“Yes, yes, I’ll be a little late but I’ll be there. It’s not like the numbers are going anywhere,” Cameron said. “The snow is being a bitch. I’m just going to quite while I’m ahead and lay low until the goddamn plow trucks actually get off their asses and do some work. Just postpone the damn interviews! It’s not like they’ll make it anyway, not in this weather.” Hanging up before Todd could keep arguing with him, Cameron tucked the phone away in his jeans and surveyed his options.
Unfortunately, it seemed like he had stopped in the worst part of the city. There was nothing but deserted buildings in this area, and if not for the snow there would be decidedly unsavory types skulking about. He never should have gone out, but damn it, if he stayed in his empty apartment for one more hour he was going to do something regrettable.
If he had known he would instead be stuck in his car for hours—
No, wait, that building across the street had lights on. Fuck it, he didn’t care if he interrupted a drug deal or something, he was not sitting in his car for who the fuck knew how long because the city preferred to cut the plowing budget rather than their own salaries.
Climbing out of his car, making certain it was locked, he slowly made his way across the street, practically wading through the damn snow. If the weathermen had it right, there’d be feet of the stuff by morning. Finally he reached the damn building with lights on, pulling off his glasses and wiping them off with a bit of his scarf that had escaped being covered in snow. He pushed them back on, and regarded the large display window, from which hung a sign that said only The Gallery. Huh.
Pushing through the door, he sighed in relief at the wave of heat that washed over him. Spying a coat rack, he shucked all his outdoor gear and hung it up, raking a hand through his damp brown curls. He looked around, idly curious, but he was only in a lobby—elegant, but a lobby. There was no indication whatsoever of what kind of art the gallery displayed.
Shrugging, he took a closer look at the lobby, but the opening of a door drew his attention, and he stared in surprise at the handsome—very handsome—young man who appeared through the single door at the back of the room. He was well dressed in a tailored three-piece suit, with a smile on his face that seemed nothing more than polite at a glance, but at a longer look seemed to stir all sorts of wicked thoughts in Cameron’s mind.
“Good afternoon,” the young man greeted, a hint of come hither in his voice. “Welcome to the Gallery. I am the Assistant Curator. Is there something I can do for you?”
Cameron shook his head, even if he could think of plenty the Assistant Curator could do for him. “I’m just trying to escape the snow, thanks. But I admit I didn’t know there was a gallery on this side of town. I didn’t think there was anything.”
The Assistant Curator laughed softly and replied, “We cater to a very special clientele. The art here is not to everyone’s taste.”
Laughing, Cameron replied, “That would explain why there’s nothing on display in this front room. I work for a private, members-only club that caters to very specific tastes. I doubt your naughty paintings will offend me, if you’re concerned.”
“Would you care to take a look, then?” the Assistant Curator asked. “Perhaps it will pass the time, until the snow is cleared away. Right this way.” He turned around and led Cameron through the door from which he had first appeared, down a short hallway to a set of double doors. Over them was a plaque which read ‘Temporary Exhibits’.
The paintings were all portraits—they seemed like characters studies, or something. He could not take his eyes from them, so many men and woman, usually alone but occasionally in pairs. Reading, sleeping, eating, working, napping, and some of them seemed to be doing nothing at all. The one thing the myriad paintings appeared to have in common was a sense that every single person in the portraits seemed to waiting for something. But what?
“This room,” the Assistant Curator explained as they entered yet another little themed room, “is called the Bestiary.”
“I don’t see any animals,” Cameron said.
The Assistant Curator smirked. “Then you aren’t looking hard enough.”
Ignoring that, because he hated smarminess, Cameron just looked—
Well, now, he thought, attention wholly captured. What did we have here? He forced himself to glance away from the painting itself, and looked at the small gold plaque beneath it, bearing the title The Undefeated Lion.
He looked back up at the painting, unable to take his eyes from it for too long. “Who is he?” he asked, pushing his glasses up his nose and moving closer, absorbed with the man in the portrait in a way that he hadn’t been with anyone for a long time, and it figured he would go for a figment of someone’s imagination.
“Maximus,” the Assistant Curator said. “He was a gladiator in the days when the coliseum fervor of Rome was at its peak. He never lost a single fight.”
“Interesting story,” Cameron said, even if he had wondered who the model actually was and not whatever stupid story the artist had made up for the painting. He thought he heard the Assistant Curator laugh, but didn’t care.
He just kept drinking in the beautiful man in the painting, naked head to toe, every last square inch of him turned golden by the sun, hair short, only just long enough to sink a hand into and fist. He was riddled with scars, no doubt the result of all his ‘gladiator fights’. He was stretched out on a crumbling stone wall, a stretch of white sand and sparkling blue water behind him, the sun beating down, making his skin glisten.
Cameron wanted to touch. Badly. Being the aloof, occasionally—often—bitchy, and otherwise unremarkable accountant for the hottest fetish club in the city left him immune and unmoved by the things he witnessed almost nightly. He hadn’t honestly wanted to touch anyone for longer than he cared to think about. But this man—golden, tanned, comfortable in his own skin, clearly just trying to relax and not some twink trying too hard to be looked at—
He wanted. Without even thinking about it, he reached out to the painting, not even sure why—
And jumped back with a barely muffled yelp as his fingers landed on sun-heated skin. The crashing of waves, the cries of seagulls, the smell of the sea all struck him then, and he looked around wildly and what the fuck was going on?
He balled his hands into fists, looking wildly around for the gallery, but all he saw was stretches of beach and long, waving grass and what the hell, what the hell, what the hell—
Then the man—Maximus?—grunted in his sleep and shifted slightly and suddenly all Cameron could think about was him. He moved closer again, panic and confusion falling away. He was beautiful, stunning, and Cameron really wished he was allowed to touch.
He licked his lips, considering touching anyway, because Maximus was asleep and would never known and Cameron wouldn’t do anything inappropriate—and it seemed his hands were moving without permission anyway, stroking lightly up one well-muscled arm, along his shoulder, then ever so lightly trailing down the magnificent chest that he wanted to splay his hand across, dig his nails into as he fucked himself hard on that fine cock—
A hand abruptly grabbed his, and Cameron only had time to cry out in surprise and panic as he went flying through the air, then landed hard in the sand on the other side of the wall, pinned there by the weight of the man straddling him, the hands closed firmly over his wrists. “What have we here?” the man rumbled, words spoken in the strangest accent Cameron had ever heard, he couldn’t even begin to pin it. “A little mouse, I think. Why are you disturbing a lion, little mouse?”
“I—I meant no harm,” Cameron said, licking his lips, wondering where in the hell his glasses had gone, even though he didn’t exactly need them right then. “Where the hell am I? What is going on?”
Maximus sneered at him, and Cameron was torn between fear that he was going to get his ass beat and desperately wishing he was going to get his ass reamed, and right in the middle of fear and lust was both the best and worst place to be and he really wished he knew what the fuck was going on. “You are in the playground of Silenus, lord and master of the Satyr. I cannot imagine why he let a mouse in to play, but seldom does a mere man understand the workings of Silenus.”
“What the fuck is a satyr?” Cameron asked, squirming and wriggling in a desperate bid to get free.
Laughing, Maximus only tightened his hold and said, “Now, now, little mouse, you’re not going anywhere. No one is simply allowed to touch the Undefeated Lion of Rome without permission. Once upon a time, I would have snapped your pretty neck without a thought.” He shifted, holding Cameron’s wrists in one hand, his other hand wrapping lightly around Cameron’s throat.
Cameron licked his lips again, heart thudding so hard in his chest he thought it might pop. “I don’t know why I’m here at all. And I didn’t meant to touch without permission—well, I did—but I couldn’t help it.”
Maximus just laughed again. “Foolish little mouse. Whatever should I do with you?”
“You could let me go,” Cameron said.
“Now why should I do that?” Maximus asked. “I’ve been alone here for a very long time, with only Silenus and his odd little Assistant to occasionally visit me. I never thought a little mouse would be foolish enough to wander into my pen. Perhaps I’ll keep you for my own amusement. You should not have come into my pen, mouse, if you were not prepared to be devoured.”
Cameron shivered at the words, and could see from the way Maximus’ gaze sharpened that he had noticed. A look he recognized flitted across Maximus’ face, and Cameron had absolutely no problem with what always followed a look like that. “I’m not as little and helpless a mouse as you seem to think. Keeping me prisoner won’t serve you nearly as well as letting me go.”
Maximus looked at him, then laughed and abruptly let him go, moving off him and going to sit on the wall again, legs spread, heavy cock beginning to feel. “Very well, little mouse. You have your freedom. Are you going to scamper off now, like mice always do?”
In reply, Cameron just stood up and stripped. He might just be the accountant, but he was also best friends with the club owner, and he hadn’t gotten to that position by being a mouse. Naked, knowing he was hardly a chore to look at, he dropped to his knees and crawled to the wall, ran his hands up Maximu’s heavy thighs, wasted no time on teasing, but went straight to that cock. It was as impressive and well-proportioned as the rest of Maximus, large enough that Cameron’s jaw quickly began to ache, saliva dripping down his chin as he worked it, eyes watering as Maximus grabbed his hair, held him in place, and begun to fuck his mouth in earnest.
Cameron loved it, took it, whimpered in surprise and displeasure as Maximus abruptly withdrew—but then he was being hauled up, turned around and bent over the wall, elbows scraping against the rough stone. He shivered, groaned as fingers teased along the crack of his ass. He really wished he had stuff with him, because—
He yelped in surprise as something warm and wet dripped down the crack of his ass, followed by Maximus’ fingers again, and then one finger was pushing inside, warm and slick, burning as it stretched him. Cameron dropped his head on a long, hungry moan, obediently spreading his legs wider when Maximus lightly kicked at his ankle, whimpering for still more as one finger became two. He hissed in pleasure as he finally got three pushing deep inside, thrusting, twisting, stretching. “More,” he gasped out.
Maximus chuckled, deep and rough, and withdrew his fingers. Before Cameron could complain, he was pushing his cock slowly in, driving Cameron wild, making him swear and demand and beg. “Move, damn you,” he said, when Maximus only stayed infuriatingly still.
“Bossy little mouse,” Maximus rumbled. “In Rome, we either beat or fucked that nonsense out of you.”
“Fuck it out of me, if you think you can,” Cameron challenged, twisting slightly look over his shoulder. “I tell cocky assholes like you to fuck off and go to hell every—oh, Christ—night—” he barely managed to say, as Maximus pulled out and slammed back into him hard.
After that, talking was completely beyond his abilities; he just clung to the wall, ignoring the scrapes and bruises it would leave, unable to focus on anything but the very hard, very thorough fucking Maximus was giving him. Christ, how he’d wanted his, missed this—no fuss, no wondering, no ceremony, no formality, just a hot, confident—arrogant, cause he liked that even if he would never admit it—man fucking him to within an inch of his life and simply expecting Cameron to take it instead of holding back like because he was small and skinny he might break.
When he came, it was the hardest he had ever come in a long damn time, leaving him dizzy and unable to see or even breathe properly for what seemed like ages. He sagged against the wall, knees giving out as Maximus pulled out of him, not even bothering to try for his equilibrium yet.
Then a hand landed in his hair, firm but gentle, stroking it with something that actually seemed to be genuine affection. Then Maximus lifted him up, as though Cameron weighed nothing at all, pulling him across his lap as he settled in the sand, back against the stone wall. “Pretty little mouse, you are tougher than you appear.”
“Given I look like a high school science nerd despite being thirty and employed at a fetish club for the past ten years, I would say that’s not hard,” Cameron said.
Maximus frowned. “What is a fetish club?”
“A place that focuses on sex the way the coliseums focused on fighting,” Cameron replied, because he was long past believing this was anything but real, despite how fucked up it was. “I take care of the money.”
“I see,” Maximus said, then surprised Cameron by kissing him, and he was as rough and thorough and marvelous at that as he was at fucking. “You’re an interesting little mouse. I want to keep you here, but I unfortunately already said I would let you go.”
Cameron blinked at him, then said, “You could come with me.”
Maximus shrugged his wonderfully broad shoulders. “Silenus put me, only he can take me out again, and I know not what he meant when he said I would stay here until I no longer had reason. Go, little mouse, before I change my mind and keep you here to devour eternally.”
Frowning, Cameron went as Maximus pushed, reluctantly pulling his clothes back, grimacing at the sand that was everywhere. He looked around, and finally saw his glasses. Turning back to Maximus, not certain what he would say, he only drew up short at the loneliness naked on Maximus’ face as he stared at the sea, clearly not aware that Cameron was paying him any mind.
Cameron couldn’t stand it. He knew far too well how it felt to be that alone, no matter how beautiful and comfortable the surroundings. Moving closer, he knelt down beside Maximus, leaned up against his side, heart catching in his throat as Maximus reflexively wrapped one arm around his waist and turned to look at him—
And suddenly they were in the cool, dim light of the gallery, and disorientation left Cameron reeling for a moment, staring uncomprehendingly between their surroundings, a painting of a deserted beach and an old stone wall, and Maximus dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt.
The sound of someone clearing his throat made them jump, and they turned to stare at the Assistant Curator, who smiled politely at them. “I thought I would let you know that the streets have been cleared, so if you wanted to be on your way, now is a good time. I hope you have enjoyed our humble little gallery, both of you.”
“Uh—yes,” Cameron said, then jumped again as his phone started ringing. He yanked it out of his pocket, then hit the receive button. “What? Yeah, I’m on my way—and cancel all those interviews,” he said, looking up at Maximus. “I found us a new bouncer. Yes, I’m certain. Be there in thirty.” He closed the phone, shutting Todd up, and stuffed it back into his jeans.
He looked back at the Assistant Curator, but he was already gone. Shaking his head, he looked at Maximus. “I don’t understand a single fucking thing that’s going on right now, but I think maybe you’re stuck with me.”
Maximus smiled, and shook his head. “Indeed. Who would have thought a little mouse would be the key to my freedom?”
Cameron only smirked, and leaned up to kiss him, “Never underestimate the little guys, gladiator.”
Rumbling something in reply, Maximus matched his kiss, stole control of it, left them both breathless when they finally broke apart. “Lead the way, little mouse. Take me home.”
“Gladly,” Cameron said, and did so.