The crypt of St-Martin-in-the-Fields isn’t where Jonathan thought his night out would end, but here he is, with the man from the Mission – his name is Grant, apparently – who insists that what he needs is hot sweet tea. Jonathan doesn’t like tea, and he doesn’t take sugar, but if hot sweet tea will help him win the bet he’ll drink it. Also, it’s cold down here: he’s beginning to regret telling William to take his jacket.
“Here,” Grant says, “put this round you.”
Well, that’s the uniform jacket off, which is a good start. He wasn’t wrong about the nice arse, or about the broad shoulders and chest. Mmm. Grant is very easy on the eye: handsome in a boy-next-door sort of way, which isn’t Jonathan’s usual taste, but he looks like he’s not all milk and biscuits.
It’s oddly comforting, having the jacket around his shoulders. Like a hug, sort of. He wonders if he is in shock. He asked William to punch him and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but he feels a bit shaky.
There’s a little staff kitchen, off to the side of the lobby opposite the café, with a first aid kit on the worktop. Grant sits him down on one of the stackable wood and metal chairs, wets a piece of cotton wool and sets about cleaning the blood off his face. Jonathan hadn’t thought beyond getting the man’s attention, lowering his resistance by asking for help, but this is intimate in a way he wasn’t expecting. Grant holds his chin to steady him, and his touch is gentle but firm. He’s standing between Jonathan’s legs, so close that Jonathan can feel the warmth of his body and smell his skin. A clean smell, faintly spicy. Some sort of wood-scented soap. Cedar-wood, maybe. It’s nice.
He’s half-drowsy with that and the warmth of Grant’s jacket and the feeling of being cared for, when Grant says “Are you going to report it?”
“The mugging,” says Grant. “To the police.”
“Oh,” Jonathan says, catching up belatedly. “Oh. No, honestly, I’ll be fine. And anyway they’re bound to have got away by now.”
“Well, yes,” Grant says. “But I doubt you’re the only one they’ve attacked. If you can give the police a description –”
“I didn’t really get a good look at them,” Jonathan says, much too quickly.
“Didn’t you,” Grant says. It doesn’t sound like a question.
Jonathan looks up at him, and the don’t-bullshit-me expression in those beautiful brown eyes goes right through him.
Fuck. He catches his breath.
“I – ah. What I said before, about the mugging, that wasn’t true.”
Not good enough, the eyes tell him.
“I lied to you,” he says.
Grant’s expression softens a fraction.
“I’m sorry,” Jonathan says, and finds to his astonishment that he means it.
“Are you going to tell me the truth now?” The question stings even more because there’s no heat in it. Grant sounds – detached, indifferent, as if he’s mildly curious at best.
“I made a bet,” Jonathan says, unhappily.
“A bet? What sort of bet?”
Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb; the bet’s as good as lost anyway. Jonathan takes a deep breath and tells him the whole story. He expects shock, maybe disgust, certainly anger, but Grant just listens.
“What’s Empire?” he asks, when Jonathan comes to a stop.
Jonathan groans. “Client from hell,” he says. “Their CEO’s a complete fucking megalomaniac. Art can’t stand him. No-one can.”
“But you took the bet,” Grant says. “You want what he’s offering that much.”
“I didn’t know it was going to be Empire,” Jonathan says. “But yes. Yes, I do.”
He knows it’s no good trying to explain to Grant how that night with Art had made his brain stop spinning for once, made everything go white and quiet and completely at peace. Nothing like it, before or since, and he’s tried.
“Anyway,” he says, “Sorry again. You’ve been very kind.”
Grant fills the kettle and switches it on. “Tea?”
He ought to go home, but he doesn’t want to. He wants this strange interlude not to end, wants it not to be tomorrow, when he’ll have to ring Emma and say he’s doing the Empire job, and he’ll never hear the end of it from William, and Art will look at him with mild disappointment and a crushing lack of surprise.
“I’d rather have coffee,” he says.
Grant looks dubious, but he spoons brown granules into a mug from the catering-size tin on the worktop. “No accounting for tastes,” he says, amused.
Jonathan is fairly sure he isn’t just talking about the coffee, which is indeed spectacularly nasty when it comes, though tea would be worse.
“So,” Grant says, “What were you supposed to do to prove you’d won the bet?”
Jonathan spits out a mouthful of coffee. He’s not sure if Grant timed that question deliberately, but he wouldn’t put it past him.
“Um,” he says. “Text him a photo of you in my bed, probably.”
Which is a very distracting idea, and much too easy to imagine. If they’d met in other circumstances he’d be backing Grant against the kitchen cupboards and making a heavy pass, because damn, the man is hot. But if Jonathan tries that now, odds are he’s going to get punched again, and Grant looks like he’d hit harder than William.
Grant raises his eyebrows. “I hope you were at least going to buy me dinner first.”
Is he flirting? He can’t be. He’s just saying that to wind Jonathan up.
“That’s not how it works,” Jonathan says. He can’t remember the last time he had dinner with anyone before having sex with them.
“Pity,” Grant says, and grins. “There’s a Cuban place in Borough I’ve heard good things about.”
“I could take you there anyway,” Jonathan says, not expecting Grant to rise to the bait. “Call it an apology.”
“All right,” Grant says, “you’re on.”
Jonathan nearly falls off his chair.