Copyright © 2013, Lexi AnderA Leap of Faith
Dawson scowled at the crinkles at the corner of his blue eyes. Crow's feet. Laugh lines. Whatever they were called, they made him appear old. He grunted at his reflection, snatched up a towel, and started drying his dark hair. He could smell the breakfast Ben made. He didn't know that offering a hand to a stranger not quite a year ago would gain him a friend and business partner. He thought Ben would be with him two days—tops—until he could pull himself together. The man had seemed pretty pitiful when Dawson had first seen Ben in that hot sequined outfit. With glassy eyes, shaking hands, silent tears tracking black eyeliner down his face, the man hadn't appeared injured but when Ben had stared at him with those large hazel-colored eyes, so lost and hurt, Dawson couldn't simply leave the guy alone.
It was the best thing he'd ever done. Ben spent a week helping him clear the property the cabin was on. For the first couple of days they didn't talk much. Dawson watched Ben and made sure the guy wouldn't accidentally hurt himself with the power tools.
By day three, Dawson didn't care if he had to talk to himself because the silence was killing him. So he'd started chattering about his business as a tattoo artist. The conversation helped to bring Ben out of his funk somewhat.
Ben never discussed what had happened, but over the next couple of weeks, Dawson had picked up on certain things. When he spoke to Annie, she told him enough to know Ben was better off. He suggested Ben stay and they had become roommates. Ben offered his talents as an artist to Dawson, which led to an apprenticeship. Ben had been working for Dawson ever since and the arrangement had worked out well for both of them.
Dawson vigorously dried off, his body a map of his life. An Aries tribal tattoo spanned his shoulders on this back, he had a blue water tribal armband, and a full color jaguar that was wrapped around his left side from the middle of his back to the center of his chest. His legs were covered with tribal designs, not that anyone had seen them lately.
A fist banged on the door. "Come on, primping time is over, breakfast is ready."
Chuckling, Dawson wrapped a towel around his waist and sauntered out of the bathroom. The smell of food was stronger out in the hall and his eyes damn near rolled up in the back of his head. Ben had made cinnamon rolls. The man was a god in the kitchen. Since Ben cooked most of the meals, Dawson had to put in extra time at the gym and Ben had taken to joining him.
Hurrying, Dawson tugged on a pair of jeans and threw on a shirt. He donned four large silver rings, his two inch wide leather wristbands, and his brown coconut shell necklace with the blue bone beads before he made a beeline to the kitchen. Ben stood at the stove with his back to Dawson. He nearly didn't catch the groan that tried to escape. Ben was shirtless. The tattoo of a rising phoenix rippled over his strong, muscular back. The last several months, Ben had bulked up and his once slender frame had become a work of art.
Dawson noticed all of the changes, not only the physical ones, Ben had made. The vulnerable, heartbroken man he'd met a year ago had been replaced by a confident, happy Ben. The combination made for one hell of a package. Not that Dawson hadn't found Ben attractive before, because Ben had been smoking hot in those ridiculous shoes and tiny pants. But Ben had needed a friend, so Dawson had shelved his lust and given a helping hand.
The last couple of months, Ben had been different and, lately, Dawson imagined licking the hollow between those shoulder blades. It was too easy to imagine Ben with his hands tied behind his back, ass rising up to meet the firm swat of Dawson's hand. Maybe one day Ben would be interested. Discreetly he readjusted himself before he walked into the kitchen.
"You made cinnamon rolls." He brushed against Ben as he reached around for a warm roll and shoved the whole thing in his mouth.
Ben smirked. His gaze followed the pastry, his hazel eyes expertly outlined with dark eyeliner. Dawson loved the touch of color because Ben had amazing eyes. When they were highlighted like that, Dawson wanted to drag the man into his bedroom and find wonderful ways to convince his friend that his bed was the best place—the only place Ben wanted to be. Ben's blond hair was cut short on the sides, the top long enough to brush the man's earlobes. His friend had become very good at manipulating the layered lengths. This close he could smell Ben's aftershave. Dawson had pierced both of Ben's ears, four hoops on each side and a bar through the top of the left ear.
"Today I had something a little extra to celebrate." Ben poured Dawson a cup of black coffee after he tore his gaze away from Dawson's mouth.
Dawson chewed slowly, aware that Ben was staring. He knew what today was and how important it was to Ben. "The sale goes through today?"
Ben nodded, blinked a couple of times as Dawson experimented with licking his lips. "Um, yeah." Ben glanced down and cleared his throat. He seemed a little flustered. "I'll sign the documents of sale for my share of the firm this afternoon. David said he'd bring everything by the shop so I wouldn't have to go downtown."
Dawson took a couple of long swallows from his cup of joe. The bitter mixed with the sweetness in his mouth and balanced out his taste buds. "Are you sure this is what you want to do? You could hire someone to see to your interest in the business. You built that company from the ground up." He grabbed another roll and tried to swallow it whole. Damn, he loved those things!
Ben shook his head. "I'm not that guy anymore. He was the guy who went with the flow, played everything safe. I'm not sure I was happy being him. I can't remember ever being actually content."
"And you're happy now?" Dawson asked around the food in his mouth.
Ben's lips quirked up, his eyes flicked up to Dawson's. "Yeah," he admitted almost shyly. "I wasn't sure I'd ever feel right again. My parents didn't help. They made me wonder if I'd been wrong refusing to work things out with Javier."
Dawson vividly remembered that visit from Ben's father. Two weeks after Ben had come to stay with him, a limo had stopped in front of the cabin, and an older man in a three thousand dollar suit stepped out. Ben had cussed softly under his breath before he went out to meet his parent. Dawson had leaned against the porch railing, giving the two some privacy, but not leaving Ben alone. In the brief time they had spent together, Dawson had not only started to like Ben, but had come to care for him as well. The scowl on Mr Hamilton's face was a warning of things to come.
"You know your dad's sorry about what he said when he came by that day." Dawson knew Ben had shared a good relationship with his father until the fiasco with his fiancé. Mr Hamilton had been harsh and demanding with Ben, lecturing his son about loyalty and responsibility.
Ben gave a weak smile. "That's what I get for avoiding my parents because I didn't want to talk about what Javier had done. I had to get tested because I was afraid my partner had unsafe sex with multiple people. That's not something I wanted to discuss with my family. My parents loved Javier from the moment they met him and they didn't think to question him when he went to them the day before the wedding. When dad found out Annie had made the calls to cancel everything—that was a small fortune down the drain. He had every right to be angry, at least about that."
"You couldn't have known what would happen. I still think it was better to find out before you were married." Dawson snagged another cinnamon roll, this time taking a single bite and chewing carefully. Ben hardly ever talked about what had happened. Dawson worried Ben would keep it bottled up and turn bitter over the betrayal, so when Ben felt the urge to talk, he listened. He knew it was the best thing he could do for his roommate. Although, he did harbor the secret wish to one day meet up with Javier so he could knock the bastard on his ass.
"I agree." Ben sighed. "But the cancellations caused talk about our family and my parents have always been very careful to keep their private and public lives separate. We made news in some of the smaller publications and the tabloids hounded them for weeks since I couldn't be found. I hid and left them to deal with the fallout without explaining why. All they had to go on were Javier's lies."
Ben searched the dregs of his coffee as if attempting to read something there. Dawson wanted to pull the man into his arms and make him forget about those first couple of months. He wanted to wipe Javier from Ben's mind, along with every other man Ben had known, until all Ben could see was him.
"They understand why."
Dawson recalled how Mr Hamilton's bluster had dissipated when Ben, with a shuddering breath and an embarrassed blush, explained to his father what had transpired the night he'd disappeared. Dawson's opinion of the older man increased tenfold when he snatched Ben up in a bear hug. Dawson's old man, fed up with his mother's drug addiction, had left when Dawson was fourteen. His mother died of an overdose not long after and Dawson had been placed in foster care when his father hadn't been found and no other living relatives would take him in. Dawson's opinion of family was slightly skewed.
"I know, but it doesn't make me feel any less guilty for my actions." Ben gave a tiny grin. "Although, you getting all of us rip-roaring drunk that day was illuminating. I'd never seen my dad sloshed before. Once the alcohol had loosened him up, it took both of us to hold him down to keep him from leaving and searching out Javier."
Dawson chuckled into his coffee cup. "Yeah, your old man swore he'd give the flighty bastard a good ol' gentleman's one-two for messing with his family. I was stunned at some of the cussing that came from a man so well dressed."
Ben released a genuine hoot of laughter. "I'd never heard him cuss before. I thought I was going to piss my pants I laughed so hard."
"Are you going to dinner with them tonight? The invitation has been clipped to the refrigerator for a couple of weeks."
Ben scratched the back of his head and gave Dawson a sheepish glance. "About that, I wondered if you would go with me?"
"Sure," Dawson readily replied. "I can be your moral support and help you bail when you've had enough."
He'd seen Ben in a suit only once and the man had been fucking fine. Dawson had more than one fantasy about deliberately stripping him out of the expensive garment with nothing but his teeth.
Ben coughed into his fist, his face turning pinkish as he tried to smile brightly. Dawson always thought that Ben sucked at hiding his feelings.
"Yeah—friends—I'd appreciate the company."
Before he could reply, Ben had dumped the last of his coffee into the sink and walked through the garage door. What was that all about?
Dawson washed his hands in the sink and gulped the last of his coffee. Had Ben asked him on a real date? His eyes slid closed with the dawning realization. It was possible he had mucked up his only chance to have the relationship he'd been dreaming about with Ben.
Dawson braced his hands on the edge of the sink and hung his head, remembering how Ben's open expression had slid off his face as he blushed. At the same time his heart began to race at the knowledge that Ben had been asking for more. No, he wasn't going to let Ben walk away now. The door had been open and Dawson was determined to find a way through it.
Following his friend out to the garage, Dawson watched Ben with a new awareness. He could see now how Ben watched him out of the corner of his eye. The pulse in the column of Ben's neck visibly jumped as Dawson drew closer to straddle his hog. He noted how his friend's breathing sped up just enough that he wasn't quite panting. But mostly, he noticed the erection straining against the crotch of Ben's jeans and how the man tried to hide his arousal from Dawson.
Ben straddled his motorcycle, wearing the leather jacket that Dawson had loaned him the first time Ben had ridden on his bike. When he'd first loaned the coat to Ben, it had practically swallowed the man. Not anymore. He liked how Ben filled out the worn leather as the shoulders pulled tight over the man's new muscular frame. Dawson felt a little possessive at the sight of Ben wearing his threads. Ben pulled on his gloves then strapped on his helmet. They both started the bikes, the loud rumble deafening in the garage.
Dawson followed Ben to the tattoo shop, contemplating how to get his friend back on the subject of a date. He'd always kept how he felt under wraps. But if Ben wanted more, then Dawson would grab on to the sexy man and not let him go.