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It was on the tip of Arthur s tongue to tell his lover the thanks were for more than clearing the table, but he had the distinct
impression Thorn fully understood and did not want Arthur to press the point. How exactly Arthur knew that, he could not say. Perhaps
it was in the way Thorn had remained so& deliberately nonchalant, as if they had merely spoken of the weather. So he paid Thorn the
same courtesy Thorn had paid him in the past and simply left him to his duties. If Thorn wanted to discuss it further, Arthur would be
there to listen.
From his spot on the couch, he could catch glimpses of Thorn moving about the dining room. Apparently his idea of cleaning up
involved stacking the silver serving dishes in the wicker basket he had obviously used to bring the meal to Arthur s, though he did
take the plates into the kitchen. Arthur guessed he would find them piled on the counter in the morning, the remnants of supper dried
onto their surfaces.
Well, he could not complain. Thorn had said he would play the footman, not the kitchen maid.
Arthur brought the brandy to his lips and took a long swallow. Resting the glass on the arm of the couch, he let out a content
sigh. Arriving home closer to dawn than dusk had made for an extremely long day at the office, a full-body weariness pervading every
fiber of his being and keeping his nerves strung taut, never mind the added pressure of taking on a new client of the Duke of
Menteith s standing. It all had rather turned him into an irritable bastard, yet coming home to Thorn&
He could definitely grow accustomed to this. Not that he held any expectations that Thorn intended to wait on him every night,
nor did he want that.
In fact, the feeling of complete and utter contentment clinging to his senses had nothing at all to do with Thorn s domestic skills
yet everything to do with him. Or rather, them.
The evening had served as proof that his worries had been unfounded. Foolish of him to even fret. He and Thorn had just
needed time that was all to settle in together as a couple and find a balance that worked for them.
His chest suddenly felt lighter, as if a weight had lifted. That reluctance, the sense of& hesitation gone. In its place, rock-solid
certainty.
Yes, indeed. Thorn had been correct those months ago. They would be all right.
* * *
 Thorn, truly. Arthur tried, yet again, to get through the man s thick skull. He shifted on the bed, but Thorn followed, the long line
of bare skin against skin unbroken, squashing his effort to put even an inch of space between them.  I ve had a long day and 
 I know. Thorn coasted his hand down Arthur s abdomen. His erection pressed into Arthur s hip, shouting his expectations
louder than the scandalous words he d been whispering in Arthur s ear since they had walked into his bedchamber.  I told you I d see
to everything tonight.
Persistent fingers wrapped around Arthur s prick, which barely approached semierect. He closed his eyes and focused on
those talented fingers, on the hot breaths skimming his ear, the willing body plastered to his side. Tried to prod that spark of desire.
Tried to let it flare beneath the noxious mass of ever-mounting frustration and the exhaustion pulling hard and heavy on his mind,
but&
Damnation. Why did every night need to end in sex? Why the hell couldn t Thorn be content with nothing more than a kiss?
Of course, Thorn had the energy to fuck. The man did nothing all day and had the luxury of sleeping until noon, or whenever the
hell he decided to roll himself out of bed, whereas Arthur worked. Had responsibilities and employees, including a not so intelligent
one, and a desk piled with papers courtesy of clients who constantly changed their damned minds and a demanding new one who
expected nothing short of perfection.
Thorn nipped at his ear.  Everything. Anything you want, Arthur, it s yours.
He wanted some goddamn sleep.
 Do you want to fuck my mouth? Or do you want me to suck on your ballocks? He finally relinquished Arthur s now limp prick
and drifted his fingers below to cup Arthur s ballocks.  Perhaps lick your arse? I love how you feel under my tongue when your body
opens for me. I wonder if I can coax your hole to open enough to take a couple fingers alongside my tongue. Shall I try?
No. Arthur gritted his teeth to keep the word inside.
Soft lips brushed his shoulder, pressed a kiss there, and then began to drift lower. He grabbed Thorn by the upper arm, intent
on keeping him from ducking beneath the blankets. In one seamless motion, Thorn moved to straddle his waist.
 Thorn, please, I 
Lips slanted over his own, cutting off a fresh attempt to tell Thorn no without actually using the word. Maybe if he did not kiss
Thorn back, the man would get the hint.
Undeterred, Thorn dragged his mouth across Arthur s cheek.  I know what I want. Pure sin soaked the words purred in his ear,
yet rather than arouse, it served only to test the limits of his fraying patience.  I want your cock in my arse. Want to feel you stretch me
wide, stuff me full. Want you to make me so sore I ll wince whenever I sit down tomorrow.
Crouched over Arthur, Thorn rotated his hips, rubbing his ballocks across Arthur s prick that wasn t at all capable of stretching
anything wide at the moment.
 Enough, Thorn. Planting his hands on his lover s chest, he pushed. Hard.
Cool air whisked across his chest as the heat of Thorn s body disappeared.
A heavy thump rent the air.
Arthur went utterly still.
No, no. He hadn t actually&
Breath held, he blinked up into the darkness, the mattress beneath him perfectly, ominously motionless.
Thick and stifling, dread descended, sent his heart slamming against his ribs. He forced himself to push up and look beside
him. In the weak light from his small hearth, he could make out a shadowed form standing up next to the bed.
Guilt stabbed into him. He cringed. He had not meant to push him that hard.  Thorn, I 
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