Kept in the Dark

by H.L Day

In the Dark - H.L. Day
Editions:Kindle - First Edition: £ 2.29Paperback: $ 12.00
ISBN: 978-1985362314
Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
Pages: 314

Struggling actor Dean, only escorts occasionally to pay the bills. So, his first instinct on being offered a job with a strange set of conditions is to turn it down. No date. Don’t switch the lights on. Don’t touch him. I mean, what’s that all about? What’s the man trying to hide? Dean certainly doesn’t expect sex with a faceless stranger to spark so much passion inside him. It’s just business though, right? He can put a stop to it whenever he wants.

When Dean meets Justin—a scarred, ex-army soldier unlucky in love. Dean’s given a chance at a proper relationship. He can see past the scars to the man underneath. He’s everything Dean could possibly wish for in a boyfriend: kind, caring and sweet. All Dean needs to do is be honest. Easy, right? But, Justin’s holding back and Dean can’t work out why. But whatever it is, it’s enough to give him second thoughts.

They both have secrets which could shatter their fledgling relationship. After all, secrets have a nasty habit of coming out eventually. The question is when they do, will they be able to piece their relationship back together? Or will they be left with nothing but memories of bad decisions and the promise of the love they could have had, if only they’d both been honest and fought harder.

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Excerpt:

I stared for the longest time at the door in front of me. Structurally, it was a perfectly ordinary door with no distinguishing features. It looked as if it had been painted fairly recently, the glossy surface, a bright scarlet red. Red for danger, screamed my subconscious. I shushed it, reminding myself that ridiculous and overdramatic thoughts weren’t going to help anyone.

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The top half of the door consisted almost entirely of a pane of frosted glass.  Despite knowing deep down it would be a pointless exercise, I still made an attempt to peer through it. As expected, it didn’t reveal a thing. I took a look behind me, back to the street, half expecting to find curious eyes watching, trying to work out why I was standing outside a door doing absolutely nothing. The street had been deserted when I’d walked down it a few minutes earlier, and remained empty. Normally, the next step in proceedings would be to lift my hand and knock, however, there hadn’t been anything remotely normal about the set of instructions I’d been given earlier that afternoon.

* * * *

 My day job, or more accurately, the occasional day and mostly evenings job, was working at an Italian restaurant. It was a fairly large restaurant and on a quiet day, if you were lucky, you got the luxury of being able to take your break at the same time as someone else. That meant time for a quick chat, or a moan about the chef and customers. On a busy day, like the one we were having, I was on my own.

It wasn’t worth heading to the break room, unless I was planning to talk to myself, so instead I’d tucked myself away in the corner next to the bar, hoping to grab a quick word with the barman. It was pure luck then, that when my phone vibrated in my pocket, I was available to answer it. Five minutes earlier, or later, I would have had to let it go to voicemail. Recognizing the familiar number of the escort agency I’d joined six months before, I moved farther out of sight to take the call. Making sure to talk quietly, to avoid attracting any unwanted interest from either customers or colleagues, I greeted my occasional boss, “Hey, Tom.”

His voice boomed through the phone line, causing me to wince and hold the phone slightly away from my ear. “Dean, how are you doing?  I might have a job for you, if you’re interested.”

Escorting had never been a deliberate intention, but one I found myself involved in anyway. I’d bumped into Tom at a bar while on a night out. The man was a complete force of nature. In his late thirties, too craggy to be classed as handsome, but striking nonetheless. I’d let him ply me with drinks. Thinking we were heading for a one-night stand, I’d been shocked when the truth had finally dawned on me. Rather than trying to get into my pants, he was trying to recruit me for his agency. He’d used flattery, claiming my good looks and boyish charm would go down like a storm with clients. I’d turned him down flat, but, in a moment of weakness, had given him my number. He hadn’t given up. Several phone calls later, he’d convinced me to give it a try; persuading me to take jobs that really were no more than paid dates. I’d gone out with both genders, accompanying them to parties, using the acting skills that were meant to be my primary occupation to play the role of doting boyfriend.

The only problem was, those jobs didn’t pay that well. Not enough to cover expensive London living expenses and travel costs to numerous acting auditions for roles I invariably didn’t get. Everyone knew the money-making opportunities lay with the extras: the dates that were more than just a date. I’d balked at the idea, knowing it was only one step away from prostitution. Actually, most people probably wouldn’t see a difference between the two. Tom had been persistent, without being pushy, constantly dropping hints about jobs that paid considerably more.  I’d remained firm, politely telling him it wasn’t for me. Even when I found myself without sufficient funds to fix my broken car, I still held out. When an acting job fell through at the last minute and I didn’t even have enough money to pay the rent, I finally gave in.

The date was with a man whose name was Thomas, a handsome man in his late forties. I’d quashed the slight feeling of nausea as I accompanied him to a party. At that point, there’d been no difference between that job and any of the previous ones I’d already done. I’d hung off his arm, playing the young boy toy role perfectly, making sure I was amusing and charming in equal measure. If he’d noticed the envious glances thrown his way by some of his friends, he wasn’t tacky enough to acknowledge them. I suspected one of them was probably an ex, that my presence there was meant to show the world Thomas had moved on.

Once the party died down, Thomas had called a cab and taken me back to his expensive penthouse apartment with a perfect view of the London skyline. I’d been admiring it, glass of wine in hand, when he’d come up behind me. He’d taken the barely touched glass out of my hand before sliding his arms around me and kissing my neck. Looking back on it, he was good-looking enough that under normal circumstances, I might have gone to bed with him anyway. The sex had been…okay. And if I was honest, it was hardly the first time I’d pretended to enjoy a sexual interlude more than I actually had. In return, the rent had been paid, the car had been fixed, and I’d had money left over. I’d expected to feel more about it, than I had. It didn’t feel sordid. It didn’t feel like I was one step away from standing on street corners. It just felt necessary. A means to an end. A way to continue to pursue my dream of being a successful actor. Did I like it? No. Did I hate it? Not really.

So, I’d taken a few more jobs after that. And so far, I’d been lucky. There hadn’t been any horror stories. Just slightly awkward sex with men older than I’d normally consider dating. Men who wanted to get their hands on a young, pretty boy without any complications and were willing to pay a lot for the pleasure. As far as I knew, none of them had ever called for a second “date” and I was more than happy for that to continue.

I cast a quick glance around the restaurant to insure no one was within hearing distance. I might not be beating myself up over my decision to keep doing it, but I hardly wanted to advertise it. Only my closest friend and my brother had any idea what I did to top up my earnings, and I intended to keep it that way. Besides, I only took jobs when finances dictated. It wasn’t like I was selling my body every night. It was more like once a month, if that. If I could avoid it, I did. “What kind of job? Escorting…or…the other?”

Tom’s husky laugh in my ear was one of genuine amusement. “You’re such a prude, Dean. Okay, let’s call it the other. Are you interested?”

“I…um…don’t know.”

“How’d that audition go for the commercial? Aftershave, was it? Did you get it?”

I sighed. “No. They said I wasn’t tall enough. I mean, how ridiculous is that? The brief was a close-up on the guy’s face. Most of the audition was staring into a mirror. How can they tell how tall you are from your face? To be honest, I think it was just an excuse. Obviously, I can’t even act putting on aftershave correctly.”

“So, money’s tight then?”

I massaged the back of my neck in an attempt to get the tense muscles to relax. “My car needs an MOT…and insurance. Or I’m going to have to take it off the road. Which I don’t really want to do. That makes it difficult to get to auditions.” Tom listened silently to my stream of consciousness without commenting. He was used to me having to talk myself into taking a job. “What’s the job?”

“Ah!” There was a long pause.

“I haven’t got all day, Tom. I’m at the restaurant and I’ve only got five minutes left of my break. Spit it out.”

“Well…it’s a rather unusual one. Which is why I thought of you. I need someone I can trust.”

“Unusual?” I didn’t like the sound of that. It was bad enough committing to meeting a complete stranger and having sex with them, without it being unusual. “You know I don’t do kinky stuff. Ask Zach. He’s up for anything. The kinkier the better, as far as he’s concerned.”

“It’s not unusual in that way. It’s…well…there’s…”

I’d never heard Tom lost for words before. I had to admit, my curiosity was seriously piqued as I waited patiently for him to explain.

He sighed, the sound carrying over the phone line. “So, the client called today. He had some…conditions…that are a little strange.”

“Like what?”

“Okay. So, there’s no date. Which on the flip side means you don’t need to worry about having to spend time schmoozing people at a party. He…the client…wants someone to go straight to his home address and let themselves in. He said the money will be on a table opposite the door. He wants you, assuming you take the job, to go up the stairs on the left into the bedroom straight ahead. He said it’ll be dark in there. He was really clear that there must be no attempt to switch the light on, or there’s no payment. He also made it clear that you, or whoever, mustn’t touch him under any circumstances…or there’s—”

“No payment. Got it.” I considered his words for a moment, disliking the unease which immediately settled in my gut. “And you don’t think this is an incredibly weird request?”

There was a long pause before Tom answered. “As I said, it’s unusual. But, if all the conditions are met to his satisfaction, he said he’ll pay double.”

“Double?” My heart sank. How was I meant to turn down an offer like that? No wonder Tom was so keen to find someone he trusted. He was due forty percent of that double payment. “And he asked for me?” The escort agency insisted on current photos on their website. I dreaded the day I lost an acting job because my photo had been spotted online. It didn’t matter that the website was for a reputable escort agency. Everyone would suspect the extras that went on and they’d be right.

“Not exactly.”

I frowned. “He didn’t ask for me?” I felt slightly affronted at the knowledge. “Who did he ask for?”

“He didn’t ask for anyone specific. I told him to have a look at the pictures on the website, but he didn’t seem interested. Just told me to send someone attractive with a good body, who would follow the instructions. That’s why I said I needed someone I can trust. Zach would last all of three seconds before going for the light switch. So, what do you say?”

I thought for a moment, trying to think through various possible scenarios. “What did he sound like? Did he sound…fat?”

Tom’s snort was audible. “You didn’t just ask that. Is that even possible—for someone to sound fat? I’m not even going to try and answer that one, Dean. Listen, I’m giving you first refusal. It’s tonight. So, I’m going to need an answer pretty quickly. If you’re too freaked out by the idea, I’ve got a couple of other guys who’ll definitely be up for it, especially with it being double money. I’d prefer it to be you, but…” His words trailed off, leaving the decision open.

I let out a slow exhale. “I’d have to have a screw loose not to be a bit weirded out.” I scanned the restaurant again, meeting the annoyed frown of Grahame, the restaurant manager. He tapped his watch, a clear signal that my break should have been over a few minutes earlier. I nodded and made the universal gesture for one more second. “Fine, I’ll do it. I can always leave, right? If things get too bizarre?”

Tom didn’t even pause. “Of course, you can. I knew you wouldn’t let me down, Dean. Let me know how it goes.”

* * * *

So, there I was, a few hours later, staring at a door—trying to convince myself to turn the handle and let myself in, just like the instructions had stated. I took a deep breath and wrapped my fingers around the metal handle. Maybe it would be locked, then I could leave. Knowing I’d tried rather than simply chickening out. I pulled the handle down and pushed. It opened with an ominous creak and I stepped inside, replaying the instructions I’d been given earlier over and over in my head. Tom had insisted on texting them, evidently worried I’d forget and screw up the double money offer. The money will be on a table opposite the door. Sure enough, there was a small table opposite, lit by a lamp. On it, lay a single brown envelope. There was no writing on the envelope. I jumped, my heart rate going into overdrive, as the door behind me clicked shut.

The only other object on the table, besides the lamp and the envelope, was a phone. I resisted the temptation to pick up the receiver and check for a dial tone. Of course, there would be one. It wasn’t a bloody horror film. It was just my overactive imagination. And why would I need to use the phone anyway when my mobile was securely in my pocket with perfect reception. I’d already checked at the gate before walking up the path. I’d checked again during my long contemplation of the door. I pulled my phone out again, shaking my head ruefully when it again revealed there was no issue.

I took a moment to look around, noting the stairs to my left. In the dim light of the lamp, I could make out three doors to the downstairs rooms—all firmly closed. I gave brief consideration to opening one and carrying out a bit of detective work. I quickly dismissed the thought. I could only imagine the fallout if I was caught snooping around a client’s house.

I snatched the envelope from the table, opening it to find the agreed amount inside; the extra amount only to be paid after all the conditions had been met satisfactorily. I folded it and stuffed it inside my pocket, before eyeing the stairs warily. You’re to go up the stairs on the left and into the bedroom straight ahead. I had three options open to me: leave the money and get the hell out of there, take the money and do the same—which I reminded myself would basically equate to stealing and would effectively terminate any future escorting jobs. Option three was to stop being such a wuss, get my ass up the stairs, and earn double the amount that currently sat in my pocket.

I put one foot on the first stair. It creaked—loudly, I would have been more surprised if it hadn’t. I stopped and listened, trying to hear if there was any noise coming from the rooms at the top of the stairs. There was nothing. No voices. No comforting background hum of a television or radio. Nothing. The instructions hadn’t mentioned having to approach the bedroom in silence, so I called out an exploratory “hello.” No response. Not a surprise, given the whole, weird scenario. I went up a few more stairs. The area at the top of the stairs lay in complete darkness. From my position, I couldn’t even see a door. Heart threatening to jump out of my chest. I took another step, and then another. The vague outline of a door finally coming into view. It will be dark in there. Right. Like it wasn’t already dark enough out here.

Before I could change my mind, I gave the door an exploratory push. It easily gave way beneath my hand, swinging open. I stepped inside. To say it would be dark was an understatement; there was literally no light in the room. I stared ahead, trying to make out something, anything at all. Even in a dark room you could normally make out shapes, even if you couldn’t work out what they were. But there was nothing.

“Close the door.”

The voice came from the other side of the room and was spoken no louder than a whisper. I immediately turned, my eyes straining through the darkness. But it was useless. Even with the knowledge that there must be a human being there, I still couldn’t make out so much as an outline. Fighting the overwhelming urge to run, I let go of the door. It clicked shut and I leaned back against it, needing to feel its solid outline against my back. Mouth dry, palms sweaty, I waited.

The whisper came from the same place. “What’s your name?”

“It’s D—” Christ! I’d nearly slipped up and given my real name. “Danny. It’s Danny.” I’d deliberately kept the name I used for escorting similar to my real one. It made it easier to remember—usually. Unless I found myself in some weird pitch-black situation where my brain apparently became scrambled.

“Pleased to meet you, Danny. Take your clothes off.”

COLLAPSE

About the Author

H.L Day grew up in the North of England. As a child she was an avid reader, spending lots of time at the local library or escaping into the imaginary worlds created by the books she read. Her grandmother first introduced her to the genre of romance novels, as a teenager, and all the steamy sex they entailed. Naughty Grandma!

One day, H.L Day stumbled upon the world of m/m romance. She remained content to read other people’s books for a while, before deciding to give it a go herself.

Now, she’s a teacher by day and a writer by night. Actually, that’s not quite true—she’s a teacher by day, procrastinates about writing at night and writes in the school holidays, when she’s not continuing to procrastinate. After all, there’s books to read, places to go, people to see, exercise at the gym to do, films to watch. So many things to do—so few hours to do it in. Every now and again, she musters enough self-discipline to actually get some words onto paper—sometimes they even make sense and are in the right order.


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