"Thank you for calling Rookery Cove Aphrodisiacs' Help Line. My name is Ambrose. How may I assist you?"
The masculine voice was smooth, cultured and ultra confident that he could handle any question that might come up. Which only made Thomas feel more silly. "Uh... Hi."
"Hello, sir. How can I be of service?"
Given that liquid sex voice, Thomas could come up with more than one answer to that question. "I... uh... am calling about one of your tubes of lube."
"Oh, very good, sir. Our lubrication line is among our most popular products. A little dab goes a long way, so it's a great bargain too."
"No need to give me the sales pitch. I already have the stuff. My question is..."
Thomas drew a deep breath and blurted out, "How do I open the damn tube?"
"Yes, that can be a bit tricky, sir, but I believe if you just turn the cap clockwise, it should come free quite easily."
"You think I haven't tried that?" Thomas did not take kindly to being patronized. "I twisted to the left. I twisted to the right. I even used one of those rubber things on it. Nothing."
Amusement trickled over the connection. "You tried to use a condom to open up the lube?"
"Oh, forget it!" Blushing from a combination of embarrassment and frustration, Thomas punched the end button on his cell phone and tossed it onto the nightstand. He glared at the shiny gold tube on the sheets beside him. A red ribbon was wrapped around it. The card dangling from it read, "To Thomas, have a little fun on me." There was another line scratched below it, but it had somehow gotten smeared and Thomas wasn't able to read it. He recognized the handwriting of what he could read well enough. It matched that on the goodbye letter Bane had left for him on the kitchen table.
Less than a month before Christmas, and Bane had walked out on him. Okay, okay, so things hadn't been exactly sunny between them, but Thomas had hoped that the holidays would turn things around. But between the letter, which gave no explanation for Bane's abrupt departure from his life and home, and this joke of a gift, Thomas was ready to give up on men entirely.
Thomas eyed the cell phone.
He wasn't going to pick it up. No one he knew would be calling this late.
He glanced at the screen. Number was restricted. Maybe Bane was trying to reach him, to apologize, to explain...
Thomas grabbed the phone and answered shortly, "Yes?"
"Thank you for answering, sir. It seems our first call was cut short. I wanted to be sure that I had adequately answered your question."
Someone should bottle this guy's voice and use it as an aphrodisiac. Though Thomas believed his horniness had fled for the night, just a few softly spoken words from this guy and his cock was on the rise. "I'm fine, thank you."
Thomas ended the call quickly, before any more of that sensual tone could sink into his system. However, he had not even set it down before it began to trill again. Another glance at the screen showed the same "restricted" warning. "Bloody hell." He stabbed the send button and said, "What do you want?"
"Your satisfaction. At Rookery Cove Aphrodisiacs, customer satisfaction is one hundred percent guaranteed and to be honest, sir, you don't sound all that satisfied."
Thoughts of tangled sheets, sweaty bodies and erotic sounds filled Thomas's mind. He shook his head to clear it. "My boyfriend bought the lube for me as a present." Something compelled him to amend, "My ex-boyfriend."
"I see. And were you able to open the tube after our initial call?"
"No, and I no longer wish to. So you don't owe me anything. Not even an explanation. Got it?"
"You read the number and called for help."
"Yeah. So what?"
A thoughtful hum echoed over the connection. "If you give me just a few more moments of your precious time, I'm sure we can bring your issue to a successful resolution."
"My only issue right now is your phone calls preventing me from going to sleep and forgetting about this entire shitty day."
"I'll be as brief as possible, sir. If you would please tell me the full name of the product on the label?"
Though his first inclination was to throw the lubricant across the room, he read off, "Golden Rod Lube, Extended Use Formula."
"Thank you, sir. And now the batch code at the tail end of the tube?"
"Excellent, sir. And now if you will just tell me your paranormal nature, I'm sure we can --"
"My paranormal what?"
"What, like if I can read minds?" Okay, one of them was losing their grip on reality and Thomas hoped it wasn't him. He gripped the tube in his hand, as it if were some solid anchor of normality he could cling to.
"Vampire, Werewolf, Elf, Pixie. You get the idea, sir."
Thomas sat up and drew the sheet over his naked lap. Somehow it didn't make him feel much better. "This is Christmas time, not Halloween."
"Are you saying, sir, that you have no paranormal ability whatsoever?" Incredulity diluted the sexy boy toy voice, but not enough to tame Thomas's hardening erection.
"I don't even own so much as a tarot deck. So are we done here?"
A low rumble of a voice crackled over the wire. "Security threat identified. Target is Thomas C. Hartman of Reston, Maine. Prepare for transport to commence in twenty seconds."
Thomas stared at the phone as the connection closed. He didn't move. He didn't even breathe. It was all too fucking weird. Sure, Bane had some strange friends, but Thomas didn't think any of them would be responsible for this kind of complex prank.
Those were the only thoughts that had time to pass through his brain before a pair of bat-like wings enfolded him and the light of consciousness petered out.