Pretty Boy (Perfect Boys #1) by K.M. Neuhold
I tense at his words. Pretty Boy. The jeer never failed to make my teeth clench and my blood boil. It sounds so different falling from his lips, without a hint of mocking like I’m used to, but I’m sure I’m just hearing it wrong. He’s being cruel, just like everybody in this godforsaken town.
“Name’s Sterling,” I say quietly, hoping he doesn’t hear the tremble in my voice, my hand clenching around the damp rag I hadn’t realized I picked back up at some point. I toss it aside and turn to get him his beer. While I fill the glass, I cast another curious look at him out of the corner of my eye. I wonder where he’s from. Is he just passing through? If so, Billow is a real strange place to stop. There’s nothing here but tumbleweeds and rattlesnakes.
I set the glass down in front of him, and he looks up, a warm spark in his eye that makes me all sorts of uncomfortable before I manage to look away again. “Thanks, Sterling.” He purrs my name in that rich voice of his, and my cock perks up.
I bite down hard on the inside of my cheek. If looking too long at somebody ain’t safe, then getting an erection just from hearing them say my name definitely ain’t safe. Nobody around here is like that. Nobody except me, and I learned a long time ago that I’d better learn to be okay alone, because nobody will ever want a freak like me.
I’m not sure what possessed me to pull off the highway into this little town I’m not even sure has a name. I knew there wouldn’t be much here in the way of food or accommodations, but I felt some kind of strange pull. My sister, Lorna, has always said I can be a bit too fantastical at times. But watching the shy, beautiful boy bustle around avoiding eye contact with everyone as he works, I can’t help but feel like he’s the reason I’m here. He glances in my direction, and I meet his eyes, holding them until his gaze flits away like a frightened little bunny. It’s okay, little rabbit, you can look at me.
None of the customers seem too chatty, mostly sipping their drinks and staring quietly at the bar like zombies. Sterling moves around unbothered, filling drinks and cleaning things. His lithe little body moving automatically. I’m guessing he’s been at this a while. Although it’s hard to imagine he’s a day over twenty. Which makes me a perverted old man for daring to appreciate the perky curve of his ass in those tight jeans every time he has his back to me. I bet it would look so pretty reddened by my handprints.
I shake off that thought before it can take hold. Presumptuous, that’s another thing my baby sister loves to call me. Maybe I am, but it comes with the territory of being born rich and privileged. From the minute I was out of my mother’s womb, I was told I could have anything I wanted. That kind of thing can go to a man’s head if he’s not careful.
I down the rest of my beer, running my hands through my thick mane of hair and gesturing for Sterling when I catch his eye again. He perks up instantly, plastering a smile onto his lips and hustling over to me.
“Another beer?” he asks.
“No, thank you. I wanted to ask if there’s a hotel near here.” The words surprise me as they fall out of my mouth. A hotel around here? I wasn’t planning to stop, let alone stay the night here. I have an early meeting in Dallas, which is still another hour and a half away.
He gives me a wry, crooked smile. I like this one better than the last one. It looks more real, more relaxed, but still not quite right. I wonder what Sterling’s unguarded smile looks like.
“Sorry. There’s a Motolodge the next town over. It ain’t no Ritz Carlton or nothin’, but they have beds and only the occasional roach.”
I grimace at the idea, and then immediately feel like a snob. “What about food?” My stomach growls. It takes me a second to realize I haven’t eaten since last night. I ordered room service at the hotel I stayed at last night, and then told myself I’d stop for lunch. But driving through Texas was like some kind of time warp. Before I knew it, it was dark out, and I was only a hundred miles from Dallas.
He shakes his head again. “There’s a place, but I wouldn’t recommend it.” He lowers his voice as he says it like he’s afraid someone will overhear him talking badly about what’s apparently the only local restaurant.
“That’s okay. I should be on my way to Dallas anyway.” I let my gaze linger on him for a few more seconds, and he squirms under my gaze, doing that thing where he sort of hunches in on himself again before turning his body sideways so I can only see the unmarred side of his face. The motion almost seems subconscious, as if he’s done it a million times. I’m sure he has. My protective instincts rise up inside me in an instant at the thought of anyone staring or making him feel bad about his face. There’s an undeniable sweetness about him that begs me to shield him from any viciousness in the world. Though, looking at his skinny frame and the way he holds himself, I have no doubt he knows a hell of a lot more about viciousness than I do.
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