Simon's open relationship with Jeremy takes an unexpected turn when Max, Jeremy's American lover, shows up on his doorstep. The attraction is instant, but when Jeremy returns, can it become something more?
CONTENT ADVISORY: This title is a re-release. It originally appeared in the Silver Presents: Three's a Party anthology.
Simon Mason bolted upright in bed at the sound of Rebel--his golden retriever--barking loud enough to wake the dead. The room was in darkness and when he squinted at the red digits of the bedside clock, it showed just after three in the morning.
"Quiet, Rebel," he yelled, belatedly wondering if he should just let him bark and hope it scared off the potential burglar. They weren't to know the daft mutt was more likely to lick them to death than see them from the property.
Rebel continued to bark and Simon reluctantly dragged himself out of bed to see what had disturbed him.
He grabbed a cricket bat from the hall closet as he crept through the cottage. Why did things like this always happen when Jeremy was away? Couldn't they have waited until next week to burgle him?
"I'm armed," Simon called out, feeling a little stupid as he stumbled round in the dark, tripping over random shoes and squeaky dog toys. He flicked on the lights, half expecting to see some masked man ready to jump him--and not in a good way. The hallway was thankfully empty save for Rebel, who cowered behind him.
The knock at the door set Rebel off barking again and Simon breathed a sigh of relief that he had an unexpected visitor and not a burglar on the property. Or maybe it was a burglar pretending to be a visitor? He checked the chain on the door and kept a firm grip on the bat.
"Who is it?" he called.
"Is that Simon?" an American-accented voice called back.
"Who's asking?" Simon replied as he opened the door just wide enough to peer through the gap.
The man on the other side of the door looked tired, as he gave him a sheepish smile. "I'm Max Tyler. Is Jeremy still in bed? Lazy bastard always could sleep through anything."
The cricket bat fell to the floor, narrowly missing Rebel, who shot into the kitchen with a howl of protest.
Simon gripped the door as he tried to stop his legs falling out from under him. Of course he knew who Max was, even though they had never actually met, spoken, or exchanged so much as a text message. What the hell was his boyfriend's other lover doing on their doorstep in the middle of the night?
"Can I come in?" Max asked.
Simon nodded and closed the door to take it off the chain. When he opened it again, he noticed two suitcases and a large duffle bag next to Max. Was he intending to stay here?
Max dragged his cases up the steps and into the house. He stood patiently in the hallway as Simon locked the door behind him.
"Well, this is awkward," Simon muttered as he looked at his unexpected guest. With dark hair and eyes and a tan that looked in no way fake, Max was everything Simon had dreaded him being. He was bloody gorgeous and the man Jeremy hadn't been able to resist.
"Can I talk to Jeremy?" Max asked. He shuffled his feet and looked down the hallway.
"He's not here," Simon replied with a yawn. "He's in New York."
He didn't mean his words to sound like a question, but they did. After all, Jeremy was supposed to be in New York with Max. It rather begged the question as to why Max was here in Wiltshire asking to speak to their mutual lover.
Max looked as confused as Simon felt. "He came back to England last week. I saw him off at the airport myself. Isn't he here?"
Simon shook his head and ran for the phone. What had happened? Where was Jeremy? Surely he'd have heard if there had been a car crash or something. He dialled Jeremy's mobile and swore when it went to the voicemail.
"Jeremy, where the hell are you? Phone me back as soon as you get this."
Simon turned back to Max. He wanted to ask what he was doing here, but the words stuck in his throat. Max's life wasn't really anything to do with him. The only connection between them was Jeremy.
"Where are you staying?" he asked.
Max gave him another sheepish smile. "Er..." Simon sighed and pointed to the door behind Max.
"The guestroom's through there."