“Oh, my god, here you are,” Penny said, and dropped down in the empty seat across from him, heaving an aggrieved sigh. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you, Clarence. God, why do you have to be so hard to find? It’s important.”

Ren didn’t bother to list all the reasons he hid in the coffee shop. Every single day. From three to five. At the same table in front of the window. For the past five years. Where people stopped to see him all the time.

Instead, he discreetly closed the windows open on his laptop, careful not to close the laptop itself because that would draw her attention, and took a sip of his latte. Important, huh? Important with Penny could be anything from Oh my god, did you see –insert TV show—last night? to Oh my god, so and so killed himself last night.

He had never been able to figure out the criteria by which she decided the priority of things. He suspected he was a happier person for its remaining a mystery. “So what is this all important thing?” he asked.

“Your boyfriend is a hooker!”

Ren choked on his latte. He set it hastily aside as he succumbed to a coughing fit. “Okay,” he gasped out when he could or less breathe again, “Try that again. What in the hell are you talking about?”

“He’s a whore. A prostitute. A-a-a—”

“Rentboy?” Ren offered, but only because he was still too stunned and amused to take offense quite yet.

“Yes,” Penny hissed. “And I thought you should know, because it’s wrong of him to hide that from you and you deserve so much better than a-a-a slut.”

“Don’t call my boyfriend names,” Ren snapped, no longer amused. “Dave doesn’t hide anything from me.”

Her jaw dropped. “He told you he was a rentboy?”

Ren rolled his eyes and wondered who the hell had started such a crazy ass rumor. Dave a rentboy, honestly. “No. He’s not a hooker.”

Penny gave him the sort of look that was meant to be sympathetic but really only made him wish that his dad hadn’t taught him it was bad to hit girls. “Sweetie, that boy loves you. He wouldn’t want to upset you with that sort of thing. And I mean, well…look at you. Can’t say I blame him for his decision, even if dishonesty is always a poor decision.”

“What do you mean, look at me?” Ren demanded, highly offended. He’d gone to a lot of damned trouble with his clothes that morning. Good, well-fitted jeans, an extremely nice fitting bright red shirt that looked good with his light brown hair and green eyes, and his tan was natural, thanks, not her stupid Salon Deep Fried and he was wearing hideously expensive, classy cologne that Dave loved and his glasses were brand new and Dave said they gave him even more hot points.

“You’re kind of a nerd, sweetie,” Penny said, probably thinking she sounded gentle and sisterly. Really she was just the word ‘obnoxious’ come to life. Possibly also odious. He would so totally never get what straight guys saw in such chicks. “I mean, that’s not a bad thing,” she added hastily, meaning she did think it was a bad thing. “Dave thinks you’re cute, but I’m sure he knows you’ll freak to learn he turns tricks.”

Dave turning tricks. Man, the very idea of it made him want to start laughing his ass off.

“So, you know,” Penny blathered on, “I thought you needed to know, since you’re dating and all, and really you deserve better—”

“I don’t deserve Dave,” Ren said flatly. “You’re pissing me off. It’s none of your fucking business what he does for a living, even if it were true he sells himself for money. And if he did I’d just be honored someone that hot would want me. So take your interfering, busy body little ass and get the fuck out of my face.”

Penny’s draw dropped. “You—you can’t talk to me like that!”

“You just called my boyfriend a slut. I’ll talk to you however I please. Get the fuck out of my face.”

She huffed and slammed things, and banged the chair against the table as she stood, then flew out the door—slamming that for good measure too—and then was mercifully gone.

Ren rolled his eyes and opened his windows back up, and got back to work. He really needed to finish his damned homework before he went to work, and she had totally ruined any chance of finishing his bio paper before four.

He looked up reflexively as the bell over the door rang, and broke into a warm smile as Dave strode toward him. Faded torn jeans, his favorite and seriously ragged football shirt, floppy blonde hair going twenty different directions, with grass stains and dirt all over. His gym bag was slung over one shoulder, and he still held his perpetual football in one hand. As he got closer, the freckles across his face became visible, and all of Ren’s irritation faded away as he enjoyed looking at his boyfriend.

“Hey, ultra sexy,” Dave greeted, dropping his bag and then sliding into the seat recently vacated by Penny. “Man, I nearly crashed into Crazy Chick, she was mad as hell. Glad I didn’t do it, I’d probably wake up dead tomorrow.”

“You might yet,” Ren replied, and leaned across the table to kiss him hello. “I’m the one who pissed her off.”

Dave winced. “Man, you can talk to me about your problems. Suicide is not the answer. I’m here for you, baby, I promise.”

Ren laughed. “She had my best interests at heart.”

“Oh, lord.”

“She came to tell me that you are a hooker—”

“I’m a what?” Dave said, nearly dropping the bottle of water one of the staff had brought him, knowing him as well as they knew Ren. “The hell, man?”

Ren doubled over laughing. “I know, right? Also, she says it’s not right that you keep such secrets from me, and I am too good for you.”

Dave smiled. “Well, that might be true.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“I can’t believe—dude, why does she think I’m a hooker? I can’t even keep from turning red when you say—uh, stuff.”

Ren snorted, and said, “Stuff? What, like cock?”

True to form, Dave immediately went bright red. “Shut up,” he hissed, looking anxiously around.

“Or stuff like ‘I want you to pound me into—”


Ren snickered and drank more of his latte. “Okay, okay.”

Dave made a face at him. “I cannot believe she said I’m a rent boy. Where do these people get their rumors?”

“Apparently you don’t want to tell me, because I am a fragile little nerd who cannot handle the truth about your occupation,” Ren added.

“You, a nerd? What sort of nerd wears designer everything and spends more money on clothes in a month than I make in, like, a year? On what planet does she live?”

“Planet Dumbass, clearly. But seriously, Dave. You can tell me the truth.”

Grinning, Dave said, “I help coach kids at the local gym and deliver pizza. There is nothing glamorous about my life. The only thing I’m guilty of is maybe, possibly, slightly stalking a hooker. Only a very little bit of stalking. Probably not actually stalking.”

“No, I checked,” Ren replied. “I could totally have you up on charges in pretty much every state.”

Dave rolled his eyes. “If you’d given me your phone number like I asked, I would not have been forced to stalk you.”

“You have weird concepts of how to respond to rejection.”

“You just didn’t want to admit you liked me.”

Ren didn’t reply to that, because it was true enough.

“So what have you got the rest of this week?” Dave asked.

“Umm…” Ren glanced at his schedule, because a couple of things had changed and he couldn’t quite remember them yet. “I’ve got Mr. Walter tonight, and Peterson tomorrow. But I’m still completely free to come to your game, and for after the game. Did you want to go to the after party, or…?”

Dave looked at him like he was crazy. “Or, duh. I stalked that ass for a very long time, and I am like the only dude in the world who gets to tap that for free.”

Ren laughed and shook his head, then closed his laptop and leaned across the little table to kiss him quick and hard. “By end of year, I’ll have reached my goal and should be able to retire.”

“Mm, whatever you want, ultra sexy,” Dave aside, patting and petting and touching, and looking so simply happy in that way that had ever been Ren’s undoing. “I guess I’ll see you roundabout three of the am?”

“Sooner, probably,” Ren said. “Walters just likes to talk and watch me for a bit.”

“Oh, yeah, he’s the one whose always giving you the, uh, things.”

Ren laughed. “Yes, Dave, the toys. Do you want me to list—”

“No!” Dave said hastily. “You’re mean.”

“But you’re so cute when you get all red.”

“Oh, shut up,” Dave said, and grinned. “Can I walk you somewhere?”

“Nah, you’ve got class in the opposite direction. Get going, I’ll see you tonight.”

Dave nodded and stood up, slinging his bag back over his shoulder, tossing his football in the air and catching it easily. Then he braced a hand on the back of Ren’s chair, and bent to kiss him in that slow, sweet way that Ren totally loved and would do anything for, and he really could not remember anymore why he’d fought so hard against Dave.

“See you later,” he said when Dave pulled away. “Have a good day.”

“You too, ultra sexy,” Dave said, and with a wave walked off. “Oh,” he said at the door, pausing half in, half out. “You want I should scare off Penny or something?”

“Nah,” Ren said. “I want to see how long it takes her to figure out you’re not a hooker.”

“Kay. Bye.”

Ren watched out the window until he was out of sight, then returned to his homework, determined to knock out both school and clients as quickly as possible and get home to his boyfriend all the sooner.

“You’ve seemed on edge the past few days,” Ren said softly, nervously running his fingers through the condensation on his beer glass.

He’d picked their favorite steakhouse for tonight; he’d made the reservation three months in advance just to be damned sure they got a table. It was a night he’d thought would never come. He was done forever renting himself for men to use as they pleased. He’d deleted, thrown away, or otherwise destroyed everything to do with that life. He’d even bought a brand new laptop, and pitched the old one, so no taint of rent-a-fuck remained anywhere.

Most shocking to him, he had a lover, an honest to god boyfriend, to celebrate with, one he loved so fucking much he’d worked an extra three months just to buy the surprise waiting in his pocket.

Except he’d always thought, despite his cynicism, that they’d both be happy, excited, more than ready to finally leave it all the hell behind. They’d be done with school in just a couple more months, Dave had jobs lined up, and Ren was taking a long earned break.

So why, he wondered, did Dave look so wretchedly nervous, restless, and…decidedly not happy?

Rend had the sinking feeling he was coming very close to making a fool of himself. Thank fucking god he hadn’t sprung his surprise early, but had made himself wait until tonight. Damn it, he had to be overreacting. He was being paranoid. Dave wouldn’t be here if he was going to break up with him. Dave wouldn’t, not after all they had gone through just to get together. Not when they’d made it through his stupid fucking job. Overreacting, he definitely was overreacting.

Keeping his same, soft tone, he continued, “Is everything okay, Dave? Has Penny been bugging you again?”

Dave actually laughed then, and seemed suddenly his normal self. “Did you not hear? I shoved her into the fountain today, after she told me to dump for the five millionth time. As if.” He smiled, but all the anxiety which had vanished came rushing back tripled in strength. “Say, Ren—”

Ren’s heart began to hammer in his chest, and he nearly started laughing hysterically in relief. Okay, so Dave wasn’t finally sick of putting up with his shit. “Yeah, babe?”

“Um—” Dave looked like he was going to be ill, as he struggled to actually speak.

And of course their waitress picked that moment to show up with their potato skins and fried mushrooms and fresh beers. He barely kept from glaring at her.

When she was finally gone, he shoved the food and drinks out of the way and reached across the table to cover Dave’s nervously fisted hands with his own. “Babe, what’s wrong?”

Dave smiled weakly, and turned his hand, curling his fingers into Ren’s—and pressing something into his hand, before withdrawing his own from the table and staring hard at the tablecloth.

Ren opened his hand, and could only gawk in disbelief at the ring in his palm. Gold, with a small square cut diamond set into it. He could not think. His mind was one big mass of warm, gooey happiness. Oh, what if he was misunderstanding—but a diamond ring seemed pretty damned explicit. “You—you—are you asking me to marry you? Is this why you’ve been a nervous wreck all week?”

Dave just gave him that Look. “Ren, you could have anyone you wanted, especially now you’re finally free of your parents debts and that soul-sucking job. I barely convinced you to choose me, and—”

“You’re an idiot,” Ren said, cutting him off. “And you worry too much. Ike I would ever in a million years say anything but yes.” He slid the ring onto his finger and flourished his hand for Dave to see. “I think, babe, this makes you the first stalker to marry your stalkee.”

Dave laughed, shaky and silly and but the happiest Rend had ever seen him—not even the day he’d told Dave Okay, one date or Yes, I’m your boyfriend matched the unadulterated joy on his face now. Ren still could not believe he was the one always putting those looks there.

He just could not let that go by without some teasing. He’d done and had done to him more than he ever wanted to remember. Embarrassment was simply not something he could feel anymore. He loved and would always love the way Dave went red when he said something as mild as ‘fuck me’. “Too bad you didn’t ask me at home, baby,” he drawled. “You could be fucking me through the mattress right now and forcing the neighbors to call management the second time this month.”

“Clarence!” Dave hissed, turning scarlet right on cue. “Do you always have to stay stuff like that? In public?”

Ren nodded. “It’s as necessary as breathing.” He smirked. “And begging you to bend me over the couch and pound me like a hammer—”

“Stop that!” Dave said with a groan, covering his burning face with his hands.

Laughing, Ren put the food and drinks back in place and munched on a loaded potato skin. He stopped every few seconds to admire his ring, so happy he wasn’t certain how much longer he could hold still.

Dave smiled shyly at him. “So is the ring okay? It’s not much—”

“Shut up, dork. It’s perfect.”

“Dork, yourself. We both know what you can afford, ultra sexy.”

“What we can afford,” Ren reminded him—then abruptly remembered his own surprise. “Um. Speaking of surprises and fucking and our apartment…”

“Yes,” Dave asked, looking puzzled. “Did you find another place to scope? One that’s not a dud?” He looked hopeful.

Ren realized it was his turn to smile nervously. “Um. I may have worked a couple of extra months to, uh, guarantee us a nice place. One where I can make all the noise you want.” He winked, then said softly as he drew out the pictures he’d brought along. “There’s even plenty of room for the dogs you’ve always wanted.”

“What…” Dave stared at the pictures of the house in shock. It was a tidy little house, about twenty minutes outside the city proper. A yard, a pool, a two-car garage, three bedrooms, living room, dining room, rec room, basement, kitchen, two and a half baths. “You’ve bought us a house?”

Ren grinned, relieved and excited and happy. “So that’s a yes, then?”

Dave grinned back. “I think the diamond makes my answer obvious. Do you think we can just dinner to go? So we can, uh, celebrate in our crappy apartment one last time?”

“I think we can,” Ren said, smiling slow and hot. “How’d you want to celebrate, baby? Fucking my brains out, or letting me ride you like—”


Laughing delightedly, Ren signaled for their waitress to get their food to go, in a hurry to celebrate with his fiancé.



Ren was going to throttle the idiot. Honestly, who was he kidding? Like someone like that really wanted someone like Ren for anything more than the services for which he charged. “You’re fucking stalking me, stop it.”

Dave frowned—pouted, more like. “No. I’m not giving up until you agree to go on a date with me.”

He thought about it, briefly. Yeah, like he hadn’t daydreamed it before, like a fucking fool.

How did he want it to play?

Dave taking him to dinner, being cute and funny and sweet, wanting just to hang out, like that mattered even more than getting his clothes off and his ass in the air. He wanted Dave to ask him out again, exchange number, send him stupid, silly texts and drop by to have coffee at random points, call him ridiculous pet names.

How would it actually go?

Like a thousand other miserable nights—a hasty, stilted dinner that wasted no time in getting to the clothes off, ass in the air portion of the evening.

For what seemed the billionth time, he had to remind himself that guys like Dave—cute, smart, sweet, boy-next door, good family and real friends, and all that other Hallmark crap—did not actually want to date guys like him.

He had millions of dollars in debt to clear, no family, no real friends, and went for a thousand dollars an hour to men he’d rather not let anywhere near him. He was a professional whore, and would be for another year and a half. Guys like him did not get guys like Dave.

It was time he drove that point home to both of them. “Forget it,” he said, striving to sound as cold and flat as he could possibly manage. “Sweetheart, I charge by the hour and I cost more in one hour that you probably make in a week. We both know all you want is not to have to pay my fees. That’s not happening. Go use your golden boy routine on someone more gullible.”

Sliding his sunglasses back into place, he purposefully checked his watch in a careless manner, then turned away, feeling like the scum of the earth for the hurt look he’d put on that handsome face.

But better to hurt Dave’s feelings a little bit now, and really it was probably more ego, than Dave hurt Ren a lot later.

He walked down the street, stifling a sigh as he ran through the rest of his day. No more classes, thankfully. He needed to pick up his pinstripe at the cleaner’s, then do some grocery shopping, then he had an early dinner with Smith, then an hour and a half to get cleaned up and ready before he had to meet up late with Politician Who Must Not Be Named.

If he was lucky, he’d get home by three, and could do his homework ’til five or so, and crash until he had to get ready for his first class at ten.

Ugh, it made him feel tired already.


He was stumbling, more asleep than awake, as he made his way down the street to his apartment building. Maybe he could sleep first, then do homework later…

No. If he did that he’d sleep straight through until his ten o’clock class. Two hours, that was he needed, then he could crash. Yawning, he scrubbed at his face and wondered if he had any coffee left in the place. Urgh. He was never going to get through textbooks if he could not even remember he’d gone grocery…

Ren stopped. Stared.

Why the fuck was Dave asleep on the steps to his apartment building? Christ, was he holding a bouquet of flowers? From what planet had the idiot fallen? It was ridiculous and dumb and—


He shook the idiot until he jerked awake. “Huh—what—Oh, Ren.” Dave beamed. “You’re home. What time is it?”

“Five ’til three,” Ren said acidly. “As in the AM. Why the hell are you here?”

“Because I want you to give me a chance.”

“One grand for one hour,” Ren said coldly.

Dave’s face fell, and he looked so much like he’d just watched someone kick his puppy to death that it made Ren insane.

He sneered, because if he didn’t sneer he’d do something incredibly stupid. “Could give you a special discount, I suppose, for being a student and a first time customer. Fifty percent off, five hundred for an hour.”

Dave, damn him, just looked all the more miserable. Like someone had killed his puppy and then his kitten. “I don’t—look, man, I don’t know what to say. You’re right, I’m completely out of your league and totally out of my depth. I don’t know why you do what you do, but it’s none of my business. I just want one date. That’s all.”

“And what would this date entail?” Ren asked scathingly. “Dinner and a fuck, or just the fuck? I’ve had men ask me out before, honey. All of you want the same thing, and that only comes at a price.”

Dave sighed and raked a hand through his hair, frowning at the flowers he still held. “Look, I really don’t know what to say to convince you. I’m not going to deny you’re beautiful—drop dead gorgeous. I’ve never seen glasses look so hot on anyone. But it’s a lot more than that. I’m not asking to spend, uh, spend that kind of time with you for free. I just wanted a date. Dinner, movie, sports club, coffee—whatever you want.” He grimaced. “Though if you want dinner at some suit and tie place, I warn you now I look stupid in a suit and I only own one and it’s too small for me now.”

Ren almost smiled—almost. He seriously doubted looked stupid in anything. The grimace was cute, and it was utterly hilarious the way he’d fumbled around to avoid saying I’m not asking to fuck you for free.

Damn it, he did not want to get suckered.

“Oh, yeah,” Dave said, finally holding out the flowers. “These are for you. Uh, if you want them. They’re not much.”

Ren took them before he could remind himself not. Roses. So cliché it should make him wince—but they were yellow and orange, rather than red or pink, which showed some effort. “Thank you, but stop wasting your time and mine.”

“It’s not a waste of time,” Dave said quietly. “Not if I can ever convince you to say yes.”

Sighing again, Ren said, “I’m a whore, Dave. I’ll be a whore for a long time to come. I’m not going to stop for any reason.”


“No one says ‘okay’,” Ren snapped. “Do you get what I do? Men pay good money to be allowed to fuck me. To watch me fuck myself or their friends. They pay me to do a hell of a lot more than that, a whole list of things you’ve probably never even heard of. Guys like me don’t get out asked on dates unless they end in money being wired to my account.”

Dave swallowed, but nodded. “You’re right, okay? It’s not fun to think about. But—but it obviously isn’t your dream career, you’re clearly doing it from necessity. I hate that more than the idea of knowing you’ll be with other people at any given time. I’m not entirely the dumb kid you take me for, you know. Since I found out, I’ve thought long and hard about it. You, and what you do for a living, how hard it would be to handle. But in the end, I decided I could handle anything—would handle anything—if it meant I had you. Hell, just getting one date out of you is the hardest thing I’ve ever done to date. I can deal with the rest as it comes.”

“You…” Ren sighed. “You’re a fucking idiot.”

Being an idiot, of course Dave smiled. “Yeah, I know. But I’m an idiot still hoping you’ll say yes.”

He couldn’t…he just couldn’t keep fighting. It would never last. He’d be more miserable at the end of it all than he was right now. He’d probably find himself with a broken heart. But that still didn’t keep him from finally saying, “Okay. One date.”

The way Dave’s face lit up then, he almost felt like a Christmas present. “Really?” Dave whooped loud enough to wake the dead. “Yes! Yes! Um—we’ll work it out tomorrow, I should totally let you rest now. Um—thanks. Really. I can’t wait. Umm. I’ll find you at your coffee shop, tomorrow.”

Overcome by enthusiasm, Dave swept him up in a tight embrace. He smelled like grass and water and sunshine, and it was so much more appealing than the costly colognes that always gave Ren a headache after a few hours. But he wasn’t noticing because this date would be a disaster and that was that.

Then Dave let him go, and with a last cheerful good night, sauntered off down the sidewalk, whistling a stupidly cheerful sounding tune at ridiculously high volumes for three in the morning.

Ren shook his head and went up to his apartment—and sighed when he caught himself smiling and humming the same damned tune.


Ren slid his phone open, then closed it again. The sound of a car slowing down drew his attention, put him on alert—but it was only a patrol car, probably more interested in avoiding disturbances than creating them. The officer behind the wheel glanced at him, and Ren nodded.

The cops drove on, clearly deciding he was harmless or at least not harmful enough to be worth the bother. He breathed a soft sigh of relief when they turned the corner and were gone. Ostensibly, he was just a student out late. There were always a few of those about at any given hour, even three in the morning. But he doubted the ruse would have lasted if the cops got a good whiff of them; he’d been too anxious to get the hell out to take a shower first.

He glanced at the bruises on his wrists and arms, still feeling the ones on his chest, his legs. At least the asshole hadn’t left any visible marks past the ones on his wrist—and Ren was definitely blacklisting the bastard

All he wanted was to go home and pretend the entire fucking night hadn’t happened.

He slid his phone open again, re-reading the text he’d gotten hours ago from Dave. The others, he’d replied to, but by the time he’d gotten this one, it had been easier not to think about Dave. Hey, babe. Have a good evening. Can’t wait to see you Sunday.

Dave was what he really wanted. They’d only gone out a few times in the couple of months since he’d given in, because they were both busy, but Christ what dates they’d been. Dave was a honest to god sweetheart; the kind of guy that didn’t exist anymore. Ren definitely wasn’t that kind of guy.

If Dave had been put in his position, back when his parents had died and left him with a living nightmare…Dave would have found a better way to pay off the money and drive off the people baying at his heels for the money.

He wouldn’t have started down a path that started with sucking off the lawyer who handled all the debts and kept track of how much was owed to who. Ren shook his head and looked at the text again, then shut the phone. But a few steps later, waiting for a light to change to walk, he opened the phone again.

It was three in the morning—nearly half past now, really. Dave was asleep, and had to be up at seven. A handful of dates didn’t give him the right to call and whine like a baby. He’d had bad nights before and he’d handled them just fine by himself. After Dave caught a clue and left, he’d go back to handling them himself.

So it was all to the good if he just kept himself to himself like always. Eventually, Dave would realize he could do better than a whore. Ren just needed to keep himself together until that day, so it wouldn’t fucking break his heart when Dave walked. If he wanted to put that day off as long as possible, then calling Dave at three thirty in the morning to whine about a customer was so the wrong way to go about it.

And who, he thought bitterly, was really going to feel sorry for a guy who made six thousand dollars for a few hours of sucking and fucking, even if he walked away with some bruises? But he still opened his again, and read that stupid text, and really wished he could hear Dave’s voice.

He tried to reassure himself with thoughts of Sunday; they were going to one of the five million food festivals that flooded the area in summer. Really he should study—but the chance to spend an entire day with Dave, pretending to be a normal guy with a kick-ass boyfriend, was too much to resist.

Making a rough noise, because they’d definitely never said they were that serious and he flat out refused to get his hopes up, he shoved his phone in his pocket and strode more quickly home.

Shower. A few hours rest, then he’d spend all of Saturday studying. Saturday night he had work, but it was an easy client. Then Sunday, miracle of miracles, was just him and Dave.

Reaching his apartment building, he started to climb the steps, but stopped short as he saw someone on the steps, slumped against the side, dead asleep.

His eyes blurred, and he felt so stupid for trying to cry like a girl—but he really was going to have the ultimate broken heart when Dave finally walked away.

What was the idiot doing here?

Kneeling, Ren grasped Dave’s shoulder and shook him. Sleepy eyes stared at him in befuddlement for a moment. In the next moment, though, Dave snapped to awareness and gave a sleepy smile. “Hey.”

“What are you going here, you idiot?”

Dave only kept smiling—then yawned, and shook himself. “You didn’t sound right. I was worried.”

“Didn’t sound—” Ren stopped as a patrol car turned the corner and started moving down the street. “Come on,” he said, and tugged Dave to his feet, then led him inside up the stairs to his fourth floor apartment.

It was a small, not quite shithole place; all his money went to tuition, paying off his debts, and ensuring he looked the way his customers wanted him to look.

Several of his clients had offered to put him in penthouses, but Ren was having no part of that. Once the debts were paid off, he was throwing away his rentboy life and starting fresh. He was going to buy some cheesy little house in the suburbs and put up a white picket fence and everything.

It was an old dream, if silly and bittersweet. He just wished he could stop himself from trying to picture Dave as a part of it.

He flicked on the lights and led Dave into the apartment; it was a little one bedroom number that he did his best to keep clean, but on the rare occasions he had time enough to really clean were few and far between.

“Sit down before you fall down,” he said. “I’m going to grab a shower.”

“Kay,” Dave replied, but frowned at him.

“What?” Ren asked.

“You’re not okay. I was going to ask, but I don’t even need to. What’s wrong? You’re always down and sort of angry after work, and for totally understandable reasons, but tonight—” He broke off, and reached out to cup Ren’s face. “You’re not even really yelling at me, and you always yell. What’s wrong?”

Ren tried to pull away, totally flustered and disconcerted. He could tell the most outrageous lies to politicians, judges, CEOs and professional jocks, and so many other men. Why couldn’t he bluster or lie for shit whenever Dave looked at him like that? “I’m fine,” he managed, but even to his own ears he sounded definitely not fine. “It-it was just a long night.”

“I bet,” Dave replied quietly, and then kissed him softly—but then he jerked away, and Ren was crushed, because he liked kisses and Dave hadn’t really touched him on any of their dates and he’d been wondering if Dave was starting to really get that Ren was a prostitute.

“Sorry,” Dave said. “I bet the last thing you need or want right now is yet another guy mauling you.”

Despite everything, Ren had to laugh. It came out shaky, bitter, but it was a laugh all the same. “They’re never really interested in kissing me, Dave.” His vision blurred again, and god, some slick rentboy he was—

But then Dave kissed him again, and it was nothing at all like what he put up with night after night, and so much better than the chaste pecks and the hugs that were all Dave had so far given him. The hands holding his face slid away, wrapped around him, pulled him close, and Ren was unable to resist wrapping his own arms around Dav’s neck and holding on for dear life.

He fought a whimper of disappointment when Dave finally drew back.

“Their loss,” Dave said, looking pleased and a little dazed. “I could kiss you forever, even if I never got to do anything else.”

Ren laughed more genuinely. “You’re an idiot.”

Dave grinned. “So you like to tell me, frequently and often. But it works for me.”

Ren nodded, but then didn’t know what to say or do next. He could handle customers. A real, honest to god, potential lover? So out of his league.

But Dave simply kissed him again, long and slow and sweet, and suddenly Ren’s awful night didn’t seem quite as bad.

“Why were you waiting outside?” Ren asked eventually.

“Like Is aid, something wrong. Your replies to my texts are usually more terse, and full of ‘idiot’. And you didn’t reply to my last one about Sunday at all. So I thought I’d come and make sure you were okay.”

“Idiot,” Ren replied, and cut off Dave’s reply with another kiss. He really liked Dave’s kisses, but god he wished he didn’t.

“Hungry?” Dave asked, voice a bit husky.

Ren nodded. “More interested in a shower, but yeah, I could stand a bite. You?”

“Yeah,” Dave replied, then smiled sheepishly. “I brought some food with me because I knew I’d be waiting outside for awhile, but I ate that hours ago. I forget that you don’t’ finish ’til insane o’clock. I don’t know how you do that, and school, and look so ultra sexy the entire time.”

“Ultra—” Ren flushed. “Idiot. I’m going to get a shower. I think I still have food around the place, help yourself.”

“Kay,” Dave replied lightly, smiling in that cheerful, bright way of his. Ren turned away before he did something stupid.

But he didn’t protest, only yelped in surprise, when Dave snatched him back and stole another long, through kiss. Then he was gone, poking around the kitchen, leaving Ren standing there struggling to breathe, heart thudding in his chest.

Turning way, he went to get a shower.

When he came back out, it was to the smell of food he knew wasn’t in his apartment. He looked at his little kitchen table, then at Dave. “Where did you get all this?”

Dave beamed. “Mary. She works at that 24-7 diner on Piedmont. I know her from the gym where I coach. She’s a volunteer instructor on the weekends. I got her to hook me up.”

“I don’t believe you,” Ren said, and dropped down into his seat. He stared at the food again, then back at Dave. “I really do not believe that you exist at all.”

“What do you mean?” Dave asked, smile dimming a bit.

Ren shook his head, not willing to admit that Dave sounded too good to be true. “You didn’t have to go out and get food, dork.”

“It was this or a bowl of cheerios, and I don’t eat breakfast before the sun is up.”

That made Ren laugh, because it was true. Dave didn’t eat breakfast before the sun was up—but mostly because he never woke up before the sun was up. He picked up his fork and began to eat. “How did you know I liked chicken and dumplings?”

“Uh—” Dave looked sheepish. “You always get it at school when they serve it, even though normally you go for the burgers and stuff.”

“Stalker,” Ren said lightly. He hesitated, then said, “Our housekeeper always made it on Thursdays. It was the one night my parents were both usually home. It was my favorite.”

Dave smiled. “I bet you were a really cute pint-sized.”

“Shut up,” Ren said, annoyed he was flushing. For fuck’s sake, he’d just spent the last couple of hours tied to a bed and made to do things he preferred not to think about. His appointment tomorrow was with a man who liked to watch his best friend fuck Ren. Nothing embarrassed him anymore; he was not getting flustered because Dave thought he would have been a cute kid. “I bet you spent a lot of time grounded.”

“My parents didn’t believe in grounding,” Dave replied. “They believed in spankings and extra chores. I can mow a lawn like it’s going out of style.”

Ren burst out laughing, setting down his fork before he dropped it. “I believe you.” He looked at Dave, then stopped short. “What?”

“Nothing,” Dave said, smiling. “I just like seeing you happy. It’s really hard to get you to smile, never mind laugh. I’m just—I’m happy I can manage it every now and then. You should be happy.”

“You—” Ren just stared at him. “Why do you say stuff like that? Do you read a bunch of stupid romance novels before you come here?”

Dave laughed. “Nah. Don’t need to. I’ve got three older sisters.”


Dave smiled faintly. “Yeah, well. I’m willing to be an idiot if that’s what it take to keep you.”

Ren shoved his chair back and stood up, then moved around the table and yanked Dave to his feet. “Just stop it. You’re insane.”

“Am not,” Dave protested lightly. “But why do you think so?”

“I’m a rentboy, Dave,” Ren replied. “A prostitute. A whore. A spoiled little rich boy who learned too late all the mistakes his parents made and is fixing them by slutting it up every—”

Dave cut him off with a kiss, and it shouldn’t have worked, but it was exactly what Ren wanted.

“I don’t care,” Dave said eventually. “When are you going to get that through your head?”

Ren shook his head. “I’ve got nothing to offer, Dave. You can do better than me.”

“No, I really can’t,” Dave said. “I want you. And if you try to do something stupid like break up with me, I’ll just go back to stalking you.”

“Break up with you?” Ren echoed, heart suddenly going a million miles a minute in his chest.

Dave’s smile faltered just a bit under the weight of anxiety. “Uh—yeah. I mean, that is—I told my mom today I had a new boyfriend, and that she’d actually like you. I guess I should have made certain. You are my boyfriend, right?”

Ren went back to just staring, trying to remind himself to be smart, to do the sensible thing, get out while he could.

But in the end, he could only say, “I’m not sure. If you were my boyfriend, you’d have a key to my apartment, and we’d be having sex.”

Dave’s brow furrowed, and he looked like there was a million things he wanted to say, but for once he wasn’t sure about saying them.

Ren dug into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out his spare key. Dangling it in front of Dave’s face, “Next time, just come inside. Stop hanging out on the steps like a bum or a stalker.”

Grinning, Dave snatched the key and stuffed it into his own pocket. “Thanks.”

“Whatever,” Ren replied. “Now, as to the second stipulation—”

Dave frowned. “I’m not just dating you—and I figured with your job—”

Ren cut him off with a kiss, pushing Dave against the counter, pressing up against him in blatant invitation. He wasn’t normally interested in sex after work, especially on the bad nights, but he was finding Dave turned everything upside down. Hell, he should be ready to fall over dead and sleep for twelve hours, but the only thing he wanted in bed suddenly was Dave on top of him. “Honey, damn near every night all I get is men at least twice my age paying to do things I don’t like to think about too much. I’ve never really had a boyfriend. Show me what that’s like, or do I need to call you an idiot again?”

“No,” Dave said, and smiled. “You’re the hottest thing I’ve ever seen, ultra-sexy. Not touching you has been a living hell. But if you’re saying go for it—”

“I’m saying,” Ren said, and put an end to conversation, and gods he really hoped Dave actually meant all those stupid, cheesy things he said, because Ren was 200% crazy about him.

But the way Dave kissed him, and held him, and touched him, and finally fell asleep twined around him…

Ren couldn’t believe it, but he thought he might actually have a boyfriend. Cuddling close, breathing in their mingled scents, he fell asleep with a smile on his face.