him free. It didn’t mean that was all he was good for, though he knew Austin hadn’t intended it as anything but a teasing joke. “Hey!”

“What?” Austin held up his hands, all innocence. “You’re a great sub. Liam loves you.”

Suddenly uncomfortable with the way the conversation was going, though he couldn’t pinpoint why, Jay set down his fork. “He loves both of us, but it’s not just about how we make him feel in a session.”

Austin had gone quiet. “I know,” he said finally, but it was one of the least convincing statements Jay had ever heard out of him.

“Try again.”

“Why?” Austin sighed and used his fingers to pick up his last green bean. “Anyway, we’ve got to get going.”

Jay slapped his hand down on the table—not loud enough to be scary, even if it was unexpected, but enough to get Austin’s attention. “We can talk about it here, or I can bring it up when we get to Liam’s.”

The horrified look Austin gave him made him feel guilty immediately, but this was important. It wasn’t something Jay could just let go. “You wouldn’t,” Austin said.

“I would, and you know it. I still might.” Not that Jay wanted to freak Austin out further. It was the truth, though, and he was a firm believer that the truth was vital in relationships. There was no way he’d chance screwing things up by being too scared to talk about them. “We can talk while we get ready, and in the car if you want, but it’s definitely happening.”

“Fine,” Austin said and shoved his chair back. “What do you want to hear?” He sounded angry, which was so not Jay’s intention.

“Hey,” he said. “Come on. I’m on your side here.”

Austin carried his plate to the kitchen, and Jay followed him. “Doesn’t feel like it,” Austin muttered.

Jay waited until Austin had set down his plate, then wrapped both arms around his waist from behind and held on.

“I am. Totally on your side. Talk to me.”

“I don’t… I don’t know how to put it into words, okay? It’s not that I won’t, I guess… I need more time to think about the whole situation.”

The request was reasonable, but Jay hesitated before sighing with resignation. He turned Austin around so he could kiss him, needing the intimacy after their disagreement, minor though it’d been. Austin’s lips were firmly closed at first, but Jay knew just how to coax them open, and before long Austin was kissing him back, his hands clutching Jay’s shoulders, his mouth warmly eager.

The kiss ended with them staring at each other, Austin’s expression a blend of pleading and stubbornness.

“You need to give me time,” Austin repeated. “This thing we’ve got with Liam…it’s fragile. It matters to me. I don’t want to bring it down around us by saying something stupid.”

“It matters to all of us,” Jay pointed out. “We knew going in it wasn’t going to be easy adjusting, but we said we’d talk about it if any of us started freaking out. It’s starting to worry me that we never have.”

Austin shrugged free of Jay’s embrace and turned to pick up his plate. He rinsed it under the faucet, his shoulders tense. “You want me to freak out?”

“Who said it’d be you? Liam’s had more to adjust to than us.” And more to lose if people found out—and that was another subject not up for discussion when it should be, in Jay’s opinion. He wasn’t naive. The Dom/sub arrangement would make eyebrows rise, but the threesome aspect and the difference in their ages would turn surprise to shock, even anger. Hell, no one even knew Liam was bi yet except Patrick, their former Dom, who’d pushed the three of them together like a leather-clad Cupid.

“Yeah, but Liam—he’s got it together. Not that I think he’s perfect…”

“Just really close?” Jay knew Austin felt that way, and knew it was complicated as hell. “I don’t want anyone to freak out, but if you are, it’s not unexpected. That’s all I’m saying.”

Austin swiveled to check the clock. “Shit, we’re going to be late if we don’t go now.” He kissed Jay quickly—it felt like an apology—and added, “I’ll think about it, I promise. Once I figure out what’s going on in my head, you’ll be the first to know.”

As they went to get their coats, Jay thought that would have to be good enough for now. Besides, he had a pretty good idea of what was troubling Austin. He wanted more time with Liam.

They both did.

Chapter Two

“Cutting it a bit close, aren’t we?” Liam asked as he closed the door behind them.

“More than a bit,” Jay agreed cheekily and hung up his coat. “Brr. It feels colder than the middle of October. This morning it was so gray I thought it might snow.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time it snowed this early,” Austin said.

“Personally I’d rather it waited until after Thanksgiving.” Liam frowned impatiently. He’d had a mildly stressful day at work, nothing out of the ordinary, but he’d made it through the day only by focusing firmly on the evening’s activities. The fact that he’d spent the last fifteen minutes checking the clock made him cross.

Jay snickered. “You might be able to control us, but the weather? Don’t think so, Liam.”

“Jay—” Austin began, but Liam was already moving, every instinct he had telling him to curb Jay quickly before this got out of hand.

The line between being subs and being Liam’s partners had blurred since they’d started sharing a bed and, for want of a better word, dating. Outside a clearly defined space of time once or twice a week when Liam was their Dom, not just their lover, he was happy enough for them to call him by name and be relaxed and at ease around him.

Well, maybe when they were in bed, he had a tendency to take charge, but that didn’t seem to bother them, and really, someone had to organize events. The trouble was that now he was free to admit what he did with and to them turned him on, and not just because he got off on dominating them. Sex was inevitably linked in his mind to the sessions. Ceding control of either to his two subs, beautifully obedient and responsive as they were, didn’t appeal.

Though he had to confess to a certain curiosity about being fucked by them one day. He’d never shared that possibility. Too potentially disruptive when things between them were balanced so precariously.

Yes, the lines had blurred—but if Jay thought he could saunter in, all mouth and attitude, as if he were immune from discipline until he got naked, Liam was only too happy to educate him on the respect due a Dom.

He was rarely rough with them, always careful to prepare them for what he had planned. Sometimes he chafed against the self-imposed restrictions, but Austin and Jay mattered too much for him to take any risks.

Of the two of them, though, it was Austin who was most vulnerable, whose limits Liam only pushed at gently.

When it came to Jay’s limits, Liam was always well inside them. He had room to work, and he intended to go as far as he wanted.

He wrapped his hand tightly around Jay’s throat, knowing how aroused any form of breath play got Jay, though giving Jay pleasure wasn’t high on his list of priorities in that moment.

“Did you have something you wanted to say to me before I deal with your attitude, Jay?”

Jay stood utterly still. He didn’t struggle at all, but the frantic flutter of his pulse against Liam’s fingertip told Liam everything he needed to know. “We’re still dressed,” he said hoarsely, the words making his throat vibrate against Liam’s palm. Liam waited, giving him a chance to salvage a little of the situation, and Jay added, “Sir.”

“Your state of dress or undress is unimportant,” Liam told him. “Whether you’re under my roof is unimportant.” He tightened his grip and saw Jay’s pupils dilate. “You will show me the respect I’m due. I know you understand.”

Jay swallowed, his throat contracting in Liam’s grip. “I do, Sir.”

“Then I expect an apology.”

“I’m sorry, Sir.” Jay’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“Good, you should be. I’d like you to be quiet now.”

Jay nodded.

Liam uncurled his hand from around Jay’s throat, and Jay licked his lips as if he’d been kissed and wanted to capture the taste. “Go into the den and wait for me. Take off your shirt, but leave your jeans on for now.” Jay looked dismayed at being sent off without Austin, and Liam spoke sternly to forestall further argument as he wasn’t in the mood to come up with additional punishment for Jay’s unacceptable behavior. “Now, Jay.”

Dropping his gaze, Jay went, padding silently in his stockinged feet. Austin, when Liam turned his attention to him, was still standing where he’d been, looking uncertain and worried.

“You haven’t done anything wrong,” Liam assured him.

“I know, Sir.” Austin hesitated, then knelt to untie his shoes. This hid his face from Liam, who would have preferred a bit more time in which to read it.

“What’s happened to put him in this mood?” Liam asked, keeping his voice conversational in the hope that Austin wouldn’t choose loyalty to Jay over honesty.

“Nothing.” Austin glanced up long enough to give him a twitched-lip but probably false smile, then ducked his head again and went to work on his other shoe. “He’s a little hyper from not getting to come since we saw you last, I guess.”

The reason was plausible, possibly even part of the truth, but Liam knew when he was being lied to, and he knew when he was being fed an evasion. He had two children, after all.

“Is that so. Well, I don’t see his mood improving much, then. Unless…” Liam caught his lower lip between his teeth, an idea occurring to him that might be the perfect punishment. “Never mind,” he added when Austin stood, a question in his eyes. “So that’s the only reason? You’re sure?”

Pressed, Austin was a deliciously flustered sight, color rising from his neck to flood his face, his lips parted as his breathing quickened.

“Rabbit in the headlights,” Liam said, not unkindly, when Austin didn’t answer. He flicked his fingers. “Run, rabbit, run. Go to Jay, and tell him he’s annoyed me and you’ve irritated me. Not the best start to the evening, is it?”

“No, Sir.” Austin stepped closer. “Liam…please. Jay didn’t mean it. Let him show you he’s sorry.”

Using his name might have been Austin’s way of reminding Liam that it was no longer possible to adopt a “what happens in the dungeon stays in the dungeon” attitude, but it only served to worsen Liam’s mood.

“‘Let him’?” Liam shook his head, knowing he looked and sounded grim. “He’ll bloody well do as he’s told, and so will you. Why are you still here?”

Austin fled, scurrying down the hallway to the den without looking back, and Liam leaned against the wall and let out a shuddering breath. Jesus, was it too much to ask that he got this small space of time when everything was simple? Really?

He gave himself a moment—no matter how badly he wanted to take his frustration out on the two of them for turning the evening he’d been anticipating upside down, that wasn’t the way to go into this—and then went to join the boys in the den.

They were both kneeling, thank Christ. He didn’t think he’d have been able to handle more disobedience. Austin hadn’t undressed, but to be fair Liam hadn’t told him to. Time to remedy that now.

“Austin, undress, please. Jay, stand up.” His tone was sharp, and he made no effort to soften it. If they didn’t already realize that tonight would be different, they would soon enough.

It didn’t take more than a minute for Austin to take off his clothes and fold them neatly, and he stood with his hands behind his back when it was done. Jay was already waiting in the same position, and a plan had formed in Liam’s mind.

“Good. Now, Austin, I’d like you to kneel in front of Jay and take out his cock.” Liam could see that Jay was hard, the outline of his erection obvious inside his jeans. He could also see Austin’s surprise in the brief tightening of his shoulders, but Austin was almost always unquestioningly obedient during a session, so it didn’t come as a shock that he did as he’d been told.

Jay’s eyes were still hazy with arousal. Liam noted that the faint redness at Jay’s throat was already fading—he knew how to leave marks and how to avoid them, and bruises on a place as obvious as a throat were to be avoided at all costs.

“Now suck him,” Liam said. He sat down and shifted into a comfortable position; it was going to be a long evening.

“Sir?” Jay said, then exhaled when Austin’s mouth closed around the head of his cock.

“Since being forbidden to come seems to put you in a bad mood, I thought I’d see what happens when I allow you to come as many times as you’re capable of.” Something about the thought of Jay so sated that he couldn’t bear to have his cock touched pleased Liam in a sadistic sort of way.

For the briefest moment Austin paused. Then the slow bob of his head resumed. Jay smiled, rocking his hips and gasping as Austin pulled back enough to concentrate on the tip of his cock.

“No,” Liam said. “He’s not supposed to be enjoying this, and neither are you. Jay, take off the rest of your clothes now.” He clicked the stopwatch button on his watch when Jay stood naked. “Austin, get him off fast. If it takes longer than two minutes, I’ll apply some incentive to your arse until he does come.”

He walked over to the cupboard in the corner, kept locked most of the time. Unlocking it was part of Liam’s preparation for a session. Hearing the small click of the key as it turned sent a thrill of anticipation through him, which increased when he ran his hand over the collection of implements he’d built up. He took out a rattan cane he was fond of because it left nicely deep welts, and swished it through the air. Liam didn’t bother to show it to them. Austin could see it out of the corner of his eye, and Jay would most certainly recognize the sound.

Austin endured rather than enjoyed the sting of that particular cane, and Liam knew it. More importantly, Jay knew it. With a whimper that was frantic, not pleasurable, Jay began to fuck Austin’s mouth, his hands dropping to hold Austin’s head in place.

Presumptuous of him, Liam decided.

“Hands behind your back, Jay, and stand quite still.” Liam tested the cane out on Jay’s bare buttocks, a flick of his wrist, no more than that, making Jay jump just because he could. Jay’s anguished yelp when the second, much harder stroke landed across his thighs was satisfying enough that Liam was smiling when he resumed his seat, the cane laid across his knees.

Austin was moving his mouth on Jay’s cock with his eyes closed, taking Jay in deep and swallowing around him, making little sounds at the back of his throat. Liam knew just what it felt like to have Austin’s lips and tongue working at his erection, and he’d be surprised if Jay managed to hold out for as long as two minutes.

Jay didn’t. At the one-minute-and-forty-five-second mark, he stilled and came with a groan, his spunk pulsing into Austin’s mouth. Liam let them have ten seconds more than they deserved, then, when Austin began to pull away, said sternly, “Don’t stop. Jay, I’m going to be kind and give you ten minutes this round.”

“Yes, Sir.” The look Jay gave him was pure adulation.

Liam knew it wouldn’t last. Being sucked back to hardness immediately after having come once would be bearable, but after that it would be as much pain as pleasure. He kept an eye on his watch, and when Jay came the second time, it was with a minute to spare. Better than Liam had expected, to be honest. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Jay hadn’t managed a second orgasm in ten minutes’ time.

“Again,” he said while Jay was still gasping. “Austin, you may fuck him this time, if you like, but don’t make the mistake of thinking the permission I’ve given Jay extends to you.”

Austin turned his head toward Liam, biting his lip, then nodded and moved—still on his knees—to get lube from the cupboard. Austin’s erection was flushed and heavy, his lips swollen. He was beautiful.

“Hands and knees, Jay. Face me.” Jay collapsed to the floor, relief passing over his face at being allowed to change position.

Liam smiled thinly. “Are you a trained sub or a sack of potatoes? Get up and do that again properly.”

Jay shot him a glance that had a hint of resentment behind the surface pleading.

Liam raised his eyebrows and tapped the cane against his palm meaningfully. “Do you really want to push me?”

“No, Sir.” Jay rose, bowed his head in what Liam supposed was an apology, though he’d have preferred to hear the words, then sank to the floor slowly, assuming the position with commendable grace this time.

“We’re going to have a little chat after this is over,” Liam promised them as Austin took up his position behind Jay. “No matter what state you’re in by then.”

They couldn’t exchange glances, but he saw Austin put his hand on Jay’s hip, not for balance but reassurance. Oh yes. They would talk. But not yet.

“Give him two fingers, then your cock. If you think you’re in danger of coming, tell me, and you can use a dildo or a vibrator on him for a while.”

“Yes, Sir.” Austin slicked up his fingers, took a breath, then pushed two into Jay, opening him up. Jay rolled his shoulders, accepting the intrusion. “He’s tight, Sir.”

“He won’t be by the time I’m done with him.” Liam stood and walked over to the cupboard to pick out some toys. When Jay started to flag—and he would—Liam knew some ways to get him aroused again. Unfortunately for Jay, Liam knew him very well indeed. “Fuck him, Austin. Hard and fast, just the way he likes it.”

Austin was nothing if not obedient. He didn’t waste any time lining up his cock and pushing inside Jay, whose face twisted in reaction to the penetration. Jay panted, nostrils flaring, when Austin moved as Liam had instructed, quickly and roughly. It was obvious within the first few thrusts that no amount of desire to come on Jay’s part, or desire to hold off on Austin’s, would yield the long-term results Liam expected, but that was all right. Liam trusted Austin to stop when he needed to.

“Don’t touch him,” Liam said when Austin’s hand slipped lower on Jay’s hip, possibly headed toward Jay’s half-hard cock. “Jay, I want you to come just from this.”

Jay squeezed his eyes shut and nodded. Austin was thrusting forcefully, gripping Jay’s waist now, but his jaw was clenched, and Liam knew he wouldn’t be able to hold off for long.

“Austin. Look at me.”

Austin opened his eyes and met Liam’s gaze over Jay’s head.

“Don’t come,” Liam told him. “Think of whatever you need to distract yourself. What did you have for dinner?”

“Sir?” Austin said incredulously, hips faltering in their rhythm. He recovered quickly, though, and went back to a steady thrust and withdrawal. “Salmon. Rice. Green beans.”

“Good. Use that. I want you to hold off until Jay comes.” The chances that would happen were slim to none, but Austin did better when Liam expressed confidence in him. “You can see what a slut he is, how much he wants it. Just listen to him.”

Jay was whimpering and rocking back to meet Austin’s thrusts, still not fully hard, even with the constant stimulation his prostate was receiving.

“Talk to him,” Liam said to Austin. “Tell him how much you want him to come.”

Austin’s breath caught and a shudder ran through him, but he found his voice. “God, Jay. Want you to come for me. I know you can do it.”

“C-can’t.” Jay was close to tears—from his failure to please Liam, one would hope. Liam had whipped Jay’s back and arse scarlet and not gotten tears from him until close to the end of the punishment. He doubted two blowjobs and one hard fuck would bother Jay much. “Want to. Please, Sir. I just can’t. It’s too soon.”

“So now you want time as well as orgasms? What a greedy, demanding little boy you are.” Liam walked over to them and slid his hand into his pocket, taking out some clamps, heavy ones, viciously tight. “Maybe it’s time for you to get something I want you to have.”

He put his hand on Austin’s arm. “Enough. Pull out.”

Austin bit his lip as he eased out carefully, grimacing, his cock thick, glistening with lube. Liam stared at it without hiding his appreciation. Even when they were misbehaving, he was a lucky man, and he knew it. His boys. His troublesome, maddening, perfect boys. He touched the tip of Austin’s cock with his finger, teasing it where it was most sensitive, drawing a long moan from Austin, half protest, half pleading.

“You’re mine,” he told Austin. “I’ll touch you when and where I like.”

Eyes, dazed with lust, focused on him. “Yes, Sir. Yours. I’m just…God.” Austin was panting now, hunched in on himself. “So close, Sir!”

Liam chuckled heartlessly and slapped Austin’s thigh. “You can hold it.”

Austin closed his eyes and clenched his fists, fighting the onrush of a climax just as Liam had told him to. Liam felt a stab of pride when Austin won the brief struggle. He’d trained them to obey him without realizing at first how much he needed their full cooperation to get the results he wanted. They’d given it to him willingly, unstintingly. He turned his attention back to Jay.

“I could clamp your nipples. Fuck you with the dildo. Get you hard again. You wouldn’t stay soft if I was the one playing with you, would you, Jay?”

Jay’s head sank down as he stared at the floor, avoiding Liam’s gaze. Liam grabbed a handful of Jay’s hair, marveling as always at how silky it was, thick and cool against his palm, and used it to yank Jay’s head up.

“I asked you a question. And I want to see your hand on your cock now; don’t stop until you’ve come.”

There was still that puzzling, infuriating flash of defiance and despair in Jay’s eyes, even now when they were drowning in tears. Liam was at a loss. He’d seen them earlier in the week, meeting up with them at a bar for a few drinks, the evening ending early because all three of them had work the next day. It’d been a nice evening, a bright spot in the week. Austin had followed him into the men’s room and kissed him, smiling when Liam had protested and leaving him flustered and oddly pleased. Jay had demanded details when they returned to the table and pouted because Austin had won the coin toss that they’d used to decide who got the kiss.

From that to this? Sometimes Liam wished he saw more of them. He felt as if he was missing chunks of their lives, which left him with an incomplete picture.

“I can’t come,” Jay said through his teeth. “No matter what you do to me, Sir. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

“Not even close.” Liam attached the clamps to Jay’s nipples without pausing to relish Jay’s reaction, not giving Jay time to deal with the sharp, searing agony of the first clamp before adding to it with the second. It wasn’t a punishment but an additional spur. Though Jay wouldn’t have believed it, Liam wanted him to succeed, not fail. He never wanted them to fail. They tried so hard for him that if they did, he blamed himself.

Though this situation was a little unusual in that for Liam, Jay’s cock not becoming fully erect wasn’t the failure. That was just biology. What he wanted wasn’t for Jay to climax, but to break down and apologize, and so far Jay was winning that particular battle of wills.

Almost without him thinking about it, Liam’s hand had returned to Austin’s cock, fondling his tight balls and pinching the tender skin of his inner thighs. He could tell Austin was reaching a point where release was imminent. That meant either Jay had to come—and Liam very much doubted that would happen—or Austin needed to have his level of arousal abruptly dropped. Trouble was, Liam didn’t want to stop touching Austin. The young man was so beautifully responsive, so eager.

It wasn’t easy to tell Austin in a gentle voice, “Go and kneel by the armchair.” The look on Jay’s face as he realized he was responsible for Austin being denied would have broken Liam’s heart if he hadn’t learned to steel it during sessions.

Austin was breathing heavily, but he seemed deeply into the scene, waiting for whatever would happen next.

Liam stood and looked at Jay, who was stroking his cock in quick, frantic jerks. Jay was flushed, desperate, and Liam didn’t resist the impulse to reach out and touch his face. “Who do you belong to?” he asked, and Jay stopped moving and gazed up at him with reddened eyes.

“You,” Jay said, shaking. “I’m yours.” Fresh tears escaped along his cheeks. “I’m sorry, Sir.”

“There,” Liam said, sitting and pulling Jay half onto his lap. “Was that so hard? Austin, would you bring me that throw over there, please?”

Austin swiftly retrieved the soft, light throw and brought it to Liam, but hesitated to join their embrace until Liam tugged at him. Then he curled close to Liam’s side and reached down to smooth Jay’s hair back from his face. Jay was sobbing silently, clutching Liam with an intensity that was new and intriguing and, Liam had to admit if only to himself, immensely flattering.

“Sorry,” Jay gasped between sobs. “Spoiled it all. Sorry. So fucking sorry.”

It could have been directed at either or both of them, but Liam chose to answer it, ignoring Jay’s swearing for once. It wasn’t that he minded it at other times, but during a scene it felt disrespectful. “You’re forgiven, Jay. And don’t hate me, but I enjoyed some of what we just did, even if it wasn’t what I had planned.”

Jay lifted his head at that, his expression woebegone, his cheeks damp. “You enjoyed it?”

Liam couldn’t hold back his smile. Jay, and now Austin, looked so indignant at the idea.

“You were both suffering, and I was in charge; what’s not to like?” He shrugged. “Tonight you were annoying, yes, but I worked through that and salvaged something from the session. Maybe you won’t, but that’s not going to make me lose any sleep. You don’t deserve to.” He tapped Jay’s hip. “Let’s get those clamps off.”

Jay touched one of the clamps carefully and winced. “They hurt a lot,” he said. It wasn’t a complaint but an observation, and Liam filed it away, making a note not to ever use those clamps on Austin.

“They were supposed to,” Liam said, reaching for the one closest to him and knocking Jay’s hand out of the way when Jay began to take it off. Anything Liam put on a sub, he took off. It was one of his quirks.

Liam took stock of his subs after removing the clamps. Jay’s tears had quieted to the occasional sniff, and Austin had lost his anxious look—if not his erection. Really, setting aside the emotional aspect, this had been a relatively easy session from a physical point of view. He still felt exhausted instead of invigorated. Maybe a shower would help. And then, God help him, he was going to need to drag the cause for their behavior out of them. It went deeper than a few carelessly spoken words and a short-lived defiance, and Liam intended to get to the bottom of it.

He beckoned them to their feet and put his arms around them, drawing them close. “We’re good,” he told them. “We’re fine. Now get upstairs to my bathroom and start the shower.” He ran his hand down Austin’s back to pinch his arse. “And then you’ll get to come, finally. I’m very pleased with you.”

Praise made Austin’s face light up with pleasure. He gave Liam a grateful smile. “Thank you, Sir.”

“May I blow him, then you, Sir? Please?” Jay begged, clearly keen to express his contrition.

“You certainly owe him one,” Liam said drily. Deciding to give Austin a treat, he added, “I’ll leave the details up to you, Austin. Any way you like, as long as we don’t drown in there.”

Chapter Three

“Oh my God.” Austin gasped as he watched Jay’s head bob below him. Jay was on his knees in the shower sucking Austin’s dick, and Liam was standing behind Austin, one arm wrapped around his waist, lips pressed to the back of his neck. Jay’s mouth was so fucking perfect, hot and slick, and when Liam suddenly bit down on Austin’s shoulder, it was all he needed to come.

He loved having Liam’s support, knowing that Liam would help hold him up as waves of pleasure twisted through him, leaving him shaking and gasping. The only thing missing in that moment was that he wished he was in a position to kiss Liam, to feed his gratitude into Liam’s mouth.

Jay finished swallowing and let Austin’s cock slip from between his lips. “Love you,” he murmured, and Austin smiled down at him and whispered it back.

“Revoltingly romantic, the both of you,” Liam said, and despite the words his tone was approving. Praise was good. Austin liked getting things right. “Now let’s get you to bed before you fall asleep here in the shower.”

The first thing Austin had done when they’d gotten under the water was suggest, since Liam had given him permission to make the decisions—on one level, at least—that Jay blow Liam first. Jay had been more than happy to go along with the idea, of course, and Austin had kissed all the parts of Liam he could reach while Jay had sucked him off. The shower had been renovated a couple of months ago, and they were still getting used to how amazing it was—plenty of room for three and with multiple showerheads so all of them could get wet at the same time.

Liam turned off the water and handed each of them a towel. “No slacking drying yourselves off,” he ordered. “Especially you, Jay. Long hair is no excuse.” He hated damp pillows. Jay had once been made to sleep on the floor when he’d jumped into Liam’s bed, his hair soaked, his skin glistening with moisture.

Austin had spent a restless night, aware even as he slept curled up close to Liam that something was wrong, but Jay, beyond a few grumbles that he was stiff the next morning, hadn’t seemed too bothered by the punishment. He’d gone to his knees when Liam woke up, head bowed, and submitted with uncharacteristic meekness to a brisk spanking from a hairbrush. After he’d turned Jay’s ass pink, Liam had tossed the brush to Austin, snapping out an order to get the tangles out of Jay’s hair before he returned from his shower.

Austin had taken his time, still sleepy, careful not to yank at the snarls, and hadn’t finished in time, earning himself a spanking that had woken him up and left him tingling all over.

He’d found himself wishing every day could start like that.

Liam toweled off quickly, every movement efficient, then stood watching them with a critical eye. Jay was lost in thought, drying himself with a lack of self-consciousness, as if he were alone in the room, scooping up his balls to rub the towel underneath them. Thin streams of water from his hair were running down his spine, following every curve. Austin wanted to follow the path they were taking with his tongue and finish with a bite to Jay’s ass, just to make Jay snicker.

He sneaked a glance at Liam. God. Tall, muscular, powerful… Liam was forty now, but he watched what he ate and he worked out rigorously. It showed.

I have to,” Liam had told Austin once, flexing his arm and grinning. “Two of you to paddle? That’s a workout in itself.

If your shoulders ache after a session, I can massage them,” Austin had offered. “I do it a lot for Jay. His muscles get really tense when he’s been working on a diorama for too long.

Liam had thanked him but never taken him up on the offer, much to Austin’s regret. He’d hoped that now they were spending more time with Liam, they’d get to do more with him, but outside the sessions and a few standing rules, Liam didn’t seem inclined to exercise his authority. If he wanted a drink, he got it himself; if he needed a shirt ironed, his dry cleaner took care of it. Austin didn’t want to be in a collar 24-7, but a weekend of being Liam’s slave around the house, waiting on him, focused totally on pleasing him, would’ve been so fucking hot.

What he wanted from Liam was mostly in his head. Unlike Jay, who seemed to want more and more intense physical stuff as the months went on, Austin cared more about submitting. He loved to let himself slip into the space where he didn’t have to think, could just do what Liam told him to and be grateful for every order.

Now he realized that Liam was getting impatient, tired of waiting, so he quickly scrubbed the towel across his hair one last time and then hung it up. Jay needed another minute, but Liam would understand since he was the one who’d insisted Jay do a good job wringing the water from his hair in the first place.

The bedroom was neat and clean. Austin definitely felt more comfortable in it than Jay did. Jay was prone to surrounding himself with clutter, usually books and craft supplies, and had commented to Austin that Liam’s house felt like a hotel, not a home. Austin didn’t agree. He loved spending the night in Liam’s peaceful house. That didn’t mean he didn’t love the apartment that was his and Jay’s alone, of course.

Sometimes, though, he wished things were different, and then immediately felt guilty about it. Liam cared about them, he knew that, but in the long run Austin couldn’t see how their arrangement would be permanent.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” Liam said as he pulled back the covers and gestured for them to get into bed. “I think we need to talk.”

Oh God. What did that mean? “Can I brush my teeth first?” Austin blurted out, wanting to forestall the inevitable, whatever it was.

Liam gave him an appraising look. “If you’re back here before Jay, yes.”

“Thank you, Sir.” They didn’t usually call Liam Sir once a scene had ended, but something told Austin that Liam was in a mood to be deferred to. Jay was hanging up his towel—something he rarely remembered to do at home—but Austin blocked Jay’s way when he walked toward the door.

“Don’t go in there until after me. I want to brush my teeth.”

Jay snorted. “You’re avoiding talking about stuff, not cavities.”

Austin shoved a toothpaste-laden brush into his mouth to give him an excuse to let that one go. He brushed for a good two minutes, until his jaw was aching, but when he took his time rinsing, Jay shrugged and headed for the door.

“Jay!”

“I’m already in trouble,” Jay said, “and I’m on Liam’s side in this. We need to talk.”

Left alone in the bathroom, the toothbrush still clenched in his hand, Austin contemplated crawling into a corner to hide. He didn’t want to talk. Talking would lead to arguing. It always did. God, even before they’d started the discussion, he’d been abandoned; where would he be after it?

Resentful and feeling picked on, he shoved his toothbrush back in its holder without rinsing off the trail of paste running down the handle, and turned.

Liam was in the doorway, wearing a pair of black boxer briefs that clung to his ass and upper thighs. He looked sexy as hell, but his arms were folded across his chest in a forbidding way, and his eyebrows were raised. That killed any buzz Austin might’ve felt.

Acutely aware that he was naked and covered in goose bumps, he took a hesitant step toward Liam. “I was just coming, Sir.”

“Not the impression I got.”

Liam’s tone was mild enough, but Austin still felt a quiver of apprehension. He didn’t want to be disciplined for his minor disobedience, not tonight. He usually loved it when Liam dealt out a few hard smacks to underline his displeasure over a small failure, something in him craving that reminder of what he was, but whether Liam spanked him in here, with Jay listening, or in the bedroom with Jay watching, with his mood this chaotic, it would be humiliating. That was Jay’s kink, not Austin’s.

He wanted to drop to his knees and beg, but how would that be any better than being spun around and bent over the sink, waiting to have Liam’s hand applied to his ass?

Liam walked over to him, two long strides all he needed to be close enough to touch. Austin panicked, his next breath choking him, his head filled with white noise, blocking out whatever Liam was saying. The room went dark, his skin prickling with heat. He was going to faint. He reached out blindly to steady himself, and Liam’s arm went around him, cradling him. Safely held, Austin let himself be lowered to the floor.

“Head between your knees,” Liam said, his calm voice cutting through the roar. “Breathe. That’s it. Don’t you dare faint on me, Austin. No, Jay, don’t come in. He’s fine, aren’t you, Austin?”

“I’m fine,” he repeated faintly because he was supposed to. He was good at doing as he was told. He liked not having to be the one who made the decisions and took control and held the family together. Shit, he was hyperventilating. If he’d known this was going to happen, he’d have taken some antianxiety pills or something.

If he’d known this was going to happen… But what was it? Was Liam breaking up with them?

That thought made his heart beat even faster. He had to focus on the knowledge that Jay was hovering on the other side of the doorway, worried not just about “the talk” but about him, if he was going to have any chance of getting himself under control.

Liam was still speaking, and Austin concentrated on the words. “That’s it. Slowly. Good. Everything’s fine. There’s nothing for you to worry about.”

Austin knew that was a lie, but he willed himself to believe it anyway. He lifted his head so he could see Liam’s face. It didn’t help. Liam was just as handsome and imposing as ever, and losing him was going to be worse than when Patrick had left, worse a hundred times over.

“Listen to me, Austin,” Liam commanded sharply. And there, that was what Austin needed, that voice that didn’t allow for disobedience. “Breathe very slowly. In. Out.”

He clung to Liam’s words and managed to get his breathing under control. It took a few minutes, but it got a little bit easier as the seconds passed. “I’m okay,” he said finally, and Liam nodded.

“Jay, back to bed,” Liam said. “I’m serious; neither of us needs to be tripping over you. Here, slowly. Take your time.”

Austin got to his feet with Liam’s support. He was shaky, but the worst of it was over. He hoped. Now the embarrassment flooded in. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I don’t know why that happened.”

“I suspect you do,” Liam said. His tone was neutral, at least; he didn’t sound mad.

“I’m just… You and Jay both pushing me to talk—”

Jay’s been pushing you?” Liam frowned, and Austin could almost see Liam adding things up in his head, shifting stuff around. He’d watched Liam do a jigsaw puzzle once, during the time Jay and he had been living here following the flood. It’d been a Lord of the Rings one, a thousand pieces, nothing fancy, and Liam had ignored it for a few days, then walked over to the table and stared down at the half-assembled puzzle, his arms folded.

Then he’d picked up piece after piece and slotted them in without hesitation, finishing a boring section of background within minutes before stepping back, his lips pursed with irritation for some reason.

The pieces were all there,” he’d said when Austin asked him how he did it. “It’s not hard when you have everything you need. It’s when a piece is under the table and you can’t see it that it gets tricky.” He’d pointed at the floor. “Like that one there. Tell Jay to come and get it, please. Now.

This was just like that.

“He thinks there’s something bugging me.”

Liam urged him toward the bedroom, and Austin let himself be led, reluctance slowing his steps. “Well, he’s not wrong, is he? And knowing you, you’ve fretted yourself into thinking the worst’s going to happen if you’re honest with us. But unless you’re about to confess to something dire like stealing library books, you know Jay’s never going to stop loving you, and I’ve invested far too much time training the pair of you to walk away.” He pointed at the bed, where Jay waited, naked and on his knees, his expression anxious. “Over by Jay.”

It was easy to go to Jay and slip a reassuring arm around him, comfort him. “It’s okay. I’m fine, I promise.”

“You were so white.” Jay hugged him tightly.

“I’m okay.” Austin looked at Liam, who shut off the bathroom light and walked toward the bed. God. Deep breaths. At least he was on the bed now. If he started really freaking out again, he’d just…lie down and wait for it to pass.

Liam came around to the other side of the bed and sat down. “All right, now I think it’s safe to say that getting comfortable is a good idea. I’m less worried about you falling asleep.” He was directing his words mostly toward Austin.

“Not anytime soon,” Austin agreed.

“That doesn’t happen often,” Liam said. “But it’s happened before?”

“The panic attack thing?” He shook his head, then shrugged. “Well. Sort of.”

Jay was quiet beside him but reached for his hand and squeezed it. Austin turned his head to look at Jay, and Jay widened his eyes slightly. If you don’t tell him, I will.

Shit. “I have something I take,” he said, hoping that might be enough to satisfy Jay. “When I think things are going to get overwhelming.” Then, before he realized he was going to say it, the words spilled out of him. “Are you breaking up with us? I mean, you said you wanted to talk, and that doesn’t usually mean anything good, and—”

“Stop,” Liam said, holding up a hand to silence him. It worked. “No, of course I’m not breaking up with you. Why on earth would you think that?”

Austin bit his lip. He wanted to answer, but there were so many thoughts and words swirling around inside his head that he didn’t know how. “I don’t know,” he said finally.

Liam gave a frustrated sigh and rubbed his forehead. “Jay, can you help at all?”

“I wish. I wanted him to spill before we got here, and he wouldn’t. That’s why I was so… Yeah, well, you know how I was.” Jay kissed Austin’s cheek, the soft warmth of his lips leaving a lingering heat in Austin’s skin. “You can’t be like this without it fucking me up too. You bang your elbow, I say ‘ow,’ babe. You know that.”

He did, because it was the same for him. Realizing he had no choice, Austin made a quick decision: share some, not all, of his concerns, and try to work his way through the rest himself. He wasn’t going to burden them with all the dozens of worries that left him feeling tangled in barbed wire, unable to move without making the situation worse. Some of it, though, yeah. Some of it he could talk about, because it wasn’t about just him.

“What we have now—it’s not enough.” The words came out haltingly, but once spoken, they gave him something solid to stand on, a foundation. “When you came to us in the spring and said you wanted to have sex with us—yeah, I know, it wasn’t just the sex—I thought things would change. Not all at once, but—the three of us—it’s a huge deal and it’s complicated and it’s secret and—”

“Overwhelming,” Liam put in, his voice soft. “Yes.”

Austin gave him a grateful look, but he could feel desperation clawing at him. He had to keep talking now that he’d started. “Right. But here we are, and what’s changed, really? We come over a few times a week, not once, we fuck when we didn’t before—but it’s still you in one corner and us in another, and I thought…I thought we’d be together. And we’re not.”

“Austin—” Jay began, but Austin waved him to silence, his gaze going from Liam’s carefully controlled face to Jay’s worried, half-indignant one.

“I’m Jay’s boyfriend all the time, and I’m your sub, Liam. But when I’m not your sub, when I’m just Austin, the guy you’re in bed with, or the one making you toast in the morning, I don’t know who I am to you. If I’m your boyfriend too, then why aren’t we more involved in each other’s lives? Why do I feel shut out after we’ve been together for months?”

He was shaking with reaction again, each word a thorn pulled from his flesh.

Liam reached out, sliding his hand around the back of Austin’s neck, holding him firmly. “When you’re not my sub?” he repeated. “Austin—Jay—you’re always my subs. Every second of every day. Mine.”

“I know,” Austin said, looking down at the bed. That was stupid. He knew it was stupid because he didn’t know, and Liam knew that he didn’t know, and even if both of those things weren’t true, the fact that he wasn’t looking at Liam would have been all the clue that was needed. Stupid.

“Yes, thank you, that was incredibly convincing,” Liam said. He rubbed his thumb along the side of Austin’s neck gently until Austin looked at him. “Let me say it again. You’re always my subs. I’m sorry if you haven’t felt that way, but it’s the truth.”

Austin didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to lie again—Liam deserved better. “I’m sorry.”

Liam made an impatient noise. “I don’t want you to be sorry. I want you to understand. I know it’s complicated, but we’re still together even when we’re not.”

But they weren’t, Austin thought. That was the problem. He and Jay were in their apartment, and Liam was here. How was that together? “I guess I want more. Maybe I always will. Maybe I’m selfish.”

“You’re not,” Jay said loyally.

“You have to realize this is all news to me,” Liam said. “But we’ll sort it out, I promise. Give me a bit of time to think about it.”

Liam looked genuinely taken aback, Austin realized. Part of him wanted to retract everything he’d said, but it wouldn’t erase that look on Liam’s face.

“I know what he means,” Jay said, shifting from his knees to sit cross-legged, graceful and relaxed. His nipples were still swollen from the clamps, and he rubbed his thumb over one, not to soothe the ache, Austin guessed, but to prolong it. “We’re all connected to each other in different ways, but Austin and me—”

“Austin and I,” Liam corrected absently.

“Yeah, whatever.” Austin smothered a grin as Liam shot Jay a cold glare, and Jay hastily amended his words. “Austin and I, well, it’s by a rope. You know, thick and strong and lots of little strands woven together, but you to us is by a thread. A thin one. Take away a few hours every Friday, and we don’t have much else tying us together.”

Liam raised his hands and let them fall helplessly, the gesture conveying his confusion. Austin hated seeing him at a loss. “I thought we were doing all right. These last few months I’ve been happier than I’ve been in years. I thought you were too.”

“We are,” Jay assured him. “We’re just not, you know, progressing.”

“So what do you want?” Liam demanded. “Tell me one thing you want to change.” He snapped his fingers and pointed at Austin. “Austin?”

“I want to serve you,” Austin said without censoring himself. “Take care of your needs. All of them. More than just let you spank me or fuck me. I want you to own me.”

He’d been taking care of people he loved all his life. Like helping his mom run the household and dealing with the messes April had caused. Literal ones, like trashing her room looking for a necklace it turned out she’d broken, which were easy, and emotional ones, which were more of a headache. Then he’d met Jay—scatterbrained, dreamy Jay, whose life without Austin organizing it would dissolve into chaos.

Liam didn’t need to be woken and gently urged out the door so that he wasn’t late for work, or reminded about dental appointments and oil changes for his car. Like Austin’s, Liam’s life was rigorously ordered and controlled.

But there was so much Austin could do for Liam even so. And God, he wanted to. He’d always said that he didn’t want to be a sub 24-7, but since meeting and falling in love with Liam, his views had changed, so gradually he hadn’t been aware of the shift until recently. He’d found himself wondering what it would be like to know that when he walked through the door—Liam’s door—after a day at work, everything he said or did would be subject to Liam’s control.

Sometimes the idea scared him, as if he’d be walking into a cage. And sometimes it felt as if once the cage door slammed, he’d turn to find the cage had no walls and he was free for the first time to be what he was.

But of course it was complicated, and he couldn’t blame Liam for not wanting to take something like that on. It made Austin feel abandoned, though, and more than a little bit sick. For the first time instead of being happy that they were spending the night at Liam’s, he wished they could go home so he could sleep in his own bed with Jay, curled in the embrace of someone he knew loved him and would always be there for him.

Some portion of his thoughts must have shown on his face. Liam slid fingers into his hair and studied him intently. “Is that really what you want?”

“Yes,” Austin whispered. “Yes, Sir.”

He didn’t dare look at Jay. This would affect him too, if Liam agreed to try it, and wasn’t that the problem? Every adjustment they made to their relationship, every tweak at the ropes and threads, had repercussions. Fix one broken thread with a firm knot, and another three could snap under the new tension.

“Jay? What about you?” Liam was trying too hard to keep his voice level, Austin thought distantly. He had to be really off balance by all this.

“Me?” Jay went to his back, his long hair dark against the plain white bed linen Liam preferred, his olive skin stunning. He pushed a pillow behind his head, outwardly at ease. Austin wondered if Liam could see that Jay had retreated into his own world to give himself time to think. “I want Austin and you to be happy.”

“I know that.” Liam sounded pretty patient for a man whose night had been ruined. “I want to know what would make you happy.”

“I don’t think I’d get as much of a kick as Austin out of scrubbing your floors or making your bed,” Jay said frankly. “I can see the appeal of being taken that deep, though.” His cock was half-hard, and he reached down to stroke it, snatching his hand away when Liam cleared his throat. “Sorry, Sir. I’d want to try it first. See how it felt. We’ve never played full-time. If we did, it wouldn’t be playing, right? It’d be our life. That’s…huge.”

“Yes, which is why I need time to think about it,” Liam said, “but you’re still not answering me, and if your hands go anywhere near your cock or your nipples again, you’ll be sleeping on the floor with your hands tied to the bed. Now stop lounging as if you’re waiting to be fed a grape, get back on your knees, and tell me what you want.”

Jay jerked upright and did as he was told, his cock hardening more. Even feeling miserably uncertain as he did, his head aching, Austin couldn’t help smiling. He knew one thing Jay wanted, and it was Liam refusing to let Jay get away with anything. Jay might say the idea of doing chores didn’t appeal, but if he was making Liam’s bed naked apart from whatever clamps and harnesses Liam had put on him, his ass striped from failing to meet Liam’s standards on his first attempt… Yeah. Jay would like that.

Jay lowered his head, his submission offered as an apology, his hands behind him, his knees spread wide. Austin saw the appreciative gleam in Liam’s eyes.

“Sir, I just want more…intensity, I guess. Turn up the heat. Play a bit rougher, have you hurt me a bit more. No, a lot more.” He glanced at Liam under his lashes. “I can take it, Sir. You know I can. What you did to me in the hall when we came in…” He shivered, his yearning expression making Austin’s throat feel tight as he fought back tears. Jay looked so vulnerable right then. “God, so good. I loved it. I know you were punishing me, but it felt like a reward.”

“It really wasn’t intended to be.” Liam’s voice was tinder dry. “You’re quite the pain slut, aren’t you, Jay?”

Jay bit his lip, hard enough that the flesh around his teeth went white. Austin supposed that was answer enough, even without Jay’s murmured, “Yes, Sir,” a moment later.

“I’m not complaining,” Liam told him. He drummed his fingers against his thigh, his gaze turned inward. Austin could almost see Liam fitting pieces of a different puzzle together, but what picture was on the box?

Liam said slowly, “What would help would be for us to live together. Here, obviously, since I have the room. I should’ve suggested it before, I suppose. It’s just such a big step, and there’re issues above and beyond how we’d feel about it. It would raise eyebrows. Risk what we have being exposed with some potentially nasty fallout. I’m not against the idea, but I’d need to think about it. We all would.”

“I’d love it,” Austin said immediately, but he noticed Jay’s face was screwed up in thought.

Liam nodded, his gaze going to Jay, who stayed silent. “Well, it’s there to think about. Sleep on it. Discuss it between yourselves. I want you both to know that I’m committed to what we have. I’m not breaking up with you. Do you hear me? Austin? We’ll sort this out. It may take some time, that’s all.”

To Austin it sounded like an empty promise. Oh, he thought Liam meant it, but it was the kind of thing where in the long run nothing would change. But saying that would be pretty much the worst thing he could do, so he needed to lie in a convincing manner. He could do that. Maybe not to Jay, but to Liam? When it was for the best? “I hear you. I know it’s complicated.”

Liam didn’t look particularly convinced, but maybe he needed to pretend everything would be okay the same way Austin did. “All right. Good. Jay?”

“I know,” Jay said easily. “I trust you.”

“Then can we please get some sleep?” Liam asked and gestured at both of them to lie down. “I really do better work when I’m not exhausted.”

As Austin settled back on the pillows and draped an arm over Jay, who snuggled up to him, he felt that he was facing a night of staring at the ceiling.

Chapter Four

Jay closed the browser page with a click, his hand shaking on the mouse. That had been…extreme. Way beyond anything he was into. Suspensions where he was held by ropes were one thing; he loved the idea of hanging, blindfolded, a whip lashing his skin, but flesh hooks left his stomach twisted with queasy fascination.

He put his hand over his dick, poking up from his loosely tied robe, and squeezed it. “Down, boy,” he murmured. “No fucking way Liam would go for that.”

He wasn’t sure he’d even ask for it—but a small, secret part of him wanted to. The pain would be out of this world.

Tightening his grip, he worked his cock until clear beads of fluid studded the tip, then took his hand away, groaning at how good it felt to jerk off and how much better it was to stop and feel the grinding ache in his balls.

“Pain slut,” he whispered with a grin. Liam had nailed that one. He pinched the tender skin under his balls, taut now because he was so aroused, and twisted his fingers sharply, the dull throb of bruised skin almost enough to trigger a forbidden climax.

Unlike Austin, Jay didn’t get a thrill from obeying Liam’s rules. Being forced to obey them, though, yeah. That was a rush. Knowing without any doubt that if he screwed up, Liam would discipline him left Jay feeling safe. Liam—stern, merciless, fiendishly imaginative at dreaming up punishments, and totally trustworthy—provided the structure Jay needed to take risks and push himself. He’d loved Patrick, but Liam was…Liam.

Now he really had to think of something boring or at least less sexy, or he wasn’t going to be able to hold off from doing something that would end in him coming. He opened up a site selling diorama supplies and lost himself in his beloved hobby until his erection had subsided.

Then he found himself back on the sites with all the naked, whipped flesh, with men whose contorted, pain-twisted faces didn’t hide the joy in their tear-wet eyes, and he was clicking, going deeper, glutting himself on possibilities, so many torments to try…

“Wow,” Austin’s voice said suddenly in his ear. Jay flinched, startled into a yelp. “Sorry! I thought you heard me come in.”

“I guess I was distracted,” Jay said.

“I can see why. Please tell me you didn’t come.” Austin set their cups of coffee on the table.

They had plans with Liam that night, and Austin was wound so tight Jay was surprised he wasn’t vibrating. He hadn’t been sleeping much, either, if the pristine state of the apartment was any indication. When Austin couldn’t sleep, he cleaned, and when he cleaned, he created interesting piles of Jay’s books and other clutter. It was like weird, sleep-deprived, found-object art.

“I didn’t. Tempting, but no.” Jay wouldn’t have risked Austin missing out on tonight. Austin needed it too much, and watching Jay take well-deserved punishment for breaking the rules wouldn’t have been much fun.

“What’s that?” Austin pointed at the computer screen as he pulled a chair closer so he could sit. He set the paper bag of doughnuts in front of him.

“Fire flogging,” Jay said and clicked the Play arrow on the video window.

“Looks intense.”

Jay thought it looked perfect. The room in the video had been darkened, so the flames were visible, if only faintly. The thought of being the sub in a scene like that made every cell in Jay’s body sing. He wanted it. “Yeah. You think Liam would be up for it?”

“I think you’d have to ask him.” That seemed like the end of the conversation as far as Austin was concerned; he got up and rummaged in the paper bag for his blueberry muffin and then left the bag for Jay. “I need sugar.”

“And I need to get dressed. Shower’s all yours when you want it.” Jay couldn’t quite click away from the site, though. He read up on the basics of fire play, skipping through the safety instructions, most of which were basic common sense. It sounded potentially dangerous, yes, but not in the right hands, and Liam’s hands were strong and sure, always.

Then he found another video to watch, and he was lost in envy of the sub tied down in the dim room, waiting for the crack and sizzle of heat to sear his skin.

The way the flames trailed through the air… The way they’d feel, kissing his skin like a dragon’s breath, and then the slash of the whip itself…

He was so hard he was panting, each breath shuddering through him.

“Jay! For God’s sake.” Austin wrenched the mouse from Jay’s hand and turned the monitor off with an angry stab of his finger. “Look, you can ask Liam about it if he’s in a good mood. Hell, show him this site, but until then, just…just don’t, okay?”

Guilt pierced Jay. “Okay. You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry.” Austin was dressed, still-damp hair neatly combed back, and Jay was sitting there with an erection and no idea how much time had passed. “Let’s do something, okay? Can we? A movie?”

“Sure. Whatever you want.” It was probably a good sign that Austin wanted to get out of the house instead of spending more time cleaning. “Pick something, and I’ll go get dressed.”

Austin decided on an action movie and fell asleep on Jay’s shoulder twenty minutes in. It would have been cute if it hadn’t been a sign of how messed up his mind had to be. Jay hoped Liam would be able to come up with an idea that got things moving in the right direction again, because this sucked. Jay was an optimist by nature, though, and he was firm in his belief that things would all work out in the end.

“Oh my God, why didn’t you wake me up?” Austin groaned when he finally stirred and remembered where they were. The lights had just come up, and the last of the moviegoers were shuffling toward the exit.

“One, I thought you needed the sleep,” Jay told him. “Two, you didn’t miss much. It was good but not great. We can always get it when it comes out on DVD.”

“Was I snoring?” Austin looked embarrassed.

“No. And if you had been, it would have been adorable, so stop worrying about everything.” Jay tugged him to his feet and kissed him, then wrapped an arm around his waist.

“I can’t help it.” Spotting an empty cup abandoned on the carpet, Austin bent down and picked it up. “People are disgusting. Like it’s that much trouble to carry your own trash twenty feet to the barrel?”

“I know,” Jay agreed. “You should see the things people use as bookmarks in library books. Used tissues. Cigarette stubs. A freaking piece of spaghetti once. Cooked. I’ve found old books with dried flowers, embroidered silk bookmarks, pieces of ribbon…like messages from the past, you know? They were great. When did people get so gross?”

“Beats me.”

They made their way out to the parking lot, the early-evening October air crisp and smelling faintly of dying leaves and smoke, even here in the center of town. Jay sniffed, drawing it deeply into his lungs. “Someone’s having a bonfire.”

“Planning on going there and jumping on it?”

Jay gave Austin a surprised look. “If this is about earlier…”

“It is, and it’s not.” Austin took Jay’s hand. “Sorry. You know I’m jittery right now. I just want Liam to mention us moving in, and he hasn’t.”

“He’s thinking. And you gave him plenty to think about.” Jay couldn’t remember where they’d parked, but Austin was heading toward a row of cars, so he followed him, their hands still linked. “Me too.”

Austin drew his hand away and paused next to a minivan gleaming from a recent wash. Jay couldn’t remember the last time he’d washed his Bug. It probably needed it. It always needed it.

“I’m sorry.”

“You said that already.” Jay wanted to lean against something, but he guessed the minivan would blare out an alarm. “I don’t need an apology. I wanted to hear what you had to say. I just don’t think you realized what you were asking for.”

“Huh?”

“You want us to move in with Liam.” Jay scratched his nose. “That’s…that’s big. And so is his freaking house. Is there room for us? Yeah. Do I want to live in the Ice Palace? I don’t know.”

“It might be good for you to have a reason to keep things a little bit neater,” Austin said. “No, I don’t mean it like that! I love how you are.”

“Yeah, I can tell by all the complaining.” Jay was kidding—Austin hardly ever complained about the clutter in their apartment unless he tripped over something. “I don’t think Liam would be very understanding about me needing to have my space be somewhere I can relax. It’s hard to relax at his house.”

“I guess you’re right—not about the relaxing, which you know I can do at his place. So you don’t want to move in? And maybe Liam doesn’t want it either, no matter what he said.” Austin looked dismayed. “Shit. I’m so stupid.”

“Cut it out.” Jay wrapped both arms around Austin and hugged him tightly. “You’re not stupid. We’re just dealing with stuff. Liam promised he’d figure it out.”

“I know. God, you smell good.” Austin nuzzled Jay’s hair and the edge of his ear. Jay felt his body react to the attention and groaned with frustration.

“Let’s get a sandwich,” he offered, because standing in the middle of a parking lot with a hard-on wasn’t his idea of a good time. Okay, sometimes it was. “We’re near that place with the Caesar wraps you like.”

“Okay.” It was gratifying that Austin only pulled away reluctantly. “I’m not really hungry, but it’ll be better if I eat.”

“Yeah. If you pass out again, I think Liam’s going to put a cushion over your ass before he spanks you, and that’s not going to be much fun for him.”

He didn’t mean it seriously, but Austin’s expression went from smiling to stricken.

“What? Why would he…” Austin shook his head, then stepped close again, poking Jay’s chest with a finger. “I had a fucking panic attack, yes. It doesn’t mean I can’t take whatever he dishes out. I’m just sick of us being separate when we should be together, that’s all.”

“Calm down,” Jay said, trying to capture Austin for a hug. It wasn’t happening. Every time his hands landed on Austin’s arms or shoulder, Austin shrugged him off, his mouth tight, his face with the washed-out, skimmed-milk tinge to it that Jay knew meant Austin was worked up. “I was joking, okay? Joking. And I want to see more of him too. I’m just not sure how we can do it without losing what we have. You and me. Our place. Our mess. Going to bed when we want and eating junk food at three in the morning.”

Austin went still, his hands by his sides. “You’re scared,” he said flatly. “I might not want to take it as far as you do when it comes to pain, but I’m willing to take a chance on moving in with him. Yeah, it’ll change our lives. It’s supposed to!”

“I know. And you know I’m on your side, if there are sides. I’m not scared of change. I just… I like our life, okay? In a perfect world I want to keep what we already have and just add more Liam. I’m the one who’s selfish, I guess.” It was cheating to say that, a little bit, because he knew Austin’s reaction would be to deny it.

He was right. “You’re not,” Austin said and rubbed a hand over his face.

Jay immediately felt guilty; cheating so he could come out on top wasn’t fair, but he couldn’t help but think that Austin was getting way more worked up about all this than he should. Things were good with Liam. Why find fault where there wasn’t any? “You haven’t been getting enough sleep.”

“True.”

“Well, we can’t do anything about that now. But we can get some food into you, and a couple of glasses of water. That will help.” When life got rough, it was important to focus on the basics. A well-fed, well-hydrated Austin was always more fun to be around. “And we’ve got to get you caught up on your sleep. Then everything won’t seem so disastrous.”

“Yeah.” Austin sighed, visibly giving in. “You’re right.”

A quick meal did a lot to improve Austin’s mood, so that by the time they pulled into Liam’s driveway that evening, Jay had relaxed. It wasn’t until the front door closed behind them that the tension Austin had been exhibiting for days reappeared in his posture and the set of his jaw.

Liam saw it too, a wariness in his eyes that made Jay’s stomach clench as he took off his shoes and slipped out of his coat. Austin did the same, grabbing Jay’s coat from him without a word and hanging both coats in the small hall closet.

Liam exhaled, visibly shaking off his misgivings. He smiled at Jay, warm approval in his voice. “On time. Good. How are you both?”

Telling Liam that Austin was close to a meltdown, and he wanted to try something way beyond anything Liam had ever shown an interest in, didn’t seem like the correct answer somehow. Jay settled for smiling back. “We’re fine, Sir. How are you?”

“Busy week, but I left my desk clear tonight, and I’m looking forward to the weekend.” Liam arched his eyebrows, a hint of amusement showing. “Is that enough small talk for now?”

“Sir—” Austin rejoined them, his gaze fixed on Liam’s face. He opened his mouth to speak but froze, sheer panic sweeping across his face, his throat working as if whatever he’d planned to say was stuck there, choking him.

Every protective impulse Jay had made him want to shield Austin from Liam’s scorn or pity, but even as he stepped forward, reaching out, Liam snapped his fingers. “On your knees, Austin. Hands behind your back, head down, please.”

With a sigh of pure relief, Austin sank to the floor.

“Good boy,” Liam said and stroked Austin’s head with the same casual affection he would’ve shown a pet, playing with his hair, fondling his face. He met Jay’s gaze, a warning and a reassurance in his eyes: Back off. I can handle this.

“Austin, you’re forbidden to speak for the rest of the night, unless I ask you a direct question or you need to safe word. I don’t need your voice. I might need your mouth.” Liam’s fingers trailed across Austin’s lips, a light caress, followed by the thrust of two fingers deep inside Austin’s mouth. Jay’s cock woke, arousal flooding him as he watched Liam fuck Austin’s mouth, crowding all four fingers and a thumb inside, until Austin’s lips were drawn taut, his breath ragged. “Oh, you’re trying to suck them and lick them. Such an eager boy. Yes. I’m definitely going to use your mouth later. If you’re very good for me tonight, Austin, if you serve me as perfectly as I know you can, I’ll let you be the one to make me come.” He pulled his fingers out, wet with saliva, and turned to wipe them across Jay’s face, a contemptuous swipe that had Jay quivering with the need to fall to his knees.

God he loved it when Liam treated him like this, dealing out small humiliations, every one driving Jay’s arousal to new heights.

“Jay, into the den. Slowly. I want to watch you.”

He could feel Liam’s eyes on him as he walked. Going at a quarter his usual speed felt like crawling, and his hands itched to take off his clothes. He didn’t have any reason to think Liam wouldn’t let him come tonight, not that it mattered. If Liam got him wound up enough, the release at the end was almost unnecessary.

“Good,” Liam said from the doorway when Jay was in the middle of the room, then let him stand there for so long Jay thought he might go crazy. “All right. Take off your clothes.”

While Jay undressed, Liam went to the cupboard and unlocked it. Just hearing the slide of the key, metal on metal, made Jay shiver. Liam came back with a small red strap in his hand and made an impatient gesture.

“Come here.”

Jay went eagerly, biting his lip when he realized the thing Liam was holding was some kind of cock ring. He needed a ring if he was going to have any chance of being good, of obeying the rule about not coming until he’d been given permission. Visions of the fire play videos he’d seen that morning were still dancing at the edges of his mind, teasing him, and he knew his control wouldn’t be what it normally was.

Liam put the strap on him, slipping it down along Jay’s shaft to the base and then tightening it right to the point of pain. That meant it couldn’t stay on for long, but fuck, that was good.

“Now move that chair into the center of the room, and kneel in front of it,” Liam said calmly and turned away to go back to the cupboard.

The chair was wooden and uncomfortable to sit on; they usually used it to put their clothes on, or as an impromptu table. Now, kneeling in front of it and then moving as Liam directed so that his elbows rested on the seat and his hands wrapped around two of the spindles, Jay liked it more than he ever had before.

“Austin’s getting some things I’ll need,” Liam said, his tone conversational. “He’s going to help me tonight. I think he’ll enjoy it. Well, hurting you, not so much, perhaps, but obeying me? Yes.”

Austin had tried to spank Jay once, when they’d been between Doms and hungry for a taste of submission. It’d ended with Jay torn between frustration and laughter. He hoped Liam didn’t set Austin up to fail so that Austin would earn a punishment. Austin was too fragile for mind games.

Liam appeared in front of Jay, a blindfold dangling from his hand. “You need focus, Jay. To concentrate on what I’m giving you. To accept it in the right spirit, shall we say. Your little rebellions are starting to irritate me. So futile. So ungrateful. I think it’s time you learned who’s in charge here. I’ll give you a clue. It’s me.”

Jay’s fingers were damp with sweat and starting to cramp from his grip on the spindles. He let Liam’s words wash over him, relishing the cool authority in every syllable, the bored drawl turning him on, just as Liam had known it would. He wanted to submit because when he did, it felt so satisfying, but he couldn’t bring himself to give in immediately the way Austin did. He clung stubbornly to the belief that he needed to be conquered each and every time to make his submission count.

He shivered when Liam put the blindfold on him. He liked how not being able to see let him focus on other things, like the sound of Austin coming into the room and kneeling down—close by but without touching him. Liam visited the cupboard again, then returned to Jay. “Don’t move,” Liam said, which was a warning that he was about to be touched.

The next thing Jay knew, his wrists were being tied and secured to each other around the back of the chair. It was rope this time, not the silk scarves Liam usually favored. Rope was better; it dug in more, had a tendency to cause raw spots. This rope wouldn’t, not really, because Liam knew what he was doing and because it was good-quality rope, but Jay could imagine it would. Liam had mentioned that at some point in the future they would take vacation time together and really play, put marks and bruises on Jay’s skin that would last longer than overnight.

Austin was quiet as Liam tied Jay’s ankles together. It left him in an awkward position—it brought his knees closer together than was practical for balance, which meant Liam was doing it on purpose. Liam didn’t make mistakes when they were in a scene. Liam knew exactly what he was doing. He’d lead Jay forward until they reached a point where Jay had no choice but to submit.

“I know how much you like this,” Liam said. “But I suspect you need a reminder that it’s not about what you like. It’s about what I want. I like to see you like this. Helpless. Austin?”

“Sir?”

“How do you think Jay looks like this?”

Austin’s response was prompt, which was good. It meant he was getting into the scene, into the head space he needed to be in. “Helpless, Sir. Beautiful.”

Liam’s hand made sudden, sharp contact with Jay’s ass. It was shocking not just because it was hard and hurt, but because there’d been no warning. “You’re right. He does look beautiful.”

There was a soft sound against silence. Liam was kissing Austin, Jay realized, rewarding him for his answer, maybe, or for kneeling there looking deliciously obedient. Kissing Austin because in that moment, that was what Liam wanted to do, and so he was doing it.

Jay closed his eyes, deepening the darkness, and tried to picture it. Would Liam’s hands be on Austin’s body or face? Austin wouldn’t be touching Liam; he knew that. Liam liked them kneeling with their hands behind them, nothing obscuring his view. Was Liam’s tongue sliding against Austin’s, coaxing a moan from him, or was it a series of shallow, teasing kisses to leave Austin’s lips sensitized, tingling?

If Jay had been the one being kissed during a scene, Liam would have used his teeth, nipping at Jay’s lower lip until it stung, opening Jay’s mouth by pulling sharply on a handful of hair if Jay tried to resist. He’d fuck Jay’s mouth with his tongue, steal Jay’s breath, make Jay dizzy with lust and love…

Jay bit down on his lip, trying to fool himself that it was Liam’s teeth abrading the tender skin. He didn’t feel ignored, but he did wish he could see them. Liam had once made him sit cross-legged at the head of their bed and tied his wrists to the headboard. Then he’d told Austin to lie on his stomach, his head in Jay’s lap, and spanked, then fucked Austin, who’d been forbidden to give Jay’s quiveringly erect cock as much as a lick.

To distract himself—because, no surprise, he couldn’t come until Liam had—Jay had watched Liam’s face, surreptitiously at first. Then, growing bolder, he’d stared openly.

Liam had grinned at him, inviting Jay to share his enjoyment, and Jay, for all that he was in agony with every warm exhaled breath from Austin, every accidental brush of Austin’s mouth, had smiled back.

Watching Liam come had felt like being given a gift. Getting to—finally—slide his cock into Austin’s waiting mouth had been another.

Now Jay wondered if Austin was fully clothed or naked. He hadn’t been undressed the last time Jay had seen him, but that didn’t mean anything. Was Austin’s cock visible? It had to be standing up hard and eager for attention either way. Jay wished he could touch it, but he was distracted by the feel of something thin and hard being traced along his spine from his shoulders down toward his ass. Had to be the riding crop. He loved the crop, and Liam didn’t use it on him nearly enough as far as he was concerned. The possibility of being hit with it tonight made him part his lips in a silent moan that ended up not being as silent as he’d intended.

“My little pain slut,” Liam said fondly. He trailed the tip of the crop between Jay’s ass cheeks and teased it over his hole. “You know what this is, don’t you?”

“Yes, Sir.” Jay tried to turn his face toward Liam, but with his hands and ankles bound he couldn’t move very much.

“I know usually when I strike you with it, I decide on a count ahead of time.”

He did. On previous occasions it had been as many as ten blows.

“But this time I think I’d like to see how far you can take it before you ask me to stop. Twenty? What do you think?”

Jay gasped and arched his back, begging with his ass thrust out. “Please, Sir.”

“Austin? Did you have something to say?”

Jay hadn’t heard anything, so Liam must have seen something on Austin’s face or maybe in the way he was kneeling. Some kind of protest, probably.

“No, Sir,” Austin whispered.

“Good.”

Liam drew the crop over the back of Jay’s left thigh, down to the hollow behind his knee, a slow journey that made Jay struggle to stay still. He wanted to feel the crop strike him, no warm-up spanking, just that stark slash of pain.

“Tell me, Austin, how many do you think he’ll take before he begs me to stop? How many before he really means it and uses his safe word?”

“I don’t know, Sir.”

“You mean you don’t want to think about it.”

“No, I just—”

There was the sound of leather striking skin, and Austin cried out. “You’re forbidden to talk unless I ask you a question,” Liam reminded Austin. The sound was repeated, this time followed by a choked-out groan. “And that was for not answering me. Try again, Austin. How many will he take?”

Jay’s wrists hurt, and it took him a moment to realize why. He was tugging at his bonds, trying to break free and go to Austin. That crop was vicious. Liam had used it on both of them a few months ago, and Austin had screamed out his safe word without hesitation after half a dozen strokes, none of which had been delivered at full strength.

And under his blazing concern ran a dark swell of envy that Austin’s skin bore two red marks and his was bare.

“Twenty-four,” Austin said. The tone was okay. He sounded okay. He had to be okay.

Twenty-four, on the other hand, didn’t seem like nearly enough to Jay. He waited, quivering with need.

“Really?” Liam was amused; Jay could tell. “All right. However many Jay goes over twenty-four, you get as well.”

The room was silent as both Jay and Austin absorbed this. Austin didn’t say anything—he was smart; he’d learned his lesson—and neither did Jay, even though he wanted to. He was straining at the ropes around his wrists again, and more important than that, he was angry. Now twenty-four had to be enough, because there was no way he was chancing Austin getting hit with the crop on his behalf. No way.

“I’m going to be kind and give you the opportunity to modify your guess,” Liam said. “With a penalty, of course. Let’s say…ten strikes? I suspect you’re wishing you’d suggested a higher number originally. Are you?”

“Yes, Sir,” Austin said. Jay wished he could see Austin’s face so that they could at least communicate through their expressions.

“Jay, do you have anything to contribute?” Liam asked.

“Austin, don’t change it,” Jay said instantly. “It’s fine. I’m fine. Don’t do something you don’t want, okay? I don’t mind. Twenty-four is good. It’s great. I don’t need more than that.”

It was a lie, a huge lie, and he was pretty sure Austin knew it, but right then he meant it as much as he’d ever meant anything. Ten strokes wouldn’t be too much for Austin if Liam was careful, but Austin had issues with how much pain Jay needed. Watching Jay go to his limit when Austin was this emotionally churned up would leave Austin a wreck.

For the first time Jay wondered if he could someday have a solo session with Liam, and what it would be like. It felt disloyal to want that and he tried to thrust the thought away, but it clung as persistently as a scrap of plastic wrap. They’d done it once, but that’d been before they’d redefined their relationship, and there had been limits in place.

The prospect of Liam with Jay’s safe word the only limit to his desires was as tempting and dangerous as slipping on the Ring had been for Frodo and Bilbo.

“Well, Austin? How many strokes can he take?”

“He can take forty, Sir,” Austin whispered.

Jay bit his lip. An extra sixteen strokes for him, bought with ten for Austin. Even if he told himself that Austin liked being spanked and a certain amount of pain, he knew he wouldn’t enjoy his whipping, or if he did, he’d feel guilty.

“You’re so fucking mean sometimes, you know that?” The words were no sooner spoken than he regretted them. Fuck. Not again. Liam was going to think he was topping from the bottom or acting out. And he wasn’t. He just craved the simplicity of a hard, ruthless whipping from a man who knew how to make him scream. Pain without guilt.

“At some point between tonight and the next time I see you, Jay, you can find a dictionary and write out the definition of sadist for me. A hundred times, handwritten, of course, and done neatly, please.”

He swallowed. That was something Austin would love doing, sinking deeper into sub space with every line, but for Jay it would be tedious in the extreme. “Yes, Sir.”

The crop came back to tease him, the stiff length of it sawing between his legs, chafing his balls. “I’d be surprised if you make it to forty,” Liam said into Jay’s ear, the soft puff of his breath in stark contrast to the iciness of his words. “I’ve always held back using this, even on you, but tonight you’ll get to find out just how hard I can hit.”

“Please…oh God, Sir, please.” He was begging before they’d started, shame at his rebuke pushing him into a place where he wanted to abase himself. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean… Gag me. Don’t let me say anything else—”

“But I want to hear you scream, Jay.” The tip of the crop smacked against Jay’s balls, a tap, no more than that, but he cried out, acutely aware of how much damage a much harder strike could’ve caused.

“It’s a start,” Liam said.

The first real smack of the crop against Jay’s ass was swift, and the only way he knew it was coming was because of the sound it made slicing through the air. It was a hard blow—not the hardest Liam had ever given him, but hard enough that it was a shock.

“That’s only one.” Liam slapped him with the flat of his hand across the same spot the crop had struck, then rubbed his ass roughly. “Thirty-nine to go, Jay. I have to admit I’m curious to find out if you can take it.”

Jay swallowed and waited.

He didn’t have to wait long, and the next half dozen strokes came quickly, without more than a few seconds’ pause between them. He knew Liam would expect him to keep track of the number, so he did. The pain was sharp and long-lasting, the effect from one blow not fading before the next struck home. It felt like being cut with a knife. Although he knew from previous experience that it wouldn’t look as bad as it felt, he also knew that it was going to hurt for days. Sitting would be a challenge. Every time he did, he’d remember this moment, that Liam had hurt him because he wanted it.

“Seven,” he gasped when Liam stopped and rubbed his ass again. His skin felt raw already, and there were still thirty-three to go.

Liam said, “Austin,” and a moment later Liam’s hand was back on Jay’s ass, this time pushing two slick fingers inside him. It was unexpected enough that Jay gasped, but that didn’t stop him from pushing back to take Liam’s fingers deeper. “Greedy boy.”

“Yes, Sir. Please.”

“I’ll give you what I want to when I want to,” Liam said, adding a third finger that stretched Jay wide.

His thighs trembled, and he was glad for the support of the chair underneath him. “Yes, Sir,” he whispered. “I’m yours.”

“You are. Both of you.” Liam’s fingers twisted inside him, driving deeper. “I’m a lucky man. You think I’m hard on you and I am, but I don’t do anything to you that you don’t allow, and I try to make it what you need.” He crooked his middle finger, and Jay moaned, shameless, appreciative, enjoying the stab of arousal piercing him. “It’s never occurred to you that I’m yours just as much, I suppose? No?”

“We want you to be,” Jay said, honest in the depth of his need. It was what Austin would’ve said if he’d been allowed to talk, but it was true for Jay as well. “We’re stronger together—” His final word ended with another moan as Liam worked his fingers in and out. The stretch felt amazing, but Jay was greedy when it came to Liam. “Sir, need more. Please.”

“I’ll fist you soon,” Liam said casually. “Not tonight.” He pulled his fingers out slowly so that Jay felt the loss of each inch as his body tried to clamp down and keep them inside him. “When I do that, I like to take my time. The prep work is part of the experience. I enjoy it.”

The implication that Liam had done it before, to someone else, had Jay hissing out an outraged breath. Behind him, he heard Austin stir and murmur a similar protest.

Liam chuckled and patted Jay’s ass with his dry hand. He’d use a wipe on his other hand before letting it touch their skin, Jay knew. Liam wasn’t fastidious exactly, but he tidied up as he went along. “Oh no. You don’t get to be jealous. Not when I’ve just told you how much you both mean to me. I’ve never fallen in love with a sub before, never wanted to, but you two didn’t give me any choice.”

Jay couldn’t remember Liam telling them so easily that he loved them before. He held on to that as the crop struck him again, Liam dealing out ten hard strokes in quick succession.

In the videos he’d watched online, he’d seen lines of fuel igniting on skin, a blue flame flickering to life in a flash. The crop was leaving fire buried under his skin, dark lines of red, a hot, searing burn, but much though he loved the bruising heat, he still wanted to feel those transient blue flames dance over his skin.

“Another break, I think.”

Jay shook his head, but his chest was heaving as he fought for breath, and he knew Liam wasn’t being kind. The pause let Jay feel the pain in a way he couldn’t when it was continually changing. It grew and spread, wild and savage, ripping at his self-control and leaving it in shreds.

“Touch him, Austin. Feel how hot his skin is. Run your fingers over the welts.”

Austin’s hand touched him a moment later, gentle and so cool that Jay pushed back against it to soothe the burn. He could almost pretend that it was a real burn blistering his skin. Austin’s fingertips moved away, then back again. He was probably afraid of hurting Jay. No need; his careful touch didn’t increase the pain even slightly.

“You know how much he likes this, don’t you?” Liam said. “You’ve seen him beg for it often enough.”

One of Austin’s fingertips traced over a slash mark. “Yes, Sir,” Austin said.

Liam smacked the bottom of Jay’s right foot with the crop, and Jay twitched, couldn’t help it, even though the blow hadn’t been hard enough to hurt. “How many is that, Jay?”

“Seventeen, Sir.”

“Not even halfway,” Liam mused.

“I can take it, Sir.”

“Really?”

The crop struck the back of his thigh, claiming another part of his body. Liam left five strokes on each thigh, the final one on each leg high up, along the crease where thigh met ass.

Jay was sobbing now, the tears soaking his blindfold. He held still for each stroke because Liam told him to, but after a stroke had landed, he had to move, as if shaking his ass would dislodge the building pain. He’d never understood how he could crave the pain, love it, and yet still fight it like this.

“Stop fighting it. Stop fighting me,” Liam said, lifting Jay’s long hair away from his neck for a moment, allowing him to feel a breath of cooler air on his hot skin. “I’m not punishing you, Jay. I’m whipping you. There’s a difference.”

Jay knew that. Liam had taught him that lesson early on.

“He’s doing well, though, isn’t he, Austin?”

“Yes, Sir.” The pride in Austin’s voice was unmistakable.

“Thirteen more. Where should I put the next three, Austin? The last ten are going on his arse, but that leaves three to play with.”

Jay could practically hear Austin’s brain working. He knew exactly how torn Austin would be over something like this—wanting to give Jay what he wanted, but at the same time not wanting to be the cause of hurt even when it was a hurt Jay craved. It was a double-edged sword Jay wished Austin didn’t have to grasp, but Austin answered without taking too much time. Maybe he was in the right head space to do as Liam asked without questioning it too much.

“His calves, Sir,” Austin said.

Liam didn’t hesitate—he hit Jay the specified three times with enough force that Jay shrieked, screaming out his anguish, then paused as Jay fought to get himself back under control.

It felt like everything from his waist down was on fire, and his cock was so hard he didn’t know if he’d ever be able to come again. He let his head sink down until his nose and mouth were resting on the solid wooden surface of the chair. He was drooling—or shedding so many tears that even his lips were wet.

“You can ask me to stop,” Liam said, running his hand over Jay’s ass as if he needed to touch the skin he was marking. “You don’t need to go to forty if this is enough.”

The part of Jay that could still be objective and provide a running commentary—the voice he wanted to silence with the pain because until he did, he couldn’t leave everything behind and just be—was reporting in on every throb, every rising bruise in an excited, horrified babble.

“Forty was Austin’s guess,” Jay told Liam, his voice thick and hoarse. “He’s never done this to me. You have. As many as it takes. Please, Sir. You’ll know when I’m there.”

As he said it, he remembered that any extra strokes would be added to Austin’s total, but it was too late to retract. The crop came down after his final word, as if Liam was as eager to continue as Jay. If Liam had been holding back before, he wasn’t now. The agony was too much for Jay’s body to contain. It pushed at him from the inside, reshaping him until his flesh felt paper-thin, ready to rip and tear with the next slashing stroke.

He stopped counting, and between one hard-won breath and the next, he let go of everything holding him anchored—his worry over Austin’s emotional state, his doubts about moving in with Liam, a score of petty work-related issues. The pain filled him too completely for there to be any room for them, and after that, each stroke sent him higher, sent him soaring.

Jay was gone.

He didn’t think he’d safe worded, but he was vaguely aware, like experiencing the world through a layer of thick fabric, that it was over. Liam murmured something stern but reassuring to Austin. Jay felt his feet being untied and dimly waited for his hands to be freed as well, but that didn’t happen.

“There, now. No, don’t try to move. Just stay where you are and breathe. Austin, bring that here.”

The blindfold was gently removed, but Jay didn’t try to open his eyes. It would be too bright, and he was too exhausted. He was glad Liam hadn’t untied his hands, because he probably would have just fallen onto the floor and lain there. Instead he felt the cool touch of Austin’s hands again. He realized he was waiting to hear Austin’s voice, and then that he wouldn’t because Austin was still under orders not to talk.

Something wet touched his hot ass, and he whimpered and twitched away, but there was nowhere to go. It was Austin pressing the cool, soft cloth to his burning skin, and Jay wasn’t sure how it felt. Not really good, because he was so raw he knew he’d have welts on top of welts. The cold just made the burning worse, and he focused on that, letting the waves of it pull him deeper under again. There, that was what he wanted, to drift peacefully.

If Liam had further plans for him, they were going to have to wait.

Chapter Five

Liam could hear Austin and Jay fussing over each other in the family room, exchanging anxious inquiries, whispered reassurances… He watched the jug fill as coffee dripped through the machine, the second pot of the morning, and smiled wryly. After Jay’s whipping, he’d ended the scene, meaning Austin’s arse was in good shape, and Jay had loved what’d happened to him, so Liam wasn’t quite sure why he wasn’t the target of their sympathy.

He was the one who’d gone to bed alone, after all, his balls aching, his arousal too intense to be quenched by his hand. He’d jerked off before he went to sleep and then woken in the middle of the night, his prick stiff and his hand already reaching for it.

Letting the two of them sleep in the spare room instead of with him had been an easy decision to make. Jay had been out of it, mumbling disjointedly when Liam had tended to his bruised skin and falling asleep immediately. Austin had been concerned for Jay and, though he probably didn’t realize it, as frustrated as Liam. If Liam had suggested the two of them share his bed and let Jay sleep alone, Austin would most likely have turned him down.

Liam didn’t deal well with rejection.

He filled three mugs with fresh coffee and put them on a small tray to save him making two trips. The crop he’d used on Jay tucked under his arm, he walked into the family room.

Austin and Jay were on the couch, Jay understandably curled on his side, his head on Austin’s shoulder. They were both bare-chested, wearing soft sleep pants, Austin’s a plain, faded navy, Jay’s bright green, patterned with a cartoon character Liam didn’t recognize. Jay should’ve still been riding the high of the night before, but his eyes were clouded and Austin’s mouth was pinched with worry.

Neither expression pleased Liam, but they made what he was about to say easier. As their Dom, it was his responsibility to take care of his subs during and after a scene. As their boyfriend, though the word was too juvenile to sit well with him, their happiness was his priority.

He’d been failing them if they could sit there and look at him like that. He set the tray on the coffee table and placed the crop beside it. In this formal room, lit with the soft, gray light of a dull October morning, it should have looked incongruous, even obscene, but what it represented was the foundation of their relationship. It belonged in here with them.

“I don’t think I could take even four from it today,” Jay said, a hint of regret peeking through.

Liam longed to see Jay’s arse. From what he’d gathered at breakfast, Austin had already slathered it with arnica cream, but the bruising would be spectacular. The trouble with seeing them infrequently was that he didn’t get to monitor the slow fade of the marks he’d put on them or get involved in the aftercare. Those were his bruises and he’d wanted to be the one to tend to them, but it would’ve seemed petty to point that out. “Probably not, but Austin’s going to do his best to take, let me see…eighteen. Yes.”

The two turned nearly identical expressions of shock toward Liam. It would have been comical if Liam hadn’t been deadly serious.

“What, you thought I’d forgotten? You’ve said you’d like to make our arrangement full-time—you must realize this is how it would be.” He lifted an eyebrow. “Austin? Don’t keep me waiting.”

It didn’t surprise him that Austin obeyed, turning around to face the back of the couch. “Eighteen? No. No way.”

“It isn’t up to you, Jay,” Liam said sharply. “Austin agreed, and he isn’t the type to break his word, are you, Austin?”

“No, Sir.” Austin was kneeling, hands braced on the upholstery. There was nothing about this he liked. Liam could see that in the tension held in the curve of his lower back. It was one thing to submit to something you’d enjoy, and another entirely to submit to an act that frightened you. Austin’s strength in accepting this when it wasn’t something he wanted was impressive.

“Liam—” Jay started, and Liam focused on him.

“You either trust me, Jay, or you don’t. Which is it?”

Jay swallowed and slowly nodded. “I trust you,” he said quietly and slipped off the couch to stand over near the wall.

The relief he felt was huge, but he allowed himself only an exhaled breath before he picked up the crop and stepped closer to Austin. He hooked his fingers under the elastic waistband of Austin’s pants, noting that Austin flinched at his touch, and slipped the pants down to the bottoms of Austin’s thighs so his arse was bare. He let his fingertips brush over Austin’s skin. Austin shivered convulsively, his skin prickling into goose bumps.

“Eighteen,” Liam said. The crop was in his right hand, so he lifted Austin’s cock in his left. It wasn’t entirely soft, and as he held it, he could feel it beginning to harden. “Are you ready?”

“Yes, Sir,” Austin whispered and let his head drop down.

Liam liked to think he was relatively skilled with a crop, and the first time he struck Austin’s naked arse with it, he felt that his belief was confirmed. He swung the narrow braided leather quickly so that it would make noise as it cut the air, then pulled the blow at the last second. It struck Austin hard enough to sting, no more.

“One?” Austin said doubtfully as Liam paused, and Liam punished him for his cheek by letting the second strike sting just a little bit more. Austin gasped and trembled for him, just deliciously apprehensive now, his fear fading. “Two.”

There was no comparison between the force he used on Austin and what he’d done to Jay the night before. Jay wanted the pain—that wasn’t what Austin wanted at all, and forcing it on him would have been shortsighted and cruel. As Liam struck Austin, he wondered what Jay was thinking.

He didn’t have to guess with Austin. When he’d finished, Austin’s arse was patterned with dark pink lines, all fading fast, and half-hard had become erect and eager. Smiling, Liam delivered a final slap that left more of a mark than the crop had. “One to grow on.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Austin said, the routine words infused with genuine gratitude. He turned his head to give Liam a hopeful look. “If you’re tying up loose ends from last night…”

“Yes?” Liam prompted when Austin fell silent.

“He means you said he could blow you,” Jay told him in a quiet, abashed voice. “He wants to.” Jay slid to his knees, his gaze fixed on Liam. “I do too, Sir, but I don’t deserve it after arguing with you again.”

At breakfast they’d called him “Liam” and he hadn’t minded, not really, but he had to admit that he was enjoying this. Not a session, not a scene…just an ongoing exercise of his control over them. He’d always thought having a sub 24-7 would blunt the edge of the thrill, but he was reconsidering.

After all, it was in his hands, all of it. If he chose to allow them some leeway, he could; if he chose to keep them naked and cuffed for the morning, well, he could do that too.

“No, probably not, but if I recall correctly, I told Austin I’d use his mouth to come in. I don’t see why I should deprive myself of the pleasure of having both of you serve me until I get to that point.” Liam put the crop on the couch and unzipped his pants, pushing them down with his briefs and kicking them away. He was as hard as Austin, the playful spanking the perfect start to the morning. If they moved in with him, he could start every day off that way…but there was more to consider than that, of course.

He sat on the couch and beckoned to Jay. “Crawl over here and take off my socks. Slowly, kissing my feet as you do it. Let me see some penitence from you, my gullible little pain slut.”

Jay’s eyes shone at the use of his pet name from Liam, his bare chest rising and falling rapidly, his cock hardening. Good that they were all on the same page. “Yes, Sir.”

“Austin, you get to start at the top and work down.” He pulled Austin closer and kissed him firmly, reassuringly, sensing that for the moment, at least, Austin was happy and relaxed.

He was willing to label himself a sadist, but it was astonishing how disturbed he became when his subs were upset.

Austin kissed him with an eagerness that would have been convincing even at the time Liam had still considered himself straight, one hand on Liam’s shoulder. It was a light touch, a gentle, tentative curl of palm and fingers. Liam found it more arousing than he would have dreamed. At his feet, Jay had stripped off his socks and was leaning in to press his lips to the top of Liam’s right foot.

Austin began to pull away, and Liam made a little growl of protest and put a hand around the back of his head to kiss him one more time. It turned into another half dozen kisses, but by the time it ended Liam was more willing to let Austin slide his mouth lower along his jaw and throat. “Such a good boy,” Liam said with a sigh.

Austin rested a hand on his thigh and whispered, “Love you.”

Liam didn’t care a bit about the fact that Austin hadn’t added Sir—perhaps he should have cared, but he didn’t, not right then. Not with Austin’s tongue sliding over his nipple and Austin’s hand moving slowly up his thigh toward his cock, brushing over his balls.

Liam inhaled shakily as Jay crawled onto the couch. Not nearly enough penitence, but it was difficult to care when Jay was looking at him hopefully, leaning in for a kiss. In this instance Liam decided he’d take the contrition Jay couldn’t seem to freely give. He grabbed on to Jay’s long hair and kissed him hard, pleased when Jay whimpered into the kiss and clung to him. Oh yes, he was the one in charge here, no forgetting it.

He took his time kissing Jay as roughly as he cared to while Austin’s lips trailed down along his stomach toward his erect prick. “May I, Sir?” Austin asked, breath warm over Liam’s most sensitive skin, and in reply Liam ran a hand up Austin’s spine to the back of his neck and squeezed.

It was a heady feeling, these two men striving in their different ways to please him and getting as much out of their efforts as Liam was. Such a perfect match of needs, Liam thought hazily as Austin’s tongue teased the head of his cock, just the way Liam had taught him. I want to control them, hurt them, and they want to obey me and be hurt. So fucking simple.

He kept his hand on Austin’s neck, not holding him down but letting Austin feel its weight. Austin liked the reminder that Liam was in charge, and Liam loved caressing that smooth expanse of skin, with Austin’s fair hair tickling the back of his hand if he moved it higher.

He drew back from Jay’s kiss, ignoring the resulting pout, and slid his free hand inside Jay’s sleep pants, mindful of bruised, swollen skin, but not to the point of denying himself this touch. Jay’s arse was slick with the arnica cream Austin had evidently applied with a lavish hand, and that made it easy for Liam to slide his fingertips over the tender, punished flesh.

Jay’s face flushed hotly, his eyes widening, his breath quickening with what Liam knew was desire, not discomfort. Well, maybe some discomfort, but for Jay the lines between sexual pleasure and pain were blurred until there was no black or white, only gray. “Sir! Oh God, please.”

“Painful?” Liam inquired with an entirely fake solicitude as he thrust up into the waiting warmth of Austin’s mouth, needing to feel his cock surrounded by that soft, wet suction. He dragged his nails lightly across Jay’s arse. “Should I stop?”

“No! No, Sir. It’s good.” Jay’s breathing was ragged as Liam teased his sore, bruised skin. “Maybe too good.”

“Hm?” Liam slid his hand around to fondle Jay’s cock. Jay’s breath caught, and he bit his lip in a way that was utterly endearing and ridiculously sexy at the same time. “I see. You’d like to come, would you?” That shouldn’t be surprising, as he hadn’t been allowed to the night before.

“Yes, Sir.” Jay’s voice was tiny, and his prick was very hard in Liam’s grip, the only part of him unyielding.

Liam tugged at Jay’s balls until Jay whined. “All right.”

Jay’s eyes, which had been half-closed, flew open. His lips were parted, soft, vulnerable.

Austin’s mouth tightened around Liam’s cock, sucked harder, and Liam felt himself teetering on the edge of release sooner than he’d expected. But he didn’t need to wait. He gripped the back of Austin’s neck, thrust upward into his mouth, and came, hips jerking and his other hand surely too rough on Jay’s cock.

He loved how Austin swallowed around him, how Jay came in the grip of his hand and slicked his fingers with warm fluid. The sheer relief of coming was incredible.

Austin didn’t pull away, the gentle lapping of his tongue easing Liam down from his climax. When even that soft caress became too much, he tugged at Austin’s hair and felt a twinge of satisfaction when Austin immediately straightened, his eyes lowered submissively, his cheeks pink.

Liam held out his wet hand. “Clean me,” he ordered without getting specific, curious as to what they’d do. Strip off and use their sleep pants? Go for the porn movie option and lick it?

Not for the first time, they surprised him. Austin moved to cup Liam’s hand in both of his, containing any drips, and Jay left the room, hurrying, tugging up his sleep pants as he went. He was gone less than thirty seconds, returning with a cereal bowl filled with water and a paper towel.

Liam held back a grin. Austin looked so solemn, his eyes still lowered, his erection evident through the pants he’d pulled up after his spanking, a mute plea for release that Liam intended to listen to.

He let Jay clean his hand with a soaked piece of paper towel, noting with approval how careful Jay was, drawing out the task so that it became sensual, wrapping the paper around each finger in turn, then drawing it away slowly. Jay set the bowl and paper on the coffee table, then turned back to Liam. He put his hands under Austin’s, connecting them all, and pressed a kiss onto Liam’s palm, his tongue flicking out boldly. Then he captured one of Liam’s fingers in his mouth and sucked it, the sensation sending a shiver of desire through Liam. His mind didn’t seem to care that his body wasn’t capable of rousing again this soon.

Austin bent his head too, kissing Liam’s wrist, the brush of his lips fervent, appealing.

“God, you two are so fucking perfect,” Liam said, letting his pride in them show in his voice.

Austin looked up. “So are you, Sir.”

Jay nodded. “Perfect for us.”

Liam opened his mouth to demur but changed his mind. The hell with modesty, never a favorite virtue of his. He’d trained them. He’d given them structure and release. He was proud of them and himself.

“Let’s finish this,” he said. “Austin, lose the pajamas and sit on my lap. Jay, use your mouth on him. Hands behind your back. I want to see what you’re doing, so tuck your hair back too.”

With Austin in his lap, using Liam’s shoulder as a pillow, and Jay on his knees, Liam had the perfect view of Austin’s cock sliding between Jay’s lips. His arms wrapped around Austin, giving Austin the illusion of being in bondage, he could feel Austin’s reactions as if they were his own, each shiver, each arch upward, each gasped-for breath.

He almost found himself wishing he hadn’t already come, that instead he was still hard and inside the hot, tempting clench of Austin’s body. Christ, it would have felt so good. He’d have to remember the idea for a future session. Now he pressed his nose into Austin’s hair and inhaled the scent of him, felt as well as heard the whimper when Austin tried to hold off.

“So lovely,” Liam murmured into Austin’s ear. “I love that you’re waiting, wanting to please me. Do you have any idea how amazing you are?”

Austin didn’t reply, but he reached up with one hand and grabbed on to Liam’s wrist. Jay’s eyes were closed, cheeks hollowing with every suck.

“Come now,” Liam said, and Austin obeyed, his body jerking in Liam’s arms as Jay swallowed him down. He was perfect, beautiful, exactly what Liam wanted.

When he finally relaxed, still draped over Liam, he rubbed his hand along Liam’s arm in gratitude. “Thank you, Sir.”

“You’re welcome,” Liam said. “You deserved it. You’ve been so willing to please me.” He ran his hands over Austin’s chest, marveling at how natural it felt now after a lifetime of believing he was heterosexual. He accepted that he was bisexual, but he still didn’t find any men but Jay or Austin attractive. For all he knew, the fact that he wanted them sexually was some offshoot of their Dom/sub relationship—and that didn’t trouble him in the slightest.

Jay wiped the corner of his mouth and grinned at them. “This was different.”

“We don’t generally carry over into the morning hours,” Liam agreed. “But I thought, with what we’ve been discussing, we should try it.”

Austin had been limp, draped over Liam’s lap as if Liam were furniture. Now he tensed again, and Liam knew it was time to talk about a subject they’d been avoiding for a week.

Chapter Six

Austin brushed his hair until his scalp tingled. “Do I look okay?”

Jay kissed him and took the hairbrush out of his hand. “If you go downstairs with that, you’re just asking for a spanking. It’s like waving a steak at a shark.”

“Funny.” Austin smoothed down his blue shirt and stared at his reflection in the spare room mirror. “I just want to look good.”

“You always do,” Jay said reassuringly, then added, “Liam told us to hurry,” and made Austin’s heart start beating faster again.

He didn’t know what Liam was going to say to them when they went back downstairs, and it was sending his anxiety levels sky-high. Liam was in a great mood, smiling as he sent them up to dress with an affectionate swat on their asses, but how much of that had been postsex euphoria?

“If he asks us to make a decision about moving in, what will you say?” He studied Jay’s face for the smallest sign of dismay at the idea.

“Depends how he asks.” Jay shrugged. “I don’t know, okay? I just know we need to change a few things or we’ll lose what we’ve got, and I know I don’t want that.”

“You’d never lose me.” Austin stopped thinking about the seconds ticking away and hugged Jay close. “God, I can’t imagine being without you.”

“You wouldn’t. Ever.” Jay kissed the side of Austin’s mouth, then nuzzled into his neck. “Yours.”

Austin believed that 99 percent of the time. But Jay belonged to Liam too, and so did he. He just wished he knew for how long. Things still felt uncertain and temporary between them, and he wasn’t expecting the conversation they were about to have to change that. He hugged Jay more tightly until Jay squeaked in protest.

“You know how he is when we’re late,” Jay said, pulling away.

“I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be my line.”

They went downstairs, where Liam was waiting for them in the dining room. Two chairs were pulled slightly away from the table. Austin felt like throwing up or running out of the house, but instead he forced himself to sit down and pull in the chair. At least it had arms; that was good. They would make it harder to bolt.

He swallowed and looked at the mug of coffee waiting for him. The thought of drinking it made his stomach churn.

Jay reached over and touched his hand. “Hey. Breathe or something, will you?”

“This is a conversation, not a firing squad,” Liam said, and Austin looked at him—not a glance, but a proper look.

Liam seemed to be concerned and caring. Which he was, even if Austin needed a reminder once in a while. Jesus, he was such a fuckup. Liam loved them.

“I’m sorry,” Austin said, meaning it. “I’m kind of freaking out.”

“Which means he hasn’t been sleeping, so he’s been cleaning like crazy.” Jay gave Austin an apologetic glance. “Sorry, I know you can’t help it. I just can’t find anything anymore.”

“You haven’t been sleeping?” Liam asked.

Austin shook his head. “Some. Not enough, I guess.” He knew Jay wasn’t thrilled that he kept waking up to find half the apartment rearranged.

“I don’t like that,” Liam said flatly, a frown appearing. “I wouldn’t play with you if you were drunk, and the same goes for you spaced-out because you’re sleep deprived. It affects your judgment and your ability to cope with life. It’s been a long time since my kids were babies, but I can still remember coming close to crashing my car after a month of disturbed nights when one of them was teething.”

Liam rarely talked about his children, so Austin had only a vague impression of Alison and Ben. They sounded nice enough, and in the photographs Liam had of them, they were always smiling—but then, who didn’t smile for the camera? They’d visited Liam in the summer for a week, but he hadn’t invited Austin and Jay over to meet them. Too awkward. Too complicated.

“I’ll be okay when I know what’s happening,” Austin said, hoping it was true. His job required him to be alert and functioning, and these days he was drifting in a fog of tiredness.

Liam scratched his jaw. “Fair enough. I’m just not sure what’s best for all three of us as individuals and as, well, the three of us. I’m used to my privacy, and you’re used to living together and having the freedom to do what you like.” He smiled unexpectedly, a wicked glint in his eyes. “Beyond a few rules I trust you to abide by.” His smile faded. “But I’ve thought it over, and if you agree, I’d like us to try living together.”

Austin’s smile was one of pure relief, but Jay bit his lip, his lack of enthusiasm glaringly obvious. Liam cleared his throat. “Jay, just tell me what’s worrying you most about the idea of moving in.”

“Losing my freedom,” Jay blurted out. “Yeah, I love it when you tie me up, but I don’t want to be working on a diorama and get told it’s time to blow you or bend over for a spanking. I don’t want to beg for permission to go out with my friends or feel like I’m a guest here, because let’s face it. This is your place, Liam. It’s big and empty and cold, and you’re the only thing in it that’s alive. I love you, I do, and I want Austin to be happy, but I’m scared shitless that if I live here, I’ll lose myself, and being a sub is all about the opposite. It’s about being me. About fulfilling me. I just… God, I’m sorry.” He lifted his hand, then let it fall, a helpless gesture that left Austin’s throat aching as he held back from saying something that would make the situation worse, waiting for Liam to respond.

He didn’t doubt that Jay would sacrifice himself if he thought it would make Austin happy, but the same held true for Austin. If Jay was going to feel trapped here, the move was off the table.

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re the only one who doesn’t want his whole life to change,” Liam said, nodding with understanding. “What if I had some renovations done so that you could have a space that was entirely yours? Would that help?”

“Maybe,” Jay said. “Like what kind of space?”

“A proper apartment? Downstairs. It’s level to the garden in the back—you could have your own entrance.”

“That sounds like still living apart, just under the same roof,” Austin pointed out.

Liam gave him an exasperated look that he probably deserved. “You can’t have it both ways.”

“Actually we can,” Jay said. “If we can figure out how to meet in the middle. It doesn’t sound impossible. Not easy, maybe.”

“None of this is easy, is it?” Liam raised his eyebrows. “So, with that option on the table, how do you feel, Jay? Or do you need time to think it over? This is a huge step, I know.”

Jay withdrew into himself, a distant expression on his face that Austin was familiar with. Jay looked like that when he had a problem with a diorama, something not to scale, something that wouldn’t fit where it was supposed to. It was only a matter of thirty seconds or so before he spoke, but for a waiting Austin, it felt as if each second were a minute.

“I think it could work,” Jay said finally. “Sorry if I was too negative.”

“You weren’t. You were honest. It’s appreciated,” Liam said. “Right. We can meet with a contractor to discuss the plans, create something we can all live with. And in the meantime, try for as much of a weekend as we can manage to get a feel for it. Saturday night through Monday morning, and you can both go straight to work from here?”

God, it sounded so good Austin was afraid to believe it might work out.

Jay straightened, losing the slouch that he got when he was upset, shoulders hunched, head down, hiding behind his long hair. “We’d pay rent. A real rent, not just a token.”

“You certainly would,” Liam said crisply, sounding very English. “Officially you’d be my lodgers. The conversion would have a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, space for Jay’s dioramas…everything a rented apartment would have. It would be obvious from looking at it that you were in your own place, unconnected to the rest of the house or me. Your family could come and visit, Austin, and any of your friends. Everything would be out in the open.”

“They’d still wonder why we moved here,” Austin said, desperately wanting to be convinced that they could do this. He’d mentioned Liam to his mom in passing, describing him as a friend they’d met through another friend, without going into detail.

“It’s closer to work for both of us,” Jay pointed out. “And your mom thinks our place has mold or damp or something after the flood. Every time you sneeze when she’s over visiting, she gets this look like she wants to feel your forehead for fever. She doesn’t like walking up all those stairs, either. She’d like it better if we had a place of our own, but she knows we can’t afford it yet.”

“Tell her some of my investments have crashed and I need the extra income,” Liam put in, sounding amused at the idea. Austin didn’t know how much money Liam had, but he was guessing that the cost of the conversion would be more than a years’ rent, and he was sure Liam didn’t care. “Of course, I’d have to check on the legal aspects of it. I’d make sure it met the building codes, that goes without saying, but in some places basement apartments aren’t permitted. They flood the neighborhood with more people than the local amenities can cover. I’m sure there’s a way around it, though. Laws always have loopholes.”

“We can just say we got the chance to move. Jay’s right about the mold thing—not that I think there is any, just that she worries about stuff like that. I don’t know if she’ll ask a lot of questions. I guess I’ll have to have answers ready.” There was definitely a possibility his mom would focus on the move; she seemed to have more time to worry about Austin now that April had gone off to college. Austin would have been thrilled for his mom to be able to relax more—having her shift her attention to him instead was less than ideal.

“We’ll help with that,” Liam said. “We aren’t throwing you to the wolves. And if you’re not ready, if you need more time—”

“I am,” Austin broke in. “I am ready, but it’s kind of a big deal.” He was starting to feel like an idiot who’d wanted something only to turn around and decide maybe he didn’t want it that much after all. Which was stupid, because he did want it.

“It is. That’s why I’d like all three of us to be in agreement before we take the next step, and again before the one after that. It’s very important.” Liam checked his watch. “Jay, am I wrong in thinking you need to be at work soon?”

Jay shook his head. “Not wrong. But I can be a few minutes late.”

“No, you can’t.” Liam sounded firm. “Not on my account. Go on. I’ll give Austin a ride home.”

A few simple words, but they had Austin’s stomach clenching in worry again. Did Liam want to talk to him alone? And if so, why? It couldn’t be good.

He hugged Jay at the front door, clinging to him longer than was reasonable, only letting go when he realized he was upsetting Jay. He was doing that too much to everyone around him, and he knew it.

Striving to sound casual, he said, “I’ll see you tonight. Stir-fry okay?”

“With cashews?”

Austin couldn’t help grinning. Whenever he added them to a dish, they all seemed to end up on Jay’s plate. “Sure.”

Liam stood behind him, watching them say good-bye in silence, his expression unreadable. Jay patted Austin’s face, the touch comforting, then took the few steps needed to bring him close to Liam. Austin expected Jay to hug Liam too, but Jay went to his knees and bowed his head. “Good-bye, Sir. Thank you for taking care of me.”

Austin watched Liam’s face soften, a rigidity fading from it that had made him look older. “It was my pleasure. It always is. Don’t forget the lines you owe me.”

Jay glanced up, his eyes widening in surprise. “You really want me to do them?”

Liam arched his eyebrows, and Jay sighed resignedly and got to his feet.

“One hundred lines. Yes, Sir.”

Liam put his finger under Jay’s chin and tilted it up, dropping a kiss on Jay’s mouth. “They’ll make wonderful bedtime reading for me, I’m sure.”

When Jay had driven off, Austin turned to Liam. “Sir—”

“No,” Liam said. “Whatever it is you’re thinking, stop.”

Right, like it was that simple.

“Come with me.” Liam gestured, and Austin followed. He was expecting to be led into the den, but instead Liam opened the door to the basement and went downstairs. “I’m not sure how you feel about all this carpet. It might not be ideal. At the time I bought the house, I liked the thought of the basement being finished but didn’t really imagine what I’d do with it.” He walked out into the open space. “What do you think?”

“It’s nice.” Austin’s heart was still thudding away, though it was considering slowing a bit. “Um. Empty.”

The space was unfurnished, though as Liam had said, there was carpeting in a shade of cocoa brown on the floors, and the walls were painted off-white. Along one wall were a few boxes, and an alcove housed the hot water heater and other systems. “We could put up a wall for a bedroom, maybe down the end here?” Liam said. “And a small kitchen—you’d be free to use the upstairs one whenever you liked, of course. And a bathroom, and then you could have a living area that opened onto the garden.”

Austin went down to the double sliding glass doors and looked out into the yard. “Could Jay plant some stuff?”

“I assume the end of that question is ‘as long as I don’t mind that it will certainly die?’ Yes, of course. I do see a fair number of groundhogs and rabbits, though, so they may beat him to the punch when it comes to killing the plants.”

“That would be good,” Austin said. The expanse of lawn was green and had been cut recently, probably for the last time now that fall was here. He jumped when he felt Liam come up behind him and wrap an arm around him, then sighed and relaxed, leaning against Liam’s solid body.

“I hate seeing you so unhappy,” Liam murmured. “I promise we’ll sort this out.”

“I know. I’m not unhappy, just…unsettled.”

“And that bothers you. Jay likes change, sees it as a challenge, but you prefer life to stay the same, I think.”

“I want some things to change,” Austin told him. “I want us all to be more to each other. I go home with Jay and we leave you here and it feels…wrong.”

Liam was quiet for a moment, his hand caressing Austin’s arm. “If it helps, I’ve always accepted the fact that I’m part of what you and Jay have at your request. You and Jay… Sometimes I look at you and don’t see any room for me, because what you have is solid. The only crack is your need for a Dom, and I try to fill that, but I don’t want to widen it and break you up—and this metaphor is getting out of hand.”

Austin shook his head. “God, no. You couldn’t. You wouldn’t. Liam—Sir—we love you. We need you, yes, but I think if you decided the Dom side of things wasn’t working out, we’d still want to be with you.”

“Would you?” Liam sounded skeptical.

With a sigh, Austin turned, looking up to meet Liam’s gaze. “We let you tie us up, mark us, make us beg and scream and submit, and we do it because we trust you. So trust me when I say we love you. Not just as our Dom, but as our partner.”

He wondered if he’d reached Liam, if the words even existed that would make Liam see he wasn’t an optional extra but a necessity to them. Liam was so closed off, only slowly recovering from years of denying himself a full expression of his sexuality, still coming to terms with the fact that he was bisexual. He was lonely in a way that made Austin feel cold to the bone. Coming from a large, noisy, loving family, he wasn’t used to solitude, and so much of Liam’s life seemed to be made up of that. He distanced himself from people, and Austin wanted to get closer to those he loved, physically and emotionally. Jay felt the same way, never choosing to sit far from Austin, always happy to touch and be touched.

“I love you,” he said softly, taking Liam’s face between his hands. There was a line here, and it felt like he was crossing it. “I forget that we might not tell you that enough.”

“No, of course not. It’s fine.” Liam was protesting, but the lines around his eyes agreed with Austin. It felt like Austin was seeing him clearly for the first time in forever.

“It isn’t fine. It’s about the furthest thing from fine I can think of. Don’t tell me it’s fine.” Austin tugged Liam down for a kiss, and Liam’s mouth was new against his, lips softer than Austin remembered even though his body was just as solid. “I want you all the time.” He rubbed himself on Liam and slid a hand around to the small of Liam’s back.

Liam groaned and held him closer. “You haven’t any idea how incredible you are. How tempting.”

“I want to tempt you,” Austin whispered.

“You’re succeeding.” Liam’s heart was beating hard enough that Austin could feel it, a steady, powerful beat that reminded him of the way Liam’s hand would drum against his ass during a spanking.

“You told me to stop thinking,” Austin said and kissed Liam’s throat, knowing exactly where to place his mouth so that Liam’s eyes would slide closed for a moment. “There’s a good way to do that.”

“Upstairs,” Liam said, desire roughening his voice, though it wasn’t an order, and for once Austin didn’t want it to be.

They’d all agreed that anything that happened between two of them was fine, the subject not one that could be ignored but not something they wanted to dwell on. Jay had pointed out that he and Austin made love when Liam wasn’t there, within the limits Liam had set, at least, so why would it be a problem if he and Liam, or Liam and Austin ended up in bed?

We’re together, aren’t we?” he’d asked, looking at them both with a question in his eyes. “It’s not cheating on each other. How could it be? So why would it matter?”

Austin had expected it to matter, had braced himself to feel something—not jealousy, no, but panic, maybe—when Jay and Liam had spent the night together. He’d been away for the weekend, helping April settle into her on-campus accommodations.

Instead he’d felt a flush of arousal warm him as Jay shared what they’d done, the pictures Jay painted turning him on so much that he’d tumbled Jay to the bed and they’d stayed there for an hour or more, fucking with a passion that had left Austin exhausted in the best possible way. Of course, that’d been before Liam’s rule about not coming when he wasn’t there.

Now he didn’t want to wait long enough to go upstairs. He would, though, because the thought of being able to stretch out on Liam’s huge bed was appealing. They had to stop half a dozen times on the stairs—two sets of them—to kiss, and by the time they got to the bedroom, any sense of patience had worn off.

“I want you inside me,” he murmured between kisses, pushing Liam down onto the bed. “God, you smell good.” Liam’s aftershave smelled like spices and musk. Austin started unbuttoning Liam’s shirt—even on the weekends the man was inclined to wear business casual—pushing it out of the way so he could taste Liam’s skin. Liam’s nipple tightened to a little point under his tongue.

Liam pulled the hem of Austin’s shirt upward, and Austin lifted his arms cooperatively, happy to shed anything that was between them. “Take these off,” Liam said, tugging at his jeans, and while Austin did, Liam removed his own so that by the time they came together again, they were both naked.

The shock of pleasure as Liam’s cock brushed his made Austin grunt. “Where’s the lube?” he asked, and Liam reacted like this happened all the time and reached for it, hand flailing blindly into the drawer of the bedside table.

“What now?” Liam asked.

Austin flicked the small bottle open and squeezed some of the clear liquid into his palm. He’d ended up straddling Liam’s waist; it was easy to reach behind him and grip Liam’s cock with his slick hand, then stroke it a few times while he watched the reaction on Liam’s face. Liam’s lips parted, and he flushed. “Now I’m going to fuck myself on your cock,” Austin said. That was all he said—he didn’t ask permission, just like he wouldn’t ask if Jay were the one he was in bed with.

Liam inhaled sharply when Austin sank down, then grabbed Austin’s hips to keep him from moving. “You’ll hurt yourself.”

There wasn’t really enough lube, that was true, but Austin knew his own body. “No, I won’t.” He lifted himself slowly to show Liam that he’d be careful, then let gravity pull him down again, the head of Liam’s cock rubbing his prostate and making him shudder. “Oh my God.”

“My feelings exactly,” Liam said hoarsely.

“Is this good?”

“Are you insane? Of course it is.” Liam pulled him down for a kiss, and Austin made an involuntary sound of pleasure as his eager prick made contact with Liam’s stomach.

“I can’t get used to how intense this feels,” Liam said abruptly.

Austin straightened, wanting to feel Liam’s cock slide just a little deeper, the fading discomfort the perfect spice to his pleasure. “It’s still new to you.”

“Yes.”

“And you’re— Ah, God—” Austin shuddered as he rose an inch, then sank down, his ass snug against the tops of Liam’s thighs, Liam’s long, thick cock engulfed by his body, inside him as far as it could go. “You’re dealing with two of us.”

Talking with any degree of coherence was difficult, but he wanted to distract himself or this would end too soon.

Liam grinned up at him, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Always was an overachiever.” His hand closed around Austin’s cock, working it with an elusive touch, maddeningly light.

“And a prick tease?” He glanced down pointedly. Liam was circling the head of Austin’s cock with a fingertip, and everything in Austin felt tight and clenched. He wanted to slap his hands against the bed, scream until his throat ached. He needed release, craved it as if he hadn’t come for weeks.

Liam moved his attentions to Austin’s balls, playing with them as Austin squirmed, his rhythm lost, his movements erratic. He wanted to ride Liam’s cock, slamming down on it over and over until Liam’s expression dissolved into one of pure, agonized ecstasy, but Liam’s fingers were driving him insane.

“If you haven’t realized that I get off on tormenting you…”

“I noticed.” Austin shuddered and reached down, dragging Liam’s hand away from his balls and placing it against his stiff cock. “Touch me. God.”

“I knew you were bossy somewhere in there.” Liam finally did what Austin needed him to and squeezed his dick with just the right amount of pressure. “Don’t come.”

Austin whimpered. “Need to.” He rode Liam faster, feeling the burn in his thigh muscles and not caring at all.

“Not yet,” Liam said, but he didn’t do any of the things he could have to postpone Austin’s orgasm—didn’t squeeze the base of Austin’s cock or his balls or stop fucking him, which somewhere along the line he’d started to do. It wasn’t just Austin moving himself on Liam’s prick; now Liam was lifting his hips in quick, sharp jerks. “Wait.”

“I can’t. It’s too good.” In that moment Austin wasn’t convinced he’d ever felt anything as perfect as Liam’s cock inside him, moving slickly, huge and unforgiving. “Please.”

“Just a little longer.” Liam let go of Austin’s cock and grabbed him by the hips instead, holding him in place. “Think of something else.”

Austin barked out a laugh. “Like what?”

“I don’t know.” Liam paused, then slid slowly back into Austin. “The weather.”

“The weather?” Austin ran his hands up Liam’s chest and rubbed his thumbs over Liam’s nipples.

“It’s remarkably warm for the time of year,” Liam said imperturbably, but he bit his lip after he’d said it, visibly struggling for control. “We need rain.”

“It’s fucking freezing, and we don’t,” Austin said.

“You’re contradicting me.” Liam raised his eyebrows, his hands cupping Austin’s ass, still preventing Austin from moving the way he wanted to, needed to. “And swearing. That’s very naughty of you, Austin.”

The slap his ass got was as light as the caresses to his dick, but Austin, trained to respond to being spanked, moaned anyway, a thrill of desire sending his arousal to new levels. He’d never seen Liam this playful, this loving.

“Harder.”

“Yes.” Liam released him, but only so that he could strike Austin’s ass with the flat of his hand. “Move for me, Austin. Show me how much you like being fucked by me.”

“I’ll show you,” Austin said as Liam’s palm struck him again, the sweet heat building. “Show you how much I love you. Liam—”

Liam shook his head, his mouth falling open on a groan, his hands bruise-tight on Austin’s ass, lifting him, then slamming him down as his hips bucked upward, the two of them working together to get each other off, neither interested in holding back now.

If he’d been asked, Austin would have guessed it would take only seconds for him to orgasm, but he would have been wrong. Even with every cell in his body screaming for release, it felt like it took forever to get there. He let himself focus on feeling the stretch of his body around Liam’s cock, the way Liam didn’t hold back, the sensation of his own cock getting harder as he got closer to the edge.

When Liam started to come, Austin knew that was all the permission he needed. Orgasm rushed through him like a tidal wave, lifting him and flinging him down again, leaving him wrung out and gasping as Liam’s prick throbbed a final time inside him. Liam groaned loudly and wrapped an arm around Austin’s waist, providing a lifeline he desperately needed.

Liam murmured something Austin couldn’t understand.

“What?” Austin managed to ask, and Liam stroked his hair.

“I love you,” he said.

Austin pushed himself upright on shaky arms and looked at Liam. “One more time?”

Liam’s eyes softened. “I love you, Austin.”

He knew that. Of course he did. But hearing Liam say it, in that moment, made Austin smile.

Chapter Seven

The online dictionary told Jay that sadism was “a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others (as on a love object).”

He liked the idea of being a love object, and he didn’t have any problem with the idea of having physical pain inflicted on him when it was Liam doing the inflicting. Mental pain… Well, Liam sure as hell got off on coming up with plans that made him realize that sometimes there just wasn’t a good choice even if Liam had helpfully provided him with options—though in the end it usually worked out that he enjoyed himself.

He thought about writing out “Sir is a kind sadist” a hundred times but decided against it. Liam could get bitingly sarcastic if he thought Jay was being what he called “a cheeky brat,” and that wasn’t fun.

He popped the last bit of sandwich into his mouth and began to write. The processing office was empty, with everyone else either on duty or out having lunch at one of the local cafés or fast-food outlets. He had a book he was halfway through, and it was killing him not to take it out and plunge back into the story, but being punished at work like this was all kinds of hot. Even if Liam wasn’t watching him suffer, his blue eyes warm with appreciation.

After the first few lines, he’d memorized the definition and could write it without concentrating on the words. That probably wasn’t what Liam had intended, but it gave Jay a perverse pleasure to think about something else while he was doing what Liam had ordered. Liam might be able to control his behavior—that didn’t mean he could control Jay’s mind.

The pen tip moved in repetitive loops on the paper. Jay wriggled in his chair, relishing the discomfort caused by Liam’s hand moving in repetitive patterns through the air, ending in sharp smacks on his bare ass. He loved the riding crop, especially the fact that he’d feel the bruises from it for days. Liam using his hand felt so intimate.

God, he was getting hard from nothing but memories. The anticipation in the moment before Liam hit him. The flash of pain when he was struck, followed by the slower burn as the overall pain level crept up. Jay wondered how the burn of actual fire would compare. Not that he’d never burned himself cooking, but it had been a long time and he felt like he needed a reminder. He was pretty sure it wasn’t the kind of thing he could do on his own, just based on previous experience trying to re-create what he got from a session.

Jay paused to adjust himself. The deep ache and throb in his ass as he shifted his weight didn’t do anything to lessen his arousal. How many lines had he written so far? He should have numbered the paper first. He was just about to start counting when his cell phone, sitting on the table, vibrated itself three inches to the right.

It was a text from Austin. Jay hit the button to read it.

How’s work? L and I talked about the basement renovations, and then we went back to bed. (Home now, though.) Was really hot. Wish you’d been there.

His first reaction was one of genuine relief that Austin was in a better head space. Getting fucked by Liam was guaranteed to do that to both of them, and Austin’s mood had been so uncertain that some one-on-one time was probably just what he’d needed. Jay looked forward to getting the details later.

Following on the heels of that was a stab of envy. They’d both be walking around smiling, enjoying the afterglow, and he was sitting here with a rampant, raging hard-on—all because of Liam!—and forbidden to do anything about it. Even feigning a headache and going home, not that he’d do that, wouldn’t help, because Austin wasn’t allowed to get him off either.

“So fucking unfair,” he muttered and tossed his pen down. When Austin was suffering too, it didn’t matter as much, but now it was just Jay feeling frustrated and left out, and he hated that.

His dick was hard enough that he needed to adjust it to lie comfortably inside his jeans. Couldn’t do that here, where anyone might walk in. There was a men’s room in the hallway…

A minute later he was in a stall, his jeans pushed down, his dick in his hand. Felt so fucking good to touch himself freely, not holding back in case a too-hard rub of his fingers brought the genie out of the bottle.

He wasn’t breaking the rules. He was just catching up. If he’d still been at the house when they decided to get busy, he’d have gotten off with them, so this was a climax he was owed.

He watched the head of his dick disappear, then pop up again as he worked it with his hand, sliding along the shaft, his grip punishingly tight, just the way he liked it. With his other hand he reached up inside his shirt to torment a nipple, pinching and tweaking it. They were always tender and swollen. He played with them a lot, clamping them until they were all he could think about or getting Austin to suck and bite them.

If Austin were here now, Jay would fuck him hard. Put him up against the stall wall and slide into his hole with one long, firm shove, just the way Liam had. Maybe some of Liam’s cum would still be slicking Austin’s hole; maybe it would still be stretched from being used and he’d get so deep on that first thrust that Austin would arch and cry out, stammering his name, his body so open, so ready…

Jay came hard, pressing his lips together tightly to muffle the sounds of relief that escaped him. That morning he’d come with Liam’s hand on his dick; he shouldn’t have needed this again so soon, but he was starting to realize Liam was like a drug. The more he had of the man, the more he wanted. Just the thought of Austin and Liam together, Liam’s big cock fucking Austin open, made Jay’s spent dick twitch in his hand.

Jesus, he’d just jerked off at work. Hastily he grabbed a handful of toilet paper and wiped up the evidence, then put his clothes back in place. Thank God no one had walked into the bathroom while he was in the middle of his little fantasy; he wasn’t sure he’d have been able to stop.

Now he had to finish the punishment Liam had given him and prepare for another, because he’d have to confess that he’d come without permission. The thought of not admitting what he’d done barely crossed his mind. There was no point in any of this if they weren’t honest.

It turned into one of the longest workdays Jay could remember, even though the library’s hours were shorter on Saturdays and they were able to lock the doors at five o’clock. Jay winced as he got into his car—changing positions was hell when his ass was this bruised up, and at that point he wasn’t enjoying it anymore, just hoping it would heal fast so they could do it all over again.

“Hey, did you get my text?” Austin asked from the kitchen as he shut the front door, and Jay sighed.

“Yeah, I did. Sorry, I meant to text you back—”

“No, it’s okay; I’m not mad. I just wanted to make sure you got it.” Austin looked worried when he came to join Jay, who’d just kicked his shoes off.

“Oh, I got it,” Jay said grimly, throwing himself onto the couch without thinking and letting out a yelp. Spanked by the couch. “Fuck, that hurt!”

“Jay…” Austin sat beside him, very carefully not jostling him. “Want to soak in the tub; then I’ll put some more cream on it?”

“No. Yes.” Jay leaned his head back against the couch, feeling exhausted. “So you and Liam had sex?”

“Are you upset?” Austin’s face clouded over. “It just happened. We were in the basement talking about the renovations, and we kissed, and the next thing I knew we were heading upstairs.”

“I’m not upset about that,” Jay said, aware of how grumpy he sounded. “He’s our fucking boyfriend. It’d be horrible if we felt guilty about anything we did with him. You’re allowed to have sex with him when I’m not there, or get spanked, or anything else you want to do. It’s not like you waited for me to go, then jumped each other.”

Austin’s eyes went wide with shock. “It wasn’t anything like that! Jay, if you’d been there too, it would’ve been great. I wanted you there.”

“I know.” Jay rubbed his forehead, which ached as much as his ass. “Ignore me. I’m suffering from a terminal case of guilt and taking it out on you.” He heaved a sigh and blurted out the words fast. “I got that text when I was doing the lines for Liam. So I was turned on because, well, what I was writing was making me think about Liam, and I figured I was owed if you two had gotten off, so I…I, uh, jerked off in the men’s room. I broke the rules.”

Austin knew him too well not to have figured out something was wrong pretty fast, but Jay wanted to confess, not have it dragged out of him. This was the easy part. Austin would understand, even sympathize. Liam would be mad as hell.

“Shit.” Austin sounded genuinely upset, but Jay was pretty sure it was on his behalf. “Liam’s going to be pissed off. God, why now?”

That wasn’t the kind of understanding Jay had been expecting, and he found himself angry at Austin for making him feel worse. “Because I fucked up, okay? First with Liam, so I had to do that stupid punishment, and then again because I was jealous. No, not that you were having sex with him. That’s fine; I told you that. Because I didn’t get to be there. It was stupid, I know. I don’t need you to rub my nose in it.”

Austin looked stricken. “That’s not what I meant. I know you didn’t do it on purpose.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I’m an asshole. Come here.” Jay reached out and dragged Austin over to lean on him. “It was just a shitty day, and I feel guilty as hell. It’s not your fault.”

“Promise you aren’t mad? I wouldn’t have done it if I’d thought you would be.” Austin hugged him and stroked his side.

“I’m not mad at you or Liam, I promise,” Jay said. That was what Austin meant, after all. “Just at myself.”

“Well, don’t be. No one’s allowed to be mad at you.” Austin lifted his face for a kiss, and Jay gave it to him willingly, happily. He loved Austin so much, more than he’d ever have imagined he could love anyone. “Come keep me company while I finish making dinner. Do you want a glass of wine?”

“I want a bottle of wine,” Jay said. He got up, moving awkwardly, every shift in position tugging at the drum-tight skin of his ass, and followed Austin into the kitchen. “The question is, do I call Liam and tell him now? Or do I wait until after dinner?”

“It’s up to you,” Austin said.

Jay groaned. “I don’t want it to be up to me! I’m a freaking sub. I like being given orders.”

Austin snorted. “Liam wouldn’t agree with you. You fight him all the time.” He took a bottle of white wine out of the fridge and unscrewed the top. “Do you think when we move in, he’ll want us to always call him Sir?”

“I don’t know. It’d take some getting used to.” Jay tried to picture it, being in sub mode all the time. Exhausting or arousing? He couldn’t decide. He was certain he knew which Austin would choose.

“Kneeling whenever he comes into a room,” Austin said dreamily. “Only speaking when we’re spoken to… Hours naked or in bondage…”

“Oh God.” Jay took out two glasses from the cupboard, overwhelmed by the way his body was responding to that with a shiver of desire and fear. “I can’t imagine going that deep and then facing Monday morning and someone who’s returning a DVD with the disc missing and trying to say it was like that when he checked it out.”

“It’s going to take some adjusting to; you’re right,” Austin agreed, pouring them both big glasses of wine. “For Liam—for Sir too.”

The first cool, fresh gulp of wine tasted wonderful. “If it doesn’t work out and one of us decides it’s too much, will you mind?”

“It might be me deciding that,” Austin pointed out. “Fantasies aren’t always as much fun when they’re real.”

Jay drank more wine, feeling a buzz already because he was drinking it quickly. “Yeah. And I’ve decided. I’m eating first, then talking to Liam.”

Austin took the wineglass from his hand before he could reduce its contents still further. “Then you can save this. If he thinks you’re even halfway drunk, he won’t like it.”

“He’s not going to like it no matter what,” Jay said, but he didn’t argue when Austin put his wineglass in the fridge.

Forty minutes later, the pasta dish he’d eaten lying heavy in his stomach, he sat on the couch and called Liam, going to speakerphone as soon as Liam answered. Austin’s hand was warm in his, Austin’s expression both sympathetic and anxious.

If he was honest with himself, the part of Jay that loved to be subdued and disciplined was eagerly anticipating Liam’s reaction and the inevitable punishment coming his way. He got off on being punished, after all. But like an oil slick on water, polluting it, the sense that he’d failed Liam made him feel too ashamed to enjoy that anticipation. He’d agreed to Liam’s no-coming rule willingly, knowing Liam relished the idea of them being under his control even when he wasn’t with them. Needing permission to come made every climax more intense and meaningful. Being perpetually aroused and frustrated was a delicious torment he craved no matter how much he complained.

Mostly.

Bottom line, he’d spoiled the trust between himself and his Dom, and that was what was making his gut ache.

“Sir? It’s Jay. Can I talk to you?”

“I’m on the other line. Hold on a minute, and I’ll finish up that call.” Liam clicked back before Jay could agree to wait, leaving him hanging.

“Other line,” he whispered exaggeratedly to Austin, then remembered it was on speakerphone anyway. They both waited silently for much longer than the requested minute. Jay was starting to get irritated when the line clicked again.

“All right, I’m back,” Liam said. “I apologize—business thing, and I wanted to be able to give you my full attention, so I had to finish the call properly.”

“It’s okay.” Jay bit his lip, and as he opened his mouth again to confess, Liam broke in.

“Is this about earlier today?”

“Yes,” Jay said. “Um, no. Wait. What are you talking about?” He wasn’t unused to feeling thrown off balance, but he hadn’t expected it in this conversation.

“Austin and I. After you left. I’d assumed that was why you were calling.”

The whole sidestepped discussion slid back into place. “Oh. No. Well, a little bit, but only tangentially. I was actually calling to confess.”

“I’m not a priest, Jay,” Liam said. Now his voice was harder to read, like he was himself again instead of someone worrying about being in trouble. Which was interesting and an idea Jay would have to explore further. “What have you done?”

It was harder to tell Liam than he’d expected. Not being in the same room didn’t help; in fact, it made it worse. Jay liked being able to read Liam’s body language and tailor his responses to it, intuitively knowing when he was close to stepping over a firmly drawn line. Now he was flying blind, and it made his nervousness rise to the point where he seriously thought he was having one of Austin’s panic attacks.

“I jerked off.”

He’d planned to say more—explain, justify, apologize—but the three words slipped out before he could censor them.

“I see. I’m assuming you’re not going to offer a ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse like telling me you forgot you aren’t permitted to do that?”

Liam’s voice was measured, even calm, but Jay still winced. Austin’s grip on his fingers tightened to the point of pain. “No, Sir.”

“Talk me through it.” Implacable now. “Every thought leading up to disobeying me.”

“I was doing the lines at work,” Jay began. “It made me… I was hard. I didn’t plan on doing anything about it, I swear. I mean, God, I was at work.”

“You already said that.”

Liam’s terse reminder rasped Jay’s nerves raw. “Yeah, well, Austin texted me about what you’d done.”

“And that upset you?”

“No.” Jay huffed out a breath of sheer exasperation. How many times did he have to say it? “Why would it? Jesus. No.”

“If you swear at me again, Jay, you’ll discover what soap tastes like.”

There was one benefit to being across town from Liam; he could roll his eyes.

“Austin, did Jay just react to that in a way I’d find disrespectful?” Liam inquired, his tone mild enough to be a warning, because no one sounded that chilled when they were pissed.

Austin gave Jay an agonized look. “Uh, Sir—”

“Don’t put him in the middle,” Jay said sharply. “It’s not fair. I rolled my eyes, okay?” There was a long silence, expectant, patient, and he grudgingly added, “Sir.”

“Setting your attitude aside for now, go back to what happened.”

“It turned me on more thinking about the two of you,” Jay admitted after an inward struggle. “But mostly it made me think I was, uh, owed an orgasm? Austin got to come, so I figured I should too?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

“I’m—” Jay bit his lip, savaging it with his teeth until Austin laid his fingers across Jay’s mouth to stop him. “I screwed up, Sir. I’m sorry. I’m really fuck— No, I didn’t mean that—” Tears, rare when he wasn’t in a scene, welled up, shocking him by their suddenness. He pushed the phone at Austin and turned his face into the cushions piled at the end of the couch, muffling the audible sounds of his distress before Liam heard him.

“Jay.” Austin’s hand settled on his back, more comforting than a simple touch should have been. “Liam, I think we’re going to need a minute here. No, Jay, come on.”

Jay found himself turned around and pulled into Austin’s embrace. He didn’t resist even though he was embarrassed. Instead he clung to Austin, hiding his face against Austin’s stomach. Stupid. Not like Liam could see him.

“Jay, can you hear me? Austin, can he?” Liam asked.

“I think so,” Austin said.

“Jay, I want you to take ten deep breaths. In and out, slowly.”

“Good,” Austin murmured, petting his hair as Jay tried to obey. “He’s doing it, Liam.”

“Good boy.” Liam’s approval made Jay try even harder despite the shudders that were running through him as he attempted to stop crying. “Everything’s all right. Listen to me. I know you’re upset, but this isn’t the end of the world, not even close. Do you need me to come over?”

“No,” Jay said forcefully. “I don’t—”

“Shh, it’s okay.” Austin hugged him more tightly. “You really did have a bad day.”

“I’m coming over,” Liam said decisively. “And I’m not angry, Jay. I mean it. If I get there and find you’ve worked yourself up even more, I’ll put you over my knee as a way of saying hello. You know I wouldn’t do that if I were angry.”

As threats went, it felt more like a security blanket. “That’s… I wish you would, Sir.”

“You wouldn’t like it.” Liam sounded very sure about it. “I’d make sure you didn’t. Calm down. Austin, make him a cup of tea.”

The call ended there without the usual courtesy of a good-bye, and Jay exchanged a startled glance with Austin. “He’s coming here?”

“Well, it’s not like he’s not allowed to.” Austin glanced around and moaned, releasing his hold on Jay. “Shit, the place is a mess.”

On the apprehensive side, no matter what Liam said, Jay sat up straight. “No, it’s not.”

Austin was already on his feet, darting around the room and making what was already tidy even tidier. Abandoned on the couch, Jay wiped at his wet face irritably. There didn’t seem to be much point in continuing to cry, but he wasn’t close to the calm Liam had demanded, and no amount of slow breathing would get him there. “You’re supposed to be making me tea!”

“I will, I promise. I just need to sort through these magazines.” Austin cast a harried look over his shoulder. “Put the kettle on? That PG Tips stuff Liam likes is in the cupboard with the cereal, I think, right at the back.”

Jay got to his feet and deliberately knocked a cushion Austin had plumped onto the floor, stomping on it heavily as he stalked into the kitchen.

Tea. He hated tea.

He dumped out the few inches of water that had been sitting in the kettle for who knew how long and refilled it, then put it on the stove. The box of tea bags Liam liked was exactly where Austin had said it would be—Austin always knew where stuff was. Hell, maybe he had a labeled diagram in his head. Jay was probably lucky there wasn’t a written one to go along with it and a rule that he had to follow it exactly.

Jay found a mug, put a tea bag in it, and went in search of a box of tissues for his dripping nose.

“Tea?” Austin reminded him as he went past, and Jay didn’t even try to keep from rolling his eyes again.

“I know. I’m on it.” The tissue box in the bedroom was empty, and he had no one to blame for it but himself, since he remembered taking the last one a few days ago. There weren’t any new boxes in the hall cupboard, but he finally found one under the bathroom sink. He blew his nose loudly a few times, then took the opened box of tissues into the bedroom where Austin was pulling the blankets up and straightening them. “You know Liam won’t care how the place looks.”

“I care,” Austin said.

“Yeah, but you have OCD.” Jay sighed, listened for the whistle of the kettle and didn’t hear it, and swapped the new box of tissues for the empty one. “Can I help?”

“No, I’ve got it. Just deal with the tea?”

Watching the kettle boil felt like the times Liam put him in a corner, staring at the wall, a punishment he reserved for when Jay was at his most fidgety or petulant. Jay had never worked out if Liam did it to calm him down or as a more efficient way to drive him to the point where he needed a good, hard spanking to quiet the chatter in his head. Sometimes it was effective, and he could find clarity in the blankness filling his eyes and the awareness that he was submitting. More often, he fought the command to stay still, because not moving was intolerable. Kicking and squirming over Liam’s knees as the stiff bristles of a hairbrush were rubbed ruthlessly over freshly spanked scarlet skin was easier.

He made the tea and, on an impulse since he’d overfilled the kettle, made some for Austin and Liam too. If it felt like a social occasion, maybe Liam would feel restrained by good manners and go easy on him.

He took one look at Liam’s face five minutes later and changed his mind. Liam swept into their small apartment as chilly and brisk as the north wind, his searching gaze boring through Jay, who put his mug down on the coffee table before he spilled its contents.

“Sir, I—”

Liam dropped his coat over a chair and held up his hand. “You told me quite enough on the phone, thank you, Jay. I’m not here to listen to excuses or apologies, just to deal with the situation before it gets out of control.”

He sounded so fucking competent, the perfect executive, his blue shirt open at the neck, the sleeves rolled up neatly to expose muscular forearms dusted with dark hair.

Jay remembered Liam had mentioned the possibility of fisting him. Those strong, capable hands, the power in those arms harnessed to perform an act that required complete trust to change it from brutally invasive to an encompassing possession… God, he wanted it as much as he wanted the lick of flames against his skin, but he’d fucking blown it now. Destroyed Liam’s trust for the sake of a quick gasp and shudder a foot away from a toilet, the stink of pine cleaner making him gag.

Austin stood, going over to Liam with a confidence Jay guessed came of a clear conscience and dropping to his knees. Austin always looked so happy to be doing that, so relieved when Liam rested his hand on Austin’s head briefly in acknowledgment.

“Sir, it was my fault for texting him,” Austin began, his head ducked. “I should’ve waited.”

Okay, so maybe Austin wasn’t feeling guilt-free, not that there was any need at all for him to blame himself for Jay fucking up.

“Austin, if there’s any flagellating to do around here, you can leave it to me,” Liam said, clearly agreeing with Jay. “This is Jay’s fault, and he knows it. Go and sit by him, please.”

It was amazing how Liam took over no matter where they were, Jay reflected. Some people would think being in someone else’s house meant they had to defer to them, but not Liam. They were his subs, so wherever they were, they were his to command.

Jay found that oddly comforting.

The couch sank under Austin’s weight as he sat and reached for Jay’s hand. Whether it was supposed to be a request for support or an offer of it, Jay didn’t know, and he wasn’t sure he cared, either. The feel of Austin’s hand against his was familiar and reassuring.

“We can’t have a repeat of what happened today,” Liam said. “I’m sure you both realize that. Jay, it’s clear that you aren’t at a place where I can trust you to follow the rules based on my words alone. You require assistance, so I’m here to provide it.”

He went over to the chair where he’d draped his coat and rummaged in the inside pocket, coming out with something Jay didn’t recognize at first.

Liam made an impatient gesture. “Stand up. No, Austin, not you. Jay, take down your pants.”

Puzzled, Jay did, pushing them down to his knees as Liam stepped closer, allowing Jay to identify what he held. It was a chastity device, a combination of shiny chrome and what looked like black plastic.

“Don’t get hard,” Liam told him, but unfortunately that wasn’t something Jay could control right then. Which he supposed was the bigger problem, and getting bigger by the minute. Quickly, as if he’d done this before, Liam fastened the device around Jay’s swelling prick and slipped a tiny padlock into place.

“Rubbing you anywhere?”

It had all happened too fast. Jay had expected a spanking, but if he’d guessed in time what Liam was going to do, he wasn’t sure he would’ve dropped his pants.

Then he got a look at the serene confidence in Liam’s eyes and knew he would have.

“I… No, it feels…” He paused, searching for the right word. Not fine. Not okay. Not good. His dick was encased in plastic, enclosed, caged away. He couldn’t touch it.

When Liam’s hands closed over his, Jay realized he’d been scrabbling at the plastic frantically, trying to get to warm, familiar flesh and failing.

“No,” Liam said quietly. “That’s off-limits now. You can wash and urinate without difficulty, and it won’t show under clothes if you’re sensible about what you wear, but you don’t get to touch yourself. I hold the key.”

Austin was silent beside him, through shock or envy of the totality of Jay’s enforced obedience, Jay wasn’t sure which. This went beyond anything Liam had done to them. He was humiliated beyond words, still struggling with the reality of his situation.

“You can’t do this.” He was horrified, aroused, furious in equal measure, and the storm of emotions ripping through him was dizzying. He loved a dash of humiliation in a scene, but this was breathtakingly beyond that. His pants were around his ankles, hobbling him, air cool on his bare legs and ass. He couldn’t take his eyes off what lay between his legs, the curved plastic shell so out of place and alien looking. His dick, responding to his arousal as if it’d decided that emotion was strongest, tried to harden and couldn’t, compressed by the unforgiving shell of the device.

“I have done it,” Liam pointed out reasonably. “I’m your Dom, Jay. I’m owed your obedience. If you try to withhold that from me, I won’t permit it. I can’t be with you twenty-four/seven, even after you move in, so this is my way of ensuring I have that obedience.” There wasn’t a hint of gloating or triumph in his voice, just a matter-of-fact assertion of his rights.

“How long does he have to wear it?” Austin’s voice was stifled, subdued. Jay spared him a glance and saw Austin was twisting his hands restlessly in his lap, a sure sign he was agitated.

“Until I’m satisfied he’s learned his lesson.” Every word was crisp, Liam’s English accent very much to the fore. Liam tilted Jay’s chin up, forcing Jay to stare into his eyes. “I’m not angry,” Liam told him. “I expected this to happen at some point. The fact that I already had this device to hand should tell you that.”

“Take it off,” Jay begged him, his voice breaking. “Please, Sir. Please.”

“No. Don’t bother asking again. The answer won’t change. I’ll take it off when I judge you’re ready and not a moment sooner.”

There were tears in Jay’s eyes again. He turned toward Austin beseechingly, and Austin stood and gathered him close. It felt good to be hugged, even with his cock caged and his pants down, but it wasn’t enough to make him feel better. “I can’t do this,” he said against Austin’s neck.

“You can. Liam wouldn’t ask you to do something you can’t do.” Austin didn’t sound particularly convincing.

“Jay,” Liam said sharply, and Jay pulled away from Austin and looked at him. “Fasten your trousers and come here.” Liam sat down on the sofa chair while Jay forced his fingers to do as he’d been told and stepped closer. “Here.” Liam patted his knee.

Awkwardly Jay perched himself on Liam’s lap. He was off balance, not just physically but emotionally, and he twitched when Liam reached for him, but all Liam did was pull him close and hold him. Jay felt himself relaxing by degrees into Liam’s solid warmth. After a minute he sighed and curled even closer, clinging to Liam.

“This must seem unfair to you,” Liam said. “Austin, you don’t have to hover there. Come here and sit next to me.”

Jay didn’t open his eyes to see if Austin obeyed, but he didn’t have to. Of course Austin would obey. Austin was the perfect sub—liked being humiliated, liked being on his knees for hours, didn’t break the rules. The surge of resentment Jay felt toward him in that moment sickened him. He loved Austin. Maybe he could learn to be more like him.

“Jay, you haven’t answered me.”

Liam’s previous statement had been just that, a statement, not a question. Jay hadn’t realized it required an answer, and that wasn’t fair, either. “No,” he said softly.

“This isn’t a punishment,” Liam said. “It’s a tool. It’s meant to help you, not hurt you. Did you feel guilty when you broke the rule?”

“Yes.”

“There, see? This will keep you from doing anything that would make you feel guilty.” Liam patted Jay’s groin, bumping the device without enough force to hurt—that might make Jay hate it even more. He squirmed on Liam’s lap, wincing as his sore ass twinged.

“Why aren’t you angry?”

Liam chuckled. “Because I’m used to you misbehaving to get my attention?”

“Spank me,” Jay said, even though he knew that would hurt more than he’d enjoy. He opened his eyes, looking up at Liam’s face. “Do that instead.”

“No. You’re too bruised from last night. I wouldn’t be able to do more than pat you, and I’d find that frustrating.”

“And it’s all about you.”

Liam ran his hand over Jay’s groin again. “How does it make you feel to be wearing this?”

“Humiliated!”

“But you enjoy that. Both of you. And I’m not laughing at you, and Austin’s so hard he’s finding it difficult to stay still—but perhaps he should try before I remind him of how much I dislike fidgeting.”

Austin flushed and murmured, “Yes, Sir,” folding his hands in his lap. He was hard; Jay could see the shape of Austin’s erection clearly.

“Humiliation is a response to external judgments. It’s not an emotion you need to be feeling with us. Try again.”

Jay curled his fingers into the front of Liam’s shirt, the smooth fabric smelling clean and fresh, as all of Liam’s clothing did. “Helpless. Frustrated. I can’t touch myself. I can’t get hard. You’ve taken that away from me.”

“Yes, I have.” Liam brushed Jay’s hair back from his face, studying him intently. “Jay—Austin, I would’ve used these devices on you at some point even if you hadn’t broken the rules. You’ve just made it sooner rather than later.”

“Why?” Austin sounded genuinely bewildered. “We’ve been good for weeks, Sir.”

Liam settled back on the couch and drew Austin closer, his arm around Austin’s shoulders. “Why? Oh God.” He shook his head, a rueful smile on his face. “Sometimes I think you two leave me out of the equation or think I’m doing you a favor. Because it turns me on, of course. I’m sitting here so hard I ache, and I’ve been like that since I locked that thing around Jay’s cock. It’s incredibly arousing to control him on this level.” He arched his eyebrows. “What, I’m not allowed to enjoy this?”

“I…I could do something for you?” Austin offered hesitantly, licking his lips. He had the look of a puppy waiting to be kicked, but Liam must have seen it as easily as Jay did, because Liam’s answer was gentle.

“Not tonight, love. Much as I’d prefer to spend the evening with the two of you, I’ve got to work.” He sounded genuinely regretful, though right then Jay wasn’t sure he could stand to spend an evening with the man, not knowing what Liam was choosing to do to him. “Jay?”

“Yes, Sir?” Jay managed not to sound resentful. He hoped.

“Try to remember I’m doing this for you, not to you. It’s for your benefit; my enjoyment of it is a bonus, that’s all. I know you trust me; trust me that this is the right thing for you just now. All right?”

Jay sighed and looked at Liam. “Okay. I’ll try.”

“Thank you.” Liam stroked his face, turned to kiss Austin, then disentangled himself from them and stood. “Austin, I’m counting on you to keep an eye on him for me.”

“Yes, Sir. You know I will.” Austin followed Liam to the door, and Jay found himself on his feet, then his knees, holding on to Liam’s slacks. He didn’t know why, wasn’t sure what he was trying to accomplish. He just knew he needed something more before Liam left.

“Please,” he said.

Liam’s hand settled on his head. “You won’t convince me to change my mind.”

“I know. That’s not what I wanted.” Jay rubbed his face against Liam’s knee. “I need to tell you something.” The images on the videos he’d watched were burned into his brain, and at that moment he felt like if he shared them with Liam, if he had that to look forward to, he’d be able to get through the next however many days not being able to touch his dick. God, please let it be days and not weeks. He wouldn’t be able to stand it.

“Tell me,” Liam said.

“You said if there was something I wanted to try, you’d let me.”

“If it’s something I’d enjoy and not extreme to the point of being dangerous,” Liam agreed. “I’ve got a list of my own, but when I only have you two for a few hours a week…”

Jay blinked at the mingled frustration and yearning behind the words. It’d never occurred to him that Liam wanted more than he was getting. And Jay really wanted to know what was on Liam’s list. Breath play? Sensory deprivation? Role-playing? Liam as a severe principal with a cane to use on a pair of naughty students had a lot of appeal, and Jay could definitely get behind Liam as white-coated doctor with a set of sounds or a speculum. He pictured himself tied to an examination table, his feet in stirrups, spread open, utterly helpless, with Liam pulling on some latex gloves with a brisk snap. Jesus, he had to stop thinking like this. His dick was struggling to find space to harden and failing.

“What did you have in mind?” Liam prompted him.

Jay licked dry lips. “Fire play,” he said without preamble. He needed to say this, but he needed Liam gone so that he could pant and moan and cling to Austin for comfort. He was sweating, his hands shaking, unbearably worked up with no outlet. “It’s dramatic, and yeah, there’s a risk if it’s not done properly, but I trust you. I’ve been reading up about it, watching some vids… I could give you the links?”

“I’m not sure I feel qualified to do that,” Liam said slowly. It wasn’t a rejection, which was something, but it wasn’t the instant approval Jay had hoped for either. “And there isn’t a chance in hell that I’d do it until I felt capable of doing it safely.”

“But you’ll think about it? Please, Sir?” Jay pressed his mouth against Liam’s erection in a fervent and humble kiss, knowing he wasn’t being kind when Liam had to leave, but not caring much. Liam had time for a blowjob if he really wanted one; his cock was like steel, and he would’ve come within a few minutes. Turning them down was a subtle way of reminding them that he could control himself even if they couldn’t.

Not that Jay had any choice in the matter now, and God, that sucked.

“I’ll think about it,” Liam told him. “Which means exactly that—nothing more, nothing less. Don’t make any assumptions. I’ll probably have more questions for you before I have an answer. Now relax and get an early night. I think you need it.” Without another word Liam swept from the apartment and down the stairs, and after a few seconds Austin closed the door behind him.

Chapter Eight

Liam sighed and rubbed his eyes, which were feeling the strain of long hours at his computer. It wasn’t late enough to justify going to bed—and truthfully he wasn’t ready to—but it was most definitely time for a break in his self-imposed task.

He pushed his chair back and stood, stretching his arms above his head. The notepad where he’d been keeping track of the information he was gathering was flipped to the third page, and his job was nowhere near finished.

It wasn’t that the notion of fire play was so far removed from things he’d considered, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t been surprised when Jay suggested it. Of course he ought to have expected something like it. Jay loved to push the boundaries of their sessions, to take things past mild pain and into a space that was darker and more serious. And Liam believed that he was personally capable of providing far more intensity for his sub than anything they’d done so far. Still, the thought of working with combustibles and live flame was disconcerting. It certainly wasn’t something he’d consider doing without first educating himself, and fortunately the Internet was a font of information.

There were many sites that focused on the kinkier aspects of BDSM. There were far fewer that provided the kind of safety detail Liam was looking for, and making his way to them had proved more time-consuming than he’d originally imagined.

He thought of Jay’s long, dark hair on fire and gave a convulsive shudder of revulsion, but he could see the appeal of that swift flash of heat and pain as the accelerant painted onto skin flared up for a brief second. He’d watched men and women lie quietly as it was done to them, deep inside sub space, calm and relaxed, their trust in their Doms absolute.

It’d be worth any amount of research and more to see Jay like that.

His head buzzing with too much new information, his neglected office work another source of guilt, Liam walked out into the hallway, intending to go upstairs and soak in the tub. Instead he found himself walking down into the basement.

What would it be like to have them here with him? He’d shied away from the idea at first, unsure of how solid their relationship was and unwilling to jeopardize it by rushing them. There’d also been a valid concern about what people would think. Liam was impatient of convention to a certain extent, but he wasn’t foolish enough to think that moving two young men into his home would go unnoticed by his neighbors. He’d already fielded some awkward questions now that Austin and Jay visited more often and sometimes spent the night.

It was amazing how nosy people could be, but he’d managed to quell their curiosity by being blandly polite and saying very little that mattered.

He was more concerned about his children. He couldn’t exactly throw Jay and Austin out into the street when his kids came to visit. If their apartment was indisputably separate and the two of them so clearly a couple—and Liam still seen as straight…

The punching bag he’d have to get rid of hung from the ceiling, swaying gently as he slapped it with his hand. The sound it made was very different to the sound of palm against skin, but the action was familiar enough.

He wondered if Jay had tried to remove the chastity device yet. The memory of the incredulous horror flashing through Jay’s eyes when he’d realized what had been done to him brought a grin to Liam’s face. Poor boy.

But God, how hot had it been to drive away with the key warm against his chest, hanging from a thin silver chain? He only had to think of Jay’s cock locked away like that for his own to swell urgently.

He’d intended to use the devices on both of them one weekend, but Jay had ruined that plan. Liam had felt a stab of annoyance over that, but Jay’s distress had soothed it away. There was no doubt that Jay was repenting his impulsive action.

“Owed an orgasm,” Liam said under his breath as he headed back upstairs. “You have got to be kidding me.”

Postponing his bath a little longer, he went back into his office, his decision made. He had some phone calls to make.

* * * * *

Years had passed since Liam had used a library. He rarely had time to read for pleasure, and when he did, it was usually because he was on an airplane. All the books he’d read in the past five years had been either purchased at airport gift shops or been handed to him as wrapped presents.

This library—Jay’s library, as he’d come to think of it—wasn’t unlike most others he’d been inside. The walls were painted a soothing gray green, the tables and chairs looked sturdy, and everywhere the eye could see were tall rows of shelves covered with books. The far wall had a row of desks with computers on them; that was new. Liam paused near the front desk, where an older woman with short, curly hair and a pair of reading glasses hanging from a beaded chain around her neck was perched on a wooden stool.

“Can I help you?” she asked brightly as he stepped closer.

“I wanted to get a library card,” he said.

“Of course. I just need to take a little information and see your driver’s license?”

He produced his license and waited while she put on her glasses and typed up his information, then printed out a sticker and handed him his new card. “Now, fiction is on this floor, and the mysteries are in the back corner over there.” She pointed and looked at him thoughtfully. “You don’t look like a mystery sort of person, though. Nonfiction is upstairs, the children’s room is downstairs, and the DVDs are in that alcove. Is there anything I can help you find? We do close in about twenty minutes.”

“I was hoping for some books on home repairs and renovations, that sort of thing,” Liam said. “So those would be upstairs?”

“That’s right.” She turned to the side and tapped at a different keyboard. The screen of that computer was angled away from Liam, but he could glimpse a list of books. “Let me see. Can you narrow it down a little? It’s a wide field.”

“I’m remodeling my basement.”

“Ah!” She tapped some more, then gave him a bright smile, undimmed by the hours she’d undoubtedly spent doing this for dozens of people. “Then I can tell you exactly where to go: 643.5. Here, I’ll jot it down for you.”

He was more than capable of finding his way to that section, but out of the corner of his eye he saw Jay approaching, a book in his hand. Jay hadn’t seen him, and Liam took the opportunity to study his wayward sub, noting even from a distance that Jay looked tired. It showed in the slump of his shoulders and the scuff of his shoes against the carpet. Liam couldn’t imagine that sleeping on his stomach would’ve been comfortable for Jay, and he knew that was how Jay usually spent the night. He couldn’t resist giving Jay’s groin a glance, but as he’d promised, nothing was showing under Jay’s loose-fitting pants.

“It’s been quite a while since I was in a library,” he said, accepting the piece of paper with a smile. “Perhaps someone could help me since I don’t have much time before you close?”

“Of course! Jay, could you show this gentleman to the six hundreds? He’s doing some work in his basement.”

“Sure, let me just…” Jay’s words died away as he turned from shelving the book he held on a cart by the reception desk and saw Liam.

For a moment Liam felt guilty, as if he’d trespassed. There was no welcome in Jay’s eyes, just surprise at seeing Liam here, in his world. Then Jay smiled, the polite smile any library patron would’ve received.

“I’d be happy to help you, sir. If you’d follow me?”

The sir didn’t sound right, Liam decided, watching Jay’s backside as Jay began to walk toward the stairs, more life in his step now. Too pro forma. Jay probably had to call a lot of men sir during his work hours, and that made Liam feel fiercely possessive, though he was self-aware enough to laugh at himself for being ridiculous.

He caught up to Jay at the foot of the stairs. “You didn’t look happy to see me.”

“We’re always happy to have new patrons,” Jay told him with a downward glance at the card Liam was still holding. “We are closing soon, though, so I’d ask you to make your selections quickly.”

“Brat,” Liam said softly, recognizing what his father would’ve called “dumb insolence,” though he viewed it more as the start of an invigorating tussle of wills. One he intended to win, naturally. “How long did it take you to accept that it wouldn’t come off? One hour, two?”

It was Tuesday, so Jay had been seething with resentment for three days. Liam felt a deep sympathy for poor Austin, who’d probably suffered the most, not that Jay would see it that way.

Another sign that moving them in with him would be for the best. He had ways of handling bad moods that weren’t open to either of them. Still, he’d told them they’d do some trial runs first, and the renovations would take time. There was no immediate rush, after all.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Jay said, which worried Liam until Jay met his gaze. “I have to be able to do my work. Any other time I’m yours. Not here.”

That was more than fair, so Liam nodded. “Let’s find those books, then, shall we?”

Jay led him up the stairs and passed another desk with a different woman sitting behind it, then to long rows of numbered stacks. “Down here,” Jay said, gesturing so that Liam could go first. “There are some on finishing basements, but that might be more basic than what you’re looking for? I mean, yours is finished already.”

“I don’t know,” Liam admitted. “I tried looking for some online, but it was too hard to tell which might have what I wanted in them. I thought if I could open them up, flip through them…”

“Yeah. Hm.” Jay put his hands on his hips and studied the row of books in the 640s. He pulled out three books seemingly at random. “Why don’t you take those over to one of those tables, and I’ll pull some more?” He thrust the books into Liam’s hands and crouched down to examine the shelved titles more closely, acting as if Liam would do as he’d suggested.

After a moment Liam did, bemused by the fact that he’d walked right into this situation. He’d imagined coming into the library and pushing Jay off balance a bit, but he’d also expected Jay would be happy to see him. Instead he’d got this practical, work-focused young man who knew his job well and was prepared to take control of their interaction. It wasn’t a side of Jay he’d never seen, but it wasn’t what he’d anticipated.

Only one of the books seemed to suit his purposes, but by the time he’d pushed the other two aside, Jay was at his side with another four. “I think this one will work,” Jay said, setting the pile down and patting the top book. “The others, I’m not sure. But I could be wrong. I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking of doing.”

“That’s something I’ll have to talk about with my new tenants,” Liam said, smiling. “It’s not up to just me.”

“I guess not,” Jay said. “Any relationship needs compromise to make it work. Tenant and landlord, parent and child…” He let the rest of his sentence hang, but Liam had no trouble finishing it: Dom and sub.

Yes.

A recorded message sounded through small speakers set high on the ceiling, announcing the closure of the library in ten minutes and advising all patrons to check their materials out immediately.

“What are you doing after work?” Liam asked, gathering up the books he’d decided he wanted. They were heavy in his arms, all angles, but he liked the possibilities they held. “If you’re not busy, I’d like to do something with you and Austin. We could call him, meet up somewhere, and look through these books? Maybe get something to eat?”

He wanted more of that kind of interaction with them. Sometimes he felt excluded from their lives, and it disturbed him. As a husband he’d been used to Barbara sharing every detail of her daily activities with him, until it’d reached the point where they had nothing to say to each other. He’d been bored at times, but he’d appreciated that she’d shared things with him, even if, looking back, it’d been mostly superficial confidences.

He didn’t want it to be that way with this new relationship, but he was floundering, too harsh sometimes, too willing to let them use him as a Dom, nothing more, at others. He wondered if they remembered how limited his experience was, though reminding them was the last thing he intended to do. They needed to have confidence in him, even if he sometimes doubted himself. It was like juggling knives—and if he ever shared that thought with Jay, knife play would show up next on Jay’s to-do list, not that Liam would agree to it. He had some limits of his own, and cutting Jay’s skin, no matter how carefully, went beyond them.

Austin’s reaction to the idea would be all the incentive Jay needed to remove it from his list, though. The two of them balanced each other well; Austin curbed Jay’s wilder impulses, and Jay showed Austin that limits were fluid and individual.

“Austin’s picking me up in a few minutes,” Jay said. “My car’s in the shop, and they couldn’t get the part until tomorrow. I don’t think we had any plans beyond that.”

“Then let’s wait for Austin and decide what to do when he gets here?” They started down the stairs to the front desk, Liam uncomfortably aware that with Jay still on the clock, the situation wasn’t under his control.

“I’ve got this,” Jay told the woman librarian, and she nodded.

“Did you find what you needed?” she asked.

Liam smiled at her. “I think so.”

“Good! There are a lot of resources. That’s why we’re here.” She began taking books from a bin under the side of the desk and putting them on a wheeled cart as Jay took Liam’s new library card and checked out his books.

The front door swung open, and Austin came in. As he passed through the electronic sensors, they went off, beeping frantically, and he rolled his eyes, then stopped dead when he saw Liam. “Liam! Hi. Sorry, Nancy, we lost one of the due date cards again. Feel free to dock Jay’s paycheck.” He handed the books to the woman. “What’s up?”

Nancy looked confused, glancing from Austin to Liam and then to Jay. Liam supposed he couldn’t blame her—Austin had failed to play along with the game that Jay and Liam were strangers. It wasn’t Austin’s fault, but Liam suspected there’d be questions and an explanation from Jay the next day.

“I was checking out some books on home renovation,” Liam said.

“Cool! You almost ready to go?” Austin asked Jay.

Nancy patted Jay’s shoulder. “You go ahead; I left early last night, and it’s been so quiet.”

“I just need to get my coat.” Jay waved vaguely to the left. “I’ll meet you out front, Austin.”

Austin. Not “both of you.” Liam grimaced. He had some bridges to rebuild.

“Is there a problem, Sir?” Austin asked as they walked out into the crisp fall air, a hint of frost making the leaves that’d drifted onto the pathway crunch underfoot.

“No, I really did just want the books, but I think Jay feels I’ve intruded on his personal space,” Liam said ruefully. “I should’ve asked him to get the books for me, I suppose.”

“That’s crap.” Austin came to a halt, and Liam paused too. “It’s a library. They’re for everyone. And you’re our Dom. We don’t have personal space when it comes to you.”

“I’m not sure Jay sees it that way, and I’m not sure I do either, but I would never make either of you feel uncomfortable at work or in public and I hope you know that.” Touched but taken aback by Austin’s fervency, Liam settled the books more securely under his arm and began to walk again, seeing Jay emerge from a staff entrance a few yards away.

“Sheesh, it’s gonna be a cold night.” Jay shrugged into his coat and zipped it, then wrapped his arms around himself as he joined them.

“You wouldn’t be cold if you had any body fat,” Austin said, slinging an arm around Jay’s shoulder in an utterly comfortable, familiar way that gave Liam a pang of envy. It made him want to gather both of them close.

“I was hoping we could spend the evening together. I’d like to get your input on the renovations before I meet up with the contractor. Jay, have you had dinner?”

Jay shook his head. “I was going to have a sandwich or something when we got home.”

“Why don’t I buy you a meal? Somewhere we can sit and look over these books?”

“Yes, please,” Jay said, looking and sounding in that moment more like the Jay that Liam knew. “If we go to Maloney’s, I can get a Cuban—is that okay?”

“Of course.” The sidewalk was uneven, the old bricks pushed out of place by the roots of the now tall trees that lined the road.

“It’s not far,” Austin said, “and there’s never any space to park at Maloney’s. We could walk there if you like?”

It was addressed to both of them, but somehow Liam got the feeling that Austin wouldn’t have added the Sir he loved to say even if he had been speaking directly to Liam. Austin was sensitive to moods and evidently considered himself off duty, so to speak.

Still rattled from Jay’s assumption of authority in the library, Liam decided an equal footing wasn’t a bad place to be right then. It wasn’t as if they weren’t always equal in the ways that counted; he might be the one giving the orders, but he’d never thought of any sub as beneath him. It took guts to act on a deep-seated need to submit and to accept what a Dom dished out.

“Sounds good.” Jay held out his hand to Liam. “Let me carry one of those books before you drop them.” He grinned. “If you return them damaged, we might take back that brand-new card of yours. We’re very protective when it comes to library material.”

“Says the man who took back a book covered in glue and moss once.” Austin shook his head. “Don’t put anything down near one of his dioramas, Liam. I swear they eat anything around them in the night and spit them out covered in gunk the next morning.”

“It was an accident, and I paid for a replacement!”

And just like that, they were squabbling as normal, and Liam allowed himself to relax, handing each of them a book to carry and keeping the heaviest for himself. The night air was definitely colder than it had been over the past week or so, though it didn’t seem to matter to a group of teenagers who walked by, all wearing T-shirts with no jackets in sight. There were plenty of cars parked parallel to the sidewalk, and most of the businesses were open.

It was a short walk to Maloney’s, a coffeehouse that also served sandwiches and salads, and a bell above the front door announced their arrival in a way that made Liam wince. Orders were taken at the counter, and then customers seemed to seat themselves. Half a dozen tables were taken, and one woman was working at a laptop with a huge mug of coffee at her elbow.

“I’m so hungry,” Jay moaned, stepping up to the counter.

“Hey, you two! Long time no see,” the redhead at the register said. “Let me guess, a Cuban?”

“My stomach loves you,” Jay told her. “And a side of onion rings?”

“I’ll get a chocolate shake if you’ll help me drink it,” Austin said to Jay, who nodded. “Too late for coffee for me. I don’t want to be up all night.”

“And if you’ll add a cup of tea?” Liam asked, handing the girl enough cash to cover the order. She didn’t blink an eye over the fact that Liam was paying for all three of them; he had to hope it wasn’t because she thought he was Austin or Jay’s father or uncle.

She gave Liam back his change with a smile. “I’ll bring it out as soon as it’s ready.”

“There’s a booth in the back,” Austin said, pointing. “We should grab it before someone else does.”

They settled into the booth, Liam on one side and the boys on the other. He would’ve been surprised if one of them had sat next to him, but it didn’t stop him wondering if they were starting to see him as some stern father figure. God, that would be a disaster.

“I wish Patrick was here,” he said wryly. “It’d even up the numbers.”

They glanced at each other first before looking at him, a question in their eyes.

“We’d love to see him again sometime,” Jay said, sounding as cautious as a man navigating a stream by hopping from one slippery rock to another, “but we’ve kind of lost touch the last few months. He’s met someone else; we told you, remember?”

“Of course I bloody remember. I’m not senile.” Oh great. Now he was snapping at them. Liam stacked the books and pushed them to one side. “Sorry. It wasn’t a genuine wish to see him, though I agree it’d be nice. I was just feeling…isolated, I suppose.”

“I know what you mean,” Austin said. “Two of us, one of you…”

“And when we give you a hard time, it probably feels like we’re both twins.”

Austin opened his mouth, and Liam held up his hand, grateful the background music allowed him to speak freely if he kept his voice down. “Before you say a word, Austin, no, I’m not tired of you or looking to swap the pair of you for one nicely obedient and well-trained boy who’d bore me to death in a week.” He patted the top book. “Now why don’t we take a quick look before our food arrives, and you can see if any of the layouts look appealing.”

“If you give me the dimensions, I can sketch out anything you have in mind,” Jay offered. “It’s what I do when I plan a diorama.”

“He’s really good at it,” Austin put in.

“I’m sure he is.” Liam smiled at Jay. “It’d be very helpful to have something to show to the contractors. Thank you.”

“So we’re really doing this?” Jay asked.

“I haven’t done more than check out some books and arranged for contractors to come by next week and give me some estimates,” Liam said. “Am I rushing you too much? I know this idea isn’t one you’re entirely happy with.”

Jay stared at the table as if he wished there were something to fiddle with, then shook his head. “No, it’s okay. It’s good. I think we have to keep moving forward.” He glanced at Austin, whose relief was written all over his face.

Liam wished there was a way to give both of them exactly what they needed. It was impossible. Austin needed the security of being as close to a full-time sub as their schedules would allow, and Jay didn’t, but Jay would go along with it for Austin’s sake. Well. Liam would just have to do his best to be sure Jay got the things he needed too. If that meant experimenting with more intense sessions, so be it.

Austin slid one of the books closer and opened it. “We need a place for Jay’s dioramas.”

“I thought I’d relocate the exercise equipment, though I hadn’t quite sorted out to where.”

“I don’t need that much space,” Jay protested, but Liam and Austin gave him identical looks of doubt and he subsided.

“I think, with some sort of built-in cupboard for storage, we’ll be able to consolidate your current setup into less square footage,” Liam said. “But you still need enough room for a good-sized worktable.”

“Maybe like this?” Austin pushed the book toward the middle of the table so they could both see the photograph he indicated “It says it’s for scrapbooking, but it’s the right idea. I guess some of the drawers would have to be taller—”

“And some of them would have to open out.” Jay frowned and flipped through the next few pages. “What if the work surface folded up? Like one of those old-fashioned beds that went up against the wall during the day? I don’t know what that’s called.”

“But when you’re building something big, you can’t break it down.” Liam drummed his fingers against the table, shuffling ideas in his head as if this were a work-related problem, not a personal one, striving to get some objectivity. “How about a shed in the garden? A big one, I mean? Easy enough to run power out to it, which would mean you can heat or cool it depending on the season.”

“I’d never see him,” Austin said bluntly. “He goes up into the loft space for hours, but at least I can hear him moving. If he was out in the yard…”

“You can’t build me a room!” Jay leaned over the table, color rising in his face. “You’re just… It’s too much. All of it.”

For all his protests, there was a flash of yearning in his eyes. For Austin, used to a big family and a crowded house, moving in with Liam wouldn’t seem that big a deal in some ways, but for Jay, whose parents had shuffled him between them until he’d grown old enough to step out of range, even making a home with Austin must’ve seemed new and scary.

And now I’m—we’re—asking him to abandon it and take an even bigger step into the unknown.

Liam had been blaming himself for Jay’s recent hostility, but he was beginning to wonder if it stemmed from unacknowledged fear rather than true resentment.

You’re their Dom, he told himself. Take the reins. Stop overthinking something that should come naturally.

“A workshop would be a useful addition to the place if it turns out you need it,” he said. “Stop being such a drama queen. Austin, I think you’ll find I won’t permit Jay to withdraw from us for hours at a time, any more than I’ll put up with you tidying obsessively. I’m counting on you both to put some life into the place, not turn it into a show home.”

“You can’t push us around like this.”

If Jay had intended it to sound defiant, he failed miserably.

Liam reached inside his shirt collar and tugged at the chain around his neck until the key hanging from it was visible. Jay’s eyes widened. “Is that—”

“It’s exactly what it looks like. Proof that I don’t push you around without your full approval and consent. I see our food’s on the way, so I suggest, as my grandmother would’ve said, that you save your breath to cool your porridge.”

“Huh?”

“He means shut up and eat.” Austin dug his elbow into Jay’s ribs, a friendly nudge. “And I’m starving, so that gets my vote too. Thank you.” This last was directed to the hostess, who set down the tray with their food and started doling it out without requiring a reminder of who had ordered what.

“You’re welcome. If you need anything else, just let me know.” She took the tray with her when she left, tucking it under her arm. As soon as her back was turned, Austin stole an onion ring from Jay.

“Food thief,” Jay said with affection.

“I’m a horrible boyfriend,” Austin told Liam. “I should be giving him my food, not taking his.”

“I’m not that skinny,” Jay protested. “And it’s not my fault that my metabolism is out-of-control fast. If I could turn it down or up or whichever it is, I would.” He took an enormous bite of his sandwich.

“There doesn’t seem to be much wrong with your appetite,” Liam said drily. He enjoyed watching the gusto with which they ate. It matched the enthusiasm they had for sex, and he wondered if the two were connected. They were both sensual pleasures, after all.

He took a sip of his tea—not strong enough, but it’d do—and settled back, flicking through one of the books as they ate, content to let the conversation drop.

When their plates were empty, he waited for a cue from them about what they wanted to do next. Outside a scene, he still found it difficult to relate to them, though it’d been getting easier before this current roadblock.

“How’s your mother, Austin?” he asked. “You said she’d been trying to shake off a cold?”

Austin wiped his hands on a paper napkin. “She’s still coughing like someone who smokes a pack a day—and she’s never touched a cigarette in her life—but she says she’s feeling human again. She’s mostly worried about my brothers catching it. They’re complete babies when they get sick.”

“And you’re stoic and uncomplaining,” Jay said with a roll of his eyes.

“I think it’s a guy thing. My wife said I regressed to age seven when I came down with a bug.”

Mentioning his wife always felt like throwing a stone into a still pool and disturbing the placid water, but Liam wasn’t going to pretend Barbara and his kids didn’t exist.

“Want to hear something funny?” Jay said, ending the patch of awkward silence. Without waiting for either of them to answer, he said, “April’s in love.”

“It’s not funny,” Austin muttered under his breath. “It’s tragic. For him, anyway.”

Liam’s brief interactions with Austin’s sister had been enough to establish a strong dislike for the girl, but he had the impression that Austin was the only one who was allowed to say negative things about her. “I take it this is new?”

Austin nodded and stirred what was left at the bottom of his milkshake cup with his straw. “She met someone at college. She talks about him likes he’s different from the previous boyfriends. No, like she’s different, with him.” He frowned and sat back. “Can we get out of here? If you guys are done, I mean?”

Outside, the streetlights were lit up, and the street wasn’t much emptier than it had been half an hour before. Jay slipped an arm around Liam’s waist, tucking himself into Liam’s warmth, and after a few seconds of surprise Liam put an arm around his shoulders in return.

“So yeah, she sounds really serious about him. Like she wants to live up to his expectations,” Austin said, and Liam realized he was still talking about his sister. “It was probably the weirdest conversation I’ve ever had with her.”

“And that’s saying a lot,” Jay added.

Dry leaves crunched under their feet as they walked. “Let’s cut across the park,” Austin said, and they changed course, following the brick path between two large swathes of lawn lined with trees that were now mostly bare of leaves.

A jogger was on the path, heading toward them, her breath puffing out on the air. Liam expected Jay to break their embrace, if only so they could let her pass through their group, but to his surprise, Jay called out to her, bringing her to a halt in front of them. She was medium height, stocky, her blonde hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, her face flushed with exertion.

“Hi, Laura,” Austin said, grinning at her. “Don’t you know keeping fit isn’t good for you?”

She snorted, moving from foot to foot. “I’m cooling down after a five-mile run. You and the hobbit here wouldn’t make it past one, if that.”

Curious, Liam squashed his instinctive desire to step in front of his subs and defend them. They were both clearly happy to see Laura, so he’d be doing nothing but making a fool of himself.

“Going to introduce me to tall, dark, and wondering who the hell I am?”

“I can see you’re a friend of theirs, which is good enough for me.” Disentangling himself from Jay, Liam held out his hand. “Liam Thornton.”

She shook it briefly, the clasp of her hand firm without being overpowering. “Laura Sims. So…”

“It’s okay,” Austin said when Laura looked unsure of what to say. “He’s a friend of Patrick’s.” He turned his head to smile at Liam. “Laura’s the one who introduced us to Patrick.”

Liam appreciated the way Austin was being discreet and at the same time laying the foundation for frankness if he felt inclined. Austin hadn’t come out and told Laura that Liam was their Dom, but from the keen interest in her eyes as she studied Liam, she’d drawn her own conclusions.

“You two still in that apartment over near the realty office?” she asked Jay, and he nodded.

“Maybe not for too much longer, though.” Jay glanced at Liam.

“I’m thinking of becoming a landlord,” Liam said, hefting the books he was holding. “Doing some renovations.”

“Good.” Laura gave him an appraising look, and Liam met her gaze evenly until she glanced at Austin. “I’ve never liked the idea of you two on your own, since Patrick left. You seem like the types who are better off with…more security.”

“I keep an eye on them,” Liam assured her.

“I can see that. I’m glad.” Laura smiled and seemed finally to relax a bit, as if until that moment she’d been on her guard. “I talked to Patrick a couple of weeks ago. He seemed good. Happy. And not worried about you, which should have been all the reassurance I needed. Still, it’s good to see it with my own eyes.”

Austin’s hand slipped into Liam’s, and he inched half a step closer. “What about you? How are you?”

Smiling, Laura said, “Sweaty, at the moment. But I’m well. Busy—I like to keep busy. It’s important to have a full life.”

“Are you…keeping an eye on someone?” Liam asked.

She chuckled. “I am. Chris—remember him, boys? He’s waiting for me to get back so I can give him the spanking he earned this morning for burning my toast, then arguing that it wasn’t his fault. That’s why I’ve made the run a long one. Never hurts to keep a sub waiting and build up the anticipation.”

For a moment Liam panicked. He wasn’t used to discussing the lifestyle in public, though there was no one around to hear them. Laura was a stranger, after all, and— Austin tightened his grip on Liam’s hand, and Jay moved closer again, supporting him, shielding him.

It’s okay, he told himself, seeing the understanding in Laura’s eyes. She’s like me. She knows. She’s safe.

“I’ve found it a useful tool.” He cleared his throat. “Jay generally gets impatient enough that by the time I’m ready to begin, he’s earned himself a few extra strokes for whining.”

“Sir!”

Exhilaration filling him, Liam continued, “And Austin frets himself to the point where I could spank him with a feather and he’d still yell.”

“That is so not true.” Austin shook his head. “Two of them,” he said across Liam to Jay. “They’re ganging up on us. They’ll be swapping spanking tips next.”

“Discussing their favorite paddles…”

“Enough,” Liam said firmly, freeing his hand so he could administer a brisk smack to the backs of two heads. “Laura will think I haven’t trained you properly.”

“Laura thinks you’ve got a double helping of trouble,” she said, her amusement plain.

“I’m not complaining.” Liam wasn’t, and wouldn’t, and it was still important to him that he said it out loud so that Austin and Jay would be reassured. “In any case, I like a challenge.”

“I can see that you do.” Laura glanced at her watch and grimaced. “As much as I enjoy tormenting my boy, I should really get going. Could I give you my number, Liam?”

The thought hadn’t occurred to him, but as soon as she mentioned it he jumped at the chance. With the things he’d been considering adding to their repertoire, it would be brilliant to have someone to bounce ideas off. “Of course. Here, just add it in.” He gave her his cell phone and watched as she typed in her information.

“Great,” she said, handing it back. “Nice to meet you. Call me!” And with that she waved and walked off into the night.

“That was nice,” Austin said. “We haven’t seen her in ages.”

“And Chris. Maybe we could get together with them sometime.” Jay sounded wistful.

“I’d like that,” Liam said, surprising himself by how much he meant it. “I assume you know her from the meetings you went to?”

“Yeah. I miss the meetings too, but we just drifted away from them,” Jay said as they began to walk.

“They wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but why don’t you start going again?” Liam suggested. “And maybe we could have Laura and Chris over one night when you’re settled in.”

“But that could be ages away. Couldn’t we just meet up at your place anyway? Please, Sir? Laura’s really nice, and you’ll like Chris. He’s super subby. Twenty-four/seven slave, with a collar and a contract.” Now it was Austin’s turn to sound wistful.

“‘Super subby’?” Liam rolled his eyes. “Talk English, Austin. And stop trying to wheedle me by looking adorable. It won’t work.”

Jay snickered, earning a glare from Liam that sobered him for a moment before Liam grinned at him. “Fine, Austin’s got a secret weapon. But I’d like to see them, so this isn’t me giving in, just so we’re clear.”

“As crystal,” Jay said. He brushed his hand against Liam’s, his attitude changing, his head lowered. “Sir…”

“Yes?”

“You said me wearing the, uh, you know, turned you on.”

“I don’t think this is really the time or place…” Liam began, a wave of heat rising to color his cheeks.

“No, Sir. But if you came back with us, it might be.”

Intrigued, happy that Jay had shaken off his mood, Liam asked, “What did you have in mind?”

“I want you to see me wearing it,” Jay whispered. “Make me watch Austin come from whatever you’re doing to him. Tease me until I’m crying, begging you to take it off, but don’t listen. Don’t be kind. I don’t deserve it. I want you to see me learning my lesson, Sir.”

The thought of it made Liam shiver with arousal. “Yes,” he said hoarsely. “God, yes.”

Chapter Nine

Austin let Jay go in first, then closed the apartment door behind him, shivering. It was mid-November, an icy sleet falling, and their place wasn’t much warmer than outside. There were drawbacks to living at the top of the old house. God, he was looking forward to moving. Liam’s home was always at the perfect temperature, no drafts, no cool spots. Hell, even his bathroom floors were heated.

With Liam knowing exactly what he wanted done and the contractor he’d hired conscious of the bonus Liam had promised him if the work was done quickly, the basement renovation had gone well. The last of the work had been completed the day before, and they’d planned to spend the weekend painting, then move in the following weekend, after the smell of paint had faded.

The space was light, roomy, the glass doors leading out to the garden taking away any sense of being underground. Liam hadn’t skimped on anything, and there was no doubt that it was exactly what he’d promised it would be—a self-contained apartment big enough for the two of them.

Austin wondered if they’d ever use it as more than a place to keep their clothes.

“You want to take a shower?” he asked Jay.

“Not right now.” Jay sighed and stretched, then flopped onto the couch. “I mean, I need one, but I’m exhausted.”

“We were bowling, not running a marathon,” Austin said with a grin. They’d met up with some friends to bowl, followed by pizza. It’d been fun in an undemanding way, and he’d enjoyed it.

“Those balls are heavy,” Jay said. “And I swear mine weren’t round. Did you see the way they kept swerving into the gutter?”

“Try throwing with your eyes open,” Austin suggested drily.

“Austin? Can I tell you something?” Jay rolled onto his side, his smile vanishing, his gaze intent.

“Of course,” Austin said. He sat down and pulled Jay half into his lap, running a hand roughly along Jay’s spine the way Jay liked.

“I can’t stop thinking about the fire play. I told Liam I wanted to weeks ago, and he just…forgot about it.”

Austin sighed. “He’s been busy, Jay. You know that. Busy at work, then the builders ripped everything up… Give him time.”

“Do you think he’ll do it?”

“If he really didn’t want to, he’d have said so right away, not messed you around. He’s a jump-right-in guy, not a toe dipper.”

“It feels like he’s going to keep me waiting forever.” Jay sounded so sad. “Not knowing if it’s ever going to happen…that’s what I can’t take.”

“I know.” Austin stroked Jay’s long, silky hair.

“Would you do it?” Jay sat up and gripped Austin’s hand, lifted it to his mouth, and kissed it. “We can do it on our own. We’ve done other stuff. Maybe, if we could just do it once, if I could get it out of my system before we move in, I’ll be so good for him, I really will—”

“You know you’ll just want more,” Austin protested. “Shh, come on. It’ll be okay. You have to trust that Liam will give us what we need.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Jay said, his voice sharp and almost angry. “You’d be happy if all he wanted was for you to clean his floors on your hands and knees for the rest of your life.” Jay’s face fell into miserable lines again. “Sorry. Jesus. I didn’t mean that.”

Austin kissed him because they both needed it, cradling Jay’s face between his hands. “I know. And you’re not totally wrong.” It still hurt, a little bit, but mostly it was an indication of how much Jay needed more than he was getting. And despite Austin’s encouragement that Jay trust Liam, chances were all Doms had a line they wouldn’t cross. Austin wasn’t sure if Liam’s was on the other side of fire play, not when it was so risky and the potential damage was so extreme. “We’ll figure it out, okay?”

“Is that a yes?”

“It’s not a no. I guess it’s a maybe.”

Jay might have wanted more, but that was as far as Austin would go until he’d done some research of his own. He could see why Liam was dragging his feet.

* * * * *

Gulping down a last mouthful of coffee, Austin headed for the door. “Jay, I’m going. Are you still in the shower?”

“No, I’m here.” Jay walked in, his wet hair hanging straight and heavy, his chest bare, a towel wrapped around his waist. “You’re heading off early.”

“Fridays are always busy, and I want to make sure I can get away early tonight.”

Jay scratched his ribs, drawing Austin’s gaze. Jay’s skin was flushed from the heat of the water, but in the cooler air of the room his nipples had tightened. “Got time to kiss me? Or am I too wet?”

Austin would’ve found time to kiss Jay if the building had been on fire when he asked like that, provocative and teasing on the surface, vulnerability peeking out. “Why do you think I told you I was leaving? Come here.”

Jay in his arms, warm and smelling of grapefruit shower gel, made breaking the kiss harder than usual. Austin couldn’t stop caressing Jay’s back, loving the way the dampness made his hands drag at the skin. Whatever Jay had been doing in the shower had gotten him horny as hell, his breath coming fast and shallow.

“Want to suck you before you go,” Jay murmured into his ear, rubbing up against Austin, as demanding as a hungry cat, the towel falling to the floor. Even though Liam had removed the cock cage after a week, the memory of it touching Austin’s thigh during a hug from Jay was vivid. Austin had flinched, stepped back, leaving Jay with hurt darkening his eyes. If Liam ever used it on him, Austin wasn’t sure he’d be able to bear it for more than a day. “All I can taste is mouthwash. Want to taste you. Please? Just for a minute?”

Austin was tempted, not least by the way the residue of the mouthwash would make his cock tingle, but stopping before he came got harder every time they did this.

“Really want to, even if it makes me late, but I can’t risk it.” He couldn’t stop petting Jay, though, straining toward him, his hardening cock craving contact with something—Jay’s thigh, his hand, anything.

His hands clamped on Jay’s ass, Austin bit Jay’s shoulder, moaning at the way Jay surged against him, wanton and needy. Jay would kneel for him with nothing more than Austin’s hand on his shoulder as a signal, open his mouth wide, take Austin’s cock, sucking and licking at it greedily…

The phone rang, the interruption sending a wave of adrenaline through Austin, his heart pounding as he pulled away from Jay and moved to answer it. “Hi, hello?” God, he sounded like an idiot; the apologetic glance he directed at Jay was for more than the fact that they’d been interrupted.

“Austin—good, I wasn’t sure if I’d catch you before you left.” It was Liam, impatient and hurried.

“I was just getting ready,” Austin told him. “Is everything okay?”

“Depends on who you ask.” Liam sighed. “I’m sorry. I have to cancel our plans tonight.”

Austin’s heart sank. “Okay.” It wasn’t okay, not by a long shot, but he could tell from Liam’s tone of voice that he wasn’t happy about it, either.

“It’s not. It’s completely unacceptable, but it’s also unavoidable. I’d get out of it if I could. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s okay. We understand.”

Jay wrapped the discarded towel around his waist and came closer, reading Austin’s distress like an expert. He slipped an arm around Austin’s waist and waited.

“I’m so sorry. I’ll make it up to you, I swear it. Apologize to Jay for me? If I manage to get out of the office sooner than I think, I’ll phone you.”

“Okay. Bye.” Austin waited until he was sure the call had disconnected before throwing the phone onto the couch. “Tonight’s off.”

“Shit,” Jay said. “Why did we have to take up with a lawyer? We should have known better.”

“Little late for that now,” Austin said, running a hand through his hair. “He said he can’t help it. He’s really sorry. I’m sure he was looking forward to it as much as we were.”

“Yeah.” Hugging him, Jay said, “Well, whatever. We’ll do something tonight without him, right?”

“Right.” Austin kissed Jay and headed for the door. “Love you.”

It wasn’t until Austin was getting into the car that he realized when Jay said “something,” he meant fire play. Knowing there’d be no Liam that night made it tempting to give in, to do what Jay wanted, and by the time Austin arrived at work, he’d come close to making up his mind.

Austin had been at his job long enough that it was second nature. It was simple for him to compile paperwork and file insurance forms and answer the occasional phone call while thinking the whole time about fire play. He’d done a lot of reading, and he’d bought the things they’d need, including two new fire extinguishers. Every rule for how to play with fire safely had been committed to memory, repeated over and over again.

If they were going to do this, they were going to do it right. There was no way Austin would chance hurting Jay. Well, not in a way Jay didn’t want to be hurt, and the possibility there was a looming future in which Jay pushed further and harder was something Austin couldn’t contemplate just then.

He made his way home with his thoughts still focused wholly on Jay and was relieved the apartment was empty. Dealing with Jay’s wild anticipation would be too much. He had to be in the right head space for this. It gave him time to set the stage, though he didn’t plan to do anything until later. They usually went to Liam’s at eight; he’d stick to that time and frame the new experience with the familiar routine.

The small room that was technically his bedroom, only used when one of them was sick, seemed like a good place to do it. Austin stripped the bed to a single sheet and put the small fire extinguishers on either side of it. He’d bought a fire blanket from a camping store, and he spread it out on the bed. It was gray and scratchy, but he couldn’t see Jay caring about that.

Austin had decided to go with something really simple, hoping to satisfy Jay’s curiosity with as little risk as possible. He’d seen videos of hairstyling mousse spread on skin in a design and then ignited. It wasn’t supposed to hurt. He’d experimented in the bathroom, squirting the mousse out into the sink and lighting it with a match, a jug of water at hand just in case. The experiment had gone well, but he hadn’t felt the slightest desire to test it on his skin.

If Jay wanted more, he’d gotten a small bottle of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. Like the mousse, that could be applied to skin, lit, then smothered with a wet towel, but Austin was hoping not to go that far.

He sat on the edge of the bed and put his head down. His stomach was tight with nerves. This wasn’t his fucking job; it was Liam’s. It felt all wrong for him to be standing in Liam’s place and doing this to Jay, but Jay wasn’t going to wait for Liam’s decision. Not when there was a possibility that Liam would decide he didn’t want to do it. Jay’s mood was still volatile, veering wildly between rebellion and ardent submission. The cancellation of the session had been the worst news possible.

The click and creak of Jay coming through the front door propelled Austin to his feet. He couldn’t let Jay see him stressing about this; it would fuck up the experience. Part of the session was about the Dom—or in this case the person standing in for the Dom—being in control so that the sub didn’t have to be. If the Dom’s confidence was lacking, the whole thing would be an exercise in futility.

Austin went down the short hallway toward the kitchen, where he could hear Jay opening the fridge. “Hi,” he said to Jay’s back, then, as Jay turned around holding a bottle of beer, “Um, no way. Not tonight.”

Jay’s face lit up like sunshine on water. “Does that mean yes?”

“It means yes,” Austin confirmed and was too late to fend off Jay’s rib-crushing hug. “Ow, hey! That bottle cap is sharp!”

“Sorry,” Jay said, backing off. “Sorry, I was just—”

“I know.”

Jay was grinning so widely that it had to hurt his face. His hands settled at Austin’s waist, tugging him closer. “God, I wish you could fuck me right now.”

There was no way Austin could do that without coming, and they both knew it. They’d just have to put everything they had into tonight’s session and wait until tomorrow night with Liam to come. “Me too. Let’s split a sandwich, okay? I don’t want to go into this on an empty stomach.”

“Okay.”

Jay washed lettuce leaves and sliced a tomato while Austin put mayo on multigrain bread and layered on turkey and ham. It was harder to choke down bites than Austin had imagined, but not just because he was stressed out. Now, infected by Jay’s excitement and enthusiasm, Austin was eager too.

“Get naked,” he told Jay as he put their plates into the dishwasher. “Leave all your clothes in the bedroom, and for God’s sake, tie your hair back.”

“Do you want me to shower first?”

Austin hesitated and cursed himself. Liam never did that. “Yes, but don’t use deodorant or body lotion or—”

“Since when do I use lotion?” Jay asked with a grin. “Do we even have any?”

“It just said not to on all the sites I visited, and I’ve memorized all the safety instructions,” Austin said. “I guess I’m more nervous about this than I should be.”

“Come into the shower with me,” Jay said, his hands on Austin’s shoulders. “It’s still early, and it’d relax you. We’ve got all night. There’s no rush now that I know it’s going to happen. I want to enjoy it.” He bit his lip. “I want you to enjoy it too. Are you really freaked by the idea?”

“Yeah, kind of, but I still want to do it for you,” Austin answered with enough truth to it that Jay looked satisfied. “I thought we could try the mousse.”

Jay nodded. “Yeah? It’s a good place to start. What design are you going to do? Where are you putting it? My back? My ass?”

I don’t know, Austin wanted to scream at him. I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to do this. With an attempt at playfulness, he turned Jay around and swatted his ass lightly. “Less talk, more showering. If I’m in charge for the night—”

“Then you need to work on your English accent— Ow! That hurt.”

“It was supposed to,” Austin said. “Bedroom. Strip. I’ll start the shower.”

Jay joined him in the bathroom before the water was hot, naked and shifting his weight from one foot to the other as if eager for what was to come. He had goose bumps, and his hair was tied back as Austin had instructed. “Brr! Should have turned up the heat.”

“Let’s see if you’re still saying that in half an hour,” Austin told him. It was impossible not to be happy in the face of Jay’s happiness, and when it came right down to it, he’d read everything he’d been able to find. He was probably a lot better prepared for what they were about to try than most people.

“Can I get in? Come on, you get in too.” Jay didn’t wait for him, disappearing behind the shower curtain with a rustle of plastic.

Austin quickly shed his clothes and joined Jay. It felt so good to wrap his arms around Jay’s naked body and let the hot water beat down on them, but he started to get hard immediately.

“Let me suck you,” Jay murmured. “Just a little.”

“No. I wish I could.” He hated having to refuse Jay, but in another twenty-four hours Liam would almost certainly let them both come. They had to wait. “Turn around so I can wash your back.”

Austin worked the soap into a lather and applied it to Jay’s perfect skin, running his fingers over it. The thought of doing something that would scar Jay—even if Jay wouldn’t mind, and he probably wouldn’t—freaked him out and was the main reason he was hesitant. He couldn’t bear the thought of Jay’s beautiful body being marred by scar tissue he’d put on it.

“We have to be really careful,” he said.

“I know,” Jay told him. “We will. I’ll do everything you tell me.”

“If you don’t, it’s not happening. Because I love you, not because I don’t. You know?”

Jay nodded. “I’d be the same way with you. But what we’re doing is baby stuff.”

Austin leaned his head against Jay’s shoulder. “I’m putting something on you and setting it on fire. Not baby stuff.” He shivered reflexively, then realized his hands were clutching Jay’s upper arms too tightly to be comfortable. He eased off, conscience stricken by the red marks his fingers had left, though Jay hadn’t protested. Why would he? Liam did much worse, and Jay just begged for more. “Let’s get out.”

“Sure.”

They dried off, and Austin pulled on a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants. Jay stood naked, his eyes dreamy. Austin took two small towels from the linen cupboard outside the bathroom. “I’m going to soak these and wring them out. Can you take another towel in there that I can put them on so I don’t get the bed wet?”

“Sure,” Jay said again. Austin had the feeling Jay’s response would’ve been the same no matter what he’d said. Jay was focused on what was to come, anticipating it with the intensity of a kid with an upcoming birthday.

Austin just hoped he could make this worthwhile.

When Jay was lying on his stomach, the long tail of his hair pulled forward over his shoulder, well away from his back, a rolled, damp towel across his shoulders providing a protective barrier, Austin took a deep breath. It didn’t do much to help slow his racing heart, but running his hand over Jay’s back did. A strong connection between them formed, based on a shared trust, a shared love. He’d felt that way with Liam so many times, draped over Liam’s lap or kneeling at his feet. He’d planned to ask Jay if he was sure about what they were about to do, but instead he asked, “Are you ready?”

“Yes, Sir,” Jay said, the words spoken quietly but clearly.

He wanted to ask Jay not to call him that, but it would just ruin things. Austin wanted this to be as good for Jay as he could make it. He lit the squat candle and checked the Q-tips he had ready on a plate, the wide cup with a tiny amount of isopropyl alcohol in it, and the empty dinner plate. He reached for the bottle of mousse, the brand he’d chosen the result of hours of research, and shook it well before squeezing a very small amount onto Jay’s back in a horizontal line that went from just beneath one shoulder blade to the other.

“Here we go.” Austin dipped a Q-tip into the alcohol, lit it on the candle, and touched it to the end of the line of mousse.

The flame flared faster than he’d expected, but it was over in a matter of two seconds, a brief flash and then gone. Austin hastily wiped his water-dampened hand over Jay’s skin to make sure the flame was out—apparently it sometimes kept burning and you couldn’t really see it, which, if it was true, made fire play even more dangerous.

“How was that?” he asked anxiously. “Talk to me.”

“Weird.” Jay sounded calm, at least. “At first it was cold, then it was colder, now it’s warm. It didn’t stay hot for more a few breaths.”

“Do you…”

Jay sighed, a quiet exhalation. “Oh yeah. Again. Please. I just wish I could see it.”

“If I did it on your chest or stomach, I’d need to shave you to be safe,” Austin pointed out. “Just concentrate on how it feels.”

“I can do that.” Jay stretched out luxuriously and wriggled his ass. “Do it there?”

The second time it was easier. Austin drew a lopsided heart across Jay’s ass, smiling as the foam expanded, white and thick.

“Ready?”

He got a contented murmur; then the foam was burning, consumed in a moment, leaving nothing behind. Chemical magic.

Jay cried out with pleasure, a soft, wordless sound. “Oh yeah. Oh God, I love it. More. No, wait. Try the alcohol directly on me this time.”

Dubious, his doubts returning in a rush, Austin picked up a fresh Q-tip and soaked it in the alcohol, then drew a random squiggle on Jay’s back, low down.

“That’s it,” Jay encouraged him.

Austin stared at the candle flame, watching it flare and bend, responding to a shift in the air. Had Jay opened the small window in the bathroom? The flame held his gaze, flickering wildly, but in the end he shook his head, unseen by Jay, before swiping the wet towel across Jay’s back. “No. I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

“I’m glad to see you’ve got that much sense at least,” Liam said from the doorway, his voice so rigidly controlled it was clear he was furious even without seeing his face.

Not that Austin could have kept from turning, though he was careful to wet his fingers and put the candle flame out first. “Sir.” He didn’t know what else to say. He was terrified, like a little kid who’d just been caught playing with matches.

Liam came closer and picked up the wet towel, wiping Jay’s skin with it a second time. “Jay, go get in the shower immediately. Use soap, and do not come out until you’re sure you’re clean. And don’t argue.”

The look on Jay’s face made it obvious he’d been thinking about trying to explain, but he bit his lip, nodded, and crept away. A moment later Austin heard the shower turn on again.

“Sit down,” Liam said grimly. “No, don’t. Clean up all of this. In five minutes I don’t want to be able to see any sign of what you were about to get yourselves into.”

“I’m sorry,” Austin said, figuring he’d say more even if he didn’t know what it would be.

“I didn’t tell you to speak,” Liam snapped.

Trembling, Austin did as he’d been told, quickly but without being careless. He put everything that had been in contact with flammable liquid into the bucket of water, which he carried to the kitchen and put beside the sink. He poured the alcohol back into the bottle it had come from and took the fire extinguishers to the kitchen as well. Then he returned to the bedroom and began to fold the blanket Jay had been lying on.

“I can’t believe you,” Liam said. His voice was low, as if he was so angry he didn’t dare raise it. That was good. Austin didn’t want to see what Liam out of control was like. “I know Jay has a tendency to do stupid things on the spur of the moment. He’s impulsive; he doesn’t always have sense when it comes to ideas like this. But you—I thought you knew better.”

Austin finished folding the blanket and took it to the closet, where he tucked it onto the top shelf.

“Let me see your hands,” Liam ordered, and Austin went to him, palms up.

“I’m not burned,” he said, offering that up as if it would calm Liam down, when he knew, he fucking knew it wouldn’t. “And Jay’s okay—”

Liam’s hand pressed against his mouth, not a slap, just a reminder that he wasn’t supposed to talk. Austin knew that hand. It had spanked him, caressed him, held him down. He’d kissed it, sucked the long fingers until they were wet and hot from his mouth, then spread his legs so Liam could slide them deep inside his ass.

Now Liam’s hand was cold and stiff, all warmth fled.

“You speak again, and I’ll go. I’ll walk out of here. I don’t want to hear what you have to say when I’m this angry. I don’t trust myself.”

Austin closed his eyes, shame and panic rising. He was light-headed, the room swirling around him. Oh God, that choking, suffocating darkness, the cold sweat on his back… He was going to pass out or throw up.

Liam snatched his hand away, and Austin let himself be guided to the bed, let his head be pushed between his knees, submitted to his body voiding itself into the wastepaper bin, fortunately empty.

He threw up, retching helplessly until his mouth burned, acid-coated, and his nose ran. The world smelled revolting, and his eyes were watering, his skin clammy.

A damp towel came to rest against the back of his neck, soothing but still a shock. Then Liam used it to wipe his face.

The shame was about the only thing he couldn’t puke up into the bucket. It lay in the pit of his stomach, heavy, greasy, impossible to dislodge.

Austin wanted to beg Liam for forgiveness. He wanted to say he was sorry, so sorry, to claim all responsibility and deny Jay any. Instead he did the only things he could do—he took the damp towel from Liam, scrubbed it over his mouth again, and slid off the bed to kneel on the floor at Liam’s feet.

Liam didn’t touch him, didn’t say a word.

The sound of the shower wasn’t audible anymore; Jay must have turned it off. A moment later Jay came into the room—naked, still dripping water like he hadn’t bothered with a towel. Liam made an impatient gesture, and Jay nodded and knelt down half a world away from Austin.

“This is the line,” Liam said grimly. “This is where you learn my limits. I need you both to do some hard thinking. Do you trust me to give you what you need? Or are you going to be peering around every corner hoping to sneak something more, like greedy children? You’re both far too old to be acting this way.”

“Sir…” Jay said in a whisper, but Liam shook his head.

“No. I said I wanted you to think before you answered me, and I meant it. I don’t want you falling over yourselves to apologize and promise the world if it’ll get you spanked and forgiven. That’s just more instant gratification for you, and you don’t deserve it after what you’ve put me through.” The tight, clipped words faltered, a look of shock passing over Liam’s face. “God, I think I said that exact thing to my son once.” Liam swallowed, his mouth twisting, his composure lost for a moment. When he spoke again, his voice shook, raw with distress and anger. “You’re making me feel like your father, damn it, and I don’t want to be that to either of you. Your Dom. Your lover. Not a fucking substitute for a dead man and an uncaring one.”

Had he ever thought of Liam that way? Austin’s memories of his father were like a handful of beads, separate, small incidents captured in a hard shell, unchanging. They had no depth to them, no background to set them against.

Nothing about Liam matched those memories. Liam was…Liam. Lonely, reserved, living in a house that said nothing about him—but capable of so much warmth and imagination during a scene. Liam, learning to love them almost against his will, still sometimes unsure when he was in bed with them, until they brought him to the point where there was nothing in his eyes but incredulous pleasure. Liam, so fucking patient, endlessly pushing them to do more, give him more, demanding, perfectionist, ruthless, perfect…

“No.” He forced the word out through stiff lips dry with panic. If Liam left them, walked out for good… “We don’t see you that way. We don’t.”

Liam sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed. “I honestly don’t know whether to believe you.”

“I’m not lying to you, Sir—” Austin started.

“Stop. Don’t call me Sir, not now. Just be quiet, both of you. Let me think.” Liam looked wrecked, like he’d walked in on them cheating on him instead of playing around with a candle and some flammable liquid.

That wasn’t fair, Austin knew. It was the kind of thing Jay would say out loud—he wouldn’t mean it, not really, but he’d say it. Normally Austin wouldn’t even think it. He waited, glad he’d been told not to say anything, because he didn’t have any idea what to say. The thought of Liam leaving them made him feel cold and sick. He wiped his mouth again.

“Get dressed,” Liam said wearily. “Austin, if you want to go rinse out your mouth and that bin, go ahead. We need to talk, and we can’t do it like this.”

“I’ll clean the bin,” Jay said, as subdued as Austin had ever seen him. He disappeared with it, leaving Austin to give Liam a helpless look, wanting some sign from Liam that everything would be okay.

Instead Liam got to his feet. “I’ve changed my mind. I can’t stay here. I need…I need some time to work out what the hell I did wrong.”

“Nothing,” Austin said urgently. “Liam, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

He wasn’t sure Liam heard him. There was a blind, dazed look on Liam’s face for a moment, followed by a frown of concentration. Then Liam shook his head as if he were being pestered by a fly and walked to the door.

Austin wanted to chase after him, grab Liam’s arm, say the right things, all the perfect words to mend this, but he stayed where he was.

He heard Jay saying Liam’s name, heard Liam say something about talking to them tomorrow, but that was vague and far away, muffled voices in a fog.

The only clear sound, painfully sharp and final, was the slam of the door.

Chapter Ten

Liam got into his car and closed the door, robbed of a satisfyingly emphatic slam by modern engineering. He made up for it by yanking at the seat belt so hard it jammed. Once he’d dealt with that minor issue, he shoved the key at the ignition slot and cursed as the key ring fell from his shaking hand.

He needed to leave before Austin or Jay looked out the window and saw him still sitting here, but he was in no condition to drive. Trying to be sensible, he bent over and retrieved his keys, carefully inserted the car key into place, and left it there.

The street was deserted on this chilly evening, with a fine sleet falling to discourage anyone but dog walkers and the hardiest joggers.

Liam leaned back in his seat, his breath coming in loud, harsh pants.

Walking up to their apartment, anticipating his welcome, using the key they’d given him with a pleasurable sense of belonging… He’d thought about how thrilled they’d be to see him, hadn’t considered explaining how hard he’d worked all day toward the possibility that he’d be able to finish up in time to see them, no matter how briefly.

Hearing Jay’s voice, thick with arousal, and feeling immediate annoyance that they were breaking his rule again, only to discover that they were doing something so much worse…

He struck the wheel with his hands, once, twice, jarring it, leaving his palms throbbing, but it wasn’t enough to drain the rage and distress rising to suffocate him. He couldn’t sort his reactions out, separating disillusionment from concern, hurt from loss; they formed a tangled, messy knot.

“So fucking stupid,” he said, needing to hear it said, even with no audience but himself. “How could they do that without me? Anything could have happened. Jesus.”

When he thought of what Austin had been about to do, he wanted a bucket of his own to throw up into. He saw Jay’s hair, that dark, smooth fall of silk catch fire, the smooth skin on his back bubble and blister, and choked on sourness.

There was a half-empty bottle of water in the cup holder. He opened it and swallowed down as much as he could stomach. It helped with the taste in the back of his throat, but not much else.

As he sat, his anger cooled to an icy resolve. He hated the position they’d forced him into. He wasn’t interested in punishing them for misbehaving, not for this sort of misbehavior, at least. They were adults, and he’d meant it when he said he didn’t want to be a father figure to them. When he disciplined them, it was for mutual pleasure or small disobediences within a scene, nothing else. He would never have punished Jay for spending too much on books or Austin for getting a speeding ticket; that was none of his business. This did come under his authority, he supposed, but it still felt uncomfortably like being faced with his children, guilt-stricken and wide-eyed, caught with a packet of cigarettes and a lighter, about to experiment with smoking.

He’d taken away their computer privileges for a week, shown them photos of their Great-Uncle George in the terminal stages of emphysema, and made them give every penny of their saved allowance to a cancer charity, setting back their acquisition of a new iPod each by a few months. Barbara thought he’d been too hard on them, but to the best of his knowledge neither had ever smoked after that.

Dealing with Austin and Jay wouldn’t be as simple.

Christ, where did they go from here? He needed—no, he loved them too much to call it quits. He refused to consider the possibility of walking away from them for good.

You’ll never be able to introduce them as yours, a voice he’d been ignoring for months whispered in his head. Never be able to tell the world you’re their lover, their Dom, their anything. And if you did, if people find out…boom! Life, career, everything, over. Are they worth that?

His hands were shaking again. Fuck.

Reluctantly Liam accepted that they had to deal with this now. As much as he wished he could take some time—drive home, have a few drinks, go to bed—and put off discussing what he’d just walked in on and how they were going to move forward, they were adults, and waiting wasn’t going to make it any easier. It would just delay the inevitable.

The steps up to their apartment were like a mountain he needed to climb, but the door flew open as soon as he knocked, as if they’d been waiting for him. He felt a moment of shame for having left the way he did, for the twin looks of despair and hope on Jay’s and Austin’s faces, and as that moment passed he realized what he needed to do.

“Pack a bag,” he said crisply. “Both of you.”

“Sir?” Austin’s voice was higher than usual, a surprised squeak that at another time would’ve made Liam smile. “Where are we going?”

“Where do you think?” Liam asked, allowing some asperity to show. “To my house, of course. Where I can keep an eye on you both.”

“Your house? Not ours? Did I screw that up too?”

Jay sounded so desolate, so lost that Liam couldn’t stop himself from pulling Jay to him in a quick, comforting hug, releasing him to do the same to Austin. Even as angry and worried as he was, he couldn’t see them like this and turn away from their distress. Then he took a step backward and held up his hand, warding them off. They got one hug. No more. “No. You screwed up plenty, but not that. It’s going to be your home. You’re just moving in sooner than we planned. I mean it. Pack. Now.”

He waited by the door as they got together what they’d need for the night and the next day, using the time to calm down and plan ahead. They’d need to talk—not a conversation he was looking forward to—and he’d need to deal with what lay beneath this reckless stupidity, but God, he didn’t want to do it tonight.

They joined him at the door, each with an overnight bag, Jay’s most likely containing two or three books, if not more, both of them looking chastened and apprehensive.

“Have you eaten?”

“We had a sandwich before…before we…” Austin’s voice faltered. “I don’t think we’re very hungry, Sir.”

“You’ll both eat something later,” Liam told them. Austin’s sandwich hadn’t been inside him for long, after all. “Sure you’ve got everything you’ll need?”

They nodded meekly, leaving him to wonder how long it would be before they were back to normal with him. He liked them submissive but not subdued.

They’d lost so much ground tonight…wandered so far offtrack. His fault? It had to be. He was supposed to notice these things, be aware of how they were feeling…

“Time to go,” he said before he could get too lost in self-recriminations.

Liam waited until they were outside to speak again. “Both of you in my car. We’ll come back for the rest tomorrow.” Or maybe the day after, he thought, but no point in making it more difficult than it already was. “Austin in front.” Letting them both sit in back would make him feel like a chauffeur, and having Jay in front would make Austin fret, which was yet another issue they’d have to clear up sooner or later.

Neither of them spoke on the drive to his house, and honestly Liam didn’t want to get into a complicated conversation while he was behind the wheel. It was better to wait.

They were like pale shadows in the entryway as Liam closed the front door behind them and removed his shoes. Fine droplets of water coated all of them from the short walk from the car to the door—jackets, slacks, hair. “Let’s sit down,” he said. It wasn’t an order, more a request, but just then he might have been able to suggest anything and they probably would have gone along with it. All three of them sat on the couch, Jay in the middle.

Hopefully sitting would loosen their tongues. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“Jay thinks it’s his fault,” Austin said quietly. “But really it was more mine. If I hadn’t agreed to try it, that would have been the end of it.”

“It’s not so much that you did it, though I’ve got some new gray hairs after walking in and seeing you about to set fire to Jay’s back. It’s more the reason why you couldn’t wait or trust me to be the one deciding if it was safe or not.” Liam glanced between them. “I said I needed to work out what I’d done wrong, and I meant it. For you to think that was something you were justified in doing, I must have failed you along the line, and I’m so very sorry.”

Jay laughed, but there was no humor behind it. “We’re all blaming ourselves. How screwed up are we?”

“It’s better than blaming Liam,” Austin said. He addressed Liam directly. “You didn’t let us down. Jay just needed it so much, and you weren’t saying yes or no, and then when we found out you couldn’t see us tonight… Jay’s not good at waiting. But I should have said no. Shouldn’t have gone behind your back and gotten the supplies.”

Thank God they were talking, finally. “Yes,” Liam told Austin. “You should have refused. Or come to me, though I suppose your first loyalty is to Jay.”

And didn’t the idea of that sting.

Austin looked thoroughly miserable. “I want him to be happy. I saw how you and he have been fighting, and I thought if I did it, he’d be less…”

“Of an asshole?” Jay suggested.

Austin met his gaze steadily. “Yeah. Because you were ruining the scenes for me, if you really want to know. You get off on being forced to give in, and I understand that, and it’s hot watching Liam make you, but the last few months it’s been a power struggle, and that’s just wrong.” He pointed at Liam. “He’s in charge, not you, Jay.”

Jay looked awful, washed-out, his lips trembling. “I didn’t… God, Austin, I never meant to spoil things for you, or you, Liam. I just… I didn’t know where I stood with you once we started sleeping together. I thought you’d open up more, that you’d spend time with us, but nothing really changed, and I felt…used. Like you’d found out you liked guys too, and hey, look, here are two hot ones I can play around with. You say you love us, but you never show us.”

“I got that,” Liam said. “It’s why I asked you to move in. Wasn’t that enough?”

There was a sullen twist to Jay’s mouth now. “We’re moving into the basement. Locked away from you.”

“Oh, for God’s sake!” Liam pressed his lips together before he said anything else, giving himself a moment to push back his annoyance. “That’s not a— It’s not a prison. One of your objections to moving in was losing your independence, Jay. Remember that? Giving you your own space to retreat to was to solve that problem, but I don’t expect you to live anywhere but up here with me.”

“You’re not being fair,” Austin said, but his words were addressed to Jay. “He’s right. And you know it has to look like we’re living apart from him. Otherwise people would start gossiping, and none of us want that.”

Jay hunched his shoulders, bowing forward so that none of his face was visible. “I know,” he said, his voice cracking. “I just… God, why don’t you punish me, Sir? Stop talking and tell me to get naked, tie me up, whip me?”

Liam snorted. “Because I have a feeling you’d enjoy that far too much.” He ran his hand down Jay’s back. “Stop being dramatic and talk to me. Get it all off your chest. I won’t snap at you again. This is what I want. You telling me how you feel. I just wish you could’ve done it before, but I’m guessing that’s down to me being terrifying?”

“You aren’t,” Austin said. “Not really. It’s just so complicated. I guess there are people who’ve figured it all out—after years together, probably—but we aren’t there yet. I think Jay and I want to know that you’re in this long-term. It’s a little scary, knowing that this is kind of a first for you. We aren’t sure if you’re going to wake up one morning and decide you’re done or you made a mistake.”

“I don’t think I will.” Liam swallowed. His throat was dry, but he didn’t want to break this moment of communication by going to get a glass of water. “I don’t want to. You’ve no idea how much I miss you during the week when you’re not here.”

“Actually miss us?” Jay asked. “Or miss ordering us around?”

“Not like that,” Austin said quickly. “He means—”

“I know.” Liam understood that Jay wanted to know if it was being a Dom that he missed. “I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that was part of it, but it’s not all, not by a long shot. There are things we need to sort out—how to be who we are with each other, in addition to the roles. But if I’ve been derelict in my duty of interacting with you as people as well as subs, I think you’ve both had a difficult time fully embracing your parts. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” he hastened to add. “It isn’t a failing. In all relationships, there can be a moment when it becomes clear the people involved aren’t well suited. I don’t think that’s the case with us.”

“If we lived on a desert island, yeah, but we don’t. Do you still want us to move in? Really?” Jay was astonishingly good at finding every doubt Liam had and exposing it. “Because I won’t if you’re going to panic about what people will think.”

“You have to admit we can’t tell people the truth. Even before you met me, you didn’t share everything with your families and friends. They know you’re gay, but nothing else.”

“Well, it’s none of their business.” Austin shrugged. “Everyone wants what they do in bed to be between them and their partner.”

“I won’t pretend I’ll ever be comfortable with telling people we’re a threesome and into BDSM. I’m not planning to tell my children you’re my partners, let alone my subs. If you move in, it’ll be as my lodgers to the outside world, but it’s not because I think there’s anything wrong with what we are and what we do. It’s just…”

Raising an eyebrow, Jay said, “Society tells us there’s plenty of stuff wrong with it, and you believe it. At least, part of you does.” Jay sounded completely earnest. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame you. Especially because you’re new to the gay thing. Or bi thing.”

“I’m still attracted to women,” Liam told him. “Or I assume I am. My attention has been focused on you lately. I can’t imagine having time in my life to notice anyone else, to be frank, and before you take that the wrong way, it’s not a complaint.”

Austin touched Liam’s arm, a tentative touch as if he expected Liam to pull away. “Is this really what you want?”

“You two in my life? Living with me? Yes.” Saying it aloud made him want to say it again, louder. “Really. Yes. With the potential risks to all of us, yes.”

“We’re not doing anything illegal,” Jay said.

“You’re being naive if you think that’ll matter to people,” Liam said bluntly. “It won’t. They’ll see me as a pervert preying on younger men and you as my victims. At the very least, we’d be faced with ridicule, endless questions, gossip behind our backs…”

“But you still want to risk it?” Austin asked. “We matter that much? Because you could get your itch scratched plenty of ways, you know. You don’t need us. Any sub would do.”

“Austin…” Liam felt helpless faced with Austin’s bleakly despairing words. “I do need you. I love you. Both of you. I could walk away, go back to being alone and unfulfilled, but why the hell should I when I’ve been lucky enough to find you? I’m not doing anything wrong, but it would hurt people—my children—if they knew about us, and I won’t do that to them. I’m not sure what you’re saying. Do you want me to come out to them about being with you but keep the rest private? Tell them I’m bi? Tell them everything? Nothing?”

He paused, aware his voice was rising and that he’d just hit them with a barrage of questions without giving them the chance to reply. “Tell me what you both want from me,” he said, moderating the volume of his voice but not the force behind his words. “If I can give it to you, I will, and if I can’t, I’ll say so.”

“I don’t want you to come out to them,” Austin said. “I mean, eventually, sure. I don’t like the thought of anyone being in the closet forever. But not right away. I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing to expect.”

“We aren’t only talking about what’s reasonable; we’re talking about what you want.”

“We want to be with you,” Jay said softly. “We do. And I don’t want to have to worry all the time about accidentally outing you, or us. Because sooner or later I’ll probably let something slip.”

“If you do and it isn’t deliberate, I’ll do my best to be understanding.” The thought of it made Liam’s stomach twist unpleasantly.

“Okay.” Austin took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then said, “I want to go through with the move.”

Jay nodded. “We have to try it.”

Liam hesitated.

Were these two his midlife crisis, his red sports car, his young mistress? He didn’t know. They didn’t feel like it. They felt more like a second chance to be what he was. His marriage had sent him walking a different path, and he couldn’t regret that choice entirely, not when it’d given him two children he loved, but he couldn’t deny his needs, and he needed Jay and Austin so desperately.

Needed to dominate them, needed to love them. Those weren’t separate needs, but one.

“I had two keys cut this morning,” he told them. “I was going to crack open a bottle when I handed them over so that we could toast you moving in, not drag you both here a week early in the middle of an emotional crisis, but when does life ever go to plan?” He dug his hand into his pocket and took out the keys, new and shiny. “Well?”

There was a pause. Then they each claimed a key, and a moment later Liam found himself being hugged, being kissed, and if his eyes stung with tears, he managed to keep them from falling.

Chapter Eleven

“Hey, it’s me!” Austin called as he shoved the front door of his mom’s house open with his shoulder and almost dropped the box he was holding. A blast of warmth hit him—it was freezing cold outside, though they hadn’t had much in the way of snow yet—and he hastily kicked the door closed again to keep the heat in.

“You’re late,” his mother called. He followed the sound of her voice into the living room, where she was knitting on the couch. “I thought you were going to be here before lunch.”

“The morning kind of got away from me,” Austin said. He set the box down near the end of the couch. “Sorry. I should have called.”

She didn’t seem worried, though. “Here, just give me a second to finish this row, and then I can hug you.”

“Okay. I’ll go get another box.” In the amount of time it took Austin to collect the second of the four boxes from the backseat of his car, his mom had not only finished her row but left the living room altogether. “I feel like you’re avoiding me!” he told the ceiling loudly.

“I’m making you some cocoa!” she called from the kitchen.

“That would be great if I was ten years old!” he shouted back. “Two more trips.” He heard her laughing as he went outside again, and by the time he set the last box next to the couch, his fingers more than a little bit numb with the cold, cocoa was sounding pretty good. “Thanks,” he said and kissed her on the cheek.

“Tell me again why you’ve moved out and I’m still storing your stuff?” she asked.

Austin gave her an apologetic smile. “No room at the new place. And it’s things like old yearbooks—don’t want to toss them out, but I don’t really need them either.”

Sarah handed him a mug, fragrant steam rising. If she’d added marshmallows, Austin was going to drink around them, though. “You were so vague about the new place, and you hung up before I could ask you about it.”

He’d done that deliberately, but that wasn’t something he planned to share. “Uh, well, ask away.”

She clicked her tongue against her teeth, the exasperated sound so familiar that Austin felt a pang of homesickness. “No, you tell me. Sit down right here, and talk to your mom.”

Feeling like a spy captured by the enemy, about to be interrogated, Austin did as he was told. When he was obeying Liam, he never felt this young and helpless, but his mom, sweet though she was, could do it to him with a word or a look.

“We’re moving into a basement apartment in a house owned by a friend,” he began.

“Yes, you told me that. What friend? Is it bigger than your old place?”

“Yeah, I think it is, and it’s closer to work for both of us. I can cut maybe ten minutes off the ride into work by taking the freeway and coming off at the Wilson Street exit.”

“That’s good, but a basement… Is it damp? Dark?”

“No, it’s really nice,” he assured her and launched into a description of the basement’s amenities that made him almost wish he was moving into it. Still, it wasn’t as if they’d never go down there. Hole up and ignore Liam, no, but it’d be good to have the extra space for all of them to use, and Jay would definitely annoy Liam less if all his diorama supplies were out of sight. That moss got everywhere.

“It sounds lovely,” she said when he ran out of words. “You still didn’t say who the friend was, though. The way you describe the basement, it’s a big house, and unless one of your friends won the lottery…”

“Ha, they wish.” Austin licked his lips. “It’s Liam. I’ve, uh, mentioned him before, right?”

She frowned. “Liam? The man you introduced me to at the library last month?”

“Yeah. He was looking at Jay’s dioramas in the gallery show. You liked him.”

Her frown wasn’t going away. “Well, yes, he seemed charming—that adorable accent—but why on earth would he want you both living in his basement? He’s a lawyer, isn’t he? It’s not as if he needs the money.”

“He’s divorced,” Austin said, trying not to seem too eager to give an explanation. “Two kids about to start college, child support… And he’s away on business a lot, and he likes the idea of someone being there keeping an eye on the place.”

“He must miss his children,” Sarah said, and Austin knew she was talking about herself as much as Liam. She should be thrilled April was out of her hair for a while.

“He does. But it’s not like they’re little.”

Sarah had a cup of tea, but she was letting it sit like she always did until it was barely warm anymore. “That doesn’t matter. Was it a nasty divorce?”

“I don’t know.” Austin shrugged like it wasn’t important to him, which was a joke because this whole conversation felt like walking through a minefield. “He doesn’t really talk about it.”

“And asking questions is awkward.” Sarah nodded. “Still, maybe he wants to keep an eye on the two of you. Like you’re his substitute kids, since he misses his and isn’t a full-time parent.”

Austin managed not to choke on his last swig of cocoa, but it was a close thing. “Um…yeah. Maybe.”

“It could get tricky,” she warned him. “You’re his tenants, and you have rights, but remember it’s his house, and he’s not going to be happy if you’re playing your music too loud or having parties that go on late.”

“Mom!” he protested. “If we listen to music, we wear headphones, and I can’t remember the last time we had a party, wild or otherwise.”

“You’ll have a housewarming one, though, won’t you?”

Austin opened his mouth to say that wasn’t going to happen, then reconsidered. Showing everyone the apartment would hammer home the idea that they were tenants, no more than that, and people would expect them to do something to celebrate moving in.

“Sure, when we’re settled. A Saturday afternoon open house in a week or two, maybe. I’m not sure what days Jay has to work.”

“Am I invited?” Sarah asked, her eyes twinkling. “Or do I have to crash it?”

Austin snorted. “You know you’ll be there all day making sure it’s tidy and cooking enough food to feed an army.”

“You make it sound as if I’m one of those awful, interfering mothers,” she said indignantly but with a telltale blush. “I’ll come over to help if I’m asked, but otherwise—”

“You’re asked,” Austin said. “We couldn’t do it without you,” he added and watched her smile grow until she looked years younger.

They chatted for a while; then Austin stood and rolled up the sleeves of his heavy sweater. “Let me make a start moving the boxes down to the basement. Do you want them anywhere in particular?”

“No, just make sure they’re not blocking the stairs— Austin!” He turned his head and saw her staring at him, a concerned look on her face. “Whatever have you done to your arms? You’re black-and-blue!”

Shit, shit, shit. He’d forgotten the lingering bruises from the night Jay and Liam had taken turns holding him down; it had been easy enough to hide his arms under his shirtsleeves at work, especially since it was winter and cold enough to warrant long sleeves. Today he’d pulled the sweater on over the T-shirt he was wearing, figuring he’d be warm enough like that with the physical exercise of moving the boxes.

He’d already been too slow at replying to his mom’s concern. “Oh, these are old,” he said and continued down the stairs, hoping she’d let it drop even as he knew she wouldn’t. He should have come up with an explanation long before now—he wasn’t quick on his feet, and now that he was under scrutiny, his brain was caught in a whirlwind of self-recrimination instead of thinking up excuses.

“What happened?” Sarah asked, waiting at the foot of the stairs as he carried the box over to the shelves against the wall.

“Nothing,” he said. “Mom, it’s no big deal.”

“You’re covered with bruises,” she countered. “It’s a big deal to me, and it should be to you too.”

“Jay and I were trying to disassemble one of his old bookcases last week,” Austin said. “You know, getting ready to move. The thing must have been put together wrong, because he unscrewed one corner, and the whole thing fell apart on top of me. It was that one with the columns, remember?”

She didn’t look convinced, and he sighed. “Mom, I’m not a battered wife saying my black eye came from running into a wall.”

“And I’m not blind, and I can see those bruises are from fingers.” She came close enough to touch him, fitting her hand to a line of bruises, the match close enough to make her point.

He stepped back. “Mom, please. I’d tell you if something was wrong, and it isn’t. I—God this is embarrassing—I got them during sex, okay?”

“Jay did this to you?” Her eyes widened with shock. “Jay? I can’t believe— He seems such a gentle man. Austin, you have to tell him—talk to him.”

An inappropriate, ill-timed bubble of laughter was trying to force its way out, but Austin quelled it. There wasn’t anything remotely amusing about this, and if he started to laugh, he’d end up gasping for breath, mired in a panic attack. He wished Liam was here, a solid, comforting presence, infinitely reliable and calm.

“Mom, talking about my sex life with you is really, really awkward, which is why I lied to you just then—though the bookcase did fall on me—but trust me when I say he didn’t do anything I didn’t want him to.” At more than one point, he’d begged for more, his voice cracking with the intensity of his need, the two of them using one hand to hold him down, the other to play with him, toying with his body until he was writhing, desperate, shameless, willing, as ever, to do anything for them, loving them so much in the moment of his climax that he’d felt tears sting his eyes. “Sometimes we, uh, we play a bit rough. Jay’s got bruises of his own, if that helps.”

“I’m… Well, I…” His mother’s face was flushed now, pink with embarrassment. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Join the club.” Austin wished she’d at least move out of the way so he could go back upstairs for another box. It wasn’t like he was going to bulldoze his way past her. “How about we just agree to pretend this never happened?”

Her eyes met his, serious. “Only if you promise me everything’s okay. You aren’t hiding anything from me?”

“Mom,” Austin said helplessly. “I’m an adult. I don’t tell you everything. I’m sure there are lots of things you don’t tell me—”

“That’s different. I’m your mother.” Sarah was firm, feet back on solid ground. That was good.

“I know. I just meant, there are things I’m not going to talk to you about. Like my sex life.”

“I don’t want to know about it,” she said. “As long as you’re not doing anything…dangerous.”

Part of him wanted to ask what she’d classify as risky, but he didn’t really want to know. Everything he did with Liam and Jay could look freaky to an outsider, but really, they didn’t push it too much compared to some couples he knew. Though if Liam and Jay ever played on their own, that might change. Austin knew Liam wanted solo sessions with both of them, and though he looked forward to being one-on-one with Liam, picturing what Jay would ask for when it was his turn made Austin’s stomach clench with a mixture of arousal and apprehension.

And the apprehension was the reason Liam didn’t want him there. He held Jay back, he knew it, and that wasn’t fair to any of them.

“I’m always careful. We both are. We love each other too much not to be.”

God, he’d come so close to saying we all are.

Sarah sighed. “I suppose I’ve got to accept that, but I am not looking forward to the next time I see Jay.”

Austin did laugh then. “Thanksgiving’s only two days away, so you won’t have to wait long. Oh God, don’t blush when we come in! He’ll wonder what he’s done.”

“If you tell him…” Sarah looked mortified. “I couldn’t bear him to know I thought he was hurting you—or that we discussed what you do in bed.”

“I won’t, I promise.” Austin held up his hand. “Pinky swear. This conversation never happened, remember?”

As he drove back to Liam’s—to his home—he kept seeing the relief in her eyes as she’d agreed, but under it had there still been a lingering suspicion? He wasn’t sure, and it fretted at him until he snapped at Liam during supper and found himself over Liam’s knee, his ass stinging from a flurry of brisk slaps.

Knowing he’d earned it, turned on by the spanking, he let Liam’s hand beat the stress away—until he flashed back to his mom’s concerned face and started to struggle, as panicked as if she’d walked into the room and found him like this.

“Stop,” Liam said, one hand on his lower back and the other on his still-clothed shoulder. “Austin, stop.”

He stopped struggling, though it wasn’t easy, and as soon as he did, Liam helped him sit upright, an arm around his waist. “Sorry,” Austin gasped.

“What on earth was that?” Liam sounded calm. Calm was good; it helped Austin take a few deep breaths. He was aware of Jay watching from his chair.

“I don’t know.” It was a relief he hadn’t had to use his safe word because Liam knew him well enough to tell something was wrong. “It was good until I panicked. It wasn’t anything you did.” He looked at Liam quickly.

“I didn’t think it was,” Liam said. “But thank you for the reassurance.”

“Austin…” Jay was worried, and Austin didn’t blame him.

“I’m fine,” he said. “I dropped that stuff off at my mom’s today.” God, sitting on Liam’s lap, his ass bare, with his pants around his knees while talking about his mom was so disgustingly wrong. He stood and pulled them up, fastening them. “She saw the bruises on my arms.” Austin yanked at his sweater sleeve and held out his arm in illustration.

“Fuck,” Jay said, summing it all up perfectly.

“Language,” Liam said automatically. “What happened then, Austin?”

He was breaking his promise to his mom, but he didn’t have a choice. “I told her some bullshit—” Liam cleared his throat meaningfully, and Austin apologized. “Sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean to swear. She didn’t buy it, so I told her some of the truth. Not all of it,” he added hastily when Jay’s eyes widened. “I just said we played rough in bed, and she was so embarrassed she didn’t want to ask many questions. She was worried about me.”

“Only natural,” Liam said, his voice gentle. “It’s difficult for an outsider to get what we do and why we like it, but for a parent it triggers all kinds of protective responses. I can see why she’d be disturbed.”

“I didn’t tell her what we’re into,” Austin said, meeting Jay’s gaze. “The words kink or BDSM didn’t come up at all. But she thought you’d hurt me and I was being…abused or something, and I couldn’t let her think that, not about me or you.”

“Sure,” Jay said, still looking stunned. “Wait, she thought I was beating you up? Me? Shit, that’s… I thought she liked me!”

“She does! She just…” Austin went over to Jay, hugging him and feeling the tension in Jay’s body. “We’re close, always have been. When Dad died and I had to help her with the family and the house…I grew up fast, and she’s always felt guilty about that, like she let me down. She’s protective of all of us, April especially, but when it comes to me, she’s fierce. I got in trouble at school once when I missed an essay deadline because I was dealing with a broken pipe until two in the morning, and she stormed down there and gave the teacher hell. Scared him to death.”

“Good for her,” Liam said. “We only met briefly, but—”

“You’ll get to see her again soon,” Austin said tiredly. “I don’t know how it happened, but we’re having a housewarming next Saturday or the one after that, and she’s coming over early to help.”

“If I say fuck again, do I get a spanking for swearing?” Jay asked. “Because I really, really want to.”

“No, you’ll get to do the dishes by hand and by yourself,” Liam said with a fleeting smile at Jay’s pout. “Spanking you isn’t much of a punishment or a deterrent. Austin, a party is inevitable, I suppose. People will want to see your new home and how you’re settling in. It’ll have its awkward moments, but I’ll make myself scarce as soon as possible.”

“I hate that it’s so complicated,” Austin said. “We’re going to need a list just to keep track of who knows what, and I’m going to spend the whole time following people around, making sure they aren’t having conversations they shouldn’t. It’s like having all these different lives that aren’t allowed to meet.”

Liam looked concerned. “We’ll sort it out. You’ve only just moved in; a few weeks from now, it will be fine.”

“Do we tell our friends about you?” Jay asked Liam. “No, I’m not being rude; I’m serious. Are you a secret from everyone? Or just family?” Austin noted Jay hadn’t said “our” families, since that honestly wasn’t even an issue.

“There are already people who know about us,” Liam pointed out. “It isn’t a secret; it’s…it’s information we share selectively.”

“It kind of is a secret,” Austin said. “I mean, people like us don’t mind the whole threesome deal, but friends we just know from school or work would.”

“So we have two parties,” Jay said. “One kink, one vanilla.” He brightened. “Oh yeah. I know which one I’m looking forward to most. You can keep us naked and on a leash all night, Sir.” He caught his breath. “Oh God, would you whip me with everyone watching? Please?”

“No,” Liam said. “Absolutely not. I’d like to meet up with Laura again, and we can invite her and her partner over for drinks, maybe dinner, but a party with you on display like that…no.” He rolled his shoulders as if trying to shed a memory. “I’ve been to events like that years ago, back in England, and they weren’t as much fun as they sound.” He bit his lip. “Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true…but the potential for disaster is there, and given I don’t know these people…no.”

“We know them,” Jay said, but he subsided when Liam met his hopeful look with a blankly indifferent stare.

Austin agreed with Liam. What they did was private, and though he liked being around people in the scene, the thought of being spanked or whipped in front of an audience was enough to make his toes curl. The monthly BDSM meetings they’d gone to the year before had been sedate, even if the topics under discussion had been anything but. He couldn’t picture those people naked in Liam’s family room at all, and seeing that most of them were straight couples, he didn’t want to.

“This discussion isn’t getting us anywhere,” Liam said. “Austin, I can see it’s been stressful for you, but you handled the situation, so don’t dwell on it. Maybe starting off a load of washing will take your mind off things. Jay, clear the table and deal with the dishes.”

“What about you?” Jay asked, making Austin roll his eyes. God, would Jay just stop pushing?

Liam smiled and stood. “How thoughtful of you. I’ll have a coffee in the family room. And when you bring it to me, perhaps we can take a moment to discuss your attitude.”

He walked around the table to Jay and tilted Jay’s chin up, studying his face before patting it. “You don’t need to misbehave to get my attention, Jay.”

“Sir…”

“Trust me to see when you need taking in hand,” Liam said as if Jay hadn’t whispered his name. “Trust me, Jay.”

Austin, close enough that he could’ve touched them, his ass still warm from Liam’s hand, felt excluded, shut out. In that moment it was just the two of them, locked in their ongoing struggle.

Without taking his gaze off Jay’s face, Liam reached out and slapped Austin’s ass, ending his isolation. “Laundry.”

Grinning, his good mood restored, Austin went to obey.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve

“Jay, do you want me to set up a buffet table along that wall? I think if we move the bookcase over, it should fit. You don’t want to block the doors to the garden. I know it’s too cold to have them open, but if there was a fire, we’d need to get to them.”

“Why do moms always think disasters are about to happen?” Austin asked, saving Jay from replying to Sarah. “Sure, that’d be great. Don’t you move anything, though. Just point us at it, and we’ll do the heavy lifting.”

Jay smiled at Sarah and nodded his agreement, completely tongue-tied. He’d spoken to her briefly when she’d arrived with a car full of party food, but every time she looked at him, he remembered that she knew way too much about his sex life and thought he was capable of hurting Austin. He wasn’t sure which one made him the most uncomfortable, but he sure as hell knew which one hurt.

She’d been shown around the basement apartment—and entered through the external door Liam had told the builders to add, reached from a path leading around the house and opening into a small space with a tiled floor and hooks on the wall for coats. An internal door off it led directly into the apartment, and though it’d cost them some space, it prevented the temperature dropping every time the outside door was opened.

It also underlined the fact that the apartment was separate from the house, though Sarah didn’t seem at all suspicious about that. There was no reason for her to be. Clothes hung in the closets; there was food in the fridge and toothbrushes in a holder in the bathroom. It was incredibly tidy, but any space Austin lived in was like that.

The table in place, Sarah peered up the stairs leading to the upper floors. “Do you use these much?”

“Not really,” Austin said. “Liam put a lock on the door. We’ve all got a key, but if he wants us, he knocks. He doesn’t just walk in.”

“Is he coming to the party?” She gave Austin an impish smile. “I think you should invite him, even if only to give me someone my own age to talk to.”

Jay cringed inwardly. They really didn’t need Sarah thinking of Liam that way. God, she was only five years older than Liam; what if she flirted with him or something, thinking he was up for grabs? In the time Jay had been with Austin, Sarah had dated a few men, but not seriously. It didn’t mean that couldn’t change. Austin’s brothers were talking about moving out, Timothy to live with his girlfriend, and Sean had an offer of a job in a different state. With April at college, Sarah would be in an empty house for the first time in two decades.

“He said he’d stop by for a little while, but I think he has other plans,” Austin said casually, and Jay gave a silent sigh of relief. Austin must have been practicing that sentence for days to have it come out so naturally.

“I’m sure he has a very full life.” Sarah glanced at the clock. “Oh, I should get that Brie into the oven, or it won’t have time to get nice and brown. Are you sure you told your friends six?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Austin sounded amused. “Are you sure this is our party and not yours?”

“Hush,” Sarah said and bustled off to the kitchen area, where everything was still new and shining despite Austin’s attempts to mess it up and make it seem lived in. “Austin, come put these vegetables out on trays. Jay, would you see if you have a bowl for this dip?”

They spent the next twenty minutes getting food ready; then Austin’s brother Timothy and his girlfriend Kelly showed up with a stack of pizza boxes just as cars started to pull into Liam’s thankfully generous driveway. After that there wasn’t any time to think with the flurry of activity as friends arrived and were given the brief tour and people who didn’t know each other were introduced. Austin’s family took over in the way that they did—not on purpose, but there were so many of them, and they talked like everyone else knew their in-jokes. Luckily for Jay, he had learned most of them over the years, so at least he knew what all the laughing was about.

Jay started his third beer, intending to make it his last. He wanted to end the day with a spanking from Liam at the very least, and if he was tipsy, Liam would raise his eyebrows, shake his head, and keep anything that followed very strictly vanilla.

Jay approved of the way Liam took good care of them, but he didn’t see why he couldn’t get spanked when he had a mild buzz from a few bottles of beer. A spanking wouldn’t push him anywhere near his limits. He took a sip from the bottle, sighed, and set it on a table already crowded with empties. Three beers wasn’t much, but why risk it?

Deciding to clear away some of the debris, he grabbed a trash bag and went around the room, tossing in paper plates and crumpled napkins. He put the plastic cutlery into the sink to be washed. No sense in wasting it. Christmas was coming up, and they’d probably have another party then. Moving between people, shouting over the music someone had turned up too high, he made steady progress, filling his bag and leaving the surfaces ready for more plates and glasses. The food was disappearing rapidly, and as he passed by the table, he snagged a piece of crusty bread laden with mozzarella, a slice of tomato, and fresh basil, sinking his teeth into it with an appreciative moan.

When he’d put the trash bag out, he headed back to the food, but halfway there he saw Liam walking down the stairs and changed direction.

Liam looked good, dressed casually—for Liam—in dark gray chinos and a thin black sweater, the sleeves pushed up to reveal tanned, muscular forearms.

Jay wanted to go to the foot of the stairs, drop to his knees, and wait, head down, for a command. Wanted Austin to join him, the two of them ready to serve Liam, wait on him, but it was as much a fantasy as the ones he’d had in class at high school, daydreaming about being hauled up to the teacher’s desk and bent over it for a caning.

He sighed, pasted on a polite smile, and joined Liam.

“Hi! Are we making too much noise?”

“Well, I did knock a few times before giving up and using my key, so maybe,” Liam said with enough amusement in his eyes that Jay relaxed. “I’m not here to complain, though—at least not if there’s some food left and maybe a glass of wine? I worked through supper, and I’m starving.”

“Liam, there you are! I was starting to wonder if you were really coming,” Sarah Fisher said. It was like she had appeared out of nowhere.

Please, please may she not have designs on Liam. The thought of it was enough to make Jay squirm.

“Can I get you something to eat?”

“You don’t have to play hostess for me,” Liam said, reaching to take the hand she’d offered him and clasping it briefly. “Just point me at the food. Or make one of these younger ones do it.” He indicated Jay, who nodded.

“Sure, come on. I’ll show you,” Jay said.

As Jay led Liam over to the table they’d set up, Liam asked, “How’s it going?”

“Good. You’re sure we’re not too loud? We were going to kick everyone out around ten, anyway.”

Liam shook his head. “It’s fairly muffled; it wasn’t bothering me. It seems everyone is well behaved.” He looked around as Austin walked over to join them. “Ah, there you are. Having fun?”

“I was starting to think you weren’t going to show,” Austin said, then frowned when Jay grinned—like mother, like son. “What?”

“Nothing,” Jay said. “Liam, try the lasagna. It’s great.”

“Yeah, and that’s something I made,” Austin said.

“You’re a good cook,” Liam said a moment later after swallowing a mouthful.

“He gets that from me,” Sarah said, appearing beside Jay and reaching past him to scoop up a handful of salted cashews. She popped one into her mouth and washed it down with a gulp of white wine. A big gulp. With dawning horror Jay realized she was well on the way to being drunk. Motherly, warm, efficient Sarah Fisher, unsteady on her feet and definitely ready to flirt was more than Jay could cope with, but she had an arm around him now, the glass of wine tipping at a dangerous angle. Luckily—or not—there wasn’t much in it. “These nuts are all I’ve eaten in hours. Too busy talking.”

“Mom, how much wine have you had on an empty stomach?” Austin seemed amused, not anxious. “You know you’re a lightweight when it comes to drinking. Okay, hand over your keys. No way are you driving home.”

Sarah gave him an exasperated frown and flapped her hand at him, sending cashews flying everywhere.

Maybe they should’ve had the party before the new carpet was fitted.

“Silly. I’m fine. And Tim’s already said he’d drive me home. He came in Kelly’s car, so he can take mine, and I’ll come back tomorrow for the dishes and help with the cleanup.”

“There’s no need for that,” Liam said. “I’m sure Austin and Jay will find time to return them in the morning. Washed, of course.”

“Yes, Sir,” Austin murmured automatically, the words so familiar coming from him to Liam that it took Jay a moment to react.

Shit.

He held his breath, but Sarah gave Liam a puzzled look, as if she was trying to work out why he was giving her son orders, then began to laugh. “Austin, don’t be rude. Liam was just being considerate, weren’t you, Liam?”

Liam’s answering smile was on the rigid side. “Yes. Sorry, Austin. I didn’t mean to sound like a drill sergeant.”

“Sir, yes, sir,” Sarah said with a giggle and let go of Jay so that she could finish the rest of her wine.

Austin widened his eyes at Jay in a way that was probably supposed to communicate something, but Jay was too busy feeling stunned at Sarah’s behavior to figure out what it was. “I’m going to find Tim,” Austin said and turned away into the crowd.

Jay was amazed by how many people fit into the new apartment space without making the place feel cramped. It was a big house overall, so the basement was equally big, but it seemed like there were a few dozen party attendees at least. He was about to start counting just to assuage his curiosity when Liam asked, “Would you find me a glass of wine?”

“Yes—” He barely managed to choke back the word Sir and immediately left to go to the counter next to the fridge, where there were several bottles of wine open. He delivered the glass to Liam, who thanked him.

“I won’t stay long,” Liam added.

“Well, let me introduce you around after you’re done eating. People have been wondering who you are, you know, mystery-man kind of thing.”

“If you and Austin keep calling me Sir, they’re going to be wondering about more than that,” Liam said in a discreet murmur.

“And if you keep leaning in close enough that I could kiss you, they’re going to be making some pretty accurate guesses.” Jay bit his lip. “It’s killing me that I can’t. I’ve kissed Austin half a dozen times, stood holding his hand… No one cares, or they just tease us about being so in love it’s sickening. And you… I can’t even touch you—”

“Jay—” Liam’s breath was warm against Jay’s cheek, his hand rising to grip Jay’s arm briefly. It wasn’t enough. “The party will be over soon. I’ve asked Laura and Chris to come over around ten. They can join you down here or stay with me until the last of the guests have left, whatever you’d prefer. We can spend an hour or so with people we trust, be ourselves—”

“That’s good, that’s great, but I need you now,” Jay said. Austin was the one who had panic attacks, not him, but right then Jay was close to melting down. “Austin’s mom is flirting with you. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?”

“It’s the wine,” Liam said gently. “She’ll feel embarrassed tomorrow, but it’s not as if she grabbed me and tried to kiss me.”

“One more glass and she might.”

Austin came up behind Jay and gave him a quick, casual kiss on the cheek. “Might what? Who?”

Jay had once said that, during a scene, Liam could read their minds, without really meaning it seriously. On the off chance it was true, he fixed Liam with a death glare and tried projecting say nothing. Liam gave him a sidelong “are you fucking kidding me?” look back and said smoothly, “One of your guests was talking about playing a karaoke game on your Wii, but her friend didn’t seem keen.”

“Oh my God, if that’s Lisa, don’t let her. She’ll hog it for hours and end up sobbing over something sentimental.” Austin nudged Jay with his elbow. “I think my mom’s about ready to go. Tim’s going to round her up.”

A wave of relief washed over Jay, but he didn’t want to sound too glad out loud. “Oh, okay. Is there anything she needs to take with her?”

Austin shrugged. “Tim and Kelly are on it. She’s kind of tipsy; it makes her want to say good-bye to everyone at least twice, so it’ll be a while.”

“Good,” Jay said bluntly. “Come on, both of you.” He took Austin’s hand and led him toward the bedroom, weaving through Lisa and Adrienne and one of Austin’s high school friends whose name Jay had to be reminded of every time they met. Liam followed, thank God, and as soon as they were all in the room, Jay kicked the door half-closed with his foot and grabbed Liam. He kissed him hard, then turned and kissed Austin too. “I was losing it out there. I just needed a minute.”

“I’m not complaining,” Austin said. He drew Jay closer for another kiss, one hand at the small of his back the way Jay loved. “Well, I might complain about only having a minute.”

“You’re both playing with fire.” Liam winced, presumably at his choice of words. “Someone’s going to catch us at it, which is exactly what we were trying to avoid.”

“I’m not suggesting we get naked and fuck,” Jay said with a curtness born of pure frustration at the situation they were in. “I just want you. Both of you. I want to be able to do this—” He slid his hands around the backs of their necks and drew them in, making it a three-way kiss, their mouths meeting, heads turning. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth, knowing he’d only be left unkissed for a moment before a mouth covered his, a tongue slid against his own. It was erotic, it was loving, and even as his arousal grew, his desperation eased.

It ended when Liam pulled back and growled, a rough, deep sound that went straight to Jay’s balls. “God, you two destroy all my common sense, you know that?”

“Do we?” Austin hummed approvingly. “I like that.”

“Oh yeah,” Jay agreed. “Love it when we get you off balance, Sir.”

“Brat,” Liam said and slapped their asses, the noise muffled by clothing, the sting soaking through. Jay pressed against Liam’s palm, lingering on his backside, blatantly wriggling.

“If I told you to get on your knees for me, would you do it? Here, with everyone you know just outside the door?”

“Yeah, we would,” Jay said in a whisper, knowing what Austin’s answer would be. “You’re our Dom. You tell us, and we’ll do it. Suck you off, let you come in our mouths, on our faces, so we have to lick each other clean before we can go back out.”

“Jay—” Austin groaned. “Don’t. I’m so fucking hard now.”

Liam stepped back, rubbing his face. “You’re not the only one. God, I want to, I really do, but this is just too risky. We need to get back out there. Later, okay? Everything we want and more, I promise, but now I’m telling you to go back out there and behave. I’ll leave by the side door and go upstairs.”

Jay drew in a shaky breath, Liam’s orders a lifeline. “Yes, Sir.” He gestured at the bathroom off their bedroom. “Uh, I need to take a leak first.”

Liam nodded, and Jay slipped into the bathroom, closing the door and turning on the light. He didn’t really need to use the bathroom—too hard to make taking a piss easy—but he did need a moment to calm down. Jerking off would have been the ideal method, but he didn’t have permission, and if he’d asked for it, Liam would have turned him down, so what was the point?

He tried splashing cold water on his face and just got water down the collar of his shirt and wet hair. His dick was persistently rigid and visible through his jeans.

Ugh, forget it. There was nothing he could do about it except leave his shirt untucked and hope for the best. He stepped out of the bathroom, expecting to be alone in the bedroom, and instead saw Austin and Liam making out. Behind them, the bedroom door swung slightly—must be a cross breeze.

“Hey,” Jay said indignantly. “I didn’t leave so you guys could go back to messing around without me.”

“We weren’t,” Austin said.

“I was just going,” Liam said, but he kissed Jay before he left.

When Austin and Jay rejoined the party, Austin’s mom and brother were nowhere to be seen. “Oh, Tim said to say good-bye. Your mom didn’t look like she was feeling very well.” Adrienne made a sympathetic face.

“I hope she doesn’t throw up in the car,” Austin said. His face was still flushed from kissing.

Adrienne shook her head. “God, no. She wasn’t that out of it. Just tired, maybe. Now, Danny’s getting that way, lurching all over the place and knocking into people. If he even tries to open another beer, cut him off. Seriously wasted.”

Austin looked at his watch. “He said he had to get up early tomorrow to work on his car. Maybe I’ll remind him.”

“There’s no way he’ll be up before noon,” Adrienne said, “but you can try. I think a few people are going to be making a move soon, including me, but it’s been a great party. Really enjoyed it.”

She gave them both a hug and drifted off, leaving Jay hoping she was right. It was relatively early, just after ten, but the invitations had been for six to ten, so if some people left, others would follow.

“I love them all, but I want them to go,” Austin murmured into his ear.

“Laura and Chris are coming over,” Jay whispered back. “Liam’s probably going to keep them upstairs if he sees lots of people leaving.”

Austin sighed. “I want to see them, but I want this all to be over even more. God, I can’t wait for whatever Liam has planned.”

“What do you want to bet Liam keeps them around until midnight just to torment us?”

“He’d suffer too.”

Jay laughed. “He loves watching us squirm. I don’t think he’d be suffering that much.”

“After you talking dirty to him, he might.” Austin’s lips quirked in a grin. “You do know he’ll make you pay for that?”

Jay sighed, a long, satisfied exhalation. “Counting on it.”

Chapter Thirteen

“And I suppose that’s all,” Liam said. “Would you like some more wine?”

Laura was sitting on the small couch, her sub Chris kneeling on the floor beside her. His wrists were crossed behind his back, his head bowed. He hadn’t moved in the past half hour except for breathing, and from what Liam could see, the line of his shoulder was utterly relaxed. “I would, thank you. Chris can get it.”

Chris didn’t move until she reached out and touched his hair; as soon as she did, he rose gracefully and took her glass, walking to the other room without a sound.

“He’s very obedient,” Liam said. He wanted to ask the same question he’d asked earlier but wouldn’t. It would be rude, like an accusation that Laura might not know Chris as well as she thought she did, to verify—again—that Chris would keep anything he overheard in confidence. It would be questioning his loyalty to his Domme.

Laura gave him a shrewd look. “You don’t have to worry. He does as he’s told, and even if he didn’t, he’s been tuning out our conversation. If I had any doubts, I’d tell you.”

“It’s just that, well, Jay requires a firm hand, I suppose. I wouldn’t put my trust in him in the same situation.” It was hard to admit that out loud, knowing Laura had Chris perfectly trained, but part of getting together with them was to help Liam sort out how to change things so they worked more smoothly.

Chris came back with the refilled wineglass, handed it to Laura, and knelt back in his previous spot.

“We’ve been together for a long time,” Laura said, resting her hand briefly on the back of Chris’s neck. “It’s normal for the earlier months to be rocky. Be patient—with them, but even more with yourself.”

“That’s not easy,” Liam admitted.

She chuckled. “Of course not. It comes with the territory for us. We expect perfection, demand it, get off on it—and we turn that desire inward and expect it of ourselves.”

“I can definitely say that applies to me.”

“And you’ve taken on a lot in a short space of time,” she continued. “Two subs, a shift in your sexuality, moving them in… You take big bites, Liam. I like that.”

“When you list it like that, it makes me wonder if I’ve lost my mind, but at the same time I can’t imagine my life without them, even if we met less than a year ago.”

“They’ll be joining us soon,” she said. “Anything you want to talk about?”

“Yes, but it’s difficult for me to ask for help, if I’m honest. I feel as if I should be able to figure this situation—the two of them—out for myself. That it’s my responsibility, and I shouldn’t shuffle it off onto anyone else.” Laura snorted, and he gave her a rueful smile. “Yes, I know that’s ridiculous, especially given my relative inexperience, so let’s forget I said it.”

“Forgotten,” she said promptly.

Beside her, Chris held position, his submission as clear and hot as a flame, burning steadily. He wasn’t doing anything but kneeling in silence, wasn’t even naked, but Liam found his gaze going to him over and over.

“What do you see when you look at him?” Laura asked, tilting Chris’s head back, one finger under his chin, lifting it. Chris went with it, his color rising as Liam stared at him, his eyes still lowered.

It wasn’t easy to open up, but Liam gave her an honest answer. “I see…I see that he’s happy. Glowing. That he’s finding satisfaction in being what you want him to be. He’s not fighting you, not restless or bored. He’s not trying to attract your attention by moving or sighing because…”

“Yes?” she prompted.

Liam smiled. “Because he knows he’s got it. That even as you talk to me, you’re aware of him, focused on him. I envy that level of trust.”

Laura took her hand away, and Chris returned to his original position, his face serene. “It’s earned over time. It’ll come.”

“I hope so.” He took a sip of wine, making the half glass he’d allowed himself last. “Okay, there is one thing. Jay’s really interested in fire play. Well, he’s interested in a lot more than that, and all of it extreme, but it’s what’s currently obsessing him. I’m happy to try it, but not until I’ve seen it done and had some training. I put out some feelers, made some calls, but so far there’s no one relatively close who’s available to give me some pointers. Would you know of anyone?”

“A few people,” Laura responded immediately. “I can get you their contact information. Do you have a preference, man or woman?”

The idea that he might have a choice hadn’t crossed Liam’s mind. “Frankly, no. Is it too desperate to admit I’d take anyone I can get?”

Laura laughed. “No, I appreciate your honesty. I’ll check in with them and then let you know how to get in touch, assuming they’re okay with it. I’m sure they will be.”

Outside was the faint sound of a car horn, then the dual thuds of the downstairs apartment doors being closed. A moment later Liam heard footsteps on the stairs. There was no sound as the basement door opened, although Liam knew it did because Austin and Jay appeared.

“Sir?” Austin asked respectfully from the doorway.

Liam stayed sitting but set down his wineglass. “Come in here, please.” He watched their faces as they took in Chris kneeling on the floor; Austin looked pleased and relieved and eager all at once. “Not yet,” Liam told him. “Come sit with me.”

They sank onto the couch on either side of him, pressed close as if for warmth or comfort.

“It’s an art, not a science,” Laura said, and Liam nodded and slid his hand into Jay’s hair, his grip tight as he dragged Jay’s head into his lap. Jay made the smallest of sounds, a gasp, a whimper, and Liam felt his submission in that moment. It wouldn’t last for long, maybe, and it wasn’t as reliable a surrender as Chris’s, not yet, but it was a start.

Beside him, Austin sat, waiting patiently, needing encouragement as much as Jay needed a firm hand, offering Liam everything he had and hoping Liam would want more.

Liam kissed his cheek, a cool, brief kiss, feeling something inside him click into place. With them here beside him, his doubts fled, his control absolute. They gave him that certainty just by being themselves, and he loved them for it.

At a flick of his fingers, Austin slid to the floor, going to his knees, his sigh of pleasure audible only to Liam. He knelt as Liam had taught him to, mirroring Chris’s position, his wrists crossed at the small of his back.

There was a moment of silence as Liam glanced at them, knowing Laura’s gaze was on them too. Then she asked casually, “So how do you celebrate Christmas, Liam? Any exotic British traditions you can’t do without?”

“It’s barely December,” Liam told her. “I’m not even thinking about it yet, though I know I’ll be spending some time with my children.” He wanted to see them, but leaving Austin and Jay would be a wrench, and he’d do his best to let them see that. “I can’t think of much we do that you don’t do here. We eat too much, drink too much, spend too much. It’s depressing in a way.”

“Mm.” Laura seemed to accept his statement without agreeing with it; it was clever, and Liam gave her points for tact.

“And what about you?”

“Oh, Chris and I will have a quiet morning at home, then visit his family in the afternoon. We won’t see my family until next week—my sister is coming with her two kids. They love Chris. Well, everyone loves Chris.” She touched the back of Chris’s neck again, another light caress, and he exuded pleasure without moving.

Neither of them spoke to Austin or Jay directly. Liam’s intention had been for them to ask questions if they had any, to seek clarity, but now that Laura was here in the room with them, it seemed unnecessary. It was Liam who had needed the reassurance that all of this was possible. Now he had it. It wasn’t up to Austin and Jay to make him feel better or to sort out how to work through the challenges of their relationship.

“It’s been great,” Laura said, finishing her wine and holding the glass in front of Chris to indicate that he should take it. “Thanks for having us over.” She stood, and Liam rose with her as Chris left the room, presumably to deliver her wineglass to the kitchen.

All three of them followed Laura and Chris to the front door, where they bundled themselves into their winter coats and shook hands all around.

“I’ll be in touch,” Laura said and briefly clasped Liam’s hand in both of hers as Chris held the door for her. Then they went off into the night.

“Brr,” Austin said, locking the door and wrapping his arms around himself. “I guess it’s really winter now.”

“So it would seem.” Liam tugged Austin to him and kissed his temple, then patted Jay’s arse lightly. “All right, you two. Let’s get the downstairs neatened up before bed, or you’ll both be doing nothing but cleaning all day tomorrow. And when you’ve finished that…”

“You have plans for us?” Jay asked.

“You know I do. So hurry.”

* * * * *

Liam shifted slightly on the couch, pleasantly tired from a day spent doing very little. When Austin had returned from his mother’s, Liam cooked them brunch, and then they’d done their own things in the afternoon, Jay disappearing to work on a diorama, Austin tackling a stack of ironing as if it were a treat. Liam, nudged into awareness of the upcoming holiday, had done some online shopping for gifts, finding it as exhausting as pushing his way through crowded malls.

When the movie had started, they’d all been close, touching, but as it went on both Jay and Austin had edged ever closer until Jay was nearly in his lap and Austin was using his shoulder as a pillow. Not that he was complaining—he loved that they felt so comfortable with him, and he suspected this was what they all needed more than anything else.

Now Austin’s hand, which had been resting near Liam’s knee, was stroking idly along his thigh instead.

Wondering if he should comment or respond in some way, he settled for staying still, tacitly encouraging the caress, aware of a gentle swell of arousal coupled with amused curiosity. Austin’s attention seemed to be on the screen, but Liam really doubted Austin was following the convoluted plot.

Jay sighed and nestled closer, his leg sliding between Liam’s thighs, his hand coming to rest on Liam’s chest, the tip of his middle finger against Liam’s nipple. With the smallest of movements, that finger drew circles, pressing against the soft, raised flesh until it hardened.

The lights were off, the curtains drawn, the room lit only by the flickering images on the screen. Liam waited for their next move, no longer the slightest bit interested in the movie. His arms were around them, and he couldn’t change that without signaling that he was aware of their stealthy seduction. He didn’t want to do that, even though it left him unable to return their caresses. Let the game continue awhile longer. It was pleasant to be here with them in the near darkness, the two of them showing him wordlessly that they wanted him.

Austin’s hand slid higher, the side of his little finger brushing Liam’s rapidly forming erection. Through the loose trousers he was wearing, it was a touch that should have barely registered, but in his current state of anticipation it sent a thrill of desire through him, a groan rising that he stifled.

He wasn’t going to make this easy for them and spoil their fun. His two beautiful, loving boys, so patient, so eager to be perfect for him without realizing that in his eyes they already were. Their rebellions and their occasional failures didn’t bother him. He wanted subs, not robots, a challenge, not a walkover. And he was honest enough to admit that for every mistake they made, he made two. He was learning along with them, and they all stumbled at times as they outpaced themselves.

Jay lifted his face and kissed the side of Liam’s jaw, which ought to be smooth enough at least, given that he’d shaved only a few hours ago.

Oh, hello. Now Austin’s fingertips were moving gently over Liam’s erection, and Jay’s lips had found his earlobe. Any chance Liam had of pretending he didn’t realize this was happening disappeared, and he turned his head to kiss Jay, who made a grateful sound and pressed against him even more eagerly.

“You smell so good,” Austin murmured, slowly unbuttoning Liam’s shirt and slipping his hand inside. Austin’s fingers were cool, his palm warmer.

“I thought,” Liam said, “we were watching a movie.”

“We are,” Jay said. “Don’t tell me you never made out at the movies when you were a teenager.”

“None of us are teenagers now,” Liam pointed out, but his ability to have a real conversation fled when Jay settled a hand over his cock, thumb tracing the head through his clothes.

“That just means we can do more than make out,” Austin said with a wicked gleam in his eyes. “Adult things.”

“You mean…naughty things?” Jay asked with an attempt at shocked horror that was woefully unconvincing, accompanied as it was by the lowering of the zipper on Liam’s trousers.

“Oh yeah,” Austin said and pushed Liam’s shirt open, baring his chest. “We can be really naughty all we like.”

“Don’t naughty boys get spanked?” Jay wondered, catching his lower lip between his teeth and looking adorably worried.

Liam couldn’t hold back a grin. “If you two have finished reenacting the start of a porn movie…”

“The ones we watch generally don’t have this much plot,” Jay said, slipping his hand into Liam’s trousers and making the discovery that Liam had gone commando. “Huh. We dress like this when we didn’t do laundry.” He tugged gently at the hair around Liam’s cock, teasing him. “It’d be fun to watch one together sometime. Or one of yours, if you have any?”

“Maybe,” Liam said, refusing to commit himself. He had a small collection of porn movies, though he hadn’t watched them in a while. They’d provided a glimpse into a world he’d turned his back on in an attempt to save his marriage and, as such, had been a source of frustration more than anything else.

And most of the movies featured female subs, which ruled out the possibility of watching them with Austin and Jay. There had been one with a male sub, though, a prisoner attempting to avoid punishment by offering himself to a guard—and discovering he’d made the wrong choice. They’d played roughly—Jay would have loved it—but there had been a visible connection between the two actors that had saved the short movie from being run-of-the-mill. Liam had watched that one more than once, drawn to it, though he’d steadfastly refused to think about why it’d appealed.

He knew now.

“By now we’d all be naked,” Austin said.

“Hmm,” Liam said. “And Jay was saying derogatory things about porn why?”

Austin chuckled and leaned down to where Jay’s hand was still only teasingly close to Liam’s cock, breathing warm air over Liam’s skin. “There are good things about porn.” He licked Liam’s shaft so quickly and lightly that it was over before Liam could enjoy it. “We could show you.”

“I’m sure you could.” Liam’s voice was a bit shaky.

“We could do whatever you wanted us to,” Jay agreed, kissing him again. “You could tell us what you want.”

“One instruction,” Liam said. “Have fun.”

“Anything off-limits?”

Liam shook his head. “Not tonight.” He was barefoot, and the shirt and trousers he was wearing were half off him as it was. He took them off without moving from the couch, Austin and Jay shifting to give him space to work the shirt off and kick down his trousers. Naked, he glanced at them. “You want to play with me, boys? I’m right here.”

“Oh my God.” Jay’s throat-caught whimper was flattering as hell, Liam decided. “You are so fucking hot, Sir, and yeah, I know that sounds cheesy, but I mean it. I just want to…”

“What?” Liam asked, then shook his head. “No. Don’t tell me. Just do it. But get naked first. I want to see you.”

Jay slid off the couch and stripped, not making it a performance but still giving Liam plenty to look at as more skin was revealed. Bare, Jay was stunning, though he would’ve looked better with some marks on him. Jay’s arse should always have a few fresh stripes on it, a scatter of bruises in Liam’s opinion, one he knew Jay shared. It looked naked without them. He got to see that arse as Jay turned and bent to gather up the clothing scattered on the carpet, an unnecessary bit of tidying done solely to show himself off.

“He needs spanking, Sir,” Austin said, echoing Liam’s thoughts.

“So do you,” Liam said and hauled a surprised, wriggling Austin over his lap, dealing out a flurry of slaps under Jay’s amused gaze. Austin yelped, though the spanks weren’t at all hard, and pushed up his arse pleadingly when Liam stopped. “That’s enough for now. Why don’t you get undressed and let Jay show me what he wants to do?”

As soon as Austin moved to stand, Jay was half in Liam’s lap, mouth finding Liam’s cock like he was starved for it. It was as eager a blowjob as Liam could remember, and he found himself closing his eyes and holding on to Jay’s long hair more tightly than he needed to because of how fast and desperately he was turned on.

“Christ,” he muttered, forcing himself to loosen his grip. “Sorry, love.”

Jay said something unintelligible around Liam’s cock, and Austin explained, “He likes when you pull his hair…which you already know.” Austin flushed, and Liam shook his head, glad of the distraction from Jay’s hot, willing mouth.

“Don’t blush like that unless you’re doing it for a good reason. I needed the reminder. Thank you.”

Austin let the T-shirt he’d been wearing drop to the floor much more carelessly than he normally would have, leaving him naked and no less hard than Liam felt. He sank onto his knees in front of Liam and nudged his thighs apart. Jay made a choked sound of protest but moved to give Austin room. Austin leaned in and licked a slow line up the inside of Liam’s thigh.

“I want to do this,” Austin said, waiting until Liam met his gaze before licking a fingertip and brushing it to the sensitive skin below Liam’s balls. “With my tongue.”

Liam spread his legs wider still, hooking his foot over Jay’s shoulder to give Austin access, exposing himself blatantly without caring how he looked. They were his subs and whatever game they were playing, ultimately he was in charge, and they all knew it, all wanted it that way.

But beyond that, they were two men he loved, and he wasn’t going to hinder them in any way.

Jay turned and kissed Liam’s ankle, his hand warm against the arch of Liam’s foot. Shouldering Liam’s leg had forced him to straighten, and he gave Liam a reproachful look. “I can’t do much to you like this, Sir.”

“You can touch me. And you can watch Austin— Oh yes. There.” Austin’s tongue flickered against the skin his finger had left wet, and Liam gave an approving growl. He’d never done this to them, but every time they rimmed him, he wanted to try it, to conquer them with the soft, liquid lap of his tongue as surely as he did with a white-hot lick from a whip or the sizzle of a cane stroke.

Austin ran his tongue lower, the tip of it breaching Liam’s hole, sliding inside the barest amount, then swirling over the surface before darting forward again. Sweat broke out on Liam’s forehead, his chest constricting, the sensation disproportionately intense considering Austin was using nothing but his tongue to provide it.

Jay ran his hand along Liam’s inner thigh, as far as he could reach, scratching the sensitive skin lightly with his nails, drawing Liam’s attention back to him. “Sir…please?”

Without knowing what he was agreeing to, his cock stiff and hard, craving a touch, Liam nodded.

With a grateful sigh, Jay put his hand in the crook of Liam’s knee and pushed up and back so that Austin could reach even more of Liam’s arse and Jay could move closer to take Liam’s cock in his mouth again. He sucking at it voraciously, using his teeth, as if inviting Liam to take a handful of his hair again to control him, which Liam did.

“Bite me, and I won’t use a flogger on you for a month.”

Jay raised his eyes, gleaming with amusement at the threat, but the tug Liam gave to Jay’s hair was taken more seriously, and Jay eased off, using the sounds Liam made to guide his actions.

With both of them working so assiduously to please him, Liam’s senses were swimming. Jesus, he wasn’t going to last long, and he wasn’t ready for this to end.

“Enough.” They didn’t obey him at once, Austin redoubling his efforts to work his tongue deeper, Jay’s lips closing firmly around the head of Liam’s cock. Well, that wouldn’t do. He sharpened his voice, aware that he’d sounded less than convincing. “Enough.”

Two heads jerked up. Their faces were flushed, mouths wet, eyes glazed, and a stab of lust went through him. He freed himself from Jay’s hand and sat forward. “Enough,” he said for the third time, softly. He drew his thumb over Austin’s lips, pinched Jay’s nipple in an unspoken thank-you. “You were doing too good a job. I want more from you than this before I come.”

Austin kissed the inside of his thigh so tenderly that Liam shivered. “What do you want, Sir? Please tell us.”

“We want to give you whatever you want,” Jay agreed. “Anything you want.”

“I want to watch you together,” Liam said. He hadn’t had nearly enough of that. Maybe he never would, but right then he wanted it so badly his voice almost shook. “Here, Jay. Kneel near Austin and lean on the sofa. Austin, behind him—yes, like that—and fuck him. Slowly, so I can see.”

There was a bottle of lube in his trouser pocket. He’d taken it from the bathroom earlier and forgotten to return it to the bedroom where it belonged. It was the work of a moment to retrieve it and spread a few drops on the head of Austin’s cock. Austin hissed at his touch but smiled when Liam nodded at him.

“How slowly, Sir?”

“As slowly as you can manage. I want to see everything.” Liam backed up from them a little, eyes riveted on the glistening tip of Austin’s cock as it pressed against Jay’s hole.

Jay bit his lip, hands gripping the inner edge of the sofa cushion. Austin’s hips inched forward, and Jay moaned. Liam could see him trembling, and guessed that Jay was trying not to beg for Austin to hurry since he knew it wasn’t what Liam wanted.

“Tell me how it feels,” Liam said, to either of them, though Austin answered first.

“Hot,” Austin said, pushing in just a tiny bit more. “He’s always so hot inside. Get hard just thinking about it.”

“And he makes me feel…” Jay tipped his head back, exposing his throat, his breath rushing out of him in a sigh. “Taken. Filled. Doesn’t hurt. Austin would never hurt me, but sometimes I want to fight it anyway, make him force me to take him, but he wouldn’t like that.”

“I’d try if it was what you needed, but yeah, not my thing,” Austin agreed without looking particularly disturbed. “Sir? You’d do that for him, wouldn’t you?”

Liam pictured it, Jay’s lithe body fighting as Liam pinned him down, kicked his legs apart, fucked him with a controlled roughness, Jay panting, cursing him, slowly yielding… It wouldn’t be an easy scene to stage or recover from, but he could give Jay the illusion of being taken against his will.

“I might. Not now.” Liam stroked Jay’s throat, knowing it would make him shiver. “You love being fucked hard, don’t you? That edge of pain? You’re not going to get that. Just Austin sliding into you slowly, everything building until you’re screaming for more. Such a good way to torture a pain slut.”

Jay winced. “I could scream now?” he suggested, with a hint of humor in his voice. “If it would help.”

“The only thing you need help with is learning patience,” Liam said disapprovingly.

“I do love that,” Jay said. “Being fucked hard. Really hard.” He squirmed, and Austin’s hands tightened on his hips to hold him still.

“Pretend that’s what I’m doing.” Austin eased in another half inch, close to fully seated but not quite there. “Fucking you hard, just…slow.”

“I want it fast,” Jay said quietly. Then whispered, “I want you to hurt me.”

“Sir said no. If you’re good, though, he might. Some night. He’s strong. He could hold you down even if you didn’t want him to.” Austin gritted his teeth and panted, stopping his slow inward push. “God.”

“You like that idea?” Liam asked, his curiosity aroused. One reason he’d decided to do solo sessions in the future was Austin’s concerned reaction to Jay being taken to his limits. Liam appreciated that it had to be difficult to watch someone you loved being hurt, but Jay deserved the freedom to explore those limits and push them as far as Liam deemed safe. He wasn’t sure why something as dark as a rape fantasy would appeal to Austin in any way.

“If it was you doing it, sure.” Austin closed his eyes and slid in as deeply as possible from what Liam could see. “Safe. Hot. God, Sir, please, I can’t talk and fuck him at the same time.”

Liam chuckled. “I suppose not. Hold still for a moment.” He wanted to touch them, feel their bodies strain to obey his order, locked together, joined so intimately. Jay’s back was damp with sweat, strands of his dark hair sticking to it. Liam pushed his hand under the fall of hair to clasp the back of Jay’s neck. The skin there was hot, and he tightened his grip, enjoying the way Jay clawed at the couch, his fingers flexing. Throat and neck… Jay loved being touched there. Liam wanted to collar them both when the time was right. He knew they’d react differently to the feel of leather or metal around their necks, Austin welcoming the visible proof of his submission, Jay relishing the constant stimulation.

From there he moved to Austin’s stomach, drawing his fingers over the taut skin and down to the wiry hair clustered around the base of Austin’s cock. Jay’s hole was stretched by Austin’s cock, glistening with lube, an emphatically erotic sight, and Liam looked his fill, ignoring the restive whimpers from Jay and Austin’s quickening breath.

“You’ve never had two cocks in you at once, have you, Jay?” he asked, mostly to observe Jay’s reaction to the idea. And a lovely reaction it was too—Jay’s hole clenched around Austin, and they made twin sounds of pleasure. “I asked you a question.”

“No,” Jay gasped. “Sir. Never.”

“You like the thought of it.”

“Yes, Sir.” Jay didn’t need to add that he only liked the idea if the two cocks belonged to Liam and Austin—Liam knew that, and Jay knew he knew it. Though Liam also liked the thought of fucking Jay himself and with a dildo at the same time. How wide could Jay stretch, and how much would he love it? A lot, Liam suspected.

“Can I move again, Sir?” Austin asked. “Please?”

“Yes, all right. But slowly.” Liam knelt back and watched the slide of Austin’s cock as he withdrew, the cling of Jay’s flesh to Austin’s erection. It was an impossible turn-on to see it, accompanied as it was by Jay’s uneven breaths and Austin’s white-knuckle grasp on Jay’s waist.

Liam wasn’t sure how much longer he could watch without getting involved in some way. His cock, so recently deep in Jay’s throat, the memory of Austin’s tongue sliding into his hole… Watching them was driving his arousal higher with every passing second.

Austin’s movements quickened, his chest dappled with a flush that showed clearly on his fair skin. Liam slapped Austin’s arse in a warning. “Slowly,” he reminded him.

“That’s not helping, Sir,” Austin said between breaths.

“Really?” Liam knelt beside Austin and applied the flat of his hand to Austin’s backside again. “And here I thought I was giving you a beat to follow. I slap; you move.”

Austin arched backward, his fingers leaving white indentations in Jay’s flesh that would be bruises by the morning. His “Yes, Sir,” was close to inaudible, but he drove into Jay when Liam spanked him again and waited for the next slap to withdraw.

“No one’s spanking me,” Jay said under his breath as he was fucked to the rhythm Liam set, a slow, inexorable one that Liam allowed to build speed only gradually.

Amused, Liam reached around to stroke Jay’s cock, fondling it roughly. “You want to sleep on your stomach tonight, do you? Earn it. Don’t come until I’m in you, and I’ll make sure you go to bed aching inside and out.”

“You know he’ll do it.” Austin responded to Liam’s next slap by pushing into Jay deep, and Jay’s cock pulsed in Liam’s grip.

Liam squeezed the base of Jay’s cock until Jay groaned. “This is me doing you a favor,” he reminded Jay.

Jay nodded, eyes shut tight. “Thank you, Sir. So close.”

“Don’t move, Austin. Just be still. Jay, don’t come.” Liam let go of Jay’s cock and used the hand he’d been spanking Austin with to caress Austin’s arse instead. Austin’s skin was damp with perspiration, and his hole was still reasonably slick from earlier in the day—slick enough for Liam to push two fingers inside him and find his prostate.

“Sir,” Austin said shakily.

“Yes, Austin?” Liam moved his fingers slowly deeper.

Austin whimpered. “Please.”

“Can you come like this? Just from being in Jay and my fingers in you? Not moving?”

Liam got a nakedly adoring look that made him feel gratified but uncomfortable. He wasn’t as perfect as they told him he was; today had proven that. Under that loving gaze, though, he wanted to be, if that counted. “If you tell me to, I sometimes feel I could do anything.” Austin bit his lip, hard enough that Liam winced even as he twisted his fingers and drew a groan from Austin. “Can I? Come?”

“May I,” Liam corrected him and added a third finger, feeling the hot clench of Austin’s body and wishing his cock was where his fingers were, though he was equally looking forward to the wild ride he’d get fucking Jay.

“May I come, Sir?” Austin said, so dutiful, so willing to please, even when he was quivering with arousal, every muscle straining to stay still. Liam kissed him, a slow, lingering kiss, his tongue licking the roof of Austin’s mouth, plunging as deeply as his fingers. He could taste Austin’s desperation, hear the stream of words as Jay begged for someone to do something: God, please, so close, fuck, Sir, Austin, please will someone just fuck me…

He drew back just enough to murmur, “Do it,” to Austin, then kissed him again, feeling Austin’s climax rip through his body and knowing that for Jay it would be close to impossible not to follow Austin’s example. Not that it would buy Jay forgiveness if he came. His fingers were squeezed tightly enough that they throbbed, but he kept them where they were, coaxing a final shudder from Austin when he finally withdrew them.

Austin let some of his weight rest on Jay’s slender but strong back, breathing hard and kissing Jay’s shoulder. “You’re so good,” Austin murmured. “Love you so much.”

Liam was sure the words were meant for Jay and felt a twinge of something dark and unpleasant—jealousy, envy. Something like that. The two of them had a bond entirely separate from anything they had with him, and probably always would. It made things complicated. “He is good,” Liam admitted, because Jay hadn’t come and needed to hear it. “Austin, slide around him and sit on the sofa, please.”

Shakily Austin obeyed, sitting so that Jay straightened up to kiss him. As soon as Jay’s position shifted, Liam took Austin’s place behind him, lining up his cock and pushing inside Jay’s tight, hot hole, now slick with Austin’s cum.

“God!” Jay cried out. “Oh God, yes, please. Please fuck me, Sir.”

“You have no idea how much I’m going to enjoy this,” Liam told him. He glanced at Austin. “You don’t mind sharing him with me?”

Austin’s eyes widened as if he’d picked up on Liam’s mood. “Sir? He’s yours. We both are.”

Already repentant, Liam shook his head, dismissing his momentary feeling of being shut out. What he had with them was more than he’d ever expected, and if it came to that, Austin had to feel the same way watching Jay being whipped, he and Liam bound together by the act, excluding him. And how did Jay feel hearing Austin affirm that he belonged to Liam?

With a single hard, stinging slap to Jay’s leg, Liam began to fuck him, holding nothing back, encouraging Jay to move with him. Each jarring, fast thrust sent a sizzle of lust through him, together with a dark craving to do what was usually just words and make Jay scream, full-throated, raw, the sound breaking on a sob. Jay was such a fucking challenge, and Liam, still shocked at the lengths Jay had gone to get his way, was damned if he would let Jay get away with anything for a very long time.

He should discuss that with them…find out what April was doing…organize the renovations…handle some pressing issues at work, and order a birthday present for his son. So many things needed his attention, but with Jay crying out under him, tugging his hands free of Austin’s to slam them against the couch, none of them existed.

Well-used, well-fucked Jay, who would love a spanking before bed, his arse paddled scarlet, whipped until the blood rose to the surface, but for now wanted nothing more than the hammer and stab of Liam’s cock pounding into him…

It came close to making him groan, but Liam slowed and stopped, only the head of his cock inside the ring of muscle he’d stretched and softened.

“I might finish off in Austin,” he said, keeping his voice level with an effort. “Or your mouth. Make you lick me clean before I come on you.”

He slipped inside Jay, an inch, two, filling him up again with excruciating slowness. Jay was whining, past speech, his head hanging down, drooping like a thirsty flower. Panting, keening, Jay was lost in a maze of arousal, needing to be shown the way out.

“Or I might just fuck you like this, so slowly you can’t ever quite come until you’re raw and you don’t know if you want to beg for more or beg me to stop.”

The words were gasped out, mumbled, but Liam was listening to every sound Jay made. “Don’t…don’t stop.”

“Tell me you trust me,” Liam demanded.

“T-trust you.” Impossible to doubt Jay in that moment. He was open, defenses down, broken apart and waiting to be made whole again.

“You’d better never let me doubt it again.”

He pulled out completely and gripped his slippery cock in his hand, rubbing the head across the reddened hole. Austin was biting his lip again, his hands clenched in his lap, but he didn’t speak.

Liam’s fingers slid inside easily, three of them, widening the channel so that his cock could crowd in with them, an awkward fit, but they were both so close to coming that it didn’t matter.

Jay threw his head back, an inarticulate cry tearing at his throat, the scream Liam had been waiting to hear.

He barely knew where his orgasm ended and Jay’s began; he wasn’t sure which pulses came from his own cock and which were an echo of Jay’s inside his stretched, sore arse. The sounds escaping Jay were closer to sobs than anything else, and Liam had little control over what his hips were doing as waves of release washed through him and into Jay.

Jay was crying for real by the time Liam’s cock softened and slipped from him. Austin stroked Jay’s hair gently, murmuring reassurances that seemed to help. When Liam’s eyes met Austin’s, he saw with a sense of relief that Austin wasn’t upset or worried.

“Shh, good. You’re okay,” Austin said. “Let it out. There’s no hurry.”

“None at all,” Liam agreed. His legs felt distinctly unsteady as he stood and just as quickly sank onto the couch beside Austin. He wanted to pull Jay up to join them, but it was too soon—Jay needed this emotional release the same way he’d needed the physical one, and rushing him wouldn’t serve any purpose. “Should he have some water?” he asked Austin.

“I’ll get it.” Austin left and came back with a glass, then curled himself onto the floor next to Jay. “Here, drink some of this.”

Jay sniffled, wiped his cheeks, and nodded. “Thanks,” he said hoarsely and sipped.

“I wasn’t supposed to be giving you orders,” Liam said ruefully after a while. He looked down at them both. “And I didn’t intend it to get that intense, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed it. Are you okay?”

“I feel great,” Jay told him, his voice still hoarse. He shifted position and winced. “Uh, towel? Now? Or the carpet’s going to need steam cleaning.”

Austin was on his feet as soon as Liam nodded to him, hurrying out of the room again, Jay’s glass in his hand.

“The carpet’s not important, so don’t worry about it,” Liam said. “It had a pitcher of eggnog spilled on it when I had some people over last Christmas, and it survived that.” He shifted over and stroked Jay’s head, needing to touch him but unsure the hug he wanted to give Jay would be wanted. “You look better. More settled.”

Jay smiled at him hazily. “Fucked raw, you mean, Sir. Thank you.” He rested his head against Liam’s knee, kissing it respectfully. “Love the way you take control. Feels right.”

“You’re still getting spanked,” Liam told him.

Jay’s eyes widened, his head jerking up. “Well, yeah!” He cleared his throat. “I mean, yes, Sir, if it pleases you.”

“Oh, that sounded very convincing. You’re incorrigible, you know that?” Liam knew he sounded indulgent, not reproving. Relaxed and sated, it was difficult to remember he had a long list of problems to deal with, Jay’s attitude being one of the most important items.

Right then he wanted to focus on the things that felt right.

Chapter Fourteen

Austin opened his eyes and saw Jay sleeping next to him, face creased with sheet marks. He rolled onto his back and blinked up at Liam’s perfect white ceiling. There was a faint smell of coffee wafting up from downstairs that made Austin consider hauling himself out of bed, but he was so comfortable he thought he’d give himself another five minutes. It was Saturday, and Liam would probably be watching the news or reading the paper, considering a trip to the coffee shop down the street that sold fresh blueberry and cranberry muffins. He’d made it clear that the brunch he’d cooked the Sunday before was a special treat and not something they should expect from him every weekend.

“Up,” Liam said sharply from the doorway, and Austin sat upright in surprise. “Both of you. You have two minutes to be downstairs and kneeling next to my chair.”

He disappeared again, and Austin jabbed Jay in the ribs with two fingers, arousal and anticipation sizzling through him like a double espresso. Liam going full-on Dom was the perfect start to the day. “Get up!”

“Hm? What?” Jay was still mostly asleep, barely cracking his eyes open.

Austin scrambled out of bed and yanked the covers off Jay. Jay whined in protest and reached blindly for them; Austin slapped his bare ass instead, and Jay bolted up, glaring.

“What was that for?”

“Liam wants us downstairs. Now. Don’t think; just start moving.”

“Fuck.”

As a summary went, it was succinct and accurate.

Jay knuckled sleep out of his eyes as he crawled to the edge of the bed. “Did he say if he wanted us dressed?”

“He said ‘two minutes to be kneeling by my chair,’ so I’m guessing not.”

“I need to pee.” Jay stood and glanced down at his cock, which backed up his statement emphatically, then sighed. “Careful what you wish for.”

Austin was in exactly the same state as Jay—sleepy, confused, and needing to pee—but he was tingling with excitement. He headed for the door, Jay close behind him, and they took the stairs quickly, entering the kitchen running.

Liam was sitting at the head of the kitchen table, a mug of coffee in front of him, his expression forbidding. He glanced pointedly at his watch. Austin caught his breath, decided speaking wasn’t a good idea right then, and went to his knees as instructed, Jay following suit.

“You came down those stairs making an unacceptable amount of noise and burst in here out of breath. I gave you plenty of time to do as you were told, so I can only assume you wasted it. Bend over the table.”

His heart thudding, Austin got to his feet, trying to make it a smooth transition, the way Liam liked. He leaned over the table, bracing himself on his forearms, and waited. Jay was beside him, but Austin kept his gaze on the grain of the wood.

“I’m not going to trick you so that you earn punishments,” Liam said. Austin heard a drawer open, then close. “I don’t need to play those games. If I want to do something to you, I will. But if I tell you to do something and you fail, you will be disciplined because that tells me you didn’t give me your best efforts. Anything less than your best is disrespectful.”

Was he supposed to acknowledge that or not? Austin couldn’t decide, and Liam didn’t give him time to make up his mind. He heard the familiar sound of the air being cut and felt the flat, hard smack of a wooden spoon against his ass.

That particular drawer in Liam’s kitchen held an assortment of objects that all belonged in a kitchen but were never used to cook with. Wooden spoons, spatulas, clips to hold bags shut, pastry wheels… Liam added to it all the time.

This spoon was large and heavy, but it didn’t really do more than leave a smart. Liam stood behind them, dividing his attentions, but not in any pattern that Austin could decipher. He held still for three smacks, then heard Jay get two; got another at the top of his thigh, then heard Jay’s breathing quicken as the spoon came down on his ass six times.

Not knowing when it was his turn added another layer to the punishment. He wanted Liam’s attention, craved more of the uncompromising smacks, but Jay’s stifled moans were hot as hell too, and he knew how much Jay had missed this.

The spoon clattered to the table, and Austin sighed as Liam ran his hand over Austin’s ass, caressing the spanked-hot skin as if assessing its heat. He couldn’t help pushing up to meet that cool hand, but it earned him a hard pinch. “Stay still, Austin.”

He shaped, Yes, Sir, with his lips, allowing no sound to escape, and let Liam fondle him, offering up his obedience even when Liam’s fingers slipped between his thighs to tease at his hole and balls.

Austin inhaled sharply as Liam slid a finger inside him, as much because Liam’s finger was slick as because he hadn’t been expecting it. Liam was careful about using lube, even when Jay might have preferred he didn’t—he didn’t want to injure them. Pain and damage weren’t the same thing, and Austin was overthinking this. It was only Saturday morning, they had the whole day ahead of them, and Liam was in charge. Any sense of lingering tension melted away. Austin let his forehead sink down onto the tabletop and relaxed.

He was only mildly disappointed when Liam stopped touching him and presumably reached to touch Jay instead. Jay must have squirmed, because a sharp slap was the next thing Austin heard, followed by a few more that must have been hard enough to really hurt. Jay didn’t make a sound, and a moment later Liam said, “Don’t move,” and walked out of the room.

This was when Austin wished he could talk to Jay, but he wanted to obey, to be what Liam wanted, more than he wanted to ask Jay what he thought would happen next. The thrill of anticipation made Austin bite his lip while he strained his ears for clues about what Liam was doing and what might come next.

Liam came back, but Austin couldn’t guess what he might be holding until he heard the wet squirt of lube and felt Liam’s hand on the small of his back. “Relax,” Liam ordered, and Austin did his best to do so as something thick and long and hard was slowly pushed inside his ass. At one point his body clenched down on it, and Liam stopped, waiting, until he was able to relax again. God, it felt like a baseball bat. Which it wasn’t, it couldn’t be, but it was huge and unyielding, and when Liam finally stopped moving it forward and let go, Austin breathed a sigh of relief.

“Don’t worry, Jay. I’ve got a matching one for you,” Liam said, which left Austin wondering if Jay had been watching the whole thing. The thought made him embarrassed and turned on at the same time. “Austin, would you like to see?”

It was no wonder Austin sometimes wondered if Liam was psychic. He whispered, “Yes, Sir,” and turned his head.

The butt plug was big, but not as big as it felt inside Austin’s ass right then. It had a curve to it, which explained the pressure on his prostate, and watching Jay’s back arch as Liam pushed it into him was more arousing than Austin would have thought possible. “Easy,” Liam said, stroking his hand over the curve of Jay’s ass as he paused. “Breathe.”

“It’s too big,” Jay gasped.

“It won’t be if you stop fighting it,” Liam said. “Austin managed. So can you.”

Austin saw Jay’s face contort, then relax, as if an inner battle had been won, less on a physical level—though taking something this big was always going to be a struggle—than an emotional one. Jay had to be conquered, taken, forced. He loved it. Liam wasn’t allowing him any escape, beyond the ever-present use of a safe word, and Austin could see Jay respond to the slow, inexorable push of the plug, guided by Liam’s hand.

“Hurts,” Jay said on an exhaled breath. “Sir…more?”

Liam chuckled and did something that made Jay gasp. “You’ll get this as deep as it goes, Jay, but that’s my decision, not yours. Everything I do to you today will happen just the way I want it to. Every tear you shed, every scream, every drop of sweat or spunk that comes out of you is going to be controlled by me. Today I own you two. I’m going to make sure you don’t forget that in the future.”

His choice of words made Austin shiver with delicious anticipation. Austin’s cock was half-hard, but it was his ass that had most of his attention. The plug shoved up inside him was a constant reminder of who Liam was and the power he had.

“More,” Jay said again, and this time whatever Liam did made him cry out, hands curling into claws on the table. “God…so good. Yours.”

“That’s right. You are.” Liam made Jay moan loudly, then turned his head to look at Austin. “Don’t worry. I have no intention of neglecting you.”

“Don’t…feel…neglected, Sir,” Austin managed to say through dry lips. His ass was split wide, his cock achingly hard, and he’d only just woken up. This was like going to an amusement park and stepping onto the scariest ride there without waiting in line, intensity layered with disorientating speed.

“But hungry, yes? Ready for breakfast?”

Austin shook his head, not in denial but confusion. “I’m not— If you want me to eat, Sir…” He let his words trail off, coherence lost in his need to please Liam and his uncertainty about the best way to do that.

“I think I’d like to finish my coffee,” Liam said. “Such an interesting view you’re providing.” He moved his chair and sat close behind them, coffee mug in hand. “Oh yes. From this angle you look so…debauched. But there’s an equally interesting article about the Italian economy in today’s paper, so you’ll have to excuse me while I read it. Don’t move.”

The coffee mug was set down next to Austin, and he heard a rustle of pages being turned as Liam found his place in the paper and began to read.

Being on display and ignored was humiliating as hell. Austin flushed hotly, longing to close his legs, cover his ass, but he didn’t dare. He was conscious of Jay’s indignation and uneasily aware that he really needed to piss. Not that it would be easy with his cock as stiff as the plug buried in his ass.

Discomforted, sleep-dazed, he tried to find some relief in the residual sting in his spanked backside, but he had too many sensations clamoring for acknowledgment to be able to concentrate on just one.

After a long few minutes, Jay squirmed.

“Stay still,” Liam said absently. “Or I’ll replace that plug after it’s had a coating of ginger-based lube and give you a reason to wriggle.”

“Sir, I didn’t have time to take a leak.” Bathroom breaks weren’t something they asked for often because the sessions were generally too short to require them, but Liam had made it clear that if they needed to leave the room, permission would always be given.

“That’s because you didn’t get up in time,” Liam said pleasantly. “If you had, I wouldn’t have had to make my own coffee, and you would’ve had ample time to take care of pissing, brushing your teeth, and showering so that you were ready to serve me. You began the day badly, didn’t you?”

Jay didn’t answer, which was probably for the best. Austin wondered how long Liam would make them wait for the bathroom, and how he’d react if one of them wasn’t able to hold it. Not that he thought that would happen, but would Liam be mad? Would they be punished? The more Austin thought about it, the worse he needed to go, but he was determined not to squirm. He wanted Liam to be pleased with him.

It wasn’t easy. When he tried not to think about his bladder, he found himself focusing on his ass. When he tried to forget about the plug stretching him open, his attention inevitably wandered back to how badly he needed to pee. But there was no way he was going to ask Liam for permission to break position.

Numbers. That was what you were supposed to concentrate on when you were trying to distract yourself. Times tables. Two times two was four, four times four was sixteen, and sixteen times sixteen was some number he couldn’t calculate anymore. For fuck’s sake, that was what computers were for.

“Austin, is there a problem?” Liam asked, and Austin squeezed his eyes shut tightly. When Liam asked a question, he expected an honest answer.

“I need to use the bathroom too, Sir.”

“All right, go ahead. Jay, I’d like you to wait until Austin gets back. I’d be lonely if you both left me here on my own.”

Jay gave an anguished groan but muttered a reasonably sincere, “Yes, Sir.”

Austin tried to hurry, but hell, even walking with the plug in was an effort. Every step sent a fresh wave of sensation through him, not entirely pleasurable, but then, he was wired differently, and in some ways the burn of his stretched-taut hole was just what he needed.

Taking a leak was challenging. He closed his eyes, chanted a mantra, took deep breaths, but it still took a while to get his body to obey the command to release. He half wished Liam had been there to whisper a terse order into his ear, but that would’ve been weird.

He washed his hands and smiled at his reflection, seeing himself through Liam’s eyes, his hair sleep-rumpled, his face flushed with arousal. He wondered what he’d look like by the time he went to bed. More marked up, for sure.

When he got back to the kitchen, Jay was over Liam’s knee, his face scarlet, his eyes swimming with tears. Liam’s hands were busy tormenting Jay, shrewd touches, remorseless, accurate.

Liam knew all their weaknesses by now, had observed and remembered every flinch, every sigh they’d offered up to him. Austin had moved through resentment that in some ways Liam knew Jay’s body better than he did, to an awareness of how safe that made them both.

Liam had never hurt them accidentally.

“Please,” Jay said in a voice near a sob, and Liam heard the desperation as clearly as Austin did, helping him to his feet.

“Go,” Liam said.

Jay didn’t need more specific permission than that. He fled from the room past Austin as Liam motioned for Austin to take Jay’s place across his lap. Now that his bladder was empty, there was nothing more Austin needed than to do what Liam wanted of him, so he went gladly and lowered himself over Liam’s thighs, trying not to wince at the twinge in his ass as he changed position.

Liam stroked a big hand down along Austin’s spine. “This is where you belong, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Sir.” Hearing it in those words threatened to bring tears to Austin’s eyes. He turned his face and rubbed it against Liam’s torso in gratitude.

“I always wondered what it’d be like,” Liam said, punctuating his final word with a slap that left Austin’s thigh burning hotly for a moment. “Having a full-time sub, I mean. It was never a possibility before, and I certainly never pictured having two.”

“Or that they’d be men?” Austin asked, feeling daring.

Liam laughed and began to spank Austin briskly, warming his ass, each slap jolting the plug enough to send a frisson of pleasure through him. “Yes, that too. Don’t worry; I’ve adjusted to the idea that I’m into men as well as women.”

With Liam apparently willing to carry on a conversation, Austin broached a subject he’d been turning over in his head for weeks. “Sir, can I ask you something?”

Liam’s hand didn’t slow down. “Go ahead.”

“Do you miss women? I mean, you’re not gay; you’re bi, and it’s been months since you…at least…” He felt his voice falter, the words hard to say.

“I haven’t had sex with anyone but you and Jay since we met. You know that.” Liam made the next slap sting, as if reproving Austin for doubting him, then let his hand rest against Austin’s ass. “Do I miss what I was used to having? I’m not sure. I sometimes miss knowing exactly what I’m doing. I worry that I’m hurting you when I fuck you, or not doing enough to make you enjoy it.”

“You don’t need to,” Jay said from the doorway. Austin turned his head and watched Jay walk over, then drop to his knees by Liam’s chair, his movements careful. “You’re doing fine, Sir. We’d tell you if you weren’t.” Jay grinned. “And anytime you want to practice giving a blowjob, I’ll volunteer.”

Liam reached out and clamped his fingers on Jay’s nipple so hard Austin saw the skin go white. “You’re a contradiction, do you realize that?” he asked, rotating his wrist until Jay moaned, though Austin could see that Jay’s cock was responding eagerly to the torment.

“Am I, Sir?” Jay asked tightly.

“On the outside you’re such a good boy. Beautiful, innocent librarian. Someone who saw you behind the desk at work might assume you’re a virgin.” Liam loosened his grip on Jay’s nipple, then immediately tightened it again. “They’d have no idea.”

“None,” Jay agreed.

“Although your cheekiness reminds me of something else your mouth is good for,” Liam said. He let go of Jay and went back to spanking Austin, who squeaked in surprise. “I think when I’ve finished reddening Austin’s arse, I’ll let you suck me.”

If Jay said anything after his contrite, murmured agreement, Austin missed it. He was soaring on the building pain of the spanking and the constant pressure of the plug with its wicked curve. The connection and the intimacy were off the scale, and knowing Jay was kneeling close enough that every slap would be as loud in his ears as it was in Austin’s was the perfect spice.

He was so close to coming, it would only take three or four slaps from Liam to take him there, and Austin had to fight to gasp out a warning, because he wanted to come like this so much. Liam, in a rare indulgent mood, had jerked him off in the shower earlier in the week, then done the same to Jay. It had felt good, but this climax would be drawn from him by the steady, relentless beat of Liam’s hand, and that was how Austin wanted it.

But he knew he needed permission.

“Sir—” He got that far; then Liam’s palm found a place he’d struck a dozen times already, and the throb closed Austin’s throat on a moan.

“He’s going to come, Sir,” Jay said, speaking for him, and that, at least, Austin heard. “Can he? Please?”

Austin cried out as he was turned and rolled, Liam’s strength surprising him. Faceup, his vision blurry, his burning, bruised ass tender enough that the fabric of Liam’s pants might as well have been sandpaper, he fought to find balance.

“Calm down.” Liam frowned at him, and that made it easy to stop moving and lie still in Liam’s arms, though Austin knew he wasn’t really calm. His breath was coming in short, choppy gasps, moans spilling out from his lips, frantic, needy. How could he be? He was so close, and the plug, his ass—it all hurt so much, hurt so good—

Liam drew a fingertip from the hollow of Austin’s throat to the base of his cock, a light caress that left Austin’s skin tingling. “Oh, you’re so ready to show me how much you enjoyed that, aren’t you? One little spanking and you’re hard, cock dripping.” Liam dabbed his finger against the head of Austin’s cock, making him whimper, and took it away glistening. “See? So messy. Clean him up for me, Jay. Do a thorough job. Austin, you’re forbidden to come until he’s finished.”

Jay’s tongue licking his cock and he wasn’t allowed to come? Austin’s incredulity must’ve shown on his face, because Liam rolled his eyes. “Oh, don’t look like that. You’re not new to this, and I expect a certain level of control from you by now. Whimper, beg, scream all you like, but don’t come.”

He had no idea how he could reply to that with words—it felt like letting anything escape, even a gasp, would open the floodgates, and he’d come whether he wanted to or not. Which was part of the problem, wasn’t it? Because he wanted to come so badly. But he wanted to do what Liam asked of him more.

Austin nodded, a short, quick jerk of his head, and shuddered as Jay leaned in and licked him. Jay’s tongue was warm and wet and talented, even though Austin could tell Jay was trying his best to obey Liam without doing the things he knew would drive Austin crazy. At that point almost any contact was too much. The butt plug, pressed firmly against Austin’s prostate, created an ache that went up into his cock and down into his thighs, a pressure that made him feel like holding back was impossible.

No, no. He couldn’t think about coming. He had to think about waiting, had to try to ignore the efficient swipes of Jay’s tongue along his shaft and the careful, slower licks over the head of his cock. His skin wasn’t raw, but it felt that way, like Liam’s hand had been striking his cock instead of his ass. Letting his focus stray to his cock made it hurt more, but how was he supposed to keep from thinking about it when Jay’s mouth was on it? Austin was pretty sure he was leaking as much precum as Jay was licking away, which meant this was going to go on forever.

That thought made him whimper, and as soon as the sound was set free, another followed it. The words he’d been keeping bottled up were next. “Please. God, please, Sir, I want to be good for you, but I can’t wait, I can’t.”

Liam stared at him for the longest moment of Austin’s life, then nodded and grabbed Jay by the hair, hauling him up and away. Jay’s eyes slid closed, a flicker of arousal passing over his face; then he licked his lips, chasing the last taste of Austin’s cum as if he was hungry for it.

“Still messy,” Liam said, and Austin could tell how turned on Liam was by the games they were playing, could hear it in the roughness of his voice. “But perhaps Jay didn’t do as good a job as he could.” Liam’s hand moved, and Jay’s mouth was on Austin again, and this time Jay didn’t hold back at all, his mouth avid, every lick, every suck like a tiny punishment.

“You can come, Austin,” Liam told him at the exact point when Austin, distraught, desperate, was about to give up. “Fill his mouth. Choke him.”

Lying across Liam’s lap, Austin couldn’t do much more than arch up his ass, but Jay was ready to take Austin’s cock deep. With Liam’s hand still brutally tight in his hair, Jay bent his head and did just that, welcoming the final thrusts of Austin’s cock, throat muscles rippling as he swallowed around it.

Austin strained upward without really moving, every molecule of him craving Jay’s mouth and grateful for Liam’s permission. The first pulse of his orgasm felt almost violent as it left him, and he gave a shocked cry, shaking as the next tore through him and then the next, with Jay swallowing down his offering and Liam’s solid bulk beneath him.

He couldn’t have contained the sounds he made and didn’t try. He knew Liam wanted to hear them, proof of the power he held over Austin. The only thing that could have made the moment better would have been Liam’s cock inside him instead of the butt plug, which his ass contracted around painfully with each rhythmic burst of pleasure.

“Good boy,” Liam said as he shuddered and then relaxed.

A pause, the caress of Jay’s tongue along his shaft, and another tightening of Austin’s cock, although he didn’t imagine he had so much as a drop left to give. “It hurts,” Austin whimpered as his ass clenched, protesting the plug.

“I know.” Liam slid his hand past Austin’s balls as Jay pulled away, tugging at the base of the plug, and Austin whined.

“Are you going to take it out, Sir?”

“I don’t know if I’d disappoint you more by saying yes or no.” Liam continued to play with the plug, easing it out and shoving it back in, barely moving it, but it was so big he didn’t need to. With the urge to climax gone, Austin felt lost in confusion, his arousal still with him but his body insisting it was satisfied. He stared up at Liam, finding some reassurance in Liam’s gaze, calm, steady, sure. “What do you want me to do, Austin?”

“Whatever makes you happy, Sir.” It was a rote answer, but Austin meant every word. He’d come, but it’d been a pleasure permitted, not one he was entitled to. Today—hell, every day—it was about pleasing Liam for him, and he began to embrace that truth fully as he lay across Liam’s knees. “What pleases you,” he said aloud, giving his thoughts a voice. “That’s what I want to do, Sir. Please you. Serve you. So much.”

“It is, isn’t it.” Liam sounded exactly like Austin wanted him to: happy, filled with wonder at what was between them. “Get down on your knees on the floor. Slowly—take your time.”

Grateful for the floor beneath him, even though it was too hard against his knees and his ass was killing him, Austin waited.

“Come here, Jay.” Liam got down on the floor too, which was different and had Austin puzzled until Liam’s hand moved to undo the front of his slacks. “Hands and knees, facing Austin. I want him to be able to see your face as I fuck you.”

It didn’t take long for Liam to slick himself and kneel behind Jay. Austin expected it to take him a while to ease the plug out of Jay’s ass, so it came as a surprise that Liam pulled it out in one smooth motion that had Jay crying out, tears springing to his eyes.

“May I touch him, Sir?” Austin asked.

“Anything but his cock,” Liam agreed and thrust inside Jay without warning.

Austin leaned in and kissed Jay’s cheek, tasting salt from the tears Jay had shed earlier.

He could almost feel the rough edges smoothing out as they found ways to fit together and form a whole.

He kissed Jay’s mouth next, warm and open from a moan, but Liam was riding Jay hard, and Austin had to move back and use his hand to touch instead. He stroked Jay’s shoulders and arms, feeling them strain as Jay braced himself to take Liam’s thrusts. He got closer and scratched lightly at Jay’s nipples, bringing them up hard and stiff, and cruel in a way he hadn’t known he could be, acting for Liam, he feathered a caress low on Jay’s stomach, his wrist almost, not quite brushing the head of Jay’s cock.

Jay gave a desperate keening noise, the tendons in his neck standing out as he threw his head back. “Let him suck me, Sir? Please? Or hold me?”

“Not a chance in hell,” Liam said. “You’re going to come just from my cock in you, Jay. If you don’t come before me, you won’t come at all today, and I’ll put my favorite toy back on your cock every time I fuck you for the next week until you learn to obey me.”

“Sir, he’s trying,” Austin protested. Jay’s face was flushed, contorted with frustration, and he was panting harshly, his gaze fixed on Austin.

“I don’t want him to try,” Liam said. His fingers were bruisingly tight on Jay’s hips, digging into flesh. “I want him to obey me. I want to feel him come as I fuck him and take my cock until I’m done with him.” He drew his hand back and slapped Jay’s ass hard. “You’re going to obey me, Jay. I won’t let you do anything else. You don’t have a choice. Are we clear on that?”

“Yes,” Jay gasped. He wasn’t even blinking, just staring at Austin. “Yes, Sir. We’re clear.”

Austin felt powerless, wishing he could do something to help Jay. This wasn’t what Jay liked best, but it wasn’t something he hated, either. He could do it, Austin knew he could, but that didn’t make watching him struggle any easier. “You can come like this.”

“I know.” Jay squeezed his eyes shut tightly for a few thrusts, then opened them again. “Talk to me.”

“And say what?” But Austin knew as soon as he’d said it what Jay wanted, and knew he could give it to him. Dirty talk wasn’t something that came naturally, but he could do it, just like Jay could come just from Liam fucking him. “You know you can come like this. You want to pretend I’m sucking you?”

Jay whimpered and nodded, and Liam’s gaze met Austin’s over Jay’s back.

“My…my mouth is on you. You can fuck it if you want, hard. All the way into the back of my throat. Every time Liam fucks into you, he pushes you forward.” Was Austin imagining the approval in Liam’s eyes? Maybe. Maybe not. “I want to suck you. Want to feel you come.”

“So do I,” Liam said, enough of a warning in his voice that Jay swallowed convulsively, panic darkening his eyes. “I’m getting close.” He dragged his hand over Jay’s back, fingers crooked so that his nails scored the skin, leaving it reddened, and Jay shuddered.

Pain. Yeah, that would work too. Austin pinched Jay’s nipples, twisting them, tugging them, using more force than he usually would in his desperation. “And I love it when you let me fuck your mouth, slide into your throat. You want me, all of me, and that’s what Sir wants now.” He kissed Jay again, full on the lips, pushing his tongue inside Jay’s mouth for a moment, kneeling as close to Jay as he could get. “He wants to feel your ass clench around his cock, hear you call out his name, see you shoot onto me. I want to feel it, Jay, want it on me, warm and wet and part of you. Like Sir’s fucking me too. Want Sir to make you lick me clean afterward. I’ll beg him on my knees just to get your mouth on me.”

With a hoarse, garbled cry, Jay came, his cock pumping out short streams of spunk that hit Austin’s thighs and cock, sending a shiver of lust through him. Not his kink as much as it was Jay’s, but right then he welcomed every drop that fell on his skin. Jay closed his eyes, his expression one of pure ecstasy as Liam held him in place, fucking him through his climax.

“Oh God,” Jay gasped, which was a waste of breath he could have saved. “God, oh my God.”

Behind him, Liam froze without warning, hands clenching on Jay’s hips as he came without a sound. Jay was still trembling and trying to recover even after Liam was finished and pulled out of him. Liam hadn’t said anything to Austin, who was glad to shift closer and pull Jay half into his lap and hold him.

“All right?” Liam said, reaching to touch Jay’s hair, and Jay turned his face toward Liam and nodded. He still looked blissed-out, peaceful and relaxed in ways he pretty much only ever looked after a session. “Austin?”

“I’m fine,” Austin said, then added, “I love you.”

“Me too,” Jay murmured.

Liam had been about to stand up, Austin thought, but instead he lowered himself to sit beside them and reached out to gather them close. “You’re amazing. Both of you. I never would have dared dream of even one of you, let alone two.”

“We didn’t think we’d ever find someone like you either.” Jay rubbed his face against Liam’s shoulder. “Don’t give up on us. Me. I know I’ve screwed up, but…”

“I have no intention of giving up or encouraging you to wallow in guilt.” Liam ruffled Jay’s hair and kissed Austin’s forehead lightly. “Up. Shower together in my bathroom, and don’t take all day about it. You can touch and kiss as much as you like, but you’re not allowed to talk once you leave this room.”

“Sir? Why can’t we talk?”

Austin rolled his eyes. Why did Jay always have to question everything? He’d asked in a respectful way, but still…

Liam didn’t seem annoyed, though. He quirked his eyebrow at Austin. “Why don’t you tell him?”

“Because Sir told you not to,” Austin said to Jay, hoping he didn’t sound irritable. “That’s all you need to know.”

“Exactly,” Liam said, rising to his feet. “What’s that saying? Yours not to reason why, yours but to do or, well, not die, but obey, certainly. It’s not really a complicated concept.”

“I know.” Jay stood and helped Austin up. The plug was really making itself felt, and Austin hoped he’d be allowed some relief from it soon. “I’m just interested in why you want us to do stuff, I guess.”

“Think about it in the shower,” Liam suggested. “Austin, bend over the table for a moment.”

Austin smiled at him. “Yes, Sir!”

The edge of the table dug into his thighs, but he didn’t care, spreading his legs widely and pushing his ass up for Liam. The plug wasn’t hurting him, but he was hyperaware of it, its size making it impossible to forget about, even for a moment. It would be so much easier to concentrate on being everything Liam wanted him to be if the plug was removed.

“Not hurting you?” Liam asked, toying with the plug again, twisting it gently and easing it back and forth.

“No, Sir. It’s just big.”

“Get used to it,” Liam told him and patted his ass. “I’m going to keep you plugged all morning, Austin.”

The thought of that made Austin’s stomach give a slow roll that he would have blamed on apprehension if Liam hadn’t added, “Shower, and when you come back, you can have some breakfast.”

Right, he hadn’t had anything to eat since last night. No wonder his stomach felt weird. Would he have even realized if Liam hadn’t pointed it out? Maybe not. He was so happy doing what Liam wanted that he was already following Jay upstairs without having made a conscious decision to do so.

No talking. When Jay turned to glance at him at the top of the stairs, Austin held his fingertip to his lips to remind him, and Jay nodded.

They were so used to conversing that it was strange to be silent, and once Austin almost asked Jay to turn the hot water up a little bit before he remembered and communicated via gesture instead. Jay responded by adjusting the water and then kissing him, and because they had permission Austin let himself melt against Jay, palms sliding over Jay’s much-loved skin. After they parted, he indicated that Jay should turn around and switch places with him, and then washed Jay’s hair, not taking as much time about it as he would have liked because Liam had told them not to dawdle.

He couldn’t resist slipping his hand down over Jay’s ass to his hole and pushing two fingers inside him where he was hot and slick with Liam’s cum. Jay pushed back into his touch eagerly and turned to grip Austin’s arm, but Austin shook his head and withdrew. As much as he would have liked to linger, this wasn’t the time.

When they were back in the kitchen, naked, damp, and well scrubbed, Austin was hit by a flash of déjà vu. Liam was sitting at the kitchen table, as he had been the earlier, reading the paper, showing no sign of his recent activities in his expression.

“I’m hungry,” Liam said without looking up. “I’m sure you are too, but you can eat when you’ve served me my breakfast. Stay quiet, please. I’m not a fan of conversation first thing in the morning.”

Jay’s stomach growled loudly enough that Austin heard it, but he didn’t protest. Austin knew an imposed silence chafed Jay’s emotions raw—unless a gag went along with the order. Restrain him so that he could barely move, gag him so that breathing was difficult, and Jay loved it; tell him to stand or kneel without fidgeting or talking, and it was torture.

“More coffee for me, juice, a toasted, buttered bagel, and a small bowl of strawberry yogurt,” Liam continued. “Bagel and yogurt on the table in front of me, then you can kneel on either side holding my drinks. Let me see…coffee for Jay, juice for Austin, I think.” He smiled without raising his gaze from the paper and added, “I’d advise you to hurry if you don’t want to eat breakfast standing because your arses are too sore to sit on, but I don’t want to see any clumsiness or spills.” He finally glanced up, and Austin felt his body tighten with arousal at the heat in Liam’s eyes. “I want you to serve me breakfast as my subs.” The final three words were stressed lightly. “Off you go.”

Austin would have liked a moment to plan, the ability to discuss what they should do with Jay, but he had neither, so he had to trust to the rapport between them to make this go smoothly. Liam was reading again, but Austin didn’t doubt for a moment that they were under scrutiny.

Moving with the slow, efficient grace he knew Liam preferred, he went to the toaster and started off the bagel, the clunk of the fridge door telling him that Jay was getting out the juice and yogurt.

Standing and watching the bagel heat, dreamily contemplating nothing much in particular, wouldn’t impress Liam, so after Austin had gotten a plate and knife out with as little noise as possible and taken the lid off the butter dish—Liam never kept it in the fridge, for some reason—he went to his knees facing Liam, his head bowed.

God, the plug was fucking huge, impossible to ignore. He loved it and hated it at one and the same time.

He didn’t hear a word from Liam, so he had to imagine a look of approval. He wasn’t sure how his need to please his Dom was wrapped up in wanting approval, wanting the person with control over him to tell him he was doing a good job. Really, knowing he was being obedient should be enough, but it wasn’t, not always.

The toaster popped the bagel up—not very well, it was a little too thick and slightly jammed—and Austin stood again to butter it and retrieve the glass of juice Jay had poured. He delivered the plate, stepped back so that Jay could set down the yogurt, and knelt with the juice glass carefully balanced so it wouldn’t spill.

Sinking down onto his knees made him ache. It wasn’t just his ass; it was all the way up into his gut. His mind kept coming back to it, circling away and then nearer again. It wasn’t the kind of thing he should be thinking about. He ought to be focusing on doing exactly what Liam wanted him to do.

Liam reached and took the juice glass from his hand, sipped the juice, then gave it back to him. All without a word. His attention was on the paper he was reading, as if he expected that Jay and Austin would be doing what he’d ordered and he didn’t need to think about them at all.

That kind of confidence should’ve been reassuring, but Austin couldn’t find anything comforting right then. He squirmed, trying to get the plug to feel less there, which was ridiculous, because it was jammed up his fucking ass, and the glass tilted, a trickle of juice running down the side to drip, cool and sticky, on his hand.

“Impatient for me to finish?” Liam inquired, sounding less than pleased. “Stay still, please.”

Jay gave him a surprised look. Jay, who was kneeling in perfect stillness on the other side of Liam’s chair, the coffee cup held steady. Jay, who didn’t have his ass stuffed full, spread wide, invaded.

Austin felt his failure like a blow. He’d expected it to be easy and for Jay to be the only one struggling, but it wasn’t working out that way.

“Sir, the plug—it’s so big.”

Even to his ears he sounded petulant, and God, he’d forgotten they weren’t supposed to talk.

Liam took the coffee from Jay and sipped it. “I couldn’t see any signs of tearing, and it’s smaller than ones you’ve worn for much longer. You told me yourself it didn’t hurt. Did you lie to me?”

“No, Sir,” Austin admitted. “I just… I can’t concentrate with it in me, and it’s stopping me from being perfect for you.”

“I disagree.” Liam took another sip of coffee, then handed the mug back to Jay, who was keeping his mouth shut with an effort Austin could feel. “It’s not stopping you; you are. Self-control, focus, trust. Concentrate on those, and serving me will come naturally. I want you plugged, and I’m enjoying seeing you suffer. You’re pleasing me in so many ways without knowing it, but stop fighting me.”

Liam’s words helped him, the praise mixed in sweetening the censure. Austin took some slow, deep breaths, searching for that sense of rightness that made the sessions a joy to him. “Yes, Sir. I’m sorry.”

As Liam took the coffee from Jay again and drank it, Austin heard the faint but familiar ringtone of his cell phone from upstairs and bit his lip. It wasn’t the specific tone he’d assigned to calls from Jay or Liam or his mother—who seemed to be avoiding him—just the generic one. Hopefully whoever it was would leave a message when it went to voice mail.

“Was that yours?” Liam asked when it had stopped trilling.

“Yes, Sir. I’m sorry. I know we’re supposed to mute our phones before a session.”

“It’s all right this once. It’s not as if I gave you much notice. I don’t expect it to happen again, though.” Liam didn’t sound annoyed, just resigned.

Austin winced as the ring started again and waited with his eyes closed until it stopped. When it started a third set, Liam sighed.

“Go and answer it. It’s clear someone needs your attention.”

Austin took a moment to lean in and rest his forehead against Liam’s knee, half apology, half thanks. He set down the juice and left the room, hurrying once he was out of sight, cursing under his breath as he ran upstairs. Why hadn’t he turned it off after his shower? He should have thought of it then.

The phone had started a fourth cycle by the time he reached it, and annoyance made him snap out a terse “What?” when he answered it.

“Austin, it’s me. Where were you? Why didn’t you pick up?”

April. Austin shook his head. Of course it was April. Who else would call at the worst time possible?

“Because I was busy.”

“I thought you’d still be in bed. It’s only nine.”

After everything that’d happened since Liam had woken him, it felt more like noon. “If you thought I was still in bed, why did you— Never mind. What do you want? And make it quick.”

Her breath caught on a sob. “Ryan wants to slow things down. He says I’m distracting him from studying and we shouldn’t see so much of each other.”

“Oh,” Austin said blankly, but Ryan probably had a point. April always assumed that in a list of priorities, she came first, but that wouldn’t go over well with the only boyfriend she’d had who actually had ambitions and goals. Ryan might like April, even love her, but from the little she’d told Austin, the guy seemed dedicated to the idea of being a pediatrician and committed to getting his degree. That would knock April down a few places on the list. “Okay.”

“Okay? It’s not okay! I can’t handle being here without him; I just can’t. Seeing him with someone else—God, I’d want to punch her—”

“Huh? Punch who? You said he wanted to concentrate on studying. That’s not the same as having a new girlfriend.”

“How stupid are you? Of course it is! What else could it mean? And he said it was for my good too. Said I wasn’t focusing and I needed some self-discipline.” She made an indescribable sound of disgust. “Jerk.”

Austin lay on the bed on his stomach, making the most of the break from kneeling. “If he’s a jerk, you’re better off without him.”

“I love him,” April said. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand that. You and Jay are just so boring, so…married. No sparks. Everything simple. I’m not like that. You know I’m not.”

Austin rolled his eyes. He was talking to his sister while wearing a huge butt plug. Oh yeah. His life was really bland and boring.

“I want to stay here and get good grades—I do. I can hear you thinking I’m lying, but I’m not. I just can’t do it without him. Knowing he’s on my side keeps me sane. I need him.”

Sighing, Austin tried to sound understanding and sympathetic. “He didn’t say he’s breaking up with you, did he?”

“No.” April sniffled.

“He said he needs to focus on studying more. Not that he wants to see other girls or whatever.”

“But that’s what he means!” April wailed. “It has to be. That’s just what you say when you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.”

“Austin,” Liam said from the doorway, and Austin rolled quickly off the bed and down onto the floor, wondering how badly he’d just fucked up. Liam had told him to answer the phone, not to make himself comfortable. “Is this an emergency?” It was obvious he knew it wasn’t.

“No,” Austin said, barely choking back the word Sir.

“Then I’d like you to wrap up the conversation as soon as possible and hang up.” Liam stood there, waiting.

“—isn’t it?” April was saying.

“What?” Austin said. “Look, I have to go.”

“That’s not Jay.” April sounded scandalized. “Did you guys break up? Is that why you don’t care about my relationship?”

“Believe it or not, your life isn’t foremost on my mind,” Austin said, knowing he was being mean but unable to stop himself. “No, Jay and I didn’t break up. That’s Liam, our landlord. Mom told you we’d moved into an apartment in his basement, didn’t she?”

“She told me you were moving, but she didn’t say whose house it was. Him! Why move in with him? He’s rude and old, and he doesn’t like me.”

Indignation sharpened his voice. Liam had paid her fine and gotten her out of a cell; the least she could do was remember that. Blowing the better relationship they’d had going since she left, he snapped, “Yeah, well, you’re rude, immature, and ungrateful, and I don’t like you a lot of the time either.”

“Austin!”

“I have to go.” He hung up before she could protest, silenced the phone, and turned toward Liam with his hands on his thighs. “I’m sorry, Sir.”

Liam ran his hand over his dark hair, managing to leave it tidier than before. Austin had seen Liam after sex, sweating, flushed, but he’d still looked in control in some indefinable way. It was impossible to picture him in creased or grubby clothing, or with hair that needed washing or combing. Liam always looked ready to step onto the front cover of a magazine. “So am I, but it wasn’t your fault. Who was it?”

“April. Her boyfriend wants to cool things off, and she’s freaking out.” Austin was miserable and uncomfortable and pretty sure he was doing a terrible job hiding both things. “I really am sorry. I wish I’d remembered to turn the phone off. Or to charge it yesterday. Anything.”

“Stop apologizing. There’s no need.” Liam seemed to mean it. “It’s fine. We have time.”

“Do we?” He wanted to apologize again, but Liam had told him not to. He needed reassurance.

“Yes, I promise you. I’m not in the habit of lying to make you feel better.” Liam tugged Austin to his feet and wrapped both arms around him, and Austin sighed and leaned in, grateful for Liam’s warmth

Jay appeared in the doorway, still naked. “Sir? Is everything okay?”

“I think so,” Liam said slowly, and Austin nodded at both of them.

“It was April,” he told Jay.

“Let me guess—she’s in crisis mode because she did something stupid, and she wants you to bail her out.”

Austin shrugged. “More like she wanted me to listen to her whine for a couple of hours. Then call her boyfriend and whip him into shape.”

“Sounds like a job for Liam.” Jay grinned.

“No, thank you,” Liam said, but he was almost smiling too. “I’ve done more than my fair share of dealing with her already, I think.”

“You have,” Austin agreed. “You’re officially off the hook.” He stretched and winced as his ass twinged painfully. “What now?”

“The first thing we do is get that plug out of you and some food into both of you,” Liam said decisively, like he’d read Austin’s mind. Maybe he had. “It’s Saturday, and we’re not going to spoil it by fretting. Come on, then. Let’s go.”

As he moved to obey, Austin hoped Liam knew what he was talking about.

Chapter Fifteen

It had been more than a week since Austin had seen his mom when he pulled into her driveway the next morning. He’d called her a couple of times and only gotten the answering machine, which wasn’t normal—usually she picked up if she was home, and usually she was home in the evening. Jay had suggested that maybe she’d found a boyfriend and was heavily into dating him, which made Austin feel vaguely ill. He’d ended that conversation by throwing the couch cushion at Jay’s head.

Going into the house, he called her name and heard her answer from the family room, sounding startled. She was on the couch, a talk show host babbling from the TV, a cup of coffee in her hand.

“Hey, you.” Austin bent over to give her a kiss. “Where is everyone?”

“Oh, they’re out,” she said with a vague flap of her hand. “Most Sundays I’m on my own these days.”

“I’m sorry,” Austin began, taking a seat beside her, but she shook her head.

“I’m glad the boys have found someone to be with, and April will be back soon.”

“Like she was ever around much on weekends,” Austin said with a snort. “She called me yesterday, all worked up over her boyfriend.”

“She called me too,” Sarah said slowly. “Austin, she sounded really upset.”

“Did she?” Austin wasn’t really interested. April’s boyfriends came and went. He’d hoped Ryan would stick around, especially since he seemed to be a good influence, but if he’d seen the less sunny side of April and decided to run, Austin couldn’t blame the guy. “Ryan’s probably just stressed about finals or something. They’ll work it out.”

“She was upset about you,” Sarah told him. She set her coffee down and turned to face him fully, meeting his gaze for the first time since he’d walked in. “Austin, you’ve always said I could ask you anything. We…we’ve been close. No secrets between us.”

That wasn’t something anyone could hear from a parent without apprehension crawling up their spine. Austin braced himself, trying to focus on the fact that he was in his midtwenties, and no matter what he’d done, he couldn’t be grounded for it. “Uh, I guess.”

Her lips set in a firm line, her back straight, Sarah Fisher facing a problem head-on, the way she always did. “She thinks you’ve split up with Jay, and I…well, I can see why she’d think that.”

“Huh?” Relief made him laugh, though he promised himself a long talk with April, with no holding back, because she was his baby sister. “Mom! That’s never gonna happen. Ever. I love Jay, and he loves me. I can’t imagine my life without him. Trust me, everything’s fine between us.”

The look she gave him was grieved, not accusing, but it cut through him like a cold wind. “Then why did I see you kissing that man at your party? I’d had too much to drink, yes, but I know what I saw, and I haven’t been able to put it out of my head.” Her eyes filled with tears, her face flushing. “You kissed him, Austin,” she repeated. “Why would you do such a thing?”

“I what?” Austin shifted a little bit away from her, leaning against the arm of the couch. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Kissed who?” She had to mean Liam, but how could she have seen him kiss Liam?

“Your ‘landlord.’” Sarah made air quotes around the word. She might be upset, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t capable of being sharp. “Except that’s not who he really is, is it? He’s your new boyfriend. I don’t know why you went to so much effort to hide it, unless it’s because you were ashamed. Which you shouldn’t be, honey. It’s not your fault. I’m just so confused, and Jay always seemed so nice…”

Austin felt like his mother was talking in circles, and he was the one getting spun around, dizzier and more disoriented by the second. “Jay is nice,” he protested; that was one thing he knew for sure.

“Not if he was hurting you,” Sarah said. She reached over and took Austin’s hand, and Austin let her. “I just wish you’d told me, instead of pretending you and Jay were moving together. Where is he living now? I went over to your old place last night, and there are new people living there. Or is Jay living in that basement apartment alone, and you’re living upstairs with Liam? But why would you do that, if Jay was being so abusive?”

“Oh my God.” Austin pulled his hand away from hers and ran both of his through his hair. “You do realize you sound like a crazy person?”

Sarah’s eyes narrowed in anger. “I’ll remind you you’re talking to your mother, young man. Just because you weren’t able to keep your little secret hidden—”

Austin laughed; he couldn’t help it. His little secret was still hidden as far as he could tell, and likely to stay that way if this was the kind of story his mom cooked up in her head based on a few bruises and a kiss he was pretty sure she’d imagined. “Mom, you were really drunk the night of our housewarming party. I think you’re confused.”

“I’m not confused,” Sarah said. “I pushed open the door to your bedroom to say good-bye before I left, and you were in there with Liam. You were kissing Liam.”

Shit.

Austin was left floundering. He couldn’t tell his mom the whole truth—it wasn’t only his decision to make—and he didn’t want to. His sex life wasn’t any of her business, and he didn’t feel a shred of guilt about including Liam in his relationship with Jay. They might’ve had issues to work through and adjustments to make, but becoming a threesome had given Jay and him the balance they needed, and Liam had gone from frustrated and unfulfilled to happy. They’d all benefited.

That said, he could see now why she was upset, and he knew it was rooted in concern for him, so he couldn’t be too annoyed with her. All the truth, no, but should he share part of it? Maybe.

God, he wished he could discuss this with the other two first, but if he tried to leave or text, Sarah would think he was being coerced or something. Jay abusive? Jay?

He kept his voice level, projecting calm. “Mom, listen. Yes, you saw me kissing Liam. And if you’d put your head around the door a minute earlier, you’d have seen Jay there with us, and he was getting kissed too, by both of us. It was what we wanted in the moment, and yes, it was risky, but sometimes you just can’t help yourself.”

“Well, I don’t understand how you can cheapen yourself like that.”

“How I can what?”

Sarah’s cheeks were stained brightly now, an angry color rising. “When people, stupid, bigoted people, told me gay men were promiscuous, I used to point at you and Jay. Tell them you were as happy and faithful as any couple I knew. Now you tell me you’re both happy sleeping around with anyone who takes your fancy? And Liam! You told me he’d been married.” She pressed her hands to her face. “I flirted with him at your party.” Her hands dropped to her lap, lying limply before she twisted them together as if she were trying to wash them clean. “I flirted with him,” she repeated in a whisper. “You must have laughed at me. The silly woman who can’t tell when a man’s gay. When he’s involved with my son.”

“Mom—” Desperate to erase the shocked misery and shame in her eyes, Austin took her hands, more to still that restless movement than to comfort her, but she snatched them away.

“Don’t touch me!” She shook her head, her expression so closed off that she was barely recognizable to him. “I’m so disappointed with you, Austin. So ashamed that you and Jay would risk what you have for some sleazy one-night stand with a man old enough to be your father.”

“It wasn’t a one-night stand,” Austin shot back immediately, but that wasn’t the point. He really needed to focus on the stuff she needed to know, not the stuff she didn’t, although the line was becoming increasingly difficult to see. “Mom…I didn’t lie to you about Liam. He was married, to a woman, and as far as he knew he was straight until he met me and Jay. It’s been hard for him to—”

“I don’t want to hear it! I can’t believe this. He’s old enough to be your father, Austin. That’s sick. He’s just using you. I don’t know why; I’m sure he could date some nice woman his own age and get remarried if he’s lonely. There’s no need for him to prey on children.”

Austin found himself standing up, his voice raised. “Do you hear yourself? Jay and I aren’t kids. We’re practically middle-aged! And more than mature enough to make our own decisions about our love lives. Liam isn’t ‘preying’ on anyone. I know you’re my mother, but that doesn’t mean I’m a child!”

“Don’t shout at me!” Sarah wasn’t standing, but she was poised on the edge of the couch like she was thinking about it. “I deserve more respect than that!”

“Not if you’re accusing Liam of being some kind of child molester! Fuck, he could lose his job over that kind of rumor, whether it has any basis in fact or not!” Austin was furious at the thought of it, even though he was pretty sure his mother’s attitude wouldn’t leave the house. Jesus, that probably meant she’d be telling Tim all about it, which took the whole situation to a new level of suck.

“I didn’t mean—” Sarah held up her hand, her mouth trembling, the color draining from her face. “Stop. Before we go too far here. This isn’t how we do things, Austin. We don’t yell and fight, not us.” She stared up at him, her face wet with tears that she brushed at impatiently. “I take that back. I do. It was a dreadful thing to say. But you have to see how much of a shock this is to me. I just don’t get it. You and Jay… You’re everything to each other. Why would you want to be involved with someone else and risk that? Weren’t you happy with each other?”

Austin felt sick, his legs about to give way. He was struggling to breathe, a panic attack imminent, but Sarah’s retraction helped steady him. He sat again, before he fell over, and took a few slow, deep gulps of air.

“Austin?” His mom edged closer, tentatively patting his back. “Oh, baby, don’t. Please. Don’t hate me.”

“I don’t. Never.” God, he could barely choke the words out. He turned into her arms and let her hug him, his mind racing, a rat trying to find a way out of the maze. When he thought he could talk coherently, he pulled back. “Mom, I can’t talk about this without them here. It’s not just about me; you can see that. If I tell you that no one’s getting hurt—physically or emotionally—that it’s making what I have with Jay stronger, not damaging it, and that all three of us love each other, will that be enough? You don’t need to like it or approve or even understand it, but can you just trust me and accept it the way you did when I told you I was gay?”

She looked so upset, more upset than he could remember seeing her, and it was awful to know he was the cause. “Of course I trust you,” she said unconvincingly. “You know I just want you to be healthy and happy?”

“I do,” Austin said. He did know that, though it didn’t make it any easier to know she was also disappointed in him for not being in the kind of relationship she’d thought he was. “I am. If something was wrong, I’d tell you.”

“Would you?” Her eyes searched his.

“Well, I’m not April. I’m not going to call you every time something goes a tiny bit wrong and expect you to drop everything and fix it for me.” He forced a small smile onto his face, hoping to shift the mood.

“She’s sensitive,” Sarah protested. “And she’s a girl. Girls need more support than boys.”

Thank God. Now if he could just keep her focused on April instead of him. “What do you think’s going on with Ryan? Is she just overreacting?”

Sarah had spent too many years automatically putting April first because she was the one who caused the most trouble. When given the choice between a difficult discussion that threatened the good relationship she had with Austin, and April’s issues, there was never any doubt which option she’d choose.

It wasn’t as if the talk about Liam was going anywhere, after all. Sarah would process what he’d told her, regroup, and probably bring it up again, but the first shock was over, and when it came down to it, there was nothing she could do. She’d relied on Austin for years, trusted his judgment, leaned on him when life had gotten hard. To go from that to doubting him and treating him as if he were a child was too much of a shift. She needed him to be what he’d always been, her oldest son, her mainstay, and Austin just hoped that by the next time she saw Liam, she’d have her feelings under control enough to be polite, at least.

It was some small comfort to know that if she wasn’t, if she laid into Liam verbally or even took a swing, Liam would understand, one parent to another.

“I don’t know.” Sarah picked up her coffee and took a sip, sniffing back the last of her tears. “She’s always so emotional, but she really seemed to have settled down with him. I mean, he took her home for Thanksgiving. That’s how serious he seemed to be.”

Thanksgiving without April had been peaceful to the point where Austin had felt guilty about how little he’d missed her. Leaving Liam to spend it alone had sucked, but Liam had seemed genuinely indifferent at not being with his family. “I’ll see my kids at Christmas. I’d only be in the way if I invited myself to Barbara’s house. Besides, I’m English, remember. It’s not such a big deal for me. Just bring me back some leftovers, assuming there are any.”

“I think he means it; she’s affecting his studies, so he wants to cool things off until he’s able to balance work and play. She might see that as a rejection and freak, but she’s an idiot because that’ll just make him want to back away more.”

“You should tell her that,” Sarah said. “She’ll listen to you.”

Yeah, that always happened. “She never has before.”

“You’d be surprised.” Sarah sat upright, a familiar look of determination hardening her features. “Austin, I’m not going to pretend I’m happy about this situation you’ve gotten yourself into. I’m not. It’s just…it’s wrong. But you’ve made it plain that it’s what you’ve decided you want, and I can’t turn my back on you over it. You’re my son. I love you. Nothing will ever change that.”

Austin gave an inarticulate mumble of thanks, unsure what to say and certain there was a but coming.

“But you still have a duty to this family, and your sister needs you. She’s coming home soon for the vacation. I’d like you to go up there, meet this Ryan, find out what’s going on, and bring her home. I wouldn’t put it past her to do something foolish like run after him, and I want her under my roof at Christmas.”

The prospect of a four-hour drive, an embarrassing talk with Ryan, and a hellish trip back with a sobbing, overwrought sister didn’t appeal at all, but Austin knew his consent was a given. His mom was making it plain that it was the price he’d have to pay for a grudging acceptance of his redefined relationship.

“What about me, Mom? Do you want me here too, with Jay?”

Her eyes were guarded, as if she suspected a trap. God, things between them were never going to be the way they had after this. He’d lost something he’d relied on all his life. He knew it was worth it, but it still hurt. “Not Liam?”

“He’ll be with his family.”

“They live far away, don’t they? See? A parent wants to be together with their children for the holidays. It will always be that way.” Sarah seemed reassured, like she’d been reminded that Austin belonged to her and no one could take him away for good. “So you’ll make the arrangements with April?”

“Yeah. Yes, of course I will.” The whole thing sounded like a nightmare, but if it smoothed things out, he’d do it.

“Good. I think her classes end next week. She was saying she’s too stressed out to study for finals, but I’m sure you can convince her otherwise. It would be a horrible waste of all that tuition money if she left before the semester was over.” Sarah nodded. “Good. Then I’ll just ask you to do me one more favor.”

Austin kept his sigh silent. “Okay.”

“I want you to promise me you’ll do some serious thinking about what’s best for you. No, I don’t want to talk about it more than that—just promise me. I’m sure one of those doctors you work for could recommend a good therapist.”

Yeah, that so wasn’t happening, but right then she just wanted him to agree with her, so he did. “Okay. I’ll think about it. I promise.”

“Good,” she said again. “Now, do you want a slice of pound cake? I made some last night.”

Chapter Sixteen

“Slow down,” Liam said for the third time. “Austin, you’re not making any sense.”

He’d walked in through the door, disappointed not to be greeted the way he was getting used to, with one or both of them hurrying forward to smile at him and drop to their knees. The first time they’d done it, his breath had been taken away, the immediacy of his physical reaction leaving him aroused to the point where he’d needed every ounce of his control not to order them to the bedroom.

Even in a short time, it’d become a focal point of his day, something to anticipate as he sat in a meeting or fought his way through rush-hour traffic. Usually he did no more than brush his hand over their heads before snapping his fingers and bringing them to their feet, but knowing that if he wanted, he could stand there in the hallway, unzip his pants, and feel their mouths on him a moment later, warm, eager, loving, was deeply satisfying.

Tonight he’d walked into turmoil, Austin striding up and down in the family room, his voice raised, his usual calm shattered, with Jay trying to comfort him and being shrugged off every time he touched Austin.

“What part of ‘my mom knows we’re a threesome, and she’s freaking out’ do you two not get?” Austin threw back his head, inhaling sharply, his hands clenched. “Jesus! She knows, okay? She fucking knows.”

“And has she disowned you?” Liam asked.

Austin stopped his pacing and looked at Liam. “Um. No.”

“Good. Everything else we can deal with. Put some water on for tea, please.” Liam knew being asked to do something was likely to ground Austin, so they might as well try that first before moving on to the inevitable discussion.

He hung up his coat while Jay loitered nearby, seemingly torn between following Austin to the kitchen and being reassured by Liam. When Liam walked past him, headed after Austin, Jay followed along at his heels.

“He’s really upset,” Jay muttered.

“Yes, I got that. Are you going to help the situation or wind him up further?” That was enough to give Jay the hint he needed so Liam would be able to focus on Austin and the problem at hand.

“She saw us kissing!” Austin said, leaning back against the counter as if it was all that kept him from sliding to the floor. “At the housewarming party.”

Liam sighed. He’d tried to suggest he not make an appearance at the party at all, but they’d managed to talk him into attending and look where it had got them.

“I don’t suppose you could have explained it away as a joke or a dare? She’d had a lot to drink, you know.”

“Not on top of all the grief she’s been giving me about bruises and abusive boyfriends.” Austin gripped the counter behind him, his fingers flexing restlessly. “She spun this wild theory, bouncing around from me escaping Jay beating up on me and running to you as a father figure, to you being some kind of pervert preying on kids—yes, that’s what she called us, kids, like we’re twelve or something. Then she…she—”

“That’s enough,” Liam said, edging the words so that they cut sharply through Austin’s increasingly hysterical rant. He felt his stomach lurch with some part of the distress Austin was feeling, but he didn’t let any of it show on his face or in his voice. From the little he knew of Sarah, she’d seemed a sensible woman, with a blind spot when it came to her spoiled daughter, but he’d appreciated her unquestioning acceptance of Austin and Jay’s relationship. His opinion hadn’t changed, not yet.

She could do so much damage to Liam’s life if she wanted to, but though that was definitely worrying, Liam found himself far more concerned with the fallout for Austin. If Liam never spoke another word to Sarah, it wouldn’t trouble him in the slightest; she didn’t matter to him. But if Austin lost her love and support, he’d be devastated—and that did matter.

Austin went still, frozen; then he licked his lips and gave Liam a trusting look, appealing to him for help. “What are we going to do, Sir?”

“Your mother discovered something that would leave any parent upset,” Liam said, speaking slowly, measuring every word. “She lashed out, as we all do when we’re faced with something that scares or angers us. She loves you too much to stay angry with you, even if she never forgives me.”

“Liam’s right.” Jay went to Austin’s side, sliding an arm around Austin’s waist. This time he wasn’t rejected. Austin shuddered, the rigidity leaving him, and leaned gratefully into Jay’s hug. Behind them, the kettle began to boil. There was something touching about the way Austin had obeyed Liam’s order to make tea, even in the middle of a meltdown. “Your mom adores you. She loves you all, but you’re her favorite.”

“She doesn’t know everything about our relationship, I take it?” Liam waited for the answer, inwardly wincing. If Austin had blurted that out too…

Austin shook his head. “No, Sir. God, no. She thinks it’s just for the sex, or the novelty factor, I guess. I told her we all loved each other, and it slid off. She didn’t take it in.” He choked on a strangled laugh. “She wants me to see a fucking therapist.”

“Is that something you think would help you?” Liam asked doubtfully.

Austin’s lip quivered, making Liam want to stroke his fingers over it, bite down on the soft, tremulous flesh until the only reason Austin was shaking was from arousal. “No! I get panic attacks sometimes, but not often, and moving in, being with you, it’s helped so much. We all know what a therapist would say—that we’re sick, codependent, that Jay and I have daddy issues and you’re using us. None of it’s true, none of it’s us, so why put ourselves through that? I don’t want to.”

“I’m not doing it,” Jay said, shaking his head so that his long hair whipped back and forth. “Jesus. No fucking way. No.”

“Then don’t,” Liam told them, making a note to address the issue of swearing in the near future. They knew he didn’t like it. “For what it’s worth, I’ve never thought of either of you as anything but remarkably well-adjusted young men. You’re self-aware, unconflicted, and you took steps to get what you needed with Patrick, then me, instead of suffering, frustrated, as so many people do.” Liam smiled ruefully. “As I did for years.”

“But most people don’t get it. I don’t know if maybe there is something wrong—okay, not wrong, different?—with us. I know a therapist would think so.” Austin seemed less frantic now, at least.

“There are therapists for everything,” Liam told them. “If any of us wanted to, we could find one who specializes in polyamory or group relationships or BDSM. I’m not saying it would be simple or that the location would be convenient, but it isn’t impossible.”

“Could we just pretend I saw one and he said there’s nothing wrong with me?” Austin suggested. There was a hint of humor in his voice.

“Better say it’s a woman if you want your mom to trust it,” Jay said. “What with all men being pedophiles and abusers.”

“How did you end things?” Liam asked, and Austin pulled away from Jay and moved to make Liam a cup of tea.

“Okay, I guess. Not great. And I promised I’d go pick up April for Christmas break—don’t ask how she talked me into that one.”

“What?” Jay opened the fridge door with a bad-tempered yank and took out a can of ginger ale. “Well, that’s just great. So you’ll be gone for the day, driving on busy roads, missing one of the last weekends before Liam goes away—”

“I’ll probably have to stay overnight,” Austin said apologetically. “Leave early Saturday, get there after lunch, speak to Ryan and sort things out if I can—”

Jay snorted, his incredulity plain. He popped the can and watched the ginger ale fizz up, bending to lick a few drops off his hand as it spilled down the side of the can. “Oh, that’s going to go well. Because who doesn’t like being told he’s not allowed to break up with a crazy girlfriend by the crazy girlfriend’s gay brother? I’m going with you.”

“No, you’re not.” Austin poured water onto a tea bag and jiggled it halfheartedly up and down a few times. “Liam, tell him he’s got to stay here. There’s no need for us both to go, and April will behave better if it’s just me.”

“We could all go,” Liam suggested, though it was the last thing he wanted. “Stay in a hotel, let you sort things out with your sister, then Jay and I can rent a car and let you drive back with her. She won’t even know we’re there.”

Austin rolled his eyes. “Oh, she’d know,” he muttered. “Don’t ask me how, but she’d find out, and if Mom got to hear about it, it’d make things worse. I can handle it.” He thrust the mug he was holding at Liam. “I’m going to grab a shower. I feel like things are crawling over me.”

He left the kitchen, and Liam exhaled, turning to Jay, who was sipping from his can, his expression unreadable.

“That didn’t go well, but I suppose it could’ve gone worse.”

Jay gave him a weary look. “You think that was it? Reaction over, everyone moving forward? You don’t know Austin. This is gonna stick with him for weeks. He’ll blame himself, second-guess everything he said and did, agonize over how it’ll affect us…start taking those fucking pills he thinks I don’t know about.” He drained the can and squeezed it, crushing it to a shapeless mass, his hand shaking. “And he’s going away without us,” he added tonelessly.

Liam would’ve preferred yelling. That he could deal with. Helpless, lost, he took the can away from Jay before it cut his hand and pulled Jay to him in a tight hug. “We won’t let him do any of that. The pills, well, if they’re doctor prescribed, they might help him, I don’t know, but we won’t let him blame himself. None of this is his fault.”

“No, it’s mine.” Jay rubbed his forehead against Liam’s shoulder, his hands clutching at Liam. “It was me who dragged us into the bedroom, and that’s why we got caught.”

“Stop.” Liam held Jay firmly, ran a hand up along his spine to his shoulder. “You don’t both get to go to pieces at the same time. It’s your turn to be the sensible one.”

“But he’s going away,” Jay muttered. The heat of his breath seeped through the fabric of Liam’s shirt.

“Only for one night.” Liam slid his hand down to Jay’s arse and squeezed it. It might have been cheating to distract Jay with touch, but if it worked, he didn’t care.

Jay moved against him, pressing closer. “Make me feel better?”

Liam didn’t want to get into anything too complicated; it wouldn’t be fair to Austin, who still needed their support. But it was easy enough to do something quickly that would satisfy Jay. “Turn around,” he said decisively. “Hands on the counter.”

While Jay obeyed, Liam moved to the utensil drawer where he kept spatulas and large spoons. There was a wooden spoon there, a long, sturdy one probably meant to go into soup pots. Liam set it on the counter and reached around to undo Jay’s jeans, yanking them roughly down to his knees to leave his arse bare.

“Five,” Liam said. “If you can keep quiet. As soon as you make a sound, it’s over.”

Jay arched his back, naked arse begging for Liam’s attention.

It felt strange to be doing this when he wasn’t at all turned on, and his intention wasn’t to work Jay up but to calm him down. The first flat smack of wood against flesh was just that, a sound, unconnected to any feelings of desire or pleasure in his dominance or Jay’s submission.

Maybe if Jay had moaned—but though his breathing quickened, he didn’t make a sound.

Liam surveyed the faintly pink mark rising on Jay’s backside and put his hand against it. The warmth of the skin wasn’t due to the single smack, but if he placed all five smacks there, Jay would be left with a sore, stinging patch of skin for a while. The idea excited him, drawing an answering throb from his cock.

He’d made Jay write out the definition of a sadist and received page after page of lines. Jay could have saved himself time and written Liam a hundred times and been as accurate. He loved hurting him, marking Jay’s skin darkly, deeply, bruising it, whipping it, using heat and ice to evoke whimpers and screams. He hadn’t come close to reaching Jay’s limits, and sometimes he wondered where they were in relation to his own.

Not so far apart, he suspected.

Austin’s submission was reached by a different route, equally satisfying to travel but less direct. In some ways he was more of a challenge than Jay, needing careful, intelligent handling.

Jay’s needs were less complex.

Smiling now, the brief spanking doing as much to settle him as Jay, Liam dealt out four more brisk, hard, accurate smacks, watching Jay’s body jerk as the pain built in that one place.

“One day I’ll do that and keep going,” Liam said, rubbing the spoon roughly across the reddened skin, then tossing it onto the counter and using his fingertips instead. “Beat you just here”—he pinched the hot skin—“until the bruise you get stays there for days and you cry out when I touch it, flinch if I even breathe on it.”

Jay turned in his arms, face lifted, fingers sliding around the back of Liam’s head to draw it down. Liam was too turned on to protest; the feel of Jay’s firm, eager cock against the front of his trousers was maddening in the best possible way, and he made no attempt to hold back when he kissed Jay, who moaned as Liam’s tongue invaded his mouth.

“Cover you with my marks,” Liam told him, tugging his hair to tilt his head, biting at the tenderest parts of his throat. “Get you so hot for it and then leave you to burn, waiting for me.” He pulled back and looked at Jay sternly. “Now compose yourself, and go upstairs. We need to help Austin get past this as best we can.”

Jay pressed his lips together and nodded, reaching to tug his clothes back into place. “Yes, Sir. Thank you.”

“I’ll be there when I’ve finished my tea,” Liam added. He wanted the two of them to have some time together. They were so tactile with each other, always sitting close, touching often, and seeing Austin shrug away from Jay earlier had troubled Liam. He was willing to bet that when he’d poured the tea away—it was tepid now and too strong, the bag still floating in the water—and joined them in the bedroom, they’d be hugging.

He rinsed the mug and looked around the pristine kitchen. No sign of any preparations for supper. Well, that was why takeout had been invented. They wouldn’t be hungry right now, but he’d make sure they ate later.

It was dark outside, the kitchen window reflecting back the lighted kitchen, not the bleakness of a garden waiting for snow to transform it. Liam saw himself, tall, good-looking, he supposed without vanity, but just about old enough to be Jay and Austin’s father if he’d been very precocious. Fifteen years separated him from them, and he felt that gap at times, but mostly it didn’t matter. If their ages had been reversed, he would still be the one in charge. Size, strength, age—none of that factored in when it came to the relationship between a Dom and a sub. He controlled them, he owned them, because it was the way they all wanted it to be.

Sarah, even unaware of that deeper level of trust, would see him as a threat in so many ways, though. Liam screwed up his face in a grimace, then sighed, exasperated and uneasy.

Time to tell Austin everything was fine, put him between the two men who loved him, and soothe him with words and their bodies until Austin found a temporary comfort.

Time to be convincing and lie to them for the first time since he’d met them, because it wasn’t fine; it couldn’t be. Sarah knew, and even if by some miracle she’d greeted the news with approval and understanding, she could still spill their secret with an unguarded word. And if she did, swearing the recipient to secrecy wouldn’t work.

Juicy gossip spread as fast as head lice in a kindergarten in Liam’s jaundiced view.

He had to trust a woman he didn’t know to keep her mouth shut—and set aside her hurt and anger—to protect the son she loved. It wasn’t going to be easy. In fact, he was extremely tempted to contact her himself and suggest they talk, but knew it was a terrible idea that couldn’t be entertained.

It was quiet as he climbed the stairs; the shower wasn’t running, but he could hear Jay and Austin talking. He found them curled up on the bed, Austin underneath the covers with his damp head resting on Jay’s chest. Jay’s T-shirt was dark with absorbed water, but he was clearly unconcerned about it.

“I’m sorry, Liam,” Austin said when he joined them.

“What for?” Liam asked. “Here, move over.”

Austin and Jay shifted to make room for him. “I feel like there’s always some big drama. There didn’t used to be, I swear.”

“In which case it could be argued that I’m the cause,” Liam pointed out.

“You’re not,” Austin said bleakly. “It’s me.”

“It’s not you,” Jay said. “It’s your mother and April and maybe the situation, but it’s not you.”

“It feels like it is. I mean, I get that I’m not responsible for my mom’s reaction. I just wish I’d figured out how to tell her before she got the wrong idea. Although if I’d known how to do it, I would have.”

“You knew she wasn’t going to like it.” Jay was slowly running his fingers through Austin’s hair, combing it into shape.

“What we have isn’t common, but a ménage à trois is hardly unheard of in history and literature.” Liam shifted on the bed, getting comfortable. He loved being in here with them. A room he’d used for sleeping in, as impersonal as any hotel, had become a warm, inviting space. Jay’s books lay on every flat surface; a crossword Austin was working on, a pencil clipped to it, was on the night table, held down by a half-empty bottle of lube. Austin made the bed daily, using the crisp white sheets Liam preferred, but a body pillow with purple, green, and gold dragons flying across it kept appearing at the head of the bed, no matter how many times Liam tossed it into the spare room or down the basement stairs.

The room smelled of them now, an indefinable, familiar scent. The bed was crowded when the lights went out, with Liam on the left, the other two taking it in turns to sleep beside him, claiming it as a reward. He woke in the night and heard them breathing or turning over, nestling closer to each other or throwing out an arm to anchor him in place.

Liam treasured the intimacy of sleeping with them, but when he looked at the bed, smooth, pillows plumped, his mind usually went not to sleeping but making love, the three of them naked, striving to reach a climax.

God, the things they did…the things they’d taught him…

He cleared his throat, aware that between spanking Jay and his happily lustful thoughts he was both hard and in a better frame of mind. “I mean, the French wouldn’t have invented a term for it if it was a rarity. Look at Lady Hamilton, her husband, and Lord Nelson. They lived together for years.”

“Uh, yeah,” Jay said.

“And then there was the classic example of Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere…” he continued blandly, enjoying the sidelong glances they exchanged as they tried to look attentive. “We’re a modern version of a well-established tradition.”

“Maybe you should be the one to talk to my mother.” Austin immediately rolled over and hugged Liam. “Don’t listen to me. I’m insane.”

“No, you’re not. And I won’t.” Liam wouldn’t admit he’d already considered the idea—that would make it seem more reasonable, and it wasn’t reasonable, not even slightly. “Jay, I’m sure you could tell us about some famous threesomes in literature.”

As usual, Jay’s eyes lit up at the mention of books. He curled around Austin, kissing the back of Austin’s ear before warming to his topic. “There’s this book by Poul Anderson about aliens—I think they’re on Jupiter. The woman has to sleep with two men in a row to get pregnant, and then they all live together as a family.”

“My mom would like that better,” Austin said mournfully. “If there was a chance she’d get a grandchild out of it.”

“This isn’t Jupiter,” Liam said. “I was thinking of something a bit more realistic.”

“Realism’s overrated.” Jay’s hand, which had been resting on the covers over Austin’s hip, slid a bit lower over the front of Austin’s thigh. “Most of them are about two guys and a girl, unless you want to talk about erotica. Then there’s plenty of gay threesomes, not to mention vampires, werewolves, and—”

“Fantasy,” Liam said, dismissing it, and leaned in to kiss Jay over Austin. Jay could easily be distracted by a well-timed kiss.

Jay took the kiss as eagerly as Liam had expected, his tongue flirting against Liam’s, the taste of his mouth addictive enough that Liam found it difficult to pull back. Jay’s eyes were gleaming, amused and knowing, as if he could tell how that one kiss had left Liam hungry for more. Oh, someone hadn’t been spanked hard enough.

Time to take control. Sex wasn’t a cure for everything, but it would certainly make for an effective distraction. Liam was damned if Austin was going to spend the evening moping, doubting his life choices, prey to regrets.

They were here, they were together, and there were better things to do than talk.

Liam got off the bed and stripped the covers off them with a sweep of his hand. Austin shivered, his bare skin exposed, and curled up against Jay, his eyes reproachful, but Liam gave him a heartless grin. “Get naked, Jay,” he ordered, undoing the buttons on his shirt. “I want to fuck you both.”

The blunt declaration of intent wasn’t romantic, but it got them moving.

Jay stripped off his clothes and dropped them to the floor—Liam made a mental note to remind him to pick them up later—and hopped back into bed, running a greedy hand over Austin’s bare skin as they both watched Liam finish undressing.

“Can I kiss him, Sir?” Austin asked, then corrected himself. “May I?”

“Yes, but then I want you over here, near the edge of the bed.” Liam finished undressing, then moved to pick up the lube and stood watching as the two of them kissed. Jay was fully hard, his long, dark hair falling loose over his shoulders, and his hand was on Austin’s cock, slowly working it.

Austin moaned when Jay’s mouth moved down to his nipple. “Stop,” he gasped out, and to Liam’s surprise Jay obeyed, sitting up.

“Where do you want us, Sir?”

“I want Austin down here.” Liam tugged at Austin’s ankle, indicating he should move to the edge of the bed. “No, all the way down. Like you were sitting on the bed, only then lie back.” The mattress was quite tall, and there was a padded feather bed on top of it, the end result such that he should be able to fuck Austin while standing, or at least bracing an arm on the bed.

“You’re going to do him standing up?” Jay sounded intrigued. “What about me, Sir?”

“Maybe you I tie to the bed, gagged, so that all you can do is watch us. Dress you up with some nice, tight clamps and a cock ring so you don’t get bored waiting.”

Jay reached down to grip his cock at that, his lips parting on a gasp, his eyes sliding half-closed. Clearly the idea had some appeal. If Liam hadn’t got a firm picture in his head of how he wanted them, he might have let Jay suffer like that, helpless, aroused, and growing desperate for a touch, a glance… God, how responsive would Jay be when it was his turn? His cockhead would be sleeked wetly, his balls tight, his bruised, swollen nipples dark against the metal.

“Or maybe you get to kneel behind Austin, yes, like that, and when I’m in him, you can put your mouth to use sucking him.”

Jay smiled at him, again with that disconcerting gleam that seemed to say he knew every fantasy Liam had and was only waiting for an order to fulfill them.

Austin tilted his head back, staring up at Jay. He put his feet flat on the bed, opening for Liam without a trace of self-consciousness. Liam let some lube drip onto his fingers and slid them along the cleft of Austin’s arse, slicking the bare skin behind his balls before working his finger inside Austin’s hole. The tight, hot clench made him wonder, not for the first time, how it would feel to be on the receiving end of a fucking. There was no doubt that Austin and Jay enjoyed it.

Jay leaned forward, his hair brushing Austin’s stomach, his hands planted on either side of Austin’s hips, and placed a kiss not on Austin’s cock, but Liam’s. The light, deferential kiss spoke to the Dom in Liam. He wanted to wrap his hand painfully tight in Jay’s hair and hold him still, take his mouth with deep, slow thrusts until Jay was choking on Liam’s cock, breathless, at his mercy. Jay gave him an appealing glance from under his lashes. “Before you go inside him? May I? Please, Sir?”

Saying no would have taken up an ounce of the control Liam planned to have another use for. He nodded and threaded his fingers through Jay’s hair as Jay’s lips took him in, soft and wet over the head of his prick and then firmer, with suction, along his shaft. Christ. Liam let himself tug Jay’s hair until he knew it had to hurt, although Jay’s response to the pain was the expected moan of pleasure. “Good boy,” he said, and Jay moaned again, taking him deeper.

It would have been amazing to continue, to come in Jay’s willing mouth, but if there was a chance of Liam actually being able to fuck both of them, he couldn’t come now. Instead he reluctantly pulled Jay’s head back and ran a rough thumb over Jay’s lower lip after releasing him.

Jay licked his lip, a slow swipe of his tongue covering every place Liam’s thumb had caressed.

“Well?” Liam raised his eyebrows.

Graceful, strong, his cock bobbing, untouched, inches from Austin’s resolutely closed mouth, Jay murmured a thank-you.

Liam pushed Austin’s knee back, his finger still captured inside the clinging heat of Austin’s hole. He crooked it, searching Austin’s face for a reaction, smiling when he got one. “Think you can make Jay happy while he’s doing the same for you?”

The logistics would be hellishly difficult to sustain, but Liam had faith in them.

“Yes, Sir. I’ll try.”

Liam applied more lube to himself and Austin—they told him he used too much, but as far as he was concerned more was better—and replaced his finger with his cock, enjoying Austin’s throat-caught moan as his arse was filled.

“Don’t bite him.”

“Who, me?” Jay licked a wet line along the shaft of Austin’s cock and snapped his teeth a bare inch away from the head, making Austin jerk with shock, then give an indignant hiss.

Liam lunged forward, going deeply into Austin and getting close enough to lean in and slap Jay’s backside satisfyingly hard. “For that you get to come last.”

He could see the imprint of his hand on Jay’s skin as he fucked Austin, could hear the luscious, liquid sounds their mouths made as they sucked each other; the harsh, raw groans when they had to pause or risk breaking his rules, because he came first, always.

They knew that.

And tonight he was in no rush.

Chapter Seventeen

Worst day ever.

Okay, so that was an exaggeration, but Jay wasn’t ready to admit it.

Things were actually okay; it was almost Christmas, and living with Liam had turned out better than Jay had expected even while they were still getting used to it. But he’d had to stand in Liam’s driveway and watch as Austin drove away, knowing Austin wouldn’t be home that night, and it was a shitty feeling. Even Liam’s promise that he’d provide an evening’s distraction seemed like small consolation.

Jay sighed and flipped the book he’d been not-reading to the back where the library’s due date card was and plucked it from its pocket, then used it as a bookmark. Maybe he’d go down and work on Liam’s Christmas present for a little while. There wasn’t a lot left to do—mostly fine details to finish up, and it would be nice to focus on something other than missing Austin.

“Bad book?” Liam asked from the other couch.

“No such thing,” Jay said. “I guess I’m not in a reading mood. Is it cool if I go downstairs and do some work? I’m trying to finish up a thing before Christmas.”

“Of course. Maybe tonight we can go out for dinner? We’d talked about the new Thai place.” Liam wasn’t looking up from his magazine.

“Austin really wanted to go there.”

“Well, there’s no harm in us checking it out first, is there?”

The note of impatience in the words made Jay wonder if Liam was missing Austin too, even though Liam disappeared on business trips fairly often. Maybe he was discovering it was different when you were the one left at home.

“No, I guess not.” Jay stood where he was, fidgeting, aware of a barrier between them. This was Liam. His partner, his Dom. Why couldn’t he go over to him and ask for a hug or, hell, a spanking, something to lessen his depression?

Because Liam wasn’t paying him any attention, that was why. Jay turned on his heel and left the room, not quite slamming the basement door but definitely closing it firmly.

The space downstairs felt echoingly empty, but once he’d settled down to work, he found himself relaxing. Accustomed to long, solitary hours building his dioramas, he could—almost—fool himself that Austin was upstairs, chatting with Liam or curled up on the couch watching TV.

He’d come so close to completing the dungeon scene after two hours that he was really motivated to continue. He had a list of tasks in his head, checking them off one by one. If he kept at it for another thirty minutes, it would be ready to box up.

He picked up the two figurines representing himself and Austin and made them kiss, rolling his eyes at his whimsy but grinning too. God, Liam would love this. Wouldn’t he? Jay touched the figurine of the Dom with the tip of his finger. Sternly handsome, dressed in leather and boots, he wasn’t much like Liam as far as wardrobe went, but hey, maybe Liam would take the hint. The suits he wore were hot in their own way. Liam slipping out of his jacket and tie, then rolling up his shirtsleeves neatly before picking up a flogger could make Jay’s mouth go dry with lust, but he’d cream his fucking pants if Liam ever wore leather boots.

Intent on his work, he didn’t hear the footsteps on the stairs until Liam called his name.

Startled, panicked, he leaped to his feet, knocking over a tiny pot of silver paint. “Shit! Don’t come down here!”

“Jay?”

He grabbed a piece of rag and halted the trickle of paint just before it reached the base of the diorama. “I’m okay. I’m just working on something.” Jolted out of his creative fog, upset that Liam had come close to ruining his surprise, he snapped out a terse, “Aren’t you supposed to knock?”

Liam’s footsteps had stopped. He must be waiting on the stairs, standing there halfway between the space that was theirs and the space that was supposed to be for Jay and Austin, damn it. Jay was angry. He didn’t like being interrupted, and he didn’t want to feel like his space wasn’t really his. “Excuse me?” Liam said finally.

“I thought you were supposed to knock.” Jay knew he was crossing the line by complaining, so he tried to make his voice calmer. “Just give me a minute to get this covered up. Please.”

“I’m waiting.” Liam sounded formal; that couldn’t mean anything good.

“Thank you.” Quickly Jay draped the sheet he’d been using to both hide the diorama and keep it protected from dust over the top, then moved to the foot of the stairs and looked up at Liam. “I’m sorry, Sir. I didn’t hear you coming, and I was startled. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

Liam frowned. “I’d almost think you’d been practicing.”

“Sir?”

“It was a very nice apology. I’m not sure it’s sufficient, considering, although to be fair I am supposed to knock.”

“You shouldn’t have to.” The admission wasn’t difficult to make, not when he knew it was true. “We don’t knock on the other side of the door to ask if we can come upstairs. If this is our house now, not just yours—”

“Our home,” Liam corrected, adding, “There’s a difference.”

“Yeah. Well, if it is, then there shouldn’t be knock zones. I’ll talk to Austin about it when he comes back.”

That made Jay remember that Austin wasn’t coming back tonight, at least, and the resultant pang stung like lemon juice in a paper cut.

“You’re not dealing very well with him being away, are you?” Liam asked dispassionately.

Jay ran his hand over the banister, the wood smooth and warm against his palm. No chance of splinters, not in this house. “It doesn’t happen very often. The last time was when I went to visit my parents, maybe a year ago, and it was hell for both of us. I don’t like the idea of him seeing April or driving north at this time of year.” He ran out of reasons to fret and finished with a shrug.

Liam leaned against the wall, the light behind him leaving his face shadowed. “He texted me from a gas station a few minutes ago. He’s making good time. The roads are busy but clear of snow, and he sends his love.”

“He texted you, not me?” Jay couldn’t keep the surprise from his voice, or the hurt. “Did you tell him he couldn’t talk to me or something?”

“No, it was to both of us, so I imagine if you check your phone, you’ll see it there.” Liam was being so patient with him that Jay almost wanted to push harder, just to break down the forbearance and get to the Dom.

He tugged his phone out of the pocket of his jeans, needing to see Austin’s text for himself, and discovered the battery was dead. “Oh.”

“Mm.” Liam turned to leave. “You’d better plug it in. Don’t reply until you know he’s arrived, though. I don’t approve of driving and texting.”

Jay followed Liam up the stairs, shoving his phone back in his pocket. “Austin wouldn’t do that. He says it’s just asking for something bad to happen.”

Liam waited for Jay to come through the door and close it behind him, then raised his eyebrows. “Well, you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?”

A tingle, half apprehension, half anticipation, went through him, sharpening his senses. Oh God, he was alone with Liam. They’d talked about solo sessions, without the opportunity arising. The problem was what the odd man out did while the other two were together. It just felt too awkward to plan and execute.

But now…

“Sir?” he asked through dry lips.

“Isn’t that what you’re doing a lot of these days? Waiting for something bad to happen?”

Liam pushed him against the wall, capturing Jay’s wrists in his hands and pinning them to the wall above Jay’s head. His breath left him in a gasp, the tingle upgraded to a full-on electrical shock.

“It’s not going to,” Liam said into his ear, following it up with a bite to his earlobe that left it throbbing. “You’re safe here with me. I promise you that. But our definition of safe isn’t quite like other people’s, is it?”

There were words Liam expected to hear, but Jay couldn’t force them out. He tried to say “Sir,” and it emerged as a throat-caught whine, pitiful, imploring. His heart was thudding wildly, his cock rigid, a rush of blood stiffening it so quickly he was left dizzy, lost.

Liam liked to plan sessions, and for all he knew, Liam had been dreaming this up for the last few hours, but it didn’t feel structured and neat. It felt raw and dark, an assault on his senses, a challenge thrown out. He wasn’t scared, but he was still shaking. The things Liam had said he wanted to do to Jay in the past if there was nothing to hold him back… How much had been designed to arouse and tease him, no more than erotic fantasies, and if they were stripped away, what did that leave?

“We’ve got all night and all day tomorrow,” Liam told him, his fingers cruelly tight around Jay’s wrists, bruising him, marking him. God, he loved the small, purple ovals pressed into his skin by Liam’s fingers, hated covering them with the wide leather bracelets he wore to work. Liam sucked at Jay’s neck, pulling the skin tight and hot, lapping at it until it was wet with saliva.

He drew back to stare into Jay’s eyes from a distance of an inch or two, his face filling Jay’s vision, his breath hot against Jay’s face. “You’re mine. I’m going to play with you until I break you. Until you trust me. Until I’ve taken every tear, every whimper, every drop of sweat and cum. Mine. Say it. Make me believe you.”

Jay inhaled sharply, the wall hard against his back and Liam impossibly unbending in front of him. Liam could do, would do anything, and Jay would let him. Liam could whip him bloody, fuck him raw, and somehow Jay wouldn’t protest or complain. He’d love it. He’d love Liam for being the man who could do it to him.

“I’m yours,” Jay whispered, unable to look away from Liam’s eyes. “Yours, Sir.”

Liam leaned in another inch and bit Jay’s lower lip until he squirmed with the sharp, exquisite pain of it. “Convincing.” Liam’s voice was almost a growl. “Now see if you can be as convincing with your actions as you are with your words.” His hand ran down Jay’s side and slid between them; he squeezed Jay’s cock hard enough to make him gasp. “Go shower. Don’t touch yourself while you do. I’ll be waiting for you, so don’t dawdle.”

Jay was so aroused it was difficult to force his body to obey him, but somehow when Liam released him, he managed to stumble upstairs to the shower. He wanted to let his clothes lie where they fell as he removed them but made himself fold them and set them neatly on the counter. His hands shook as he reached for the soap.

Liam hadn’t told him what he had planned. Not knowing what to expect made Jay even more turned on than he already was. Was Liam going to take advantage of Austin being gone to make this really intense? A shudder ran through Jay, and he had to clench his fists to resist the urge to touch his cock.

When he came out of the shower, he wasn’t fully hard, but he knew that one look, one word from Liam would change that. He dried off, carefully avoiding his groin so that when he walked into the bedroom, the towel in his hand, drops of water clung to his cock and the dark hair around it.

Liam was standing by the bed, giving one of Jay’s shirts a critical appraisal. On the bed he’d put out fresh pants, socks, and shorts for Jay, for some reason. “This needs ironing.”

“You want me to get dressed?” Jay blurted out. “Why?”

Liam beckoned him over without answering, giving him the same frowning attention that the shirt had received. Jay held still under that gaze, wondering why it was so hot to be examined like this, to be on display, be judged. He stood straight and kept his eyes lowered, watching his cock perk up again.

After drawing his finger along Jay’s jaw, Liam clicked his tongue disapprovingly. “You need to shave. Do that; then iron this shirt. I don’t want to see a single crease.” He moved his hand down to Jay’s erection, brushing the damp hair around it. “You’re wet, I see. Good boy. We can’t have you walking around like that, though.” He took the towel from Jay and tossed the shirt on the bed. “Don’t move. Don’t speak.”

Jay bit his lip as Liam dried him off with the towel. It should have taken a few seconds, no more, but Liam turned it into a form of torture, using the edge of the towel to saw across the exposed glans, chafing it until it burned red, cupping and squeezing Jay’s balls painfully tight. Liam smiled as Jay’s teeth dug deeper into his lip, and slid the towel between Jay’s thighs in an intimate, invasive caress. Jay wanted to spread his legs wider, weak with lust, but as he did, Liam withdrew his hand. “That’s better. Off you go.”

Jay picked up his shirt, a heavy cotton in the dark green Austin loved on him. “Sir, are we going out or something?”

“When you ask questions, it’s a sign that you don’t trust me,” Liam told him. “That you’re not submitting to me the way I want you to. That’s not acceptable. I will punish you for hesitating to obey me and for asking trivial questions. Tonight you do as you’re told, no more, no less. You ask permission for any action you take. Don’t assume you can decide anything for yourself. Not tonight. Tonight you’re mine, remember?”

“Yes,” Jay said, feeling his cheeks flush with shame. “Yes, Sir. I’ll do whatever you say.”

He went to shave, breathing slowly and carefully so he wouldn’t nick himself. Any blood drawn tonight should be at Liam’s hand, not his. He didn’t own himself. He belonged to Liam. The look in his eyes when he gazed at his reflection was uncertain, glassy, like he was coming down with something, but Jay knew better.

It took longer to iron his shirt than it should have. He didn’t iron often—most of his shirts were the kind that were supposed to be wrinkle-free, which was a lie but good enough for his job, where the dress code required he wear a shirt with a collar but no tie or jacket. He was supposed to be professional but approachable so that library patrons would be comfortable asking him questions.

Questions. Which he wasn’t asking any more of tonight, even if it meant he had to double-check every sentence that left his lips.

He stood there passing the iron over the dark green fabric again and again while Liam watched. He figured Liam would tell him when he’d done a respectable job, and the third time Jay lifted the shirt from the ironing board to look at it, Liam nodded. “Good. Come here.”

Jay went to the bed, where Liam had been sitting and watching him. Liam took the shirt, stood, and slipped it onto him, Jay moving his arms to help, in a daze of confusion and aching with arousal to the point where his cock, wet tipped, left a darker spot on the front of his shirt when Liam had finished buttoning it.

Liam glanced down at it, smiled faintly, and reached under the shirt to fondle Jay’s balls, handling them as casually as he would his own. Jay clenched his hands, channeling his desire into making them form tight fists, his breath catching in a dry throat.

With a final tweak to a cuff, Liam stepped back. “Finish dressing. I’m getting hungry.”

Not asking where they were going took an effort, but when they pulled up at the Thai restaurant fifteen minutes later, after a largely silent drive, it didn’t surprise Jay. Where else would Liam take him?

He began to get out of the car once Liam had turned off the engine, but was halted with a word. “Did I give you permission to leave the car?”

“No, Sir.” This was harder to take than a whipping. He felt tied down by invisible threads, a puppet controlled by a man he’d angered and disappointed too often over the last month or so. A man he loved, ached for, adored.

“Before I do, I just want to make sure you don’t forget who you are when we’re in there.”

Jay stared down at Liam’s cupped hand, extended toward him. It was dark outside, but the glow of a security light illuminated the interior of the car sufficiently for him to see what Liam held in the curve of his palm: a pair of nipple clamps, small weights attached. They’d hurt after a minute, be close to unbearable after five, have him squirming, begging for them to come off after fifteen.

He took them from Liam and held them, his gut cramping with a fierce, sweet heat. He loved and feared these clamps in equal measure. He closed his hand around them, the metal cold against his skin. Was he hiding them or keeping them safe? He didn’t know anymore.

“You’ll behave in there,” Liam said, pushing Jay’s jacket back so that he could get to the shirt buttons he’d fastened such a short time before. “Speak when spoken to by me, but don’t even think about talking to anyone else. I own your words.” He thumbed Jay’s nipple, flicking it until it was hard enough to take the clamp, which, in the chilly night air, wasn’t really necessary. “Don’t think I’ll permit wriggling or fidgeting, no matter how much these hurt. And no slouching.” Liam snapped his fingers. “Give me the first clamp, please.”

It was unfair of Liam to treat him like this, but Jay accepted that Liam had a point to make and had chosen this method of making it. On an impulse he couldn’t explain, he took one clamp and raised it to his lips, kissing it respectfully, before passing it to Liam.

Liam didn’t comment, but a flicker of approval crossed his face before he bent to his task. He fixed the clamps to Jay’s nipples without lingering, as if he didn’t want to draw it out for whatever reasons. Which, considering they were in a public parking lot, were probably numerous. Thinking about that was a solid distraction from the burn of Jay’s sensitive flesh caught in the unyielding pinch of metal that rapidly warmed to match the temperature of his body as he got out of the car when told and followed Liam toward the building.

The wave of heat that smacked him in the face as they stepped into the restaurant was a shock after the chill of winter air; he found himself reaching for Liam’s hand, and Liam let him and squeezed his briefly before letting go. Jay concentrated on the feel of the clamps under his shirt, glancing down at himself to see if they were visible to anyone looking. No, he decided, probably not. Not like anyone would be looking at him that closely anyway; people who wanted to look at a guy would be drawn to Liam.

They were shown to their table. Jay kept reminding himself not to talk to anyone but Liam—otherwise he would have thanked the waiter. God, he was hard. He forced himself to sit still, no fidgeting, as he stared blindly at the menu he was holding. Liam would have to order for him if he couldn’t speak, right? Would Liam ask what he wanted to eat or just decide for him? Not knowing what would happen next was as disconcerting as the constant throb of his nipples.

“I’ll have a glass of the sauvignon blanc,” Liam said when the waiter came back to ask what they’d like to drink. “Jay? Would you like a Coke?”

Jay lifted his eyes for the first time in minutes and nodded silently. He was supposed to call Liam Sir, but it seemed like that would be weird in public, and Liam hadn’t told him what to do. As soon as the waiter, who didn’t seem to have noticed anything odd, left, Jay opened his mouth to whisper an explanation, then abruptly pressed his lips together and instead said nothing.

“It’s difficult, isn’t it?” Liam asked. “That’s why I’m doing it. Left to yourself, your mind wanders, even during a session. You forget you’re supposed to be in the moment; you drift away from me. I really don’t like that.”

It was too true for Jay to argue with. He knew it was a habit of his, but he’d gotten better at training his thoughts to remain focused under Liam’s guidance. He wanted to tell Liam that, reassure him, guessing Liam would see Jay’s distraction as a reflection on how effective he was as a Dom, but he didn’t think it would be well received.

“I do want to enjoy some civilized conversation over dinner, though. Just be mindful of the restrictions you’re under. Now, let’s look at the menu.”

The clamps were hurting him. He read the menu without taking it in, words dancing, disconnected to each other, sense-free. The pain radiating from his chest wiped his mind clean of a dozen small worries, even eroding his need for Austin to be there.

The waiter returned with their drinks, and Liam ordered for both of them without even a glance at Jay, who handed the menu back with his gaze fixed on Liam. If the waiter was surprised, he didn’t show it in his voice as he thanked them before walking away.

“If the clamps become too painful to bear—and I trust you to know when they’ve reached that point—tell me.”

There was no one in earshot. Their table was set against a wall, the closest occupied table fifteen feet away, muted background music providing some privacy. Jay murmured, “Yes, Sir,” and found that saying it helped ground him. He was Liam’s sub. Liam wouldn’t let him do anything that would make people stare at them, and all Jay had to do was what he was told as well as he could.

He straightened and felt the weights on the clamps shift, tugging at the captured flesh. Liam was watching him, and unseen by anyone as he was, Jay let his pain show on his face, gave it to Liam as a gift, seeing the heat flare in the blue eyes.

Liam was amazing to look at under any circumstances—Jay sometimes caught complete strangers admiring him—but he was especially hot when he was in control, when he was absorbing the power he held over Jay and Austin. In that moment Jay almost wished he was naked so that he could feel Liam’s eyes on him, so Liam could see how turned on he was and how thoroughly he was owned.

“The temperature’s supposed to drop tonight,” Liam said. “They said we might even get a dusting of snow, though it’s meant to be gone by tomorrow.”

Jay nodded. “If it’s going to be cold, I could make waffles for breakfast.” He studied Liam’s face as he spoke, trying to gauge his thoughts, but Liam had told him he wanted conversation over dinner. This was conversation. Casual, but conversation.

“Only if it’s cold?” Liam sounded amused.

“They seem like a cold-weather thing to me. Fall, winter…I don’t know. I tried to make pumpkin pancakes one time, but they wouldn’t cook right. They were too heavy. The middles just stayed raw.”

“I think I’ll pass on the pumpkin in that case.” Liam sipped his wine. “Someone at the office was talking about making pumpkin dinner rolls to have on Christmas day.”

Jay made a face. “If they came out like the pancakes, they’d be awful.”

His nervousness was fading. This was just talking, and Liam wasn’t a stranger. Had he ever been? Even in those early days, the three of them had clicked somehow. Liam had been distant, reserved, but he was like them, and that had been what mattered. They spoke the same language.

The waiter brought over their food, and without thinking, Jay smiled up at him. “Thanks. It looks—” He caught himself, breaking off midsentence, feeling a sickening lurch, as if he’d misjudged his step and was falling forward with the sidewalk waiting.

The man gave him a puzzled smile, clearly confused but not interested enough to comment. “Let me know if there’s anything I can get you,” he said and moved away when Liam shook his head.

“I’m sorry,” Jay said when they were alone. His mango chicken smelled delicious, but he didn’t pick up his fork. Maybe that was as well; it occurred to him that Liam would expect him to ask permission to begin eating.

“Three words,” Liam said as if to himself.

Jay swallowed back another apology. Saying it wouldn’t change anything, and Liam had to know from looking at him that his failure had upset him.

Liam picked up his fork and took a mouthful of green shrimp curry. “This is good.”

“May I eat, Sir?” Jay said, faltering over the words. It just felt so fucking strange to ask to do something as basic as eating. Austin would have gotten a kick out of needing an order to breathe or blink, but for Jay it was less about the rituals, the words, and more that blazingly hot connection between Liam and him during an intense session.

Something told him Liam wanted more than that. Wanted everything: the respect, the deference, and the submission to whatever pain he chose to deal out. Austin gave him that. He couldn’t take the same level of pain Jay could, but he still let Liam take him to that limit without complaint, and he got off on being the perfect sub. Jay wished it was as easy for him, but he couldn’t surrender without a struggle when there was no pain to use as an excuse or a reason.

“I wish I could have you on your knees asking that,” Liam said and took another bite. “If you were down there, I might prefer to hand-feed you. This isn’t the ideal food for that, though. Too messy. It wouldn’t matter if you were naked, of course. Perhaps we can explore that at breakfast.”

“Yes, Sir.”

He wasn’t going to ask again. He wasn’t. His stomach rumbled, the fragrant steam rising to tease his mouth into watering. Liam took a third bite, then a fourth, chewing slowly, before reaching over and swapping his plate for Jay’s. “Eat.”

Jay stared at Liam’s leftovers, incredulity rising. He and Austin ate off each other’s plates often, but this felt different. This wasn’t giving him a taste of Liam’s dish, but a calculated humiliation, a slap in the face. And yeah, okay, he liked those when the moment was right, but this was making his face burn with embarrassment.

He picked up his fork—at least Liam had left him that—and stabbed at a shrimp in an untouched part of the dish.

“Don’t sulk,” Liam said. His voice was low and calm, but somehow that made it scarier. “It’s very unattractive, and you know better. I don’t want to have to correct your behavior again this evening. Are we clear?”

Jay swallowed shrimp and nodded. “Yes, Sir,” he whispered.

He was hungry, so he decided the best thing to do was focus on the food in front of him and how it tasted. Liam was right about one thing—sulking wouldn’t do him any good. If he needed something else to think about it, he could think about the hot, relentless pain of his clamped nipples and the milder but still determined burn in his mouth from the Thai spices. What would it feel like to get a blowjob from someone whose lips and tongue were covered in the remnants of chilies?

The idea amused him, and he found his mood improved. Liam had finished his wine and half the food on his second plate by the time Jay had eaten, if not enough to be full, enough so that he wasn’t starving anymore. Liam liked it when they didn’t eat heavily before a session, so Jay set down his fork when Liam did and smiled at his Dom.

Liam returned the smile, but there was something about the knowing twist of his lips that made Jay wonder what thoughts or plans were going through his head. Transfixed by that steady gaze, the utter confidence in Liam’s eyes, Jay ignored the insistent throb of his nipples and the imminent agony of having the clamps removed and sat still, waiting for Liam to refuse dessert, pay the bill, and finally, finally gesture Jay to his feet.

Walking without hunching over wasn’t easy, but Liam made Jay walk before him, and with the sure and certain knowledge that Liam was watching every step, Jay tried to move with the smooth grace Liam had trained into him.

When they reached the car, he put his hands on the hood and leaned over, moaning, releasing some of the pain but soon wishing he’d stayed silent. That first whimper led to another, then another, until he was shuddering, that action causing the weighted clamps to sway and tug sharply at him, bringing fresh sounds of agony to his lips.

Liam turned him so that he could hide his face in Liam’s shoulder. “Hurts. Oh God, Sir, they’ve been on so long. Take them off? Please?”

The parking lot was empty of people, Liam’s car between a minivan and a truck. They were private enough for the clamps to be removed, and if Liam shoved a handkerchief in his mouth, Jay could keep the noise down until the fresh wave of pain had faded. Or scream up at the night sky and the hell with anyone who heard, because he couldn’t take another second.

“Of course I’ll take them off,” Liam said and unbuttoned Jay’s shirt with commendable speed.

Then he paused. Jay’s breath was coming in sharp gasps, his hands clenched. What the hell was Liam waiting for?

“Three words spoken out of place,” Liam said reflectively. “Let’s deal with that now, shall we? I think you can pay for them by waiting for three more—”

If Liam said “minutes,” Jay would pass out. Or hit him. Or—

“Seconds,” Liam finished.

Oh. Okay. He could do that. Jay grabbed Liam’s shoulders because he needed to touch him, and nodded.

“Count for me,” Liam said. “Slowly.”

Liam was diabolical. Sweat beaded Jay’s brow, even in the chilly air, but he nodded again and gabbled out, “One, two, three.”

“Slowly,” Liam repeated and touched his finger to one of the weights, tapping it reprovingly.

Jay wanted to slide to his knees, weep, lick Liam’s shoes, beg. He shook his head, blind with the immensity of the pain, and said, “One.”

“Mm,” Liam said encouragingly, flicking at the other weight. The bruises were going to be there for days. He’d have to sleep on his back—but that probably wouldn’t be an option either by the end of the night. His chest was on fire, his nipples excruciatingly tender.

“T-two.”

“Yes?”

Bastard. Sadistic English bastard. God, he loved Liam so fucking much. No one had ever been this cruel, this inflexible before. “Three. Three. Please—”

Liam kissed him hard and somehow managed at the same time to unclamp both nipples. Jay cried out into Liam’s mouth as white-hot agony like needles shot through him, and the only thing that kept him from hitting the pavement when his knees buckled was Liam’s strong, solid arm wrapped around his waist. He clung to Liam, shaking, tears spilling down his cheeks.

He’d never been so turned on in his life. Underneath the clothes Liam had dressed him in, he was ridiculously hard, the tip of his cock wet enough that it had probably left a visible damp spot through the layers of fabric. “Please, Sir,” he gasped, licking at Liam’s mouth.

He could feel Liam’s erection against him, the solid length of it frustratingly hidden behind clothing when he wanted it bared for his mouth to worship. Given the order, he would’ve gone to his knees even with an audience.

He got kissed, Liam’s tongue, warm and forceful, delving deeply into his mouth; got Liam’s hand on the back of his neck, squeezing it in a way that made his skin prickle with goose bumps, but that was all he got.

Voice and movements controlled to such an extent that it gave away how shaken Liam was, Liam stepped back and took out his car keys. “Get in. Fasten your seat belt; then put your hands on your knees. I want them there until we get home. Leave your shirt unbuttoned.”

“I can’t wait—” Jay stopped himself. Liam never changed his mind, and really, this wasn’t the ideal place for what they both wanted. “Yes, Sir. Thank you.”

Liam arched his eyebrows. “For what?” He sounded genuinely curious, not amused.

“For feeding me.”

Liam brushed the backs of his fingers over Jay’s chest, grazing one swollen, throbbing nipple. “I hope you’re still hungry.” He paused, then added, “I’m starving.”

Yeah, he knew Liam would get that he wasn’t talking about the food.

Chapter Eighteen

Liam’s hands were clenched on the steering wheel at the prescribed ten and two o’clock positions, but it wasn’t where they wanted to be. They wanted to be on Jay, who sat silently beside him in the passenger’s seat. He wanted to pinch Jay’s hot, swollen nipples, bite on them until Jay screamed. But he couldn’t because he was driving, so instead he clutched the wheel tighter and breathed slowly through his nose, in and out, and kept his eyes fixed on the road.

Christ, he was hard. There was no way he’d be able to put off coming if he wanted to fuck Jay when they got home. He’d have to come first if he was to have any stamina at all. That wouldn’t be a problem; maybe he’d have Jay suck him. Just thinking about it made his dick harder inside his trousers. Jay had been lovely in the restaurant, all wide eyes and mute horror when he hadn’t been allowed to eat immediately.

Chancing a glance at him now, Liam was reminded that his shirt was still unbuttoned. It would be so easy to reach out and slide a hand along bare skin…but no. Not until they were properly home.

It was a simple promise to make to himself, but one Liam found rather more difficult to keep once they’d pulled into the garage. The garage door was closed—no one could see them—so he turned to Jay and unclipped Jay’s seat belt, ran a hand roughly across Jay’s slender chest and stomach, making no attempt to avoiding his painful nipples, until Jay was trembling and gasping.

Then Liam let go of him and pushed open the driver’s-side door. “Take off your clothes, and leave them here on the seat,” he ordered gruffly. “You won’t need them again this evening.”

Without a word of protest, Jay shed his clothes, shivering in the cold air of the garage. Watching him, Liam felt a dark satisfaction in Jay’s obedience. Yes. This was what he wanted.

Save your strength for dealing with what I’m going to put you through. Don’t waste it arguing with me, questioning me.

It had taken Jay too long to learn that piece of common sense, and Liam was sure he’d need reminders administered from time to time, but right now it seemed to have sunk in.

Jay only had to please him. And Liam, well, he had to make sure none of this went too far, and loving Jay as he did, intensely aware of every shift in mood or reaction, that wouldn’t be too difficult.

Then Jay went to his knees on the floor, bent over, and licked Liam’s shoe, an imploring whimper reaching Liam’s ears, a whispered, “Sir.”

Hunger, passion, the need to take Jay as forcefully as possible, secure in the knowledge that Jay would urge him on with more of those yearning, desperate sounds, the twist and arch of his strong, supple body, struck out at Liam. He could do it here. Fuck Jay over the hood of the car, the warm metal an unforgiving bed. Tell Jay to suck him off, his hands cruelly tight in Jay’s hair. He’d make it last so that when Jay stood, his knees would be scuffed red from the rough floor.

He could do it—but he was damned if he’d lose control of himself that way.

“Are you wondering what I’m going to do to you?”

Jay was still bent over, his hair veiling his face. Liam appreciated the submissiveness of the pose, but he wanted to see Jay’s expression. “Yes, Sir.”

“Kneel up. Look at me. That’s it.” God, Jay’s eyes were huge, and he was trembling, fine tremors, barely visible. From the cold? Or excitement? Both, probably. Liam didn’t bother pretending to himself that he didn’t get a kick out of seeing Jay like this. He did. Speaking slowly, watching Jay react, he said, “I want you. Want to find your limits, really push you. I tell you that you’re mine, and you say it back to me, but those are just words. Tonight I’m going to show you what it means to be mine. We’re going into the house now, you on your knees, crawling, me watching you, my dick hard because I know what’s coming, and I know exactly when you’ll scream for me for the first time. But before we do, I want to hear your safe words. I want you to know you can use them and be heard.”

And I need reminding too.

Jay blinked up at him, his glossy hair half in his face, giving him the fae look Liam found so appealing. He was beautiful. “Mordor,” he whispered. “For taking a break. And Sauron to stop.”

Of course. “Again,” Liam said sternly. “Louder.”

“Yes, Sir. Mordor. Sauron.” The spell Jay had been under had seemingly broken, but he was still looking up at Liam with the same expression of devotion.

“Good. Now follow me.” Liam went into the house, focused on the sound of Jay scurrying along after him on hands and knees. It wouldn’t be comfortable, he knew; that was the point. He wanted to push Jay, to take Jay to the very edge emotionally and physically. “Don’t keep me waiting,” he added.

He shut the door, locked it, and removed his shoes and jacket, deliberately not looking at Jay. He didn’t say anything to him, either, just continued through the house and upstairs to the bedroom with Jay at his heels.

“On the bed.” Jay had scrambled up, and Liam made an impatient gesture. “Lie down. On your stomach.”

When Jay obeyed, Liam undressed, then went to get the brass-handled whip he’d been thinking about earlier while they were still at the restaurant. There was something vintage about it—he liked the way the brass started out cold against his palm, then quickly warmed to the temperature of his body.

“We’re starting now,” Liam said and flicked the whip so that it landed across Jay’s bare arse.

Jay twitched and tensed but didn’t otherwise move or make a sound. Liam would’ve been surprised to hear one. This whip was an appetizer, no more than that, too light to inflict the severe pain Jay was anticipating.

Of course, that didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt at all.

Losing himself in the act without letting his awareness of Jay slip away, Liam used the whip on him from shoulders to calves, over and over, until the sensitized skin had some color in it. By the time he was on his fourth journey from head to toe, Jay had relaxed, enjoying the whipping, close to purring from the attention he was getting.

“Turn over.” Lost in a sensual haze, Jay was a fraction too slow to obey for Liam’s liking. He put the first flick of the whip on Jay’s cock, smiling as Jay, startled, cried out, curling in on himself instinctively. “Did you just break position?”

“I’m sorry!”

Liam let the two flaps at the end of the whip rest against all that aroused, hard thickness he planned to torment and tease. “I didn’t ask if you were sorry. I asked if you broke position.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jay whispered contritely enough, but there was a sparkle in his eyes. Jay loved being punished, enough to risk genuinely displeasing Liam to get it. That was a stumbling block in Liam’s opinion. He was more than willing to deal out the pain Jay craved, but on his own terms. Pleasing his Dom should rank higher than getting his itch scratched. “I’m sorry.”

“You will be,” Liam promised him, his voice even. “I can tie you down for this, but why should I make it easy for you? Arms out to the sides, palms up. Spread your legs. Open up for me.” He shook his head and slapped the insides of Jay’s thighs, a swift back-and-forth of his wrist, the smacks hard enough to have Jay wincing. “Wider than that. Let me see you.”

Jay edged his legs marginally wider, then swallowed hard, the ripple of his throat drawing Liam’s gaze, and spread himself. His arse came off the bed a bare inch or so, mutely offering his cock and balls up for whatever Liam wanted to do to them. As appeasing gestures went, it wasn’t bad.

Liam put his hand on Jay’s stomach and pushed him back down. “Stay. Don’t move. Not an inch. Show me your trust. Show me the obedient submissive we both know you want to be.”

Jay gave the smallest of nods and relaxed into the bed. Liam looked his fill, letting his eyes take in Jay’s long, slender legs, flat stomach, and rigid cock. Then, unable to wait anymore, he raised the whip again and brought it down in quick, sharp flicks, starting at Jay’s feet and working his way upward to his knees and thighs. Jay’s eyelids trembled; somehow, without moving, he seemed to strain toward each strike of the whip, welcoming it.

“You’re so beautiful like this. My pain slut. My Jay.” Liam struck the sensitive area along Jay’s pelvic bones to either side of his cock, loving the dark pink flush that rose to his skin almost immediately. He wanted to press his lips to that skin and feel the heat he’d put there.

Jay was holding position so well for him, but tonight was about pushing limits. Liam enjoyed punishing both his subs for infractions, relishing the discipline he handed out just as much as the quieter thrill of seeing them strive to obey him. But there was a difference between a genuine mistake or failure and a deliberate attempt to force him into doing something he hadn’t planned. Tonight he would make Jay break position and punish him for it, not with any anger or disappointment spurring him on, but purely and simply to show Jay who was in charge.

He raised his hand high enough to make Jay expect a blow with force behind it and brought the whip down on Jay’s balls, pulling back at the last second so that the lick of leather was just that.

Jay yelped and drew his hands in as if to shield his balls. He slammed them back onto the bed an instant later, his breath quickening as he stared up at Liam, shooting him a plaintive glance.

“Oh dear,” Liam said with a sympathetic grimace devoid of sincerity. “What a pity you couldn’t do as you were told.”

“I won’t do it again, Sir. Please.

“Really?” The blow that followed was as hard as Liam could inflict with the light whip, landing on Jay’s thigh, inches away from his balls. “Let’s see.”

He peppered Jay’s torso and upper thighs with strong, sure strokes until Jay’s cock was framed by scarlet skin crossed with darker lines. Jay was panting, his chest rising and falling as he drew in shuddering gulps of air, holding still because moving was risky as hell.

Liam slowly eased back on the weight of the strokes, with Jay so lost to sensation that he didn’t notice. His eyes were closed, his hands, palms upward still, clenching and releasing in jerky, stuttering movements as he moaned.

“Open your eyes.”

He waited until he saw Jay’s gaze lock on to him, then let the ends of the whip taste Jay’s cock, light, quick taps, the sting mounting until Jay was straining every muscle to stay as he’d been placed.

“Sir, please! Oh God, it’s too much—”

Liam shook his head and made the next stroke harder. Jay’s cock was a deep, dark red, the crown flushed a shade darker still, beaded with clear fluid. Liam knew what it tasted like, not as intense a flavor as the acrid flood of spunk that would follow, but unmistakable against his tongue. “Not even close, but I think your arse needs more attention. Hook your legs up and back. Let’s get every inch smarting, shall we?”

With a sob Liam was sure Jay hated himself for letting slip, Jay did as he was told, exposing pale skin, tender, vulnerable, and behind his balls the hole Liam intended to fill with more than his cock.

Liam exhaled, his cock throbbing out a warning. He wanted to come, pump out his spunk into or onto Jay, marking him, possessing him, but the perfectionist side of him demanded he finish what he’d started. And whipping that shamefully neglected flesh was no hardship. It marked so well, and it was amusing to see Jay squirm without actually moving when his arsehole was struck.

Just a little bit longer, he told himself. He felt like an expert with this whip, although he’d only used it half a dozen times or so. It was light in his hand, simple to control—he was able to lick the leather over the spot he was aiming for so that every whimper and gasp of Jay’s belonged to him. None of it was accidental.

Jay was crying steadily now, tears tracking down his cheeks and into his hair. He was being so obedient, not moving at all. It occurred to Liam that at some point in time he might snap some photos of Jay in a state like this one so that he could enjoy them whenever he liked—Jay’s mouth turned down, his skin red, and his cock absurdly hard.

Liam stopped. He let his arm drop down at his side. He’d feel the strain in his shoulder tomorrow, but now it was just a minor ache, easy to ignore. After retrieving the bottle of lube he’d tucked between the mattress and the headboard, he slicked two fingers and pushed them into Jay’s arse without warning. Jay’s lips parted, and he inhaled sharply.

“There,” Liam said, rather inanely, distracted by the heat and clench of Jay’s body around his knuckles. “I think I’ll fuck you now.”

Even as he entertained the thought, his dick twitched. He wouldn’t last a minute like this. He needed to do something to take the edge off.

Making a decision, he moved to the head of the bed and ran his thumb across Jay’s lips. Jay sniffled and licked Liam’s hand tentatively, as if worried he’d be reprimanded but couldn’t resist the temptation. Christ, that was hot. “I’m going to straddle your face,” Liam said. “I think we should put this slut’s tongue of yours to better use.”

Jay’s lips parted at once, but fucking that hot mouth wasn’t what Liam had in mind. Not tonight, with Jay’s face wet with tears, his skin smarting from a whipping. He wanted to ask more of Jay, push them both. He positioned himself so that his arse was over Jay’s mouth, gripping the headboard with hands that yearned to touch Jay’s hot skin. He would’ve spent some minutes doing that, but the need to come was overwhelming. “Rim me. You don’t deserve my cock in you yet. Not after the way you couldn’t hold still. You’ll have to earn that.”

God, he was so cruel to them sometimes.

Jay choked out something that was probably another futile apology, but a moment later he was lapping eagerly, his hands against Liam’s arse, making it easier for him to reach his goal.

The first time they’d done this to him had been during lovemaking, not a session, with Liam facedown on the bed, Jay’s hands, as now, parting his cheeks, the dart and stab of Austin’s tongue so unbearably arousing that he’d come after less than a minute, muffling a groan against the sheets he’d soaked.

To do it like this, reclaiming control of an act that’d conquered him, felt good. With an arrogant grind of his hips, he forced Jay’s tongue deeper, trapping Jay’s head between his thighs, only rising to let Jay take in a ragged breath before urging Jay back to his task.

With his climax imminent, he moved backward and grasped his cock, needing the tight grip of his hand. Jay’s eyes were closed, his face hot and damp, tears and saliva staining his cheeks and lips. Liam grabbed a handful of Jay’s hair, jerking at it roughly. “You want a taste of me? Open up.”

Jay’s lips parted, and he tilted his chin up, his eyes open now. He gave a hopeful whine, his gaze on Liam’s cock, but Liam grinned tightly. “No, you don’t get to suck it. Just what comes out of it. Don’t worry; you’ll get it inside you later. I’m going to fuck your hole raw.”

He had no intention of waiting any longer. With impatient strokes Liam brought himself over the edge, painting Jay’s face with his spunk. Jay tried to catch as much of it with his tongue as he could, but Liam was still gripping his hair, and he couldn’t move very much. He had to lie there and take it—take what Liam was giving him, and he loved it if his blissed-out expression was any indication.

Letting go of Jay’s hair, Liam used that hand to brace himself as he recovered his breath. Jay was obeying, lying without moving, though his tongue still sought out what it could reach along his upper lip and the corners of his mouth.

“Turn over,” Liam said and got off the bed to retrieve the whip. He was turned on enough that he didn’t think he’d get fully soft before he was ready to give Jay the fucking he’d promised him, but he definitely needed a bit of time, and coloring Jay’s back and arse red with the whip ought to buy him just enough.

“I hope I don’t need to remind you not to come.”

“No, Sir,” Jay murmured, face pressed into the pillow.

“Good.” Liam rubbed Jay’s arse, then slapped it a few times, watching it move with the force of his blows, before raising his arm to apply the whip again. He found a rhythm and lost himself in it—sub space existed, and Liam was convinced Dom space did as well. Not always, but occasionally, he managed to slip into it, and this was one of those times, at least on some level. The steady motion of lifting his arm up and then bringing it down so the leather struck Jay’s skin was nearly hypnotizing.

“Enough,” he said eventually, more to himself than Jay. Placing the whip on the dresser, he took a moment to study Jay. God, he was stunning like this, relaxed, floating, but still so very much with Liam, mind and body. Liam got onto the bed and rolled Jay over, ignoring the bitten-off gasp as Jay’s well-whipped back and arse met the sheets.

He drew Jay up into his arms, kissing him, the raw scent of spunk clinging to Jay’s hair and skin, dried flecks of it patterning his face. Jay was a deliciously debauched and erotic sight, and Liam found himself growling as he nipped at Jay’s throat, nuzzling into that smooth, warm skin. Jay was pliant in his arms, returning Liam’s kisses with a fervency that verged on desperate, offering up his throat for Liam’s teeth to mark.

Liam lowered his head to catch a swollen nipple between his teeth, worrying at it until Jay screamed for him, the bruised, tortured scrap of flesh hot against his tongue. Jay clutched Liam’s shoulders, digging his nails in, babbling incoherently as Liam sucked mercilessly hard, alternating bites with licks. Then he pulled back and met Jay’s gaze, a moment of silent communication passing between them as he assessed Jay’s emotional state.

Jay caught his breath, tears spilling out of his eyes. “Hurts,” he said, his throat working, his voice cracking on the word. “God, you don’t know how much it hurts.”

“Yes, I do,” Liam told him, brushing the pad of his thumb over what he’d bitten to the point of agony. “You showed me with every sob, every scream. Good boy.” He moved his hand over and pinched Jay’s other nipple. “Now you get to show me again.”

He was braced for Jay to use his safe word, or for panic to flash through the tear-drenched eyes. What he got was a long sigh of pleasure and Jay swaying forward, arching his back and turning slightly, once again offering himself up without hesitation for Liam’s use.

Liam felt a rush of approval and lust and reached for the silk scarves he’d taken out earlier, glancing at the dildo he’d tucked between the mattress and the footboard. “Close your eyes.”

It didn’t take long to tie Jay securely to the bed, which might well have been designed for that purpose. He bound Jay’s wrists more tightly than his ankles, since he didn’t intend to hold back when fucking him and didn’t want to leave Jay with painful fabric burns, even if Jay wouldn’t have complained. Once it was done, Liam picked up the lube again and slicked his cock, then lined himself up and slid inside Jay’s arse in one smooth motion.

Jay could barely move, tied up as he was, but he trembled as his body clenched hard against the sudden intrusion, and Liam waited for him to relax before continuing. Jay didn’t mind pain, but that didn’t mean Liam was willing to cause damage.

There was enough play in the scarves for Jay to be able to raise his knees a little, but no more than that. The angle wasn’t ideal for a deep, hard fucking, but it didn’t need to be yet. This was Liam playing with his sub. There was a long way to go before it ended. He slid inside Jay, rocking in and out of the tight channel, feeling the heat of Jay’s body wrap around him. Then he paused, supporting himself on his elbow, and bent over, blowing teasingly at the tip of Jay’s cock.

Jay groaned as if he’d used the whip on it, a deep, animalistic sound wrenched out of him. Liam smiled. As aroused as Jay was, anything could bring him to the edge, and it was amusing to push him closer with the gentlest of touches.

“You’re not allowed to come.”

“I know. I won’t, Sir. I won’t.”

“Are you trying to convince me or yourself?” Liam wet his finger and drew it over the tight swell of Jay’s balls, following that with a swift thrust as deep as he could get, a forceful, jolting shove. God, he was going to make good on every promise he’d ever made Jay tonight. Take what was his, show Jay how completely he was owned—and needed.

“What should I do to you when you disobey me and come?”

Jay shook his head, his lips trembling. “Sir…”

Liam spared him a glance. “What? You think if I want to make you come, you can hold out? I doubt it. Look at you. So hard. So desperate. I could have every drop in your balls in the next thirty seconds if I touched you, put my mouth on you.”

“You told me not to,” Jay whispered. “So I won’t come no matter what you do. I’ll obey you.”

“You think you’re stronger than me. Unbreakable.” Liam edged his voice with ice. “You’re not. You’re mine to break, Jay. When you do is up to me, not you. You call it obedience? It feels like arrogance. A challenge.”

“It’s not. It’s not.” Jay strained against his bonds, trying not to break free but to get closer. “I’m trying so hard for you, and you’re not…you’re not being fair.”

“My game. My rules. I don’t need to be fair, and you don’t need to fight me, Jay.” Liam held up his hand. “I’m going to touch you soon. You’re going to come. Disobey me. You’re going to earn a punishment, and you’re going to know you failed.” He pulled out of Jay and went to all fours, crouched over him, his face inches away from Jay’s. “And you’re going to accept that you can’t win with me. I have the power over you. I control you.” He paused and added deliberately, “I love you.”

“Sir… Love you too. So much.” Jay’s face was twisted with an anguish that was all emotion. “I can’t…I can’t give in the way you want me to. Submit. Not every time. Not right away. But I want to. I swear I do.”

“Your mistake is thinking you ever had a choice,” Liam told him.

He entered Jay again, a slow, deliberate push, and reached out, knowing what would happen as soon as his hand closed around Jay’s cock and worked it with a few, a very few, strokes. Knowing that with that first hot spurt from Jay’s cock, the tears would follow from the eyes staring up at him with so much hope and despair.

Jay’s lips parted, as if he was going to say something, but then he pressed them together and swallowed. They parted again when Liam’s hand touched him. Liam’s fingers had barely closed around Jay’s cock when Jay came, jerking and rippling in Liam’s grasp, hot fluid slicking Liam’s fingers and Jay’s stomach. At the same time Jay’s arse tightened in delicious waves around Liam’s prick in a way that would have brought him to release as well if he hadn’t come so recently.

Through it all, Jay stared at Liam mutely. Even when he’d finished coming and relaxed, his gaze never left Liam’s face. Tears were leaking from his eyes, and his breath hitched in his chest, but he was otherwise silent.

“Is there really any question who’s in charge, Jay?” Liam asked him.

Jay swallowed. “No, Sir.”

Liam rocked his hips back and then forward again without pause. “Try to be more convincing,” he suggested.

“You.” Jay shivered. His cock was spent but only half-limp; Liam wondered if it would soften entirely. “You’re in charge, Sir. Of everything that happens.”

“Always,” Liam told him and meant it. He continued to fuck Jay for a while, letting Jay process what had happened, then eased out of the welcoming tightness. His stomach was wet, and though he didn’t mind Jay getting messy, he disliked it for himself.

“I’m going to untie you while I clean up. You’re forbidden to leave the bed. I want you kneeling, waiting for me, and I want you to think of a suitable punishment for coming without permission.” Liam patted Jay’s face. “Better make it more than adequate, or I’ll substitute an idea of my own.”

There was something delightfully twisted about making Jay punish himself, Liam reflected as he sponged off in the en suite. He was curious about what Jay would think qualified as suitable for an offense that he’d been forced to make. Would Jay offer up one last flicker of rebellion and make the punishment trivial enough that Liam would be forced into doing it himself? Or take the hint and suggest something they’d both get a kick out of?

Jay seemed composed when Liam walked back into the bedroom, though his body still bore the marks of the whipping and Liam’s teeth. His hair was tangled, damp with sweat and matted with Liam’s cum in places. Liam’s breath hissed through his teeth, his cock hardening at the sight of him.

“Well?” he said, more harshly than he’d intended. “What should I do to you?”

“Would…” Jay hesitated. “Would you spank me, Sir? Please. With… I thought, maybe you could brush my hair? Because I must look… And then you could spank me with the brush? If you’d like that.” His head was still bowed, his posture beyond reproach. If Liam hadn’t known better, he would have thought Jay had been taking lessons from Austin.

Liam gave himself a moment to consider the suggestion. Of course he’d enjoy spanking Jay with a hairbrush—but as he thought about it, he realized he’d also enjoy brushing out Jay’s hair and making him presentable again.

Whether or not Jay would enjoy it as well was immaterial.

“Stay where you are,” Liam told him and went to fetch the wooden-handled brush. It had been a while since he’d used it, and that time he’d spanked Austin with it—not nearly as forcefully as he planned to hit Jay now, of course. It took him longer than he’d have liked to find it at the back of one of the drawers, which always seemed a bit cluttered these days, but as soon as he went into the bedroom again and saw Jay kneeling, his irritation fled.

He sat on the bed close to Jay.

“Move nearer, with your back to me,” he said, and Jay moved, then dropped back into position, wrists crossed behind him. “No, put your hands on your thighs.”

Slowly Liam started to brush Jay’s hair, which was more tangled than it had looked. He wanted to treat Jay gently now even if his next action with the brush would be forceful bordering on cruel. The contrast would deepen the impact of the spanking, but beyond that they needed this lull. He couldn’t see Jay’s face, but he could imagine it, eyes closed, expression peaceful. Liam drew the brush through Jay’s long, dark hair in careful passes, unknotting it and watching as it fell sleekly across Jay’s bare shoulders and back.

Doing this was intimate, the act of a lover, but it was easy enough in the context of why he was doing it to twist it into something verging on erotic. He felt the wooden handle press into his palm as the brass handle of the whip had done earlier, saw the flat back of the brush and imagined its shape repeated in red on Jay’s already sore backside.

When Jay’s hair was free of tangles, he continued to brush it, then wrapped a hank of hair around his free hand and tugged sharply, knowing Jay would hold position, not go with the tug to reduce the pain. Jay exhaled on a moan, murmuring, “Thank you, Sir,” his voice shaking. God, Jay like this was so exciting, appealing to Liam in ways no sub ever had, with the exception of Austin.

Even then, enveloped in the growing closeness and understanding he was building with Jay, he missed Austin.

But this was better done between the two of them. Austin hated seeing Jay upset, and Jay cared too much about Austin’s reactions to always let go completely.

After one more stroke of the brush, he moved to the side and used it on Jay’s back, dragging the bristles over the sensitized skin, hard enough to score it, one hand still wrapped in the silk of Jay’s hair, holding him in place.

Jay gasped, arching his back, his hands leaving his thighs to clutch at air.

Again and again Liam drew the brush over Jay’s back, stopping just short of his arse. Jay was writhing in Liam’s grip, guttural sounds escaping him between pleas for Liam to hurt him, spank him, please, please, Sir—

“Stop,” Liam said harshly because Jay needed to obey even though it meant losing out on hearing his lovely begging. “Quiet, or this ends now.”

Jay curled forward as much as he could with Liam’s fingers entwined in his hair. It wasn’t technically disobedient, and he was silent as Liam had ordered; Liam rewarded him by shifting position onto the floor and bringing the hairbrush across the fleshy part of Jay’s arse with an audible crack. Jay shuddered. Liam pushed him facedown and struck him again, no harder but an inch or two lower.

It wasn’t his intention for this to last long, and in any case his prick was painfully hard again and he was looking forward to fucking Jay, so he counted out another ten blows for a total of a dozen and then dropped the brush onto the bed and picked up the dildo.

“Don’t move,” he said and pushed the toy steadily into Jay’s arse as Jay whimpered, hole clutching at the dildo as if hungry for it. “That’s what you want, isn’t it? You just want to be fucked. It doesn’t even matter to you whether it’s silicone or flesh.”

He slid the dildo out a few inches and then shoved it deeper. Jay sobbed.

“You little slut,” Liam said.

“Your slut,” Jay said, and it wasn’t defiant, not at all, but there was no apology in it, no shame.

“Yes,” Liam said. “Mine. You’re mine.”

“Show me,” Jay whispered. “Oh God, I need you.”

Liam worked the dildo in and out, never letting it slip free of Jay’s hole. “You take this like it’s nothing, like you want more.”

Jay groaned, a low, hungry sound. “It’s good, but it’s not you. Sir…you said you’d fist me—”

“I will. Soon.” Liam hesitated, staring down at his hand holding the rigid piece of silicone. “I want Austin there when I do it,” he admitted.

There was a moment of silence; then Jay nodded. “Me too.”

“So we wait for that,” Liam said, striving to keep his voice calm, controlled, “and tonight you get this and my cock. Think of it as a trial run for the night when you take Austin’s cock and mine inside you.”

Jay froze, his body stilling, the moment stretching until Liam was worried he’d gone too far. Then Jay said slowly, forcing the words out, “Sir…if you don’t want me to come again without permission, don’t put ideas like that in my head, okay? I’m trying to be good for you, but I’m only fucking human.”

“You’re one of the best subs I’ve ever had,” Liam said steadily. He wasn’t moving the dildo now, just holding it deep inside Jay. “And the other is Austin. So I know you can do whatever I need you to.”

It sounded as if Jay licked his lips. Then he said, “Sir. I…love you. I’ll do anything, whatever you want. Anything.”

“Yes,” Liam told him, feeling his lips curling into a smile. “You will.”

He pulled the dildo most of the way out, added more lube, and pressed the dildo atop his prick so he could begin to slide both into Jay’s hole. He was absurdly slow about it, mesmerized by the sight of Jay’s arsehole stretching, stretching to admit the combination of silicone and flesh. Jay panted, shaking as he dealt with the discomfort.

“I’d ask you to tell me if it hurts, but we both know it does.” Liam shook with the effort of being so careful, when what he really wanted was to fuck Jay hard and fast. He eased in another quarter of an inch, and Jay tensed. “No, breathe.”

“Can’t.” Jay gasped the word out, which meant he was, but Liam understood.

“You can. Breathe. Relax. No more until you do.” The juxtaposition of the hard, cool dildo against Liam’s cock and the warmth of Jay clenched tight around him was making Liam’s head spin. “There, good.”

“Feels…too much…but it’s not enough.” Jay reached back, groping blindly for Liam. “Fuck me? God, I need to feel you move in me, Sir.”

Liam grasped Jay’s hand, squeezing it reassuringly, but he released it a moment later and dealt out a reproving slap to Jay’s reddened, hot arse. “That’s my decision, not yours.”

“Yes, Sir, it is. I know it is. I’m sorry.” Jay sounded frantic, contrite—all over the place, in fact.

Liam smiled. Counted in his head to a randomly chosen thirteen, then gave Jay what he needed, what they both wanted, for a few deep, punishing strokes that silenced Jay’s groans as if he was holding his breath.

It was awkward, Liam decided, working his cock and the dildo steadily into the stretched hole. He couldn’t go fast or really let loose on Jay the way he yearned to do. There was a pleasure to be gained from maintaining control, but in the quiet house, alone with Jay, he wanted to lose control for a while. Let the urges that drove him have their way with a man who would take everything Liam had to give and beg for more.

With one more admiring glance at the lube-slick hole spread so obscenely wide, he drew the dildo out and tossed it to the side of the bed, out of the way.

“I don’t think I want to share your hole any longer,” he said and brought his hand down on Jay’s arse again, just to feel that spanked skin against his palm. “I think I want to ride you hard. Hurt you. Break you. Use you.”

He reached around and grabbed Jay’s balls, rolling them in his hand, tugging down hard, the carefully calculated pain a reward for taking the dildo and his cock without protest.

Jay whined, then, voice rough and low, said, “Please, Sir.”

“You can ask for whatever you like,” Liam told him, squeezing the base of Jay’s cock to gauge how close he was to coming. Not too close by the feel of him. “But this isn’t about what you want—it’s about what I want and what I’m going to take. You’re here for my pleasure, Jay. Don’t forget that.”

“No, Sir,” Jay whispered, and Liam began to move.

Chapter Nineteen

The relief Austin felt as he pulled his car into Liam’s driveway—he’d still think of it as Liam’s house for years, probably, even though he knew technically it was his and Jay’s home too—was so palpable his shoulders dropped an inch, an invisible weight gone. Of course, the hours spent driving, most of them with April’s constant conversation in his ear, had been physically exhausting, but the stress of being away from Jay and Liam when all he wanted was to curl up with them for a few weeks and wait for real life to calm down had been worse.

It was cold enough that he wished he had a scarf as he grabbed his overnight bag from the backseat and trotted up the driveway. He was only halfway up the stairs when the front door opened.

“Come in. It’s freezing!” Jay danced back out of the way and shut the door, then wrapped both arms around Austin and held on. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Austin pressed his cold nose to Jay’s neck and winced. “Whoa, itchy sweater.”

“Oh yeah, sorry.” Jay tugged the sweater off and dropped it on the floor.

“Liam’s going to complain if you leave that there,” Austin pointed out.

“I’ll pick it up before he comes home.” Jay took the bag from Austin’s hand and set that on the floor too. “How was it?”

“It was April in a car for four hours,” Austin said wearily.

“And I guess that’s all you need to say.” Jay kissed him, practically humming with satisfaction, and yeah, someone had gotten well and truly lucky recently. Jay smelled of sex, even under a fresh scent of soap, and there was a dark bruise on his neck, just where it met his shoulder, that looked like it’d been made by teeth biting down.

Pushing aside his envy—not jealousy, but envy—Austin asked, “So where is Liam?”

Jay stepped back, giving him room to kick off his shoes and shrug out of his coat. “He’s been gone for hours. He’s at the mall, and no, he’s not shopping for us, so don’t get your hopes up.”

“I wasn’t!” Austin protested. “He doesn’t need to get us anything. The work on the basement cost a fortune, and we don’t need anything.”

Jay shrugged, then winced. “Ow. Don’t let me do that again.”

“Good pain or bad?” If Jay had been working on his diorama for hours without Austin or Liam to stop him…

“Oh God, good. So good. I’ll tell you all about it, but not until you’ve had a hot drink or something.”

“Coffee would be nice.”

“Just made a fresh pot.”

Settled down on the couch with a coffee in one hand, a cookie in the other, and Jay beside him, Austin felt the stress of the weekend recede. “So if Liam isn’t at the mall for us, why is he there? It’s going to be crazy busy, and he’ll hate it.”

Jay snickered. “His assistant’s birthday is tomorrow, and Liam forgot about it. I said he could e-mail the guy a gift certificate, and he gave me one of those looks and said Denny would expect the personal touch, even if he was inconsiderate enough to have a birthday this close to Christmas, and I said not too personal or we’d start to get suspicious about late nights working at the office, and was he hot, and then he slapped my ass, and I screamed because, hey, it’s fucking sore, and then he left.”

“You are hyper,” Austin said. “No coffee for you.”

Jay stretched his arms above his head and beamed. “Don’t need coffee. Just need Liam to get here so we can welcome you back properly.”

“You can do that without him.” It wasn’t technically true, Austin supposed, but he set down his mug and pulled Jay closer to kiss him anyway. Jay curled around him happily and grabbed on to the hem of his shirt like a man prepared to settle down for a solid make-out session. “Missed you so much,” Austin murmured.

“Missed you too.” Jay shifted and slid one leg half into Austin’s lap, which couldn’t have been comfortable even if he wasn’t bruised.

That thought sent a rush of lust through Austin; he kissed Jay harder and then pushed him away a little bit. “Take off your shirt? I want to see.”

As usual Jay was quick to shed his clothes when asked. “Look at these,” he said, brushing his fingertips over the bruises on the thin skin along his ribs admiringly.

Austin leaned in to kiss them, then let his mouth wander to Jay’s swollen nipple. He licked it gently and smiled when Jay hissed, then arched closer. “Sore, huh?”

“Last night I thought they were going to fall off, they hurt so much,” Jay admitted. “It was awesome. I was so hard.”

“I can imagine.” Austin could. He liked thinking about it, though he was sorry he hadn’t been here. Imagining the things Liam must have done to Jay was arousing on a deep, primal level that was making his cock swell. He licked Jay’s nipple again, sucked on it, one hand around Jay’s slender back.

Jay made little hungry sounds and squirmed against him. Austin felt Jay’s hand slide between them and brush his erection. “Were you lonely? Last night?”

“I missed you. But I was tired.”

“Did you jerk off, thinking about us?”

“After Liam said I could? What do you think?”

“I think you did it. I know you did.” Jay’s expression became thoughtful. “I miss jerking off. Just me, my hand, and some fantasies.”

“The only thing in my head last night was you two.”

He’d forgotten about the long drive and the stressful reunion with his sister, let the situation with his mom slip away. Instead, as he’d worked his cock slowly with his hand, the act—once so familiar, now tinged with a delicious sense of the forbidden, even with Liam’s permission—he’d focused on the two men he loved. Imagined them in bed with him, surrounding him, taking him. Liam fucking him from behind, Jay kneeling in front of him, his cock jutting out, needing the lick and lap of Austin’s tongue… After a while the structure of the fantasy—more of a memory, really—had broken down into disconnected flashes of hard bodies, rampant cocks, the solid sound of a hand striking flesh. He’d found himself murmuring, “Sir…please, yours, Sir, anything, I’ll do anything…” The words aroused him as much as the tight grip of his hand. He’d come only after conjuring Liam saying, “Now,” his voice strong, commanding.

“Tell me,” Austin coaxed. “I really want to know.”

“It won’t be weird?”

Austin groaned. “When will you get it through your head that anything you do with Liam is fine with me? Does it bother you when you get back from a late shift and I’m on my knees by the couch blowing him?”

Instead of answering quickly, thoughtlessly, Jay hesitated, his forehead creasing. “Sometimes I get this moment when I think you look so good together, I’m just in the way.” Before Austin could put into words just how ridiculously not true that was, Jay smiled. “But it doesn’t last, and it’s not every time. You have no idea how perfect you look with him. You give him everything he wants as if it’s as easy as passing him the salt when he asks for it. I can’t do that.” He shivered. “Well, maybe I’m starting to learn. God, the way he treated me last night… He didn’t give me a choice. He just took it for granted that I was going to behave, and if I stepped out of line, he just… He…”

“What did he do?” Austin lowered his voice, making it a tempting caress.

“Put me back where I belonged,” Jay whispered. His eyes shone; everything about him radiated joy and contentment. “To him.” He leaned closer and pressed his lips to Austin’s, then added, “And to you. Always to you.”

Austin was overwhelmed by Jay’s happiness. He couldn’t be jealous—well, maybe a little bit, of the fun they’d had without him, but it was still more envy than jealousy. “I want to lick you everywhere. Can I?”

“Only if you’ll admit first that that’s the stupidest question ever,” Jay said solemnly, then grinned.

“No wonder Liam likes spanking you so much,” Austin told him. He pushed Jay backward slowly, down onto the couch cushions, and loomed over him without putting much weight on him. He kissed Jay’s mouth, his throat, each of the numerous bruises on his shoulders and chest, and through it Jay made pleased, eager sounds and lifted his hips to tease Austin’s growing erection with the warm press of his body. Jay tasted like clean skin and a hint of salt, and he smelled faintly of coffee and arousal. “Tell me what he did.”

“Drove me crazy.” Jay gasped as Austin licked one nipple, then the other. “Made me wear nipple clamps to dinner. I was so good, I was like an angel. When he finally took them off me in the parking lot, I thought I was going to die. Then he brought me home and fucked me for like two hours. Oh God, do that again.”

“What, this?” Austin licked the sensitive skin at the bottom of Jay’s ribs. “You’re so hot. Two hours, seriously?”

“Maybe three. It was amazing. He was so rough.”

“You like that.”

“Like air. Like water.” Jay closed his eyes. “He drove me crazy getting me to tell him how it felt when I was seriously way past making sense. You try giving feedback tied to a bed after you’ve been whipped all over so there’s just no way of lying that doesn’t hurt.”

“I can see that he whipped you. Details, Jay. Details.” Jay’s skin was marked up plenty, peppered with tiny bruises and bite marks, a living record of the night’s events. He couldn’t wait to see Jay’s ass.

“So fucking gently at first.” Jay opened his eyes again, his long eyelashes dark and thick. Studded with tears, they looked spectacular. “Made me crazy. My skin was on fire, smarting like it does when you’re sunburned and you get into a hot bath, you know? But you couldn’t really see much. It just went pink and faded. He told me not to move, to show him how much I trusted him—I didn’t even know I could be that good. I mean, not perfect, but close. And then he tied me to the bed and fucked me. I think we used a whole bottle of lube. The sheets were a mess. I was a mess.”

Austin wrapped his hands around Jay’s wrists, watching Jay’s eyes darken with remembered pleasure. “So you couldn’t touch him?” That had to have been difficult. They both loved caressing Liam, running their hands over the strong, powerful body and seeing his arousal build, his control fray.

Jay groaned. “Not for hours. The closest I got was at the start when he told me he wanted to take the edge off so he could make it last when he fucked me. He got on top of me, put his ass in my face, told me to rim him, then pulled back and came all over me.”

“God.” Austin shuddered violently, so turned on by the brief description that his hand shook as he fumbled for his zipper. He had to feel Jay’s skin against his. He was sure Liam’s permission to jerk off had expired as soon as he walked into the house, but he’d be careful. “You are so fucking lucky. He doesn’t let us do that often.”

Jay helped him to wriggle out of his clothes, losing what was left of his, until they were both naked on the couch. “He likes it too much; that’s why. He was close to losing it after about a minute, and he hates not being in control.”

“Turn around so I can see your back.” Austin was gentle as he touched Jay’s skin. The bruises that caught his eye—faint, like fingerprints—were those in the space between Jay’s lower back and ass. As if Liam’s thumbs had left them there. As if Liam had held Jay down and fucked him.

Unbidden, Austin’s fingers slipped into the cleft of Jay’s ass, seeking the heat he knew he’d find there. Jay shivered when Austin discovered he was still slick and swollen.

“He fucked you again this morning,” Austin said softly, and Jay nodded, looking over his shoulder.

“He wasn’t rough, but it still hurt. Be sore until tomorrow, probably.” Jay whimpered as Austin’s index finger brushed against his hole. “He did that thing where he put his hand over my mouth, told me not to breathe until I had to. And I know I can, but I fool myself that I can’t and it’s his choice if I do, and God, that gets me so hot.”

Austin couldn’t help it—he didn’t get off on hurting Jay, but he couldn’t resist touching him, pushing two fingers inside him where Liam’s cock had been just that morning. He wanted to fuck Jay with more than just his hand, even knowing it would hurt him. He pressed deeper, to the second knuckle, but withdrew when Jay whimpered again. “Love you so much. Want you.”

“Let me suck you,” Jay said.

“I’m not sure I can take even a minute of your mouth on me without coming. Thinking about the two of you has gotten me so fucking turned on.”

“I know, but I need to taste you. You’ve got to let me.”

“I thought you’d both be worn out and not interested by the time I got back.” Not that Jay being insatiable was new and different.

Jay turned his head and grinned back at him. “I should be, but it’s addictive. I want more. Liam stripped me down before he left for the mall and went over me inch by inch, making sure I was okay. Do you have any idea how hard I was by the time he’d finished?” Jay rolled to his back, staring up at Austin earnestly. “Every bruise, every welt…and then he made me bend over the bathroom sink and spread so he could see how raw my ass was. He put some of that antiseptic cream on me, working it inside me.” Jay’s face flushed. “It wasn’t done to turn me on, the way you just did. It was like he was a guy doing maintenance on his car. He was humming under his breath, just taking care of something he owned. Then when he’d washed his hands, he got out these nail clippers and trimmed my fingernails. Didn’t even look at me or talk to me. Just…tidied me up.”

Austin’s cock couldn’t get any harder, but it tried. He felt hot and dizzy with lust. Liam was twisted in the best possible ways. “That is so fucking kinky. Tell me he let you come?”

Jay smirked. “Jerked me off into the sink as casually as if he was brushing his teeth—not that it took long, the state I was in—slapped my ass, and told me to clean the bathroom while he was gone.”

“I hate you both,” Austin said with conviction. “You’re going to make it up to me, right? Because while you were fucking each other’s brains out, I was playing anti-Cupid, and it was about as much fun as getting a cavity filled. Ryan’s way too good for her, but try making him see that.”

“I just offered to blow you, and you turned me down,” Jay pointed out. “And can we please not talk about April when we’re naked? I didn’t think anything could kill this hard-on, but picturing her whining at you is doing the trick.”

“Sorry. It was kind of a crazy weekend, and not in the good way yours was.”

The sound of a key in the front door lock caught both their attention at the same moment. Hopefully Liam was alone and hadn’t picked up a friend on his shopping trip, Austin thought as he looked across his bare knees.

“I’m back,” Liam called from the entryway. “I hope you waited for me for the big reunion.”

“Um, kind of?” Austin called back, exchanging a conspiratorial grin with Jay.

They could hear Liam taking off his coat and hanging it up; Austin imagined watching Liam notice Jay’s sweater and his bag on the floor, but Liam didn’t comment on that, just came to join them, still carrying his shopping bags from the mall. “Welcome home,” Liam said and bent to kiss him. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised you started without me.”

“We didn’t, really,” Austin said. “Jay was telling me about last night and this morning. I wanted to see him.”

“No permanent damage, I trust?” Liam was relaxed, not offended.

“Of course not.” Austin worried more about Jay begging Liam to take things too far than he did about Liam doing it on his own. Liam was in control; he knew what he was doing. “How was the mall?”

“Hideous. The first thing I’ll check next time I have to hire an assistant is when their birthday is. Anything near Christmas is completely unacceptable. And how was your trip?” Liam set his bags down on the table and gestured for Austin to shift over and make room for him.

It crossed Austin’s mind that Liam had adapted well to stuff like coming home and finding two naked men on his couch. Not a blink, not a gasp. Just a gathering heat in his eyes and that welcoming kiss. Austin liked that it’d been easy; it let him believe that this was what was right for Liam, for all of them.

“I got Ryan to explain to April that it’s because he’s so insanely in love with her—and is that ever the right word—that he wants to cool it for a bit until he’s past this bump. He was kind of stunned that she’d assume seeing him once or twice a week instead of every night meant he wanted to finish it all. We had some one-on-one time, and I filled him in on what she’s like.”

“And he didn’t run screaming the way most people do from monsters?”

Austin reached across and smacked Jay’s arm. “No. He’s actually pretty good at handling her on the whole; he just screwed up explaining this. When she’s around him, it’s like the brat gets turned down from eleven to maybe five or six? She got snippy with me, and he just said her name and gave her this expectant look, like he thought she’d crossed a line and needed to apologize and he knew she would.”

“Wow.” Jay scratched his cheek, blankly astonished. “Maybe he’s hypnotized her? Or he’s an alien with mind-control skills?”

“Or they’re in love, and he’s got a dominant—small d—personality that she responds to,” Liam suggested drily. “I’m glad it went well, Austin, and you’re forbidden from ever going away without us again, because Jay was unbearable.”

“Sir! I was not! I just missed him.” Jay had snuggled in close to Liam, Austin noticed, but his body language was deferential, appealing, his hand placed on Liam’s chest, his legs beside Liam’s thighs, not draped across them as he would’ve done if it’d been Austin he was cuddling. As Austin watched, Liam moved his arm and gathered Jay in close, dropping a kiss on the top of Jay’s head and getting an adoring upward glance in return.

Austin smiled, loving the closeness between them, relieved that at least one of his worries—that Jay would continue to struggle against Liam’s control—had been resolved.

“Austin?” Liam held open his other arm, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes. “I missed you too.”

Curling up against Liam felt like the last piece of coming home. “Sleeping alone in that bed last night—I couldn’t. I lay there for hours. I even counted the ceiling tiles.”

“You’re here now. Sleep can be caught up on.” Liam hesitated, then said, “Though I was hoping we might tire each other out this evening.”

“Sounds like an offer we won’t want to refuse.” Jay slid a hand along Liam’s shirtfront.

“You haven’t heard all of it yet.” Liam’s fingers toyed with the hair at the back of Austin’s neck; Austin’s skin prickled with the sensation.

“What did you want to do, Sir?” God, he’d missed saying that. Such a short, simple word, but it meant so much to him. Liam, in a confiding mood, had once told him when they called him that, he always noticed, never took it for granted.

“Fuck me again?” Jay suggested with a wriggle of an ass that, from what Austin had seen, had been fucked plenty.

Liam snorted. “I like hurting you, not damaging you. No. You need time to recover from last night.” He disengaged himself from them and stood. “Tonight I’d like to try something new. New for me, anyway.”

“Whatever you want, Sir,” Jay said, after exchanging a puzzled look with Austin. “You know that. We trust you. Anything.”

“It’s more a matter of me trusting you.” Liam paused, then added, “I want one of you—or both of you—to fuck me, please.”

Chapter Twenty

When Liam thought of the stunned look on Austin’s face and the way Jay’s mouth had hung open, he grinned. Poor boys. He’d surprised them, even upset them, but he wasn’t changing his mind. He was their Dom. They’d do what he told them to, and if it seemed on the surface to be a reversal of roles, he’d soon correct that misapprehension.

Being on the receiving end wasn’t going to stop him being in charge.

He turned his face up to the powerful spray of the shower and closed his eyes. He wanted this. He was curious about the act itself and how it would feel to be fucked, but on a deeper level, he saw it as a test of his dominance over them. It would take self-control on their parts to penetrate him without hurting him, but it would take even more for him to control the situation while in a position of vulnerability. It was a challenge, and he looked forward to seeing how it went.

Liam wasn’t going into this blindly. He’d done his research and prepared himself for penetration with some gentle stretching, though it had been more awkward to do to oneself than he’d anticipated, and in the long run he’d decided to leave well enough alone. Jay and Austin wouldn’t chance doing anything hasty, whether he ordered them to be cautious or not.

Shutting off the water, he stepped out onto the bath mat and reached for a towel. They’d shared a meal earlier, then watched some television, but he hadn’t wanted to put off the evening’s activities too long. Best not to give them time to generate anxiety.

Jay seemed more comfortable with the idea than Austin had, right off the bat. Knowing their personalities, that hadn’t come as a surprise to Liam.

He finished drying his hair and smoothed it back with his fingers, then headed into the bedroom where the zone heating was turned up so the temperature would be comfortable for them. Jay and Austin had laid out the things he’d asked for, lube and cock rings lined up neatly on the bedside table.

They were kneeling by the bed, naked, waiting patiently, knees parted, hands behind them, heads down. Good boys. He could see the marks he’d left on Jay’s skin, the sight of them enough to bring his cock up, stiffening as he remembered what he’d done to cause those marks. He stroked his erection, not troubling to hide his arousal. They turned him on. It wasn’t a weakness of his, but a source of strength.

“You won’t get to come doing this unless I’m happy with you. It’s for my pleasure, not yours.” He snapped his fingers, and they raised their heads to look at him. “And I expect you to make sure I do enjoy it. This is no different than giving me a blowjob. You’re serving me, obeying me.”

There was a hint of relief in Austin’s eyes at the clarification.

He moved closer and reached down to tweak one of Jay’s nipples, making no attempt to be gentle, though they were reddened and bruised. Jay whimpered and arched his back, offering himself up wholeheartedly. “You’re looking well used, Jay.”

“Yes, Sir.” Jay gave him an eager, hopeful look. “But I can take more.”

“Oh, you will,” Liam told him. “I like the idea of being fucked by subs with nicely red arses, so you’ll both be getting a spanking. Hmm, who first? Austin, I think. After all that driving, I’m sure your backside’s numb. Let’s see if I can help you out with that.”

Austin beamed at him, clearly delighted at the prospect of going over Liam’s knee. “Thank you, Sir.”

“I wonder if you’ll be saying that when I’ve finished?”

Austin’s smile didn’t dim. “I know I will, Sir. I love your spankings.”

Liam shrugged. “A bonus, not a requirement.”

From the quick, amused looks they exchanged, he wasn’t sure they were suitably chastened by that.

“Stand up, hands on the bed,” Liam ordered, and Austin moved to obey. Liam stepped closer and rubbed Austin’s bare arse roughly with the flat of his hand, observing the way Austin responded by widening his stance and arching his lower back. Before Austin could spend any more time anticipating, Liam hit him hard and fast. He smiled at Austin’s gasp. “Miss me?”

“Yes, Sir. More than you know.”

“Tell me,” Liam said and slapped Austin again.

“Missed you so much I couldn’t sleep,” Austin said, then inhaled sharply when Liam hit him harder.

“I’ll make sure you’re able to tonight. What else?” Liam found a rhythm to the blows, enjoying the crack of his palm on Austin’s arse and the way Austin’s skin pinked up.

“Wanted you.” Austin’s shoulders flexed. “So much. Needed you, Sir.”

“This is what you need, isn’t it?” Liam struck the crease between Austin’s arse and the top of his thigh, and Austin nodded but didn’t speak out loud. “Answer me.”

“Yes, Sir. This is what I need. You.”

“It goes both ways.” Liam never wanted to hide how much he needed them behind a pose of indifference. He could be severe with them, exacting, hell, even cruel at times as the whim took him, but at the heart of it all lay a sincere wish to leave all three of them with what they craved.

“Get on the bed now, hands and knees. Jay. Other side of the bed, facing him. Match his position.”

Jay moved to obey, quickly but without scrambling, already back in the head space he’d found the night before. Liam suspected he’d never truly lost that high. Jay like this was a dream for any Dom, willing, responsive, his submission given unstintingly. If he slid back into his previous behavior, Liam would show him no mercy. He wanted this from Jay every hour of every day.

And he wanted Austin crying out, broken, exultant sobs as Liam’s hand schooled his flesh, painted it scarlet.

“Kiss him,” he commanded Jay and stood for a moment at the foot of the bed, watching Jay lean in and kiss Austin’s mouth, lick the tears from Austin’s flushed, hot face.

They were still kissing when his hand landed with a crack on Jay’s arse, the skin mottled blue and purple from the paddle Liam had used to wake Jay. Drowsy, startled from sleep by that first warning tap, Jay had been hard and moaning by the third smack, and he was no less eager now.

“Keep kissing him.” God, he loved watching them together. They were undeniably hot, but it was the intimacy that got him every time, the casual familiarity of their caresses. They weren’t live porn performing for his titillation, but lovers sharing what they would’ve done if they’d been alone.

Sharing because he was part of their relationship.

He spanked Jay until the heat of the punished skin had soaked into his palm, and then decided it was time to move on.

After fitting them both with cock rings, he lay between them and folded his arms behind his head, stretched out full length, his dick jutting up. He was conscious of his arsehole in a way he’d never been before. He tensed the muscles there, then deliberately relaxed them. Jay and Austin loved being fucked. It was their pleasure that had prompted his curiosity. If it felt that good, why deny himself? If he didn’t like it, if it wasn’t as satisfying as thrusting into them, taking them deep and hard, well, this was just one night out of many to come.

“I don’t think you need instructions, but if there’s something I should be doing, feel free to tell me.”

“Do you have a preference when it comes to position, Sir?” Austin asked. “Hands and knees might be easier this first time.”

“And who do you want to do it?” Jay put in.

It occurred to Liam he could have predicted all their questions and written down the answers in advance; he’d thought of everything, knowing his confidence and preparation were vital to the success of the encounter. “I want both of you to do it,” he said. “Which of you goes first is something you can decide between you. And like this—I want to be able to see you.” Facing away from them could create the illusion that he wasn’t the one in control, and he preferred to avoid that.

“Are you warm enough, Sir?” Austin asked solicitously, and Liam nodded.

“I think we should— Oh, Sir? May we talk to each other?” Good. Jay was beautifully submissive, asking permission.

“You may.” Liam was happy to grant it, especially when they were both behaving so nicely. He lifted one knee to indicate that they could begin, and Austin leaned in to press his lips to it.

“Thank you, Sir.”

Jay reached for the lube. “Start with getting him relaxed. Do you want to? Or should I?”

“I think you should. And then me, when—because I’ll be really careful. Not that you wouldn’t be…” Austin was getting anxious, which wouldn’t benefit any of them, so Liam reached out and pinched his hot, reddened arse. “Oh! Thank you, Sir.” The tension lines around Austin’s mouth smoothed out.

“No, it’s fine,” Jay said. “But you’re right; I’d be really careful. You know I wouldn’t hurt him.” He tipped some lube onto his fingers and then stretched out his hand. When he touched Liam’s inner thigh, Liam sighed and let his knee drop outward, opening himself for their attention.

Jay spent a long time with the lube at Liam’s hole, almost teasing him. The slick kiss of a fingertip over his opening, slow and predictable, had Liam’s cock fully hard and his eyes closing at the perfection of it. Austin lay down next to Liam, propped on an elbow, and kissed him, so that by the time Jay’s finger pushed into Liam, just half an inch or so, Liam was more than ready for it.

It felt good. Clinically he told himself it was the stimulation of nerve endings clustered there, but Jay’s finger sank deeper, withdrew, and Liam stopped analyzing and let himself feel.

He cupped the back of Austin’s head, holding him in place, matching the slow thrusts of Jay’s finger with his tongue, exploring Austin’s mouth, the soft suppleness of his tongue, the smooth teeth, the concave palate.

A flicker against the head of his cock had him pulling away from the kiss and glancing down. Jay smiled back at him and timed the insertion of two fingers with a deliciously thorough lick that left Liam’s cock glistening.

One finger, two… But fingers didn’t feel like cocks, weren’t what he wanted.

“That’s enough. Inside me, one of you.”

If they argued with him… He didn’t have to worry. Jay nodded and withdrew his fingers completely. It was an odd sensation. Liam felt his body cling possessively to them, impeding Jay’s slow, careful tug, and the emptiness that followed, as his muscles twitched, was disconcerting.

“Is that enough?” Austin asked, but he was talking to Jay, not Liam.

In the middle of a scene, that was disconcerting too. Liam bit back a reproof. To a certain extent he’d tacitly handed over the reins to them, despite what he’d said about being in charge. Overall he was, yes, but he was resigned to the idea of delegating at moments like this.

“I used plenty of lube, and he’s really relaxed.”

“I’m right here,” Liam said with some asperity.

“Yes, Sir,” Austin murmured, his contrition plain. “I’m sorry.” He caressed Liam’s chest lightly, teasing a nipple without pinching it. “I’m nervous, but God, I’m so turned on too. I mean, if you weren’t our Dom and we weren’t into kink, we’d still be into you.” Jay added a fervent nod of agreement, and Austin continued, “I didn’t think we needed the cock rings after all the training you’ve given us, but if you’re serious about us not coming in you—”

Liam wasn’t immune to flattery, but Austin seemed totally sincere. Even if part of him doubted that what they had would exist without the initial spur of Austin and Jay’s need for a Dom—they wouldn’t have let him pick them up in a bar—now that it did exist, he had faith in it. “I didn’t say that. You just get to come when you’re told, as usual, and this means I don’t have to worry about it.”

“Then we’ll do whatever you want,” Austin said, and Liam looked at him sternly.

“Yes,” he said. “You will. And what I want right now is to stop all this unnecessary chatter and for you to fuck me.”

Austin shifted in closer and kissed him, lips soft against Liam’s. “Yes, Sir,” he murmured before pushing himself upright and getting into position, Jay kneeling at Liam’s hip to give Austin space.

Liam heard the click of the lube cap again, felt Austin’s fingers brush over his hole, then the determined, wide press of Austin’s lube-wet cock.

“Tell me if it’s too much,” Austin said.

“Have you done this before?” Liam asked. It was a stupidly phrased question, but Austin seemed to understand what he was asking—he wanted to know if Austin had been someone’s first.

“Yes.” Austin pressed forward a little more. It didn’t hurt; in fact, it felt amazing, and Liam found himself lifting his hips. “Twice, but not for a long time. And…” He hesitated, met Liam’s gaze. “Never with someone I love as much as I love you. Tell me if it hurts. Please.”

“I will,” Liam told him gently, appreciating the care they were taking with him rather than resenting it.

He saw Jay and Austin exchange glances. Then Jay reached out both hands, running one over Austin’s back and using his other to stroke Liam’s cock, arousing and distracting Liam enough that his attention lost its single focus.

“God, I want to come just seeing the two of you do this.” Jay hummed appreciatively, his hand tightening for a moment, the constriction of his fingers making Liam’s cock throb.

Liam moved instinctively to help Austin’s progress, knowing from being on the other end what made entry easier. Inch by inch he was opened, filled. There was a raw burn, but it mellowed quickly, leaving nothing behind but a craving for more.

He found himself asking for exactly that, his voice strong to his ears, confident. How long he could keep it steady, he didn’t know. Christ, this was overwhelming. Different. He tilted his arse up, but that wasn’t enough. He raised his legs and, with Jay’s help, rested them on Austin’s shoulders. The next slow thrust drew a cry from him. Yes. There. Oh God, there.

“You feel incredible, Sir. So fucking tight around me.”

Liam wanted to reply, but Austin began to fuck him with more force, long strokes delivered slowly but without hesitation. The intensity of his reaction to this was frightening him in some ways, sweeping away the few inhibitions he had. He wanted to beg for the first time in his life, to plead for Austin to go faster, but he bit down on his lip and forced the words back.

Austin was watching his face, and something must have shown on it because Austin hesitated, then stopped moving entirely. “Sir?”

“Don’t stop,” Liam said, his voice rough.

“But—”

“That was an order, Austin.”

The reminder seemed enough to get him moving again, thank God. Liam’s entire body was taut with wanting, his nerves straining toward the release that was nearby but not quite achievable, not yet. Jay’s hand stroking his cock was more a distraction than anything else, strangely, but both of them knew more about this than Liam did—pushing Jay’s hand away seemed unwise. He didn’t want any of it to stop, he wanted to come, but he was so overwhelmed that all he could do was take it, Austin driving into him with careful thrusts that were making him crazy.

Austin stopped again without warning, eyes squeezed tightly shut. “I’m sorry,” he said, sounding miserable. “Sorry, just…so close.”

Liam exhaled, biting back a snarl. God, did they feel like this when he was teasing them? If so, how the hell did they keep from punching him?

The need to take that look off Austin’s face overrode his frustration. He’d asked for this and told them he’d stay in control. Time to prove that.

“It’s okay. You’re doing so well, Austin. I’m enjoying it.”

Austin’s eyes popped open, the praise reviving him. “Really, Sir?” His cock moved deeper as he shifted position, bringing it in contact with Liam’s prostate for a split second before Austin moved again, and the burgeoning rush of sensation was cut off abruptly.

“Mm-hmm,” Liam managed. “Maybe swap with Jay?”

“Great idea, Sir.” Jay’s eagerness was as flattering as Austin’s fight for control.

Austin pouted but withdrew, the slow, sweet drag of his cock deliciously tortuous. He wiped down his cock with a handful of tissues and gave Liam a dazzled smile. “So good, Sir.”

“So were you,” Liam assured him. Austin hadn’t been at fault, after all. He sat up, conscious of a twinge from his arse, and kissed Austin, making it reassuring, approving. “I’m going to take off your cock ring. When I come, so can you. I’m sure you can wait that long, yes?”

“Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir.” There was more than a hint of doubt in Austin’s voice, but he submitted to the removal of the ring, gasping when Liam, driven by his own needs, took a moment to fondle the cock that just a short time before had been inside him. It was hot and hard against his palm, still sticky with residual lube.

“Your turn, Jay.”

“Do you want to stay like this?”

It occurred to Liam that on all fours, he could push back, set the pace. “No, let’s change it up a bit.”

He got into position and heard Jay catch his breath. “God, I’m not even inside you, and I could come in a heartbeat.”

Liam gave an impatient hiss. “My arse isn’t the Eighth Wonder of the World. Stop admiring it, and fuck it. In me. Now.”

Jay took an eternity to apply lube, another to align the head of his cock with Liam’s hole, and a blessedly short time to pick up the pace and fuck Liam with the forceful, hammering thrusts he craved. He might pay for them tomorrow, might regret his insistence that he wanted more and he wouldn’t break, damn it, within the hour, but right then, he needed it hard and fast.

From the corner of his eye he saw Austin kneeling at the head of the bed, his hands behind him, as if he didn’t trust himself not to touch the dark red cock that looked painfully close to a climax. It was a stunningly erotic sight, obedience and need combined, and Liam wanted to tell Austin so, but he had no breath to spare for words.

He was so fucking close. So close to coming even without a hand on his prick, from nothing more than the relentless pressure of Jay’s cock over his prostate. He’d suspected how much he’d enjoy this, but he hadn’t truly realized how intense it would be. Being filled added another dimension to his arousal, and he’d be lamenting having gone so long without it if he weren’t so focused on the orgasm that was just out of reach.

“Feel so good, Sir,” Jay murmured. His hands settled on Liam’s hips but didn’t grip, just rested there respectfully.

Liam almost laughed at the thought. Instead he closed his eyes and rocked to meet Jay’s next thrust. Jay’s hands tightened on Liam’s hips.

“God,” Jay said with a gasp. “Sir.”

More, Liam thought but didn’t say. He didn’t need to—all he needed to do was create a rhythm, taking over the minor bit of control he’d allowed Jay until that moment. His pleasure ratcheted higher. A small shift of the angle and he was there, the head of Jay’s cock rubbing his prostate so perfectly that he was going to come any second.

He reached back and fumbled a touch on Jay’s hand, then clamped his own over Jay’s, fingers entangled and gripping tightly. His orgasm exploded from him, jetting out forcefully in pulses so strong he couldn’t make a sound or take a breath, just held on to Jay’s hand on his hip as he shuddered and jerked.

It felt strange to come without even the grip of his hand to tunnel into, with his arse filled, fucked, occupied. The novelty sharpened the edges of his pleasure, changing its shape.

“Sir—” Jay sounded frantic to come, but he didn’t pull back, allowing Liam to sink forward onto the bed with the thick length of Jay’s cock to flex against, small, potent aftershocks rippling through him as he did. Liam was aware of Austin crowding close, both of them petting him, kissing him, murmuring to him as he lay spent and exhausted against spunk-soaked sheets.

Jay eased away, slowly, carefully, his hands gentle on Liam’s hips, guiding their disengagement. Liam closed his lips on a protesting murmur of loss and rolled reluctantly to his back when Jay had finished. He wanted to lie still, bask, but it wasn’t just about him. Jay’s cock ring needed to be removed so that he and Austin could reach their own climaxes.

They were smiling at him, a little anxious, with a certain complicity in their eyes, as if they were welcoming him to their world.

He kept his voice level, strong as he tossed Jay’s cock ring aside. “Jerk off. First one to come gets another spanking.”

It was a dead heat.

Chapter Twenty-One

“I’m so tired,” Jay murmured.

It was a challenge to understand him, since he was lying facedown against Austin’s stomach. Austin petted his hair. “Well, you’d probably sleep better if you could breathe.”

Jay grumbled and turned his head but didn’t stop using Austin as a pillow. “Can’t sleep.”

“Not if you keep complaining.” They were in bed; Austin was leaning back against the headboard, propped up with pillows and wearing flannel pants and one of Liam’s T-shirts. “Close your eyes.”

“What time is it?” Jay whined.

“Twenty minutes after the last time you asked.” Austin sighed. He wasn’t any happier about waiting for Liam to come home from his trip to spend Christmas with his kids than Jay was, but focusing on it every second was making the day seem even longer. “If you’re not going to sleep, maybe we should go do something.”

“You’re crazy,” Jay said. “It’s the day after Christmas. Do you know how busy the stores would be? Busy. Really, really busy.”

“Watch TV?”

“There’s nothing on.”

Austin sighed again. He wouldn’t suggest they have lunch, not yet—it was just after noon, but they hadn’t managed to eat breakfast until almost eleven. They’d spent the day before at his mom’s house, being offered something else to eat every time they turned around. Austin’s stomach still hadn’t recovered. “He’ll be home soon.”

“I want him now.” Jay rolled his eyes. “Okay, even I know I sound like a brat. Sorry. I just… We’ve got presents for him!”

“We’re lucky,” Austin said. “We get to celebrate twice.”

“Yesterday was more like an endurance test.”

Austin couldn’t argue with that assessment. His mom had been…nice. Too nice. She’d treated them like guests, not family, for a while until April had let the gravy boil over. In the cleanup and tearful recriminations that followed, normality had been resumed.

Only to fall apart when Tim asked casually how Liam was as a landlord. Sarah had controlled her reaction, confining it to a quick, darting glance at Austin, but the relaxed mood had never returned. She’d sent them home with enough leftovers for three people, but she’d done that when Austin lived alone. The Christmas card Liam had asked Austin to give her had been opened, read, then pushed back inside its envelope, instead of joining the others displayed around the family room.

A truce of sorts, but true peace was a long way off.

“We could bring Liam’s diorama upstairs to the dining room table? Or do you want him to go down to the basement and see it there?”

“Basement,” Jay said after a moment’s thought. “I’m so on edge I might drop it if we tried to move it.” He shuddered, wincing. “Can you imagine? All that hard work and bam! It’s on the floor, ruined?”

“Jay…” Austin hugged him, wishing he could assure Jay that wouldn’t happen and be believed. Losing a diorama to the flood in their old apartment had taken Jay weeks to get over. Austin sometimes found him looking at the photographs he’d taken of it, heartbreakingly close to completion. “He’s going to love it. Just wait.”

Jay gave him a grateful kiss, then snuggled in close. Peace reigned for a few seconds; then he raised his head from Austin’s shoulder with a jerk. “Car!”

Austin heard it too, followed by the rumble as the garage door rose.

Liam.

Thank God.

They both scrambled out of bed, then stood there looking at each other wildly. Then Jay made an impatient gesture and said, “Come on.”

The garage opened into the hallway near the kitchen, but Liam must have been slow getting out of the car, because Jay and Austin beat him there.

“At least we’re dressed this time,” Austin said, panting. Okay, maybe they’d moved a little more quickly than necessary.

“He likes us naked.” Jay was only wearing some cotton sleep pants, though he’d had a bathrobe on earlier when they’d had breakfast but abandoned it when they’d gone back to bed.

“Yeah, but I always worry that maybe he’s got somebody with him and they’re going to get the surprise of a lifetime.” Austin strained to hear what Liam was doing on the other side of the door, but apparently it was too well insulated. “Like, what if he brought his kids home for a visit without telling us?”

“He knows there’s a chance we’d be naked. He’d call or text us. And he wouldn’t do that to us. Not when he knows how much we’ve missed him.” Jay sounded so sure about it, his trust in Liam absolute. Austin felt a surge of relief that Jay’s attitude had changed for the better when it came to Liam. The weird thing was he thought Jay was even more relieved, as if he’d been silently begging for Liam to take him in hand and desperately grateful when Liam had listened.

The door opened a short way; then Liam called out plaintively, “Can someone help me here? My arms are full.”

Austin leaped forward and pulled the door open wide, then reached out to rescue a small box balanced precariously on top of a stack of other items in Liam’s arms.

“Careful with that,” Liam said. “It’s a crystal paperweight. God knows what I’ll do with it, but I suppose it was a nice thought.”

The quiet house was suddenly filled with voices and noise. Austin was swept along with it and part of it, adding his greetings to Jay’s once Liam had deposited his gifts on the kitchen table, crowding in close as Liam gathered them both to him for a hug. He smelled of cold air and frost, his face cool against Austin’s lips.

“The car got stuffy, and I was falling asleep, so I opened the window,” he explained when Austin commented on it. “Someone make me coffee, please? I’ll bring in the rest of the stuff from the car since you two aren’t dressed.”

“Didn’t seem worth it,” Jay said with a demure look at Liam. “Not if we’ll be back in bed soon.”

Liam dealt out a playful slap to Jay’s ass, a broad grin on his face. “Thinking about what I plan to do to you both was another way I kept myself awake. Late night, early start. Not a good combination.”

“You’re home now,” Austin said and took one last kiss before Liam went to get his suitcase, marveling at how smooth Liam’s chin was. The guy would take time to shave with a tornado on the way.

He turned to unpack the paper bag Liam had been carrying. At the top were a couple of books—proof Liam hadn’t taken his time in packing, since if he had, they would have been at the bottom where they belonged. One was a mystery Liam would probably enjoy; the other was an inspirational story about some man who’d made a cross-country trek, exactly the kind of thing Liam dismissed as sentimental drivel.

Under the books were three pairs of thick, wool-blend socks unlike the dress socks Liam usually wore under his very expensive shoes. They were still wrapped in their shiny cardboard sleeves. Austin wondered if Liam would ever wear them or if they’d be relegated to the back of his sock drawer for years.

“Hey, cookies!” Jay had peeked inside a metallic red gift bag. “Liam, can I have these cookies?” he called toward the garage.

“Of course,” Liam said, coming back around the corner without his suitcase—he must have set it down in the hall. “I can’t vouch for their quality, but Ben suddenly decided in the last few months he’s going to be a pastry chef and he’d start by baking all his gifts this year. I managed to make the excuse that I was watching my waistline.”

“You’re an idiot.” Jay spoke through a mouthful of cookie. “These are amazing. Austin, try one.” He held what looked like a chocolate-dipped sugar cookie out toward Austin, who took it and bit into it. It was amazing; it tasted like butter and almonds. The chocolate was bittersweet, and the cookie crumbled delicately. Austin caught the crumbs in his hand, not wanting to waste them.

“That good?” Liam asked with a bemused look on his face as Austin swallowed the last of the cookie and licked his palm clean of the crumbs. “Maybe I owe him an apology.”

“He’s your son,” Austin pointed out. “If he takes after you, he doesn’t do anything unless he can do it better than anyone else.”

That got him Liam’s full attention. For a moment they stared at each other. Then Liam said softly, “Thank you,” leaving Austin tingling with pleasure at putting that stunned, grateful expression on Liam’s face.

“Coffee’s brewing,” Jay said. “Want to go through to the family room, and I’ll bring it in with some more of the cookies?”

“If we leave you in here with them, will there be any left to bring?” Liam asked.

Jay grinned. “Maybe. Maybe not.”

“Ben will be delighted they were so popular. I’ll be delighted if you leave us some,” Liam said pointedly but with too much affectionate underlying his words for them to come close to a reproof.

By the time Liam had shed his coat and shoes, freshened up, and changed into a sweater, the dark cranberry color unexpectedly good on him, the coffee was ready. Liam took his usual place between them on the couch and chatted as he drank his first cup and ate two of Ben’s cookies with evident approval.

“It was great seeing them, but the whole time I was there, I kept thinking of you,” he told them after Jay had brought him a refill. “I know I was only gone for three days and we managed a few phone calls, but it still felt as if I was in the wrong place.” He set down his mug after a sip and took Austin’s hand, his fingers warm and strong. “How did it go with your mother?”

“You had to ask,” Austin groaned, leaning his head back against the couch. “I don’t know. Okay, I guess. It was awkward, but it could have been worse. She wasn’t rude to Jay, at least. Um, she wasn’t, was she?”

Jay shook his head. He’d curled up, his feet on the couch, half-tucked under him. “She was fine. Maybe a little awkward, like you said, but like she was trying to be normal, pretend she hadn’t learned anything about me she didn’t like. If that makes sense.”

“It does,” Liam said. “On some level it’s a shame we couldn’t have hidden it from her for longer. She would have been happier.”

“But I would have been more stressed.” Austin eyed the last two cookies but told himself sternly that he’d had enough. He’d eaten at least half a dozen cookies yesterday—although to be fair none of them had been very good. If he’d had a little more self-control then, he could have eaten these now with a clear conscience. “I mean, I don’t like lying to her. But sometimes it’s easier.”

“There are some things parents prefer not to know about their children,” Liam said, patting his knee. “And April?”

“She’s kind of like a different person,” Jay offered. “Only not. She still can’t cook.” He was grinning at Austin, clearly remembering the gravy debacle. “But she’s nicer. Or…well. Like she was always nice, underneath, but she was miserable on top, and that made her a bitch.”

“She’s never had a reason to be miserable.” Austin knew it was stupid to object, mostly because Jay was right on one level. “Her whole life has been easy.”

“Thanks in large part to you.” Liam shook his head. “Never mind. It occurs to me that you’re either showing superhuman levels of patience about your presents, or you’ve peeked at them while I was away.”

“Sir! We wouldn’t.” Jay was blushing an adorably guilty shade of pink. He saw Austin’s knowing grin and said hotly, “It’s not peeking if you see your name on something and pick it up. That’s traditional. It’s allowed.”

“He’s been good, Sir,” Austin said, reaching across Liam to pat Jay’s cheek. “We both have. We took a few presents with us to open at my mom’s, but we saved the important ones to open with you.”

The tree was small, but the woodsy scent filled the room, and it was beautifully shaped, the branches evenly distributed and the needles a glossy dark green. Jay and Austin had decorated it when Liam was at work, but it had a little of all of them on it. The golden strands of lights, the delicate icy sparkle of the star on the top—they were Liam in Austin’s opinion, providing structure and a focal point. The scatter of red and green baubles, traditional, warmly bright, were his, and the twisted, fantastic shapes Jay had made from copper wire, beads, and feathers were unmistakably the work of an artist.

Under it lay a scatter of gifts, wrapped with varying levels of skill. Jay, for all his deft fingers, couldn’t fold paper around a box with any dexterity at all.

It’s the tape,” he’d explained, shaking his hand to dislodge a piece clinging stubbornly to his fingers. “It hates me. We’re mortal enemies. If you wrap everything that isn’t for you, I’ll do the dishes for two days.

Deal,” Austin had agreed promptly.

“So shall we take it in turns to open them?” Jay asked.

“Sure,” Austin said. “Who goes first?”

“I’m not pulling rank on you at Christmas,” Liam said. “Let me see. Hm, how about that little blue one on the end there?”

“That is for you,” Jay said, getting up and going to fetch it. “Now who peeked?”

“I admit nothing,” Liam said.

“‘He knows when you’ve been naughty…’” Austin sang, breaking off when Liam began to tickle him. “Ow! Sir! I’m still full from breakfast.”

The next hour passed by too quickly. Each gift was opened and praised, breaks to kiss were frequent, and Austin endured the buildup of torn paper on the carpet without commenting on the mess. For this one day, it didn’t matter.

When the last of the presents under the tree had been unwrapped, Jay cleared his throat, his nervousness plain to Austin’s eyes. God, he hoped Liam appreciated how many hours of work had gone into the diorama. He’d admired Jay’s work in the past but without showing more than polite interest. “Everything I gave you was just little stuff, Sir. Your real present’s in the basement. Would…would you like to see it?”

Liam reached out and squeezed Jay’s hand. “Of course I would. Lead the way.”

The three of them trooped downstairs; it wasn’t until they got to the bottom of the staircase that Jay shivered. “Should have put a shirt on.”

“Here, have this.” Liam shrugged out of his sweater, leaving him in just his button-down shirt, and handed it to Jay.

“It’ll be too big,” Jay said but put it on anyway, then stood there looking like a little kid wearing his older brother’s castoffs. “I look stupid.”

“I like it.” Liam pulled him close and kissed him.

Austin smiled, realizing they were technically all wearing Liam’s shirts, though Liam hadn’t commented on the T-shirt he had on.

“Okay, come on.” Jay tugged at Liam’s hand and led him toward the table where the diorama was neatly covered with a clean sheet that had a big red bow strategically balanced on it. He shifted back and forth from one foot to the other nervously.

“Relax,” Liam advised. “I’m sure I’ll love it. Whatever it is.” He frowned and looked at the outline, tilting his head to one side. “Is it sports related?”

“Not really,” Austin told him when Jay didn’t answer. “Maybe you should just see it. Should he just see it?”

“Remember when you came downstairs and I yelled at you?” Liam nodded, and Jay touched the sheet, then drew back his hand as if it were hot. “I was working on this; that was why. I didn’t want you to see it.”

Austin loved Liam’s face when it was set in stern lines, but he loved it more when it softened as it did now.

“I understand why you snapped, and I’m sorry I almost spoiled the surprise. But I can see it now?”

“You probably won’t like it,” Jay muttered.

Liam gave a growl of pure exasperation and strode forward, taking the sheet off carefully, making every effort not to snag it. Jay stepped back, his gaze fixed on Liam, his lip caught between his teeth, and Austin held his breath.

The diorama was detailed enough to repay anyone willing to spend a while studying it, but even the initial sight was impressive. Austin hadn’t seen it for a while; Jay had kept it hidden from him as it neared completion. He drifted over to stand by Liam, taking in the dozens of tiny toys laid out on shelves, the realistically rendered walls and floor. He wanted to shrink down and step inside the scene, but in a way he was already there. He could see the miniature version of himself, kneeling in front of a Dom holding a thin strip of leather in his hand. A collar. The figurine representing Jay was tied to a whipping post, bare to the waist, his head turned to look at them, a collar already circling his neck.

“My God,” Liam said quietly after a long silence that was somehow like applause. “Jay, I’m overwhelmed. Truly. It’s incredible. I don’t have the words to tell you how much I love it.” He reached out, stroking his fingertip over a black leather chair, high backed and deep, without arms. “Imagine me sitting in this and having you over my knee, with plenty of room to swing my hand or a paddle. Or making you ride me, Austin, so slowly you were sobbing by the end, begging me to touch your cock.” He gave a shuddering sigh, his delight in his gift plain, and turned, crooking his finger at Jay, who’d retreated to the wall, his face pinched with anxiety. “Come here. Please? I want you to show me everything.”

If Austin hadn’t already been in love with Liam, the man’s careful, tender treatment of Jay over the next fifteen minutes would have been enough to make him fall. Austin could barely pay attention to the diorama—which, to be fair, he’d already spent hours admiring. He was too focused on Liam’s face as Liam smiled widely, asked Jay questions, listened to the answers, and offered compliment after compliment.

Slowly Jay relaxed. The tense line of his shoulders rounded out, and he stopped tucking his hair behind his ears every ten seconds. “And this cabinet opens,” he was saying, and reached to demonstrate. “Only some of the toys fit inside, but I thought they looked better on the shelves anyway?”

“Much better,” Liam agreed. “You should always trust your instincts about things like that.”

Jay grinned and took half a step closer to Liam, who immediately put an arm around him. “They have little water bottles, see? So they stay hydrated. They’re made from beads, and then I shrank and printed the labels and cut them out with a craft knife. I must have cut out at least a dozen trying to get three that weren’t crooked or frayed at the edges.”

“It’s amazing. It must have taken hundreds of hours.” Liam was still wide-eyed, marveling. It made Austin want to kiss him.

Hell, it made Austin want to kneel down and kiss his feet. He couldn’t help but feel the same sort of gratitude and wonder that was written all over Liam’s face. “Three hundred at least,” Austin said.

“It was a labor of love.” Jay’s voice was soft and dreamy.

“I can see that,” Liam said. He lifted Jay’s face and kissed him. “It’s the most amazing gift anyone’s ever given me. Thank you.”

He turned to Austin. “I say it’s for me, but it has all of us in there, so with Jay’s permission, I’d like to think of it as belonging to us all. By which I mean, feel free to play with it.” He grinned. “Or set it up to give me a hint if there’s something you’d like to try.”

“I like that idea,” Jay said.

Austin nodded, still too choked up to say much. God, he was so lucky.

Liam gestured toward the stairs. “I do have one more gift for you both, and after that, well, let’s just say if I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate coming home—and I was—I really am now.”

“I have something else for you both too,” Austin said diffidently. After Jay’s spectacular present he almost wanted to leave it where it was, hidden in his sock drawer, but it meant too much to him to do that.

“Rock, paper, scissors for who goes first,” Liam said and held out his hand.

Austin laughed, enjoying seeing Liam’s playful side surface. “Okay. One, two, three…”

He wanted to go last, so he went for scissors, guessing Liam would choose rock, as he did. The choices in the game were rarely random, at least not in the first round.

Back upstairs they split up.

“Mine isn’t a gift you can unwrap exactly, but there is some paperwork, so I printed it off.” Liam headed for his study. “It’s in my desk. Give me a minute.”

“I have to get mine too.” Austin walked to the foot of the stairs. “Jay, if you want to grab a trash bag for all the paper in the family room, that’d be great.”

“It’s only paper!” Jay hollered after him, but Austin knew by the time he returned, Jay would have gotten most of it bagged up.

He was last back, having taken a minute to straighten the bed and set lube out within reach. Liam had lifted the ban on not coming while he was away, but Jay and he hadn’t taken advantage of it much. Too full, too sleepy, too busy—but they’d been excuses for not making love, not reasons. Liam’s absence had been the reason.

Besides, it had only been a few days, even if it felt like a lot longer.

“All right?” Liam asked from his seat beside Jay, and Austin nodded. He loved the way Liam joined them on the couch now, part of the group, not sitting off to one side observing them. The little satin bags that held Jay’s and Liam’s gifts were in his pocket. “Good. Would you like to sit down, then?” He lifted an eyebrow, and Austin felt himself flush.

“Yeah. Sorry.” Austin sat quickly.

“Don’t be sorry.” Liam was holding two plain white envelopes that seemed to be sealed. “Open them at the same time, please.”

Jay and Austin each took one of the envelopes, then looked at each other.

“Well, go on.”

Austin slid his fingertip under the edge of the envelope and pried it up. He was trying to be careful, to not tear the paper, whereas Jay had already ripped his envelope open and was unfolding the sheets of paper inside. They looked like regular printer paper, nothing fancy. Austin realized he had no idea what to expect from this gift. What would be on a plain piece of paper? The only thought that came into his head was that it was a photo of something Liam had ordered that hadn’t come in time for Christmas, which was a depressing thought.

He set the envelope down and unfolded the paper, reading it fast to try to catch up to Jay. It seemed to be reservations for somewhere, in a couple of weeks’ time. An inn. No, a bed-and-breakfast—there was a photo of one of the bedrooms with a huge bed, and another of a bathroom with what looked like a full-size hot tub next to a wall of windows that opened onto a panoramic view of mountains.

“You got us a bed-and-breakfast?” Jay asked, frowning.

Liam chuckled. “Not the whole thing—just a weekend. I asked Laura to check around and find a place we could relax, where no one would ask what we were up to.”

“Going away would be nice,” Austin said. He was pleased, but the gift seemed a little ordinary for Liam, who had a knack for putting a spin on everything.

“It’s a working holiday,” Liam said, his expression solemn, though his eyes were gleaming with amusement. “Don’t think you’ll be lounging around getting waited on.”

“Sir, you’re teasing us,” Jay said plaintively. “Did you hire us out as slaves or something? Is it a kinky bed-and-breakfast?”

Austin couldn’t help the startled yelp he gave, but Liam’s laughter drowned it out. “Your imagination… No. It’s a gay-friendly place and no one will mind us sharing, but its main appeal is that it’s in close to someone who’s an expert in fire play. Laura speaks highly of her. She’s going to show me the ropes and take things as far as you like in at least one session, Jay. I’ll be there of course, and Austin too, if he likes.”

Jay’s lips parted, but it was a moment before he could speak. “Really? You’d do that? Oh my God. Oh my God. I can’t wait.” He scrambled onto Liam’s lap, kissing him fervently, babbling his thanks, before turning to smile at Austin, so intensely alive and joyous it made Austin’s throat close up, emotions threatening to overwhelm him.

“And this isn’t just for Jay, Austin,” Liam said as Jay wriggled off his lap and moved to sit beside Austin, cuddling up close. “She’s got a friend who’s into something called shibari. Have you heard of it?” He gestured at the papers Austin was still holding. “Look at those others.”

Shibari, rope bondage, was something Austin had heard of but only vaguely. He flipped through to the second page in his hands and stopped, spellbound by the images in front of him. Artfully lit photos of men and women bound in complicated, beautiful patterns of rope. Arms behind backs or held overhead—one of the men was suspended completely off the floor, body carved into a new, almost mystical shape by the loops and knots of rope.

“Sir,” he said, his voice shaky. He wanted to ask how Liam had known what he wanted when he hadn’t known himself, but it was Liam. Of course he’d known.

“I take it that’s a yes.” Liam smiled gently, and Austin felt not just loved, but understood. It was like being given a neatly wrapped package of everything he’d ever wanted, and it wasn’t a fantasy; it was real.

Jay’s eyes were shining when Austin looked into them. “You look like you won the lottery.”

“I feel like I did. I want to ask how you knew, but that’s your job, isn’t it? Taking care of us.” It wasn’t that simple—Austin and Jay took care of Liam too. They just did it in different ways. Reaching past Jay, Austin held his hand toward Liam, who took it and squeezed it. “Thank you for being so good at it.”

“You have no idea how often I doubt myself or worry I’m going to fuck things up,” Liam said. “As your Dom, as your partner—as a friend. But if I ever do, tell me. I want this to work between us. If it fell apart, I’d be lost without you both.”

“Don’t,” Jay said. “It won’t happen. We love each other too much to let it.”

“Love’s not always enough.” The look in Liam’s eyes was distant, withdrawn, but only for a moment. Then he was with them again. “But we do have more than enough to go around, hmm?”

Austin moved into Liam’s arms for a reassuring hug—though he wasn’t sure if he wanted to give or receive comfort—then felt something hard dig into his thigh. “Okay, ow.”

“What’s wrong?” Liam asked.

“I sat on your presents,” Austin explained, sitting up. “Don’t worry. They’re not breakable. Not easily, anyway.”

He drew the bags out of his pocket, keeping one in his hand and passing the other two to Liam and Jay. “I had them made by a woman who does custom-order work. I saw her stuff at that craft fair we went to in the fall, Jay, and loved it, so I picked up her card.”

Jay shook the bag, catching the spill of chain as it poured into his hand. He held it up, dangling from his fingers, three slender strands of metal, copper, silver, gold, with a small circle hanging from them, the center filled with interlacing strands of all three metals, giving the circle strength and purpose. “It’s beautiful work,” he said, assessing it as one artist to another. “I really like the abstract pattern inside the circle. That’s incredibly well-done.”

“It’s not abstract,” Liam said before Austin could speak, holding up his identical necklace, an intent look on his face. “Look at it closer; it’s our initials, all three of them.”

“I figured it was subtle enough that we could get away with them,” Austin said. He could already feel himself shifting into explanation mode. “I messed around for hours trying to figure out how big to make them—she didn’t think she could go much smaller than three quarters of an inch and still have room for the initials. And Liam, your chain’s longer. I figured you’d want to be able to wear it under your dress shirts and have it totally hidden, but I didn’t think Jay would mind people seeing his.”

“I won’t,” Jay said loyally. “Anyway, most people probably won’t look at it closely enough to see that it’s initials.”

“I won’t be mad if you don’t want to wear them every day.” Austin hoped that had come out sounding more convincing than it did inside his head. “That’s not why I got them.”

“You wanted something that would fall apart if one element was removed, as we would.” Liam ran his finger over the circle, touching it with the same loving care he’d shown Jay’s diorama. He raised his head. “I’ll wear it, Austin. Every day. You have one too?”

Austin nodded and took his necklace out, holding it up. Because he’d designed it, he couldn’t look at it and not see the initials. “People will know what the A and the J stand for,” he said, making the circle spin so that it was a blur. “It’s the L they’ll ask about.”

“So what will you tell them?” Liam said it casually, but it was clear the answer mattered to him.

And really, the answer was easy. “For now? I’ll tell them the truth. That it stands for ‘love.’” Austin shrugged and put the necklace on, the metal warming quickly against his skin. “It does stand for that as well as your name, because I do. Love you, I mean. Both of you.”

“We do,” Jay put in, his necklace already around his neck, tangled in his hair.

Liam held out the necklace to Austin. For one heart-stopping moment, he thought it was being returned to him, but then Liam said, “I’d like you to put it on me,” and Austin could breathe again.

Liam turned so that he was facing Jay, and Austin, his hands not shaking at all, did as he’d been told and saw the three colors gleam bright against Liam’s skin, saw the chains settle into place. It was that moment of a key fitting into a lock, silent click that reassured Austin in ways he hadn’t even known he’d needed to be reassured.

“Okay,” he whispered and leaned in to kiss the back of Liam’s neck.

“That won’t do at all,” Liam said, turning around. “I need to give you a proper kiss to thank you for such a thoughtful gift.” He slid a hand to the back of Austin’s neck and pulled him in, kissing him with such confidence and certainty that it took Austin’s breath away. No one would have believed for a second that Liam hadn’t been kissing men since he was a teenager.

And really, wasn’t that all that mattered? That they were here, now, together, with the rest of their lives stretched out ahead of them? In the long run Austin couldn’t let his family’s opinions on his relationship outweigh what he knew he wanted.

“I love you,” Austin said, with Liam’s lips pressed to his temple. He reached for Jay’s hand and gripped it tightly. “Both of you.”

“You said that already,” Jay pointed out.

“Yeah, and I’ll probably say it a hundred times more. Maybe a thousand.” Austin felt giddy. “I might even aim for a million, if that’s okay with you guys? Sir?”

“Say it all you like,” Jay told him, caressing Austin’s hand with his thumb as he returned Austin’s hand clasp.

Liam nodded, brushing his lips across Austin’s cheek. “We’ll be listening. Always.”

Chapter Twenty-Two

The fire-retardant blanket covering the massage bench Jay lay on was warm against his skin. In the dimly lit room, it would’ve been easy to drift into dreams, and if he’d been waiting for a massage, he might have done just that, but he wasn’t.

He was waiting for Liam to send teasing, flickering lines of flame over his body. If he opened his eyes, he’d see Austin kneeling by the wall, watching him, his expression serene. Austin’s body was still marked from his recent shibari session, though the intricate patterns were fading. That didn’t matter if the peace and joy in Austin’s eyes was still there.

“Jay? Are you ready?”

Liam’s deep, calm voice was part of the tranquility that filled the room, loving but inflexible. They might be on vacation, but Jay had earned a spanking only that morning, delivered in their room before breakfast, Liam’s hand beating out a brisk reminder that he didn’t appreciate being woken by Jay singing in the shower.

Tomorrow make it a blowjob,” he’d said with a grin when it was over and Jay was rubbing his smarting ass and holding back a matching smile, because damn, did he love it when Liam did something out of the blue like that. “I can guarantee it’ll get a better reception than that caterwauling.”

Now Jay answered with the same “Yes, Sir” he had then. He was so ready, and he knew Liam was too. More importantly, he realized now that Liam having learned from someone experienced with fire play was going to make the session a hundred times better.

Jessica, the Domme who’d let Austin and Jay observe and Liam participate in her scene the night before, was sitting comfortably in a chair nearby. She hadn’t said a word since she’d entered the room, just brought the things they’d need as arranged. She seemed the least likely Domme in the world, Jay thought, with her neatly braided blonde hair and her narrow, framed glasses—she looked like a librarian or a girl who’d gotten a free ride to Harvard because her IQ was off the charts. It wasn’t until she started moving that he could see it, that difficult-to-define sense of confidence, the knowledge that she was in charge.

He twitched when Liam’s hand suddenly touched his shoulder, but relaxed when that hand moved slowly down over his spine and ass, then to the ticklish back of his knee. “Remember to breathe,” Liam said.

“Yes, Sir.” On a different night Jay might have come back to that with a hint of rudeness, just to see if he could get an extra spanking out of Liam, but not tonight. Tonight he was ready to let go completely, and that was making him more mellow and at peace than he could remember having felt in a long time.

“Good.” Liam was quiet for a few seconds, moving around. Jay closed his eyes as he waited.

The first sear of flame across his back was sudden and glorious; he didn’t try to hold back the cry that escaped him, which was more relief than pain. God, he’d wanted this for so long, and here it was, with Liam, the man he adored and worshipped both literally and figuratively.

The sensations built, slowly at times, as Liam left long pauses for Jay to wait through. He felt the heat dissipate without ever losing track of where it had been. He loved it when the flames raced over him from more than one point of origin, leaving the back of his body tingling, but he didn’t get that every time.

It was Liam’s choice, all of it. He was the ringmaster, the conductor, the teacher patiently leading Jay through this experience, and Jay surrendered to him as he’d been taught to do, each time finding it easier, each time getting more out of it.

After streaking his skin with the flammable liquid and setting it alight, Liam moved on to using a lit baton, exchanging a few quiet words with Jessica that Jay didn’t even try to hear. He trusted them both.

The lit baton struck his back, the light blow followed by the instantaneous flare of heat, Liam finding a rhythm Jay’s heartbeat matched, so his body felt like a struck drum, the echoes rolling through him, pounding in his ears.

He wasn’t making a sound, too caught up in sensation to need to vocalize what he felt, but when Liam said softly, “Enough,” he heard himself sob, not a protest, not that, not even regret, because they’d do this again, but simply a release of everything he felt in that moment.

Austin came over to him at a signal from Liam, and Jessica left the room, closing the door behind her.

Liam began to wipe Jay’s back down, the damp towel soothing his skin. He didn’t ask how Jay was feeling, for which Jay was grateful. Later he’d tell them how it’d felt, picturing those pale flames on him, visible for a second or two before disappearing, leaving behind their heat. Now he just wanted to lie still, Austin stroking his hair, smiling at him, Liam taking care of him with loving efficiency.

“Take as much time as you need,” Liam said gently, smoothing lotion over Jay’s back, the shock of the cool liquid like a last flash of sensation from the scene. “There’s no hurry—the room is ours for as long as we want it.”

The words were more like air blowing past Jay than actual conversation. He understood them, but he was floating and not at all interested in coming back down. Maybe if he didn’t say anything, he could just stay where he was forever.

Austin tenderly held his hand, bending to kiss Jay’s fingers and knuckles. They both seemed to get that he was okay and just didn’t want to talk. Liam moved around the room quietly, probably putting things away, going into the adjoining bathroom and running water there, then coming back again and unfolding a blanket that had been draped over a chair.

“Is he cold?” Liam asked Austin, and Austin touched Jay’s arm and then cheek.

“Maybe a little,” Austin said.

Liam put the blanket over Jay, who murmured appreciatively. He hadn’t realized he was cold, but maybe he had been, because the blanket’s warmth was welcome now that the fire had faded from his skin. Slowly Jay shifted onto his side and sat up, glad when Austin moved to sit next to him so he had someone solid to lean on. He was so out of it he felt like his head wasn’t attached to his body.

Eventually, a little more grounded, he said, “Can we go back to our room now?”

“Of course,” Liam said. “Here, walk between us.”

Their room was on the second floor of the building. This one, the playroom they’d been using, was in the basement, and Jay wondered how the hell they were going to get up all those stairs. “Wait,” he said as they went along a different hallway. “Where are we—”

“There’s an elevator,” Austin said.

“I love this place.” Jay shuffled along happily and clung to Austin in the elevator as it went up to their floor.

Their room was comfortable but plain, clean lines everywhere, neutral colors and thick, heavy drapes making for a restful haven. The king-size bed dominated the space, and there was no attempt made to hide the fact that the room could be used for a scene as well as to sleep in. Anchor points were set into the walls here and there, and there was a heavy-duty hook in the ceiling over the bed. A bed with a ring set into the base, for a sub to be chained to, though Liam had only used it for short periods of the stay. Kneeling, gagged, a collar around his neck, the weight of a chain pulling at it, and watching Liam read e-mail on his laptop as he sipped coffee had been a surreal experience. Austin had loved it, his cock hard the whole time, his breathing slow and regular. He’d licked Liam’s hand when his gag was removed, his eyes downcast. Jay had never wanted to kiss Austin more.

It was a fantasy setting, and though Jay didn’t think he would’ve liked their room at home to be like this, it was fun for a weekend.

He submitted to being tucked into bed for a nap and drifted off listening to Austin discussing his shibari session with Liam, their voices lulling him to sleep.

When he woke, it was with a mouth on him, licking his cock to full, aching hardness. The fire play had turned him on, but it’d been enough in itself and he hadn’t wanted more. Now he did, his arousal flaring bright and hot, and it seemed he was going to get it. He hummed his approval and reached down, eyes still closed, expecting to feel Austin’s hair, fine and soft, against his hand.

Encountering short, thick hair instead had his eyes flying open, and he found himself staring into Austin’s eyes, his hand on Liam’s head.

“Sir?”

“Glad you’ve decided to join us,” Liam said after administering a final, lazy lick to Jay’s cock. “I was going to spank you awake, but Austin persuaded me not to.”

Jay brushed a kiss over Austin’s lips and tried not to buck his ass up, demanding more attention from Liam. It wasn’t easy. Liam might’ve been relatively new to giving blowjobs and definitely happier on the receiving end, but he’d learned quickly how to make his two subs writhe and squirm for him. “How on earth did you manage that?”

“I did what Sir was just doing to you,” Austin said succinctly.

“I don’t know whether to say thank you or not,” Jay teased. “You cost me a spanking from Sir.”

“Ungrateful brat,” Liam said and pushed him over on top of Austin before spanking his ass a few times, hard enough to sting. Liam rarely patted his ass. Even a playful spank tended to leave a lingering smart. “There. You got both. Satisfied now?”

Jay kissed Austin since he was draped over him, making it count this time, a familiar shiver of arousal running through him at the taste of Austin’s mouth, then rolled to his back to grin up at Liam. “Thank you both.”

“Better.” Liam seemed indecently cheerful, not that Jay was complaining about that. He just wished this wasn’t their last night at the bed-and-breakfast. There weren’t any clocks in the room, but he guessed it was still early evening since he was mildly hungry but not ravenous. Plenty of time for one last scene, and he knew what Liam was planning. The thought made him go light-headed with lust, his body suffused with desire spiced with apprehension. He’d wanted to do this for so long, and if it wasn’t as he’d imagined it to be, or if it hurt too much and he had to use his safe word—and he would—

“Stop it,” Liam said, gripping Jay’s chin between finger and thumb. “I can see the wheels turning. Talk to me.”

“I want to,” Jay said. Since he was already talking, he knew Liam would know what he meant. “I’m just, I guess…”

“Worried,” Austin supplied. “And you don’t really worry about stuff.”

“I worry sometimes,” Jay protested. “You make it sound like I’m some kind of…worry virgin.”

Austin grinned. “I wouldn’t accuse you of being any kind of virgin.”

“Except for this,” Liam said. “That’s what you’re fretting about, isn’t it?” He lowered his voice, and everything in the room shifted, focused. “Whether or not you can take my fist? No need to worry about that—you can. Because I say so.”

Jay shivered and nodded, caught in Liam’s gaze and grateful to be trapped there.

“Good.” Liam leaned in and kissed him even though the position was a little bit awkward, then gave him a stern look. “I’ve set some things out for you in the bathroom. Get yourself ready in there, and Austin and I will get ready for you out here.” As Jay got up to obey, Liam added, “And don’t worry.”

That was easier said than done, Jay thought, but one look at the items Liam had laid out beside the bathroom sink provided a reasonable amount of distraction. The instructions for the enema kit were neatly smoothed out where he’d see them, which was good, since Jay had never actually used one. In fact, the thought of it was both intimidating and more than a little unpleasant.

Still, he told himself, it would be worth it. Anything people wanted came with a price—for the most part—and this was a small one.

It took longer than he’d hoped, but by the time Jay turned off the shower and reached for a towel, he was cleaner than he’d ever been in his life. He hadn’t been able to hear Liam and Austin over the sound of the water, but now he could hear Austin whimpering and Liam’s voice, hard and unforgiving. Jay’s cock perked up immediately, and any remaining apprehension faded away as he scrubbed himself dry and went to join them.

Austin was being fucked by Liam. Jay had seen that happen often from a much closer vantage point, but from the bathroom door there was enough distance for him to take in the whole picture, and God, it was worth staring at.

Austin was on his back, his hands under his knees, drawing them up and out, giving Liam access to his ass. Liam was taking full advantage of that, fucking Austin in slow, deep strokes, one hand caressing Austin’s rigid cock, the other resting over Austin’s right knee.

Austin’s chest was flushed, partly from arousal, but Jay could see at least one handprint from a slap showing bright against Austin’s ribs. He wanted to go to his knees, crawl over to the bed, and wait for a signal from Liam to join them, but if he did that, he wouldn’t be able to see them like this, as an onlooker, and they were too erotic a sight to miss.

He knew what the combination of dragging thrusts and those sharp slaps felt like, how they left him feeling unbalanced, clinging to Liam as the one certainty. From the way Austin was keening, his head thrown back, his hands clamped tight, he was close to coming, and Liam wasn’t allowing it. Watching Liam exercise the power they’d ceded to him never failed to arouse Jay.

Liam paused, balls-deep in Austin’s ass, and stretched out his hand to Jay, beckoning him over with a flick of his fingers, never taking his gaze off Austin.

Jay gave in to his need to abase himself, reveling in it, and made the short journey on his hands and knees, the carpet, soft against his feet, chafing his knees. The faint burn felt good, and he surreptitiously deepened it, digging his knees in as he crawled.

“Austin’s being very vocal about how much he needs to come,” Liam said when Jay was on the bed, kneeling beside Austin, his hands behind him, his knees split wide. His voice was controlled, but to the point where Jay guessed Liam’s climax was as close as Austin’s. “I think he should be focused more on pleasing me.”

“Sir, I want to, I do. Anything you want from me, it’s yours. Please.” Austin’s words were faltering, punctuated by gasps.

Liam ran his finger around the head of Austin’s cock, through the clear liquid glossing it. He held the wet finger out to Jay, who bent forward and licked it clean. It felt like downing a shot of espresso, not the taste as much as the way it connected the three of them. He sucked the tip of Liam’s finger, swirling his tongue over it, wanting to prolong the moment, but Liam drew his finger away.

“Anything,” Liam repeated reflectively and began to fuck Austin again. Jay could smell them both, the rich, musky scent reaching him with every breath and adding to his desire. “Maybe what would please me would be to come in you and leave you suffering like this, aching for release, your hole wet and dripping. I could have Jay suck you whenever your cock began to soften. Be kind and tie your hands in case you were tempted to touch yourself to end your ordeal. Keep you on the edge for hours until you were sobbing, desperate, hungry, so very fucking mine.”

The last word was growled, not spoken, and Jay responded to that possessiveness even when it wasn’t directed at him, his heartbeat quickening, his asshole flexing as if Liam’s cock were spreading it, filling it.

“Jay?” Liam didn’t spare him as much as a glance. “How much do you think I ought to torment Austin?”

Jay wasn’t having an easy time focusing on the words—he was too turned on at the sight of Liam’s hips moving and the sound of Austin’s gasps. “Um…however much pleases you, Sir.”

Liam snorted and put his hands on Austin’s knees, widening the space between them until Austin’s thighs were trembling. He pulled back and fucked forward again, hard enough that it made Austin cry out. “Don’t you dare come,” Liam told Austin casually. Austin was shaking all over, and his cock was rigid. “There are so many things that might please me. Now I think I’d like to fuck you, Jay. Move over here beside Austin.”

The lube felt shockingly cold against his ass, and the memory of what he’d done in the bathroom made Liam’s first thrust difficult to take. Jay tensed up, his stomach cramping again, though there was nothing left to expel.

“Easy,” Liam said, briefly caressing Jay’s hip. Jay willed his body to accept Liam’s cock, helped by the fact that he did want it inside him, even if Austin was watching, curled up into a ball on his side, his arms wrapped around his knees, pure yearning in his eyes.

Without pausing Liam reached over and pushed his fingers inside Austin’s hole. Jay couldn’t see how many, but from the way Austin cried out, his face contorting with pleasure, it was definitely more than one.

“When I fist Jay, I want your arse filled too,” Liam told Austin, working his fingers in time with his steady, deep strokes into Jay. “There’s a plug in the bedside table. The blue one. Get it out and slick it up. Oh, and pass me some tissues.”

The blue plug was big. Jay expected Austin to protest, but his murmured, “Yes, Sir,” came at once and sounded eager.

Liam withdrew his fingers, wiped them on the tissues Austin presented to him, then settled more comfortably between Jay’s thighs. Jay tilted his ass up, enjoying himself now, forcing himself to stay in the moment. “I got a manicure this afternoon,” Liam said. “Not my first one by any means, but it’s the first time I’ve had one with an erection.” He held his right hand up for Jay to see, the nails trimmed short, scrupulously clean. “I couldn’t stop thinking about why I was doing it. What I was going to do to you.”

“I’ve been thinking about it too.” Jay wet his lips. “I want it, Sir.”

“I know. Are you looking forward to watching it, Austin?”

Austin was lubing up the plug, his eyes downcast. At Liam’s question he glanced up. “Yes, but even if I wasn’t, I’d still ask to be here, Sir. It’s important to him.”

“For me too,” Liam told him, his expression tender as he glanced at Austin. “Don’t think you’re just here to watch. You’re part of this too, love. It’s going to take a long time to do it safely, and Jay’s going to need your encouragement and support.” He withdrew from Jay, a slow, gradual slide out, and sat back on his heels. “Let’s get some towels on the bed and that plug in you, Austin.”

The practicalities allowed Jay to distance himself from what was to come, but he was glad when they were over and the room lights had been turned off, apart from a bedside lamp that cast a soft light over the bed. In position, with Austin holding him, Jay felt ready for whatever was to come. He was peaceful, his breathing deep and even, though he could feel the faint hint of excitement underneath that.

“We’ll start slowly,” Liam said. He’d washed his hands with hot water, so when he rested one on Jay’s thigh, it was still residually warm and felt soothing. “But if at any point it’s too much, too fast, you’re to say so at once. Are we clear on that? I know you can do this, but I don’t want to risk damaging you by not knowing when something’s crossed the line between pain and—well, between good pain and bad pain, I suppose. You know what I mean.”

Jay did. “Yes, Sir. We’re clear. I just… I really want this. I do.”

“I know. And you know that whatever you need, I’ll find a way to give it to you. It might not always be immediately, but in the long run.” Liam looked at him with a patient, steady gaze that would have taken away any lingering doubt Jay might have had.

He didn’t have any, though. They were going to do this, the three of them. Together.

“All right. Here we go.” Liam started with two fingers, which felt good enough that they had Jay moaning right away. Liam had big hands and thick, solid fingers. Two weren’t as wide as Liam’s cock, but then Liam’s cock couldn’t curve the way his fingers did. Liam knew exactly how to rub over Jay’s prostate, the perfect amount of pressure so Jay’s dick was like stone in only a few heartbeats. “You do like that, don’t you?” Liam didn’t touch Jay’s cock, but the way he looked at it, admiringly, made it feel like he had. “We all know you can take three without much trouble.”

The third finger was a stretch, though; Jay had to breathe slowly through his nostrils until his body adjusted, which didn’t take more than a minute or two. “Feels good,” he said. “God, so good.”

“Mm.” Liam’s eyes were shining, and he was as hard as Jay. He moved his fingers, fucking Jay with them, keeping them close together. “Four now.”

It wasn’t a question, but Jay knew if he chose to treat it as one and ask for more time, he’d get it. Instead he asked, “Sir? Can Austin kiss me?”

“Oh yes,” Liam said. “Whenever you like, Austin. Touch him, kiss him, talk to him.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Jay tilted his head back and let his lips touch Austin’s as Liam eased a fourth finger into what had to be a crowded space.

It burned, his hole stretched as it’d never been before, but Liam pulled out an inch or two and added more lube, which helped.

Jay closed his eyes, focusing on Liam’s hand and the sound of Austin breathing. He was acutely aware of them both, cradled, held by the two people he loved most. His arousal beat at him, but it was a distant drum, the sensations racing through him too overwhelming to leave room for desire.

“Sir…” Was that his voice, drowsy, languid?

“I’m right here. We both are.”

Time spun by, his body suspended between a vast pleasure and a vague, easily ignored discomfort.

Then Liam’s hand moved deeper still, and Jay caught his breath, feeling his body give way to that slow, inexorable push, knowing without looking that Liam’s hand was inside him to the wrist now, fingers that had been arrowed, straight, closing slowly into a fist.

His breath left him in a rush, his hands clutching Austin’s arm as his eyes opened. He needed to see Liam. Had to not be alone in this.

Liam wasn’t moving, not at all. Probably because he was waiting for Jay to do something, say something, but opening his eyes and remembering to breathe were pretty much the extent of Jay’s capabilities. He was overwhelmed, all of his insides feeling like they were pushed out of the way to make room for Liam’s fist, which still shouldn’t fit. It was so big—bigger than his cock by a mile. It made taking Liam’s cock and a dildo seem easy. It even felt bigger, or maybe just different, than having Liam’s cock and the dildo in him had.

He lost himself in staring at Liam’s face, gaze moving from Liam’s eyes to the thin set of his lips to the lines on his forehead.

“Jay,” Liam said softly. “Say something.”

He couldn’t. He knew his lungs were working, had to be, because he hadn’t passed out, which he definitely would have done by now without air. But all his air was needed for breathing—he couldn’t spare any for talking.

Liam’s arm muscles shifted, and Jay whimpered; okay, apparently he could make noise if it was involuntary. Liam froze again, and Jay managed with great effort to pant, “Don’t. Move.”

“I won’t,” Liam immediately assured him. “Not until you tell me to. But you have to tell me something.”

“It’s okay,” Austin crooned. Jay felt Austin’s lips pressed to his hair, his ear. “Everything’s fine. You’re okay. We’re both here. We’re right here with you.”

“Scary,” Jay gasped. God, it felt like a baseball bat inside him, not Liam’s hand and wrist. “Didn’t…know it would be.”

“You don’t have to be scared. Do you want Liam to stop?”

Jay didn’t see the look Austin gave Liam over his shoulder, but he saw Liam’s answering one. “No! No. Don’t.” At that point it was more because he was afraid what would happen if Liam moved.

“Do you want to know what it feels like for me?” Liam asked hesitantly.

It was a welcome distraction to remember he wasn’t the only one going through something new and staggeringly overwhelming. Jay wet his lips, suddenly thirsty, though the last thing he wanted was to swallow anything. “Tell me.”

Liam opened his mouth, gave a frustrated sigh, clearly searching for words, then tried again. “I can’t get past what I’m doing in some ways. My hand. In you. Jesus. I don’t want to hurt you, not like this, and I’m worried that I am, but there’s still something about it that’s one hell of a rush. I’m inside you, Jay. Part of you. Deep in you, where you’ve never been touched before. You’re so tight around me, like you don’t want to let me go.” His face twisted as if he were in pain. “When I pull out, I’m going to leave you empty, and I’m going to feel that I’ve lost something I can’t get back.”

“You won’t,” Austin said, an unexpected note of authority in his voice. “Either of you. Lost, empty, alone—we’re never going to feel that way. There are three of us. We’re always going to have someone close by, someone loving us. We’re the lucky ones.”

Liam’s wrist turned a little bit—not on purpose, Jay was sure, but one of his knuckles rubbed Jay’s prostate in a new and exciting way that made Jay’s mouth fall open in shock. “Oh God,” he said faintly. “I love you so much.”

Experimentally Liam turned his wrist again, deliberately this time, and Jay shuddered from head to toe. “We love you,” Liam said. “Both of us.”

“We do,” Austin echoed. “So much.” He slid his hands to the fronts of Jay’s shoulders, cupping them, holding him securely. “More, Sir. He needs more.”

Jay wouldn’t have asked; he was grateful Austin had done it for him. Liam rotated his fist, and the explosion of pleasure Jay felt was white-hot.

He came, the experience unlike any climax he’d had before, the interrupted, uneven spurts that left his stomach and chest patterned in white barely noticed by him. His body came, not just his cock, every muscle locking, every nerve on fire. He was consumed by the intensity, the endless running commentary of his thoughts closing down for a few moments, leaving him floating, adrift on a vast ocean of bliss shot through with a pain he welcomed because for him, no sexual pleasure was perfect without it.

“God,” Liam said, the single, awed word cutting through the seashell roar in Jay’s ears. “Jay. My Jay.”

Austin’s hands were warm against Jay’s chest, one over his heart, as if Austin needed to feel it beat. “Ours,” he said, correcting Liam. “We belong to each other. All of us.”

That was all that mattered, Jay knew. He was in a haze, surrounded and filled by the two people who made him whole. “Forever,” he said quietly. “Right? Forever?”

“Forever,” Austin agreed, and Liam somehow managed to lean in and kiss him.

“Forever.”

As far as Jay was concerned, it was the perfect length of time.

~ * ~ The End ~ * ~