Temptation at Every Turn



"You will never guess who Maxmillian has an appointment with this afternoon," Kimbirlyn gushed as soon as Ethan walked through the front door of The Elite Poole.

The handsome blonde, dressed in a white suit with a light blue shirt opened at the collar, raised an eyebrow, curious. "Who?"

The curly-haired secretary spun the monitor of her computer screen around so that Ethan could read it. She pointed at the screen. "Look. Derek Crow. The Derek Crow. The singer!" she said with a slight squeal. "His album is number one on the charts. I bought it two weeks ago."

"Oh, you mean the CD you play in here on Max's days off," Ethan said. "Max'll dock you a week's pay if he ever finds out you've dared to replace his beloved Grieg with Derek Crow."

Kimbirlyn made a face, though she was quick to glance around to be sure no one else was watching. "You need to expand his tastes a little, Ethan. Maybe it'll loosen him up a bit."

Ethan tried to picture Maxmillian Poole, his Hugo Boss-wearing boyfriend, swapping CD's with their mother-of-two secretary. He couldn't do it. "I'll suggest it to him someday," he said, smiling. "So what time is the appointment?"

"Noon. I think Maxmillian wants you to go with him before you boys hit lunch."

Ethan smiled to himself, knowing Max's real agenda for lunch today. "Sounds good. I'll go see him."

He walked down the long hallway that made up one side of the L-shaped building housing The Elite Poole. On his way, he passed several glass-walled offices belonging to the other employees of Las Vegas' premiere personal protection agency. Most of the other agents were out on assignment, guarding Sin City's seeming endless influx of rich and influential persons in need of either the protection or ego-boosting presence of a bodyguard. Ethan waved to the few men and women he saw on his way, until he came to the end of the hall and to Max's closed door.

He knocked respectfully and waited for his lover's crisp, "Enter."

He stepped inside the ivory-painted office, the size of three of the other agents' offices combined, and sought the large cherry wood desk that dominated one end of the rectangular room. Plush, midnight blue sofas and chairs were scattered around the room, along with several cherry wood bookcases along one wall and a bank of windows that looked out onto a desertscape courtyard. Originals by Chagall graced the wall above the desk, framing the masterpiece that sat between them and was currently studying Ethan with dark sapphire eyes.

As always, Ethan was struck by the exotic beauty that was Maxmillian Poole. Black hair, thick and cut short, framed a dark face one could only describe as dangerously beautiful. Elegant brows were crossed over indigo eyes -- a gift of a Spanish mother -- which led down a fine, Grecian nose to full, sensual lips. The agent-in-charge of The Elite Poole was dressed as usual in dark shades: crisp navy suit with a dark shirt and pewter tie. It was a hundred and two degrees outside, but Maxmillian didn't care. This was how he always dressed.

"I hear you've got an interesting afternoon lined up," Ethan commented as he approached the formidable desk. Maxmillian didn't stand up, so Ethan crossed behind the desk and bent over the chair. "Sounds fun," he murmured before kissing the other man.

A strong hand caught Ethan behind the head, holding him in place as Max unexpectedly deepened the kiss. Ethan gave a surprised murmur as a tongue pushed between his lips. Just as his body was beginning to stir, Max abruptly released him and spun in his chair back to face the desk. The curt dismissal didn't surprise him, but the intimacy of the kiss did.

"What's got you worked up?" Ethan asked as he came back around desk and took one of the chairs opposite.

Max's reply was the arch of a dark eyebrow. He sat back in his chair, the picture of unruffled elegance. "I am not 'worked up'," he replied smoothly, steepling his fingers.

Ethan laughed. "It's not every day you slip me the tongue before you say hello."

The other man scowled at the expression, just as Ethan had known he would. Maxmillian did not like slang. "Forgive me. I won't make the same mistake twice if you find it so disturbing."

Damn, Max was slipping into his ice bitch routine again. If he fell too deeply into it, Ethan knew that he'd be the one paying for it later.

"I'm just playing with you, Max," he said. "I liked it. You can do that to me anytime."

"I know I can," Max replied drolly. His eyes continued to pierce Ethan, making the blonde shift uneasily in his chair. "Before you and I have lunch, I'd like you to accompany me on the appointment with Mr. Crow."

Mr. Crow. Ethan doubted anyone ever called the famous rock star that, but he just nodded. "All right. I'm curious to meet him, myself. His music's pretty good. I wonder if he's as interesting in person."

"I highly doubt it," Max replied. He leaned forward and accessed something on his computer. "He's in town for a series of concerts, but his manager has intimated that he might be staying in Las Vegas beyond those dates. Mr. Crow is opposed to personal protection beyond those supplied by the venue, but his insurance company is insisting on at least one agent for Mr. Crow while he remains in Las Vegas."

Ethan nodded. "Are you going to handle this one yourself?"

"Considering the celebrity status of Mr. Crow, I think that would be wisest," Max said. "He is an important potential client for the agency."

Ethan agreed, both with the assessment of Derek Crow as being a key client, and that Max should be the agent assigned to him. Running the agency while his uncle was in the French Riviera, Maxmillian, while not the most experienced agent on staff, was definitely one of its most skilled and competent. If Max was guarding a subject, nothing would go wrong.

"So our mission is to convince Derek that you're the right man for the job," Ethan said. "Shouldn't be too hard."

Max frowned slightly. "His manager seems to think otherwise, but we shall see. Taking on Mr. Crow would be profitable for The Elite Poole in many ways."

Not the least of which would be Max's opportunity to prove to his uncle that he was capable of running the agency in his stead. Ethan knew how important that was to his boyfriend, even if Max would never admit it.

"No one can turn down the formidable Maxmillian Poole," Ethan teased.

Blue eyes pinned him in his chair. "Just be sure you remember that when we have our 'lunch' today, Ethan."

Formidable and too damned sexy for his own good, Ethan thought, his pants tightening around a growing arousal. "I won't forget," he said in slightly thicker voice.

Derek Crow wouldn't stand a chance.


Their meeting was at Spago. Maxmillian scoffed at the unoriginality of their meeting place, but Ethan was delighted. He secretly loved any excuse to walk through the Roman replica mall in which the restaurant was located. Sure, other malls in the city had copied the theme idea with varying results, but no one could top the original. Realistic blue clouds shifted along the ceiling as they walked by stores like Chanel and St. John's. It was Disneyland for adults.

The hostess led them away from the overexposed cafe, into the closed dining room where two men were already waiting for them at a table.

Ethan immediately picked out Crow. He'd seen the singer's face plastered everywhere he looked; Crow was at the peak of his career. But even all of that exposure hadn't prepared Ethan for the reality of the man. Twenty-eight, but with a boyish face that could pass for twenty, Crow looked the part of a rock star. His short brown hair was spiked and dyed blond at the tips; various pendants and silver chains were roped around his neck. He wore all black -- cargo pants, tank top, combat boots and fingerless gloves. He was a walking cliché, but what made Derek Crow stand out from a crowd of imitators was the palpable sexuality that oozed from every pore. He was walking sex. Ethan felt it the second the singer's bright blue eyes fell on him. Holy hell.

"My, my, my, what do we have here?" Crow murmured when Ethan and Max reached their table. He stood along with the man he accompanied. "What is this, an early Christmas present, Louie?" He boldly scanned the two men. "Yummy."

Louis Finx, Crow's manager forced a laugh. "Derek, these are the men from the protection agency. Maxmillian Poole, and --"

"Ethan Winter," he supplied.

Crow grinned. "As I said -- yummy."

They exchanged handshakes, Ethan pretending to ignore the shade-too-long contact with Crow, and took their seats at the table. After drinks had been ordered, Maxmillian, typically, launched straight into business.

"The Elite Poole has operated in Las Vegas for the last thirteen years," he told Crow and Finx. "My uncle, Edgar Poole, originally began it providing services for casino high rollers. Six years ago, he extended it to provide discreet protection for visiting VIP's and performers such as yourself. We offer a service that is rare in our industry: attractive agents who do not look like bodyguards and yet are trained as well, if not more so, than police departments across the country. If you want protection without looking as though you require it, I believe we are your best choice."

Crow waved a hand, bored. He didn't seem intimidated by Maxmillian's cool confidence, which surprised Ethan. Most people couldn't even meet his lover's eyes without blinking. "Louie's already given me the pitch, Max -- "

"Address me as Maxmillian or Mr. Poole, if you please."

Ethan suppressed a wince at his lover's icy tone. This wasn't starting well.

Crow grinned, his bright blue eyes clashing with Max's darker blues. "Maxmillian, huh? Cool name. Wasn't that the name of the robot in that old Disney movie?"

Oh, Christ. Feeling Max go stiff beside him, Ethan hastily jumped in. "If you already know what services we provide, how about telling us what it is that you need."

Crow took a sip of his gin and tonic, making no secret that he was lazily studying Ethan as he did so. By the time he'd lowered the glass to the table, Max was as cold as a glacier. "If I'm going to have some watching me --"

"Which you are," Finx cut in. "Your insurance is insisting on it."

Crow rolled his eyes. "If I am, then I want someone who looks good. I don't want no burly, beefy goon hanging around me, making it look like Derek Crow is afraid of something. I don't get a hard-on having a 'posse' or a twelve-man bodyguard crew like those other posers out there. It's just me. So whoever's gonna be with me can't look like a bodyguard."

"Which is precisely what we offer," Max said quietly. Ethan was amazed at how controlled his lover's voice sounded. He knew that inside, Max was seething. "As I explained, my agency does not supply 'goons', Mr. Crow."

Crow grinned at him, blissfully unconcerned with the dark-haired man's frostiness. "Then who's going to be my bodyguard?"

Ethan could almost feel Max take a deep breath to utter the dreaded words. "I am."

Crow looked at him a moment, appraising him as though he could tell by a glance whether Max was any good or not. "No," he said after a moment, "I don't think so."

Finx stared at him in surprise. "Derek, Mr. Poole is impressively credentialed. He doesn't normally take on clients himself, he's making an exception for us."

"No dice," Crow replied, draping an arm across the back of his chair. Muscles flexed beneath a tattoo of a phoenix on his shoulder. "Me and Maxmillian are a couple of alpha males, ain't that right, Maxi?" Grinning at the other man's dark look, he said, "we'd just butt heads all day. We'd probably end up killing each other after the first day. Nah, you need to pair me up with a beta, or whatever the hell it's called." His eyes swung to Ethan. "How 'bout you?"

Ethan was glad he wasn't drinking because he might have choked right then. He felt his cheeks burn as Finx looked at him in surprise and Max glared at him. What the hell had Crow called him? A beta? Even if it might have been true, it was damn embarrassing to have someone point it out.

"This is Max's -- Maxmillian's job," he replied, afraid to look his lover in the eye.

"Are you available?" Crow asked.

Max answered for him. "No, he is not."

"For the job, Maxi," Crow said with a laugh. "I sense some territory being marked here."

Ethan badly wanted to excuse himself for a cigarette. Oh, right, he didn't smoke.

"This is a professional service we are offering, which you seem to have difficulty comprehending," Max said in his best school teacher voice, "This is about who will provide you with the best protection, not about who will submit to your whims without arguing."

Crow just shrugged, unfazed by the lecture. "Would you trust him as your bodyguard?" he asked Max.

Max's eyes flicked to Ethan. "Yes."

The spark of warmth Ethan felt at the swift confidence quickly faded with Crow's next words. "Then I want him for me. It's Winter or I go somewhere else for my protection. Take it or leave it, Maxi."

A fifty dollar bill landed on the table before Ethan could blink. "Thank you for your time," Max said coldly, standing.

Ethan gaped at him. "But Max --"

"Let's go, Ethan."

Not waiting to see if he was followed, Max stalked out of the dining room. Ethan stared after his lover's back, angry and frustrated. This was a huge opportunity for The Elite Poole and Max was blowing it simply because he was a possessive bastard. He turned around and met Crow's amused gaze.

"Don't contact anyone else," he told the singer. "I'll speak with Maxmillian. I'm sure he'll change his mind."

"Good luck trying," Crow drawled. "That stick's shoved up pretty far."

"I'll call you tomorrow," Ethan said, standing.

The singer smiled. "You do that, Winter."

Groaning inwardly, Ethan hurried from the restaurant. He knew Max was already pissed. He would be even more so at having to wait for Ethan. Unsurprisingly, Max was nowhere to be found. Ethan left the mall for the scorching heat outside. Max's driver was waiting beside the car holding the door open. Ethan could just make out a dark trousered leg waiting in the back seat.

"What more could you possibly have had to say to him?" Max snapped as soon as Ethan had climbed inside. "I told him we weren't taking the case and that's final."

"Christ, Max, this is huge for Elite. We'd be protecting Derek Crow. He's getting bigger than Brittney Spears was. Do you know how much publicity we could get from this?"

Max said nothing, staring out the window as the car pulled away from the curb and merged onto Las Vegas Boulevard. "I don't run a whore house," he said at last.

"Who said I'm a whore?" Ethan retorted. "He wants me to look pretty standing next to him. He doesn't want me to talk back. Big deal. I can do that and still be your boyfriend, you know."

Max turned at that, his sapphire eyes boring into the other man. "Can you? He's right about the alpha male thing, Ethan. He's uncomfortably similar to me. It's why we repel each other." His eyes lowered to Ethan's mouth. "It's why you two will be attracted to each other."

That stupid beta thing again. If Ethan never heard that again, it would be too soon. "If that's all it took, I'd be sleeping with every macho police officer in town," he said dryly. "Give me a little credit for not being ruled by my hormones, will you?"

"Oh, but you are ruled by your hormones," Max said, suddenly leaning over Ethan. "It's why you're with me even though I think sometimes that you're afraid of me. You love me, I know that, but you're also just the tiniest bit scared of me, aren't you?'

Ethan's eyes widened as Max pressed him back into the soft leather seat. He moaned softly as Max began to kiss his throat. "I'm not scared of you," he managed to pant, his lashes fluttering shut. "I'm turned-on by you."

"Because I dominate you sexually," Max murmured, nipping at his collarbone, "and you like that."

"No, I -- don't," Ethan moaned when his lover's palm pressed over the bulge in his pants. Strong fingers kneaded him through the expensive fabric, bringing him to full, aching arousal.

"You like giving up your control to me, don't you?"

"No . . . I -- God, Max." He clutched at the seat beneath him. "But I'm not the only one. You -- you like this . . . too."

Max licked the pulse in his throat. "I love it," he whispered, squeezing Ethan again. "I love having you depend on me for your pleasure." His palm pressed down against the head of Ethan's cock. "Just as I'm sure Derek Crow will enjoy it, too."

Ethan's eyes snapped open as the lips and hand left him. His body ached at the loss of contact. "That was shitty," he growled as Max sat back.

Sapphire eyes regarded him dispassionately. "Save it for our 'lunch'."

Ethan ran a shaky hand through his hair as he tried to concentrate on the parade of tourists passing outside his window. No, he wasn't afraid of Max. But sometimes, he sure as hell wished he could hurt him.


Maxmillian Poole had the body of a god for two reasons: he worked out religiously in his home gym which was equipped with every piece of equipment the best fitness center could offer; and he watched what he ate -- meaning, he only ate the best. But he did have one occasional habit that was counterproductive to his fitness regimen. Instead of following the suggestion of every leading health and fitness expert in the world, sometimes, Maxmillian Poole skipped his midday meal.

The reason had Ethan standing in his silk boxers beside Max's sinfully high king-sized bed.

"I feel disadvantaged here," Ethan complained. Max was still fully clothed.

"That's the idea, isn't it?" Max replied as he carefully paced around the other man.

Yes, that was the idea and it was definitely working. Ethan felt his cock rising as he felt the other man's eyes skimming his body. Still, as deliciously vulnerable as it felt to be nearly nude while his lover was fully clothed, Ethan would have appreciated seeing Max's body in the buff. Why hide perfection?

Max easily sidestepped the hand that reached for him when he got too close. "Do not touch me."

Ethan was experiencing a rising dread. It increased when Max stepped to the night-stand and removed a leather cord from its drawer. "Look, Max," he began nervously, "don't take out your aggressions toward Derek Crow on me. I'm just an innocent bystander."

"You never are or ever were, innocent," Max said coolly. "It is entirely your fault." He stepped up to Ethan and lightly touched his hair. "It is your fault for having this beautiful golden hair, which I imagine he hopes to eventually run his hands through." Max studied his face. "It is your fault for having these glorious green eyes with their fascinating specks of gold. And did I mention the fuck-me lashes that surround them?" Ethan trembled as Max looked hard at his mouth, licking his own as if in anticipation. "Your fault for those lips. Cocksucker lips, Ethan. Shame on you."

"Let me use them," Ethan whispered, hard within his boxers now. "Let me suck on you, Max."

Maxmillian dodged Ethan's hand. "And it is your fault, my would-be innocent lover, that your body looks as it does. With all of that firm, golden skin and with that handsome cock" -- he gave a quick grope -- "how can you doubt that Derek Crow's interest in you isn't your fault? Hmmm?"

Fuck it. He was going down in flames today. "What do you want me to do about it?" Ethan husked.

Max stepped up and seized Ethan's mouth in a hungry kiss. When he finally broke away to rest his forehead against Ethan's, they were both panting from lust and lack of oxygen. "Take it like a man, Ethan. Which is it? Do I tie you up, or do you insist on fighting me?"

Ah, the dilemma.


Choose Your Fantasy:

If Ethan submits to being tied up, click here.

If Ethan puts up a struggle, click here.


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