by Aislinn Kerry
Amber Quill Press
As Hollywood’s biggest holovid star, Adrien Grant has all the money and fame a man could want. The price he pays is keeping his sexuality firmly in the closet. When damning photos get leaked to the press, he decides a nice long vacation in the Spanish countryside is just what he needs. But Spain holds a surprise that he never could have foreseen.
Cristian Rodriguez wants nothing more than to run his bed-and-breakfast in peace with his partner, Felix. But every glance in the mirror reminds him of the one thing he’d rather forget—that he’s Adrien Grant’s clone, a pale imitation of Hollywood’s biggest celebrity. Still, they live a peaceful life until the day Adrien himself shows up on their doorstep, insisting he has a reservation.
Adrien’s a spoiled celebrity with the paparazzi hot on his heels. Cristian’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of Europe and a lifetime of resentment burning inside him. Felix just wants to salvage what remains of his and Cristian’s crumbling relationship. But what if each of them is just what the others need?
Tension ran down Felix’s spine as the position brought Adrien’s cheek in close against his. Adrien turned his head a little. The touch of his breath made Felix’s lashes flicker. “Like this?”
Felix cleared his throat. “Yeah. Like that. So, see, it’s ready for the first rise—”
Adrien lowered his arms, but he didn’t release them, keeping Felix caught in the loop. “What is that? Soap?”
Felix broke off, silent for the space of a heartbeat. “What?”
Adrien turned his face in against the side of Felix’s throat, inhaled. “You smell good. Like…”
“Yeast?” Felix asked dryly.
Felix turned about to face him. “What are you doing?”
Adrien looked back at him. “I’m not doing anything.” Adrien dropped his voice to a low pitch, turning it soft and intimate. He held Felix’s gaze, long enough that his unspoken interest hung in the air between them. By now, there wasn’t any way that Felix could not know.
Felix’s brows snapped down. “Well, quit it. I’ve got work to do.” He ducked under Adrien’s arm and slid away.
Felix returned to his own task while Adrien returned the dough to the bowl, covered it, and found a warm spot on top of the fridge for it to rise. But as he did, he was aware of the weight of Felix’s attention on him with every move that he made. Felix watched him from the corner of his gaze, skittish and wary, like Adrien might do something dangerous at any moment.
It sent a thrill through Adrien. He couldn’t help but think what it might be like if Felix were the sort of guy he could seduce into bed. If he would let Adrien tie him down, and have his way with him…
Felix seemed to be trying very hard not to look at Adrien, but even so, he stilled whenever Adrien moved, watching him to see what he was doing, or jumped when Adrien accidentally rapped a spoon against the side of a metal bowl and it rang like a bell. When Adrien found another excuse to cross the kitchen into Felix’s personal space, Felix fumbled with the measuring cup he’d been using and spilled sugar across the counter.
Felix sucked in his breath like he was going to explode at Adrien for aggravating him all day. But all he did was let it out again. “Excuse me. I need to get the sponge.”
He turned toward the sink. Adrien stayed where he was, leaning against the counter.
Felix stopped in front of him. He lifted his gaze to Adrien’s. His expression was impatient and expectant, waiting for Adrien to step aside like anyone else would. Adrien just met his gaze and held it. When Felix didn’t step around him, he moved forward, closing what little distance there was left between them.
Felix took a sharp breath. His chest nearly brushed Adrien’s. Adrien waited to see what he’d do, if he’d walk away or say something, but Felix didn’t move at all, and he didn’t speak a word.
Slowly, Adrien leaned in, wondering if Felix would let him kiss him after all. But the moment he moved, Felix braced his hands on Adrien’s shoulders and held him back. “Don’t,” he said, his voice ragged.
Adrien searched his gaze. “Why not?”
“You know why.”
Felix held Adrien’s eye, his jaw set, every line in his body speaking of his determination. Adrien sighed to see it, and scrubbed a hand through his hair. “He doesn’t deserve you, you know.”
Felix’s expression turned frigid. He moved back. “I suppose you’re going to try to tell me that I’d be better off with you.”
“No.” Adrien shook his head. “I’m my own special brand of fucked up, and I’m no better cut out for a relationship than he is. I just meant…” He trailed off, sighed again. What he’d meant was that Felix was loving and loyal and he’d proved Adrien right. He might have been interested in and affected by Adrien’s advances, but he hadn’t hesitated at all in turning him down flat. And how did Cristian reward him? With skepticism and doubt that Felix hadn’t done anything to deserve.
But Adrien couldn’t say any of that. Felix might have deserved better than Cristian gave him, but Adrien wasn’t about to sabotage their relationship by admitting the truth, that Cristian had practically thrown him at Felix and wished him good luck. Felix didn’t deserve to be hurt, either, and Adrien didn’t want to be the one to do it…