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Double Time

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"And if anything happens, you phone Foster, alright? Don't try to handle it yourself."

"Come on, what's gonna happen? You're only going away for the weekend, d'you think the place is gonna get burgled the minute you go out of town? You got some nice stuff in there, Johnny, but it ain't the Ritz."

I'm about the cuff him round the back of the head for that line, when something even worse occurs to me. "And don't bring that redhead round while I'm away. You can fetch whoever else you like back here, but not that one, understand? He's the type that breaks things when he doesn't get his way, you mark my words."

"Alright, alright!" Tommy laughs, lifting my bag into the boot of the taxi. "Everything'll be in one piece when you get back, don't you worry. Honestly, it's like you don't even want to go on holiday!"

I'm still frowning at that even when I'm sitting in the back of the cab, watching Tommy waving me off as we drive away. A holiday, he says. Since when do I get taken on holiday? This is work, even if it's supposed to be a treat. Even if it's a big glitzy hotel we're going to. Even if there's a penthouse suite and a sea view and a pair of twin tough guys I'd love to get in the middle of. Everything's a job, and if I forget that for a minute I'm done for.



The old guy puts out his hand. "Wonderful to see you again, Jack."

"Hello, Ambrose," the boss says, shaking his hand and smiling broadly.

"And delightful to see your boys," Middleton carries on, nodding towards me and Joe. It must needle Joe to be lumped in with me like that, but he doesn't show it. He just stands there and smiles, and every so often his eyes flit away from Middleton's entourage, across the people milling around in the lobby, to the exits at each side of the room. I guess he's got bigger things on his mind.

"Likewise," the boss says, glancing at Vic and Ray. I think he means it, too. I reckon, if everything went kaput up here, he'd give the twins a job without hesitation. They're not on Joe's level, obviously, but they get the job done every time. The old man wouldn't poach them, he wouldn't jeopardise all of this just for a couple more top-notch tough guys, but if it happened that they were looking for work…

"You got the staffing sorted out the way I told you?" Joe says to Vic, which I guess is his way of saying hello.

"Yeah." Vic nods, and there's a few seconds of thick, heavy silence.

Ray puts his hand on his brother's shoulder and says "Of course we have, but better safe than sorry, eh? If you want to look over the plans again—"

"No." Joe says, which should be reassuring to the twins, but somehow Ray seems to take it like a slap in the face. You don't often see him anything other than smiling and relaxed, but tonight he actually seems nervous.

"Well then," Middleton says, gesturing to the big doors across from us. "Let's go through and leave the boys to it, shall we?"

The boss nods and follows Middleton, without bothering to give me or Joe an order. I've had the itinerary for this weekend drilled into me over and over, so when Joe follows along behind the two of them and takes up a position outside those big doors, I've got his instructions echoing in my head, about as forgettable as the bruises he left on my ribs. The first night, you do what you want, but be back in the hotel by morning, in one piece, ready for Saturday. Technically speaking, I'm off the leash. I could wander around this place all night, maybe go down by the seafront and see what I can pick up on the pier, or go and have a look round the amusements. I could go to one of Middleton's clubs and see a revue, maybe chat up a cigarette boy and get myself covered in glitter and cheap perfume. I could do a lot of things, but I end up following Vic and Ray into the hotel bar. I'm off the leash, but I'm still basically just a dog, trotting around after anyone who looks like he might be in charge.

"What are you having?" Ray says, patting the barstool next to him. He's got me sandwiched in-between him and Vic, and he's got this smile on his face like there's a joke neither of us are in on.

"One of those rum things with all the fruit in it…" I trail off, trying to remember the name of what Miller got me last time he was making me try funny drinks. "Daiquiri, that's it."

Ray laughs, and orders that plus a couple of glasses of water. When I raise an eyebrow, he laughs again and says "On duty," like it really is just a joke.

"Of course he can have a drink," Vic mutters, getting a packet of cigarettes out of his jacket. "It's not like he's here to do any work, is it?"

When he takes out a cigarette, I lean forward with my lighter, but he scowls and waves me away. He just won't have it all, it looks like. I could get down on my knees and beg him to be alright with me, and he'd probably just kick me in the face.

"Come on, Vic, there's no need to be like that." Ray says, and I get the feeling they've been through this routine a thousand times before.

"Yeah, well, I don't see why this squirt's even here in the first place."

"He's here because Mr Middleton invited him." Ray shrugs and takes a sip of his drink. "What other reason d'you need?"

"He's here because you pestered Mr Middleton into inviting him, you mean."

"All I said was that the kid did a good job helping us out, and it'd be nice to reward him. As it happens, Mr Middleton agreed."  He pauses there to give me a brief little smile. "But if you want to argue with his decision, you're more than welcome to go and tell him you don't approve of the guest list."

Vic doesn't say anything. He just stares at his glass and scowls, and all of a sudden I can see a shadow of a sullen teenager in him. He won't go and argue with his boss, oh no. He'll be sore at me, he'll whinge about it to Ray, but he won't go against his old man. I know his type. If I didn't have such a big mouth, I reckon I could've easily ended up that way myself.

"And besides," Ray says, flashing me a quick grin, "he's only here for a weekend, surely you can tolerate him for a couple of days?"

And Vic looks right at me, with those brown eyes harder and sourer than ever, and he puts his glass down hard enough the whole bar practically jumps. Oh yeah, he can tolerate me, sure. He'd probably tolerate me right into hospital if he got the chance.

"Exactly," I say, giving Vic a nice leering smile. "A big tough guy like you can put up with a little squirt like me for a few days, no problem, right?"

He scowls at me, but he still doesn't reply. He keeps his hands on the bar, but now they're curled up into fists. He looks like he's an inch away from snapping.

"Besides, Vic, you don't want to spoil Mr Middleton's night, do you?" I keep on smiling at him, and I put my hand on his arm. "Be a good boy and play nice, eh?"

He stands up, pushing his stool back hard so it makes an awful screech, and he glowers down at me like he's just figuring out which limb to tear off me first. And then his eyes soften, and his hands relax, and he looks at me with a weird kind of smile on his lips. That's the most unnerving thing of all. I know that type of smile. That's the smile that means sure, enjoy yourself, but you're going to pay for that later. And he's right, you know. I'll pay for it. I always do.



"Such a shame young Christopher couldn't join us." Mr Middleton says, and he gives the boss a nice friendly smile, but there's a frosty edge to it. "Seems a pity for a lad in his prime to be cloistered away while a pair of old coots like us are out enjoying ourselves, doesn't it?"

I have to take a sip of my drink to keep from laughing. He was hoping to get a piece of Miller tonight, I'll bet. Even though the whole reason he can afford to throw big lavish dinners in the first place is because of the alliance between them and us, Middleton's still enough of a lecherous old goat to be annoyed that he didn't get his hands on the really high-quality goods. Just like the boss would snap up Vic and Ray if he had the chance, there'd be a place in Middleton's empire for Miller if he ever wanted it. Everyone wants a piece of Miller, and he's not even on the books.

"Well, it's always difficult to tear that boy away from his work." The boss meets Middleton's smile with a perfectly pleasant one of his own. "To tell you the truth, I think he enjoys being left to hold down the fort."

"Yes, it's probably best that he gets some practice now," Middleton says, nodding. "As things progress, naturally, he and my boys will—" and he breaks off there, smiling at the boss like he's just caught himself rambling. "But we won't talk shop tonight, of course."

"Of course," the boss says, as if the pair of them aren't going to be thinking about takeovers and expansions and reshuffles all night, even while they're up to their eyeballs in boys. "For tonight, at least, let's forget about all that."

"Shall we go through to the lounge, then?" Middleton puts his glass down and stands up, and the twins get to their feet right away. Me and Joe stay sitting down, though, while the boss finishes his drink. I don’t think the old man would really throw his weight around here, not when things are going so well between Middleton's group and ours, but it doesn't hurt to make it clear how the power's shared out. So I wait until Joe stands up, which he only does when the boss starts to move, and once we're all out of our chairs successfully with no-one's rank being disrespected, Middleton gestures at the big double-doors opposite us and says "Follow me, gentlemen."

We start heading out of the dining room, but I've barely taken a couple of steps before Ray catches hold of my arm and pulls me back.

"Listen, you've been wanting a piece of Vic for ages, haven't you?" he says, keeping his voice low.

I shrug, and try to play it cool. "Sure, I wouldn't mind a turn with him."

"Well, tonight's the best chance you're going to get."

"What?" I raise an eyebrow. "He hates me, doesn't he?"

"Absolutely." Ray laughs. "Which is exactly what he needs tonight."

"I don't get it."

"That boy of his walked out on him again yesterday. The last thing Vic wants right now is someone he actually likes."

I laugh, and Ray smiles at me, and then I stop laughing, because I reckon he's actually serious.

"Bait him a bit," Ray carries on, putting an arm around my shoulder. "Get in his way, keep needling him, and if you play your cards right he'll drag you off into a side-room and take some of that stress out on you."

I look at Ray, watching his expression, trying to figure out if he's having me on. But it's no use, I can't read his face at all, so I shrug and say "Alright, but why're you playing matchmaker all of a sudden?"

"He's my brother," Ray says, suddenly serious. "I want him to be happy, don't I?"

"'Course," I nod, smiling like I understand. "'Course you do."

And that's that. We follow the rest of the group through into the lounge, only 'lounge' must have been Mr Middleton's idea of a joke. The room's huge, twice the size of my living room at home, dripping with velvet and big glittery chandeliers, and best of all, there are boys everywhere. There must be a dozen of them in here, at least, and there's a good range of types, too. There's a few that look about my age, maybe a bit older, with handsome faces and knowing eyes and beautifully-cut suits that give you just a hint of the muscle underneath them. A handful of rougher-looking boys are sitting on the sofa, smoking, shirtsleeves rolled up and hair slicked back, with something between a scowl and a smirk on their faces. Then at the side of the room, there's a cluster of much younger boys, probably barely out of their teens, slim and bright-eyed and smiling eagerly, like a school of little sharks who've just spotted their lunch.

"Sit down, please," Mr Middleton says, and he waits until the boss and Joe are settled in a couple of leather armchairs, before he sits down in the middle of one of the big sofas at the other side of the room. Vic and Ray sit down either side of him, and that's my cue, now that all the grownups have got seats, to pick out one of the little sofas that isn't already taken and perch myself on the edge of it. I shouldn't be here, I know that, I don't need Vic to tell me that. I know every time I come to one of these things with the boss that I don't really belong here. I'm not a real guest, and I'm not part of the entertainment, so what exactly am I? I'm like one of those dogs that gets to sit by the table in a fancy restaurant, just because my owner's got enough pull to ignore the 'no pets allowed' sign outside.

Well alright, maybe I'm a dog who's got in where he doesn't belong, but I'm not going to let that stop me enjoying this. The boss usually lets me have a bit of fun at these things before he calls me over and puts me to work, so the start of these parties is a bit of a game for me. What combination of itches can I get scratched before the old man clicks his fingers and I have to come running? With the spread Mr Middleton's put on tonight, I don't know where to start. I go over to the drinks cabinet and fix myself a drink, and when the tough boy leaning against the wall nearby starts eyeballing me, I add him to my list of possibilities, but I don't jump right in. The thing with this game is that if you throw yourself at the first opportunity you get, you always end up frustrated. It's like buying a car. You've got to look at two or three options before you make your choice. So I go back over to the sofa with my drink, and I take another look around the room, long and hard, and that's when I spot him.

In the corner, sitting in a fancy armchair that might as well be a throne, there's a guy who doesn't look like one of the renters and who definitely doesn't look like one of the guests. He looks so different to any of us, I don't know what to make of him. He's in his early thirties, I reckon, maybe older. Tall and thin, with hair dyed a bright, brassy reddish-gold, and a soft wave in the side of it that makes him look like a film star from twenty years ago. He's dressed all in black, almost like a stagehand, except his shirt and tie are shot through with gold thread that sparkles a bit when he moves. Everything about him looks so easy and relaxed, I can't take my eyes off him. The long legs, crossed at the knee. The long fingers with glossy manicured nails, holding a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other, lightly and carelessly, like he's barely aware of either of them. The arched eyebrows, the sharp cheekbones, the smile that makes him look genial and remote at the same time, the light-brown eyes that look just slightly amused, sweeping across the room like he's just watching us all from a distance, flitting from face to face until they land on mine—

"Can I sit next to you?" a shy little voice says, and I look around, flustered and stupidly grateful. It's one of the little sharks, a blond boy with wide blue eyes and blushing cheeks and rosy lips that look that they've just been bitten.

"Sure," I say, patting the sofa. "What's your name?"

He tells me a name that's just as flimsy and delicate as he is, and he goes on to tell me how old he is—subtracting a few years just to keep things spicy, I reckon—and how he's from a backwards little village about fifty miles from here, and he'd never seen a big city until he decided to run away from home, and how everything up here's so big and loud and colourful, he hardly knows what to make of it all. That's the moment when I realise I really am getting old, partly because this kid thinks the innocent-led-astray act is going to work on me, and partly because, to be honest, it sort of does. When he goes off to get me another drink, I find myself watching his ass swaying as he walks, imagining how he's going to yelp and cry out when I fuck him, how he's going to be weak with nerves and shaking with excitement. I actually find myself thinking like some gullible chump who's bought the kid's backstory hook, line and sinker. It's embarrassing. But by the time he comes back, I've pulled myself together and cleared my head. I take the glass off him, pat my lap and say "How about we forget all the chatter, and get right to the point?"

The boy looks at me with a funny mixture of relief and annoyance, and for a minute I think I might have upset him too much, but then he sits himself down in my lap without another word. All of that wide-eyed nervousness is gone now, and what shines through from underneath it is much more my style. He winds his arms around my neck, and when I grab a handful of his hair and pull him down into a kiss, the noise he makes is about as far away from innocent as you could get. Now he's just another professional, working me out and solving me like one of Miller's boys would figure out a tricky paperwork problem. I'm not a complicated puzzle to solve, though, not by a long stretch. I move my hand down to grip the curve of his ass, and he slips a hand down between us to rub me through my trousers, and now it seems like we understand each other perfectly.

"The rest of them are getting into the swing of things," the boy says, unbuttoning my fly more gracefully one-handed than I can manage with two. "Why don't we join in?"

He's right, too. Everyone except Vic and Joe seems to have boys all over them now. The boss's got two of those older guys next to him, putting on a little show, tugging each other's suits off and grabbing at each other like they've been celibate for weeks. Mr Middleton's got one of the little sharks on his lap, just like I have, except his is still playing innocent, looking away and blushing as the old guy feels him up. And Ray, he's got one of the tough guys up against the wall, in one of the spots that isn't taken up by a big painting or a fancy mirror or a glitzy lamp. The guy looks like just another ornament mounted on the wall, only his selling points are tattoos and scars instead of velvet and gold. Ray's got one hand on his throat and one on his ass, and the tough guy's grinding up against his leg and making these desperate, hungry little noises that would've worn my self-control away in about two minutes flat. That kind of desperation, it'll do you in at a party like this. You've got to pace yourself.

"Not yet," I say, catching hold of the blond boy's wrist. "No need to rush things."

A big charcoal-pinstripe shadow moves by us, and when I look up I catch sight of Joe weaving his way between the furniture and the boys spread out all over it. He looks like a security guard doing a sweep of a department store, and one I wouldn't mind getting nabbed by, either. He must be able to read minds, because he looks up and meets my eyes, giving me the kind of hard stare I can't misunderstand. Mind on the job, that stare means. Well, yeah, but what job? Joe scowls at me and glances across to where the boss is sitting, and when he looks back at me, there's no way I can miss that message either. The old man might not have called me over yet, but I guess I should be sticking a bit nearer to him, after all. I mean, a dog's got to stay close to his master, right? So I give the boy on my lap a friendly smile and tell him I'll come and find him later, and once he's out of my way, I move over to a chair closer to the old man, close enough I can see exactly how he's enjoying the entertainment.

Boys are clustered around the boss now, like a little swarm of flies, all trying to catch his eye one way or another. Some of them are perched on the nearby seats, just looking at him attentively, listening to the small-talk he's making with Middleton. One leans forward to light his cigarette, and then another goes off to top up his drink, bowing a little bit as he takes the glass from the old man's hand, like he's decided to really play the waiter role to the hilt. A few of the tough boys aren't trying to get his attention directly, but they've positioned themselves just right for him to get a good view of what they're doing, and what they're doing right now is each other, loudly and vigorously. On a normal night, I'd go over there and throw myself in the middle of them, since if the old man's going to get a piece of those punks, I wouldn't mind being caught in the crossfire. But tonight, as much as I'm enjoying watching the show, as much as I want to be a good dog and stick close to the boss, my eyes keep wandering over to the guy with the reddish-gold hair. My mind keeps coming back to the same questions. Who is he, what's he doing here, why's he just sitting there keeping his hands off? The curiosity's been buzzing around in the back of my head for what feels like hours now, and I can't stand it anymore. I've got to go over there and talk to him.

"Fancy some company?" I say, leaning against the mantelpiece next to him.

"Absolutely, darling," he says with a smile. "But I'm afraid I'm not on the menu, if that’s what you're after."

"Didn't think you were!" I laugh, but my voice sounds nervous and fragile, not half as casual as I was planning it. I sit down on the footstool next to his chair, and try to give him my best easy smile. "I'm Johnny, by the way."

"I know who you are, sweetheart," he laughs, looking at me like I'm a bit slow on the uptake. "I read your file before the job you did for us in January, and trust me, I never forget a face or a name."

Us? So he's one of Middleton's guys, alright, but he's not one of Vic and Ray's underlings, and he's not a back-office type. So I don't get it. I'm stumped. And I must look it, too, because he gives me another one of those cut-glass laughs and an indulgent smile to go with it.

"I'm Patrick," he says, putting his hand on my arm for a moment. "The entertainment manager, shall we say."

"You handle the renters?"

"I certainly do, darling," he laughs again, and takes a drag on his cigarette. "And they take a great deal of handling, let me tell you!"

Seems obvious now, but I've never met anyone whose whole job was wrangling boys. I'd never even thought about it. I mean, our boys all get vetted by Joe or one of his lackeys, and the special ones get auditioned by the boss, but we haven't got anyone who actually takes care of them fulltime. Maybe we should. Maybe we look like amateurs, compared to Middleton's outfit. I need to ask Miller about all this, when we get home.

"You read my file, then? Lots of lurid stories in there, I'll bet." I turn up the heat a bit on the smile I'm giving him, and I let my eyes wander over his face and hands. I wonder what those manicured nails would feel like on my throat. I wonder if he takes those glittery rings off before he smacks you around, or if he leaves them on so you end up covered in scratches and gashes wherever the diamante catches you. I wonder if he'd keep smoking and drinking so easily and carelessly, if I was on my knees in front of him.

"Mm, quite," he says, but he's not paying attention to me anymore. He's looking at the boys on the other side of the room, and whatever it is he's seen, he's not happy about it. He gets to his feet quickly and smoothly, with the kind of quiet grace I couldn't manage on a good day, and he barely even looks at me as he says "Now, if you'll excuse me, darling, I'm needed elsewhere."

And then he's off, slipping through the crowd like a ghost. I watch him make his way over to the boys on the sofa near Mr Middleton, and I watch him bending over to talk quietly in one of the boys' ears, and the whole time he seems as serene and untouchable as a painted saint. The boy stops what he's doing and follows Patrick over to the nearest door, making an exit quiet enough that I'd never have noticed if I didn't have my mind stuck on manicured nails and arched brows and bright, brassy hair. A few seconds later, a couple of new boys come in through the same door, looking pristine and bright-eyed and raring to go. I wonder if Patrick's got this all planned out in advance, or if he has to make it up as he goes along. I wonder if any of this is rehearsed. I wonder how he deals with it if one of the boys messes up, if he even lets it get that far. I wouldn't be surprised if he could slip in and head it off at the pass before any mistakes got made at all.

The new boys head straight for Ray, who's moved down from the sofa onto the floor in front of Middleton's feet. He's taken his jacket off, so he's just in his waistcoat and rolled-up shirtsleeves, and he's got one of the dark-haired little sharks in front of him, stripped naked and on all fours. He's dishing out the kind of seeing-to you'd think would break a fragile-looking little confection like that, but the boy's withstanding the lot with a smile on his face, begging for more and goading Ray to go harder on him. And he's not the only one.

"That's right, Raymond, don't hold back. You've almost got him." Middleton says, with his eyes fixed on the two of them, like they're a pair of racehorses coming up to the finish line. He looks like the kind of businessman who comes to the races when he feels like slumming it, the kind that you're lucky to get more than a few pounds off even if they win a hundred. The pristine navy-blue suit, the spotted tie and handkerchief, the perfectly-coiffed grey hair, all of it screams money and control. But the way he gives Ray his orders, there's something extra in there. He's the twins' boss, alright, but the way he talks to them, sometimes he sounds like one of those teachers at school that really takes it all to heart, even with the hopeless cases. Sometimes he sounds like parents do in films, proud and warm and a bit soft somehow, even as he's issuing commands. It scares me, because I can imagine Middleton talking in that same warm voice while he was ordering Vic and Ray to throw your body off the pier.

"Good boy, Raymond, that's right," he says, as the boy underneath Ray starts to come. "How many is that you've finished off, now?"

I'd have been rolling my eyes at that, since the old guy's obviously keeping count himself, but Ray answers "Five, sir," with no attitude at all. His face is lit up with a big, broad smile, like there's nothing else in the world for him right now except Middleton's praise. Then the dark-haired boy slips out from underneath him, and one of the new additions, a tall blond kid, strips off and takes his place. Ray doesn’t mess around, he gets right back down to business. The new boy barely gets a warm-up at all, just a couple of fingers pushed into him, just a few strokes, and then he takes the whole of Ray's cock in one long shove, barely even flinching. These boys, they must be hand-picked and drilled within an inch of their lives. They must be trained like soldiers. I look at them, and I feel like every bit of entertainment we've ever put on back home was just amateur dramatics.

"You could exhaust every boy in the room, couldn't you, Raymond?"

"Probably, sir," Ray says, and then he glances across at me and throws me a long, hot smile. "Only one way to find out."

What kind of a guy gets hot and bothered thinking about being one more number in Ray's list of jobs well done? The kind that'd stand there daydreaming about it and grinning like a fool, even while he could half-hear his own boss calling his name.

"Johnny." The old man says it again, and this time his tone's got a bucket of cold water in it. "Come here."

I do as I'm told, and when I'm standing in front of him I look down at the floor and say "Sorry, boss," as earnestly as I can. It's difficult, though, on account of I'm being distracted by the two boys he's got naked and kneeling in front of him. They're both brawny and olive-skinned, with glossy black hair, only one's got it cropped almost military short, and the other's wearing it long enough that strands fall across his forehead every time he leans forward to lick at the old man's cock. They look like they'd happily fight each other for a taste of the boss's money, and to be honest I'm surprised he hasn't got them arm-wrestling over the coffee table. Having a pair of renters taking turns sucking your cock, well, that counts as a laidback evening for my old man.

"That's enough," the boss says, yanking both boys up by the hair. "Now I want to see you give him the same treatment."

It takes me a minute to realise that 'him' means me, and once the penny's dropped, I can't help grinning. Yeah, I'm a dog that got in where he doesn't belong, but that just means the table-scraps I get thrown taste even sweeter.

"Come on, then," I say, beckoning the pair of them. The boys turn around so they're kneeling in front of me, and now I've got them up close I can see how similar they really are. They've got the same sharp, dark eyes, and the same full lips, reddish and slightly swollen from the attention they've been giving the old man. They might even be twins, but my money's on this being just a clever bit of recruitment with some good styling on top. I reckon Patrick could take a couple of random renters and make you believe they're brothers who just happen to be in the same business, no problem at all.

The similarity stops at their looks, anyway. The one with the short hair pushes in front of his friend and gets to work unfastening my fly, as if the other boy isn't even there. He wraps one hand around my cock and starts to work it slowly, and after a few strokes he leans forward and starts to lick at the head of it, staring up at me with big brown eyes the whole time. He's cute, and his technique's good, but what I'm really interested in is the look on his friend's face. The boy with the long hair looks sour and petulant, like he wants to shove the short-haired boy out the way and take over himself. You get these little rivalries between boys sometimes, and not just the ones that work with their bodies, either. I've seen back-office boys and hard boys be just as catty, if they feel like their position's being threatened. But they don't usually show it in public, not in front of the guests.

"Here," the long-haired boy says softly, sliding one arm around his friend's shoulder as he pushes him aside. "Let me show you."

They share a little venomous glance, and then both of them look up at me, and as the long-haired boy slides his lips down along the length of my cock, that's when I realise what the deal must be. Of course they're not really bickering. These are Patrick's boys. They're putting on a show, spicing things up with a bit of put-on jealousy to make the guests feel extra-special. I wouldn’t be surprised if Patrick's got it all written down somewhere, who likes a bit of cattiness and who likes it no-nonsense, who just wants their boys to squabble and who wants them to draw blood. I'll bet he's got it all figured out.

"Back off," the short-haired boy mutters under his breath, elbowing his friend out the way. Then he looks up at me with a smirk on his face, and rolls his eyes as if to say, who does this prima donna think he is, eh? Oh yeah, Patrick's boys have got me all figured out, alright. No doubt about that.

The boy with the short hair goes at it like he's dying of thirst now, pushing himself right down every time until his face is buried in my lap, taking my cock as deep as he can, throwing himself onto it as if his throat might as well be a wet fist or a well-fucked ass, sturdy and capable of taking anything I can throw at him. The way he goes for it, it sets me off thinking about all the guys who've fucked my throat that brutally, wondering if this boy could've taken all that just as well, picturing his lips stretched wide around each of those old guys' cocks, imagining his face flushed dark with effort and his eyes watering as he kept himself just short of choking. I think of all that, and it goes right to my head, and I have to pull back suddenly to stop myself falling headlong over the edge.

"You," I say to the long-haired boy, trying to play it cool, "Let's see if you can take it as well as your friend, eh?"

He plays up to the prima donna image perfectly, giving me an arch little smile and holding my gaze steadily as he does exactly that. Even when his throat's full of my cock, even when my hands are locked around the back of his head, holding him in place, even when I thrust forward to grind his face down against me, he keeps staring up at me with that same haughty look in his eyes. It's perfect. Patrick couldn't have picked a better boy to light my touchpaper if I'd sent him my preferences in writing.

"You're not bad," I say, grabbing hold of the boy's hair and holding him still. "But you need practice."

The boy makes a muffled snort of indignation as I start to fuck his mouth, and his short-haired friend throws me a poisonously happy little grin, like he's just watched his worst enemy get knifed. Their play-acting is pitch-perfect, and it works wonders on me. I keep on fucking the long-haired boy's throat, but I have to keep slowing down, telling myself to cool it, to pace myself, to remember that I'm as much of a performer as they are.

"Let them have it," the boss orders, finally, and that's all it takes to set me off. I pull back, working my hand over my cock as ruthlessly as the old man would, and the boys get into position, looking up at me with hungry eyes and open mouths. As I start to come they stretch those wet pink tongues out so greedily it takes all my willpower not to just grab one of them and force my cock back down his throat. Not that they'd give me the chance. For all their bickering, the boys are all over each other the minute I'm done, kissing and groping and licking the come from each other's skin. It's the kind of sight your eyes get stuck on, but it's not where my eyes linger. My eyes go straight back up to the boss's face, to the faint curl at the corners of his mouth, the sliver of approval in his eyes. I might be salaried these days, but sometimes it feels like these moments are when I really get paid.

"What're you standing there for?" Joe says, suddenly behind me. "Get cleaned up and get the boss a fresh drink." And he gives me a shove in the back, just to make sure I didn't have any fancy ideas about catching my breath.

I do as I'm told, and as I make my way out of the lounge I start thinking about what the old man's going to do with me next. Am I going to be on waiter duty for the rest of the night? Or is he going to give me a breather and then put me back to work? Maybe he's going to lend me to Middleton, which I guess means lending me to Ray. The thought of that gives me a little shiver, and then my mind wanders onto the idea of Vic and Ray together, which if I'm honest it gets caught on about twenty times a day whenever I'm around them, and I'm still picturing all that in my head as I head back into the lounge to get the boss's drink. On the way to the drinks cabinet, I pass by the sofa Vic's sitting on, and one look at his face bursts that bubble. He's never going to go halves with his brother on anyone, let alone me, not while he's in that mood. But then I remember what Ray was saying about how I should throw myself in Vic's way, get him to vent some stress on me, like a kind of therapeutic punching-bag. I think about that as I'm mixing the boss's drink, and maybe it's just the amount I've had myself tonight, but it's starting to sound like a half-decent idea. Maybe after the old man's done with me tonight, I should try and track Vic down, see if I can take his mind off things.

"What're you looking at?" Vic barks at me, loud enough the boys on the table next to him look up in fright.

"Just taking in the scenery," I say, grinning, and then I give him a friendly little wave and head back to the boss. Maybe the old man won't be finished with me for hours, but it doesn't hurt to keep Vic on a steady rolling boil until I'm free.

By the time I get back to where the boss and Joe are standing, the old man's looking over the handful of boys who aren't already going at it. He's taking his time about it, too, running those cold eyes over each cluster of renters as if he's just idly browsing a bookshelf at home. He takes the drink out of my hand without even glancing at me. And why would he look at me? I'm nothing special, he can have me whenever he wants.

"Those two," the boss says finally, pointing at a couple of the older guys who haven't stripped off yet. They're both tall and broad-shouldered, with neat, glossy hair and expensive-looking suits. The blond one's wearing white, and he looks like he should be sitting under a palm tree somewhere, drinking something fancy with an umbrella in it. The other one's got dark reddish-brown hair and a shimmery grey suit, which makes him look practically sombre compared to his friend. But their faces—that's what really floors you. They've got the kind of good looks that would've got them called pretty when they were teenagers, but now, now they're the real deal. They look like they should be on the cover of a film magazine.

"Alright, you two, get over here," Joe barks, like he's talking to a couple of warehouse boys. "And don't hang about."

The guy with the white suit does as he's told right away, sauntering across with a hot little smile on his lips that's almost a smirk, but the guy in grey rolls his eyes and says "Alright, keep your shirt on," under his breath just as he's walking by Joe, perfectly timed to throw oil on the fire.

"Yeah, run that mouth while you can," Joe says, grabbing hold of the guy's arm. "You're not gonna be able to string a sentence together, by the time the boss is done with you."

The guy in grey scowls and says "We'll see," but the boss is already walking away, heading out the side-door that leads to the private rooms. Joe drags his new friend along behind the boss, steering him along with one hand on his collar and one on his wrist, and the guy in the white suit follows the three of them, still smiling that playful little smile, like the whole thing's one big saucy joke. I follow along behind them too, and I'm just trying to figure out how I think the guy in white's going to fit into all this, when the boss stops and turns around.

"Stay here, Johnny." He points at the middle of the room, like he's telling a dog to sit. "You're off the clock."

I nod and say "Yes, sir," but I have to bite my lip to stop myself scoffing. Even when the old man's disappeared out the side-door, with Joe and the renters following along behind, I'm still shaking my head inside. That must be the boss's idea of a joke. When am I ever off the clock?



I wake up cursing the seagulls outside, but their screeching's just a peg to hang this on. Used to be I could pass out anywhere and sleep like a log, but now I'm lucky if I get three or four hours when I'm away from home. Sometimes, when I wake up on my own in a strange bed, I panic and I think I'm back there. Just for a few seconds. I haven't mentioned it to Miller, it's such a stupid, embarrassing thing. He'd just tell me to go and talk to that quack again, and I'm not going back there, not unless the old man makes it a serious order. So I just try to make sure I'm soaked enough by the time I go to bed that I don't worry about it. Maybe I should start bringing Tommy with me as a bed-warmer when I'm on trips like this, so he's with me when I wake up, so I can't forget that all the business up north is over and done with. But then again, getting woken up by Tommy's yapping wouldn't be much better than having a bunch of screeching seagulls as an alarm-clock, so maybe I'm better off as I am.

When I catch sight of the time, it makes me wince. It was well past four when I got back to my room, so I guess I didn't even manage three hours' sleep. And I've got to play the attentive junior underling tonight at Middleton's 'informal drinks' thing, which would've been a challenge even well-rested and sober, but feeling like this it's going to be torture. I can't try to skip it, not unless I want Joe dragging me back into the hotel bar by the ankles, and if I say I'm not well, that's just going to make the boss ask questions, so I've got to just keep going and get through it. Miller says sea air does you good, and right now I'm willing to grab onto anything that might take the edge off, so I force myself to put a fresh suit on and head out for a walk.

It's always funny seeing a flashy hotel in the morning light. Everything that seemed glittery and warm last night looks brittle and cold this morning. There are cleaners all over the place, and as I pass by, the odd one here and there gives me a slightly disgusted look, like I'm just another stain on the carpet they're going to have to clean up. I recognise that look. It's the look I used to give the really rich guests at hotels like this, when I was on my way out in the morning. Well, okay, maybe I am just another clueless guest these days. Maybe I've been around the boss and Miller so long some of their standing's rubbed off on me. But I'm still me, and I still know my place, so when I catch sight of a boy slipping quietly out of one of the rooms down the corridor, I get a sudden warm flush of recognition. I don't know this kid, sure, but it's the sort of silent exit I've made a hundred times myself, closing the door as quietly as I could on a guy I was more than ready to be done with, the kind who couldn't have lured me back even if he'd doubled the money. As I pass him, I give the boy a nod and a friendly smile.

"I'm off duty," he says, flat and hard. "You want anything extra, you'll have to talk to Patrick."

I make my way out of the hotel and down to the pier, and to be honest I'm thankful it's mostly deserted. There's a handful of pensioners walking dogs on the beach, but apart from that it's just me and the seagulls. Me, the seagulls, and the two guys that keep circling around in my head. I don't know which one I've got less of a chance with. Vic hates me, and no matter how much I baited him last night, he wouldn't lay a finger on me. But at least he actually reacts when I talk. I've got a little room at the back of his mind, and even if it's only got 'that stupid squirt that Ray keeps winding me up with' on the nameplate, at least it's there. But that Patrick, he probably didn't give me a second thought after he brushed me off. He remembers my face and my name, but I'm just another headshot in the catalogue, aren't I? He probably never touches the merchandise, either. I'll bet he's got all kinds of rules. Maybe I'd have to be off the books altogether, before he'd lay a hand on me. Maybe not even then. I could kick myself. What's the point of getting hung up on someone who won’t touch you? I know better than that.

So Vic's the least worst option, but even there I feel like I'm losing my touch. It's now or never, Ray said to me, when he was having a breather in-between boys last night. Keep at him, or you'll miss your chance. So I kept at him, sat next to him on the sofa and chattered at him non-stop, followed him around and distracted him, needled him over and over about how he must be getting soft if a little squirt like me can wind him up, and no matter how many times Vic snapped at me, scowled at me, told me to shove off, every single time he stopped short of putting his hands on me. It was like I had a big sign round my neck saying 'Do Not Touch'. It reminded me of being up north, and that just made the knockbacks sting even worse.

I don't know who Ray thinks he's kidding. Vic's not going to touch me, not in a million years.



"When I came to this town twenty years ago, I never dreamt that I would eventually meet with such good fortune." Middleton says, giving the boss a big warm smile. "To hold everything between here and the border, to have the reins of all that in our hands—who would have thought it, eh, Jack?"

The boss nods, and gives a quiet little chuckle. "You never can tell how things will turn out."

I finish my drink in one, to muffle the laughter that's welling up in my chest. The boss has had designs on this place for years, according to Miller, and from what Ray's said about his old man, Middleton's just as keen on long-range planning as the boss is. Twenty years ago, they were probably already drawing up the maps for the moves they're making today. They'll have been thinking about the thirtieth domino in the line, while the small-fry all around them were still gearing up to push the first one over.

"Indeed you can't," Middleton says, quieter now, almost wistful. "And we should remember that."

The boss laughs. "You sound like you're about to caution me against resting on my laurels, Ambrose."

"Oh no, far from it," Middleton says, holding up one hand. "I was just thinking about those who held the reins before us. Those who sat where we're sitting now, who ate well and toasted each other just as we're doing—and whose reign simply didn't last. Where are they now, eh?"

The boss nods, and Joe gives this rough, nasty laugh that sends cold fingers all up and down my spine, and then there's another laugh, just as horrible, only it's one I don't recognise. I turn my head just in time to see Vic smiling. Actually smiling, and it's awful. Those cold fingers grab onto my spine and squeeze. Then his expression freezes over again suddenly, like he's been slapped in the face, and when I turn back around, Joe's glaring at Vic hard enough it makes me wince.

"We've seen so many changes over the years," the boss says, and that sets Middleton off on another one of his nostalgic monologues, but I don't hear a word of it. All I've got in my head is the idea of Joe and Vic going at it—no, Joe and Vic and Ray going at it, let's not do things by halves—and the idea of throwing myself right in the middle of them. Joe could handle the twins, he could take on both of them at once and still come out on top, but they wouldn't make it easy for him, oh no. He'd need to pull out all the stops to keep those two in line. If I got in the way of that, if I cut in while Joe was giving the twins a pasting, the crossfire alone would knock me into next week, let alone the beating I'd get for sticking my nose in where it didn't belong. I don't know who'd be the most sore about it, him or the twins. Between the three of them, I wouldn't be walking straight for weeks.

"Well, then," Middleton says, cutting right through my train of thought, and he gives a little sigh of exertion as he stands up. "It's getting rather late, and I'm not as young as I used to be…"

"I was just thinking the same myself," the boss says, getting up too, but not making much of an effort to be convincing about it.

"No, no," the old guy says, shaking his head. "Do stay and enjoy yourself, I insist."

"Well, if you're sure," the boss says, sitting down again before Middleton can reply.

"I'm afraid I need to steal Victor away," Middleton carries on, putting a hand on Vic's shoulder, "but Raymond will stay behind to make sure you have an enjoyable evening."

From the look on their faces, this is the first the twins have heard of that, but Vic gets to his feet without hesitation, and it only takes Ray a couple of seconds to slip on his affable-host face.

"Goodnight, gentlemen," the old guy says, putting a guiding hand on the small of Vic's back as they turn to go. "Take good care of them, Raymond."

And off they go together, with Middleton steering Vic like a teacher shepherding a wayward schoolboy, and any hope I had of keeping my mind on the job goes right along with them. See, now this is why it's a good job I'm on the boss's payroll and not Middleton's. You know where you stand with the boss, you know exactly what he means when he gives you an order, and if he wants a piece of you he just says so straight out. But Middleton, the way he talks, everything he says sounds like an innuendo, every throwaway phrase sets me off thinking about all the things he might mean, and I end up daydreaming half the night away.

Like right now, for instance, I should be paying attention to the conversation Ray's been having with Joe for the last twenty minutes about their next trip down south to see Desmond. I should be listening out for anything I might be asked to tag along for, anything I might get roped into, anything I might be able to help with. Instead I'm wondering whether Middleton's taken Vic off into one of the private rooms to get some action. I'm wondering whether Vic's temper gets any sweeter when it's just him and his old man. I'm wondering what the old guy meant by telling Ray to take care of us. Maybe he was offering Ray up to the boss and Joe, just a little extra, something special to make weekend really memorable. Maybe he meant for me and Ray to go at it again, only this time with an audience. Maybe it's going to be just Ray and the boss on their own, and I'm going to have to keep Joe company while he stands guard outside. Maybe—

"Mr Castro," a little voice interrupts me quietly. I turn around and give the bellboy a scowl he really doesn't deserve, but he doesn't falter as he delivers his message. "You're wanted in Room 810."

Oh, I am, am I? It's a bit more formal than I expected out of Vic, but success is success, so I turn to the old man and give him my best hopeful smile. "What d'you think, boss? Reckon you can do without me for the rest of the night?"

He looks at me, not smiling, not saying anything. I can feel Ray's eyes on me, and I can see Joe out the corner of my eye, with his lips curled in one of those nasty smirks that gives me the shivers. We stay like that for what feels like an hour, every minute of which I spend kicking myself for thinking I'd get what I want, and then at last the boss nods towards the door and says "Go on," like he's ordering a noisy dog out into the garden.

I give the old man a grin and a cheerful "Yes, sir," and I get out of there as fast as I can, before he changes his mind.

The lift takes forever to get to floor eight, but that just means I get more time to think about what's going to happen when I get up there. I mean, I've been after Vic for well over a year now. A bit more of a wait isn't going to kill me. Besides, half of me's convinced this isn't going to happen anyway. He's probably just summoned me up here to laugh and slam the door in my face. Or maybe he just feels like kicking me around, to teach me a lesson for getting under his feet. No, that's stupid, this can't just be a beating. He must actually want a piece of me, otherwise he'd have dragged me out to the car park or round the back of the hotel, not up to one of the suites. But then again, a hotel room doesn't seem like Vic's style, does it? If he wanted a piece of me, he wouldn't bother with all this, he'd just haul me off to the gents or into the back of his car. And that brings me back around to how this isn't going to happen and I'm not going to get what I want, and the whole thing keeps circling in my head until the lift doors open and I've got no choice but to go and find out.

As I walk down the corridor, I go over exactly what I'm going to say in my head, rehearsing it, fine-tuning it, all the way down to Room 810. By that time I'm so wound up that I have to force my hand up to knock on the door before I can lose my nerve. I get maybe two seconds to compose myself, and then the door opens, and suddenly I've got Vic standing there in front of me with a face like thunder, with his jacket off, his sleeves rolled up and his tie loosened, like I've interrupted him in the middle of delivering a beatdown. The idea of that gets me so hot and bothered it takes me a minute to remember my line.

"Normally I'd expect a candle-lit dinner," I say, giving him a big leering smile to cover how flustered he's got me. "But I'll settle for a night in a fancy hotel room, as a favour to—"

He grabs me by the tie, yanks me over the threshold, and slams the door behind us.

"Hey," I start to say, "if you want to get close to me, all you need to do is—"

But Vic isn't having any of it. Not one bit. One hand grips my throat, cutting me off, and the other comes down across my face so fast I hardly see it coming. I open my mouth to give him another line, but I don’t get a chance. He lets go of me and swings his fist up into my stomach, hard enough to double me over, and as I step backward he grabs hold of my shoulder so I can't move an inch. I tense up stupidly, knowing it's the wrong move to make, and sure enough his knee comes up to hit me square in stomach, right in the muscles I just tensed, knocking the air out of me in a long, shuddering wheeze. My legs are weak and clumsy, and I have to struggle to stay upright, bracing myself with my hands on my thighs, trying desperately to catch my breath, trying to clear my head enough to figure out how to play this. And then Vic gives me an almighty backhand that knocks me clear over and lights up the right side of my face so hot it feels like it's made of molten metal. I hit the floor hard, skidding along the carpet cheek-first, and by the time I've come to a stop, my eyes are bleary enough that at first I think I must be imagining the purple velvet I can see a few inches away from my face. Then my vision clears up, and I can make out that it's not just purple velvet, it's an embroidered purple velvet dressing gown, with patterned pyjamas underneath it, and below those there are a pair of dark purple slippers with a tiny little 'AM' embroidered on them in gold.

"Fancy seeing you here, Mr Middleton," I say, pushing myself up to my feet. "And here I thought Vic wanted me all to himself."

"Quiet." Vic barks, grabbing me by the shirtfront. "You don't say anything to Mr Middleton." And he gives me a backhand, like the flourish under his boss's signature. "You don't even look at Mr Middleton." Another backhand, hard enough I must have dents from where his knuckles smacked against my cheekbone. "You keep those filthy eyes on me, understand?" And that question mark has a fist wrapped up in it, one that swings right up into my mouth and snaps my head back like my neck's made of rubber.

"What did I say, Victor?" the old guy tuts, as if he's caught Vic littering. "Be careful with his face. We don't want to send him back to Jack irrevocably spoilt, do we?"

"No, sir."

He's an obedient boy, that Vic, because he puts his fist down and kicks me square in the stomach instead. I stagger backward, wrapping my arms around my middle, and it's only when I feel something hard and blunt jabbing into my shoulder that I realise I've backed right up against the wall. Must be one of the big picture frames digging into me, which means if I'm not careful I'll end up knocking the thing off the wall, when Vic starts up knocking me around again. Honestly, what kind of an old guy has you beaten up in a room full of expensive knickknacks he doesn't want broken? Maybe he's hoping to tap the boss for damages.

"Not so smart now, are you?" Vic says, coming up close. He leans against me, putting one forearm across my throat, letting me feel just how much weight he's got over me. "Are you so punchy you've forgotten all your cheap lines already?"

When my hips jerk forward, I don't try to clamp down on it. I just press myself up against Vic's thigh and throw him a smirk. "You want me to talk to you, you've got to get me nice and relaxed first. I'm the sensitive type, didn't you know?"

"You never stop, do you?" he says, leaning harder on my throat.

"Maybe." I grin up at him. "Only one way to find out."

He moves back a little, just enough so I can breathe again, and then he grabs hold of my shoulders and pushes me down just as he brings his knee up into my stomach, and I feel like my whole midsection got hit by a lorry. He steps back a bit more, gearing up to give it to me again, but this time I've had enough. When he lunges in to slam his fist into my ribs, I dodge so his hand barely brushes my side, and when he scowls I laugh in his face.

"You're getting rusty, Vic," I say, ducking under the next punch he throws. "What's the matter, you been letting Ray do all the heavy lifting?"

For a minute I think I'm going to make it three for three, but he feints with his right hand and swings his left up into my stomach, and this blow lands harder than the rest of them put together. I stagger back, but he won't let me get far. His hand closes around my throat, holding me in place, and he backhands me over and over, hitting me a bit harder each time, like he's trying to see how close to the limit Middleton's going to let him go. The way he's belting me, the way his knuckles keep smacking across the sorest bit of my cheekbone, I'm starting to think Middleton's forgotten all about that order.

"Victor," the old guy says, right on cue, and Vic freezes with his hand in the air like a guillotine waiting to fall.

"Yes, sir," he says, throwing me a horrible smile as he puts his hand down again. Then he curls it into a fist that arcs up into my ribs again, and before I've finished yelping about that he's given me another, and another, and then a heel in the stomach just for good measure, and my whole body seems to throb and shudder and burn with it. I don't even realise I've dropped to my knees until the floor hits my kneecaps hard, jolting another ripple of pain right through me.

"Been after this all along, haven't you?" he says, dragging me forward by the hair and shoving my face into his lap. His cock grinds against my cheek, thick and hard and impossibly hot even with a layer of cloth between us. "You've been wanting a taste of this ever since that first day in your boss's office, haven't you?"

I try to answer, but the words get lost against his lap, and all that comes out is a desperate little groan that doesn't do me any favours at all.

"That filthy mouth starts watering every time you see me and Ray, doesn't it?" He yanks my head back suddenly, twisting one fist in my hair, and his other hand comes down across my cheek.

I rub my cheekbone, pressing on the worst bit just to feel the throb of pain flare up underneath my fingertips. "I can't help that, can I? Just the way I'm built."

"It's like Mr Middleton says, then," he laughs, glancing over at his old man, "some boys really are just inveterate whores."

My cheeks are on fire now, even the few inches where Vic's hand hasn't smacked them raw. He's got me so wound up, I couldn't hold back and play nice even if I wanted to. "Listen," I say, letting my eyes stray over to Middleton and linger there for a moment, before I turn back to Vic. "All I care about is, are you going to talk or are you going to fuck me, Victor?"

He backhands me again, letting go of my hair just as his hand hits me, and the force of it knocks me over onto the floor. I try to break the fall with my hands, but the angle's all wrong, and I end up slamming my elbows hard against the carpet. It's alright though, on account of Vic gives me a swift kick in the stomach to take my mind off the ache in my arms. Safer that way by far, anyway—if he sticks to putting his heel in my ribs or his toe in my stomach, his old man won't have to worry about my old man worrying about my face. It's touching, really, that concern for my looks. I'm not even Middleton's merchandise. Maybe he's worried that if he breaks me, he'll have to buy me.

"What're you laughing at?" Vic hisses, booting me square in the kidney again. I hadn't realised I was laughing, but now I've riled him up I'm not going to let the opportunity go.

"I was just thinking," I wheeze, curling up on my side, "it's funny how different twins can be."

And that really sets him off. The kicking he gives me, it's hard enough that if I didn't know better I'd think he meant business. The number of guys he must have given a shoeing like this to, the number of guys he's pasted on Middleton's order, it doesn't bear thinking about. Yeah, we're up in a fancy suite, but the way he grinds his heel down on me, the way he swings his foot up into my stomach like a polished leather sledgehammer, we might as well be down on the pier. I should probably think myself lucky. The amount of guys who've had a beating like this from Vic and walked away at the end of it, you could probably count on one hand.

"Wasting my time, aren't I?" Vic says, giving me one last heel in the side, hard enough to roll me over onto my front. "There's only one language a punk like you understands."

And I really must be punchy, because it takes me a minute to figure out what language he means. By the time I've pushed myself up to my hands and knees, he's right behind me, reaching underneath me, unfastening my trousers and yanking them down to my knees. He doesn't even bother taking my shirt off, he just pushes it up a few inches, just enough to be out of the way, and then he clamps his hand round the back of my neck so I couldn't move even if I wanted to. I'm too far gone to struggle now. I'm too far gone to even bait him. I kneel there and listen to him unzipping his fly, taking the top off the lube, slicking it briskly over his cock, and the whole time I'm digging my nails into my palms trying not to beg. I've never begged Ray to fuck me, and I'm damned if I'm going to do it for Vic.

"Keep still," he says, tightening that hand around my neck as he lines up his cock against my ass. I hadn't even realised I was moving, and any chance I had of not squirming or shaking goes out the window as he feeds his cock into me. At least Ray always has the decency to tie me up. All I've got to push against right now is Vic's grip on my neck, and that's nowhere near enough to hold me still. I grind back against him, forcing him to give me his cock a bit faster, and the minute I do he seems to lose all his self-control.

"I said, keep still," he barks, and he pushes me down with both hands, one on my neck and one of my hip, grinding my face down against the carpet as he starts to fuck me. I could barely keep quiet before, but now he's giving it to me, I haven't got a hope in hell. Even if he wasn't hitting the right angle, the force he's fucking me with, the heavy slam of each thrust, it shakes my whole body so hard I feel like he's pressing all my buttons at once, hammering on them over and over. I feel like there'll be nothing left of me by the time he's finished.

"Yes, Victor, just like that," the old guy says. "Don't let him rest for a minute. Keep pressing him, he's near to breaking point."

I don't know how I'm supposed to stop myself looking at Mr Middleton when he keeps on saying things like that, things that are dripping in smooth, warm cruelty, things that make me want to crawl over there and beg him to fuck me himself. Lucky for me, I couldn't string the words together to beg even if I wanted to. The only sounds I can get out are the ragged, hoarse little groans Vic knocks out of me every time those hips slam against my ass. The more he fucks me, the more those groans start to sound like yelps of pain, and the louder I yelp, the harder he fucks me, and the whole thing goes round and round until I'm wishing Middleton would fuck my mouth just to shut me up, just to stop those noises broadcasting loud and clear exactly how much I need this, exactly how desperate for it I am.

"That's my boy," Middleton says, and his voice is so warm and rich it must feel like velvet wrapping all around Vic. "Now," the old guy carries on, "I think it's time we brought tonight to a close."

And that sets Vic off like a rocket, as if he's been holding back by the skin of his teeth the whole time. He lets go of my neck and grabs hold of my waist in both hands, squeezing tight like a vice as he starts to come, as if he's trying to snap me in two. And it hurts, alright, but I don't care. The triumph of finally getting it, finally hearing him lose control, finally feeling him coming inside me, that's all that matters, and it goes right to my head. I look up, staring right at Middleton, trying to meet his eyes, trying to show the old guy my best smirk. Look at me, I want to say, I went toe to toe with one of your best boys, and I finished him off into the bargain. How d'you like that, eh? But Middleton's not looking at me. His eyes are fixed on Vic, dark and warm and completely absorbed. There's nothing else in the room for that old guy. Nothing in the whole world, except his boy.

And I can hardly complain about that, now, can I?



"D'you have a good time, then?" Tommy says, as he hangs my jacket up.

"It was alright," I shrug, and I go through into the living room while the kid puts my bag away. I was expecting the flat to be a bombsite by the time I got back, but I think the place is actually in a better state now than when I left. He's even done the hoovering.

"Did you meet that old guy?"

"Watch your mouth," I snap, throwing my tie at him. "That's Mr Middleton to you. How'd you like it if someone called the boss 'that old guy'?"

He looks down and says sorry, and he looks penitent for all of two seconds before his face lights up in a grin. "And those twins," he says, hanging my tie up on the rack. "D'you see those twins again?"

By the time he turns around, I've got my shirt off, and he can see every one of the bruises Vic left on me. I can feel the kid's eyes on my chest and stomach, hot and light and greedy, like his fingertips always feel against my skin. "Yeah, I did," I say, holding a hand out to beckon him. "Come here and I'll tell you all about it."