Steam (Homecoming Hearts Book 4)

By: H.J. Welch

Ashby





Ashby Wilcott was acutely aware that he was now alone with Trent Charles. And something had changed.

The air between them was charged, like a wildfire waiting to burst into life. The near-dark hotel room seemed smaller than it had that morning. The voice in the back of Ashby’s head reminding him that Trent was straight was quiet for the first time in a week.

Ashby could barely breathe.

As Trent hung up his suit jacket, Ashby attempted to distract himself by looking in the mirror to release his elaborate tulip tie knot. It had seemed a clever idea this morning before Blake and Elion’s wedding. A talking point while in the company of strangers. Now he was at a very real risk of strangling himself.

“Here,” Trent murmured.

He came up beside Ashby, urging him to turn. Ashby certainly wasn’t short, but Trent was so tall and broad Ashby couldn’t help but feel delicate in comparison as he stood in front of him. He swallowed, trying not to gulp too noticeably.

“Thank you,” he replied quietly.

Trent’s fingers were large yet surprisingly nimble as they worked the length of silk free. Ashby focused on them rather than Trent’s gorgeous brown eyes.

Once the tie was undone, Trent allowed it to flutter silently to the carpet. But then he rested his hands back against Ashby’s chest, his thumbs and forefingers rubbing the stiff material of Ashby’s collar points between them.

“Thank you for today,” he said in his usual low rumble that made Ashby’s knees weak at the best of times. “It meant a lot.”

“Of course,” Ashby replied, trying not to let his voice squeak. “That’s what friends do for each other, right? They help them out when they get in a pickle. We couldn’t have you flying solo. ‘Going stag,’ as you Yanks say.”

He laughed nervously then clamped his jaw shut. He was going to start rambling if he wasn’t careful. But, damn it, Trent was still caressing his shirt and his fingers were dangerously close to the skin of Ashby’s throat. Trent had to know what he was doing to him. Ashby had been honest enough in his open admiration of Trent. How many times had he not-so-jokingly complained about Trent being straight?

Was Trent teasing him? Mocking him?

Ashby wanted to believe Trent wouldn’t do that. But Ashby had suffered through enough games to last a lifetime. He couldn’t stand it if Trent was just like the other guys he’d had the misfortune of dating before. Even though his bad boy reputation preceded him, Ashby had been so hopeful that Trent really was a teddy bear under that tough exterior.

So why would Trent touch him like this now? Touch him like he was thinking about kissing him? It didn’t make sense. Ashby pulled away feeling ashamed, like he’d been duped.

Trent frowned. “Ashby,” he whispered. Ashby had only moved an inch or two away and Trent laid his hands flat on his chest. They were so warm, Ashby could feel the heat through the cotton. “I…I’ve been thinking.”

Ashby cursed his traitorous heart as it leaped inside his ribcage. “Oh?” he replied, licking his lips. “That sounds like the sort of thing that requires a stiff drink to accompany it. Thinking, I mean. Always a tricky one. I think that thinking – yes – um – stiff – sorry – would you like one as well?”

It was like his mouth was conspiring against his brain to make him sound like a lunatic.

Trent bit his lip. “I’d like…” he said. His gaze was on Ashby’s mouth. “Uh…”

Very carefully, Ashby raised his hands and placed them over the top of Trent’s. Trent blinked and swallowed. Dear lord. Did he want Ashby?

Maybe he was just experimenting? Ashby had been very vocal over his sadness at Trent’s unavailability. Ashby probably wouldn’t have told him how hot he was so many times if he ever thought he had a shot. So did Trent now think he’d be up for a little fooling around? Maybe he wanted to compare what being with a guy was like to being with a girl?

Ashby couldn’t say he was thrilled with being anyone’s science experiment, let alone someone he cared about as much as Trent. But on the other hand, he wasn’t sure he had the strength to say no to him either. Ashby knew full well he’d do anything to feel Trent’s body on top of him, to feel his cock…anywhere. He quivered with want at the mere thought.