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Understanding Mark (Men of Riverside 3)

Understanding Mark (Men of Riverside 3)
Release Date: 14 March 2011

Rick Dealy and Mark Shrader have the perfect, loving relationship, until a seeming act of betrayal threatens to destroy both their love and their lives...

As a newly appointed lawyer in his uncles' firm, Rick Dealy doesn't have much time to get involved in a new relationship. But when he runs into Mark Shrader, his friend Adrian's younger brother, he realises some pursuits are worth the time. He and Mark fall in love and share their lives, until Mark's new job threatens to destroy everything they've worked so hard to achieve.

Mark Shrader has had a crush on Rick for what feels like forever. And now that he's not so little, he's determined to make Rick his lover. After orchestrating a chance meeting, things finally seem to be going his way. But when one of the men he performs live music for, Tony Mondello, decides he wants to be Mark's lover, Mark must choose between his own safety and the life of his lover.

Will Rick be able to understand what happened, find Mark and bring him back?

Pages: 87
Words: 28,000
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: Posh Gosh
Book Type: EBook

Chapter One

Riverside, Texas
Friday, July 6, 2007

Rick Dealy needed a break. His muscles were stiff from sitting still all morning, his eyes hurt from staring at the computer screen, and his stomach was rumbling because he'd overslept and hadn't had time for breakfast. This whole thing of having a job was nice for the bank account balance, but he didn't enjoy the side effects. He'd never been this uncomfortable when he was still a student, even though he'd worked harder than most of his peers.

He looked up from his cluttered desk in the office Uncle Kaden had assigned him when he'd started working for the law firm of Dealy, Nichols & Warden almost a week ago. The clock indicated it was only lunchtime but he was already exhausted. Working twelve hour days to make a good first impression might be helpful to get a promotion. Unfortunately, it wasn't doing anything for his stress level or general health.

"Go have some lunch, son." Uncle Kaden had quietly appeared in his office door. He never seemed to make any sounds, just appeared in people's offices or in meeting rooms without warning. "I'm impressed with your work ethic, but I don't want you to kill yourself the first week here. My brother would never forgive me."

"I just want to make sure I do a good job." Rick stretched, his muscles screaming and joints popping. If he was this stiff after a few hours, he had to find the time to start going to the gym again.

"You don't need to convince me." Uncle Kaden grinned. "Over the past four years, you were the most dedicated intern we had. I can see that you'll be one of our most diligent college graduates, too."

"I'll do my best." He grinned back.

"I want you to take at least an hour off for lunch." Uncle Kaden lifted his right index finger. "And no tagging it on at the end of the day. It's Friday, so if anything, you should be going home early. And no taking work home for the weekend, either."

Rick nodded. It was good advice. The weekend might be a good time to check out a couple of gyms, maybe find out how Peter Adams was doing. He'd been one of his three closest friends since high school and had obtained his criminal justice degree from a specialised college in Dallas at the same time as Rick had graduated from Riverside College. It had been good to reconnect with him when he returned.

Peter had joined Rossiter Investigations as a PI in June. It was great to have his friend back, just to hang out with. Thinking about it now, Peter might be in a similar situation and could become a valuable ally in Rick's battle to stay fit.

Rick followed his uncle as far as the elevators. He waved goodbye when he entered and pressed the button for the ground floor. Once he'd bought a sandwich at the deli around the corner, he made his way to the little plaza with the fountain two blocks farther east. It was a beautiful day, if a little hot, and the cast iron benches near the fountain had the advantage of being under some old trees producing shade.

As he approached, he could hear a violin playing one of his favourite Mozart concertos. He smiled, realising that it had been much too long since his last live music performance. Another thing he needed to fix now that he had a job and was starting a new phase of his life. He followed the sound, curious as to who was the source.

The young man sitting on the wide stone border of the fountain, cradling his violin and playing with closed eyes, was stunning. His shoulder length dark brown hair fell in loose waves, framing his firm features. His sensuous lips were turned up in a small smile, an intriguing contrast to the frown of concentration on his forehead. His body looked toned and was clad in well-worn but clean jeans and a white T-shirt.

The realisation of who this was hit Rick like a ton of bricks.

"Mark Shrader?" What was his friend Adrian's younger brother doing here? The last time he'd seen Mark was when his band of fifteen-year old wannabe rock stars had played at Rick's high school prom just over four years ago. Mark had always followed Adrian, Peter, David and Rick around, much to their annoyance. Rick had never admitted that he'd found the kid kind of cute, in a younger brother sort of way. At least not out loud, and certainly not to his friends. Seeing him like this, all grown up, was a pleasant shock.

Mark was most definitely no longer a boy, but an extremely attractive man. From what he'd heard just now, he was also a very talented musician.

Mark opened his eyes, the hazel irises appearing almost green in the bright sunlight breaking through the leaves of the trees. He didn't stop playing, but a dazzling smile lit up his gorgeous face.

"Stay?" Mark mouthed and his eyes darted to the bench not ten feet from the spot he'd claimed to give his impromptu concert.

Rick nodded before obediently making his way over to the indicated seat. He sat down and relaxed, not losing sight of Mark for a second while he finished the piece with a flourish.

"Hello, Rick." Mark lowered his violin, collected the money people had thrown into the open case with quick, efficient movements and stuffed it into his jeans pocket.

"Hello, Mark." Rick's mouth had gone dry. He had no idea what to say. Pathetic.

"I'm so happy to see you." Mark bit his lower lip as his cheeks went dark pink. He looked away and busied himself with putting the violin into its case, closing it when he was done.

"It's great to see you too." Rick was pleased that Mark seemed to be as flustered as he felt, putting them on more equal footing. "I'm sorry we sort of lost touch when I left for college."

"It happens." Mark shrugged, but he'd stopped smiling.

"Yeah, but I feel bad about it. With Adrian leaving at the same time, it couldn't have been easy for you." Rick would never forget Peter's devastation when their mutual friend had run away the morning after their high school prom. He'd always suspected there was more going on between Peter and Adrian, but they'd never said and he'd never asked.

"No, it wasn't easy." Regret flared up in Mark's eyes but was gone as quickly as it had appeared. "But that was four years ago and a lot has happened since then."

"It sure has." Rick couldn't get over how grown up and gorgeous Mark looked. "Would you like to join me for lunch? I only have one sandwich, but I'd be happy to share, if you want."

"I'd love to join you. And you won't have to share your sandwich, just your bench. I brought my own food." Mark picked up the backpack that was leaning against the fountain's rim.

"Even better." Rick grinned. "I'm kind of hungry."

"Are they working you hard?" Mark indicated Rick's suit before getting up to collect his violin case and joining Rick on the bench. He put the case underneath it and added the backpack once he'd pulled out a lunchbox. "I'm assuming you have a job or you wouldn't be dressed like that in this heat."

"You should be a detective." Rick laughed, liking that Mark sat right next to him, not at the other end of the bench. He looked to be about five foot ten to his own six two. Just the right height for dancing and cuddling.

* * * *

Mark couldn't believe his luck. It had only taken a few days of camping out in the area around Rick's new workplace during lunchtime before he finally ran into his long-term crush. It made him feel like a stalker, but how else was he going to get Rick's attention? They weren't exactly members of the same social circle. Other than his older brother having been a classmate of Rick's before he left Riverside, there wasn't any connection between them. That was about to change, if Mark had a say.

"Nah, I couldn't be a detective. I'd be useless at it. Too many details to keep track of. And I could never give up music, just love it too much." Mark had thought that Rick loved it almost as much as he did, but once Rick started college, he'd stopped attending Mark's concerts.

"Yeah, I remember that about you." Rick looked thoughtful for a moment. "In fact, listening to you playing just now, I don't think that's changed very much. Are you a street musician full-time or is this a hobby?"

"No, it's not a hobby. I like playing for people during lunch hour. They're all stressed and serious when they leave their offices. By the time they've listened to some Mozart or Gilbert & Sullivan or even ABBA, they're usually more relaxed and smiling." He shrugged. "I make good money as well."

"So, what do you do the rest of the day?" Rick started unwrapping his sandwich and Mark opened his lunchbox, taking out his own.

"Most of my gigs are at night." He liked working nights, always had, but it was hard on his social life. "I've got a few restaurants I play for on a regular basis and there's the occasional wedding or party my band gets hired for."

"Would that be the same guys you played with in high school?" Rick's eyebrows rose as he started to eat.

"Yeah, pretty much. We mostly play classic and soft rock, and we added someone who plays the trumpet." Mark didn't really want to talk about his music.

Rick was so good looking that he made Mark hard with just one of his smiles. He'd filled out nicely since their last encounter. His hair was still dark brown, but cut much shorter. His dark blue eyes sparkled when he looked at Mark and his face had a rugged beauty that Mark found hard to resist. It looked like Rick had grown to a little over six feet and his shoulders had broadened proportionately. Well muscled arms, a flat stomach and thickly muscled thighs completed a picture Mark couldn't resist. Not that he wanted to try. All of that male beauty didn't take into account Rick's deliciously tight ass, which he'd only glimpsed briefly while he'd had his back turned as he walked to the bench they now shared.

He'd fallen in love with Rick during his first year at Riverside High. He'd followed him around as much as possible under the guise of staying with his older brother Adrian. He'd probably annoyed the group of older guys, but Mark had been too smitten to care. He was still smitten, that hadn't changed. But this time around he was old enough to go for something more serious, and he'd promised himself that he'd leave no stone unturned until he was in a real, long-term relationship with Rick.

"Hey, you still with me?" Rick looked worried.

"Sorry." Mark felt himself blush. God, how embarrassing was that.

"No problem, just looked like you were fading a little." Rick put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "I wouldn't want you to suffer heat stroke or anything."

"Thanks." That hand on his shoulder wasn't moving. The warmth coming from it made his stomach flutter and gave him hope. Rick moved it away, looking reluctant to do so. "I'm fine, really. So, what were you saying?"

"I was just wondering whether it'd be okay if, you know, I came to see you play sometime?" It was Rick's turn to blush and it made him look even better. The contrast between the rugged first impression and that small vulnerability increased Mark's attraction further.

"Sure. I would love that." God, would he ever. "I mean, we wouldn't have time to chat or anything, but I'd love for you to see what I'm up to now. Come listen to some live music."

"Great!" Rick pulled out his wallet and took a business card from it. He wrote something on the back and handed it over. "Here's my home phone number and my address, in case you need to get in touch with me."

"Thank you." He took the card, his first real link with Rick after four long years without him. He wanted to kiss it. No, actually he wanted to kiss Rick. But it was probably a bit soon for that. No use in scaring him away.

"Would you like to go out for a coffee sometime? You know, just to talk and maybe to decide where I should come see you play?" Rick looked hesitant.

"I was about to ask you the same thing." Mark grinned when Rick's eyebrows went up. "What about tomorrow afternoon, or have you got anything planned?"

"No, tomorrow afternoon would be good. It'll be great to have something to get me out of the apartment. I've just moved in last week and it's still a bit of a mess. I don't really feel like spending the weekend being all domestic." Rick winked.

Mark literally bit his tongue to stop himself from commenting. He wouldn't have minded getting all domestic with Rick. Or whatever else they could come up with.

* * * *

In fact, as it turned out, their coffee date was a major success. After two hours of non-stop talking, mostly about music, he'd received enough heated glances from Rick to have the courage to ask if he would like some help with setting up his apartment. It almost sounded innocuous enough to be an offer any friend would make. The smouldering look and enthusiasm with which Rick accepted the offer was a lot more than friendly, though.

Mark's stomach fluttered as they made their way up the stairs to the second floor. Rick opened the apartment door and stepped back to let Mark enter first. As he purposely passed Rick close enough to brush his chest with a shoulder, Rick moaned, pushed him inside and closed the door with a bang.

Before Mark knew what was happening, he found himself with his back against the door, all of Rick's handsome body pressed up against his own. Rick pushed a hard thigh between his legs and Mark whimpered as it encountered his quickly hardening cock. Rick's face was mere millimetres from his own, his dark blue eyes flashing with arousal and his hot breath caressing Mark's lips.

"If you don't want this, tell me now." Rick slid a hand behind Mark's neck, making him shiver with anticipation.

"Please..." How was he supposed to speak? All he wanted was to find out what it was like to be kissed by Rick. He slid his arms around Rick's middle in the tightest embrace he could manage. "Yes!"

Desire flared in Rick's eyes, then his lips were on Mark's, slipping and sliding from side to side, making him groan with the need for firmer contact. He ground his erection against Rick's thigh. Rick responded by pushing his own hard length against Mark's hip and lower stomach.

Finally Rick pressed his open mouth tightly to Mark's and slid his tongue along his lips. Mark didn't need a second invitation. He opened up and welcomed Rick inside. The feeling of touching as intimately as this was overwhelming. Mark closed his eyes and let Rick touch and explore everywhere he could reach. The kiss was all consuming, everything he had dreamed of and more.


God, Mark was so responsive to his touch. Rick had been hard during most of their date and grinding his cock against Mark as they kissed only increased the urgency of his arousal. Mark tasted like coffee and mints, and his tongue was darting in and out of Rick's mouth in a delightfully teasing motion. Rick moaned aloud as he drew back to look into hazel eyes darkened with lust. He doubted he'd even be able to make it to his bedroom.

"You are so sexy." Rick caressed Mark's nape in small circles. The skin under his fingertips was soft and warm. He never wanted to stop touching Mark. Not there or anywhere else. "I don't think I can resist you."

"Why would you want to?" Mark's eyebrows rose as he pushed his erection against Rick's thigh, making both of them moan.

"This is only our first date." Rick buried his face in Mark's neck and took a deep breath, smelling the mix of spicy cologne and sweat that was all Mark. That scent touched Rick deep down. He'd never be able to forget it.

"I won't tell if you won't." Mark's mischievous comment made him laugh, and he relaxed a little.

"That's an offer I won't turn down." Rick grinned and disentangled their upper bodies enough so he stood a chance of switching his big brain back on. He needed to think about his next step, not fall into a situation without considering the consequences of hitting on one of his best friends' younger brother.

"Look, I don't want to make you do anything you're not ready for. But I've dreamed about being with you like this for quite a while, so don't feel like you've got to hold back on my account." Mark blushed.

"You've dreamed about us?" He'd had a few fantasies last night, but what Mark said didn't sound like it had happened only recently.

"Yeah, well." Mark frowned. "This is embarrassing."

"What is?" Rick grinned. Mark looked so adorable when he was flustered.

"The fact that I've had a crush on you for forever." Mark looked down and tried to pull away.

"Is that why you kept following me and my friends around in high school?" It didn't explain Rick's sudden sexual attraction to Mark, but at least it meant that one of them wasn't just acting on an impulse. Not that this was a bad thing. He intended to find out if what he felt was more than a whim. He needed Mark with him for that, so he tightened his embrace so Mark couldn't run away.

"Yeah." Mark looked at him from under his long lashes. "I've ruined it now, haven't I?"

"No, I'm glad you told me." Rick kissed Mark's forehead. "I always suspected there was more behind your adoration. I never thought about you that way, though. You were way too young back then."

"And now?" Mark's head came up.

"Now it's an entirely different matter." Rick took Mark's hand. "If you really want this, I'm more than ready to see where it takes us."

"Yes!" Mark lifted his arms and embraced him so tightly he couldn't breathe for a moment. "Yes, please."

"Come on then, the bedroom isn't far and pretty much the only box-free room in the apartment." Rick grinned and started pulling them in the right direction.

"I don't care about your boxes." Mark followed him, teasing him by touching his back and ass as much as possible. "I just want to get naked with you."

A jolt of arousal hit Rick and his cock tried to push its way out of his pants, clearly liking the idea of a naked Mark as much as his imagination did. When they finally stood next to the bed, Rick took Mark into his arms and kissed him deeply. Their bodies melded together and all he could feel was Mark's mouth on his, his soon-to-be-lover's hot breath on his face as they came up for air between kisses. Their erections rubbed against each other, feeling hot even through too many layers of fabric. Rick wasn't going to last much longer.


©Serena Yates, 2011
All Rights Reserved

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