Exclusive Excerpt from People Like Us
by Ruby Moone
Joseph arrived clutching two tankards of ale. He put them down and settled himself opposite.
“Your good health,” he said, raising his ale, before taking a long drink then wiping the residue from his whiskers which the back of his hand.
Arthur took a smaller, more delicate sip, tilted his head, and regarded Joseph. “You know, you should let me shave you.”
Joseph’s eyes widened with alarm. “Why?” He ran what looked like a protective hand over his face.
“I’ll wager you’ve forgotten to trim your beard for a while.”
Joseph shifted uncomfortably.
Arthur gave him a playful pout. “I suspect there’s a jolly handsome man under all that fur.”
Joseph’s gaze dropped to Arthur’s mouth. Arthur’s mouth promptly went dry. Blinking rapidly, he took a long drink of the ale.
“How old are you anyway? It’s hard to tell with all that hair.”
“Five and twenty. Why, how old are you?” Joseph was still watching his mouth. Intently.
Arthur sighed in a theatrically wistful manner and waved a careless hand. “I can almost give you twenty years. You’re a babe in arms.”
He expected a witty retort, but instead Joseph’s arm stilled in midair, holding his tankard.
“I’m no babe.”
Arthur held his gaze for a moment, then swallowed and looked away. “No. No, you’re not.”
Joseph took a long drink of his ale, still looking directly at him. “You can shave me if you like.”
Arthur swallowed. Wondering just what Joseph was agreeing to. “Thank you.”
They drank in silence for a while. It wasn’t a comfortable silence, unlike previously. From nowhere, Arthur’s body was humming in a way it hadn’t done in years. He was aware of each movement Joseph made. Aware of his hands, large and work roughened around his tankard, the way his eyebrows plunged in a frown that looked entirely forbidding, but Arthur now knew that he was simply thinking. The swipe of his tongue over his lips to collect the foam from the ale that left them soft and glistening. Arthur drew in a long, slow breath and realised he might be in trouble. He was hard in his breeches, but the biggest worry was the ache in his chest. The pleasurable ache in his chest, he noted, that came when he watched Joseph Wilkinson do anything at all. The realisation that he could happily spend a long time just … watching him. It was an attraction that caught him completely unawares. He’d acknowledged at some level that Joseph was an extremely attractive young man, but this… He sighed. He needed to get things back on an even keel.
He glanced up at Joseph. Those penetrating blue eyes were wary, but curious.
Arthur smiled, raised his tankard, looked away, and took a long drink. It was the best he could do.