Hooked by Sara WintersCarlos Valendez has everything under control: his boxing career, his academic life and the string of men who never manage to encourage more than a passing interest. When his friend Michael Dywer moves into his dorm room, he never imagines how easily it could all change.

Michael is a distraction. A sexy, bewildering temptation who entices Carlos with the briefest of looks but refuses to act on, or even acknowledge, the tension between them. When Michael hints that his fantasies have the potential to be more, Carlos finds his priorities shifting to accomodate the unexpected complications of exploring a relationship he never knew he wanted and can’t easily control.

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“You know you have to do better, Mr. Valendez,” Dr. William Hauser said. The professor looked over the tops of his round glasses at Carlos. He frowned and his light blue eyes narrowed; a line appeared in the middle of his forehead when Carlos didn’t immediately respond.

If Carlos had a nickel for every time a teacher had said that to him, he wouldn’t have had to apply for half a dozen scholarships to attend New York University. As it was, he was starting to wonder if almost three years of work was going to feel like wasted time and money if he flunked out his junior year. He could hear his mother now. First she would express anger, then settle for the long term guilt trip effect, not so subtly reminding him that he had to set a good example for Luiz and Marc. His brothers looked up to him for almost everything, but even they would understand the pressures of trying to be a student, a professional boxer and living up to their mother’s expectations was a lot to ask of any man.

“I know I have to focus a little more,” Carlos said after a moment. “I’ll pick up my grades with the next quiz.”

“Yes, focus,” the professor said. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his considerable belly. The chair squeaked and the wheels rolled a few inches before settling beneath his weight. “You are quite focused on something, but I doubt it is the correlation between the rise in production costs and market saturation with lower quality products.”

Carlos frowned. “I know what you’re thinking—”

“I understand that you’re ambitious,” Dr. Hauser continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “I see nothing wrong with an athlete, especially one of your caliber, doing everything he can to get ahead. Getting your degree is a smart move. Training this hard during the school year must take a toll on you.”

“I can handle it,” Carlos said quickly. “I’ve been doing fine so far.”

“You’ve been falling asleep in class,” Hauser corrected. The crease in his brow deepened. He gestured to the paper half-crumpled in Carlos’s hand. “This isn’t the first test you’ve struggled with. I would venture a guess that you’re not maintaining that A average in your other classes as well.”

Carlos sighed. If there was ever a time for honesty, being slapped in the face with the truth after failing a test was as good a time as any. Still, this was his first slip in this class. A little sympathy wouldn’t kill the old man. “You’re right. Everything hasn’t been going perfectly lately, but I can pick it up.”

“I know you can,” Hauser said. His tone had changed from stern to a condescending sneer. “You’ve done this in other classes. A lot of extra credit got you to the top of your Introduction to Marketing class, from what I hear.”

Spying on me? Carlos frowned. This was sounding less like a concerned professor and more like an intervention every minute. “I did well in that class, for the most part. The extra credit just—”

“Just gave you the top grade in the class when you hadn’t come close to deserving it before,” Hauser finished for him.

That was taking things too far. A couple of extra assignments would no more have saved a struggling grade in that class than the Economics class that had inspired this lecture. Though he was irritated, Carlos knew losing his temper would not gain him any favor with the professor. In fact, it would probably earn him even less sympathy for the next test, unfortunately scheduled a couple of days before his next match. Given a choice between an extra two hours in the gym and going over principles of distribution, Carlos knew what his first choice would be. Dr. Hauser didn’t have to know that.

“Dr. Hauser, I know it doesn’t seem like it, but your class is quite important to me,” Carlos began. “To a lot of people, I might just seem like an athlete only going to school because I have scholarships, but I know a teacher of your caliber would never dismiss a student that way. I will try harder to bring myself up to your standards, even if it means spending more time with the brilliant textbook you wrote than the heavy bag.” Carlos flashed a smile that had gotten him more personal favors than any number of pretty words. He waited until the professor’s expression had softened a bit before he dropped his smile. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to leave. I’m late for a study group meeting.”

Without waiting for Hauser to start in on him again, Carlos turned on his heel and walked out quickly, hoping that little bit of ass kissing would keep the pompous jerk off his back for a few weeks. Knowing the professor’s reputation, that hope was probably in vain, but it seemed like wishing for the best was all Carlos had going lately. He left Dr. Hauser’s office and was out on the street and strolling towards his dorm in minutes, jacket hood up and head down against the strong late winter wind.

School wasn’t supposed to be like this. Originally, he’d gone to placate his mother and ensure that he had a backup plan until he made headway with his real life, his passion—boxing. Carlos had needed a platform to launch his career and a decent school, in New York City especially, was a reasonable enough place for that. He’d mumbled something about a liberal arts degree to his guidance counselor when asked, but there had been nothing more to the plan than get to New York, find a decent trainer and get his professional career going as soon as possible. Somewhere along the line, the dream of owning a gym where he could train fighters in his own style had forced Carlos to take the Business Management major seriously. He needed something more than a pretty face and quick fists to make it for the long haul and NYU was the perfect place to accomplish his objectives.

Complications his junior year were threatening to turn everything on its head. He’d cruised through the first two years of school—none of his professors had doubted that he’d earned the academic scholarships paying his way—but he’d been falling short every few weeks since starting his major coursework and moving to a new dorm. There were two reasons for this change. First, the difficulty of his classes had increased three-fold. Spending time in the gym had always taken priority and that continued dedication forced Carlos to play catch-up every few weeks. That was wreaking havoc on his training schedule and had earned more than one lecture from concerned professors. The second reason, he was reluctant to admit to himself, was Michael.

Carlos waved to a group of students before jumping onto the elevator and punching the number for his floor. It was silly. He knew it. He’d even let Jamie tease him before he made her swear she’d stop talking about it. The fact that he was…crushing on anyone was downright ridiculous. It made him feel like a high school kid—flustered and easily embarrassed and on the verge of doing something reckless. But there was more to it than thinking his roommate was funny and sexy and beautiful to look at it. There was something about Michael Dwyer that turned Carlos’s normally smooth demeanor into a struggle for composure. What had started as merely admiring the other man’s looks had become a major problem. Having a roommate who could get him hard just by walking into a room was a distraction Carlos had never thought he’d struggle with.

The most frustrating part was that for all his smooth talk and good looks, Carlos knew he’d never get anywhere with Michael. He was straight and anyone who blushed that easily at the mere mention of sex had probably never considered experimenting. But that was what college was for, right? If he could convince Michael of that, he’d be able to get this craving out of his system and go back to normal. They could sleep together, or even just kiss, and the infatuation would disappear. Right, Carlos thought as he entered their shared room. I’m living in a fantasy world if I think things would only get easier from there. A small taste would never be enough.

There was something to be said for fantasies. Most of the time all Carlos needed was the image of a man with beautiful eyes and full lips that wrapped tight around his dick to whip one out just before falling to sleep at night. Other times he went full out, imagining a whispered conversation, tentative touches from work-roughened skin, the catch of breath as he returned the teasing with feather-soft touches and a slow and thorough tasting.

Then there was Michael. His best friend inspired some of the most vivid fantasies Carlos could remember—the kind of things the regular chatters at Down and Dirty dot com would drool over. Unfortunately, fantasies were all they could be. Carlos wasn’t foolhardy enough to try to seduce the other man. Michael would be no more interested in Carlos than he was in that waitress at Striker’s who smiled and wiggled her ass in his direction every time he came in. A pity, that. He could show the other man things that little blonde he was seeing had only read about in magazines—and make him beg for seconds in a voice he wouldn’t recognize as his own.

So far, his fantasies hadn’t gotten him further than satisfying himself on a regular basis, but Carlos couldn’t help nursing the smallest hope things could change one day. As often as he’d proven the strength of his various charms, he was sure he could get Michael to see things his way. At least, if the other man was drunk enough, he might be suggestible.

Right. Mister I’m In Training rarely broke away from his rabbit food and protein shakes long enough to make himself vulnerable. Not that he’d want him at anything less than his full faculties, anyway. Michael had to want it. Eat, breathe, sleep, scream and shiver with his craving to have Carlos buried inside him. That was the real fantasy. That Carlos, however charming and attractive, could make this elusive straight man beg for him. However farfetched, he couldn’t let go of the idea. They’d been living together for six months now and it had gotten to the point where pretending not to watch Michael strip down for bed was becoming an exercise in self-control. An exercise that usually culminated in Carlos taking late night showers where he imagined Michael at his mercy.

First, he pictured the other man’s lips pressed against his, soft, then near bruising as adrenaline brought their excitement to fever pitch. Lips and tongue met, hands slid over and gripped slippery skin. Michael was always the submissive partner, begging to be taken against the shower wall, moaning incoherently when Carlos asked him how hard, how deep, how much more he could take before he fell over the edge. Then he did, crying out in passion, from weakness, shaken from the knowledge that only Carlos could make him feel as if he were coming apart and complete all at the same time. Carlos always bit his bottom lip and shivered hard as he came soon after, wishing the rivulets of hot water running over his skin were instead the soft touch of a lover he couldn’t get close to. It was no wonder he was losing sleep. With these thoughts always on the edge of his consciousness, it was a miracle Carlos could function around him at all.