Forrest Kim was a young, successful, single lawyer; he was adept at fielding the usual kind of pass. The text from venture capitalist Julian Sherwood was not that kind of pass.
It was, however, irresistible. Get picked up by a billionaire: was that a bucket-list item? Whatever it was – even if all it amounted to was dinner – Forrest was up for it. By the end of dinner, he was up for a lot more.
It wasn’t going anywhere. It couldn’t possibly go anywhere. Forrest lived in Los Angeles, and ‘successful’ meant ‘third-year associate carrying five figures of student-loan debt.’ Julian lived in London, plus there was the billionaire thing.
But Julian kept coming back to L.A., and every time he did they saw each other. Until they didn’t, and then they had to decide. Were they going to take this somewhere after all, or was this really the end?
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Alpha Character, Famous / Not Famous, Interracial Relationship, One Night Stand, Second Chances
Word Count: 73500
Setting: Los Angeles, California
Languages Available: English
If he were dining alone, he’d change out of his suit now. But since he wasn’t, he could take it off later. Perhaps for some reason other than traveling in comfort. Julian remained in his room, dealing with messages, until twenty past six. Then he went down to the lobby. One refreshing thing about Los Angeles: there were so many good-looking dark-haired people that he didn’t stand out. Conceited wanker, he told himself, half-smiling as he reached the bar. And there was a reason to fully smile. Julian went directly to him. “Good evening.” They shook hands. “I’ve made us a reservation at Nest. Shall we go up?”READ MORE
Forrest took a second to check in with himself. Yes, this guy looked amazing. Yes, he was very assertive. Well, you didn’t get to be a billionaire at thirty-six by hanging back waiting to see what happened. There was no reason to feel edgy about the reservation; he’d answered a text which was explicitly an invitation to dinner, after all. He was feeling edgy for other reasons, starting with Why. He couldn’t have been the only decent-looking guy Sherwood came across on this trip. Or maybe he could. He had no idea how long the guy was in town. Maybe that was a good topic for dinner. He blinked. Answer the damn question. “Sorry, yes, of course.”
Julian had been watching the man think. His face didn’t give much away; micro-expressions, at best. Such a face. Los Angeles was full of Asian men, many of them good-looking by Julian’s standards. Kim was at least thirty, probably not quite Julian’s age. Not as tall. Excellent head of hair, wonderful mouth, straight narrow nose between wary eyes under eyebrows set at the same angle as his cheekbones. And now those four words, in a voice not quite as deep as Julian’s. Unaccented. There were half a dozen questions he wanted to ask. None of the answers were any of his business. He took a step to the side, lifting a hand to indicate the direction he’d prefer they were moving in. Kim jolted into motion and they were underway.
Forrest couldn’t think of a single thing to say until they were in the elevator. “I hope my colleagues helped you accomplish what you needed today.”
Ah, awkward work-adjacent chitchat. Julian didn’t mind. “Everything went smoothly, thanks. I understand your specialty is biotech?”
“Yes.” Forrest latched onto that gratefully. “I did my Ph.D. on DNA sequences of antibodies. Not your field.”
“No, it’s the ever-changing intersection of technology and finance for me. How long did your degree take? I left the LSE after four years.”
“I saw that on Wikipedia.” Forrest’s tone was the tiniest bit dry. Julian was laughing as the elevator doors opened. “I was in school for nine years straight. B.S., Ph.D., J.D. There are days when I wonder if it was worth it.”
The sympathy in that smooth, low voice could have been annoying. He wasn’t looking for sympathy. The truth was, though, only people who’d done the same thing could understand it. He finished school at twenty-seven. By that age, Sherwood was already the millionaire head of a multimillion-dollar company. “Not in the sense of regretting it,” Forrest said after a brief pause. They were walking into the lounge. He held his next thought until they were seated. In a corner booth, out of the line of sight of the entrance. This guy probably always had to think of those things. “This is the kind of work I always wanted to do. My mother is a clinical researcher and my dad’s a college administrator.”
“High expectations, had they?”
“Mmm.” A break for service. Forrest half-expected Sherwood to order for him, but he didn’t. “I only have the worth it feelings when I’m looking at how long it’ll take to pay back the loans. But enough about me. You have to fly out in the middle of the night. When did you get into town?”
“Last night.” Julian sipped his mineral water, determined not to laugh at Kim’s all-too-legible expression.
No wonder he looked tired. “When do you sleep?”
“On the plane.” He said it as if this were perfectly reasonable, hoping it would push Kim closer to a laugh. It might have. Not quite there yet.
Forrest was thinking that answered one question. There really hadn’t been time for Sherwood to go trawling through L.A. looking for someone to spend his last few hours with. Did that mean he would have spent the evening alone if he hadn’t seen Forrest? “I suppose you had a thousand calls to return as soon as you got in.”
“A conference call, actually, with Kolkata. Then I went to the gym, had a shower, had breakfast. Returned calls. Went to my meeting with your colleagues. An ordinary day.”
Ordinary. Forrest shook his head. “I always thought a billionaire might take some time off once in a while.”
“I’m taking time off right now.” Julian was smiling. They made eye contact. Up to that second, he believed Kim was undecided. But as of that second, if (when) Julian suggested going back to his room, the answer would be yes. He wondered which of his words had tipped the balance.
God, those eyes. Forrest wasn’t used to being looked at like that. Such complete focus. The guy was really insanely good-looking. Great hair. Great suit. And, if the internet wasn’t a pack of lies, a great body underneath the suit. Anyone who bothered going to the gym after flying from London to Los Angeles and doing a conference call, before going to a multi-hour meeting and then flying back to London … well, that was commitment. Must be part of the billionaire personality. He was going to see that body. Was positive that the second half of the invitation would land before they left the lounge. And he was going to say yes.
In the end, it was Forrest who made the next move. When the table was clear of all but coffee cups, he said, “It’s only eight o’clock. You have time to take a nap.” After a tiny pause, he added, “Or at least lie down for a while.”
Julian’s eyes narrowed slightly with amusement. “I do have time. Too much time for a nap.”
Oh help, Forrest thought. He was really doing this. “The last train is at midnight.”
“Where’s your stop?”
“Wilshire and Western.” He made an isn’t-it-obvious face. “Koreatown.” If this wasn’t a first date, and probably an only date, he might regret that it was nowhere near on the way to the airport. But it was a first date, and almost certainly an only date, so he shouldn’t regret that they couldn’t have an extra half-hour or so before they never saw each other again. “I wouldn’t mind relaxing for a while before I walk back up to Metro Center.”
Julian inhaled slowly. “Perhaps you’d like to keep me company. Relax with me, for a while.” Forrest nodded, and didn’t say anything else. Not much later, Julian had signed the check and they were in the elevator again. Not speaking, not touching, but watching each other. Then walking down the hall. Going into Julian’s suite. The door closed with a definitive thud; Julian threw the bolt and flipped the latch. “Not to imply you’re a prisoner,” he said, and saw a flash of what might have been involuntary laughter. “What shall I call you?”
“Call me Forrest.”
“Forrest.” It was tempting to make a joke about their names. If this weren’t the one and only time he would see the man, he might do that. “May I hear you say my name?”
Forrest realized that he hadn’t yet. “Julian.” It almost sounded like a question. “I don’t do this type of thing very often.”
Julian didn’t either, but he didn’t say so. “I do this type of thing very carefully.” He shrugged out of his suit jacket, hung it up. Untied the silk around his neck, unbuttoned his collar. Draped the tie over the jacket. Stepped out of his shoes. Forrest was standing still, watching. “Shall I keep going?”
“Yes.” It sounded a bit hoarse. “I want to see you.” He watched as Julian unbuttoned his shirt, threw it over the back of a chair. He wore a body-hugging white tank top underneath. “The internet doesn’t lie, I see.”
That made Julian smile. “You’re going to be a surprise for me.” Unfastening his pants, stepping out of them. “Why don’t you start now.”
Okay. That was only fair. He wouldn’t expect Forrest to look the way he did. Nobody looked the way he did. Jacket off, hung on the back of the other chair. Tie off. Shirt unbuttoned; he didn’t wear an undershirt. Shoes off. Then his pants. They were standing approximately ten feet apart, which seemed like a lot. He felt very exposed, very insecure, very nervous. Then something settled and he thought out of all the people in Los Angeles, he wanted me tonight. So he threw off the shirt, shucked off his briefs, sat on the end of the bed, pulled off his socks, and said, “Do you kiss?”
“I do.” Julian had watched that transformation – from nervous second-guessing to full commitment – with interest. The body was better than he’d have guessed. Slender in a way that looked tough, agile, strong. He peeled off the rest of his clothes and took the two steps over to the bed. Put one knee up, alongside Forrest’s. The younger man’s face was level with Julian’s chest, tipped up to keep eye contact, barely twelve inches between his mouth and Julian’s skin. “You have a beautiful mouth.”
“Do something with it,” Forrest suggested, surprising himself.
“Touch me first.”
“Anywhere.” He didn’t know what to expect. In the past that gambit had most often led to a hand on his prick. Forrest didn’t do that. He put his hands on Julian’s legs, thumbs exploring the curves along the inside of his knees. Then slowly stroking up the outside of his thighs. Fingers curling, the backs of them brushing back down as if he loved the feel of Julian’s body hair. He had very little himself. A scattering of chest hair, a treasure trail, a tidy thatch of black at his groin. Julian could see that this was every bit as arousing for Forrest as it was for him. Those hands were moving up again, to his hips. Fingertips exploring the curves of bone and muscle. It was probably obvious that Julian waxed his chest. No-one with leg hair like that, and a five o’clock shadow like this, had a naturally hairless chest. Did he like it? Why did Julian care? He indulged himself, simply feeling, eyes closed. Had he leaned in, or had Forrest?COLLAPSE