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driving him higher, until his balls tightened and he felt the warning tingle at the base of his spine.

In the next instant, his release came and he shouted, fist pumping furiously as warm streaks hit his belly. His dream lover vanished and he released his softening cock, staring at the stripes of cum cooling on his torso. One corner of his mouth lifted in immense satisfaction.

Hetero with a capital H. There was the evidence to prove it.

Ignoring the slight pinch in his abdomen from the surgery that had saved his life, he pushed up and padded into the bathroom to clean up and pull on his swim trunks. The pool, beer, and the company of his best friend were all he needed to keep him content for now.

But soon he’d have to do something about making that dream lover a reality, even if it couldn’t be Katrina.

* * *

Bastian stood frozen, fist raised to knock on Michael’s bedroom door, gaping at the sight that greeted him through the crack. He’d stopped by after changing in his own room to see if Michael was ready and ask about something regarding work. Damned if he knew what the question had been.

Because the sight of the man he loved and lusted after above all others, splayed and jacking his cock, seared through his retinas, into his brain, and left him stupid. When rope after rope of cum streaked the man’s broad stomach and chest, he’d have given his soul to be there, lapping the salty-sweet cream from that smooth, taut skin.

Lowering his hand, Bastian backed away from the door and turned, heart pounding and cock painfully at attention, fleeing as quickly and quietly as possible. He didn’t know what Michael would do if he knew Bastian had witnessed such a private moment, and he didn’t care to find out.

Kick him out? Maybe not, considering how he’d practically begged Bastian to stay. But it would sure make things awkward between them. Friendship was all he had of Michael, and the thought of losing that made him sick.

“Why did I have to fall for a man who’s so straight, his spine is made of titanium?” he muttered.

And he knows how you feel about him. Why do you put up with this shit, letting him stomp your heart into the dirt under his polished shoes?

“Because I’m an idiot.”

In the kitchen, he stood for a few minutes, willing away his raging hard-on. And not a second too soon. After snagging two more beers from the fridge, he greeted Mrs. Beasley, who’d just come in, huffing and carrying three plastic grocery bags. The plump, gray-haired woman was flushed and breathless, as though she’d been hurrying to complete her errand and get back to her kitchen.

“Hey, gorgeous,” he said, stopping to plant a kiss on her cheek. Taking two of the sacks from her, he placed them on the granite countertop.

“Oh, you!” She blushed harder and swatted at him, setting the remaining bag, along with her purse, next to the other two. Digging inside one bag, she began pulling out fresh produce, and nodded toward the bottles. “Not letting Mr. Ross have too much of that, are you?”

“No way,” he assured her. “This is his limit. Can’t say the same for me, though.”

“Humph. The drink will put you in an early grave. Mark my words.” The woman kept at her task, putting away the groceries, movements brisk.

“My grandfather drank a fifth of whiskey every week and died at age ninety-seven. He also ate biscuits and gravy for breakfast more often than not.”

“He was likely a laborer, not an office man. Things were different then, when a man had to toil all day to make a wage. Kept a man’s body fit and his mind clean, and what little rest or nip of spirits he got was sorely earned.”

Well, he could hardly refute that. “You’re right. He worked in a steel mill, dawn to dusk. Each generation of Chevalier men has definitely gotten softer since then.” He waved a bottle at the portly woman. “Are you worried about me, Mrs. Beasley?”

She sniffed. “Of course not. And you’re not soft in the least, just a little slow.”

He blinked at her. “What? How do you mean?”

“You’ll figure it out sooner or later.” Facing him, she fisted her hands on ample hips. “Now, what do you boys want for dinner?”

“Michael told Simon he wanted shrimp marinara, I think.” Slow? What the hell was she talking about?

“I haven’t been around to get the message,” she said in annoyance. “Why that old geezer insists on being privy to every little thing, right down to my menu, is beyond me. It would be a lot simpler if Mr. Ross would phone me directly with his requests when he’s out.”

Bastian shrugged. “You know Simon. He’s very old school that way.” Or something. Probably just liked to see the woman all riled up.

“An old snoop is what he is,” she grumbled. “Always skulking around, getting into my business.” As she turned to the task of dinner, Bastian made his escape.

Bastian didn’t see Simon, skulking or not, on the way to the pool, though, in truth, his attention was riveted on the lush surroundings. Michael’s home was designed to be an oasis, a tropical-themed sanctuary from the outside world, and the pool area was no exception. Built indoors as part of the house, the huge space was covered and surrounded by walls on three sides. The fourth wall, made entirely of bulletproof glass, faced the outdoor patio, complete with a large barbecue pit, tables, and loungers. A door leading to the patio was propped open if Michael entertained, but was normally kept closed and required anyone wishing to gain access to the pool from the outside to enter their code.

In his opinion, no safety measure was too great when it came to Michael. The man was the head of a covert agency, was in close contact with the president, and as such was always a potential target.

Bastian set the beers on a small table and waded into the water on the shallow end, relishing the cool wetness lapping at his overheated skin. He dunked his head and then floated on his back, trying to concentrate on the beauty of his surroundings rather than the memory of his friend pulling on his hard, reddened cock.

Good thing the swim-up bar was only manned during parties, or Bastian would be sorely tempted to imbibe something with a lot more kick than beer. And he still might hunt down a tumbler of whiskey, despite the admonishment from Mrs. Beasley. Anything to help kill this insane longing for a man who’d rather cut off his prick than be with Bastian or any man.

“Look out below!”

At the shout, Bastian’s eyes popped open just in time to see Michael running full-out for the edge of the pool, straight to where Bastian was floating. “Hey, don’t even—”

His friend leaped and let out a triumphant war whoop, tucking his knees up cannonball style. Bastian scrambled backward, but not fast enough to avoid being drenched when Michael hit the water with a big splash. He came up sputtering, while Michael laughed.

“You shithead!”

“I thought I was an asshole.”

“That, too!”

Swiping his face, he drank in the sight of Michael, dark hair dripping, beads of water making trails down his sculpted, lightly furred chest and abdomen. Two bronzed male nipples peaked immediately, no doubt due to the contrast of wetness and cool air. Three puckered bullet wounds — one too damned close to the man’s heart and the others on his side and stomach — didn’t detract from his perfection. Bastian tore his gaze from them with effort and covered his lapse with a counterattack.

Cupping his hand, he swatted the water, dousing a smug-looking Michael right in the face — and the war was on.

They battled like a couple of teenaged boys, yelling and chasing each other around the pool. Both grappling for the upper hand in an effort to be victorious in dishing out the most dunkings. Bastian couldn’t recall the last time he’d had such fun.

Right up until Michael threw him face-first into the concrete edge of the pool.

Pain exploded in his face and he struggled to his feet, draping an arm on the ledge and holding his mouth.

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