“Scooping up his knapsack—packed with his on-flight toiletries, a Joe Hill paperback, his iPad and the latest Synergy CD—he left the lounge and headed for his flight.
“He was recognised, of course. He couldn’t move around London these days without being so. In all honesty, he didn’t know if his fame came from his position as striker for Manchester United or his notoriety as a partier. Probably both.
“Surprisingly, no one approached for an autograph or photo. Perhaps everyone in Heathrow expected his bodyguard—a hulking mountain of mouth-breathing muscle called Timmy—to suddenly appear from the crowd.
“Timmy, however, would not be making an appearance, although Rhys wasn’t going to announce that unusual fact. This trip back to Australia was without bodyguard, manager or even token arm candy.
“This trip was strictly Rhys McDowell, boy from Oz who needed to touch base with his family. A man who needed to have his sister ground him, his father lecture him and his mother embrace him.
“This trip was, in other words, an attempt to once and for all get over his twelve-year ache for a man he could never have, by finally confessing to his family how he felt.
“They’d tell him how stupid he was being. They’d mend his wretched heart with harsh truths and uncompromising logic. And then, once they were done, he could go to dinner with Josh and Caitlin without being in a state of perpetual horny torment and get on with existing in the off-season without the need to destroy himself with booze, wild women, wild men and wilder parties.
“A sound plan.
“Okay, not really sound, but the only plan he had.
“After twelve years, he’d come to the realization he had to do something and this was what he was doing.
“Confession, parental insults, maternal hugs.
“He was but a few feet away from his flight’s gate, knapsack slapping against his hip, hair hanging in his eyes, when the first camera flash fired.
“Followed a second later by another one.
“Instinctually, he flinched, raising his hand to shield his face from the unexpected attention.
“And let out a surprised grunt when a man half a head taller than him, wearing black sunglasses, bumped into him, head down, jaw clenched.
“ “Whoa there, dude,” Rhys said, stumbling back a step before his natural reflexes could correct his balance. “In a hurry are—”
“The man swung towards him.
“Rhys sucked in a sharp breath.
“Fuck, the guy was Curtis Clarkson.
“The ex-captain of the Australian cricket team fixed him in a steady stare. Rhys could feel the older man’s gaze on him even through the dark lenses of his Ray Bans.
“ “McDowell?” The Australian accent licked at Rhys’s ears, sounding both strange and exquisite after so many months in the UK. “You look like—”
“Another camera flash fired right beside them. Curtis flinched.
“So did Rhys. Not a lot, but enough to catch Curtis’s attention.
“Straightening, the ex-cricket player let out a low chuckle. “Our egos, ’eh?”
“Rhys forced out a wobbly laugh. The last time he’d seen Clarkson was at the Australian Sportsman of the Year awards two years ago. They’d ended up in a metaphorical pissing contest over their chosen sports and which sport pulled the hottest groupies.
“Both men had also been more than a little inebriated during said pissing contest.
“If Rhys remembered correctly, they’d decided their chosen sport had nothing to do with the groupies; that it was, in fact, the size of their dicks that pulled the chicks, a decision that led to—again, if Rhys remembered correctly—both men dropping their tux pants to compare their respective packages.
“They’d been stopped before either could shame the other. But Rhys had a vague recollection of a bulge in Clarkson’s boxers far bigger than most men’s.
“Rhys also had an equally vague recollection of leaving the awards dinner with a sizeable boner that had nothing to do with the little honey on his arm.
“Staring at Curtis Clarkson now, twenty-four months later, his mouth turned strangely dry. Fuck, he’d never actually been this close to Clarkson without having more than a few drinks under his belt. Had never noticed how…how…fuck, how hot the cricket-playing bastard was.
“ “You heading back to Australia?”
“Giving himself a mental slap, Rhys nodded his head. “I didn’t know you were over here,” he said. Damn it, what the fuck was up with his voice all of a sudden? It sounded as if he were trying to talk with a throat full of gravel.
“ “Cricket thing.” Curtis let out another one of his famous chuckles. The guy was known for his sardonic sense of humour, as well as his lethal bowling arm. And, if the gossip mags and bloggers were to be believed, his equally impressive bedroom skills. Hadn’t he just recently been linked to some kind of a scandal with some computer guy and an American? Or was Rhys imagining that? He was certain another Australian celeb on the UK party circuit had suggested something like that.
“Before he could stop himself—Jesus, what was wrong with him?—Rhys dropped his gaze to Curtis’s crotch.
“ “I’d say my balls are up here,” Curtis’s dry voice murmured, “but you’re actually looking in the right spot.”
“Rhys jerked his stare upward, chest squeezing tight.