To Kilroy's surprise, Griffin rang him within ten minutes of returning to his hotel after his trip north. Having juggled assignments to ensure he remained in London, Kilroy was free. At his suggestion they dined in, on spaghetti and everything he could find to throw in the sauce. While Griffin proved dexterous enough at chopping vegetables, that was obviously the sum of his domestic expertise, even peeling them first an unfamiliar concept.
"Thinking about it, the last thing I should feed you is shop-bought pasta," Kilroy remarked, as he poured them both another glass of the full-bodied wine.
"Why?" mumbled Griffin, his mouth full. "This is fine." He twirled his fork expertly.
"You're half-Italian. Coals to Newcastle."
"Given that I've visited Italy exactly three times, no. Though there are plenty of egg or rice based pastas in Chinese cooking. Do you often cook for yourself?"
"It's that or eat out. Mainly ready-prepared stuff though. Or steaks. Pasta. Nothing complicated."
Having contrived to grate a quantity of his thumb along with the lump of cheese he had been handed, Griffin gave him a look of respect, but forbore to comment.
"How was your business trip?" asked Kilroy, wondering if there was any sinister reason why Griffin never shared the details of his activities while they were apart.
"Oh, that. A complete waste of time. God, I've eaten too much," sighed Griffin, as he sat back in his chair.
"It's the first time I've seen you display a hearty appetite."
Griffin's eyebrows rose. "I seem to remember a couple of occasions."
"I was talking about food," said Kilroy, acknowledging Griffin's sultry appraisal with a grin. "We'll finish this bottle before we explore your other appetites. After we've tossed to see who does the washing-up," he added, having decided he had waited on Griffin for long enough.
"Washing-up?" Griffin looked disillusioned.
"That right. Heads or tails?"
"Er, tails," said Griffin, trying to remember how many years it had been. A half-term holiday in Devon came to mind, his eleven-year-old self worrying that he would reveal his lack of experience, which inevitably he had.
"It's heads. Tough luck. The sink's behind you."
"Are you just going to sit there and watch?" asked Griffin indignantly, suspecting that criticism of his technique would swiftly follow.
"That's right. The washing-up liquid's in the cupboard under the sink. The view's great from here," Kilroy added, as Griffin bent to investigate.
"But I'll have my back to - I must be slowing down."
"It's probably all the food you ate," said Kilroy unkindly, careful not to comment when bubbles frothed after Griffin's over-generous application of washing-up liquid.
Contenting himself with giving Kilroy a dark look, Griffin inexpertly started to clear away. Talking about the repairs to Kilroy's car and the sports club Griffin had joined, they spent the rest of the evening playing backgammon.
"You like to win, don't you," remarked Kilroy, when Griffin emerged from the bathroom.
"There's no point in coming second." Griffin blinked, then gave a wry grin of some charm. "I sound just like my father."
"Is it a philosophy you share?" asked Kilroy curiously.
Griffin thought about it as he drained the glass of wine he had brought into the bedroom earlier. "That tastes disgusting. I should have known better after cleaning my teeth."
Kilroy gave him a shrewd look. "You avoided the question very neatly."
"Obviously not neatly enough. Yes, I suppose I do. I'd rather lead than follow and I'm certainly competitive. I like to win."
"By fair means or foul?" Kilroy made a joke of it.
"Whatever it takes," responded Griffin instantly, before he shook his head. "No. Though it depends on your definition of what's 'fair'. There's no point in cheating yourself, it defeats the object. I usually win."
"You're an arrogant bastard, aren't you," smiled Kilroy, tugging him down onto the bed.
"Sometimes. But there are times when I've found it a positive pleasure to come second."
"Planning to test the theory, are you?"
"That's right. On you," added Griffin, leaning across to kiss him.
Kilroy ducked and the mock battle commenced. It culminated in the ruin of the bed, Kilroy face down in the pillows, the hard probe of Griffin's erection pressing against the cleft of his buttocks.
"Trust me," Griffin murmured, reaching for a condom.
Knowing he wasn't ready for this, Kilroy's rump was taut with tension. "To do what?" he muttered almost inaudibly, his jaw clenched against the urge to free himself by whatever amount of force it took.
Strong thumbs began to massage the nape of his neck. "I never come where I'm not invited. Relax." His weight taken on his knees as he balanced over the prone man, Griffin nuzzled Kilroy's ear before his hands began to knead tight shoulder muscles.
Kilroy's head turned as he caught an unfamiliar fragrance and felt the slickness of oil on his skin. "That smells expensive."
"More to the point, do you like it?"
"You know bloody well I do. Yeah, a bit lower," Kilroy encouraged, almost purring as Griffin's hands continued to work their magic.
By the time Griffin settled over him again, Kilroy understood what Griffin intended. All he had to do was enjoy the takeover as Griffin began fucking his cleft while manipulating first his testicles, then his cock. It had been a long time since Kilroy had been made so aware of another's strength, and his own vulnerability. The illusion of helplessness was delicious, the necessity of choice taken from him.
"How did you know what I needed?" Kilroy asked lethargically, making no attempt to move.
"Instinct," murmured Griffin, nuzzling his ear lobe. "And experience. Sometimes it's a pleasure to control, at others I prefer to be controlled. I presumed you'd voice any objections. I've always thought men have the best of both worlds."
"But you're bisexual," said Kilroy unguardedly.
"As it happens, I am. But how did you know?" asked Griffin, releasing him.
Half-turning, Kilroy flicked the tip of Griffin's nose with his finger and grinned to cover the fact he had come close to betraying himself. "By the expression in your eyes when something gorgeous and female goes by. The mental note that says 'later'."
Griffin's expression hardened. "I don't juggle bedmates."
"I'm not accusing you of that. We've both eyed attractive blokes when we've been out, consciously or not. Where's the harm - so long as it goes no further." Kilroy began to put the bed to rights.
Obviously unaware of what he was doing, Griffin slid under the covers, punching a pillow into shape before leaning back and lighting a cigarette. "Was that a warning?"
"You're in a prickly mood. No. When we first met you said you didn't fuck around. Until the contrary is proved, I believe you."
Griffin gave him a sceptical look. "Really?"
Kilroy gave an upraised knee a gentle shove. "Yes, really. Stop looking at me like that, you'll give me a complex."
Griffin gave an eloquent snort but relaxed as he watched Kilroy get into bed.
"If you're staying the night, could you bear it if I open the window?" asked Kilroy, who shut them as a matter of course when Griffin was with him. Evenings he regarded as pleasantly warm left Griffin with chattering teeth and it would have taken a harder heart than he possessed to ignore the fact.
"Of course," said Griffin. Stubbing out his cigarette, he got out of bed to open the window. Hesitating at the side of the bed, he shivered as a thin breeze eddied through the room.
"Get back under the covers and stop looking pathetic," commanded Kilroy, raising the duvet. "I'll have to buy you some longjohns."
"What are they?" asked Griffin with suspicion, plastering himself against Kilroy's back.
Kilroy flinched as icy hands burrowed between his thighs for warmth. "Why not use your own balls for a hot-water bottle?" he asked plaintively.
"It's more fun to tickle yours. What are longjohns?"
"Ankle-length woollen underpants."
There was an appalled silence. "I'd rather freeze," said Griffin with conviction.
Waking, it was a moment before Griffin placed his surroundings, or who it was pressed against him. Peering at the muscular forearm resting on his stomach, the curled fingers lax in sleep, he gave a faint sigh, then a resigned smile. Sunlight seeped through the slats of the blinds and he glanced casually at his watch, then checked the time again. Seven hours undisturbed sleep was an unheard of luxury. Gently sliding out of bed, reluctant to disturb Kilroy, he wandered into the bathroom. Returning for his cigarettes some time later, he saw Kilroy stir, still dazed from sleep.
"James?" Kilroy's short hair was sticking up in unruly tufts, his chin blue-shadowed.
Griffin subdued the impulse to kiss him. "Sorry if I woke you. May I use your phone? My plane's gone without me and I should notify the company I was supposed to be visiting in Newcastle."
"We both did. Given that we didn't leave Ronnie Scott's until god knows when, it's hardly surprising."
"There are phones in the study or sitting-room." Kilroy gestured vaguely and subsided again.
Grinning with all the superiority of one who had a five minute head start on consciousness, Griffin left him to meet the new day in whatever manner suited him best. His phone call made, his craving for caffeine was such that he braved the small, neat kitchen. Unaccustomed to domesticity even on a minor scale, the room looked like a disaster area by the time he returned, mugs in hand.
"You're a mind-reader." Drinking with gratitude the coffee made for him, Kilroy began to look more awake. "Will missing that meeting cause you any problems?"
"None," said Griffin with cheerful unconcern.
"Then we could spend the day together. Did you see any signs of food in the kitchen?"
"Not even milk, which is why your coffee's black." Making himself comfortable on the window-seat, his knees propped under his chin, Griffin lit a cigarette. Slit-eyed as he raised his face to the warmth of the September sun, he watched contentedly as Kilroy wandered over to join him.
"It's lucky we can't be overlooked," remarked Kilroy, perching on a corner of the window-seat.
"At least I'm dressed."
"That's easily remedied," said Kilroy, unfastening the ties at Griffin's waist. "How would you feel about a late lunch?"
Opening a side window to flick his cigarette out, Griffin quickly closed it and gave the proposition a couple of seconds' thought. "If I'm allowed to finish my coffee first I could probably be talked into it," he allowed.
The ringing telephone woke them in time to realise that the majority of restaurants would have finished serving lunch. Tripping over the sheet, Kilroy hurried from the room while Griffin disappeared to take a much-needed shower.
"Is there a problem at the agency?" he asked on his return, finding Kilroy staring pensively out of the window.
"There could be. I'm waiting for a call from Bruges." Kilroy rubbed his stubble-darkened jaw. "Would you mind if I took it in the other room? Given the nature of our work we have to ensure client confidentiality. It isn't a reflection on you. I'm sorry."
"For what?" said Griffin easily. The relief on Kilroy's face made him wonder about Kit's previous lovers. "Don't forget, hoteliers are accustomed to keeping secrets."
"Musical beds?" asked Kilroy, his expression lightening.
"More unsavoury habits than that. Thankfully they were the managers' problem, not mine. I don't have the patience to handle them," said Griffin, fully dressed by this time. Despite the fact his clothes had lain strewn over the floor all night, he displayed none of the crumpled morning-after-the-night-before look which was always Kilroy's fate.
"You need privacy and I could do with a shave and change of clothes. I should make some calls myself. I'll be gone in a couple of minutes."
"That's what worries me."
Slicking back his wet hair and looking as elegant as if he had spent an hour readying himself, Griffin gave him a look of surprise.
"That you won't be back," explained Kilroy. "Take this."
Reacting on instinct, Griffin caught the solid Chubb key tossed at him. Turning it between his fingers, he gazed at Kilroy.
"I'd like you to have it," said Kilroy into the silence.
It disconcerted Griffin to realise how much he wanted to keep the key of a stranger. "You don't know the first thing about me," he protested, uneasy that Kilroy was fast becoming an accepted part of his life.
"You'd be surprised. You're hardly likely to walk off with the silver, are you," added Kilroy flippantly. "You're welcome to stay here rather than at your hotel. Either this business will be settled in an hour or so, or I'll be flying out to Belgium. Whatever happens, I'd like to see you again. The only thing is, I can never predict how long a case will take. Also, I can be called away at a moment's notice. Not an ideal arrangement, I know. Would you be able to put up with it?"
"Of course. But you're going too fast. I'm not sure - "
"You don't want to see me again."
"I didn't say that. Damn it, where's the rush? We hardly know each other."
Half-turning, Kilroy eyed him steadily, then raised one eyebrow. "I wouldn't say that. Would you?"
"Sex isn't knowledge."
"I didn't suggest it was," said Kilroy, waiting Griffin out with ease.
"Oh, fuck it," muttered Griffin, stuffing the key in his pocket. "Satisfied? But I'm staying at Brown's."
Kilroy's mouth began to twitch. "That sounded like a declaration of war."
Feeling cornered, Griffin gave him an irritable look. "You're impossible."
"No, I just don't want us to be ships who pass in the night. I might not know you very well, but what I know, I like."
"Yeah." Griffin ran a hand through his hair, rubbed his nose and gave Kilroy an oddly helpless look. "Me, too," he muttered, feeling gauche and off-balance. "I thought the British were supposed to be reserved."
"Don't you mean tight-arsed?"
"That remains to be seen. We never did get round to finding out." Griffin eyed Kilroy with unmistakable speculation.
Griffin pursed his lips. "After dinner might be a more appropriate time."
Kilroy grinned. "Believe it. I'll - " The ringing phone interrupted him.
"I hope it's good news. I'll let myself out. I have a key," Griffin reminded him.
"So you do."
"Smug bastard," said Griffin amicably, before he ran down the steep stairs, closing the front door behind him.