What Really Matters

Chapter 1

Zac

 

“You know, the stuff you read gets weirder every year. Did that just say something about diapers?” Hunter’s head came over the back of the couch, scaring ten years out of me.

“What did I say about pulling that shit on me?” Slamming my phone to my chest, I glared up at him. He’d done it on purpose, so I didn’t feel bad about the slightly hostile tone.

“That I couldn’t do it when it was a hot scene because that was just rude.” Hunter’s head cocked, and he gave me a look like I’d suddenly become a lot more interesting.

Shit.

“I’m not sure that’s what I said, smartass.” It might have been—but with that expression on his face, I wasn’t going to back down. “How about you not try to make me jump unless it’s like Halloween or something?”

“And my birthday.” He thought for a moment. “And your birthday.”

That was going to be annoying as hell. “Deal.”

Hunter frowned at me. “I think I should have held out for more.”

“Quite possibly, but you’re the one who lowballed yourself.” One of the things I loved best about Hunter was that he always played fair. If we were competing in a video game or even something old school like Monopoly, he would always follow the rules. That didn’t mean he was a pushover, though.

“I’m going to remember that.” Then he grinned. “But don’t think I’m going to remind you about this before your birthday. That was not in the deal.”

“I think there was some fine print in there somewhere.” I did not have his need to follow every rule. I was more than willing to make them up as we went along if I could talk him into it.

Shaking his head, Hunter leaned down and kissed me. “I love you. But not that much, cheater.”

The first thing that came to mind was that he should punish me for trying to cheat. Scenes from the book I was reading flew through my brain. That was as far as most of my naughty thoughts got these days, however. “If I’m a cheater, then maybe I should just buy you a cake instead of making one.”

Bingo.

Distracting him probably wasn’t fair, but he was too damned smart, and I was a terrible liar, so I needed the conversation to change fast.

“Nope. I won that bet fair and square, and we went over the rules in detail. There’s no way you would cheat because cheating means you clean the kitchen for a month, and that would be even worse than having to bake the cake.” Hunter was serious about getting the cake. He kept expecting me to try to weasel out of it, so bringing it up kept him on his toes. “In fact, aren’t you supposed to be picking up the rest of the ingredients from the store now?”

Probably.

I gave him a teasing grin and stretched up, puckering my lips to beg for a kiss. He just smiled and gave me a look like I was a handful but he loved me anyway. But I got my kiss. When he straightened, I nodded. “Just a few more minutes, then I’ll go.”

The bet was silly, but we’d both been hungry and slightly drunk when we were flipping channels the other night. We’d come across a replay of a daytime show where they were betting whether people doing stupid shit would actually succeed and look cool or fall on their asses. I’d called out my answer as Hunter had flicked past it, and then had badgered him annoyingly until he’d gone back to see if I was right.

We ended up missing that one, but he thought it was ridiculous so he had to keep betting against me. One thing led to another, and the bet was formed. Unfortunately, he’d won more than I had, so I was stuck baking a cake from scratch.

It wasn’t torture as far as bets went, but I hated to cook so I’d been putting it off, hoping he’d forget about it. No such luck. He glanced back at my phone, giving it another curious look, but nodded. “I’ve got to get a few things ready for work tomorrow. We’ve got a new class starting.”

“Okay.” Reaching out, I set my hand on his where it was resting on the back of the couch. “Hopefully, this group will be easier to deal with.”

Hunter had a job with a large insurance company. He was licensed, but he worked in a call center teaching new employees. They had a long training session, so he was with a new group for almost two months before they went to their managers. The last group he had weren’t all bad, but he’d gotten a few that were more than a handful. One woman had even been “invited to leave the program” because so many people had refused to work with her.

“It can’t be worse than the last group.” Then he took a deep breath and sighed. “It’s better than being on the phones, though, and I like it most of the time. I really do.”

“Just remember there are other companies who need quality teachers in their training programs. You don’t have to stay there if you don’t want to.” He had a tendency to forget that. He worried about making sure we were set financially and that he was doing the right thing for us, but even if he quit tomorrow, we’d be fine.

“I know.” He bent down and gave me another quick kiss. “Do you have anything you need to do?”

“Nope. It’s my weekend to escape the zoo, and I’m not worrying about anything.”

“Good. You had a long week.”

“Next week should be better. We’re putting our foot down with her handlers. If they don’t take charge of her social media accounts, then we’re gone. It’s gotten too crazy.” I was always careful about not using names of clients, even at home when it was just the two of us, but there was no way he wouldn’t know who I was talking about.

She was too nuts to blend into the background.

Hunter grinned and nodded. “About time. That last one about her neighbor was brutal.”

I had a love-hate relationship with our newest client. Right now, we were swinging back to hate at a pretty fast speed. “There weren’t any photos this time, so that’s a good thing.”

Working in a PR company could be fabulously interesting, but it was also one of the most stressful jobs out there. If people thought teachers and cops had it bad, they needed to try keeping track of adults with more money and drugs than sense.

There were some days I’d trade my clients for a class of sugared-up kindergarteners in a heartbeat.

“Don’t let them work you into a heart attack. Just because you’re good at your job doesn’t mean you should be the one to handle everything.”

Yeah, it kind of did.

“I put Ashley in charge this weekend and even left my work phone with her.” I did my best to sound like it was my idea, but Hunter had put his foot down after I’d come home from the third fifteen-hour day in a row.

He hadn’t been wrong, but he’s also been so sexy with his deep voice laying down the law that I hadn’t been able to say no. Even after five years of being together, he still hadn’t realized how insanely hot he was when he went all I’m going to take care of you no matter what.

He was like some sexy Daddy in a book, except he didn’t read enough romance to realize that.

Which was really frustrating sometimes.

But was also probably good, because the last thing I needed was for him to see the similarities between some of the traits he thought drove me nuts and the Doms in my favorite books. Not that I’d told him I had a problem when he was doing it; I just hadn’t told him how erotic it was.

’Cause that sounded a little weird.

I’d stood in front of the mirror dozens of times practicing the speech, or just little ways that I could tell him how sexy it was when he took charge, but it never felt right. I worked at one of the best PR firms in the country, but I couldn’t figure out how to tell my husband what I wanted.

That didn’t say much about my career potential, no matter how good I was at wrangling celebrities and making cute tech nerds look like people who were happy and social instead of frightened introverts who really didn’t want to leave their basements.

His voice dropped to the low, sexy tone that made me want to curl up on his lap and beg like some kind of attention whore. “I’m glad. This probably sounds stupid, but I was proud of you when I saw that you were serious about taking the weekend off.”

He was proud of me.

That should not have given me a hard-on.

“I wanted you to know I was listening to what you said.”

That sounded reasonable, right? Not too I want to be a good boy, Daddy, right?

“Thank you.” He squeezed my hand. “Okay, no more distracting me. Have fun with your dirty book and don’t forget my cake.”

“It’s not dirty.”

His look made it clear he didn’t believe me. “Zac, just don’t go jerking off until I get my cake.”

That could have easily translated into, “Zackie, you’re not allowed to jerk off until you’ve done your chores like a good boy.”

Fuck. Now I was going to have to find some relief before I went to the store. Otherwise, someone would think that I found the produce section erotic. I’m sorry, sir, that carrot really isn’t making me hard.

“Didn’t you say you had work to do?” There was no way I was promising not to come.

Hunter gave a low chuckle and shook his head but stepped back from the couch. As he released my hand, he gave me another long look. “No box mixes. The rule was everything from scratch.”

“I’m going to win next time.” He made this beef dish a couple of times a year that took forever to cook, but it was to die for.

“In your dreams.” He blew me a kiss and headed down the hall to his office.

Buying the house had been the best decision we could have made. The real estate agent had thought we were crazy for buying such a big house, but it was perfect for us. With separate offices for each of us and a large master suite, it was already great. But when we added in the guestroom and a spare room that we thought might end up as a home theater or something, I couldn’t have pictured anything better.

Once Hunter was in his office, I turned on the couch, leaning back against the armrest, and made sure I had a good line of sight to his door. I wasn’t going to get caught by surprise again. It was just getting good. The boy was finally wearing the diaper for the first time and was wrapped up in his Daddy’s arms on his lap. The author had been teasing and leading up to it for the first half of the book, and I was at the point where I’d started mentally giving them little pep talks to get through the stressful parts.

They’d have their happily ever after. They always did with this author, but I couldn’t help but worry. It wasn’t hard to picture everything that could go wrong, and putting myself in their place was becoming entirely too easy. Damned dirty books giving me crazy ideas.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t just the books.

I might have had a few…interesting thoughts in the past. Just a few. Now they’d started growing like weeds and keeping them in line was getting difficult. It had even started to affect our sex life. Just thinking of that made it impossible to focus on the story.

Hunter and I had started off as a one-night stand that just kept going.

I’d been single for a few weeks after a bad breakup and had just been looking to get laid. Nothing serious and no one I’d want to keep. I was going to have fun and then figure out how to get my life back on track. Fortunately for me, I’d met Hunter.

He’d been everything I hadn’t been looking for.

He’d chased off a guy I’d been drunkenly flirting with, telling me that the asshole was married and I could do better. He’d then proceeded to dance with me and hung out getting to know me until I was sober enough that he thought I could make a reasonable decision.

I think he’d been afraid that once I sobered up, I wouldn’t want him. He was built like a linebacker, but in his mind, he was boring and too nerdy to keep my attention. But Hunter had been completely wrong. By the time my head had cleared, I’d been hooked. His serious but patient personality drew me in. Nothing I did seemed to faze him and getting a reaction was almost impossible.

It was addicting.

Some people might have thought he was stuffy at first glance, but he had a wickedly dry sense of humor and was great at roleplaying dirty fantasies. We’d just always stuck with more traditional ones, like naughty doctor or a poor guy who was willing to find other ways to pay off his landlord.

Fuck.

Hunter made a great frustrated landlord.

But it was impossible to make up a fantasy when what I really wanted was impossible to explain. So over the last couple of months, we’d had more vanilla sex than anything else. He probably just chalked it up to my being stressed, and he was partly right, but that wasn’t everything and I didn’t know how to explain it.

Okay, between the book and thinking about Hunter, I was going to have to release some tension before I went to the grocery store. It was too easy to put his face on the Daddy in the story and pretend that it was about us. He’d probably think it was crazy, and I couldn’t blame him. I wasn’t even sure what drew me to it or what I really wanted in the fantasy, but it just pulled me in.

When I’d first found gay romance novels, I’d thought they’d have to be cheesy and ridiculous, but the more I’d read, the more I’d loved them. There’d been a few boyfriends who’d teased me about them and a few guys who’d ended up quickly being shown the road because they’d been such asses about them, but Hunter had never made fun of me.

He’d teasingly said that he’d been relieved on our first date when he’d found out I liked to read. He’d said I was doing such a good impression of a drunk airhead when he’d first met me that he’d been worried I wouldn’t be any better once I was sober. Evidently, I’d been too funny and cute to walk away from, though.

After a month of our not quite one-night stand but not quite dating behavior, Hunter had sat me down, wanting to know where our relationship was going. He’d been so cute, it had been impossible to tell him I hadn’t realized we were in a relationship.

Once we’d talked and sorted everything out, it had gotten serious fast.

We’d moved in together after another month and had gotten married as soon as it was legal. As fast as we’d gone, I’d never regretted it. I was used to seeing celebrity relationships and marriages start and stop at the drop of a hat, but Hunter was my rock. I knew once he’d committed to something, he’d see it through. He’d proven that the first night he’d stuck around until I was mentally able to actually make a good decision before trying to take me home.

I just wished I knew what he’d think about the things that were running through my head lately.

People changed as they got older and relationships evolved. I knew that and so did he. But there were some changes that people expected and some that they didn’t. He’d be expecting me to do something crazy like the latest it hobby everyone was doing, but there was no way that I could surprise him with the fantasies that had been popping up in my dreams lately.

Come try this new dance class with me was really different from I want you to call me your good boy and put a diaper on me. Yeah…he’d really be expecting that.

My mood might have taken a bit of a sour turn, but at least I wouldn’t be arrested in the grocery store anymore. Standing, I stretched and shoved my phone in my pocket. I’d finish the story after the cake was done. It would be my reward for not burning down the house, and hopefully, by that point, I’d be in a better mood again.

I wanted to see the boy get everything he wanted even if I wouldn’t.

 

What Really Matters