Harry’s sleep that night was easy, somewhat dreamless, and quite restful.
His sleep the next night, on the other hand, was uneasy, fevered, and frequently interrupted by sudden fits and starts.
It was not for any reason in particular – he ordinarily had nightmares and did not consider them in themselves to be remarkable, but on nights where there was a certain wet, balmy heat to the evening’s air, making it sticky, or on nights where fresh rain let the smell of mud filter into the house and settle in his nostrils, or on nights where his body remembered what was behind him, in short, as viscerally as his mind did…
On nights like these, the dreams were worse. Such was a veteran’s lot, and Harry knew very well that he was to be very grateful for how small his burden was in contrast to that of so many others.
The first time he woke, he was certain he was wet with sticky blood, and only when he had dropped two matches and finally lit his candle again with the third was he convinced it was simply his own sweat; the second time time he woke, he was sure the falling rain was the rattle of gunfire; the third time, it was with a hard, sudden start, and he was convinced for no reason whatsoever that he was eminently to perish in some horrible way.
The fourth time, he didn’t try to go back to bed, and stumbled down the servants’ staircase in a distant haze after getting himself dressed.
It was a little past three, with still an hour or two before the maids and kitchen staff were due to rise, and so he sat for some time in the cool of the kitchen’s stone walls, sipping at coffee. His breathing was even, his heart beating slow: his nightmares did not ordinarily trouble him so, and although the nights like these were more visceral than others, they were not so visceral that they would interrupt or impact his capacity to perform his duties.
He thought of Alexos Fox in his bath, and that was a balm for the soul against all others, the way that the young gentleman so responded to Harry’s voice, to his idle thoughts and threads and flirtations, and most of all how he responded to Harry’s hands…
Yes, Harry thought. He had made some progress indeed with Alexos the night previous, making him come as he had, and he knew well the skill of his own hands, knew that Alexos would crave their touch even more than he had before now that he had a taste of Harry’s skill, but it wasn’t only massage that Harry thought of.
He had had his suspicions, over time, spending time as he did with Alexos and observing that which made him free and easy and of good humour, and that which made him stiffen and harden his skin, and last night… Alexos wanted to play, and what was more, he wanted to play with what frightened him – Harry’s strength, Harry’s size, Harry’s power over him, Harry’s ability to ruin him, if he so chose.
Just at the thought, Harry felt the pleasant heat of the blood rushing between his legs, felt the slight flare to life of his cock, and he sighed, thinking of the day when he would finally work it into the tight channel of Alexos’ boycunt – would Alexos moan? Scream? Cry, even, tears wet and shining on his cheeks even as he begged that Harry feed him more?
He hadn’t been touching himself, of late.
Harry was not a man to deny himself pleasures, as a rule – he liked food, he liked good wine and whiskey, and most of all he liked to slide his hand over his cock, strum over the barbels it was pierced with, sink back into his blankets and enjoy the sensation. No, to touch himself was not quite so satisfying as when he speared another man open with his cock, broke them to pieces and rebuilt them in a more pleasing arrangement, worked them over until they begged for release, for Harry’s touch, but it was not something he denied himself—
Unless, in times like this, there was a further satisfaction to come, one that self-denial would only make all the keener, all the more pleasing. If he held off for a few days, he had no doubt that his orgasm would be all the more powerful when it came time to bury himself in Alexos – and he might spend more too, and leave even more than he otherwise would leaking out of his hole, which would wink so prettily, unable to clench itself fully closed again after Harry’s passage.
Harry pressed the heel of his hand over his hardening cock, humming his satisfaction at the dull pleasure the motion offered him.
Oh, yes, it would be nice, when he finally had Alexos wrapped around him.
It had been curious indeed to observe his reactions last night, to see the different ways in which Alexos showed his reaction to one thing or another, the twitch of his lips, the widening or the narrowing of his eyes, the things he said, and more prominently, of course, the things he didn’t say.
He was everything Harry’s uncle had described him as being, and yet he was so much more than that, so much more intriguing.
He had known him to be an academic. He had known him to be scarred and with a tendency to injury, known him to be disabled by his illness. His uncle had told him that Alexos was quiet, but that underneath that apparent retiring nature was a biting wit and a cool, cold sharpness, and yet when first Uncle Reg had described it, Harry hadn’t thought as to what might make it up.
That icy nature was not merely bitterness at his invalidity – if anything, it seemed to Harry, Alexos was more irritable about people’s responses to his cane and his limp than he was the muscle weakness itself. No, there was something deeper than that, a complexity and depth of thought and consideration that Harry had not expected to see in a young man of decent means, for all he was no prominent aristocrat.
There was something more under his skin, something that Harry had yet to unearth.
He’d taken it for cowardice, when Alexos had bluntly and immediately answered he preferred his polio to experience of a battlefield, but the other man had spoken with certainty and assuredness when he’d made his quips about the prime ministers. Alexos Fox might not have any friends, and no regular conversational partners that Harry knew of, but for all that it was plain this was an argument he’d had many times before, even if it was in the comfort of his own head.
And all this work he translated, the cannibalism, the Greek stories, the way he spoke about them so coldly, with so much careful thought and consideration, such focus, and yet, there was no starry-eyed innocence in his eyes. For a man who, by all accounts, spent his every day and night ensconced within the walls of his home if not those of his library, he had a surprising world-weariness about him, and more than that, an awareness of the world.
It was very easy to be tired of the world and one’s place in it – anybody could do that, even knowing nothing at all.
Alexos read the newspaper, rarely the headlines, and rarely the financial sections either – Alexos Fox paged idly through, almost casually, to the pages about local by-elections, minor fracas within the House of Commons or on the mainland, in France, Germany, Austria, or in the US.
It amused Harry not that he did this, but that when his father asked him if he’d looked in the newspaper, Alexos would shrug and say he’d only glanced at the crossword, and that was all.
Alexos, who pretended he had nothing to say so often, but would speak so keenly and so clearly; Alexos, who was fascinated by violence and his own fears; Alexos, who hated war and told a soldier so, and was unflinching even as he politely gave his apologies.
Harry left the kitchens just as Betty made her way inside, and it was as he came into the hall that he heard the sudden shout, and sprinted up the stairs to find Alexos sprawled on the landing, groaning in pain.
* * *
“How are we feeling?” asked Sutton.
“We are, on average, doing quite alright, I’m sure,” muttered Alexos irritably, leaning heavily on the banister and breathing heavily, leaning his head forward against the varnished wood surface. “I, on the other hand, am fucking furious, and pretty Christ-damned tired, to boot.”
Felix, who had been walking underneath the stairwell, flinched, and Alexos closed his eyes tighter and didn’t look at the boy’s face as he hurried forward. Most of his body ached, obviously, which wasn’t new, but the aches were in new and unusual places – having woken up just as he went over the barrier on the upper landing, he had at least managed to roll when he hit the floor instead of landing on his neck or spine.
His shoulder had been dislocated, which had been easy enough to fix, and from what the doctor had been able to ascertain, his side was primarily bruised, with no breaks or cracks to his ribs. He’d injured his hip, although before the doctor had even had a look, Alexos had known it was just the joint being jarred out of place enough to bruise the soft tissues, that there were no breaks or sprains to anything around the area.
The break in his arm had been clean, and the doctor and Sutton had set it together, pinning it in place. It would be set for at least six or eight weeks, assuming the fracture well-healed.
His right arm, mercifully. He could still write, still use his cane, still have a fucking wank – and not much else, because he’d sprained his fucking ankle, too.
“Do you still have your service revolver, Sutton?” Alexos asked the banister he was wrapped around.
“Yes, sir,” said Sutton.
“Will you shoot me with it?”
“No, sir, I will not.”
“Teach me how to shoot myself?”
“If you don’t continue your way up the stairs, Mr Fox,” said Sutton pleasantly, “I will be forced to carry you.”
Alexos, gripping tight to the banister, slid upward.
He’d slept the night downstairs on one of the more plush sofas, nursing his various new injuries and the ache in his head, and when he had stated his intention to do the same again tonight, Sutton had looked at him quite coolly, and replied, “No, sir.”
It had made Alexos bark out a laugh, but he’d let himself be herded.
“Will you help me shave?” asked Alexos two thirds of the way up the stairwell, taking another break and aching, all of his weight on his left arm and shoulder, taking as much weight as possible off of his useless right leg, even more useless than usual, of late. “I hate the stubble.”
“Yes, sir,” said Sutton. “Gladly.”
They hadn’t been alone together, since the other night, and at the top of the stairs, he clung tight to the banister even as Sutton loosely gripped his cane in his hand, offering it out. Alexos was soaked with sweat, trembling slightly, and his lungs ached from the effort of dragging himself up the stairs.
“I’ll carry you next time,” said Sutton in an undertone.
“You want there to be a next time,” Alexos retorted in the same low voice, “you’ll have to shoulder me down the stairs.”
“I needn’t do that,” replied Sutton. “Blowing out a lungful of air would probably do the trick.”
Alexos laughed. It made his bruised ribs hurt – it made everything hurt, naturally. He almost wished he had broken his neck in the fall.
There was a bowl of hot water and foam waiting for them in the bathroom, and Sutton set a stool down for him, letting Alexos sink down against it before he helped Alexos off with his clothes, and Alexos didn’t argue, didn’t struggle. He savoured, although he didn’t want to admit to it, the brush of Sutton’s warm fingers over his skin as he loosened the sling and held Alexos’ arm steady, letting him remove his clothes.
“No complaints,” said Sutton softly. “Ought I take this to mean you’re no longer to make token resistance to my seduction of you?”
“Do you use the phrase token resistance with all your victims, Sutton?” asked Alexos.
“Only the most satisfied ones,” replied Sutton breezily, and Alexos stared at him as he took the straight razor, flicked the blade out, and began to sharpen it on a belt. Alexos didn’t much like the new safety razors, didn’t like their shape or the way they felt in his hand – he liked the precision of a real straight blade.
Sutton had looked him over before the doctor had arrived, and Alexos had found him just as capable; the past day, Sutton had mostly kept in Alexos’ presence, had brought his notes and his books downstairs for him to work from, although it had been almost impossible to concentrate.
“I want to take the codeine tomorrow, Sutton,” Alexos said quietly, shivering at the slight cool of the room and awkwardly leaning forward, trying to take some of the weight off of his injured hip.
“The morphine might be better,” said Sutton.
“Shut the fuck up, Sutton,” he muttered. “The codeine will more than do.”
“And will you be drinking as much gin with your codeine as you’ve drunk this evening?”
“Only time will tell,” said Alexos, “but for all Brydon might have implied to you I’m an addict and a lush, Sutton, I don’t tend to mix my poisons unless I’m drinking a cocktail.”
“Mr Brydon has never said anything of the sort, sir,” said Sutton, with too much wry humour to be diplomatic. “Though in future, if you would take my recommendation, I should rather a night like this be spent with vodka than gin. Your mild inebriation is not nearly so strong a deterrent as the smell.”
“Your objection is duly noted, Lieutenant,” said Alexos, rolling back his shoulders. The gin had settled as a pleasant warmth in his extremities, dimly distracting from although not nullifying the pain, and perhaps it was that pleasant heat that made him so uncaring of his shirtlessness, or perhaps it was simply the fact that Sutton had seen him shirtless enough that it almost didn’t matter.
It did matter, of course.
He watched Sutton’s hands as he ran a brush through a bowl of shaving foam, and distantly wondered what they’d feel like if Sutton tugged at his nipples. His skin was hot, wanting. His gaze dipped down to Sutton’s crotch, and although he looked away almost immediately after, Sutton chuckled.
“What are you frightened of?” asked Sutton.
“According to you, cock and murder,” Alexos murmured, sighing with pleasure as Sutton started daubing the cool, frothed scream over his stubbled cheeks. “Isn’t that what everyone’s afraid of?”
“I used to be frightened of mustard gas,” said Sutton casually.
“You astonish me, Sutton,” said Alexos. “All that time in the trenches gave you no affection for the stuff?”
“I’m still frightened of horses,” said Sutton.
“Not ponies or riding horses,” was the answer as Sutton pushed his head gently to the side, putting more foam into place. Alexos grunted quietly, shifting the position of his sling. “Cart and plough horses, though – the big ones.”
“Draft horses,” Alexos said. “Clydesdales, Shires, Suffolks. You’re still frightened of them?”
“I wouldn’t run and hide from them,” said Sutton. “But I’m on edge with them, and I flinch easily, which as I’m sure you can imagine, they don’t much like.”
“I’m frightened of birds,” said Alexos. “Not like you – I’m actually frightened of them. They don’t bother me when they’re where they belong – outside, in trees, but not… not inside. I can’t move properly away from them, and I don’t like how fast they move, how erratic they are.”
“They don’t mean any harm,” said Sutton softly. “Any bird that’s trapped inside just wants to make its way out again.”
“I know they don’t mean any harm,” said Alexos. “I know it’s not their fault. No more than it’s my fault I can’t move fast enough to get away from them.”
Sutton’s look was wry and distantly hungry.
“Have you fucked a lot of men like me?” asked Alexos. “Invalids, cripples?”
“Imagining me bouncing a quadruple amputee on my cock, are you?” asked Sutton, and Alexos stared at him, his jaw dropped open, which made Sutton hum, amused. “Not so easy to shock a man that can shock you back, is it?”
“No,” Alexos murmured, hypnotised by the forest green and verdant colour of Sutton’s eyes, and the delicate shine of his thick eyelashes. They were thicker than any lashes he’d ever seen on a man, but they didn’t make him look unmasculine at all, sometimes, what with how heavily lidded his eyes were.
When Sutton lifted the razor, the blade glinted under the shine of the light, and Alexos’ heart was thumping heart in his chest.
“It would be very easy for me to kill you like this,” said Sutton softly.
Alexos gulped, feeling more heat on his skin, more sweat, the exertion of the stairs, the pain, the gin, all combining with the sudden arousal that came at Sutton holding a sharpened blade in his hand and talking about his murder.
“I’m sorry,” Sutton said, not sounding at all like he meant it, and he chuckled very quietly. “I only mean, sir… Am I more or less frightening than a bird?”
“Less, I should think,” said Alexos, feeling pink and flushed, the shaving foam strangely heavy on his cheeks and the underside of his neck. “You won’t hurt me. A bird might without meaning to.”
“Isn’t it worse if I mean to?”
“Do you?” asked Alexos.
The butler slid the razor up the side of his jaw, rendering the skin underneath hairless and utterly smooth, and Alexos released an embarrassing squeak of sound, his free hand gripping the base of the stool beneath him, his injured arm still against his chest as he squeezed his palm into a fist, all in aid of not fidgeting under the blade.
“Not today,” said Sutton mildly. “Apparently.”
Alexos pressed his knees together. “You shouldn’t say such dark things with me, Sutton,” he said. “People might misconstrue your intentions, and then where will you be?”
“What intentions do you think I have toward you?” asked Sutton, and gripped him by the hair, tilting his head to the side and adjusting the angle at which he was working. Alexos’ eyes fluttered closed as Alexos slid the blade up over his skin, the movement too smooth, the blade too sharp, for it to be called a scrape.
“I believe you’ve made your intentions quite clear, one way or another.”
“Mm, maybe so,” said Sutton. “But between the gentleman who throws out more fucks than he does thank yous, curses like a sailor, and the butler, honourable veteran than he is, who makes a few occasional teases of violence, I believe we’d be hard-pressed to find an easy winner between us in a dispute of public opinion.”
“You needn’t spare my feelings, Sutton,” Alexos murmured. “My bourgeois position aside, I’m a funny-looking creature with no friends, no wife, and a cane to keep me company, and my filthy mouth is only icing on that cake. You’ll win every time.”
“Best we stay on the same side, then,” whispered Sutton in his ear, and Alexos moaned out an exhalation at the delicate graze of his teeth over where the foam had just been shaved away, the skin sensitive from the slide of the blade.
Sutton rinsed the blade in hot water, and Alexos shivered at the sight of his eyes, their colour a little darker – his pupils were bigger, his skin slightly flushed.
“My uncle always sang your praises, you know,” said Sutton.
“I’m sorry,” said Alexos, and Sutton laughed.
It was a wonderful laugh, deep and rich and all-encompassing, and Alexos ached to know what it felt like, that laugh, if you were touching Sutton’s chest, his belly, as he let it out.
“What ever are you sorry for?”
“I don’t know.”
“He says you do that,” said Sutton. “Apologise for nothing. But of course, you’re not apologising for nothing – you’re apologising because you’re worried about being the favourite nephew of a man who isn’t even your uncle.”
“Second favourite,” said Alexos. “You come first, as far as I can tell.”
“Oh, but it’s hotly contested,” said Sutton, and slid the blade once more up the side of Alexos’ jaw.
“I’d hate to have you angry with me,” muttered Alexos. “Seems a dangerous thing, one butler’s angry with one.”
“I’m not angry with you.”
“You’re threatening to kill me out of love and affection, then?”
“Something like that,” purred Sutton, and delicately slid the base of the blade up underneath Alexos’ throat and jaw, and Alexos resisted the urge to swallow and make the skin jump or hop under the sharp cut. “If you and I are ever to get along, Mr Fox, you really must learn to determine when I am really threatening, and when I am teasing.”
“Do you always tease with a blade in hand?”
“Sometimes I tease with a gun.”
Alexos shivered, and Sutton smirked down at him.
The razor scraped delicately over the underside of his jaw. Sutton’s hands were impossibly strong and steady, and the movements of his hand were pleasant and rhythmic – slower than they needed to be, too, because he was taking his time.
“My uncle said you used to go out,” said Sutton. “When you were still in university, and for a few years afterward. He said you stopped.”
Alexos thought of the little speakeasies he’d once gone into from time to time – the friends he distantly knew, casual as they’d been, were most of them gone now, the ones that hadn’t died, and he didn’t talk to anyone any longer. “I had no idea Reginald spoke about me so much.”
“He liked you,” said Sutton. “Still does, in fact.”
“What are your intentions toward me?”
“To be your butler,” said Sutton.
“That’s not all.”
“You’d like to be more?”
“You’d like to be more,” Alexos retorted. “Fuck me, fuck my throat, make use of my body, take me to pieces and examine what’s left in the middle.”
“That’s hardly fair,” said Sutton. “You don’t think I’d like for you to fuck my throat?”
“I can’t move my hips like you can move yours.”
“Luckily, I can still move my head.”
“Were you a whore before you joined the army?”
“I was, but I got a good deal of practice there,” Sutton replied smoothly.
Alexos had never talked like this with anybody. Not with another man, a woman, a stranger or a friend, not with anybody – he’d never dare or want to dare, but now he wanted to dare and desire and feel Sutton’s hands on his cock. It was invigorating, liberating.
Arousing. His cock was hard.
“I don’t go out anymore,” said Alexos, “because even as a young man, I wasn’t well-equipped to flee if an establishment I was in was raided. I’m not old by any means, but I can’t run as well as I used to.”
“Perhaps a policeman would take pity on you,” said Sutton idly.
“I’m not rich or titled enough for a policeman’s pity, Sutton,” said Alexos. “Unless you mean a policeman’s compassion, which I’m not of the opinion they’re in possession of.”
Sutton stared down at him, his lips shifting into a slight smirk, seeming pleased, his gaze focused and hungry and wanting.
“I thought about pursuing medicine after the war,” said Sutton, beginning to shave away the little edges and corners of Alexos’ jaw and chin, shaving away the last of the hair that clung to his skin. Sutton’s hand was wonderful in his hair too, and Alexos almost wanted to melt between its grip and the sharp blade occasionally threatening to slit his throat.
This situation was somewhat more precarious than being in the backroom of a clandestine establishment for like-minded men.
“Why didn’t you?”
“I couldn’t be a doctor,” said Sutton. “I didn’t go to a particularly fine school, and nor did I go for long enough… But I might have been a nurse.”
“Why weren’t you?”
“My uncle said he wanted me here,” said Sutton. “That he should like for me to take his position.”
Alexos stared at him in horror, feeling his stomach give an uncomfortable flip as Sutton went away for a towel to wash off his face. Alexos was dry-mouthed and couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it, as he demanded, “You meant to tell me you could have left service, and you didn’t, because your uncle insisted?”
“He didn’t insist,” said Sutton. “He suggested. More than that – he offered.”
“You read a lot of books, Mr Fox,” said Sutton mildly. “A lot of books, and all those ancient stories. Isn’t that so?”
Sutton leaned in close again, dangerously close, so close that he could smell Sutton’s spiced cologne, and feel the whisper of Sutton’s breath against his lips.
A sound, quiet and desperate, eked out of his throat.
“My uncle,” said the butler, as their noses touched, as Alexos looked so deeply into his eyes he felt like he might drown in their forest green colour, “told me you were quite a handsome man, for being flat-footed, clumsy, and a pain in the arse.”
Alexos laughed, surprised. “Is that so?”
“Yes,” said the butler. This was teasing, Alexos thought, because he was holding the blade once again, cleaning the lingering foam off of the blade. “In all those books and ancient tales, Mr Fox, haven’t you ever heard of an arranged marriage?”
“Marriage?” Alexos repeated in a whisper, his horror fading into something warmer and indescribably pleasant, so much so that he felt like he’d taken the codeine already. He felt giddy. “Sutton, what the fuck are you talking about?”
“You and I are of the same unspeakable material,” said Sutton simply, and stroked two fingers down the side of Alexos’ jaw, and the touch was so impossibly tender, making the newly shaved skin tingle, that Alexos slowly inhaled. “You are to be the master of this house, Mr Fox, and my uncle did not want you isolated and alone; with me as your butler, you will be neither, and I will command your household, be permitted not only the employment security that even a butler is guaranteed as we move away from traditional service and traditional domestic staff. And apart from that, my uncle thought we might… complement one another.”
“But we can’t,” said Alexos, trying not to laugh with his breathless enthusiasm, the burn in his cheeks, his arousal forgotten in the place of a far more overwhelming emotion, “I can’t, you can’t, it’s… Sutton, we couldn’t possibly—”
“Why not?” asked Sutton. “Don’t you want to?”
Sutton had set the shaving blade aside, and his hands were sliding up Alexos’ knees, his thighs, touching his good hip and avoiding his bruised one, and Alexos thought he might burst into flames, it was so overwhelming a sensation.
“Don’t you see that I can help you, Mr Fox?” asked Sutton. “And suffice it to say, I do feel I’ve made clear how this particular union might be mutually beneficial even if you never let me touch your cock. However—” One of his thumbs hooked in the loop of Alexos’ belt, and Alexos gasped and grabbed his wrist with his good hand.
“It’s wrong,” he said.
“How can it be?” asked Sutton. “Who will bat an eyelid at a gentleman performing his duties and the butler who manages his household?”
“This is your intention?” asked Alexos. “This was your intention all along?”
“It is,” said Sutton. “I suppose it might be more appropriate at this juncture to call it a proposal.”
Sutton sighed with apparent pleasure, and dropped to his knees on the bathmat. “But I can see you need further convincing. Or threatening – you seem to respond rather positively to that.”
“Didn’t you just assure me you were teasing?”
“It gets you hotter under the collar to imagine I was threatening, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”
“Were we to be married, I would make it my business.” Resting on the floor, he said softly, “You needn’t say yes right away.”
“How could I possibly say yes?” asked Alexos.
Sitting up on his knees but remaining on the floor, Sutton unbuttoned the front of his jacket, and slid it off his shoulders, passing it up to him. Obediently, his mouth dry and his throat spasming against his will, Alexos set the jacket aside and stared down at the way Sutton filled out the white press of his shirt and of course, his waistcoat. He was very… Large. Rounded. Heavy. Strong.
“Looking at me,” purred Sutton, “how could you possibly say no?”
“Arrogant,” said Alexos.
“Realistic,” replied Sutton, and when he undid the front of Alexos’ trousers, Alexos shivered, but he didn’t pull away. He carefully spread his legs a little further apart, and bit the inside of his lip.
“Your father need never know, nor your mother,” said Sutton. “You are, as you are fond of telling me in your infuriatingly self-pitying terms, invalid and infirm. Who in this house will bat an eyelid at the time we spend together in private like this, knowing you to be in pain and disabled, and me to carry medical training and your trust?”
“Mr Sutton, I’ve always tried very hard,” said Alexos in a strained voice, feeling his cock strain just as much in his trousers, “to resist temptation.”
“Then I shall simply endeavour to try harder in tempting you,” said Sutton, sliding his fingers over the shaft of Alexos’ cock through his underwear, his head soaking the fabric with pre-slick, and Alexos whined.
“I shall die if you tease me like this, Sutton.”
“I plan to bring you to a thousand little deaths,” said Sutton softy. “If you will only consent to let me.”
He should have said no. He should have told Sutton no, told him he was a degenerate, a pervert, that he would never consent as Sutton wanted him to, that it was insane beyond measure to suggest a—
A marriage, and yet…
Alexos Fox, married. To a man, yes – to Sutton. Pre-arranged.
“We would not be spouses right away,” said Alexos. “We need to— If you change your mind, Sutton, you must tell me. I can give you a glowing recommendation that you might take a similar position in another house, or lean on my father. You could work in medicine yet, if I didn’t meet with your expectations.”
“And if I don’t meet with yours?” asked Sutton.
“Mr Sutton, a cynic I might be, but even I’m not in the habit of making complaints because I’ve won the lottery.”
To Alexos’ surprise and impossible, flustered delight, Sutton actually averted his gaze, and a fresh heat came into his plum-red cheeks. What with the beautiful thickness of his eyelashes, he looked almost—
“Flattery will not get you everywhere, Mr Fox,” said Sutton, “but it will get you somewhere.”
He leaned in toward Alexos’ crotch, mouth open, and Alexos grabbed his shoulder. “Wait. Wait.”
“I can’t— Not here. The stool, I’ll fall.”
“Ah,” said Sutton, standing to his feet, and he gave Alexos no warning before he lifted him, laughing breathlessly, head spinning, mouth dry, giddy and feeling like he had to be dreaming with a blush burning to the roots of his hair, and carried him in toward the bed.