Wyatt sailed through the door of Hidden Treasures, almost dancing while saying, “I heard from a little birdie you had a date tonight.”
Carter fought to keep himself from rolling his eyes at Mrs. Jenkins as he handed her back her credit card. Hoping she would ignore Wyatt, he smiled and tried to keep things professional. “I’ll let you know if I can find those chairs you wanted. I’ve got some good contacts, so it shouldn’t be difficult.”
Her eyes twinkled as she took back her card. “A date? You didn’t mention anything like that.” Then she turned to Wyatt. “Hello, dear.”
He blushed a little. “Hello, Mrs. Jenkins.” Then, glancing back to Carter, he mouthed, “Sorry.”
She wasn’t going to give up on good gossip, so she turned to look at Carter. “Who is your mysterious suitor? I can’t remember hearing you mention anyone.”
Carter wasn’t sure what to say, because he still wasn’t sure if it was a real date. Grant had asked him out for dinner and it sounded like a date, but Carter had been in this position before. Pushing aside his worries, he shrugged. “He’s a friend. We’re just having dinner.”
Not believing Carter for a minute, the little old lady looked at Wyatt and tilted her head questioningly. He gave Carter a shrug and then looked back to Mrs. Jenkins and shook his head, whispering conspiratorially, “He’s lying. The way Grant looks at him, there’s no way that man thinks they’re friends.”
She laughed like it was the best thing she’d heard all day. Ignoring Carter’s rising embarrassment, she kept her focus on Wyatt. “Is he handsome?”
Wyatt leaned toward her and nodded. “He’s one of my boyfriend’s brothers. He’s built like a tank but is very nice.”
Her eyes lit up. “Like one of those body builders on TV?”
Wyatt shook his head. “He looks more like a bouncer at a motorcycle bar, but he’s smart and works in insurance.”
“Oh, the best of both worlds.” Carter swore the older woman almost swooned.
Wyatt nodded energetically. “I’m completely gone over Garrett but—Oh, you’re going to love him, Mrs. Jenkins.”
She turned back to Carter. “Is your young man picking you up from work?”
Carter knew if he answered yes, she was going to find another dozen things she had to ask questions about. He smiled. “No. I’m meeting him at my house after work.”
“They’re going to dinner and I’ve heard Grant has a surprise.” Wyatt was almost skipping around the store and Mrs. Jenkins was eating it up. She was the perfect audience for Wyatt’s enthusiasm.
“You can’t keep it a secret from me.” She stepped closer. “We won’t tell doubting Thomas over there.”
Wyatt giggled and whispered low in her ear. She smiled and brought her hands together near her chest. “Oh, that’s perfect. He’s going to love it.” Then she leaned close again and whispered something low to Wyatt. He nodded like she’d given him some sage advice, then they both looked over at Carter.
He was nervous enough about the date. He didn’t need them adding anything else. He wasn’t going to play the guess-the-secret game, so he ignored it. Wyatt was probably overreacting, anyway. Please, God, let him be overreacting.
Mrs. Jenkins smiled and gave Wyatt a conspiratorial look before turning back to Carter. “I’ll come back and check on those chairs later in the week.”
Carter knew he was going to get politely grilled about his date, but he wasn’t sure if there would be anything to tell her. Most of his dates went terribly—and that was when he was sure it was a date. He and Grant had been talking and texting for almost two weeks, but when Grant mentioned dinner during one of their conversations, Carter had been too shocked to do anything but agree.
How much texting meant friendship, and how much meant something more?
His friendship with Wyatt might not be the best indicator, because they talked constantly. He didn’t do that with many people, but maybe most friends didn’t talk much. Had that been Grant’s way of hinting he wanted more than just friendship?
Carter was starting to wish he’d asked a few more questions, like “Is this a date?” and possibly “Where are we going?” From the look on Wyatt’s face, it might have been a good idea. Mrs. Jenkins hadn’t been shocked, so it couldn’t be too weird. Who was he kidding? That outrageous little old lady wouldn’t have blinked no matter how strange the date might be.
As she made her goodbyes and left the antique shop, Carter turned to Wyatt. “What did we discuss last week?”
Wyatt sighed and flopped down on a chair. “Not to come in talking about personal things without making sure the store is empty first.”
“And why did we have this discussion?”
Wyatt closed his eyes and tilted his head back, sighing even more dramatically. “Because Mrs. Jenkins doesn’t need to know that Garrett likes to do fun things to me in bed.”
“I thought you were going to give her a heart attack.” Carter shook his head and leaned over to prop his elbows on the counter.
Wyatt opened his eyes. “I stopped before I said spanking.”
“There was no way she couldn’t guess how that sentence would end. Knowing that woman, she might have pictured something worse, though.” She’d looked like a kid in a candy store, and Carter knew she’d run off to talk about what happened to the gaggle of little old ladies she played cards and drank with, calling it tea like it was something perfectly proper.
The good thing about it was that every time Wyatt did something like that, business went up for the next couple of days. They’d all find a reason to come visit to see if he’d say something outrageous again.
“I’ve been much better.”
“Yes, you have.” Carter knew he sounded slightly patronizing, but he wasn’t that mad. Just a little frustrated. What happened to privacy? “Now, tell me what you know about my date?”
Wyatt must have heard the question in Carter’s voice because his head popped up and he nodded excitedly. “Oh, it’s a date. He’s really excited and told Garrett about the plans. I’m not supposed to know, but I was—well, you don’t need to know that part, but we’ll just say I was close to the phone when they were talking, so I heard.”
Whatever Wyatt had been doing was naughty, if the excitement in his eyes was any clue. “You’re right; I don’t need to know that part. Is it fancy? I was just going to wear something work-casual, but is that wrong?”
Clothes were the hardest part of a date. Trying to navigate the sea of options to figure out how “him” he could actually be was frustrating. He’d spent an hour picking out his clothes that morning, and if he had to change, he’d go insane.
Wyatt thought about it for a moment and sat up straighter to try to see over the counter. “What are you wearing?”
Carter came around the counter and stood there awkwardly. He’d picked out his most neutral black slacks that were technically from the women’s section, but not so obvious most people would notice, and a button-down men’s white shirt that was a little roomy on him. He’d look almost masculine, if it weren’t for his subtle makeup, and his dirty blond hair that was a little longer than most men wore.
“Well, you look boring, but it will work.” Wyatt frowned, disappointed. “Why didn’t you wear your new skirt, or the dress you got a few weeks ago?”
Carter thought that was obvious. “Because I kind of want there to be a second date. I’m not going to do that to him.” He liked Grant. The gruff exterior camouflaged a sweet guy who’d been nothing but nice and open-minded.
Wyatt cocked his head and looked at him like he was daft. “Why would that matter? The first time you guys met, you were wearing the sundress.” Wyatt bounced up from the chair, making Carter wonder for a moment if something was wrong. “Oh, the sundress, wear that one again!”
“We were at a family get-together. That’s different.” Carter had learned that the hard way. No matter what you were wearing when you met or what you put on a profile, there was a very different standard when they were taking you out in public.
He looked down at his clothes. “And let’s get real, it’s not a total butch outfit. I’m probably pushing it as it is. Do you think the shoes are too much?”
They were women’s flats. The pants went down far enough he thought most people couldn’t tell, but some men were into shoes and would notice right away. He had a feeling Grant wasn’t one of those men. Grant was always dressed presentably, just in a casual, almost straight-guy way. The man couldn’t even be called metrosexual, or any of those other trendy names straight guys got when they could show up well-manicured and fashionably dressed to an event.
As far as he could tell, the man only owned one suit, one T-shirt, and one pair of jeans, or else he wore the same thing over and over. Not that Carter had an issue with it; it was just cute. Wyatt snorted. “Like he’s going to be looking at your feet. Your ass looks great in those pants. That’s all he’ll notice.”
Carter laughed. “That might be in your imagination. He flirts a little, yes, but nothing that screams he’s dying to get into my pants—or up my skirt.”
“Then you haven’t been paying enough attention because—oh, not supposed to talk about the phone call. Just ignore that.” Wyatt looked sheepish. “I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
“Will you get punished if you do?” Carter smirked.
“No, even worse, he’ll be disappointed in me and that sucks. Also, disappointment does not lead to good sex.” He slouched back in the chair. “And Master is great at—”
“TMI. We’ve had this discussion.”
Wyatt smiled; it was innocent and wicked all at the same time. “But you don’t mean it. You love my stories.”
“Not when I have to see the man all the time and I’m possibly dating his brother. That makes it weird.” Carter shook his head. Very weird.
“That’s no fun. When did that become the rule?” Wyatt seemed honestly frustrated with the new no-TMI standard.
“When I had to sit down at dinner with the man who spanked you the night before, and I knew all the details. ‘Pass the rolls and by the way, Wyatt said you’re great in bed’ is kind of strange.”
“That’s terrible. Does it mean I don’t get to hear what happens on your date?” Wyatt looked eager for the date, but disappointed he might not get enough information.
“I’m not sure there will be much to tell. The last couple of dates I’ve been on ended early, and a couple of them ended before dinner was over.” Carter even had a standby meal picked out; he’d looked over the Chinese takeout menu earlier and knew what he was going to order if it all went to pieces. Grant was polite enough Carter knew he probably wouldn’t ditch him before dinner even started, but he wasn’t going to plan on a night of wild, hot sex.
Wyatt shook his head and rolled his eyes like Carter was deliberately missing the point. “I’m going to say I told you so.” Letting out a grin, he teased in a sing-song voice, “And then I’ll get details as a reward.”
“Who said anything about a reward?” Carter wasn’t falling for that.
Wyatt’s expression turned dreamy, like he was remembering something good. “Master says good subs get nice rewards.”
Holding back a laugh, Carter leaned back against the counter. “First, I’m not required to follow any of your master’s rules. Second, you’re crazy.”
“I’m not crazy. Grant is totally into you.”
Carter knew his expression was skeptical, but he didn’t believe his excitable friend. “How would you know?”
“Not going to tell because I’m trying to be a good boy for my master.” Wyatt dug into his pocket to find his phone. “And speaking of my master, I have to go. I’m supposed to be at his office in just a few minutes.”
In the weeks since Wyatt first started seeing Garrett, Carter had noticed a significant change in his friend. Being around so many people who understood the BDSM lifestyle and supported what he wanted had made a huge difference in Wyatt’s confidence. No longer worried about Garrett’s family and co-workers, Wyatt bounced out of the store, excited to see his master.
Carter might not have wanted a full-time master like Wyatt did, but he was a little jealous of the bond the two had. He wanted something like that. Not the kneeling and constant submission part, but the closeness and having someone who understood.
His phone calls with Grant had him thinking he might have found it. But there were still nagging voices in the back of his head that made him question things. Wyatt called him at random times just to chat, but most guys he knew didn’t. Grant was another anomaly with the texting and phone calls, but maybe it did mean something more.
Grant had picked up the habit of calling him randomly throughout the week. At first, Carter hadn’t been sure what to make of it. The initial conversations had been awkward and stilted, at least on his side. Grant never ran out of things to say and completely ignored how uncomfortable Carter’s responses were. But now, he didn’t even think about it when Grant called. They would simply chat and tell stories about their day. It was nice.
But was it flirting?
Did it mean something?
That was the part Carter wasn’t sure about. He’d gotten so many mixed signals from guys and had been on so many terrible dates that he was more than gun-shy, he was paranoid. He thought recognizing it was a good step. It didn’t make the crazy any less nuts, though.
Mindlessly walking through closing up the store, Carter couldn’t help but imagine what might happen. The romantic evening…the romantic night…the hot, steamy, melt-your-panties kind of night. That thought was like a bucket of cold water on his fantasies.
He’d been wearing a dress the first time they met, and it hadn’t stopped Grant from flirting and teasing most of the afternoon. So Carter wearing other things shouldn’t be a deal breaker for the sexy Dom. Could it?
There hadn’t been a good way to ask it, or at least, not one he’d found.
Great that you could call…what’s your opinion on not-so-masculine undergarments?
Carter could almost hear the crickets on the other end of the phone, or worse, the horrified reaction where Grant would try to explain he thought they were just friends. Grant was sweet and wouldn’t do anything to make Carter uncomfortable on purpose, but the not knowing was going to make him nuts.
Just because Grant’s family was open-minded and accepting of their own preferences didn’t mean that Grant would find Carter’s intriguing. Sure, having a family where everyone was into BDSM in some form or fashion should make him more tolerant of others. However, tolerant didn’t mean that the things Carter liked would turn him on, too.
Looking around, making sure everything was put away and locked up for the night, Carter headed for the front door. After double-checking to make sure it was locked, Carter went to his car. He probably should have had Grant meet him at work, but that felt too much like friends meeting—and no matter what he told Wyatt, he was hoping it was a date.
The ride home only took around twenty minutes, but it was about fifteen more than his nerves could take. By the time he’d parked and walked in the door, he thought he was going to need a drink to function. However, he was a giggly, flirty drunk, so that might not be the best idea.
Sober and queasy it was.
Heading back to his room, Carter looked over the house to make sure everything was perfect. He usually kept things fairly neat, but little things were always getting away from him; a pair of heels under the couch, sandals in the kitchen, flats in the hallway for some reason…okay, shoes got away from him. Everything else was much easier to keep control over.
Dragging the last-minute stragglers, who he swore escaped on their own, he went back to his closet. Carter looked at the full-length mirror that hung on the inside of the closet door. He didn’t look bad. Sure, the shirt was looser than most men would wear it, but nothing too obvious. And he felt okay about the outfit. It wasn’t so masculine that he was hiding. It was a good compromise kind of outfit.
He had several, but this was one of his favorites. The shoes were pushing it. He couldn’t help himself with that. The only other option he’d considered was a pair of combat-style boots that could go either way, but didn’t seem like a good choice in case they went to a nice restaurant.
He forced himself to smile in the mirror. “It’s going to be fine. He’s a nice guy.”
Not sure if he was lying or not, he turned away from the mirror. Heading into the bathroom, he had to stop himself from reaching for his makeup. Running his fingers through his hair, his fingers itched to play and get creative. He liked cosmetics. They’d always made him feel beautiful, not just handsome. It was like the grown-up version of coloring and getting to play with paints. It was fun.
He had to admit he was attractive even when he was looking his most masculine, but that just wasn’t how he saw himself. He liked the way his eyes flashed when they were outlined with a little mascara and some eyeshadow. He liked the way his lips looked highlighted with a little bit of gloss. He just wished other people did as well.
Forcing himself out of the bathroom, Carter headed for the kitchen. He had a few more minutes to kill before Grant would be over; maybe the drink would be a good idea. Just a little one. Not enough to make him want to climb all over the sexy tank of a man, but enough to settle his nerves.
He didn’t even get to the kitchen before the doorbell rang. Cursing Grant’s punctuality, Carter turned and went to the front door. Opening it, he smiled, but before he could say anything, Grant beat him to it.
Grant was leaning against the door, filling the frame completely. Seeing how big Grant was always sent a shiver down Carter’s back. Carter might not be that tall for a man, but Grant always seemed to tower over him. It wasn’t just the few inches in height; his broad shoulders and whole demeanor made him seem even bigger.
Grant’s short hair always seemed like it needed a brush to Carter, although he couldn’t figure out why. Most men with short hair looked neat even if they didn’t do anything with it, but Grant had a perpetually disheveled look that Carter thought was sexy. Maybe it was the attitude or the muscles, but nothing Grant did ever looked typical. His shirts always fit too well, T-shirts stretching across his broad, muscular chest. The tattoo peeking out of the short sleeve plastered to Grant’s arm made you think bouncer or boxer, not insurance agent. Maybe if more people realized the tattoo was his family’s names, they’d understand him more.
“I heard from a chatty little birdie that he thought your outfit was boring.” Grant’s deep voice would have seemed menacing if it weren’t for the laughter and teasing glint in his eyes. Grant’s eyes scanned down Carter’s body, and for a moment he felt almost naked. It had his dick sitting up to take notice. “I’m not sure that’s how I would describe it, but I’ll admit I was hoping you were going to wear something pretty for me.”
Carter knew he was standing there like an idiot, mouth hanging open in shock like it was some kind of sitcom moment. He just couldn’t help it. Out of all the things he’d expected, the flirting and clear indication Grant didn’t mind his usual outfits wasn’t one of them.
Wyatt needed to keep his mouth shut.
Carter managed to find his voice. “Little tattletale.”
Grant threw his head back and laughed, then leaned in, giving a startled Carter a peck on the cheek. “We still have a few minutes before we have to leave for dinner. How about you put on something you really wanted to wear for me?”
The spot where Grant kissed him tingled, and the simple act short-circuited Carter’s brain. “Um…okay?”
“If you’d like, I can make it an order.” Grant’s words were deep, and Carter could almost feel the arousal pulsing off him. Most of the time, he could forget that Grant was a Dom, but sometimes he’d make a comment that would have Carter melting.
This was one of those times.
“Um…” Having no idea what to say or how to get his brain to work, he stepped back from the door so Grant could come in. The only thing his brain could come up with was a surprising realization that it probably was a date, after all.
Grant had found his perfect man…wrapped in silk and lace.
Grant had always loved more feminine men. A sexy guy in lingerie just did it for him. But when you looked more like a bouncer than an insurance agent, the pretty guys ran for the hills. Carter seemed different, though. When he looked at Grant, he saw the real man underneath the tattoos and muscles. Could Grant make him understand that he liked Carter just the way he was, or would Carter’s doubts keep them apart?
Carter had found his perfect man…sweet, sexy, and built like a tank.
Grant didn’t seem to mind Carter’s more feminine look, but was he too good to be true? One bad date after another had left Carter gun-shy. Now he had Mr. Right standing at his doorway. Did he have the courage to be himself and let Grant in, or would his fears keep them apart?
Story Contains: M/m sexual content, BDSM elements, gender-fluid dressing, spanking, and orgasm denial.