I grinned at the look of surprise on Marcus’s face when I pulled up to where we were meeting my mom for lunch.

“A buffet?” he asked me.

“It’s our usual place,” I told him with a grin. “And it’s a good one. No mystery meat, no squid salad.”

“Squid… What?”

I snickered and reached over to pat his knee. “Ask her about squid salad when we’re in line. Trust me, once you’ve heard the story, you’ll understand why Mom won’t so much as go into a buffet that doesn’t have clearly marked options.”

Marcus gave me a look that said he was a little frightened by that statement, but he undid his seatbelt and climbed out of the car.

Mom was waiting for us at the front door, happily chatting with Jordan. When she saw us, she smiled widely. It was very rare to find her not smiling, to be honest. She was a short, bubbly, plump woman with a heart of gold, and I’d won the jackpot when I got her for a mom. “There you are. Good lord, Zachary, look at your eye!”

“Unless I’ve somehow gained chameleon-eyeball superpowers, Mom, I can’t do that without a mirror.”

She swatted my arm and grinned at me, then pulled a petrified Marcus into a hug. “You must be Marcus. I’m so glad to meet you.”

“Umm…” was all Marcus could get out. He looked over at me with wide eyes, as if asking me what he was supposed to do.

“Don’t traumatize him,” I told my mother. “Marcus, this is my mother, Linda.”

“Nice to meet you,” Marcus croaked as Mom let go of him. He looked from her to me, his eyes getting even wider as he did. “And here I thought you and Brandon looked a lot alike. Jesus.”

I hadn’t thought to prepare him for that, but he was right. The genes on my mother’s side of the family are extremely strong, so we all basically look like each other. I’m a younger, taller, male version of my mom, same as my brother.

“Oh, that’s because my mother didn’t actually have children,” she told Marcus, her expression totally serious. “My siblings and I are her clones. I decided I’d keep to family tradition when Terry and I discussed children.”

“Terry’s my dad,” I explained to Marcus. “And she’s kidding. I think.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” my mom chastised. “Of course I’m kidding. If you require proof, there may be video of the night you were conceived.”

“Oh god,” I groaned, giving her a disgusted look. “God. Now I need a bottle of brain bleach.”

Marcus, to my surprise, let out a giggle. “I like you,” he told my mother. “The woman who gave birth to me wouldn’t be caught dead joking around with me like this.”

“And that’s a travesty,” Mom said. “Come on, you can stand in line with me and tell me more about yourself.”

“How’re you feeling?” Jordan asked me quietly when we started dishing up food. My mother had abandoned the two of us for her new favorite son, which was just as well with the way my head was still throbbing.

“Waiting on the stuff I took to kick in,” I admitted. “It hurts, but I’ll live.”

Jordan nodded as he stared at our options. I’d never seen someone have such a hard time deciding between mashed and au gratin potatoes as I had with Jordan. He tended to forget that no one was going to judge him at a buffet. “I thought you might be hurting. You look more pale than usual.”

“And that’s a neat trick,” I agreed. “Fuck’s sake, just get both already. I’m hungry.”

When we finally found the table my mom and Marcus had grabbed, I was scowling and Jordan looked far too pleased with himself.

“Why are there mashed potatoes on your lasagna?” Marcus asked me when we sat down across from them. He looked concerned about that, but I imagined that I’d be a bit concerned to see that combination on someone’s plate too.

“Revenge,” Jordan said gleefully.

“You were the one trying to decide between two things at a buffet, for god’s sake!”

“Boys,” my mom said in that particular warning tone that made me think back to things like withheld desserts and extra chores. It was only maybe two steps away from using my full name.

“He started it,” I grumbled. Mom raised an eyebrow at me, and I gave her a sweet smile. “Check your salad for squid yet?”

“Right, you said something about that,” Marcus said and turned his attention back to my mother. “Do I want to know?”

Mom sighed. “We used to live a few hours from Reno,” she told him. “When the boys were young, we’d make day trips to Circus Circus so they could go play midway games.”

“So Dad could play them, you mean,” I reminded her. Sometimes Dad could be even more of a kid than his children could, but that was one of the things I most appreciated about him.

“Well, yes. But you know he’d never admit it,” Mom said with a fond smile. “And during one particular trip we went to the buffet for dinner before heading home. Well, one of the salads wasn’t labeled, but it just looked like an ordinary salad, so I took some. It was fine for a couple of bites, but after that, I lifted my fork only to find a baby squid hanging off of it.”

“I was very impressed with the shade of green she turned,” I added. “I was even more impressed that she managed to not only keep down what she’d eaten, but also finish everything else on her plate. Bran and I were horribly upset that she wouldn’t let us play with the dead baby squid, though. I mean, it’s not like she was going to eat it.”

“You wanted to throw it at the wall and see if it crawled down like one of those old sticky octopus toys,” Mom said drily.

“I fail to see the problem with that.”

“Do you see what I have to put up with?” She gestured at me.

“You’re all crazy,” Marcus answered, though he was grinning hugely. “Absolutely bonkers.”

“Yep,” Jordan told him. “Welcome to the family.”

I’d often said my mother was a miracle worker, and I was reminded of that as I watched her interact with Marcus over lunch. Not only had she brought him out of his shell in record time, she had him laughing almost as hard as he did around me. It was awesome to see. She was good for him, and I was happy when my mother informed us over dessert that she was going to make Marcus go to a couple of her favorite stores with her during one of the days he didn’t have classes.

“Just not Friday,” I said. “We have a date.” Or at least I hoped we did, but Christophe had never failed me before.

“Yes dear, I know,” Mom said, reaching across the table to pat my hand. “Marcus told me.” She wiped her mouth and dropped her napkin on the table with a sigh. “Someone’s going to have to roll me to my car.”

“Please, you ate less than we did,” Jordan noted with a snort as he patted his stomach. “If anyone needs to be rolled out, it’s us.”

“If you boys ate once in a while, you wouldn’t have to stuff yourselves when I buy lunch,” my mother said tartly, though I saw her wink at Marcus.

“They eat,” Marcus promised her. “Zach’s cohost even assured me that he ate something during his lunch break.”

“He probably just had a candy bar from the vending machine,” my mother answered as she peered at me over her glasses.

“Wow, look at the time,” I said quickly, looking at my bare wrist. That was one conversation I really didn’t want to get into. “I’d better go so I can get some sleep.”

Mom smirked, but Marcus spoke up before she could lecture me. “Actually, I do have to be going soon,” he said apologetically. “I have a class at two.”

I pouted a little about that, but my sulk was interrupted by Jordan’s elbow digging into my side. Hard. As if I didn’t already have enough bruises as it was. I glared at him as I rubbed where he’d jabbed me, but he ignored me. “Do you want to come over after class?” he asked Marcus. “I’ll give you a spare key, you can let yourself in.”

“I couldn’t-—”

“You don’t really intend on going back to your apartment?” Jordan asked, his tone making it clear that he wasn’t thrilled with the idea. “Even if they keep your ex for a while, I don’t feel good about you going back there. Besides, your presence makes Zach less bitchy.”

“Go fuck yourself,” I told him with a glower. The effect was ruined by the fact that I was blushing, but, oh well.

“Zachary,” my mother scolded. “Manners.”

“Oh, right. Sorry. PLEASE go fuck yourself,” I amended.

Mom sighed, shook her head, and gave me a look that said she really wanted to laugh her ass off over that, but didn’t want to encourage me. She gave me that look pretty frequently.

“Anyway,” Jordan told Marcus, “you should come over. You’ll have a few hours to work on homework or nap or something before we crawl out of bed. You work tonight?”

Marcus shook his head. “Never on a school day.”

“Even better, then,” Jordan said. “We can hang out before Zach and I have to work.”

“I don’t know,” Marcus said uncertainly.

“Please?” I asked softly.

I hadn’t meant to say it, and the word was barely audible, but if the shy smile that crossed Marcus’s face was any indication, he certainly heard me say it. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll come over after class.”

Jordan pulled his keys out of his pocket and worked one of them off of the ring. “Good.” He held the key out to Marcus and grinned. “We’ll see you when we wake up, then.”

“You carry a spare key?” Marcus asked him as he raised an eyebrow.

“It’s come in handy more than once.”

“We came in my car, so I need to take him back,” I said by way of apology to my mom. “I’ll give you a call tomorrow when I get off work, all right?”

“Sure, honey.” Mom stood and gave me a hug, then Marcus. “You have my phone number,” she told him. “Don’t be afraid to use it.”

“I’ll call,” Marcus promised with a smile, looking far more comfortable having my mother hug him that he had when we first got there. “Thanks, Linda.”

“I’ll meet you at home,” Jordan said. “Take your time.”

I gave him an irritated look, but he only smiled back innocently and waved. Bastard. “Fine,” I said with a shrug. “I’ll see you there.”

“What was that all about?” Marcus asked me quietly as we walked out.

“I can guess,” I muttered back. “He thinks we’re going to somehow manage a quickie before I get home.”

Marcus grinned and shook his head. “I hate to tell him, but giving blowjobs to someone who’s driving is practically begging to get into an accident.”

“You,” I growled and pointed at him. “Behave.”

He left it at that. If he’d tried to demonstrate the dangers of blowing me while I was driving, we probably would have both ended up in the emergency room. There was no way I could have stayed on the road.

I drove Marcus back to his car and went home. Jordan was waiting for me. He looked over his shoulder from where he was sitting on the couch watching TV and grinned. “Have fun?”

“Fuck you,” I grumbled. “Unlike you, I need more than five minutes to get off.” Instead, I was just going to be frustrated the rest of the afternoon. My ability to sleep was going to be contingent on an intimate encounter with my right hand while I took my shower.

“Just think about it this way—he’ll be here when you wake up. With any luck, he’ll be in your bed with you.”

“One can hope,” I agreed, stealing the can of soda he’d been holding. I took a few swigs and handed it back to him. “I’m heading for the shower and bed. Sleep well.”

“You too,” Jordan said. He turned his attention back to the television as I headed down the hallway. My hand and I had an appointment to keep.

I woke up with a start when my alarm buzzed. I went to shut the damn thing up and realized there was someone else in bed with me.

“Make it stop, please.”

“Marcus.” The word was fuzzy from sleep, but it was a warm, happy sound.

“Yeah, it’s me,” he said, reaching over to turn off the alarm. “Geez, your alarm clock would wake the dead.”

“Not awake,” I answered. “Having the best dream ever.”

“Yeah?” Marcus asked, amused, as he cuddled up to me. “What are you dreaming about?”

“Dreaming that the guy I’m infatuated with is in bed with me,” I purred as I wrapped an arm around him. I would have given just about anything to nuzzle my face against him, but considering the shape my face was in, that was probably asking for a world of hurt. “Even better, he’s a human heater. A cuddly one.”

“He’s still sleepy too,” Marcus said with a yawn. “I hope you don’t mind that I climbed into your bed for a nap.”

“I don’t mind. Naps are important.” Not as important as the fact that Marcus was half-naked and adorably groggy in my bed, though. I brushed my hand down his bare back only to discover that he’d left his boxers on. Dammit.

“Did you just tsk me?” Marcus asked.

Dammit. I probably had, but I hadn’t meant to. “Um, maybe?”

“Uh huh. And what exactly did I do to deserve that?”

“You’re not naked,” I mumbled against his shoulder. “If I’m going to dream about you, you could at least be naked. What kind of lame dream is this?”

“I hate to break it to you, but you’re not naked either,” he pointed out.

I gave him a confused look and patted my hip. “Oh, right,” I said. “I wore sweats to bed.”

He laughed and ran a hand over my hair. “Oh man. You’re far too cute when you’re still mostly asleep.”

I started to protest that I wasn’t cute, but he cut my words off with a kiss, and suddenly I was much too busy to do anything but moan into his mouth as we made an effort to examine each other’s tonsils. When he had me breathless and out of my mind with want, he gave me a smile and started to get out of bed.

“Come on,” he said, and gave me a bright smile. “Let’s go see if Jordan left us anything for breakfast.”

I stared at him, mouth agape. “You have got to be fucking kidding me.”

“What?” he asked, giving me an innocent look. “We haven’t even had our first date. I don’t want you to think I’m easy.”

All I could do was open and shut my mouth like some sort of ridiculous-looking fish, completely at a loss for words. Marcus let me stew like that for a moment, and then he started laughing. “The look on your face…”

I glared as I wriggled out of my sweats under the covers and threw them at him before he could duck. They ended up hanging off his head. “Get back in bed,” I growled.

I heard a muffled snicker and he tossed my sweats on the floor. “Something you wanted?”

“You,” I said firmly. I was gratified to hear him suck in a breath. Good. That meant he wasn’t as unaffected as he’d like me to think. God knew he’d been driving me insane. “Get back into bed. Leave the boxers there.”

He slid his fingers under his waistband and paused. “You’re sure?”

“You really want to wait until after Friday?” I asked. If he did, I’d stop, no questions asked. I really, really hoped he didn’t, though.

“Not really,” he admitted with a grin as he dropped his boxers, giving me an eyeful of what I’d been dying to get a peek at for weeks.

And damn, what an eyeful it was. He was sleek and hairless all the way down, which meant he shaved. Or waxed, but I didn’t want to think about that. One bad appointment with an aesthetician was all it took for me to swear off that shit for the rest of my life. Regardless, he presented a gorgeous picture, the lines of his beautiful, tawny, fat hard-on unmarred by a bush. Don’t get me wrong. Body hair has its place, but I was fully enjoying being able to see every inch of him.

Every. Single. Inch. The guy wasn’t a monster by any means, but he had a nice length to him and a lovely heft that had me thinking I’d still be feeling his presence the next day. When we got around to that, anyway. At the moment, the thing I wanted most was to taste him. I scooted over, swung my legs over the edge of the bed, and leaned in to run my tongue along his hairless sac.

“Jesusfuckyes,” Marcus cried out as he buried his fingers in my hair.

“Speaking in tongues again?” I teased and turned my head to nip at his inner thigh. “Or was that a request to stop? I can stop, if you’d like.”

“I swear to God I will fucking cry if you stop,” he whimpered. “Don’t stop. Please don’t stop.”

I pulled back slowly, making sure he’d actually let go of my hair. “Lay down,” I said as I looked up at him. “Get comfy.”

With a whine, he crawled onto the bed and stared at me with pleading eyes as he settled into a comfortable position on his back. “You’re not stopping, right? Because seriously, it’s been….”

His words trailed off, and I cocked my head. “It’s been?” I asked, curious.

“A long time,” he finished. “I refuse to bring any of my exes into bed with us, so let’s just say a long time. As in at least a year. Maybe longer.”

“Well that just won’t do,” I said, moving down the bed to settle myself in between his knees. “Luckily for you, this is something I love to do.” Even if I hadn’t loved to do it, I probably would still have been delighted just to see that look of need on Marcus’s face.

Without bothering to wait for a response, I sank down and pressed a soft kiss to the head of his cock and took it into my mouth.

“God,” he whispered. He tangled his fingers in my hair again, and the gentle tug of his grip made me want to purr. “Yeah baby, just like that.” He shivered deliciously, a full-body tremor that made me feel understandably smug. It made me wonder how he’d react when I took him deeper, and I decided to find out.

He howled when he touched the back of my throat, and it was a beautiful thing. It made me wish I could somehow record that sound for posterity, to keep me company during lonely nights. The way he sounded, though, was surpassed by the taste and smell of his skin. He smelled of warm spring days—beautiful, clean, and fresh. In contrast, he tasted of sultry summer nights at the beach—all heat and brine. As I bobbed my head, running my lips up and down the silky length of him, I had a feeling I was going to find myself addicted to his flavor.

I was surprised when he tugged my hair harder, making me lift my mouth off his dick. “Come here,” he rasped. “Kiss me.”

Who was I to argue with a request like that? I crawled up his body, and he grabbed my hips and gave them a tug as our lips merged. Taking the hint, I rested my body atop his. When he ground up, I nearly lost it.

“I want to feel you,” he panted against my mouth. “I swear I’ll be perfectly happy to let you suck me off some other time, but right now I just want to feel you against me. Please.”

I nodded, and our mouths crashed together again as we thrust and writhed against each other. I was painfully aware that this first time was going to be embarrassingly quick, but it had been building for too long—for weeks, really—and we were both far too aroused to make it last. This was made clear to me when Marcus managed to slide against a particularly sensitive spot.

“Marcus,” I gasped. It was the only word of warning I could get out, my brain too far gone to process more than that.

“Yeah,” he moaned in response and shuddered hard, spilling his seed against both our bodies. Two thrusts later and I followed suit, crying out his name as I came.

“All this before the first date,” Marcus murmured when we could breathe again. “You’re such a shameless hussy.”

“A shameless hussy in need of a shower,” I mumbled back, my head resting on his shoulder. “Takes one to know one.”

He chuckled and held me tight. I smiled as I kissed his sweaty neck. He was mine now, and I couldn’t have been happier about it.