White Balance

an excerpt



Prologue



"Martin?"

Jeremy's voice lifted something inside me, as it always did. Something that had lain dormant for years but woke up three years ago when he walked into my studio.

"Martin? You home?" he asked, as I heard him bound up the stairs two at a time.

"In here," I replied, gazing down at the clothes I'd put out on the bed. I had no idea what to wear. Thank goodness Jeremy was home.

He came into our room and skidded to a halt. Any signs of disability were gone now that his Multiple Sclerosis was under control, thanks to the daily injections he administered himself. He'd been relapse-free for a couple of years now, despite the fact he'd needed to use a cane for a couple of months shortly after I'd met him.

"Hey, guess what?" Jeremy glowed with barely contained excitement as he waited for my answer.

"Um, you found your long-lost twin?"

"Eh, no," he grinned, waiting.

"You finally realized that chocolate is not worth it?"

He frowned, scratching at his stubbled chin in puzzlement that I could even propose such an idea. "Fuck no."

"Just tell me. I'll never guess and you know it."

His grin returned as he shoved a piece of paper toward me.

I took it from him. "What is this?"

"It's an invitation to model for Felix Kureck in England. He wants me to come to London so he can shoot me for his coffee table book, The New Man."

I stared at the letter, reading the invitation.

Felix Kureck had made a name for himself photographing beautiful men and women. According to this letter he had personally requested that Jeremy's agency send him to London for a photo shoot. The agency would pay half of Jeremy's expenses and Kureck had agreed to pick up the tab for his flights in exchange for Jeremy's time.

I tried to match Jeremy's obvious excitement with a similar enthusiasm, even though I hated the thought of him being away for that long. We hadn't been apart for more than a weekend since we'd met.

"This is a huge opportunity for you, Jeremy."

He sat down on the bed, shaking his head back and forth. "I know, right? I mean, he wants me. Me!"

"Everyone wants you, Jeremy. You're a wet dream. Men and women have your magazine ads pinned to their walls. Trust me."

He laughed. "Oh, come on. You're a little biased, Martin."

"Huh."

Sure, I was biased. I also knew what it was like to take his photo; to see him come alive under the lens of my camera; to see his image on my computer screen teasing me with what I thought I couldn't have; to see him look at me with scorching heat in those brown eyes and proposition me finally, letting me know that he wanted it just as much as I did.

I still had a hard time believing it.

"I want you to come," he said then.

"What?" My mind was still wrapped up in erotic memories and I wasn't sure what he meant.

"To London. Come to London with me, Martin."


Chapter One



"I can't just take off for two weeks," I said, trying to wrap my head around what he was asking.

"Why not? It's not like you have a regular nine-to-five job. Do you have anything booked for June yet?"

He was practically bursting with excitement and optimism and I couldn't blame him. This was a big deal.

"Well, I--"

He stood up and approached me, grabbing my shoulders and staring into my eyes with an intense, contagious, energy. "Come to London with me. Please."

My head filled with excuses as to why I couldn't or shouldn't, but my mouth said, "Okay."

He let out a whoosh of air that smelled like cinnamon. Perks of working at Starbucks. "Really?"

I shrugged, my head in a bit of a daze. "Sure, why not? I can just take out a second mortgage on this place."

His face fell and I felt like I'd kicked my pet dog.

"I'm kidding, I'm kidding." I took his chin and kissed him softly. "It's going to be expensive, that's all. But I'm just about to pitch a spread to Hikes and Trikes magazine. If I can convince them a story about the New Forest would be timely, this just might work."

"Oh shit, I forgot you had that meeting. What time?" His smile was back.

"An hour. Can you help me get some information together?"

"Of course."

"And tell me what to wear?"

"Always."

****

Jeremy and I spent thirty minutes printing pages of information on the New Forest in England--weather patterns, indigenous animals and fauna, acreage, human encroachment. It would be a hastily put together pitch, but one I hoped would at least pique their interest enough to tell me to go for it. And pay some of my way.

After dressing in the outfit Jeremy picked out--dark jeans, leather oxfords, a white button up and casual blazer--I kissed him at the door and left him to dream about modelling for a famous artist in one of the biggest metropolitan cities of the world while I walked the three blocks to the Lieutenant's Pump.

My gut clenched with anxiety because I had prepared a completely different pitch and now I needed to beg them to send me to England. I'd only been doing gigs for this magazine for a couple of years and I didn't know if I had enough of a reputation yet to snag myself an overseas trip.

But the thought of spending time in London with Jeremy motivated me.

Mr. Clarence Twomes, the executive editor for Hikes and Trikes, a hiking and bicycling nature periodical, had already found a table in the corner of the pub. He stood when I approached.

"Hey, Martin, it's great to see you again," he said, shaking my hand enthusiastically.

"Mr. Twomes." I smiled.

"Call me Clarence. I loved your piece on Gatineau Park, by the way. Very comprehensive and your images were stunning."

I blushed, not used to so much admiration and respect. It bode well for my mission. "Thank you. I'm so grateful that Hikes and Trikes Magazine was interested."

Clarence flagged the server. "What'll you have, Martin? It's on me. Well, it's on Hikes and Trikes, that is."

"Oh? Great. Guinness please."

While we waited Clarence and I made small talk about the weather until he asked what I'd been up to lately.

"Well, actually, that's why I called you. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me."

"Anytime, Martin. Do you have another spread for us?"

I fiddled with the edge of the coaster. "Well, that's the thing. I have an idea for one. But I don't know if it fits your mandate or what kind of advance you can offer me."

Clarence sat back in his chair. "Hit me."

All right. Here goes.

"I want to do a piece on the New Forest in England."

One, two, three, four--I counted silently to ten before launching into a rambling justification as I reached for my satchel. "I mean, there are--"

"I like it. The New Forest. That's near London, isn't it?"

Had he figured out this was all a ploy to go to London?

"Well, yes, but--"

"I'll check with the executive editor but I don't see a problem. What's your timeline and what do you need?"

I stared at him, my mouth opening, then closing again. How could it be this easy? I had expected to have to convince him. I left my satchel leaning against my leg and took a quick sip of beer in order not to look like a fish out of water.

"Um, well, I think, I'd like to go as soon as possible. Maybe the end of the month?" Jeremy's photo shoot was on June 9th. Only a few weeks away.

"Okay. If you can submit something by the end of next month we can probably fit it into the fall issue. You'll want your flight and accommodations taken care of I assume?"

I nodded, still a little out of it. This was not how I'd thought the meeting would go.

"I can email you the forms and we can get this started. If you fill them out and get them back to me by tomorrow or Wednesday I can probably get you something by the weekend--either an advance or a travel voucher."

I blinked. "Thank you. I really appreciate it." I didn't really know what to say.

He seemed suddenly to be aware of my surprise. "Martin, you're very talented. We're interested in anything you want to put together, as long as it goes along with our mandate. A story about the New Forest falls perfectly within our interests. If it costs us a bit of money to get you over there, we'll pay it."

****

When I got home, after a great chat with Clarence about the prospects of my trip and my excitement to shoot overseas, I keyed open the door and raced upstairs. Jeremy, in faded skinny jeans and a t-shirt, turned from the stove, where he was stirring something in a pot. The scent of tomatoes and herbs filled the room with a comforting aroma.

I stopped dead, experiencing a strange, surrealistic moment of gratitude and disbelief. How was it possible that this man was waiting for me, cooking for us, and looking sexy as all hell while he did so? When I saw him like this, after a brief or a long absence, in all his laid back, sexy splendour, it was always a bit of a shock. I stood there dumbly, my eyes raking over him as if I'd forgotten what he looked like. Which was ridiculous because the way he looked, the way he smelled, all his little habitual gestures, and every nook and cranny of his body was indelibly etched in my memory.

"Hey. How did it go?" he asked.

"Good," I said, walking into the living room and putting down my satchel. "Great."

He raised his eyebrows, pausing his stirring. "You mean--"

I smiled. "They're paying me to go to England with you."

"Really?" He released the spoon and walked over to me, eyes wide, lips moving into a grin.

I nodded. "Well, I'll have to take some pictures."

He stopped in front of me, raising his eyebrows and teasing up his t-shirt to reveal his abdomen with its soft covering of hair. He moved his other hand teasingly across the skin of his belly. "Oh, yes you will, Martin. Lots and lots of pictures."

I laughed. "Of the landscape, dumb nuts," I said with affection, although my eyes appreciated his nakedness. So did my cock. "Of trees and greenery and ponies."

He smirked. "I can be a pony. I'd make a cute pony."

My cock twitched. "I don't think that's what Hikes and Trikes magazine is looking for. However," I said, assessing him, "I'm not dismissing the idea out of hand."

He grinned. "Seriously? We're going to England together?"

I nodded.

"For two weeks?"

"For two whole weeks."

He reached out, grabbed my shirt and pulled me in, kissing my neck and ear and finding his way to my grinning mouth. I tasted his excitement and that particular flavour that was Jeremy. After a few lovely moments he pulled back.

"We have to fly you know."

I swallowed down the flare of fear that lit inside me. "Uh huh."

"You're scared to fly."

I cleared my throat, looking down. "I'm not scared. I just don't like to."

"But you'll do it for me."

I looked back up, gazing into his brown eyes. "I'll do anything for you."

****

By early the following week we had plane tickets and a hotel room booked for eleven days on the magazine's ticket, opting for a luxury king suite and agreeing to pay any extra fee out of pocket. Then I booked us a campsite in the middle of the New Forest for the remaining four days. Jeremy's shoot would be over and we could spend some time immersed in nature where I would take as many photos as possible. It looked like we could rent everything we'd need for the same price as staying at a hotel.

I also booked an appointment with my doctor.

"Martin, what's the problem today?" Dr. Acevitos asked in his usual, get-to-the-point-I-have-other-patients, way.

"I, uh, I need something for my nerves," I said, rubbing my hand on my pants. Just the thought of boarding that plane in a week sent me into a panic.

He raised his eyebrows. "Sit down. Let's talk."

I sat in the chair beside the examination table. "I'm going to England next week," I said, looking him in the eyes. "And I'm terrified of flying."

His expression softened. "Ah. I see. Will you be travelling alone?"

I shook my head. "No. My partner's going with me."

"Jeremy," Dr. Acevitos said, and I remembered that Jeremy was his patient as well.

"Yes. But he doesn't know how fucking scared I am."

Dr. Acevitos nodded, straightening up. "You're not alone, you know. A lot of people are afraid to fly. Especially these days, what with all the terrorist atta--" He stopped talking abruptly when he saw the look on my face. "I mean, it's a common thing."

"Is there something I can take before I get on the plane? Something that won't knock me right out but will make me kind of forget why I'm scared? Or something?"

He smiled reassuringly. "Absolutely."

He keyed something into his computer and the printer spat out a paper. He handed it to me. "This is a script for Xanax. Please read the information packet carefully and take only the recommended dose and only on the morning of the flight. Too much of this stuff is going to make you really loopy, and you don't want that."

Oh, hell, yeah, I did.

I wanted to be looped out of my fucking mind. I didn't tell him that.

"Thank you," I said with real gratitude.

"And think about telling Jeremy how you're feeling. Sometimes talking honestly with someone who cares can help just as much as the meds."

I doubted that. Jeremy loved to fly. He wouldn't understand my fear at all.

He was the bravest person I knew.

****

On Monday morning, four days before our flight, I watched Jeremy sit down at the kitchen table and unzip the blue nylon bag that contained his daily needles. He took one out and examined it, checking for tiny particles before removing it from the plastic and setting it on a clean towel in front of him.

"I guess you'll have to remember to pack enough of those," I said, nodding toward the syringe.

He gave me a reassuring smile. "You bet. I'm not risking even a day without taking this stuff."

"Good boy."

The daily injections contained an expensive medication to manage Jeremy's Multiple Sclerosis. It wasn't exactly a cure, but it made his relapses less severe and they occurred less frequently.

He hadn't told me about the disease when we'd first gotten together, or that he had stopped taking his medication. He'd been so young and naïve enough to think that maybe he didn't need the injections. But when he'd woken up at my place a couple of weeks after we started dating, unable to walk properly, he'd been forced to tell me. Well, I'd forced him to tell me, because I didn't know what was going on and I completely freaked, thinking he was having a stroke and we needed to call 911. When he'd calmly told me that he was having an MS relapse and there was really nothing the doctors could do for him, I'd been shocked and suddenly thrust into a world with which I had no experience. But my feelings for Jeremy were already strong enough that I didn't let his condition scare me away. I learned what I could about it, supported his recovery, and learned to love a man who might need to use a cane or a wheelchair occasionally.

I watched as he injected himself in the upper thigh, without a wince or any small sign of distress because he was used to it. Afterwards he stood up, disposed of the needle in the sharps container under the sink and threw away the cotton ball.

When he saw me looking he quirked his lip. "What?"

"I love you." It was a simple statement of pride and affection. I shrugged, because my love for him was so ordinary by now.

He smirked and pulled out a Star Wars reference. "I know."

I cleared my throat, becoming aware that Jeremy was in nothing but a pair of white boxer briefs that outlined his ass and thighs and showed off the bulge in front.

"When do you have to work today?" I asked, running my finger along the counter, affecting nonchalance.

"Not 'till four. You?"

"I don't have any bookings today."

Our eyes met as Jeremy straightened. "Well. Isn't that interesting," he said, pretending to stretch in a way that caused my mouth to go dry.

"You, uh, wanna go back to bed?" I asked with a hopeful smile.

"I should probably shower," he said, sniffing at his pits.

I shook my head. "Uh uh. No point getting clean just to get…dirty."

Jeremy couldn't help but smile. "Well, if you say so."

I gestured to the bedroom. "I'll meet you on the bed in a second."

After I'd ripped off my t-shirt and sweatpants and collected a small bottle of liquid honey from the kitchen, I joined Jeremy in the bedroom.

He lay on the bed on his belly, still in his boxer briefs, looking at one of my Photo Lens back issues. I took a few moments to admire him before placing the honey on the bedside table with a soft thunk.

He looked at it, then back at the magazine. "Hungry?"

I gulped. I loved the way he teased me. "Famished."

I got onto the bed on my knees between his spread legs and placed a hand on the sole of each foot, tracing up his legs very slowly as his breathing hitched and quickened. My fingers inched closer to the edge of his white boxer briefs and pushed underneath, finding the cleft of his buttocks.

He turned a page of the magazine to cover a gasp, as if my actions hardly affected him.

I stroked my fingers along the soft crevice for a few moments, then withdrew them and reached for the waistband of his undershorts.

"Martin," he said calmly.

"Yes?" I breathed.

"I like where you're going with this."

I grinned, pulling his boxer briefs slowly down over the twin globes of his perfect ass. "Me too."

He made a small noise when I bent my lips to kiss one, then the other. He smelled of soap and water.

"Jeremy. Did you wash your ass?"

"Maybe."

"That's a bit presumptuous, isn't it?"

He snorted. "Not really. I know you can't resist it."

"Maybe I have other ideas."

He glanced back at me, eyebrows raised.

"Turn over," I said.

"But then I can't keep reading." His lips quivered with a held-back grin.

"Good. Turn over."

"Fine." He pushed the magazine away and rolled onto his back, stretching his arms up over his head and pretending to yawn. "Maybe I'll have a nap."

"I don't care what you do as long as you stay still and let me play with this." I pulled the waistband of his boxer briefs down, revealing how pleased he was to see me. "I hope you washed this too."

He did grin this time and it lit up his face like a ray of sunshine. "I covered all my bases."

I pulled his briefs down and off his legs, tossing them to the side. "So considerate of you. Knowing I might want to put it in my mouth."

"Always hoping."

God, he was adorable. I just wanted to eat him up. Completely. But I'd start with his cock.

I wrapped my fingers around the base of his erection and angled it toward my mouth. Jeremy's eyes flew open and he lifted up onto his elbows. I licked my lips, gazing at him hungrily.

"Martin," he breathed. "You're killing me."

I darted my tongue out to lick a tiny bead of moisture from the tip.

Jeremy gasped and thrust upward. "Fucking tease."

I chuckled, then licked up the entire underside and over the top, digging gently into his slit while he writhed under me.

"Oh, fuck, Martin!"

I did it again, and a third time, before plunging my mouth down over him.

Jeremy moaned and panted, unable to keep still. I held him down while I sucked and licked, driving him mad and knowing I wouldn't be able to wait much longer. I ground my erection into the mattress to ease some of the ache while I worked him.

Finally, he said, "Martin, you need to fuck me. Like, now."

I glanced over to the bedside table and noticed the bottle of honey I'd placed there. "Oh shit."

"What?"

"I forgot about the honey."

"Fuck the honey, Martin. There's no time."

"But I had plans."

"It's too late now."

"No, it's not. Stay still."

He moaned when I released him and reached for the bottle of honey. I'd brought it all the way in here, goddammit, and now I wanted to taste it on him. He could wait. He'd have to.

"Aww, Martin," he whined, shifting his ass against the bed.

I held his dick in one hand and tipped the bottle of honey over it, watching as the amber liquid dripped down over his swollen flesh.

"Fuck!" He groaned, watching it pool in his slit and slide down the side. "That looks hot."

I nodded. "Yes, it does." The honey coated his reaching prick and dripped down to the trimmed hair at its base.

"Holy shit, Martin, that's enough. I'm not a bowl of ice cream."

I grinned wickedly. "You're even better. You're a dicksicle."

"Pervert."

I raised my eyebrows. We both knew who the "pervert" was here. He rolled his eyes. "Fine. You win."

I nodded and eyed his cock as I replaced the bottle on the side table. "To the victor go the spoils," I said, as I bent to lick the sweet honey off him.

"Oh my God," he moaned, letting his head fall back on the bed. "You're killing me."

"Mmm," I said. "Just wait."

I dipped a finger into the honey that had collected at the base of his dick and reached under him, finding that sweet spot quickly. Jeremy stiffened as I pressed against it, then relaxed, letting me push the tip of my finger inside.

He growled softly as my tongue and finger teased him, giving himself up to me and my plans.

"Why won't you fuck me, Martin? Don't you want to?" he panted, trembling and taut as a wire beneath me.

"I want to see you come like this. I want you to come in my mouth."

He smiled and rolled his eyes. "Fine. But at least use two fingers, yeah? And don't be gentle."

I grinned widely at the specifics of his request. Jeremy was not shy about asking for what he needed and I loved that about him.

"I love it when you talk dirty, Jeremy."

"Pfft. That wasn't talking dirty." He sat up on his elbows to look me in the eyes as he said, "Give me your hand."

I blinked, taking the hand I had wrapped around his dick and holding it toward him.

"Not that hand."

"Oh." I put it back and gave him the other one, the one that had been inside him.

"That's right." He grabbed the honey off the side table and tipped it over my hand, coating all of my fingers with the gooey liquid. "Okay." He replaced it. "Now do me a favor? Slide these long fingers into me and fuck me with them until I come down your throat."

I gulped, nodding wordlessly. Oh, fuck yeah. I could do that. I could do that all day. It would make a mess of the bedsheets but I didn't care.

Jeremy spread his legs wider and laced his hands behind his head, watching me with half-closed eyes. "And hurry the fuck up, would you?"

"So demanding," I breathed.

"You know it."

Once I had three fingers inside, fucking him with them as if I were balls deep, he could barely contain himself. The noises he made sent shocks of desire through me. His cock twitched and swelled in my mouth as I worked him over.

"I'm close, fuck, I'm close!" He bit out, just before he exploded and flooded my mouth with semen. His limbs locked and tensed until with a sigh, his whole body relaxed.

I coughed as I pulled off him and tried to catch my breath, sliding my fingers out of him and collapsing on the mattress by his side.

"Jesus, that was hot."

"Ooooh, Martin, that was…that was…I don't even know." His eyes closed and he smiled blissfully. "I think I'll have that nap now."

I tried to calm my breathing but the fact of my own arousal was literally staring me in the face. My dick pointed straight at my chin as I lay there. I could see it pushing against the black cotton of my boxer briefs, and a wide circle wet cotton near the tip.

"Jeremy," I said softly. "I hope you don't mind if I jerk off all over you."

Grabbing the lube, I poured some into my clean hand, then wrapped it around myself and started stroking. It wouldn't take long.

"Just clean up after yourself, dirty boy. I may not stay awake for it."

"Fuck!" I said. The thought of painting him with my come while he drifted off to sleep turned me on more than it probably should have.

When I was close, which only took a few seconds because of what I'd just witnessed, I kneeled up on the bed and watched the white fluid spurt out of my cock and land on Jeremy's perfect belly and chest. I couldn't help the soft grunts I made.

Jeremy's eyes remained closed, his breaths even and deep. But a sly smile formed on his lips and his left elbow bent as he found the evidence of my pleasure with his fingers.

"Love you," he whispered just before he drifted off to dreamland.