Sam is a naive and innocent young man of eighteen who has escaped his abusive father's clutches. He comes to Hollywood, planning to only stay briefly until he can afford to move on. But a beautiful older man catches his eye at the bathhouse where he works as a towel boy, and he can't bear to leave him - even if they've never spoken more than a few words to one another. When Aaron comes to his rescue, Sam discovers things about himself and about love he never knew existed. If only he could be sure that he was completely safe from his father...
Aaron had gestured to the settee that was on the other side of the room from where the large bed was. Everything had an airy elegance to it. Sam did as Aaron had instructed and waited until he’d pulled the small matching wingchair over and placed it in front of him. Sitting down, he crossed his legs languidly in the same manner as he’d done in the bathhouse private room—except for the fact that he currently wore clothes.
“Sam, I need you to tell me what’s troubling you.”
“I told you—”
“And you’re most welcome. But I already said we could work something out once you have employment. Don’t you believe me?”
Shaking his head vigorously, Sam blurted out, “Of course I believe you! You kept your word at the bathhouse, you’re being so nice to me. I’d do anything you asked.”
He noticed a slight grimace on Aaron’s face.
“Yes. I believe you would.” Aaron seemed to regard him intently. “You have to be very cautious not to give everything of yourself away to someone just because they’ve been nice to you. Someone could take advantage. You must be careful, little Sam.”
“But what about what you said earlier? About giving control?”
Sam watched uneasily as Aaron seemed to hold his breath as he stared at Sam. It was impossible to tell what was really going on behind his implacable expression.
“That’s a decision to be made with prudent and thoughtful consideration. It’s not to be done lightly.” Aaron had said it in a severe tone, very unlike his typically smooth one. “Now tell me what’s actually bothering you. Be honest with me.”
There was an uncomfortable knot in his stomach. He was terrified to tell Aaron the truth, but he didn’t want to lie. He wanted to please Aaron, not have anything come between them. Even if it didn’t seem as if there either was or would be a ‘them’.
Sam worked his mouth open and closed a couple times as if he were warming up to the idea of speaking. “I…I’m not used to being alone. I don’t like it.”
Aaron’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh?”
Despite feeling more than a little silly, Aaron had insisted, so Sam continued.
“I shared a room with my two little brothers right up until I left home. I also have two sisters. The house was always full. When I came here, I was in the car with Louis.”
There was an almost feral glint in Aaron’s eyes and he practically growled out his words. “He never touched you, did he?”
“No!” Sam face heated. “He…he asked me to come live with him though.”
Aaron made a sound akin to a grunt. “I bet he did.” He took a deep breath and seemed to regain his composure. “And why didn’t you go with him? You had nowhere else. He could’ve taken care of you.”
“I didn’t like him like that.”
“I see.” Aaron appeared to relax, his tone calm again. “But when you arrived here, you were still alone, right?”
Sam wriggled around in his seat. Someone as strong and mature as Aaron wouldn’t understand about needing another person, about loneliness.
“It wasn’t what I would’ve preferred, but at least there were the other boys in the room. I wasn’t completely alone.”
Aaron fixed him with a compassionate stare. “Are you scared to be here alone?”
He had to drop his head. It was all so unbelievably embarrassing.
“Sam. Look at me now.”
The command in Aaron’s voice had been unmistakable and Sam didn’t hesitate to meet his eyes. The very sound of it had him all soft and melty on the inside.
“Don’t be ashamed to admit that you need the comfort of another person.” Aaron’s tone had softened. “Everyone does.”
Sam gasped. “Even you?”
There was the barest hint of a smile on Aaron’s lips, but it seemed to be tinged with a melancholy. “Even me, little Sam.”
His head was alive with all kinds of thoughts and questions. He needed to know more about Aaron, everything he possibly could. Swallowing hard to try and relieve the dryness in his throat, he then took a deep breath to give him the courage to ask his next question.
“So…do you have anyone?” He was sure his cheeks were a bright red, but he wouldn’t back down. He had to know. “I mean, so that you’re not lonely?”
If only Aaron would show more of his feelings.
Sam had caught a few moments that day where there’d been some emotion from Aaron, but for the most part, he’d maintained a slightly amused, even expression. However, there was something about what Sam had said that seemed to have affected Aaron strongly. There was a genuine sadness in his eyes. Even his shoulders had slumped almost imperceptibly.
“No.” He cleared his throat. “I have no one.”
Sam considered this, frowning. “But you’re so handsome and nice. I don’t understand.”
Aaron sighed. “It’s perhaps preferable that you don’t. I have specific needs that I require from a companion that are unusual, at best. There haven’t been any who’ve desired to stay with me under my conditions.”
“I’d stay with you.”
The startled look on Aaron’s face alerted Sam to the fact of what he’d just blurted out loud. As much as his cheeks continued to furiously heat up, he couldn’t take it back. And anyway, it was the truth. Wasn’t that what Aaron had asked for?
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