One of my biggest failings in the marketing of Xavier's School is not telling everyone that yes, it's a series or at least not clearly enough. I'm not even sure I said it at first and then I think I tried to but by that point it was lost in the shuffle. By that point I was going on one year with insomnia. Very little sleep was had by Mock! Ha!
And so, I wanted to dedicate a whole blog to saying: XAVIER'S SCHOOL OF DISCIPLINE IS A SERIES!
The second book in the series starts where the "Past" leaves off. Yes, I know that's confusing but I promise I'll make it clear in the book.
My vision (for some reason) was a six book series. I dunno why. I didn't want to make them serial per se. I wanted to just ... write about happenings.
"But Mock we wanna see Max! You promised us more Osh! You said xyzzy!"
Yes. And I plan to have us "see" everyone through the series.
The number one job of this series is to provide solace and understanding for people with spanking kink. Each of us is at a different place with this. Some of us are veterans. Some of us are just discovering. Some of us are curious. Some of us are trying to understand for a friend or partner. And a bunch of other reasons. I wanted this series to be a bit of a 101. But I also wanted it to be a comforting family we could come home to.
And so, I'm going to show you ALL of chapter one of book two. Things might be added or changed a bit in the final version but it will be close to this. I may not post more on this one for a little bit. I'm writing about a kajillion stories right now. My plan is to write this book in September.
NOTE: This excerpt is from the second book and so it won't make a lot of sense if you haven't read the first. The first can be found here: XAVIER'S SCHOOL
Xavier's School of Discipline Book II Chapter One: Finn's been at the school just over 8 weeks
It’s a rumble. His laugh. From deep within his chest, bursting forth like wind, shaking his torso and settling like falling leaves. Lying on his side, his hand is pillowed behind his head, and hair messier than usual—I’m responsible for that—as he runs fingers over my bare skin from cheek to pelvis. I lean into his touch, closing my eyes, letting him explore me. His wide smile highlights all his teeth. His large biceps extend and flex. His eyes get tender like I’ve learned they do when he’s admiring me.
I have to look away, biting my lip. His finger’s tugging on it. “I don’t think so, Mr. Brighton. Didn’t I tell you lip biting it strictly prohibited? I’m going to have to spank you.”
My mouth gapes. “You just spanked me.”
“There are no rules that prohibit me from handing out second spankings.”
“There should be.”
He laughs some more, pulling me in for a kiss. “Now why would I make a rule like that?
“You wouldn’t. I know my ass is doomed.”
“Lucky for you I have to go, and you have to get back to the house. Ani will be cross with me if I allow you to miss the first Sunday night roast.”
A lazy smile spreads on his lips. “How’s your arse?”
“Like wet paint.”
He laughs again. The rumble. “You never say what I think you’ll say to questions like that. Pray tell, why wet paint? Sticky?”
“No. Because paint is wet.”
“That would be what the ‘wet’ implies yes.”
“Yes, but wet things have to dry. They have to air out. I feel like I air out after … you know.”
He smirks. “Still can’t say it, Mr. Brighton?” This time, I curl into him to hide my face in his chest. “No then. Well, once again, your observations have thrown me into contemplation. I’ve never heard it described like that.”
“My brain is a mysterious network.”
“I adore your mysterious network, Mr. Brighton. I’m fascinated.” He finds my forehead to kiss it and runs his fingers over where my scalp is largely barren. I just had my undercut touched up at the campus barber. I left it longer on top this time. “C’mon. I’ll take you back.”
I could whine that I’m a grown adult who can take himself home, but aside from the fact that it won’t do any good, I’m happy for more time with him. We dress. Him in black slacks, his black, long-sleeved button up, vest and green tie. Me in my jeans—which don’t feel nice against my ass, even with boxers—and white t-shirt. Xavier is so proper, even on the weekends. Maybe I should dress a little more grown up? Xavier doesn’t seem to mind my casual dress around the apartment, so long as I don’t slum it in sweats around campus. He pulls me to him, pressing his lips to mine. “I can’t get enough of you. You’re staying with me next weekend. Grayson will have to find another teddy bear.”
“Actually, uh. About next weekend.” I meant to ask him earlier. But putting it off seemed better, since I’m fucking nervous about asking. Which is weird. Me, a grown man, stressing over asking if he can go to a social. Me, a grown man even having to ask. I can’t put it off any longer though and if I don’t ask, Grayson will be impossible. “The get together at Sigma Phi. I was invited. And there’ll be like seven Tops there.” After what Gray and I did, there’s no way he’d let me attend a social (read party) without a Top present—we’re pretty much banned from Gamma House—but with Tops, that’s gotta be different right?
Xavier frowns. My stomach swoops into an abyss. “Is that your way of asking me if you can go?”
Sigma Phi is where Osh, Trevor, and Emmery live, who are his boys as well. He knows of the social, he’s approved it. That doesn’t mean I get to go. “Yeah?”
He takes a breath. “I’ll admit, I was hoping you wouldn’t ask, but I knew it was inevitable.”
“You approved it. You’ve only yourself to blame.”
“I guess my plans of distracting you here, weren’t good enough? Where did I go wrong? Should I have led with the food I’d planned on making?”
“Nothing you could have done. Grayson is relentless.”
He sighs. “Ah.” He lifts my wrist to lips, the one I sprained six weeks ago. “I’ll think about it.”
It’s not ‘yes,’ but it’s still relaxing. I’ve done it. I asked—sorta—and it’s not a ‘no’ either. I am curious about something. “I thought you’d just say no.”
He pulls his long coat out of the closet, sliding into it. “I want to.”
That makes my face pinch in consternation. The inner workings of a Top’s mind are as fascinating as Xavier seems to find me. “Then why not just say no?” He can. He can say ‘no’ for no other reason than he wants to and I’m subject to obey. That’s what I signed on for coming to this school. I was warned that at times it’s important for a Top to exercise authority if he feels it necessary. Part of the chain is having that authority exist at all. Sometimes the exercise is just obeying, for no other reason than to obey.
“Because you want it, Finnegan.”
“Now I’m more confused.” I let him help me into my navy-blue winter jacket. It’s getting colder, almost November.
“Believe it or not, a Top wants to give his brat everything he wants. But a Top has to decide what’s good for his brat. Also, what he’s earned.”
The truth of that hits me. I’ve encountered the earning of things in small ways within the structure of the House. Ani letting Grayson and I do homework at the living room’s long table versus the kitchen when we’ve been good at being self-directed that week. Will saying we can go to Sigma House to watch a movie with no Top home.
I can’t miss an opportunity to brat-flirt. To continue that feeling. “I have been so good. Not a toe out of line.”
He slings a scarf around his neck and then buttons himself into his black wool jacket. “Not a toe? It seems to me your Friday night discipline session included a lecture on procrastination.” His eyes burn through me.
That feeling sings in every cell of my body. I hadn’t forgotten about that lecture—punctuated by firm strap strokes, which are still on my ass by the way. Ones whose sting he reignited when he tossed me over his knee and spanked the daylights out of me a couple of hours ago. Sigh. This coat is extra cozy with all these feels zinging around. “Oh c’mon. That’s standard Finnegan and can’t be counted against me.”
It really can though. I know this. He knows I know this.
“It’s counted against you.”
“Whatever happened to the rewards system? Perhaps I’ll do so well this week, you’ll feel the need to tell me so by saying, ‘You can go to the social, Mr. Brighton.’” I do my best impression of him.
He laughs then takes my hand and we leave the apartment. He locks the door behind us. “You know I don’t make deals.” He really doesn’t. Some Tops will though. “There are a few things I’m considering in this instance. The instance that happened only six weeks ago is still fresh in my mind. You’ve only been ungrounded for two of those weeks.”
A flush of heat goes through me at the reminder.
“I know little can happen to you with Osh, Trevor and William there, but is the timing right? It does a boy good if he doesn’t have easy, previous luxuries. More of a deterrent not to do dangerous things that injure him.”
My chances on going to this social aren’t looking good but I accept that and want to pat myself on the back for being a good boy.
We make our way across campus from the east side where the apartments and other housing are, to the northwest side where the Houses are. Sometimes we hop in one of the campus golf carts that are parked in various locations all over campus, but today we walk. The air is crisp with the cold bite of the approaching, west-coast-Canadian winter. Most of the trees are barren, only the non-deciduous evergreen standing tall and verdant against vices of the changing season.
It’s Sunday. Campus is quiet. Men are out walking, some on benches cuddled together, some involved in games of frisbee, but overall, people are inside.
“What do I have to do to earn it, sir?” As an obstinate introvert, I don’t normally lament over going to socials or parties, but since becoming a member of Alpha House, I’ve found I want to participate in what they do—I think they might have taken place as my family.
He peers at me. Curious. “You’re not going to throw a fit?”
“And make it that easy for you to spank me?” I say. The word ‘spank’ is near whispered. It’s a hard word to say! “You’ve made it clear how much you abhor tantrums.”
He smiles to his eyes. “You’ve managed to find a way to drive me crazy—behaving yourself.”
It’s my turn to laugh. “Isn’t that what you want?”
“I do, but it’s complicated. You know how you often tell me you don’t want a spanking, and yet you do?”
“Yes.” Such an infuriating feeling.
“It’s like that for brats behaving with Tops. Yes, I do want you to behave—it sets my teeth on edge when you don’t, even small things like not remembering to bring a scarf like I asked you to.”
I grimace. Dammit. I’d better set myself a reminder for that one or I’m not likely to remember next time either.
“But disobedience brings with it a unique kind of excitement. We have to deal with it and dealing with it creates a host of feelings that are enjoyable for ones like us, ones I look forward to. You and I experience them in different ways, but there’s an energy between us that’s satisfying.”
I get it. There are no words to explain it, not really, but I get it.
“Telling you no would be satisfying in a way that hits that side of me, the one who enjoys the discipline aspects of our relationship, but I’m seeing less reason all the time to justify a ‘no.’”
“Wow. So many layers to being a Top I never considered.”
“Like I said, complicated. But to your question, if I hear you’ve shown exemplary behavior all week, I will allow you to go.”
Such a simple act that will soothe us both. “Thank you, sir.”
He squeezes my hand.
It’s a fresh walk back to the house. Xavier drops me off on the porch like he does, not wanting to cause too much commotion by coming inside. He’s the headmaster of the school, it’s unavoidable, but the House is getting used to it. “See you after school tomorrow?” he says.
“You’re not ordering me to be there? So, unlike you,” I say. Yes, I’m flirting.
“I will if I have to. I didn’t think I’d have to.”
“I will be there, but don’t you have work to do?”
“Yes. Bring your books, we’ll work together.” He moves the long hair off my forehead. “I find it increasingly difficult to go stretches without you.”
He moves to kiss me, I respond with enough enthusiasm to tell him the same—thank God I have the House, I miss him when I’m not with him. Jeez, Finn. You’ve got to be careful with that. We pull apart, both of us caught in the fire of this moment. “Let’s keep it to short stretches then. I figure I can behave for at least that long.”
Our noses nuzzle. We’re becoming really fucking sappy. “I’m going to hold you to that. Behave, Mr. Brighton.”
I leave him on the porch, not wanting to leave, but if I don’t go inside soon, Grayson will be out here. As fun as it would be to see Xavier spank him on the porch for the cheek I know he’ll give, Xavier’s got work to do.
Inside, Bell and Bray are lying together at odd angles on the pale green couch. Bell with his head near to hanging off the couch and his feet up the back of it, Bray has his legs tangled in Bellamy’s, his torso curved enough his head can still lie on the couch. Johnny Rae is on the floor snuggled in pillows and Christopher who’s acting as the big spoon. Chris has a medium build, but Johnny is small and so Chris dwarfs him. When I see pictures like this, I can kinda see why Grayson felt left out. Bell and Bray go together. Johnny and Christopher go together. It’s just the way it’s always been. Sure they branch out, I’ve seen any number of combinations of the seven of my House mates snuggled together, but eventually they return to their pairs.
Speaking of Grayson, he springs forth as if from nowhere, arms around my torso. “No more of that, Finnegan. I was all by myself. That was too long.”
I move his arms to around my neck, and in a bold move, kiss him long and slow. Xavier left me feeling whimsical. “I’ll make it up to you. C’mon. Should we see if Ani needs help?”
“He’s fine. He’d have come to get us if he needed us.”
I look again to all of us out here and think of only one of Ani in there. Something’s not right about that. I take his hand. “C’mon.”
“Ugh. Brighton. If you get me roped into kitchen duty, the friendship is off.”
We enter the kitchen. This place has in short order become one of my favorite places to be even if I’m set to work. It’s one of the house hubs. I love mornings with a hot cup of coffee either sitting at the table with Grayson in my lap lounging, or also with hot coffee chopping or whisking something for Ani. Will’s big on family dinners. In addition to Sunday night—when the House meeting takes place—he prefers for us to be home for dinner as often as we can. I do see the appeal. Something’s missing when one of us is missing from the table.
Without Bellamy, there isn’t as much ruckus. Without Bray, we miss some kind of epiphany—usually something hilarious that has us rolling with laughter. Without Johnny we miss his playful jabs to other House members, things that highlight who we are in fun ways. Without Christopher we miss the peace he brings. He’s a good mediator—when he’s not bickering with Bellamy—and will often assist in resolutions between other bickering House mates.
And Grayson, it’s hard to describe what’s gone when he is because I’ve got a bias when it’s him. Everything seems to have a bit less shine to it when he’s not home. All the things I enjoy about the others is a little less fun when I don’t have him to look to or laugh about whatever thing just happened with. But I guess I’d say that it’s his sarcasm that’s missed. He’s sharp and exacting, but it makes everyone laugh. Especially when he’s said something to Will, and we know Will’s going to respond with something of the scolding nature.
Ani tries not to be gone for dinner, or there is no dinner, and we have to fend for ourselves. But on occasion, he’s been with Tom and I’ve gotten to experience the feeling. It’s like our heart is gone. No one likes it. We’re all just a little unsettled.
When Will is gone, you’d think the brats would rejoice at the break we get from behaving quite so strictly, but we don’t. We’re all out of sorts. Some or all of us are cranky. Will can’t truly leave the house for this reason. Which is why in his physical absence, he leaves non-physical reminders. There’s the ever-present no-swearing rule, which someone catches it for, sometime through the day. So even when he’s not here, we’re looking over our shoulders for that rule out of habit and it makes it feel like he’s here. He’ll usually leave some sort of instructions which I (at first) thought was him being a bossy so-and-so, but Grayson pointed it out to me—he does it to leave something in our minds, to soothe us, so we can remember he’s coming back soon.
I thought that idea ridiculous at first, but then I felt the truth of it. My brain knows Will’s coming back, but an unconscious part of me doesn’t understand logic on that one now that I’ve gotten used to leaning up against the mountainside of a man whenever I need to. Knowing I’ve got to get my chores done in the span of time he’s gone, gives me an internal reminder that he’s still there as I rush to get my task done—usually at the last minute. All of us scampering.
So yeah. A lot of that shit goes down in this kitchen and it gives me the good feels.
Ani is at the table, head in his hands, crying. Gray and I race over to him. I put a hand to his bare back, Grayson slides into his lap because he believes the root to all your problems is that you don’t have a lap full of him. “Ani?” I say flicking my eyes up to the stove to see where the source of his anguish could be coming from. Everything looks fine, but the Yorkshires—I think they’ve been on fire—what remains of their brown exterior is nearer to the bottom of each, stretching up into crisp, black peaks, some of them still smoking.
“I burned the Yorkshires. You can’t have a proper roast dinner without them.”
I’m about to suggest buns, but as if Grayson can read my mind, he shakes his head, eyes large. Guess regular buns and roast dinner is a ‘no.’ “Ani, let us help you. We’ll whip up new Yorkshires. My mother has a recipe. I suppose I could allow you to use it,” Grayson offers.
“The roast will be dry by then.”
He’s heartbroken. “Ani, why didn’t you call one of them out there? They’re doing nothing,” I say. Ani never has a problem interrupting our lounging time.
It takes him a moment to answer. “Because I wanted to do it.” It’s a breathless whisper.
I look to Gray, because I’m well out of my league here. Something more is going on, I just don’t know what. “Where’s Will?” Grayson says.
Right. Good idea. I’m still not as quick to defer to Will for all things I can’t handle like they are.
“No. Don’t tell Will, please. He’ll tell Tom. Hell, he’ll call Tom.”
I scrunch my eyes, my forehead wrinkles. Isn’t that what he’s supposed to do? Isn’t that what Ani usually does for himself? I’ve never seen Ani get to this place, because he’s always calling Tom to tell on himself. Which I think he’s nuts for by the way—who asks for a spanking? But he does.
“Please Grayson. I’m so embarrassed,” Ani says.
I don’t know what to do. My stomach is in knots. I know Ani will feel so much better if Tom comes, at least I assume so, I do with Xavier even when I know I’m about to get wrung out. But I also understand the not wanting to. Brat solidarity is strong in this house.
“We won’t tell him, but are you going to be able to get over the not having of the Yorkshires? Or can we buy some from the Campus Market?”
“Will’s going to know if you do that.”
“He’s going to know if we use buns.”
Ani takes a breath, wiping his tears, then focusing on Grayson’s hair running fingers through it, and I think that maybe a lap full of Grayson is some kinda cure for something. Ani looks a little better. “You’re right. I’m screwed. I should have asked for help. But it was the first one this year and I wanted to make it special for you guys. I thought I had it under control. I used to be good at this.”
Gray and I both wince at that one and our eyes meet. He needs someone. In times like these I’m reminded that Ani isn’t a Top. That doesn’t make him any less of an authority in this house, any of us can have authorities we earn, but Ani’s the only one so far that has.
Though, we kinda like it that way.
But Ani needs Will and Tom like the rest of us do for his stuff. “What would you like us to do then, Ani?” I ask.
“Go get the Yorkshires from Campus Market. I’m had. I’ll call Tom. Get extra, we’ll likely have one more for dinner.” He’s calmer now, his tears drying, but his eyes betray his apprehension. If there was some way out of this, he’d do it. But there isn’t.
Gray and I leave out the back door and I borrow someone’s scarf in case we bump into Xavier. It’s unlikely, but the chances are never zero. “What was that about?” I ask, as we walk to find a golf cart. Ani made it clear we should be quick.
“Don’t know. It’s tied to his perfectionism thing though.”
“Right. Yeah, Ani told me about that.” Ani’s had trouble since his father’s death. A need to take care of his mom. A need to do well so she wouldn’t worry. “Guess it comes up from time to time. And you were really just gonna keep it from, Will?”
“I would for you, wouldn’t I?”
He would. “Isn’t that dishonest?”
“It is, but it’s not the end of the world and it’s expected. We’re bound to keep each other’s secrets. These are the kinds of bonds that form between brats. We know no one’s truly going to get killed around here, but the feeling is as terrible as if we are—disappointing your Top is the worst thing in the world. We need to know we’ll stick together on such things. In an odd way, it’s the comfort that gets us to being able to tell the truth.”
We find a golf cart and hop in. It’s a quick drive to the Campus Market.
Once inside, we can’t help ourselves and we get distracted. There’s lots of attractive candy and drinks Ani never lets us have. “We’re grown adults,” Grayson says. “If we want to buy this and stash it some place for a rainy day, we should be able to.”
We both know that’s not how it works around here, but we’ve been left unattended and it’s a bit of a game, even though there’s a real consequence. I’m electrified with excitement as we choose a selection of treats before we hit up the bakery in the back for the Yorkshires. “I can’t believe the bakery makes Yorkshires,” I say as we collect a few bags.
“You’re really surprised? Xavier is British. They eat Yorkshires every Sunday. Trust me. At least my family does.”
We’re at the till, checking out, when I catch a familiar scent and feel the presence of him behind us. “Why do you two look up to something?” Xavier says.
My knees weaken. I want to collapse into a puddle on the floor from his voice alone. I maintain composure best I can. “Ani sent us for Yorkshires,” I say without thinking.
He tilts his head. “Ani wouldn’t do that unless something happened. What happened?”
Fuck. Grayson glares at me. I’m an asshole, not good at this subterfuge thing. Thankfully, Grayson pipes up in an attempt to salvage the situation. “I burned the ones he prepared, sir. You know how easily I’m distracted. As you know, the timing of a Sunday roast dinner is impeccable. All we could do was collect these nice ones the baker makes.”
Xavier is suspicious, but Grayson’s story checks out. “Come here,” he says to me.
I go to him, stomach churning. I’m a terrible liar. “Look, I wore a scarf, sir,” I show him.
“Which is good for your bottom,” Xavier says, not caring that that cashier is standing there, or about the other customers in line who could overhear us. Who can overhear us. Grayson continues to pay for our items, probably trying to come up with a plan to salvage this if there is any salvaging. I heat from head to toe. “Is what Grayson’s said, true?”
Ugh. Everything he’s said is true, except for the part where he burned the buns … Yorkshires, whatever. I try to think like Grayson. He’s likely convinced himself in his mind he actually did, since in a way, us not being there is why things fell apart in the first place. He’d say, “I should have been there manning the Yorkshires all along. It is my fault.”
Which is a matter of perspective only. No Top will see it that way.
My eyes flick to Grayson.
“Never mind, I have my answer. You shouldn’t need to consult on the truth with Mr. Worthington. I need to pay for this. Wait outside for me.”
I’m a heel.
“We have got to work on your poker face, Brighton,” Gray says, while we’re waiting outside the store for Xavier. “At least we got away with the candy thing.”
“Not yet. We still have to get it by Ani.”
“Three steps ahead of you. I separated the candy from the Yorkshires. I’ll head up the stairs with this bag, you can give this one to Ani.”
When Xavier’s walks out, the storm that he is, my body sinks back into regret mode. “Xavier we’re sorry,” I say, before he has the chance to say anything. “Ani burned the Yorkshires, okay? He did too much. He said he’d call Tom while we went to get Yorkshires.”
Grayson’s eyes burrow into me.
“Come here Mr. Worthington.” Grayson stomps over to him and waits as his pants are succinctly pulled down. Xavier lays a layer of swats to his bare bottom. Other men head into the store, some out. They briefly pause to see who’s getting it, but when they see from who they scurry away. I get looks of sympathy, them assuming I’m next, and I probably am. I might not have done anything, but Xavier never misses an opportunity to give reminders.
It’s a quick spanking, a reminder to behave himself, but it must sting.
Xavier helps him pull up his pants. “You know better,” he says to Grayson as Grayson rubs his ass. “Now for you Mr. Brighton.”
I whine. “But sir, I told you the truth.”
Ugh. I also stomp when I head over to him. I can’t help looking around as my pants get pulled down too. “Don’t focus on them, focus on me,” he says, hot in my ear.
It’s hard to do that completely as I’m bared and he smacks away, but the pain of it helps. The rest of campus fades away, the sharp sting of his hand is all I know for thirty seconds as he awakens the faded spanking he already put there today. “I appreciate you finally coming out with the truth, Mr. Brighton,” he says. “But not only were you a participant, this can serve to deter you should you think to join in on any of Mr. Worthington’s plans to hide what he knows he should tell in future.”
He finishes the spanking with a few harder smacks. “Ah! Ow! Aowch!”
When he flips me around to help me pull up my jeans, he’s smiling. “I knew I’d get to spank this at least once more today.”
I can’t help it. I melt. My ass seems to throb in time with my heart and I fill with a euphoric haze. I’m staring fucking dreamily at him. He kisses me. “And you thought you could behave until tomorrow afternoon.”
I laugh. “All for your pleasure, sir.”
Grayson clears his throat. “I’m still here you two.”
Xavier pulls me to him turning to face Grayson, but my face is pressed into his stiff, wool coat; I inhale his scent. “I will call Tom myself to make sure Mr. Beauchamp did call him. You two will go directly home.”
“We planned on it, sir,” Grayson says.
Xavier walks us to a golf cart. “I have half a mind to just keep you, Finnegan. It’s not fair I have to say goodbye to you twice. Where is William?”
“At Sigma Phi. Some kind of Top details for the social this weekend,” Grayson answers.
Dammit. I’d already forgotten about that. It’s amazing how stuff slips outta my head during crisis. Have a ruined my chances of going? I look to Xavier. “This does count,” he says reading my mind.
I get another kiss goodbye and we drive off, me in the driver seat. “What was that all about?” Gray asks.
“To get permission to go to the Sigma Phi thing, I have to behave myself. It’s not going well.” My body heats with embarrassment having to admit that.
“Finn, you can go? This is great.”
“How did you get that from what I said?”
“This was minor.”
“We were spanked in front of the store. A million people saw us.” I’m still flushed over that.
“Only ten thousand, eight hundred and fifty-four people go to this school. It wasn’t a million. Besides I guarantee you it’s happened to every one of them. And witnesses don’t make it count more.”
I have to develop Grayson’s penchant for letting go of stuff like that. “In any case, the chances of Xavier saying yes, just got lower. We need to keep a low profile this week,” I tell him.
“We were rocks in a hard place. We had to at least try to keep Ani’s confidence, but we were always going to get caught.”
That’s how Grayson fascinates me. There are times where he holds no illusion over us getting caught—we are going to get caught—but he heads off into trouble anyway.
We pull into the driveway, leaving the cart there. The tall tree, her arms stretched toward the attic sways, but manages to stand against the cold. When we walk in, Will is there. His arms are crossed, his golden hair free-flowing. He’s dressed in plaid today, blue and green, with holey jeans, his feet bare. “There you two are. What’s going on around here? I leave for two hours.”
“Didn’t Ani tell you where we were?” Gray says.
“Ani? Ani’s not here either.”
Shit. “Will, we have to find Ani,” I say and head into the kitchen even though Will said he’s not here. The kitchen is as we left it, but the stove is off. The pan of burnt Yorkshires are gone though. I know where he is. I run out the door, to the back of the property. Ani is there, still in his apron, under a large willow tree. Shivering. His hair falling out of his ponytail, flying all over the place. The Yorkshire pan is mostly empty, just the bits of caked on Yorkshire at the bottom, burnt Yorkshire behind the tree.
“Ani. Ani, c’mon,” I say, taking his hand, pulling the massive man up.
“I changed my mind. I don’t want to tell anyone. Finn please.”
“Sorry, Ani. The gig is up. Will’s wondering where you are and Tom—”
I don’t get to explain. A man walks up to us with slow movements, dressed in a smart suit, pin stripes, tie red and gold. His hair is light brown, it shines with even lighter brown highlights, long on top, falling sideways to his left ear, short in the back. His eyes are deep hazel, his shoulders manage to be broader than Ani’s, maybe as broad as Xavier’s. He brings the same enormous energy with him any other Top would bring.
This has got to be Tom.
When Ani sees him, his eyes dart everywhere but Tom and land on the ground. He cradles his right hand in the palm of his left, he doesn’t move except the occasional shiver since it’s like five degrees Celsius out here and he’s shirtless. Silent tears stream down his face. “Animki,” Tom says. His voice is low and deep, he extends his hand, expecting Ani to take it.
Ani does, pouting. Yeah, Ani is pouting. I check my brain for a memory and nope, I’ve never seen this before, but I do remember something Ani said several weeks back: “I’m at the low end of the brat spectrum; though he does bring it out of me. Wait till you see us together.”
He’d been referring to Tom, explaining about Top to brat spectrums. Tom really does bring out the brat in Ani. I’m worried for my friend and what he’s going through, but I’m also fascinated watching him go brat.
When Ani is standing, he clings to Tom’s large form. Tom rubs his back. “I’m sorry, Finnegan, is it? We’ve not had the chance to meet.” He extends his hand to me.
I shake it, his grip firm and then I get shy, having to run a hand through my hair. He might not be my Top, or an official Top of the House, but wow, his energy. It sinks right into me. My throat closes up, I have to push the words out. “That’s me, sir. Nice to finally meet you.”
“Likewise. I’m going to have a few words with Animki inside. You’ll have to excuse us.”
“But Tom,” Ani whines. “The dinner.”
Tom sets firm eyes on Ani. I would cower under such a stare, even Ani has to look away for a moment. “We will have dinner. But first we talk.”
Ani hides his head into Tom’s shoulder. “Yes, sir.”
We head toward the house, Will and Grayson are on the deck, keeping their distance, since Tom is here to do his Top thing with Ani. Tom leads Ani by the hand across the kitchen and through to the living room. I’m still in my jacket, boots and somebody’s scarf.
“Let’s get the table set. They might be some time, but we can have this place ready to go for dinner,” Will says.
I nod removing my coat to hang at the back door. Will gets us going, trusting we’ll do as instructed. It’s just me and Grayson again. “He’s something else,” I say, referring to Tom.
Grayson’s eyes widen. “You don’t get to say that. You’re dating Xavier.”
“Is that how you all feel about Xavier? How I feel about Tom?”
Gray nods. “I don’t know how you do it.”
I laugh, contentedness sinks into me hearing that. I was feeling the same about Tom. I can barely talk around the guy.
Dinner is served an hour late, but when Ani returns he’s a world better. His muscles have let go, his hair is brushed out, he’s even smiling.