“Damn, kid, don’t you ever go to school?”
Ethan blinked up from his phone screen as his stepfather came into the kitchen, his eyes lingering for a moment on the man’s tattooed arms. “Summer vaca,” Ethan mumbled, ducking his head back down and hiding behind his box of cereal as the man made his way to the stove top and began cooking up a late breakfast. “Don’t you have work?” He asked, not really expecting an answer. Jeff didn’t talk much. The guy had moved in six months ago after a whirlwind engagement and besides hanging out in the adjoining garage painting all day, Ethan rarely saw the man outside of the occasional times Jeff would try and catch up with him.
He was kind of glad the guy was so busy. Jeff unsettled the fuck out of him.
“I’ve actually been up since dawn. Just grabbing something to eat before I get back to the canvas. Got that gallery showing in a week and I need to get some last minute touchups done before framing.”
Ethan nodded to himself, having a bite of his now soggy cereal while sneaking a peek at the man. Jeff was still in his pajamas, wearing a pair of black flannel night pants and a black wifebeater that was flecked with spots of paint. He wasn’t wearing shoes—the man rarely did while around the house. Both of his arms were covered from shoulder to wrist in tattoo’s, his tanned skin colored in elaborate, geometric patterns in blue, gold, and black ink. It was apparently inspired by one of Jeff’s own paintings. A badass painting if he was to go by the man’s bulging biceps.
Ethan’s new stepfather was a lot of eye candy. With his piercing blue eyes and brown, shoulder-length wavy hair, the guy could have been a model. He had the body for it—tall, lean, and buff—as well as the not giving a fuck attitude. Jeff always looked like he was two days late to shave, a light fuzz prickling at his jaw and neck, and he rarely dressed up beyond jeans and a t-shirt. He was also one of those health nuts, having filled their refrigerator with tons of fresh, organic produce when he moved in, his blender heard before any of the alarm clocks went off.
“You looking for a job?”
Ethan ducked his head back down, shaking it silently when the man glanced over at him from the stove. He tried to lose himself in his video game but couldn’t stop from being distracted by Jeff’s presence across the room. The thing was, Ethan didn’t like guys. He was pretty fucking sure. But it was really hard to look away from Jeff whenever the man was around. There was just something about the guy that drew his eye and kept him looking. Like his colorful biceps. Or the way the man’s thin pants clung to his sculpted ass.
It was unsettling. Confusing. Ethan just couldn’t stop getting hot whenever around his stepfather and it had been going on for months now.
“You need a job, kid. An internship. Something. You going to waste your life hanging around the fucking house all the time?”
Ethan looked up when his cereal box was suddenly taken away, watching as Jeff placed a plate with an omelet in front of him, the man nudging his bowl of cereal aside on the kitchen island to make room. “You also need to start eating some actual food. There is no way there are enough calories in that sugary shit to even get you out of your chair. I don’t know how the hell you get through your soccer games on this shit.”
Jeff was damn near intimidating when up close, the man’s face predatorial and eyes stunning as they met his. He was also bisexual, something Ethan’s mom had mentioned in passing and now he couldn’t stop thinking about. Ethan nearly dropped his phone, quickly grabbing the fork that was pushed his way to hide his tremor.
“Your mother ever teach you how to cook?” Jeff asked, cocking his hip and leaning against the island while he waited for Ethan to try the food. The hem of the man’s shirt was stretched over his hips in a way that revealed a flash of tanned abs and a sparse trail of hair leading beneath his pants. It was very distracting.
Ethan really wished the guy would look somewhere else so he could fucking breathe and stop feeling like an idiot already. He shook his head silently, finally giving in to his stepfather and scooping some food onto his fork. “Shit—I mean, this is really good. Uh, sir. T-Thank you.”
Jeff raised a brow at the stuttering boy, silently mouthing the word ‘sir’ to himself. His gaze slid down to where the blond had just nearly dropped his fork. “Well?”
Ethan jolted, looking up, the utensil now caught between his lips. “Um…?”
“Did Leah ever show you how to cook?” Jeff repeated, a slight smile curling the edges of his lips when Ethan began to flush.
“My mom’s not… She doesn’t cook,” Ethan mumbled, reaching for his phone with his other hand in the hopes of ending this absolutely alarming conversation where his stepfather looked at him and kept asking him about stuff.
“You wanna learn how?” Jeff prompted, watching as the blond boy tried to hide behind the small cell phone screen and eat another bite of food at the same time. “Seeing as you’re going to be around all day, and I do try to make it a point to eat.”
Ethan shrugged, grunting something noncommittal.
Jeff was not deterred, the man’s fingers curling around the boy’s wrist to guide his hand away from his face. When Ethan looked up, only blushing brighter now, he added, “And while I’m showing you how to cook, you can fill out some job applications.”
The man’s words sinking in, Ethan scowled, pulling his hand away to rest it on the table instead. His wrist felt like it was tingling where Jeff had touched it, an annoying distraction as he tried to state his case for not needing any job now that he had gotten his last year of high school out of the way.
“I don’t want a job. I’m starting college in a couple of months and I just want to chill for a bit before all that.”
“What, are you ancient? Decrepit? Eat your omelet.” Jeff turned away, going back to the stove and cracking more eggs into a bowl and whisking them with a fork. “You’re going to want money, right? You’re going to want to hang out with your friends. Gas cost money, kid. Concerts, food, the mall—Believe me, you’re going to want a job.”
“Really, I’m not,” Ethan muttered, glaring at his plate. He had only just started to feel the freedom of being out of school. All he wanted to do was hang out with his friends and maybe his house. “My mom will pay for all that shit.”
Jeff snorted, the trash bin rattling as he threw the eggshells into the wastebasket. “Like fuck, she will. Leah does enough without needing to pay for your lazy ass.”
“I’m not lazy,” Ethan said with a growl.
“Oh, did you pay for that $600 phone your face is always glued to? What about the nearly $100 a month it costs so that you can text your friends your every riveting thought as you have them? The motorcycle you’re driving or the insurance that allows you to do so?” Jeff turned, pointing the spatula at him when Ethan stood, the boy getting ready to escape. “What about rent? All that cardboard food you keep eating? Just where do you think the money for all that comes from? Not your schooling.”
Pursing his lips, Ethan crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not lazy. I’m just a kid.”
Jeff scoffed. “Not anymore, you aren’t. I don’t get why Leah didn’t have you working through summers. It’s time to grow the fuck up and start contributing. I’m not painting every day to keep your ass in designer jeans, kid.”
Glaring, a million scathing retorts swirling in his head, Ethan opened his mouth but nothing came out. Jeff’s eyes were blazing, the man unblinking and deceptively calm as he just stared him down. “No one asked you to buy me anything,” Ethan finally muttered, unable to meet the man’s glare any longer. He liked it, though. A part of him liked that Jeff cared enough to lend him money for things. His mother was never around but Jeff was, even if the guy didn’t talk to him as much as he’d like. Ethan had never had a dad before and Jeff was the closest thing to perfect in a lot of ways when it came to things like that.
“Hm.” His eyes narrowed, Jeff turned back to the stove, flipping his omelet before it started browning. “Don’t go running off until you eat. I don’t think you’ve had more than pizza and Cheetos this entire week.”
Sighing in exasperation, Ethan sat, glaring at the man’s back. Only to have his eyes inadvertently slide down, his gaze caught on Jeff’s ass when the man leaned over to grab the salt and pepper shakers. It was a decidedly interesting ass; firm, symmetrical and muscular. He hadn’t really known that he liked muscular asses but he definitely liked Jeff’s.
“You interested in anything in particular?”
Ethan jumped, his eyes snapping up. But the brunette was only looking at the pan, poking it with his spatula. “What?”
“For work. You have anything in mind you’d like to do?”
Ugh. “Play video games,” Ethan said flippantly.
“Cute. I’m sure people just hand you money for that shit.”
“Coming from the artist,” he muttered, stabbing at his omelet. That it was about the best thing he had tasted in as long as he could remember didn’t help his mood at all. “People pay you to hang out around the house painting pictures.”
“Not exactly.” Plating his food, Jeff turned the stove top off and poured himself a glass of fresh juice before sitting across from Ethan at the kitchen island.
“People buy a product from me. Now some pay for a service if they want to hire me to paint as a demonstration, or to design a mural, tattoo, whatever. But for the most part, I create something and people buy a print or the original. That’s how I can get away with hanging around the house all day; I’m selling even when I’m asleep. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to work it for clients at galleries and meetings that get my art on walls where people can see. Renting out one of my paintings to a business requires me to do more than just paint, but it’s worth the money that comes in. Half my income this month was just on rented paintings. They’re not even new pieces but they can pay the bills if you know what you’re doing.”
Ethan really didn’t want to care just how Jeff made his money. Unfortunately, he was finding it interesting and he sighed again, daring to look up at the man. Jeff’s head was ducked, a long lock of wavy hair brushing over one of his eyes, his mouth open as he took a bite of his breakfast. The man had ridiculously lush lips, full and red. Combined with his sharp features and strong jaw, he really was just the epitome of male beauty. Ethan idly wondered what it would be like to kiss those lips. They probably weren’t as soft as they looked. With Jeff’s bristle, it might even be prickly, a little rough.
Glancing up, Jeff caught Ethan staring at him, the boy immediately looking away. “You pick a major yet?”
Ethan shook his head weakly, hating how flustered he felt. “Mom said she was going to help.”
“Yeah, well waiting for Leah to pull herself from her work is like watching paint dry.” Jeff smiled grimly. “I can help you if you want. I’m surprisingly good at that kind of shit.”
Glancing his way a moment, Ethan shrugged. “Okay. Um, maybe tonight? Once I get back from hanging with my friends. I was thinking of something business oriented.”
He couldn’t help but wonder how quickly it had taken for Jeff to figure out just how unavailable his mother really was. It would probably still take the man a good year to realize she wasn’t going to change. And seeing as he married her, he might even stick it out longer trying to make it work. He was young still; he might think it was worth putting the effort in.
Ethan hoped he would. Not because he wanted to see Jeff break his heart but because he really liked having the man as a stepfather. Jeff was cool. Scary, but cool. Ethan had never had anyone actually care about him and even though Jeff breezed in and out most of the day between painting, the man was always saying and doing stuff that made it clear he gave a fuck. He was a calming presence. Sturdy and reliable. Ethan wasn’t used to having something like that and he’d be really pissed if his mother ruined it for him.
His mother had tried this time, he knew that much. Jeff was very different from what Leah usually dated. He was self-driven and had interests outside of just their relationship—Really important seeing as Ethan’s mother lived for her work and her last three relationships had failed because she couldn’t put enough time or energy into them. She was always at the office and when she was home, her head was at the office, planning new ideas, designing new rooms and buildings.
Leah Walde was an architect, a highly sought after one, and she had started her own firm ten years ago. Jeff had actually been commissioned to create a portrait of one of her more famous buildings and that was how they had met. That Jeff could balance his creativity with business savvy had been a good fit for Leah, even if Jeff didn’t have much interest in doing much beyond supporting himself so that he could continue his painting. It was still a step up from the last guy who had thought he was going to be some sort of jobless house husband.
“Any thoughts on what you want to learn how to cook for tonight?” Jeff asked, having a sip of his juice.
Ethan couldn’t help but stare; a droplet of moisture dripping from his stepfather’s mouth to trickle down his chin. God, what was wrong with him? He blinked, finding Jeff staring at him with a raised brow, the man waiting patiently for an answer. Ethan really didn’t have one. “Um, whatever you feel like eating, I guess.”
Grinning wickedly, Jeff put his glass down, leaning close and crooking his finger. “Careful there. I don’t think you could stomach half the things I eat, kid.”
His breath curling hot around his ear, Ethan’s breath hitched. He glanced Jeff’s way, feeling stupid as fuck when he caught the man still smiling. His eyes were sparkling at him, flashing with some hidden laughter that was making him feel hot inside. For a frozen eternity, he was certain the man was flirting with him and he had no idea how to respond.
Thankfully, Jeff seemed oblivious to his panic, the man reaching over and patting Ethan’s shoulder reassuringly. “Don’t worry, kid, I won’t make you eat anything too healthy and green. Seeing the diet you’re coming from, I wouldn’t want to overwhelm your system with anything of substance.”
“Oh.” Gnawing on his bottom lip, Ethan slowly sank back in his seat, hoping his cheeks would stop burning soon. He had a sip of his soda, his gaze inadvertently drawn to his stepfather again. “Um… So, like, when did you know you were bi?” Ethan asked daringly, his heart feeling trapped in his throat once he got the question out.
Moving in a way that seemed just a little too casual, Jeff placed his fork down. “Young. Younger than you are.” He met Ethan’s curious gaze, his head tilting slightly. “Why? Does my sexuality make you uncomfortable?”
“Jesus, only when you say it like that,” Ethan muttered, covering his face with his hand for a moment. He peeked out, combing his fingers through his short blond locks. “Just… Did you know at the same time? Or was it, like, you liked one and then realized you liked the other later?”
Considering the question a moment, Jeff finally answered after having another drink of his juice. “Both. I had at least half a dozen crushes back then and it was pretty easy for me to see that gender was not a barrier for my attraction.”
“So bi people, they all know, like, at the same time, then? Like, if you’re going to be bi, you’re definitely going to know when you start getting crushes. It doesn’t, like, change?” Ethan asked nervously, his fingers twisting at his placemat.
“I’m not sure that would be the way I’d word it,” Jeff said carefully, studying his stepson’s face while Ethan bit his lip and looked at the table. “I think attraction is based on more than just a body, and sometimes when all the right elements come together, you might just find yourself looking at someone you weren’t expecting to be looking at.”
His brows furrowing at the answer, Ethan forced himself to look the man in the eye. “I’m not talking about love or shit. I’m not saying people can’t, like, fall in love and overcome gender or what have you. I just want to know if, you know, you can suddenly be attracted to…” He trailed off, waving his hand nervously.
“Are you worried you’re going to wake up wanting to suck cock?” Jeff asked blandly.
“Now you’re just being an asshole.” Scowling and beyond embarrassed, Ethan stood, more than ready to get away from this man that flustered the fuck out of him on so many different levels. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with gay people. That’s not what I was—”
“Sit your ass down, brat,” Jeff ordered quietly. “Did I say there was anything actually wrong with sucking cock?”
Ethan paused and glared at the man, his brain unfortunately now stuck on the question of if his stepfather had ever sucked cock and what that might look like. A beat later and he sat back down, his leg bouncing nervously. “I just want to know if you can, well… Like a…” He couldn’t say it and was only feeling more upset by the fact because it was Jeff he was trying to explain it to.
“Can you suddenly like someone of the same gender and still like the opposite sex as well?” Jeff supplied when Ethan seemed unable to continue on.
Pursing his lips, Ethan nodded sharply. “But more, can you just, like, suddenly like someone of the same gender. When you never did before. Not ever.”
“Not ever?” Jeff repeated, his eyebrows rising in disbelief.
“Not ever,” Ethan repeated sternly, daring him to call him a liar.
“Well, I’ve only ever had my own experiences to compare to, but if this has happened to someone, I’m pretty sure it’s not the end of the world.” He flashed the boy a comforting smile, placing his elbow on the table so he could lean his chin on his hand. “It’s not like this person would have to act on anything just because he felt something new. People get crushes all the time and don’t act on them.”
Ethan nodded, fairly certain Jeff had no idea just who he was crushing on by the casual air the man was giving off. “But it’s, like, normal?”
“As normal as the huge range of human sexuality can get.”
“But is it bi?” Ethan added, his expression again growing tense.
“It’s whatever that person wants it to be. A fluke. A one-time attraction… Or maybe it’s bi, and they’re just finding out.” Jeff’s smile had only grown, his eyes sparkling, and Ethan was feeling decidedly uncomfortable with just how nice the man looked with his perfectly white teeth.
“Stop smiling at me like that. I never said it was me,” he grumbled, grabbing his plate and jumping up to rinse it in the sink.
“Did I say I thought it was you?” Jeff asked, his smile now beaming. “Shit, are you going to start calling me dad now?”
“Fuck off,” Ethan snapped, grinning despite himself. “You’re lucky I call you sir.”
“Yeah, could you not do that? It’s weird—Children of the Corn weird. That would be a movie you’ve never heard of, by the way.” Jeff stood as well, stepping up behind Ethan at the sink with his empty plate in hand. “Just call me Jeff. ‘Hey you,’ if you’re feeling lazy.”
Ethan was having trouble focusing, Jeff standing far too close for him to notice anything else. God, it might be ‘normal’ but it was still really annoying to feel so fucking hot over someone. “Here, just…” He turned, taking the plate and fork from the man, nearly dropping both when their fingers brushed accidentally. Spinning back, he quickly washed them and put them in the dryer rack, his heart racing too fast in his chest. God, he hated this. Fucking hated it.
Jeff had stepped around the island and was drinking the last of his juice when Ethan finally got up the nerve to turn around. The faucet off, he crossed the kitchen to grab his phone.
“I start cooking around 6:30,” Jeff said, Ethan pausing mid-stride.
“Right. Um, I’m going to meet my friends tonight. Like, eightish.”
“Alright. It’s a plan.”
Nodding, Ethan edged to the door, slipping through with a quick backward glance. Jeff was staring back at him and for a frozen moment their eyes met, Ethan’s heart racing in response.
God, he really needed to get over this thing.
Son of a bitch. Bi? Was the kid bi now? Why did Ethan have to tell him he thought he might be bi? What was he trying to do to him?
Groaning inwardly, Jeff pressed both his hands on the kitchen island, leaning heavily over the countertop as he willed his erection down. One fumbling touch from the kid’s hand on his and he had gotten hard. Not good. Really not good.
Talking to Ethan had been a terrible, terrible idea. Sure, he had known he was being too antisocial and that he was worried the kid would start thinking he hated him. Leah hadn’t been around in forever, and he was pretty sure the kid had no adult supervision in his life but fuck… Fuck.
The things he would do to Ethan Walde if he hadn’t married the boy’s mother.
He was too young for him, didn’t know shit about life—And only ten minutes ago, decidedly straight. Many very good reasons Jeff had focused on whenever he found himself in the same room as the young man. But Ethan was also fucking delicious. He had soft, golden hair and wide, clear, green eyes, flawless skin and his average height was already filled out with muscle from his competitive soccer playing. That summer vacation had started and Ethan seemed content to haunt the kitchen and living room most hours of the day, half the time without a shirt on, had become a special type of hell for Jeff.
Cooking lessons? The kid needed to learn how to cook—to eat—but shit, why the fuck had he suggested cooking lessons? Knives and fire and the two of them in the somewhat cramped kitchen? Alone.
Dumb. Really fucking dumb.
He needed to get laid. That was all. He had gone into this thing with Leah with a predefined understanding that he needed sex more than she did and that she was more than happy to let him go out and get it as long as he was safe about it and he was home for the weekends to do family stuff. Of course, it had turned out that he had no problem being home on the weekends while Leah couldn’t seem to find her own house. Jeff hadn’t gotten around to checking out his options in the area. He had moved to a new town for Leah and although he was enjoying his large art studio, he hadn’t done much outside of the house besides grocery shop and jog in the morning. Something that was going to have to change if his sexy-ass stepson was hanging around all summer. And now bi.
The kid needed a job. Like yesterday.
Jeff could only hope that whatever reason Ethan had been looking at him strangely the last few weeks had to do with that conversation and would finally stop. The staring had been the icing on the shit cake of this insane situation. Ethan was probably just curious about the bi thing. More than a few guys were curious about the bi thing. It used to be the quickest way for Jeff to get a straight guy into bed—Just tell him he was bi and let him ask a million questions until he explained how much easier it was just to show than tell.
Not something he could do with Ethan. Not something he should even be fucking thinking about doing with the kid. Stepson. Young, naive, and very much off-limits for anything.
Hot, though. Really fucking hot. He had great nipples, the perfect size, pink spots just begging to be kissed, licked and then nipped sore. And his neck—he wanted to coat the boy’s long throat with his cum until it dripped down his toned torso like a pearly, dirty river. And if Ethan wanted to call him daddy while he was doing it, well, that would be more than fine with him.
“Jesus, get it the fuck together,” Jeff grunted to himself, his body lighting up with heat and his cock again hardening until it was pressed up against the side of the island.
It was time to start checking out his fucking options in the area. There was a bar within walking distance; some pool joint where he’d seen a mix of ages and sexes go in. He just needed to fuck something—preferably a hot twink that could pass for half his age so he could get this out of his system. Until then, he was going to have to settle for his hand and get the fuck back to work. He had a set of three paintings that Leah had commissioned from him for one of her older clients. It was guaranteed money and a potentially lasting connection if he got it all done in time and kissed ass well enough. That on top of his gallery opening in a week had him completely swamped. He couldn’t be wasting his time fantasizing about fucking his sexy-ass stepson.