Weird relief filled Ned. He'd confessed. Not to everything, but enough, more than enough. He sat down, heavily. What would Mr. Show No Emotion say now? The man was talking to a murderer. A queer murderer, at that. Some folks would be more horrified by the first part than the last.
Some of the guilt inside began to ease. Frank could hand out his punishment. He knew down in his bones that Frank could do that job without raising a sweat.
Silence. Was he wrong? Maybe he'd finally stumped the man in front of him. Somehow that seemed even worse--even more evil--than being condemned.
More silence. Ned watched as Frank ground his finished smoke into the tiny ashtray.
"What makes you think I asked you here to interrogate you, kid?" Frank sounded just the same as he had before Ned's confession. But what he was saying made no sense. Ned blinked up at him.
"I'm not a kid. And--and why else would you drag me here? You keep asking me questions."
"You seemed to want to give me answers. But if I thought you'd killed someone, would I have left you back at MaeBelle's? Just asked you nicely to show up here? That wouldn't be doing the job I hired on for."
"I don't know. I--" Ned clamped down on the words before more stupidity poured out. He wanted to say Frank made him think of a cat with a mouse. All of Ned's old tension had returned and more. God knew he was feeling like the mouse right now, waiting to be pounced on. Frank might toy with him just because he liked doing it. Maybe he wanted to push to see just how much Ned would go along with.
Ned licked his lips. Why was that idea making him hard? What the hell was wrong with him tonight? He stood up again, shoved his hands into his pockets because he didn't know where else to put them, and then strode over to the hotel window to look out. He couldn't face the quiet man in the room with him.
"I figured you were interested in men. I saw how you looked at me tonight. Even when you didn't want to look." Frank's hand touched his shoulder.
Ned flinched. "I didn't know I was being that obvious."
Frank laughed. "You weren't. But I know the signs by now. Besides, I enjoyed it. Did you wonder whether maybe I asked you to show up after work for the same reason your lover did?"
Oh my God. He'd confessed and hadn't needed to? Ned almost laughed. He'd missed a sexual invitation because he'd been too focused on his own guilt.
But wait. Was the sexual invitation still being offered? Ned all but pricked his ears, trying to read what he'd missed before.
Everything was just wrong tonight. What people said, what he felt had gone crazy. He should be outraged, amused, or terrified, but once Frank had said those words, it was as if everything settled down inside him.
Ned realized he'd wanted to hear just exactly what Frank had told him--and what he hadn't. Somehow, deep down, he'd expected all this. Ned knew he was breathing faster, but it wasn't fear. He wasn't sure yet if it was desire, but he'd lay some pretty big bets on the possibility.
That didn't make giving in the right thing to do for either of them.
"You're insane." Ned didn't stop looking outside, staring straight ahead and away from danger. "You don't even know the worst about me. Hell, you don't know anything about me except I killed my last lover."
"Well, plenty of experts have already said I'm crazy. But what you told me is that you think you killed your lover. You don't know. I've killed people before. I knew I did it, and I knew they were dead. I made sure of it. Could be you need to stick around me so you get more practice."
Frank sounded amused. Amused? Ned turned and realized Frank was smiling. Smiling right at him.
"I don't understand."
"What's to understand?" Frank shrugged dismissively and tapped out another cigarette. He lit it with an efficient motion. Ned watched, fascinated, as Frank's lips wrapped around it and he inhaled slowly. Exhaled. He stopped to tilt his head as if to get the very last drag of smoke into his mouth. "You don't know anything about me, either. What the hell difference does that make? I invited you up for a reason and I don't usually get distracted from what I plan to do. Do you want to fuck or not?"
"Aren't you afraid of me?" Ned wasn't sure if he was annoyed or overjoyed.
"I'm not afraid of much, Ned. There's not much to be afraid of when you're a dead man."
Ned was afraid to ask what that meant. Frank continued, "Besides, I'm not as convinced as you are that you killed anyone. But you haven't answered my question. Let me try again. You seemed to like what you saw before. You still interested?"
Not a killer? How could he not be? For a moment the fog of grief and guilt and despair that had dulled his reactions to the world lifted, right along with his cock.
There were so many questions tonight, boiling up inside. But thank God, he finally knew the answer to Frank's last one.
"Hell, yes, I'm interested." Ned knocked a nearby chair over as he leaped toward the man.
The cigarette went flying next. Ned thought he heard Frank laugh--a real, honest-to-God laugh--but he didn't have time to wonder if he was hallucinating. He concentrated on unbuttoning Frank's fancy tailored shirt, growling with frustration at the wait.
Frank's skin was different from Sam's. Intriguingly different. Sam's chest hair had been thicker, springing up around his much darker skin. Frank's skin was pale and nearly hairless, except for that mysterious line that led down to his belt buckle and disappeared behind pants. Ned snarled and began on the buckle next. His fingers wouldn't work. Not as fast as he wanted them to. He wanted, no, he needed, to find out what lay under Frank's tailored clothing.
Frank grabbed his hands, twisted them behind Ned's back. Ned panted, staring down at him. He was taller, stronger and weighed more. How the hell had Frank managed to keep him from moving?
However Frank's pants had slid down so that Ned could take a good look at what had hidden behind the cloth. Very good indeed. Frank was hard and nicely packaged. Ned licked his lips and thought about breaking free.
Frank grinned. "Slow down. I want to enjoy my first taste of you, kid."
The animal inside Ned protested. He usually kept it quiet. He'd been safe with Sam. Sam had been gentle, kind. He'd made it easy for Ned to be the same way. But Frank was different. Frank wouldn't mind a beast.
"Yeah. I need to slow down." Ned heard the rough slur in his words.
Danger. Slow down. Quiet. No animal tonight. The man trusted him not to be a killer. Ned wasn't sure, but he wanted to show himself worthy of trust. So, not too rough, not even for this new tough lover. Never.
Ned wanted to whine with frustration.
Ned leaned forward instead, looking at the slight stubble on Frank's jaw. He rubbed against it, enjoying the friction of unshaven skin, the smell of smoke and man and heat. Frank's cock was hard and pressed tight against him. Perfect. Just perfect.
Frank began to unbutton Ned's shirt. Ned shivered.
"Mmmm." Ned licked his lips. "I want you. Not slow."
"I thought you were going to be shy." Frank's hands ran over Ned's naked skin, his nails scraping against Ned's back. The tiny pinpricks of pain made Ned shiver.
"You don't know me, Frank." He kept quiet, yes, but only because he had to. And he was never shy when it came to sex.
"I will know you." Frank's mouth and teeth were on him now, devouring. "I'll know every damned inch of you."