Exclusive Excerpt from Hard Lessons
by Samuel King
It took Jake a while to find the dining room that evening. It was in the old part of the house on the ground floor and was surprisingly cozy, compared to some of the other rooms he had wandered through. A long, robust wooden table, which looked like it had been carved straight from one of the oak trees lining the driveway, took up much of the space, and an equally sturdy looking sideboard was laid with numerous serving bowls and dishes. The room was filled with a delicious meaty smell.
“Hello there!” greeted Nathan, who was sitting at the head of the table. “Come and sit down. Would you like a glass of wine?”
“It is Friday night, after all,” chirped Alice, who was sitting just to Nathan’s right. She seemed to have defrosted since that afternoon and offered Jake a wide grin.
After a moment’s dithering, Jake took the seat directly opposite Alice. When he scanned the table, he saw it was the only empty seat with a place setting and there would be no one else joining them. All this food for three people? he thought.
“Red okay?” asked Nathan, gesturing to the open bottle of wine on the table between them.
“Yes, fine,” said Jake.
“It’s a good one,” said Alice, and her tone suggested Jake should be grateful. Maybe she hadn’t totally thawed after all.
“So, just help yourself to food whenever you’re ready,” said Nathan. “We like to keep it casual here, no standing on ceremony. We just employ a chef, a gardener and a team of cleaners who come in once a week. This isn’t Brideshead Revisited. You don’t have to worry about a valet walking into your room and catching you naked.”
“Nathan!” squealed Alice.
Jake blushed, not missing the reference to their earlier encounter. Nathan slipped Jake a secret wink and took a swig of wine.
“Well, I’m ready to eat,” Nathan said, standing.
As Nathan helped himself to dinner, Jake couldn’t help but admire him. He had changed out of his suit into a nicely fitted pair of jeans and a Polo shirt, which showed off every muscle of his broad back and shoulders. The jeans did a great job of displaying his full, manly arse too, which flexed as Nathan made his way along the sideboard.
“Shall we?” asked Alice, and Jake realized she was watching him intently with her eyebrows slightly raised.
“Oh, yes,” said Jake, standing. “I’m starving. I didn’t eat on the train.”
Jake made a mental note to stop lusting after his new boss. He was here to get away from romance, not find it. But it wasn’t easy when the boss was so bloody hot and giving definite signals that he was into him.
During dinner, which was a delicious lamb shank with creamy mashed potato and asparagus, conversation flowed quite naturally, with Nathan asking Jake questions about his life in London. Alice chipped in every now and then, but seemed more intent on drinking the wine than finding out about Jake. Nathan topped up Jake’s glass several times, and by nine-thirty, Jake was feeling warm and relaxed. As he sank a little lower in his chair, he felt Nathan’s knee rest against his. Nathan was saying something to Alice about a project he was working on, but as he spoke to his sister, he began to raise and lower his knee, deliberately brushing Jake’s leg.
Jake’s heart began to pound. He was tempted just to go with it, return the pressure and enjoy a moment of secret intimacy with this gorgeous man. But it was too much and way too soon. In some ways, it was a bit insulting.
He’d come here to do a job, after all, not be a sexual plaything. With all the willpower he could muster, Jake stood. Nathan looked at him, surprised.
“I’m going to get an early night,” he said. “It’s been a long day. Thanks for the lovely meal.”
“Sleep well,” said Alice.
“It’s early,” said Nathan, his gaze resting on Jake’s face, imploring him to stay. “And you don’t have to work tomorrow. I’m free too. I could drive you into the nearest village if you like. We can get some lunch. Talk about how the lessons are going to work.”
“That sounds great,” said Jake. “But I will head up. See you both tomorrow.”
“Good night, Jake,” said Nathan, his gaze never faltering.
Jake turned and hurried from the room before he had the chance to change his mind and enjoy a long, drunken evening with Nathan. He had a good idea where an evening like that would lead and he wasn’t ready for it. Although, as he headed for his room, he thought of Nathan’s stunning eyes and muscular body, the man’s black hair and deep voice, and he wasn’t sure how long he could resist if his boss persevered in his seduction.
When he woke a few hours later, Jake was sure he could hear screaming. It was a woman’s voice and she seemed to be calling out a name. It must be Alice, crying out in her sleep. It was a tortured, dismal sound, and even when it stopped, Jake could still hear it in his head as he struggled to get back to sleep.