If It Drives (Market Garden, #7)
L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov
That was a first.
Callum sat up straighter, watching in the limo’s side mirror as his employer headed down the sidewalk towards the car . . . alone. James never left Market Garden alone. Oh, no . . .
Cal tossed aside his spiral notebook and pen, grabbed his black cap off the passenger seat, put it on, and got out. At this point in the evening, he was usually biting down on some red-hot jealousy while a sexy, leather-clad rentboy slid into the back of the car with James, but he couldn’t even find any relief that it hadn’t happened tonight. It took every shred of self-control he had not to jog across the pavement and put his arms around his boss. He schooled his expression and posture, refusing to let his concern or surprise show.
Not that James would have noticed, and that in itself was weird. He was usually outgoing and exuberant—well, as much as any dignified British man could be—but he was strangely subdued tonight. Shoulders down, eyes down; even his customary scarlet tie seemed to sag, the knot lower than usual. He was definitely not himself. He was always tense and sometimes even a little depressed when he asked Cal to take him to Market Garden, but never when he left.
“Ready to leave, Mr. Harcourt?” Cal asked cautiously.
James’s eyes flicked up, briefly meeting Cal’s, and he grunted an affirmative. Definitely not himself.
What’s wrong? Talk to me!
But Cal said nothing. That fantasy of being James’s confidant and source of comfort was just that, a fantasy. In the real world, Cal was the help, and that meant he couldn’t help James the way he ached to.
With his heart in his throat, he pulled open the door and stood aside while James climbed into the back of the car. No way had he been knocked back by any of the guys. If his jaw-dropping good looks didn’t attract the rentboys to him—and Cal couldn’t begin to fathom that—the contents of his wallet surely would.
Cal shut the door and went back to the driver’s seat. He looked in the rearview and said over his shoulder, “Home, sir?”
“Yeah.” James’s gaze was fixed on something outside the window. And not Market Garden, either. “Let’s go home.”
This wouldn’t be a late night, then. Thank God. Market Garden nights usually weren’t—Cal would be dismissed shortly after dropping James and his rentboy du jour at the house—but some nights, James met colleagues from the office or entertained clients, and partied into the early hours of the morning before arriving home in the grey predawn. By that point, Cal would be shattered and James would be drunk or already asleep. Getting him out of the car, through the door, and up the stairs into bed was a whole operation. Many times in the year—had it been that long?—since the man’s wife had left, Cal had been the one to take James upstairs, pull off his suit, and put him to bed after those liquored-up outings. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly in his job description, but he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving James to show himself to bed when he was in that state. A little bit of awkwardness and frustration were a small price to pay so James could maintain his dignity.
On the way home tonight, James left the privacy screen open. Cal was used to that except on Market Garden nights. If they were heading home from the brothel, that screen was invariably up, leaving Cal’s fertile imagination to provide the details. Sometimes Cal heard things—leather creaking, a groan, and once in a while a laugh so sadistic he wondered if James had Loki himself back there—but he never saw anything. Whenever James emerged from the car with one of his rentboys, he’d be flustered, visibly hard, and sometimes already sweating a little. What Cal wouldn’t have given to know what exactly the rentboys did to him during that thirty-minute drive.
What I wouldn’t give to join them.
He shivered and gripped the wheel a little tighter, focusing on manoeuvring down the narrow streets on the route back to the house. A route he’d driven so many times, he could almost do it in his sleep. But tonight, with that screen open and James just sitting there, alone and staring off into space, Cal struggled to concentrate on the road.
Glancing in the rearview again, he cleared his throat. “Is, um, everything all right, sir?”