Balls Up

Extended Sample

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Heart of Fame, Book 9

Lexxie Couper

Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.

ISBN: 978-1-944003-45-6

Copyright © 2016, Lexxie Couper.

All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

Off-season was always a pain in Rhys’s arse.

For one thing, he ate too much, drank too much, partied too hard and slept too little.

For another, he never knew how to choose which country to spend his downtime. It sounded like a ridiculous First World problem, but his friends in London—friends that included such illustrious people as the youngest of the royal princes, an Olympic pole-vaulter and the British Prime Minister’s black-sheep son—wanted him to stay in the UK. His family in Australia expected him to come home and spend time with them, but he sometimes suspected it was because they worried about his partying ways and the influence of his UK friends.

His family had a point, of course. The latter were partly to blame for the excessive eating, drinking, partying and lack of sleep.

Partly, mind you. The other reason for the self-destructive behavior—rock god Josh Blackthorne—was spending most of his time on the other side of the planet in Australia.

Which made it hard to head back to Oz, even if Rhys wanted to. Which he did.

Sort of.

Sort of? Bullshit. You don’t just want to go back. You want to go back, storm into Josh’s home, slam him to the wall, look him in the eye and tell him you’re in love with him—and that you’ve been in love with him since you were both fifteen.

Turning to study the planes on the other side of the Qantas first-class lounge window, Rhys’s gut clenched. It was a raw fantasy he tortured himself with often. But it was only that: a fantasy.

Joshua Blackthorne, his life-long best friend and one of the world’s sexiest, hottest, biggest rock stars, was deeply in love with a woman Rhys knew to be absolutely perfect for him.

Josh had no clue what Rhys felt for him. None at all.

And Rhys would never tell him.

Ever.

Which made returning to Australia in the off-season not just hard, but painful, because the moment he touched down in his country of birth, Josh and Caitlin would be there at the airport waiting for him, and he’d spend the next few hours/days/weeks in their company, watching them together, seeing them so very much in love…

And wanting to be in Caitlin’s place with every fibre of his body.

“Excuse me, Mr. McDowell?”

Rhys turned his gaze from the 747s and Airbuses beyond the glass and smiled up at the woman in the Qantas uniform leaning towards him. “Yeah?”

Her eyes flicked over him, no doubt taking in the stubble on his jaw, the scruffy hair, and the crumpled T-shirt and baggy jeans. “Your flight is boarding now.”

He nodded at the lounge attendant. “Ta, love.”

She smiled, straightening away from him. “You’re welcome, sir. Looking forward to going back to Australia?”

Rhys’s gut clenched again as he rose to his feet. “More than I can possibly say.”

Scooping up his knapsack—packed with his on-flight toiletries, a Joe Hill paperback, his iPad and the latest Synergy CD—he left the lounge and headed for his flight.

He was recognised, of course. He couldn’t move around London these days without being so. In all honesty, he didn’t know if his fame came from his position as striker for Manchester United or his notoriety as a partier. Probably both.

Surprisingly, no one approached for an autograph or photo. Perhaps everyone in Heathrow expected his bodyguard—a hulking mountain of mouth-breathing muscle called Timmy—to suddenly appear from the crowd.

Timmy, however, would not be making an appearance, although Rhys wasn’t going to announce that unusual fact. This trip back to Australia was without bodyguard, manager or even token arm candy.

This trip was strictly Rhys McDowell, boy from Oz who needed to touch base with his family. A man who needed to have his sister ground him, his father lecture him and his mother embrace him.

This trip was, in other words, an attempt to once and for all get over his twelve-year ache for a man he could never have, by finally confessing to his family how he felt.

They’d tell him how stupid he was being. They’d mend his wretched heart with harsh truths and uncompromising logic. And then, once they were done, he could go to dinner with Josh and Caitlin without being in a state of perpetual horny torment and get on with existing in the off-season without the need to destroy himself with booze, wild women, wild men and wilder parties.

A sound plan.

Somewhat sound.

Okay, not really sound, but the only plan he had.

After twelve years, he’d come to the realization he had to do something and this was what he was doing.

Confession, parental insults, maternal hugs.

He was but a few feet away from his flight’s gate, knapsack slapping against his hip, hair hanging in his eyes, when the first camera flash fired.

Followed a second later by another one.

Instinctually, he flinched, raising his hand to shield his face from the unexpected attention.

And let out a surprised grunt when a man half a head taller than him, wearing black sunglasses, bumped into him, head down, jaw clenched.

“Whoa there, dude,” Rhys said, stumbling back a step before his natural reflexes could correct his balance. “In a hurry are—”

The man swung towards him.

Rhys sucked in a sharp breath.

Fuck, the guy was Curtis Clarkson.

The ex-captain of the Australian cricket team fixed him in a steady stare. Rhys could feel the older man’s gaze on him even through the dark lenses of his Ray Bans.

“McDowell?” The Australian accent licked at Rhys’s ears, sounding both strange and exquisite after so many months in the UK. “You look like—”

Another camera flash fired right beside them. Curtis flinched.

So did Rhys. Not a lot, but enough to catch Curtis’s attention.

Straightening, the ex-cricket player let out a low chuckle. “Our egos, ’eh?”

Rhys forced out a wobbly laugh. The last time he’d seen Clarkson was at the Australian Sportsman of the Year awards two years ago. They’d ended up in a metaphorical pissing contest over their chosen sports and which sport pulled the hottest groupies.

Both men had also been more than a little inebriated during said pissing contest.

If Rhys remembered correctly, they’d decided their chosen sport had nothing to do with the groupies; that it was, in fact, the size of their dicks that pulled the chicks, a decision that led to—again, if Rhys remembered correctly—both men dropping their tux pants to compare their respective packages.

They’d been stopped before either could shame the other. But Rhys had a vague recollection of a bulge in Clarkson’s boxers far bigger than most men’s.

Rhys also had an equally vague recollection of leaving the awards dinner with a sizeable boner that had nothing to do with the little honey on his arm.

Staring at Curtis Clarkson now, twenty-four months later, his mouth turned strangely dry. Fuck, he’d never actually been this close to Clarkson without having more than a few drinks under his belt. Had never noticed how…how…fuck, how hot the cricket-playing bastard was.

“You heading back to Australia?”

Giving himself a mental slap, Rhys nodded his head. “I didn’t know you were over here,” he said. Damn it, what the fuck was up with his voice all of a sudden? It sounded as if he were trying to talk with a throat full of gravel.

“Cricket thing.” Curtis let out another one of his famous chuckles. The guy was known for his sardonic sense of humour, as well as his lethal bowling arm. And, if the gossip mags and bloggers were to be believed, his equally impressive bedroom skills. Hadn’t he just recently been linked to some kind of a scandal with some computer guy and an American? Or was Rhys imagining that? He was certain another Australian celeb on the UK party circuit had suggested something like that.

Before he could stop himself—Jesus, what was wrong with him?—Rhys dropped his gaze to Curtis’s crotch.

“I’d say my balls are up here,” Curtis’s dry voice murmured, “but you’re actually looking in the right spot.”

Rhys jerked his stare upward, chest squeezing tight.

Christ.

Curtis chuckled again, the relaxed sound sending a lick of tension straight into Rhys’s groin. “Sorry, mate, just giving you a hard time. I’m jetlagged. Flew in two days ago and heading back now.”

Rhys forced out his own laugh. The world was quite familiar with his bisexual tastes. Rhys himself played up the reputation often, usually tongue firmly in cheek. He hadn’t, however, expected the ex-captain of Australia’s cricket team to join in the jest, especially not in the middle of Heathrow Airport surrounded by people who—more likely than not—knew exactly who he was, given the UK’s obsession with cricket.

The fact Clarkson captained the Australian team to a crushing defeat of England in three Ashes series in a row would have contributed to his fame over here.

And here he was now, talking about his balls.

Before Rhys could stop it, an image of Curtis’s boxer-clad bulge entered his head again.

Why the hell was he suddenly so aware of Curtis Clarkson? And more to the point, why was he nervous?

Because after a lifetime aching for Josh, you’ve decided it’s time to move on? And because you’re you, a masochist, you fall instantly in lust with a man known to be straighter than your best friend? You’re a fucking idiot, McDowell.

“Last boarding call for passengers flying first class Qantas Flight 42.”

At the speaker-amplified announcement, Rhys shifted his knapsack on his shoulder and gave Curtis a grin he hoped was wide and unaffected. “That’s my flight. Better get my arse into gear.”

Curtis shot the waiting attendants standing at the entry to the gangway a quick look over his shoulder. “Mine too.”

He turned back to Rhys, and for a split second they both seemed frozen. Staring at each other.

Shaking himself, feeling more flustered than he had in a long time, Rhys let out a laugh. “See you in there then.”

Before Curtis could reply, Rhys damn near sprinted for the gangway.

He was completely settled in his window suite, paperback on his lap, doing his absolute best to absorb the luxury of first class, when movement from the corner of his eye told him the passenger assigned to Seat 4F had arrived.

“Why, if it isn’t Man U’s party boy.”

A husky feminine whisper scraped at his unsettled nerves. He snapped his stare to the woman buckling into her seat, his heart thumping faster.

Angel Waters, tabloid reporter for one of Australia’s most notorious newspapers, smirked back at him, leaning towards him in such a way he couldn’t help but notice the rather exquisite perfection of her cleavage peeking out at him from the plunging neckline of her T-shirt.

Of course, Angel being Angel, she would be very aware of the amount of flesh exposed by such a position before she even moved. She was that kind of reporter: calculating, manipulative and sneaky. She was also—Rhys knew from personal experience—that way in bed as well. It made for incredibly wild, borderline-insane sex. It also made for scathing articles about your “on-field sporting prowess and over-inflated ego” when you didn’t agree to a follow-up session between the sheets.

Affecting a wide, goofy grin, Rhys wriggled his eyebrows at her. “Well, if it isn’t the worst sex I’ve ever had in my life.”

Angel’s red-glossed lips compressed. A finely plucked eyebrow arched. “Surely not. What with the menagerie of people you’ve slept with?”

Rhys flashed her a toothy smile. “Angel, as always, it’s a pleasure to see you again.”

She sniffed, ran her gaze over him from head to toe, and then traced the tips of her fingers along the deep cleft that was her cleavage. “You’re looking tired, McDowell. Frazzled even. Too much partying? Or has someone finally broken that shallow heart of yours?”

“I hear the Walkley Award for Best Journalism was announced last week.” Josh pulled a pout of mock pity. “And you didn’t win it?”

Angel hissed at him, literally hissed at him, the sound as venomous as the anger in her eyes.

He laughed as he began to settle back into his seat. “Good to see you again, Angel. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pretend you don’t ex—”

At the sight of Curtis Clarkson lowering himself into the seat on the other side of the aisle next to Angel, Rhys forgot how to talk.

He stared at the man, his pulse a thumping canon in his throat.

His balls joined in the throb. His gut churned in harmony. His cock, completely independent of the tumultuous reaction to the sight of the ex-cricket captain, flooded with liquid heat.

Holy crap, he was getting a hard-on just at the sight of the man? What the fuck?

Movement at the edge of his vision jerked him out of his ridiculous stupor. He snapped his focus back to Angel, and bit back a groan.

The journalist studied him, eyes narrow, contemplative, before—with deliberately exaggerated action—she turned to look behind her.

Angel regarded Curtis for a silent moment and then turned back to Rhys. Her lips danced. “Still lusting after the unobtainable, McDowell?” she murmured.

Fuck.

Biting back a growl, Rhys sat back into his seat, snatched his sunglasses from the side table, shoved them onto his face and opened his Joe Hill.

Beside him, separated by the narrow aisle, Angel chuckled. “Oh, this is going to be fun.”

Getting comfortable seemed out of the question.

Shifting in his seat for the umpteenth time, Curtis fought the urge to flick a glance at Rhys.

For one, he didn’t think his balls could take any more surreptitious glances at the guy. For another, there was no way in hell he wanted to inadvertently engage the attention of Angel Waters.

Thank god the flight attendants kept making their way back and forth along the strip of emptiness between him and the journalist or he’d be forced to interact with her.

The last time he’d come face-to-face with Angel Waters, during the last Ashes tour in the UK where he’d been comparing the match for Channel Eight, she’d blindsided him with a muck-digging expedition.

She’d been trying to rattle him into responding to the rumours he’d had a threesome with his best friend, Logan, and Logan’s now wife.

He’d responded by telling her that if she wanted to discover what it was like to piss off the man who owned and controlled most of the internet-connected technology she used daily, then to go ahead and print whatever the hell she wanted.

The fact those rumours were…

Fuck.

Rhys McDowell was moving.

Before he could stop himself, he tracked Rhys’s progress to the first-class loo.

Damn, the man looked good.

There was a wired energy about the soccer player Curtis had never really noticed before, as if the man was on the cusp of exploding with…what?

Even in the loose jeans and T-shirt, Rhys looked fit. Built.

Ripped.

A typical soccer player’s body: lean, sinewy and agile.

He shifted on his seat, the heavy pressure in his balls and cock once again making it tricky to be comfortable. Maybe he should change into a pair of tracksuit pants? Better for the long flight ahead.

When did he cut his hair?

The disconnected question whispered through Curtis’s mind as he watched Rhys open the toilet door and disappear into the cubicle.

The last time he’d seen the man, Rhys’s hair had reached the middle of his back, rather than the shaggy tumble of shoulder-length waves he sported now. Curtis had secretly wondered what the silken, dark strands would feel like flowing through his fingers, a similar heavy pressure to the one he was currently experiencing taking up residence in his groin.

Of course, he’d been half inebriated at the time, and shocked beyond hell by the unexpected thought and his body’s reaction to it. Somehow, a mere couple of hours later, he and Rhys had found themselves dropping their tux pants in the middle of the Sydney Opera House’s main ballroom.

They’d been stopped. Everyone had laughed.

Angel Waters had written an article titled Balls Up about the moment, declaring it the perfect example of the decline of the Australian sports role model. The piece had been slammed by the rest of the media as nothing more than a hack-job by a spurned woman (who knew Rhys had been brave enough—or foolish enough—to sleep with the journo?).

Still, Curtis had been more circumspect when it came to alcohol consumption during public outings since then, especially public outings where Angel Waters was present.

A prickling sensation on the side of his face drew his attention away from the locked toilet door.

Heart thumping a little faster than it should, he turned and looked out his window, glad for the fact he was still wearing his sunglasses.

Damn it, she’d caught him looking.

At what?

At Rhys. And knowing Angel’s style of journalistic integrity, she’d read something into it.

He studied the runway beyond his window, noting with detached disinterest a gathering of airport employees seemingly arguing with each other near the luggage conveyor.

Before he could stop himself, he flicked a glance at the toilet door.

Nope. Still closed.

His gut did a weird little clenching thing. Since when had he been so preoccupied with Rhys McDowell? Or any man, for that matter?

It wasn’t as though Curtis hadn’t fooled around with other guys before; some of the things his old team got up to while on tour would have shocked the country’s population. But those moments Curtis always put down to the craziness that came with international matches and days and nights spent confined to hotel rooms with free access to the minibar.

Sure, he’d found those…incidents highly pleasurable. In fact, some of the best orgasms of his life had come from them but if asked about his sexual orientation, heterosexual would be his answer.

Hell, he’d participated in a threesome only a few months ago with his best friend and not once had he contemplated touching Logan. He sure as hell hadn’t got turned on at the sight of him.

So what gives with the hard-on making itself known in your duds now, Clarkson?

The sound of the toilet door opening swung his attention back to the front of the first-class section.

Rhys stepped out into the aisle, his gaze—no longer hidden by sunglasses—connecting with Curtis’s across the seats.

A frisson of charged heat sank deep into Curtis’s groin. An equally intense spasm claimed his cock.

He held Rhys’s stare. Swallowed. Shifted on his seat.

Until, a mere heartbeat later, Rhys turned and made his way back to his seat. But not before Curtis saw his lips twitch in a smile and his head incline in an almost imperceptible nod.

Okay. So it seems it’s not just me. Fuck, eh?

Curtis let out a low, ragged chuckle and adjusted his rather engorged cock in his jeans.

“That was interesting.”

At Angel’s loaded observation, Curtis gave her a puzzled frown. “What was?”

The journalist studied him, her scrutiny silent and thorough, before she pivoted on her seat to direct her attention at Rhys. “You’re bi, aren’t you, McDowell?”

Jesus.

Rhys burst out laughing, an enigmatic light dancing in his eyes. “I’m tri, Angel. Tri.”

That strange sensation stirred in Curtis’s gut again. He frowned.

“Tri?” Angel leaned towards Rhys, looking for all the world like a hawk about to swoop.

Rhys mirrored her position, drawing his head closer to hers over the space of the aisle. “I’ll try anything once. I slept with you, didn’t I?”

Curtis snorted.

Angel sniffed, straightening in her seat to drape one leg over the other with dramatic contempt. “Don’t quit your soccer career, McDowell. You’d starve as a comedian.”

Before Rhys could respond—and by the way his lips were twitching, Curtis suspected the comeback was going to be incendiary—a smiling flight attendant stepped into the space between them.

“I’m sorry,” she said, directing her smile at Curtis as well. “The captain just wanted to let you know there’s a slight delay in taking off. It shouldn’t be that long. Is there anything I can get you while you’re waiting? Something to drink?”

Angel rolled her eyes and let out a scathing tsk, reaching for her iPad where it sat on her private side table. “I knew I should have flown with British Airlines.”

“I’ll have a mineral water,” Rhys answered, giving the attendant a grin. “And a wedge of lime. And I’m bloody well hanging for some Vegemite. Haven’t had any since I left Oz last year.”

Angel sniffed again, shaking her head as she plucked her earbuds from the table and plugged them into her ears.

Curtis watched her tune out the attendant before returning his attention to Rhys. For whatever reason, he too was suddenly craving Vegemite.

“Make that a double,” he said to the attendant.

She slid her frown back and forth between Curtis and Rhys. “Two mineral waters with lime and Vegemite? On what?”

Rhys shot Curtis a grin before offering the attendant a playful shrug. “Do you have those little catering thingies? Those little rectangley thingies that hotels and hospitals give you when you want Vegemite with your toast?”

Curtis chuckled. He knew exactly what Rhys was talking about. Any Aussie who’d spent any amount of time in a cheap hotel or public hospital would.

The attendant’s frown deepened. “We do. But we can’t make you toast, Mr. McDowell.”

Rhys waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “Who needs toast? Can I have a couple of those please?” He grinned at Curtis around Angel—now ignoring them all in favour of her iPad. “Couple for you too, Clarkson?”

Curtis laughed. “Hell yeah.”

The attendant regarded them both, clearly uncertain if they were serious or joking.

Curtis offered her a smile. “C’mon, you’ve never licked Vegemite straight from the knife? It’s like that only less…couth.”

She giggled, the uncertainty in her face replaced by something else Curtis was far more familiar with—flirtatious invitation. “I’ve licked a lot of things before,” she said, her voice lowering to a husky murmur, her gaze holding Curtis’s. “Perhaps I need to be more adventurous, yes?”

On the other side of Angel, Rhys chuckled. “There’s nothing better than being adventurous, love. It makes your heart race, your blood flow and, whoa, can it make for some interesting…experiences.”

Curtis flicked him a glance.

Rhys was looking at him.

Interesting experiences, indeed…

“Let me see what I can do for you.” The suggestive declaration jerked Curtis’s focus back to the flight attendant, sliding her gaze back and forth between him and Rhys.

Curtis had been with enough cricket groupies to know exactly what she was pondering. What were the odds of a threesome with two sports stars?

He swallowed. For some reason he couldn’t comprehend, the thought of including her in his next sexual…experience didn’t push any buttons at all.

Fuck, eh?

Chapter 2

Fifteen minutes later, Curtis accepted the fact he’d never be able to eat Vegemite again. Not without getting a hard-on. In fact, he’d never be able to look at Vegemite again without getting a boner.

The attendant had, indeed, delivered on Rhys’s request, returning to their seats with two iced mineral waters, four wedges of lime and six servings of portion-controlled, wrapped Vegemite. Curtis hadn’t missed the invitation in her eyes as she told him to “call her if he wanted anything else at all”, an invitation she also extended to Rhys as she handed him his drink.

Throughout the entire delivery, Rhys had flirted with her outrageously. And yet his eyes kept flicking to Curtis.

When the attendant left them, moving to serve the other three passengers in first class—one of them, Curtis noticed, the British wildlife cinematographer, Sir Addison Lancaster—Rhys had opened one of his Vegemites and raised the small container to his lips. “Bottoms up,” he said, his gaze holding Curtis’s, a second before he extended his tongue and licked a slow path over the surface of the salty spread.

There and then, Curtis knew his favourite breakfast—Vegemite on toast—was ruined for him.

Suppressing a groan, he grinned at the soccer player, opened his own Vegemite and ran the tip of his tongue across it.

For a frozen moment, Rhys stared at Curtis’s mouth, nostrils flaring. And then he grinned back at Curtis. “Race you,” he challenged, before slicking his tongue over his Vegemite once again.

Their thoroughly childish race was destroyed by a rather disgusted snort. “Are you serious?”

Curtis’s heart slammed into his throat. God, what had he been thinking? Here he was doing some kind of weird flirting shit more appropriate in a junior-high playground, and he’d completely forgotten who was sitting between them.

He jerked his focus to Angel, who was moving her stare between them both as if she were watching a tennis match. A tennis match, if her expression was anything to go on, that completely delighted her with its unexpectedness.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Dropping his Vegemite, he reached for his glass of mineral water. “Put your earbuds back in, Angel,” he muttered, turning to face the front of the plane.

“Oh there’s not a hope in hell, Clarkson.” She chortled, a wholly unsettling sound full of debauched pleasure. “Not when this is happ—”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Clarkson, Ms. Waters, Mr. McDowell.” The flight attendant stepped into the aisle, an apologetic frown pulling at her eyebrows as she looked at all three of them. “But the captain regrets to inform you the flight has been delayed considerably. He’s arranged for you all to return to the Qantas lounge until a new departure time can be ascertained, but unfortunately, it may not be until—”

“Why the hell,” Angel snarled, snatching up her iPad, earbuds and handbag, “did I not fly British Airlines?”

She snapped to her feet, glared at the flight attendant, and then turned her attention to Curtis. A calculated gleam shone in her eyes, turning her already hard stare sharp. “Expect a phone call from me, Mr. Clarkson. There’s so much more I want to know.”

Curtis drew in a breath.

She turned to Rhys. “And you as well, McDowell.”

Rhys smirked, lounging back in his seat as he licked at his Vegemite. “I’ve got an official response for you already, if you—”

With a sniff, she spun on her heel and strode down the aisle, vacating the first-class section.

“Why do I feel like there’s some history going on here?” The frowning attendant studied the billowing curtain left in Angel’s wake.

Rhys laughed. “If by ‘history’ you mean the scariest, most soul-scarring, psychologically traumatizing sex of my life, then yes, there’s history.”

Before Curtis could stop himself, an image of Rhys naked and sweaty and bound to a bed flashed through his head.

His body responded in kind.

Hot blood rushed to his cock—somewhat but not entirely deflated since its earlier hard-on—pumping it into a stiffened state once more.

Fuck. What the hell was going on? The intensity of his body’s reaction to McDowell was scaring the shit out of him. He had to get—

He jolted to his feet, grabbed his satchel and gave the attendant a short nod. “Thanks for the information.”

He didn’t wait for an answer. Nor did he allow himself to feel guilty for the confused surprise on her face at his abrupt dismissal. And he especially didn’t permit himself to look at Rhys.

Instead, he hurried from the first-class section, barely registering the captain’s presence at the front exit door, let along the man’s enthusiastic, “You’re the best captain Australia’s had since Bradman, Mr. Clarkson.”

What the hell was wrong with him?

Another image of Rhys McDowell bound naked and sweaty to a bed filled his head, but this Rhys wasn’t alone. This time, Curtis was with him, kneeling between Rhys’s spread legs, his tongue slowly tracing a line up Rhys’s erect—

Curtis’s feet tangled beneath him.

“Fuck,” he muttered, catching himself before he could go arse-over-tit.

This was ridiculous. He needed to get his act together.

A shower. A cold one. That’s what you need. Now.

Hitching his satchel higher up his shoulder, he all but ran through the gangway. His footfalls sounded like thunder in the narrow stretch. His heart seemed to thump in his throat with equal volume.

He didn’t slow his pace or acknowledge any recognition as he moved through the terminal in the direction of the Qantas first-class lounge. Keeping his head down, he weaved through the crowd, doing his best to kill the thought of going down on Rhys McDowell. His best, however, was woefully unsuccessful.

By the time he arrived at the lounge—striding through the entry with barely a nod at the receptionist—his stupid bloody brain had moved beyond going down on Rhys and was presenting him with vivid, wholly arousing images of Rhys bent over the edge of the bed as he, Curtis, slammed into his tight arse over and over and over again.

Shower. He needed a shower.

If for no other reason than to wank the unexpected lust for the man out of his thoroughly erect dick.

Awesome. Jerking off in an airline lounge shower cubicle? Classy.

Screw classy.

Screw Rhys.

Stopping at the amenities desk, he fixed the attendant in a stare. “Is there a shower free?”

The man flinched at his abrupt question, frowned at him with curious recognition, and then lowered his attention to the desk. “Shower number 4 is free, Mr. Clarkson. Clean towels and toiletries have just been placed in there.”

With a grunt, Curtis nodded at the attendant. “Thanks.”

“You’re—”

Turning on his heel, Curtis headed for the entry to the shower section. Behind him, the attendant said something, most likely “welcome”, but Curtis couldn’t be sure, nor was he going to turn around.

A thick finger of guilt sank into his gut. He wasn’t normally this rude.

You’re also not normally trying to outrun a hard-on.

An image of Rhys writhing in pleasure, eyes closed, mouth open, flashed through his head, causing the hard-on he was trying to outrun to throb with eager interest.

Hell, he really needed to regain control of his body and his mind.

With another grunt, Curtis shoved open the door to shower cubicle number 4, stepped into the small area and then turned to lock the door behind him.

Just as a long-fingered hand pressed flat to the brushed-steel surface, halting its movement.

Curtis’s throat constricted. His balls rose up. His gut knotted. He stared at the man on the other side of the cubicle’s threshold. “McDowell.”

There was no question in his voice. Just a raw acceptance. An equally raw want.

Rhys met his stare. His jaw bunched and, without uttering a word, he stepped into the cubicle and closed the door behind him.

Curtis stepped back, seared by the close proximity. In his jeans, his cock throbbed. Grew stiffer. Harder.

“McDowell…” he said again, although this time it was more a groan of submission.

“I tried not to follow you.” Rhys’s voice was husky. For the first time, Curtis noticed a slight British tinge in his Australian accent. How many years had the soccer player been living in the UK now?

Who the fuck cares, Clarkson? He’s standing in a shower cubicle with you and you’re thinking about his accent?

“I tried to outrun you,” Curtis responded, his voice barely a whisper.

Rhys’s nostrils flared. Tormented desire burned in his eyes. “You want me to go?”

Curtis shook his head. “No. I want you naked. Now.”

Rhys had dedicated his life to acting solely and completely on first instincts.

Most of those instincts had been firmly planted in experiencing pleasure and fun. Rhys was renowned for never taking anything seriously, not even his soccer. That he was such a talented player—one who commanded millions a year—only made Rhys a bigger threat on the field. His most common first instinct—to act on anything that felt right—meant he was an unpredictable striker. And a highly entertaining one to watch.

Acting on first instincts ruled his approach to life.

Except when it came to Josh Blackthorne. With Josh, Rhys knew—even when he was only fifteen and desperately in love with his best friend—his instinct to grab the guy and kiss him senseless would have ended with a broken nose and a broken friendship.

But up until boarding the plane bound for Sydney, Josh had been the exception to the rule.

And then Rhys had been hit by a sexual desire for Curtis Clarkson more powerful than any he’d ever experienced before. Had fought against it on the plane. Had argued with himself against it in the plane’s loo. Had questioned his sanity even as he craved to feel the ex-cricket captain’s lips move against his own.

When Curtis had hurried from the plane—

Hurried? Huh, don’t you mean fled?

—Rhys’s first instincts were to follow. To chase him down, corner him somewhere away from the public eye, and demand to kiss him. Demand Curtis unzip Rhys’s fly and squeeze his cock until he came.

For five heartbeats, he’d denied those instincts.

Five pounding, punishing, brutal heartbeats.

On the sixth heartbeat, he’d succumbed to them.

And now here he was, standing in a first-class lounge shower cubicle with a man most of Australia hoped one day would run for prime minister, or president, or governor general or…or…fuck, some other exalted, illustrious position, and Rhys’s current instinct told him he wasn’t going to survive.

Not unscathed.

A heavy spasm claimed his cock at the thought. A hungry ache gnawed at his soul.

I want you naked. Now.

The words caressed him, coarse and seductive at once.

Curtis watched him, Adam’s apple jerking up and down his throat. A throat, Rhys couldn’t help but notice, strong and muscular and tanned.

Take him. Own him.

Rhys moved.

He destroyed the small distance between them, grabbed the front of Curtis’s shirt and ripped it open.

Buttons bounced off the tiled walls. Curtis gasped, staggering backward.

“Fuck,” he yelped, a second before Rhys balled his hand in the hair at the back of Curtis’s head and captured his lips.

Rhys didn’t hold back. Didn’t check his lust. With an animalistic growl, he captured Curtis’s tongue with his own. Took possession of it.

Curtis groaned into his mouth, grabbed at his hair and ground his erection to Rhys’s. Painful pleasure sheared through Rhys, a hot rush of desire following immediately in its wake.

That. He needed more of that.

Tearing his mouth from Curtis’s, he yanked the taller man’s head backward and laved the bristled column of his throat with his tongue, tormenting Curtis’s Adam’s apple as he did so.

Curtis groaned again, the sound hungry. And submissive.

Rhys shuddered at the realization. Fresh lust flooded his groin.

Curtis Clarkson, a man feared on the cricket pitch, a man revered in the business world, a man idolized by millions of fans the world over, was submitting to him.

Another shudder claimed Rhys. His heart smashed faster in his chest. His breath grew shallow.

Fuck yeah.

Fisting Curtis’s hair tighter, he reached for the man’s belt buckle with his other hand.

Yanked at it.

Unthreaded it.

“Oh fuck…” Curtis ground out, hips bucking.

Rhys bit at the base of Curtis’s throat, strengthening his grip in his hair.

“Fuck yeah,” Curtis panted, driving his cock—a rigid pole straining against the fly of his jeans—forward.

Without removing his mouth from Curtis’s throat, Rhys popped the button of his fly and then lowered its zipper.

Before he finished, Curtis’s cock sprang free, jutting up from the parted denim, thick and venous and engorged.

A hot thrill shot through Rhys, a delicious delight at the man’s arousal. And then, without warning, he released Curtis’s hair and shoved him backward.

Hard.

Curtis staggered, his stare fixed on Rhys, his chest heaving.

Rhys drew a steadying breath. He hadn’t expected to be this…this…overcome with primitive, carnal lust.

You hadn’t expected Curtis to be submissive.

“Do you have lube?”

At his hoarse question, Curtis shook his head. “I wasn’t planning on getting laid this trip.”

“Then I guess I’m just going to have to fuck you with my mouth for now.”

A low moan tore from Curtis’s throat. His eyelids fluttered closed. His jaw bunched. His stomach—the most incredible six-pack Rhys had ever seen—hitched. “For now?”

Rhys chuckled. The sight of Curtis so shaken by pleasure filled him with a craving he couldn’t fathom. “Trust me, with the way I’m going to pound your arse later, we’re going to need lube. A lot of lube.”

Curtis opened his eyes, regarding Rhys with dilated pupils. “Who says there’s going to be a later?”

For an answer, Rhys hooked his fingers into the back of his T-shirt between his shoulders and pulled the item of clothing over his head.

Curtis groaned, his stomach hitching again as Rhys dropped his shirt onto the tiled floor.

“I do,” Rhys answered, closing the small distance between them to grab at the waistband of Curtis’s jeans. “There are going to be quite a few laters, in fact.”

He hauled him close and captured his lips once more.

Plundered his mouth with brutal greed.

The feel of Curtis’s chest hair—course and silken at the same time—rubbing against his own smooth chest sent ribbons of impatient need unfurling through him.

He moaned, sliding his body against Curtis’s as he deepened their kiss. At the feel of the other man’s nipples—as hard as his cock—rubbing over his own, his knees trembled.

Fuck, he hadn’t been prepared for such sensory overload.

Already addicted to the sensation, he dragged his chest back in the other direction, whimpering as Curtis’s nipples slid over his again.

Oh yeah. Oh yeah…

Strong fingers dug into his hips a second before Curtis tore his mouth away. “Pl-please, Rhys…” Curtis groaned, staring into his eyes even as he reached for Rhys’s still-contained cock. “I don’t…I don’t think I can take any more without—”

“Strip.”

Rhys saw Curtis’s Adam’s apple jerk up and down his throat.

He chuckled. “You want to walk out of here in wet clothes?”

Curtis frowned. “Wet clothes?”

With another chuckle, Rhys popped the button of his jeans. “What? You think I’m going to pass up the opportunity of blowing you in a shower without turning on the water?”

Curtis’s lips twitched. “I guess not.”

Rhys grinned. “Now fucking strip, Clarkson. Before I teach you not to make me wait and hit the water any—”

Curtis toed off his boots and shoved his jeans down his hips.

Rhys laughed. “That’s my perfect little cricket player.”

Curtis cocked an eyebrow, holding his arms out to his sides. “Little?”

Rhys dropped his gaze to Curtis’s now completely revealed erection, his mouth filling with saliva and his gut knotting at the sight.

Fuck. The guy was hung.

And built. Jesus.

Licking at his lips Rhys lifted his stare back up to Curtis’s face. “Not bad for an old dude.”

Curtis snorted. Rhys couldn’t miss the way his sublime pecs moved with the sound. “I’m not that fucking old.”

“You’re eight years older than me.”

“Oh, well, in that case I better get a walking frame before we do—”

Curtis’s smirking retort died on his lips as Rhys lowered his owns zipper.

“Fuck me,” Curtis whispered, his stare fixed on Rhys’s cock as it sprang free.

“I told you.” Rhys kicked off his boots. “Later.”

Before Curtis could say another word, he stripped the rest of his clothes from his body.

“Now,” he said, stepping into the shower to reach for the tap at Curtis’s hip, “you have until I count to four to get the rest of your gear off. One.”

Curtis stripped his shirt from his body and threw it past Rhys’s head.

Rhys grinned. “Two.”

Curtis’s socks and jeans followed.

“Three.”

With a smile, Rhys pressed his naked body against Curtis’s, his head swimming as their rigid dicks collided, and flipped on the shower. “Four.”

The second the warm stream of water flowed over them both, Rhys dropped to his knees and took Curtis’s cock in his mouth.

Sucked the entire engorged length past his lips.

Devoured it until its crown pressed at the back of his throat.

“Fuck,” Curtis groaned above him, tangling a hand in Rhys’s wet hair. “Fuck, that’s good.”

Sucking harder on Curtis’s flesh, Rhys slowly moved his head upward.

A ragged laugh fell from Curtis, part dismay, part pleasure.

Rhys plunged back down again, taking Curtis even deeper into his mouth, his throat. Cupping Curtis’s sac with a firm grip as he did so. Giving the swollen globes a gentle tug.

“Fuck!” Curtis burst out, slamming his hips forward. His cock drove hard into Rhys’s mouth, a gagging penetration Rhys reveled in.

With increasing suction, he dragged his lips up the man’s length again. Flicked his tongue over the tiny slit at the tip of his cock, and then sank down to his balls once more.

Curtis bucked.

Water streamed over Rhys’s head, flowed down his back. Between the crack of his arse. It was a wicked caress; one he imagined to be Curtis’s tongue.

Giving the man a look, he hummed around his length as he once again withdrew up to the distended rim of his cock head.

The guy was a fucking sexy god. Water dripped from his nose, his chin. Ran down his chest, his abs. His wet hair clung to his forehead, his temples.

Closing his eyes on the sensual vision, Rhys teased the tip of Curtis’s cock with his tongue again.

Salty muskiness greeted his taste buds. Curtis’s pre-come.

Rhys’s head spun again.

His balls throbbed. His heart raced.

He plunged down Curtis’s shaft. Up. Down.

With every punishing suck, he kneaded Curtis’s balls. With every kneading caress, he moved his index finger closer to Curtis anus.

Closer and closer, until the tip of his finger found that amazing puckered ring of muscle, now wet with water from the shower.

Wet and exposed to his touch.

He pressed on the entry once. A wordless question asked while his mouth was full of Curtis’s hard flesh.

The hand in his hair balled tighter. The cock filling his mouth, pressed to his tongue, twitched.

Above him, Curtis let out a shaky moan. “I’ll blow in your mouth if you do that a—”

He pressed on Curtis’s anus again, with more pressure this time. As he took his own dick in his free hand and pumped.

Pushed at Curtis’s hole. Penetrated it.

Sucked harder on his cock.

With a strangled roar and a violent bucking of hips, Curtis came.

Flooding Rhys’s mouth with his thick release.

And it wasn’t until Rhys swallowed the last drop—his hand roaming Curtis’s hips, thighs and arse, his stare locked on Curtis’s pleasure-contorted face, his own release pumping from him in white, ropey wads—that he realized he hadn’t once imagined it was Josh Blackthorne’s cock he was sucking.

Something he’d done every time he’d given another man head since he could remember.

Fuck.

End of Extended Sample

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