#2 in the Rough Series

an excerpt

Chapter One

"You've got great architectural structure, but I don't see you as the drafting board type. I know I haven't seen you around Dunn and Piper. I'm new, but not that unobservant. I'd have remembered those shoulders of yours."

Bram Lord turned away from the fresh-faced, flirtatious bartender mixing drinks behind the portable mirrored bar. Taking a sip of his drink, he glanced down and to his left in the direction that the sharp, slightly mocking, feminine voice had come from. At six foot six plus, Bram had to look down at most people and the petite, rail thin brunette was no exception. He raised one eyebrow and gave the smirking, green-eyed woman a sultry smile of his own.

Wrapped in a skin tight, black cocktail dress with a single strand of white pearls nestled into the tiny valley of her barely there cleavage, the woman stared up at Bram and ran the tip of her tongue over her upper lip in a brazen gesture of seduction.

Holding her stare with his own icy blue gaze, Bram winked at her and said, "Actually, I love drafting boards. They can take a lot of weight and you can adjust them to get the best angle and height when you're working on a special project." Bram's could feel one corner of his mouth quirk slightly. "And having the right angle is so important, wouldn't you say, Ms...?"

"Harper. Stella Harper, newest and only female architect to join Dunn and Piper." The woman was attractive in a crisp, predatory way. Her dark brown hair reflected her manners, sharp-edged with a dangerous cut to it. She ran a suggestive finger over the thick muscles prominent under the layers of Bram's dress shirt and dinner jacket. "And you would be...?"

"Unavailable, but flattered." He winked at her again and took a sip of his drink, cool gaze never leaving her sultry one.

Stella's smirking lips pursed for a moment before relaxing into something closer to a real smile. A playful twinkle replaced the predatory gleam in her eyes and she dropped her hand from his arm.

"I knew you were too great a catch to be single. I'm always a couple years late or two drinks ahead of everyone else in the room." She turned to face the mingling crowd, leaning against the bar with a dramatic sigh. "All the good ones are taken."

Bram smiled and settled next to her, studying the people talking and laughing in small groups around the Dunn's spacious, elegant living room. He automatically picked out a familiar head of dark curly hair in a group of people surrounding a frail, older, but still beautiful woman in a wheelchair. He sipped his drink and admired the way the man's well-cut trousers clung to lean thighs.

A small light of budding desire warmed him as the man crouched down in front of the wheelchair bound woman to talk with her at her eye level. The thin fabric of his trousers stretched enticingly over the curve of the man's small, firm buttocks. Bram's lover was a shy, attractive young man.

Glancing around at the people surrounding his lover, Bram noticed several other people, both men and women, admiring the same view he was. A burst of possessive pride shot through him and landed in his cock. It stirred and grew, pressing lightly against the silk fabric of his black boxers. Everyone in the room could look at the man, but he knew who James Justin, favored junior architect of Dunn and Piper, was going home with. Tonight and every other night of his life, if Bram had any say in the matter.

Bram grinned, privately enjoying the hot flush of anticipation and desire that heated his groin. Glancing at Stella, he found her savoring the sight of James' tight ass as well.

Stella sighed again, this time it sounded real. Shaking her head, she took a large drink from the martini glass in her hand. Stella jutted her chin out to indicate James where he still crouched beside Mrs. Dunn.

"The man I brought with me is married, you're ‘unavailable', whatever the hell that means these days, and the only other heart-stopping, attractive man in the room," she nodded at James, "is gay. Or so they say."

She cocked her head and tried to get a better view of James' backside. "Personally, I think he just hasn't been shown the ropes by a woman with enough experience to change his world view on the subject."

Managing not to snort out the mouthful of alcohol he had just sipped, Bram swallowed, then set his drink down on the bar behind him. "You think you're woman enough to convert him? The way I hear it, gay men are born gay. It isn't a matter of choice. If another woman offered to show you a good time in bed, would you take it?"

Stella snorted and finished off her drink in one quick gulp. "Only if she looked like him," she ran her gaze appreciatively over James' lean form then looked at Bram's broad-shouldered, handsome frame. "Or you." She smiled and wiggled her eyebrows. "And came equipped with the right drilling tools."

Stella shifted her hungry gaze to James again and licked her lips. "I'd sure be willing to try and convince him of the error of his ways."

Bram smothered a chuckle, feeling slightly sorry for the woman. "What if he's already happy with someone?" Bram looked from Stella to James and back again. He slipped his hands into his pants pockets and let his fingers covertly graze over the tip of his half-hard cock. He thought about what his shy but passionate lover looked like without pants on and his cock jumped. He winked at Stella again. "You know, in love, committed?"

"With another man?" Stella gave Bram a smirking grimace filled with biting disbelief. "No man knows how to be any of those things at the same time. And frankly, unless his lover looks like you, which I doubt seeing as you're ‘unavailable', it wouldn't be doing justice to the man. James," she pointed at the crouching man with one long, red tipped finger, "is one hot, little architect. Too hot to waste on another man."

Bram followed Stella's longing gaze to admire his lover.

James was smiling, his smooth, young face animated in conversation. The cut of his dinner jacket nicely accented his trim, lean build. Pulled tight by how he crouched by the wheelchair, James' trousers fit snug over his tight, little ass. His dark curls and deep blue eyes both caught facets of the bright lights in the room so that James appeared almost radiant.

Suddenly looking up, Mrs. Dunn caught Bram's eye. She nodded a greeting and then leaned over to whisper something in James' ear.

James' cheeks flared pink. He turned his head and glanced in Bram's direction, a bashful grin on his full lips. A hungry, uncertain gleam invaded his gaze when he locked eyes with Bram, his open expression full of unchecked longing and desire.

A sudden gasp from beside him told Bram that even tipsy, Stella had seen and understood the look on James' face.

James rose up from his crouch, murmured to Mrs. Dunn, and cut a direct path through the crowd toward Bram and Stella, smoldering gaze locked on Bram.

Smothering a small choking sound, Stella moaned, "Oh, Christ! Don't tell me, let me guess. It'll be less painful that way." She groaned and closed her eyes for a moment and then proclaimed, "You're Abraham Lord, owner of Eclipse Construction, and hottie James' new boyfriend."

Stella's voice held just enough resigned, self-mocking embarrassment to amuse Bram. "Damn. I should listen to the water cooler gossip better. I thought for sure Lord was that forty-something bald guy that's been following James around the room most of the night. Damn!"

Bram noticed the bald guy as well, but brushed the man's interest in his lover off as someone trying to bask in the glow of James' quiet charm. Now he wasn't so sure.

Smiling indulgently, Bram chuckled and admitted, "Guilty as charged." He patted her sagging shoulder and took her empty glass from her unresisting hand to set it on the bar. "Don't feel too bad, Stella. I'm sure if anyone could change a gay man's ‘world view' it would be you."

"Oh, yeah, let me make a fool of myself and then throw the broken woman a bone." Stella scoffed and grabbed another drink from a passing waiter's full tray. She took a sip and grimaced. As James approached, she pulled herself up to her full height of five foot three, in three-inch heels, and stepped away from the bar.

She primly announced to Bram, "You'll excuse me if I slip away before you share my stunning humiliation with your lover and my co-worker."

She glanced at James, whose eyes were trained solely on Bram, and mumbled, "I prefer to wait to start hiding my face behind blueprints and drafting boards until Monday morning, when I'll be sober enough to appreciate the full effect of his smirking grin."

"I wouldn't worry if I were you. Jamie isn't the vindictive type. If anything, he'd be embarrassed for you. Which is why I'm not going to tell him you have the hots for him. It'll make him feel uncomfortable." Bram frowned at Stella, a serious, firm tone to his suddenly commanding voice. "You should probably keep it to yourself, as well. I'd hate to see him pushed into an uncomfortable situation with a new co-worker."

Stella blinked at the sudden change in Bram's demeanor and gave a jerky, startled nod of agreement. "Sure, fine, okay. I can do that. We never had this conversation. I'll just go to the powder room and try and get my foot out of my mouth now."

She huffed out a disgruntled snort and straightened her shoulders before moving off. "Save me from getting run over while he makes a beeline to you, anyway." Stella scurried off, throwing a small, wry smile at James as she passed him.

James glanced at Stella's retreating back as she melted into the nearest group of dinner guests then raised his eyebrows questioningly at Bram. "Making new friends?"

The slight shadow of jealousy in his lover's eyes surprised him. "Just barely exchanged names." Bram took in the slight lingering flush on James' cheeks that Mrs. Dunn had put there and felt his cock stir impatiently.

James moved closer to Bram until their arms touched. "You mean she didn't get your phone number, address, and jock strap size? She's collected everyone else's in the company since she arrived."

When Bram chuckled and shook his head, James dropped his voice to a low, sultry but nervous drawl and added, "Good. I wouldn't want to have to wrestle it from her in a room full of witnesses." He boldly ran one hand up Bram's lower arm in a light caress, but glanced hesitantly around at the people closest to them as he did it.

Bram smiled tolerantly at James' small attempt to be more open around his friends and co-workers. He snagged the other man's hand before James could pull it free and held on to it. "It's interesting how many of your co-workers have the hots for you. I may have to start objecting to those late night and weekend hours you put in at the office."

Raising James' hand to his lips, Bram softly kissed James' knuckles and then lowered their hands, still keeping a tight hold.

James blushed and squirmed, glancing self-consciously around him again, but he remained in Bram's personal space, his intense blue eyes finally captured and locked in Bram's commanding gaze.

"Don't be crazy, Bram. If people are looking at anyone, it's you." James shook his head, chewing nervously at his full lower lip, instantly drawing Bram's interested gaze to his mouth. "I've overheard at least two conversations where women were fantasizing about you to each other. And some bald-headed guy keeps following me. I think he wants me to introduce you to him."

"There's only one person here I have the desire to get up close and personal with, Jamie." Bram tightened his hold on James' fingers. "Guess who that is."

James' expression clouded and his gaze flitted uncertainly around the room. "Seeing the number of people here trying to catch your eye, it could be hard to decide."

Bram whispered a soft, insistent, "Hey," and drew James' eyes back up to his own. He brushed their joined hands over his groin, letting James felt his stirring cock as it jumped and hardened at the touch. "There isn't any question in my mind who I want. There shouldn't be any question in yours, Jamie. Ever." Bram's let himself leer as the pink spots on his lover's cheeks deepened.

Nervously clearing his throat, James shuffled his feet. One corner of his mouth tugged upward, but his voice still sounded unsure to Bram. "Stella seemed to question it."

A young woman chose that moment to move past them on her way to the other side of the room. Her hand touched Bram's brawny upper arm and stroked over the fabric-clad muscles for several seconds before she moved on, an inviting gleam in her eyes. Bram smiled cordially at her, but he remained uninterested.

James sighed and mumbled, "Lots of people seem to question it."

"As long as you don't, other people don't matter, Jamie." Bram shrugged off the unwanted attention. "Stella is well on her way to being drunk, but she still understood not to get between us. That's why she left. She was afraid you'd do her bodily harm for being next to me."

"Now you're just making things up." The grin trying to escape finally broke free. James quietly laughed, leaning into Bram. Actions shielded by their bodies, James pressed his fingertips over the bulge in Bram's trousers. Voice low and heated, James murmured, "But I can tell this is real." After a brief, tentative touch, James tried to wiggle his hand free from Bram's grasp.

"Damn right it is, lover. And all for you." Bram winked at James and tugged him a little closer. "Think this place has an alley out back?" Bram released James' squirming hand, but thwarted his anxious lover's effort to break free by grabbing Jamie's other hand instead.

"I don't think there is alley in this entire neighborhood. You'll have to save this," James' voice quivered slightly as he brushed the back of his hand against Bram's zipper, "for later."

Cheeks a bright shade of pink, James sighed, dipping his head to one side in a gesture Bram recognized as a subconscious effort to shrug off emotional discomfort.

Bram and James had been lovers for only a few weeks, but Bram knew his shy partner's self-conscious mannerisms very well. They were already deep into a committed, monogamous relationship.

Although they were both openly gay, James preferred to live life out of the public eye, where the bolder, more confident Bram took no pains to hide his feelings or his sexual orientation. After a chance meeting in a bar and a seriously hot, rough sex scene in the alley behind it the two men dove head and heart first down the rocky road to making a partnership that would last a lifetime.

They both had flaws and issues to work on, one being James' skittish discomfort in doing anything in public that brought attention to the fact that he was gay. Bram was working on changing that.

While not one for blatant displays, Bram still wanted to be able to hold Jamie's hand, sling an arm around his shoulders or hug him in public, just like other couples. Bram was a very affectionate man and James responded hungrily to almost any form of loving attention Bram gave him. Bram knew his partner craved it as much as he did, so he took advantage of any situation where he felt he could safely work a little public hand holding into their day.

Catching sight of a blatant display of public affection going on across the room, Bram wrapped his arms around his lover and turned James to face his boss, Philip Dunn, who was presently kissing his wife, the lovely older woman in the wheelchair James had been talking with moments ago. It was a chaste kiss, but it lingered. Smiles graced their lips and a youthful light shone in their eyes.

When Dunn pulled back from his wife, Bram turned James back around to face him and murmured, "If they can do it here, so can we," just before he planted a soft, sultry kiss on James' startled, open mouth. Bram's touch was light, but his tongue moved against James' full lips, tasting it, before pulling away with a slight, toothless nip to James' lower lip.

Bram gazed down at James' still closed eyes. A primal, hungry urge grabbed him and he had to fight off the urge to drag his responsive, young lover away to the nearest empty room. James' eyes flickered open and Bram smiled, slowly drawing back from where he hovered over James' panting mouth. He was pleased when James seemed to forget about everyone else in the room and stay focused completely on him.

A man cleared his throat behind James, breaking the romantic moment. James gasped, blinked furiously, and darted a quick look around them, but he didn't step back the way Bram was expecting him to. Bram's smile grew bigger and James matched it with a shyer version, nervously biting at his lower lip.

"You okay?" Bram slowly unwrapped his arms from around James' shoulders, sliding them down James' lean upper arms to rest at his elbows. His hands held on firmly, fingertips caressing the tense flesh under the expensive dinner jacket.

Releasing his abused lip, James dipped his head again, but smiled. "Yeah, I'm okay."

With a nervous glance to the floor, James suddenly popped up on his tiptoes and placed a quick kiss on Bram's surprised mouth then darted another fugitive glance around at the surrounding guests.

Bram watched as Mrs. Dunn caught James' wandering glance, then smiled and nodded at them.

Seemingly unprepared for her accepting reaction, James gave her a hesitant, embarrassed look then turned to Bram. He swallowed hard, locked gazes with Bram, and just stood there, staring into Bram's eyes.

Bram made sure that the look on his face and in his eyes told James he was the only one in the room Bram had eyes for, no matter how many others might be looking at him. He let all of the love, deep affection and burning desire he felt for James express itself, holding back nothing. He felt the rush of desire for the handsome man in his arms flood his heart and travel south to his already interested cock. Bram loved the rush being with James gave him. No one had ever affected him as easily and as deeply as this small, shy architect did. Gradually, he felt James relax under his gentle hold.

A blinding smile transformed James' solemn face, as he slowly nodded and said, "I'm more than all right, Caveman. I'm yours."

Pleased, Bram flexed his huge hands to momentarily tighten his hold on James' arms, winked at James and murmured, "Damn straight, Tiger. And I plan on showing you just how true that is the first chance I get to carry you off, too."

James snorted, an amused, guttural noise, and pushed away from Bram's questing hands as they lightly traveled down the front of his body. James smiled, but murmured, "You're just going to have to wait. No caveman impersonations in public, please."

Bram slid his hand down James' arms and captured his lover's wrists before James could break away. He nuzzled the side of James' face briefly, raking his lips over the man's sensitive ear, and whispered, "Then how about we find ourselves a little privacy?"

"What? We can't! Bram!"

Pulling a hesitant James along behind him, Bram guided the protesting man through the nearby kitchen doorway, past the curious but formal catering staff, and into a side pantry. Bram closed the door, swung James around, and pinned him to it, lips instantly sealed to James'.

Fingers curled into James' hair on both sides of his head, Bram swallowed down the other man's fading protests. He devoured his lover's heated mouth, working his tongue over every inch of James' teeth and warm, curved palette. He battled with James' tongue for a moment before coaxing it into his own mouth. He nibbled and sucked on the sensitive muscle until James' small, slender body squirmed helplessly against him, head held immobile in Bram's effortless grip.

Sliding one thigh between James' legs, Bram increased the intensity of their kiss until James was breathless and moaning.

Bram delighted in the feel of James' hands. First they pushed at his thick upper arms, then kneaded his muscles in what he knew was desire, until they finally twisted into the fabric of his coat sleeves with a desperate sense of urgency.

Bram waited until James began to rub against his restraining thigh before he ended his ravenous assault. He could feel the fleshy rod under James' trousers harden and shift. The twitching of his lover's cock was hot and unmistakable, held tightly confined against Bram's massive body by his weight and dominating strength.

Barely breaking away, Bram kept his hold on James' head and leaned their foreheads together, his lips brushing over his partner's as he spoke.

"Did that help you remember who you came with?" Bram kissed a trail of soft caresses down James' cheek to his exposed neck and back up to his mouth again. Instead of kissing James, Bram nipped at James' swollen lips and ran the tip of his tongue between James' lower lip and teeth, teasing the sensitive, slick membranes.

"I know who I came with, and who I belong with. I'm just a little nervous about showing it here." James lowered his voice and his gaze. "You know that." He squirmed against Bram's firm hold. Indignant, James hissed, "And it makes me even more nervous to have my boyfriend drag me off to some broom closet to make out in my boss' house." He punched Bram hard on one beefy shoulder. "People will talk!"

Bram laughed and enjoyed James' increased squirming. "People are already talking. They're saying how attractive you are, how sexy you look, how desirable your ass is. Stella Harper couldn't stop talking about you." He nuzzled James' ear and blew a stream of hot breath down his lover's neck, delighting in the gasp it produced. "First time I've been turned on by talking to a woman." He rubbed his jaw over James' chin and up James' cheek, enjoying the slight, abrasive slide of their budding five o'clock shadows. "Made me all possessive and horny just listening to how much she wanted you."

"That's nuts. I don't think about other people seeing me that way, you know that." James moaned and licked at the cleft in Bram's chin as it passed by his mouth.

With a small understanding laugh, Bram kissed the tip of James' nose. "Yes, I do." He ran his hands over his lover's lithe form, lingering over the firm globes of James' pert, rounded ass. "And I've vowed to help you overcome this horrible defect in your otherwise sterling," he tipped James' face up by using the pressure of just his forehead to look directly into the other man's eyes, "and very arousing, character."

Swooping down, Bram captured James' mouth in a searing, no holds barred kiss, taking away his partner's breath and a little of James' inhibitions with it. When he finally released his lover, James was panting, flushed and mussed, clothes slightly askew and lips red and delightfully swollen.

Bram ran his thumb over the plump flesh and then slipped it into James' parted mouth where it was immediately sucked in and caressed with a hot, eager tongue. Bram, growled under his breath and let his gaze turn sultry and heated, locking it on James' own deep blue, needy stare. A timid knock on the pantry door interrupted, and both men reined in their rising desires.

Releasing James, Bram opened the door wide enough to shove one broad shoulder in the space and grinned rakishly at the sweet, young maid blushing outside the door. "We'll be through in a minute. Promise. Then the room's all yours, darling."

The young woman blushed and giggled nervously at the quick wink and wiggled eyebrows he gave her. Bram shut the door and turned to see James straightening his clothing, one hand absently rubbing over his inflamed lips.

Grabbing James' hand, Bram kissed his lover lightly, opening the door with his other hand. "Let's go get this dinner over with. I want to take you home and spend the rest of the night showing you just how aroused your character has made me." He wiggled his eyebrows again, earning a smile from his lover, then he pulled James out of the pantry and into the brightly lit kitchen. Ignoring the stares and knowing smiles from the staff, Bram led the way out into the main living area to rejoin the party.

James stepped back into the room, Bram at his side just as his boss raised his hands to attract his guests' attention. Dunn raised his voice over the murmured conversations. "I think it's time we moved this little party into the dining room. I'm hungry."

Ignoring the covert, curious glances from the people around them, Bram answered the few disapproving stares he meet with a blinding smile, slung one long, powerful arm across James' shoulders, and steered them both toward the dining area. When a hesitant hand settled on his low back, he rewarded James with a sly wink and a squeeze of the arm under a possessive hand.