Exploration: Chapter One Sneak Peek

“Wake up, old man.” I jumped at the sound of Eli’s voice directly behind me. Before my heart rate had slowed to a healthier cadence, I felt like shit for zoning out when my friend needed me to be vigilant.

“Sorry, Eli,” I apologized, shifting off my stool to grasp the balcony railing. “I swear, you have a knack for catching me with my pants down.” A flush creeped up my neck as I realized what I’d said. Shit. Maybe Marisa was right and I needed to start interacting with people more often. Hiding away in my home office wasn’t doing anything for my social skills. “I mean—”

“Relax, I know what you meant.” His gaze wandered slowly over the length of my body. Instinctively, I squared my shoulders and widened my stance, giving Eli something to check out.

I chuckled as I watched him carefully adjusting himself. In a different world, Eli and I could’ve made a great couple. We were best friends, which my parents had always drilled into my head was the most important trait in a potential partner. The sexual attraction was there, and we’d even dipped our toes in those waters a few times after Marisa and I split and I came out to my friends and family, but something was missing on both sides. I was wired for nurturing my partner and Eli wanted pain without strings. Once we’d come to understand one another, we agreed to cool off on the sex while we could salvage our friendship, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t flirt occasionally.

“You sure you’re still cool with being helping out? I know you have a lot on your plate with your freelance projects and I don’t want you burning out for my sake.” I was exhausted, but that didn’t mean I’d leave Eli hanging. He’d recently bought the bar from the previous owner and made some much needed renovations. It wasn’t until the liquor license had come up for renewal that he’d found out the city wasn’t pleased about some rumors they’d heard regarding lewd behavior at the bar. They’d given Eli a provisional renewal with demands that he hire staff to stop the customers from engaging in lewd behavior.

I’d laughed when he’d first told me about his meeting with the city, because it was a gay bar. Their logo was designed to look like a cock plowing into an ass, for chrissakes! Did the city think it was an establishment where upstanding gay men met one another over martinis and posh hors d’ouevres?  No. I may not have been out most of my life, but even I’d known for years that Club 83 was where guys met up for random encounters without expectations of anything once they stepped onto the street. I didn’t envy Eli trying to clean up the reputation of the club without driving away his faithful patrons.

“Nah, we’re good,” I assured him. “But maybe you should explain to me again what it is you expect me to do, because if I’m supposed to act like a school dance chaperone maintaining polite distance between couples on the dance floor, you might as well shut down right now.”

I’d worked a few shifts now and hadn’t seen anything that wasn’t going on in bars across the country. Club 83 wasn’t the type of gay bar women flocked to for the bachelorette parties. The line for the women’s room was often just as long as for the men’s, but that was because guys didn’t give a damn who the facilities were designated for when it came to busting a nut. It was for that same reason that none of the stalls had doors, although that’d proven to be a shitty deterrent to what horny men got up to.

Eli shook his head as he rolled his shoulders, squinting to observe what was happening on the dance floor below us. “I’m not stupid enough to think we’re going to dial back enough of the action to turn this into a family establishment, but I would sure as fuck like to know if there’s anything to the rumors that my bartenders are acting like pimps.”

His timing was impeccable. I’d just taken a long swallow of water, sending it straight into my lungs, causing me to choke. “Do what now?”

“You fucking heard me,” he groaned. “I don’t know if there’s anything to it, but I’ve heard rumblings that at least one of my bartenders is taking a cut for pairing up hookers with eager marks.”

“That makes no sense,” I argued, waving my hand over the crowd. “All a guy has to do if he wants to get sucked or fucked is head out to the dance floor. Hell, I’m pretty sure some of the guys out there wouldn’t even insist on finding someplace private before getting down to it.”

“Oh honey, surely you’re not that out of touch.” Eli chuckled, sliding his hand to the small of my back. He leaned in closer, steadying himself with his other hand pressed against my chest. When he next spoke, I could feel his warm breath against my skin, which did unpleasant things to my dick since I was on shift for another three hours. “It’s not about the physical release, it’s about the illusion. The fantasy. The thrill.”

“The thrill of feeling like you have to pay for sex?” That didn’t sound like fun to me. If I was spending money on the guy who’d eventually wind up on his knees for me, I’d prefer to take him out for a nice dinner or buy him a few drinks. Paying for sex was all sorts of wrong.

“For some, yeah. How many times have both of us told idiots it wasn’t their place to judge someone else’s kink?” Eli smacked me upside the head. “This falls into the same category.”

“And yet you want me to stop it if I see it happening.” Some nights, Eli made no sense. Nights when I’d been awake since well before dawn busting my ass so I could go to Ryan’s tournament in between shifts at the bar, my friend made even less sense.

Eli shrugged. “Just because I understand where they’re coming from doesn’t mean I can let it happen in my bar. Hell, if it wasn’t for that stupid provisional license, I’d probably let it slide. Again, just because I don’t get into what they do doesn’t mean I don’t understand. It’s a power game, not much different from the ones you like to play.”

I might’ve argued with him on that point, but Eli’s cell phone buzzed in his pocket and he waved as he jogged down the stairs, leaving me to my balcony perch. One of the servers appeared a short time later to deliver two bottles of cold water. I thanked him as I pulled a few singles out of my wallet.

I’d never asked him to make sure I had something to drink up here and it wasn’t part of his job. Tonight, I noticed the shy dip of his eyes and coy smile before he backed away. Somehow, I’d completely missed the fact the boy was flirting with me. Of course I had, because the last time I’d consciously paid attention to behavior like his, he may well have still been in diapers. I wasn’t a prude about age differences, but he was entirely too close to my son’s age for anything more than a night of fun.

That thought seemed to set the tone for much of the night. Eli wanted me camped out in the balcony so I could oversee everything going on below, which turned out to be a boring and somewhat depressing job. Every time someone caught my eye down below, they’d inevitably turn and I couldn’t help but think how young everyone looked, which led to me wondering if Eli had stuck me up here so I didn’t tarnish the illusion he’d created. Which was bullshit, of course, because Eli was the life of the party, bumping and grinding his way through the crowd, all in the name of good customer service.

The party was still in full swing after midnight, but I was fading fast. I was so exhausted, I doubted I’d be able to react to any issues on the main floor before it turned into an all and out brawl. The DJ was starting to mix in more slower songs, meant to wind down the crowd and start clearing them out.

Movement near the back hall caught my attention, but it took longer than I’d care to admit for me to process what I thought I was seeing. At first, it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. A slightly older—but probably still a decade younger than me—man had his younger partner’s back pressed against the wall. Nothing out of the ordinary, but there was something about the younger guy’s posture that didn’t seem at ease. He placed a hand in the center of the older man’s chest, putting some distance between them as they continued talking. I moved closer to the stairs, ready to step in at the first sign of trouble.

The scene across the room morphed and I started to relax. The tension between the men eased and the younger one ran his fingertips down the other man’s chest. I became transfixed, watching as he leaned in and sucked his partner’s neck. His hand traveled down the broader man’s stomach, his fingers curling around the waistband of his jeans. The older man said whispered something in the younger’s ear and he nodded, taking the man’s hand and leading him down the back hall.

I knew exactly what was going to happen once they were in a more secluded area. Well, not exactly, but I could guarantee clothes would be coming off. I’d be willing to bet my salary for tonight that it’d be more than shared handjobs or a blowjob. After a quick internal debate, I descended the stairs and shouldered my way through the writhing mob on the dance floor. Eli could be pissed if he wanted to be, but the first step in cleaning up the reputation of the bar was to at the very least teach people they couldn’t wander wherever they felt like—including restricted access areas—to get their rocks off. If these two were so hot and horny for one another that they couldn’t wait to get someplace else, they could damn well use the bathrooms like everyone else.

The back hall was a series of unused offices and storage rooms. I’d never taken the time to familiarize myself with this part of the building because I was so rarely down here. Now, I was kicking myself, because I wasn’t eager to start rattling every door knob to figure out where they were hiding. Luckily, there was a sliver of light shining from under the second to last door on the left.

As carefully as possible, I turned the knob and pushed the door open, hoping for the element of surprise. They’d had more than enough time to duck behind one of the shelves and strip whatever clothes they felt were in the way. The chorus of grunts and moans once I eased the door closed behind me guided me to their hiding spot at the end of the second row.

I wasn’t prepared for the sight that welcomed me when I rounded the corner. The younger man was on his knees, face buried in the other man’s groin, moaning loudly as his head bobbed back and forth, sucking cock like he was on a mission to make his partner come as quickly as possible. His right hand slid between the man’s legs, earning a groan of approval. Whatever he was doing in concert with sucking the man’s shaft, it was obvious he knew what he was doing.

Sweat dampened the ends of the younger guy’s dark brown hair. Whether from dancing or sexual exertion I couldn’t be sure, but he looked absolutely beautiful servicing his partner.

The sounds grew louder and more obscene when the younger guy reached between his own legs and starting jacking his own dick. I bit my lower lip, the pain snapping me back to the present, realizing that I’d joined in on the action. My own cock was painfully hard behind my jeans. This was not what Eli paid me for.

I stepped back and closed my eyes, taking a few deep breaths as I willed my dick to behave. Once that problem started receding, I step back into the aisle and cleared my throat. The older man noticed me first, his eyes snapping down to the Club 83 logo on my tight shirt. Rather than panic at being caught, he stared directly at me and licked his bottom lip, jerking his head to the side in silent invitation before reaching down to tangle his fingers in the younger man’s hair as he started thrusting harder into his mouth.

As hot as the scene was, I had to stop it. That was my job. But damn if I wasn’t considering joining them. Eli wasn’t oblivious to what went on in his bar.

No. you’re here to work, not get off. Do that shit on your own time, I scolded myseld.

I stalked down the aisle, suddenly nervous about being alone in the back room with them. I doubted the guy getting sucked off would do anything to hurt me, but the younger man was an unknown. Would he be embarrassed about being caught on his knees? Pissed off that they’d been interrupted? I should’ve let Eli know where I was going.

When neither of them seemed interested in cutting their sexy time short on my account, I reached down and tentatively grabbed the younger guy’s shoulder. His mouth popped off the man’s dick and he glared up at me.

“Do you—”

“What in the fuck are you doing, Frankie?” My grip tightened as I pulled my roommate off the floor. We weren’t buddies, but I knew enough to know he was taking unnecessary risks.

Frankie jerked out of my grip and backed himself against the shelving on the opposite side of the aisle. His nostrils flared with rage as he glared at me. The other guy mumbled a few parting words and stumbled out of the room with his pants still around his thighs.

“Not that I have to explain a fucking thing to you, but until you so rudely interrupted, I was getting my mouth well and truly fucked. Where in the fuck do you get off thinking you can storm in here? I’m not a kid. I don’t need you to save me.”

With him standing before me, cock jutting out from his open jeans, balls cradled by—was that a shimmery jockstrap?—sexy as hell underwear I’d never have expected my assumingly straight-laced roommate to wear, it was impossible to see him as a child.

That’s when I noticed two twenty dollar bills crumpled on the floor near his feet. I snatched them off the floor and waved them in his face. “What the fuck is this? You’re a goddamn hooker?”

“I don’t have to explain jack shit to you,” he spat out, his cheeks flushing bright red. “As long as you get your rent and money for the utilities, it doesn’t matter where the fucking money comes from.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” I growled. Frankie stumbled as he tried to right his clothes and I reached out to steady him. “You can’t come into my work to turn tricks and think I’m going to turn a blind eye to it.”

Nothing about tonight made sense. Frankie and I had been strangers when he’d responded to my ad looking for a roommate, but I’d checked out his story before allowing him to move in with me. Frankie didn’t need to drop to his knee to pay the bills. So why?

Eli’s words from earlier floated into my mind. “It’s about the power exchange…”

“We’ll talk about this later,” I told Frankie as I ushered him to the door. “Go home and wait for me.”

“You’re not my father, Cal,” he shot back. “You don’t get to tell me what to do.”

I spun around to look at him again. The challenge in his eyes had me rock hard again. It may have been my dumbest idea ever, but if it really was about the power exchange for Frankie, I knew how to help him with that.

“Boy,” I ground out, my voice dropping a full octave as I spoke slowly, hoping this didn’t blow up in my face. “I’m not saying I’m your father, but you keep talking back to me and I might take you over my knee and spank that ass until you’re begging me to stop.”

I expected Frankie to slap me or bolt from the room so he could pack and move out before I got home. Instead, the little shit took a step closer, his pupils blown, breathing ragged. “Bring it…Daddy.”

Before I managed to wrap my mind around his words, Frankie ducked under my arm and was gone.

Well shit.